Sinfully Rich - Hulbert Footner - ebook

Sinfully Rich ebook

Hulbert Footner

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We learn from the very beginning that the main character dies. But, of course, readers need to find out who is the killer. There were many people in her entourage: friends, journalists, lawyers, lieutenants, and maids. What do these guys have in common? And how did the main character die?

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Liczba stron: 328

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Contents

CHAPTER I

CHAPTER II

CHAPTER III

CHAPTER IV

CHAPTER V

CHAPTER VI

CHAPTER VII

CHAPTER VIII

CHAPTER IX

CHAPTER X

CHAPTER XI

CHAPTER XII

CHAPTER XIII

CHAPTER XIV

CHAPTER XV

CHAPTER XVI

CHAPTER XVII

CHAPTER XVIII

CHAPTER XIX

CHAPTER XX

CHAPTER XXI

CHAPTER XXII

CHAPTER XXIII

CHAPTER XXIV

CHAPTER XXV

CHAPTER XXVI

CHAPTER XXVII

CHAPTER I

AS noon approached, Mike Speedon cleared his desk preparatory to leaving his office in the Recorder-Press Building. It was a very small office, but the fact that he had an office of his own testified to his importance on the premises. He was usually called Society Reporter, which he didn’t like; “Social Commentator” or “Columnist” pleased him better. His column was more and more widely syndicated and he had become a big figure in the smart life of the town and, in fact, of the nation. And nobody knew it better than Mike himself. He didn’t have to keep office hours any more, but he attended every morning from nine to twelve because of what he called his Puritan conscience. In other respects he was not exactly a Puritan.

The telephone rang and he picked up the instrument. It was Warner Bassett, City Editor. Hearing the silky quality in Warner’s voice, Mike frowned; around the shop he wanted to be treated as one of the gang. Since he had become a “feature” on the paper, Mike was no longer under Bassett’s direct control.

“Hi, Mike! Stop by a moment on your way out, will you?”

“Sure!” said Mike, thinking: What the hell does he want of me? Something I don’t want to do, that’s certain.

As he picked up his hat, he considered his engagements for the day; 1 p.m., lunch with Peggy Rhinelander et al. at the Colony; a dull bunch but the food would be good; ought to be able to get away by 2:30. Then home for a good sleep. This afternoon nap was Mike’s secret. He posed as a superman who didn’t require more than three hours’ sleep in the twenty-four. 5 p.m. cocktails at the Alexanders’; 6 would be plenty of time to get there. Half an hour was enough for the Alexanders. Must look in at Mrs. Overton’s afterwards; that woman had the commanding eye of a rising star. Home to dress; 8 p.m., Sloan dinner at the St. Regis; big bow-wows; wear the jeweled gardenia and Inverness cape. Get away in time to look in at Gilbert Miller’s first night before the show let out; then a quick round of Jack and Charlie’s; Stork Club; El Morocco. Promised to join the Paley’s party at 12:30. And at 1:30 ... Paradise! Mike smiled to himself. No danger of forgetting that!

He passed through the littered city room and into Warner’s enclosure in the corner. Warner, keen, gray-faced, chewing an unlighted cigar, was the picture of a city editor. He was only a year or two older than Mike. Looking up at the latter’s fresh complexion he asked sourly:

“What time did you get to bed this morning?”

“Somewhere around three-thirty.”

“How the hell do you keep it up?”

“It’s a gift.”

“Yeah, a gift,” said Warner bitterly. “Christ! you have it soft! Look at me! Look at all the boys here! It takes this whole damn manure pile to produce one perfect blossom like you! You stink like a gardenia!”

There was no unfriendliness in this, and Mike merely grinned. “Sure! But you didn’t ask me here to talk about the flowers. What?...”

“Mrs. Charles Warrington Ware is going to conduct a hay ride up Broadway at midnight tonight,” said Warner abruptly. “I’ve just been tipped off.”

“Sure you’ve been tipped off. And every other newspaper in town. Why else give a hay ride?”

“You’re supposed to be a friend of hers,” said Warner.

Mike said nothing.

“Have you been invited on this hay ride?”

“I have.”

“Are you going?”

“Can you see me?”

“No,” grumbled Warner, “but I don’t know the requirements of your job. I reckon you have to pay for your fun one way or another.”

“I’m getting to the point where I can pick and choose,” said Mike. “I’ve got better copy for my column than old Flora Ward’s hay ride.”

“The woman is batty!”

“Aren’t we all?”

“Sixty-seven years old, and trying to outdo the debutantes!”

“She’s not insane, if that’s what you mean,” said Mike. “For forty years she was the meek and uncomplaining wife of Charles W. Ware, the nickel king.”

“Cut out the headlines!”

“Headlines to the headliner,” murmured Mike.

“Save it! Save it!”

“You know what old Charlie Ware was; he reduced everybody around him to a mush of concession. Especially his wife. He allowed her twelve hundred a month out of which she had to keep up two big houses. She scarcely had a dollar to spend on herself. Close-mouthed old so-and-so; she never knew how rich he was until after he died. He was so busy making money he could never stop to draw up a will, and she inherited three million a year without any strings to it. She’s lost her head, that’s all; at sixty-seven she’s having her first taste of life.”

“All the leeches in town have fastened on her.”

“Oh, not all of them. She has a head leech who does her best to keep the others off.”

“Mrs. Bethesda Prior?”

“Sure. Bethesda’s the one who thinks up the hay rides and other scintillating stunts.”

“They’re all batty, I say,” cried Warner.

“No,” said Mike, “publicity-drunk...You ought to have seen Flora Ware the night Ciro’s opened. She spends the whole day at Helena Rubinstein’s getting fixed up for an occasion like that. Her entrance stopped the show. A white satin gown from Hattie Carnegie’s like a bride’s; a drift of white fox around her skinny shoulders and a diamond tiara like a sky sign! She was like nothing in the world but an animated waxwork in technicolor. She ordered champagne for the reporters and press photographers and sat down to tell them about herself. ‘Boys,’ I heard her say as I passed by, ‘my hair is all my own, too; and if you don’t believe it, pull it, pull it!’”

“Sure,” said Warner, “but what can I do?”

“Give her the silence treatment. She would die of chagrin.”

“You let her have plenty of space in your column.”

“Once I did; not now. Leave her to the tabloids. She’s their dish. This is a newspaper.”

“It used to be,” said Warner sourly.

“You’re in a position to take the initiative,” urged Mike. “Call up the other papers and get them to agree to boycott this wacky hay ride.”

“You’re an idealist,” said Warner. “They’d rat on me; they’re all hyenas; I’m a hyena, too.”

Mike shrugged.

“No!” said Warner briskly; “she’s worth sixty million, and she’s news. I can cover the hay ride all right; what I wanted from you–as a favor–was the inside story. The others won’t have that. You’re one of her gang. Why, they said for a while that you were engaged to her.”

“Oh, my God!” said Mike with a mock shudder.

“You don’t have to sign the story,” urged Warner, “and you can make it satirical if you want–but not too satirical.”

“Nothing doing,” said Mike. “Sorry.”

“Why not? It’s your line.”

“That’s just the reason. This café society or saloon society, or whatever you call it, is an A-1 racket; it helps sell the paper; it’s money in our pockets ...”

“Particularly in your pocket,” put in Warner.

“Sure. But at that I’m not kidded by it...Nothing lasts forever and a woman like Flora Ware threatens my profitable racket. Everything and everybody she is associated with is smeared with ridicule. Nothing in this fair land of ours can stand long against ridicule. Glamour is my stock in trade, and if Flora and her like peel all the glamour off saloon society, I’ll be looking for a new job.”

“Maybe so,” said Warner, “but that’s too long a view for the editor of a daily paper. I’ve got to play up Mrs. Charles Warrington Ware while she lasts.” He returned to the papers on his desk. “Get out! Who are you lunching with today, Tallulah or Ina or Libby?”

“No such luck. I’m out on hire today.”

“Lucky stiff! Give ‘em my love anyhow, and the hell with them!”

CHAPTER II

MRS. CHARLES WARRINGTON WARE occupied a triplex apartment at the top of the most expensive building on the Avenue. Bethesda had leased it for her. Two walls of the vast living room were painted white and the other two black, thus immediately establishing a modernistic atmosphere. Down at one end was an arrangement of primitive African sculpture–very primitive; other decorations included big wooden bowls of colored glass balls placed here and there on the floor; modernistic sculptured animals on stands and surrealist paintings on the walls. In the beginning Mrs. Ware had felt obliged to avert her eyes from the primitive sculpture and the surrealists, but she became accustomed to them in time, and all her sophisticated friends agreed with Bethesda, that the whole effect was très-chi-chi.

At nine o’clock on the morning following the over-publicized hay ride, Miss Day Radnor rang the bell of the apartment as usual, and was admitted by Cummings, the butler. Brown-haired Miss Radnor, who favored severely tailored suits and hats as if she was determined to hide how pretty she was (but only thereby emphasized it), looked a little out of place among the grotesques, but she worked there. She said:

“Weren’t you up very late last night, Cummings?”

“Moderately so, Miss.”

“And already on the job?”

“Well, I like to see that things get properly started in the morning, Miss.”

Cummings did not run quite true to type; his attire lacked something of a butler’s superhuman neatness; his coarse black hair had a tendency to fall over his forehead, his features were rugged. But his manner was smooth enough–too smooth, Day Radnor felt; too watchful. It was not quite natural that Cummings should always be the last to go to bed and the first to get up. However, she told herself, it was not her put.

“Have you seen this morning’s papers, Miss?” asked Cummings.

“No,” said Day, “and I don’t want to.”

Cummings shook his head sympathetically and sadly.

Day was not going to be drawn into a discussion of the hay ride with the butler. “What time did the party break up?” she asked.

“Madam ordered me to stop serving drinks at one-thirty, Miss. That is earlier than usual. Of course, they soon went after that. I went to bed myself, leaving Alfred on duty. Alfred told me they were all out shortly after two.”

“I see.” Day was thinking. Evidently the hay ride did not make much of a hit.

“I think Madam had words with Mrs. Prior last night,” ventured Cummings. “Alfred told me that ...”

Day shut him off. “Much mail this morning?” she asked briskly.

“The usual basketful, Miss...Mostly begging letters, I should say,” he added sourly. It was odd, Day thought, how jealous Mrs. Ware’s beneficiaries were of all her other beneficiaries.

“Naturally,” she said.

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