It and Other Stories by Dashiell Hammett
Collected Case Files of the Continental Op The Early Years, Vol. 2
Edited by Richard Layman and Julie M. Rivett
Published in 2016 by MysteriousPress.com/Open Road Integrated Media, Inc.
"It" ("The Black Hat That Wasn't There") (Black Mask, November 1, 1923)
....it seems to me that most of your guesses have been random ones. If you will have your office send me a bill for your services to date, I think I can dispense with your help."
"Just as you say. But you'll have to pay for a full day today; so, if you don't mind, I'll keep on working at it until night."
....A board rattled behind me, and I wheeled to see Zumwalt rising from behind a barrel and scowling at me over a black automatic pistol.
"Put your hands up," he said. I put them up. I didn't have a pistol with me, not being in the habit of carrying one except when I thought I was going to need it; but it would have been all the same if I had had a pocket full of them. I don't mind taking chances, but there's no chance when you're looking into the muzzle of a gun that a determined man is holding on you.
So I put my hands up. And one of them brushed against the swinging light globe. I drove my knuckles into it. As the cellar went black I threw myself backward and to one side. Zumwalt's gun streaked fire.
....Abruptly he came.
Hair brushed the fingers of my left hand. I closed them about it, pulling the head I couldn't see viciously toward me, driving my right fist beneath it. You may know that I put everything I had in that smack when I tell you that not until later, when I found that one of my cheeks was scorched, did I know that his gun had gone off.
He wiggled, and I hit him again.
Then I was sitting astride him, my flashlight hunting for his pistol. I found it, and yanked him to his feet.
"Bodies Piled Up" (:The House Dick") (Black Mask, December 1, 1923)
The Montgomery Hotel's regular detective had taken his last week's rake-off from the hotel bootlegger in merchandise instead of cash, had drunk it down, had fallen asleep in the lobby, and had been fired. I happened to be the only idle operative in the Continental Detective Agency's San Francisco branch at the time, and thus it came about that I had three days of hotel-coppering while a man was being found to take the job permanently....
....From any crime to its author there is a trail. It may be—as in this case—obscure; but, since matter cannot move without disturbing other matter along its path, there always is—there must be—a trail of some sort. And finding and following such trails is what a detective is paid to do.
In the case of a murder it is possible sometimes to take a short-cut to the end of the trail, by first finding the motive. A knowledge of the motive often reduces the field of possibilities; sometimes points directly to the guilty one. It is on this account that murderers are, as a rule, more easily apprehended than any other class of criminals.
But a knowledge of the motive isn't indispensable—quite a few murder mysteries are solved without its help. And in a fair proportion—say, ten to twenty per cent—of cases where men are convicted justly of murder, the motive isn't clearly shown even at the last, and sometimes is hardly guessed at....
"The Tenth Clew" ("The Tenth Clue") (Black Mask, January 1, 1924)
...."It's a funny one," O'Gar said softly to himself at last.
I nodded. It was.
"We got nine clews," he spoke again presently, "and none of them have got us a damned thing.
"Number one: the dead man called up you people and told you that he had been threatened and shot at by an Emil Bonfils that he'd had a run-in with in Paris a long time ago.
"Number two: the typewriter he was killed with and that the letter and list were written on. We're still trying to trace it, but with no breaks so far. What the hell kind of a weapon was that, anyway? It looks like this fellow Bonfils got hot and hit Gantvoort with the first thing he put his hand on. But what was the typewriter doing in a stolen car? And why were the numbers filed off it?"
I shook my head to signify that I couldn't guess the answer, and O'Gar went on enumerating our clews.
"Number three: the threatening letter, fitting in with what Gantvoort had said over the phone that afternoon.
"Number four: those two bullets with the crosses in their snoots.
"Number five: the jewel case.
"Number six: that bunch of yellow hair.
"Number seven: the fact that the dead man's shoe and collar buttons were carried away.
"Number eight: the wallet, with two ten-dollar bills, three clippings, and the list in it, found in the road.
"Number nine: finding the shoe next day, wrapped up in a five-day-old Philadelphia paper, and with the missing collar buttons, four more, and a rusty key in it...."
"From now on I'm considering all those nine lovely clews as nine bum steers. And I'm going just exactly contrary to them. I'm looking for a man whose name isn't Emil Bonfils, and whose initials aren't either E or B; who isn't French, and who wasn't in Paris in 1902. A man who hasn't light hair, doesn't carry a .45-calibre pistol, and has no interest in Personal advertisements in newspapers. A man who didn't kill Gantvoort to recover anything that could have been hidden in a shoe or on a collar button. That's the sort of a guy I'm hunting for now!"