Dear Mr. Spade

by Charles Rzepka

Dear Mr. Spade:

Greetings from Sussex! Please accept my congratulations on your successful termination of the Maltese Falcon affair. But perhaps I’m being premature. As you will have guessed from Miss O’Shaugnessey’s acquittal following the best legal defense money can buy, powerful interests are working to insure that the woman otherwise known as “Miss Wonderly” will never face imprisonment, and for good reason. Since the confiscation of her family’s estates on the personal orders of Vladimir Lenin a decade ago, Maria Ignatievna Zakrevskaya has become a valuable agent of our government. You’ve experienced her arts of persuasion, Mr. Spade, and your refusal to “play the sap” for her bespeaks a degree of self-control matched only by yours truly. (Granted, “the woman” did me in, but Maria is no Irene Adler—who, I’m certain, would have made short work of you as well.)

I have a proposition. The “dingus” awaiting disposal on an evidence shelf at San Francisco police headquarters may have nothing to do with Caspar Gutman’s delusional provenance, but it is of interest to His Majesty’s government. Beneath its grey layers of lead is the prototype of an advanced listening device smuggled out of Odessa by our man in Istanbul, Colonel Kemidov. Knowing he was under surveillance, Kemidov hid the device inside his paperweight. He then duped the falcon-besotted Gutman and his “fine lot of lollipops,” as you call them, into stealing it. Maria, helped by our agent Floyd Thursby, had already infiltrated Gutman’s gang intending to retrieve the bird, but she did not anticipate matching wits with Samuel Spade, who certainly deserves some remuneration for all his hard work. If you are still on friendly terms with Detective Sergeant Thomas Polhaus, I am prepared, on the authority of my brother, Mycroft, to offer you $5,000 for the black bird.  Surely Polhaus can be persuaded to intercept it on its way to the rubbish bin for a small fraction of that sum. Yes, Miles Archer will not receive justice, but you despised him and, after all, you did what you could. Give it some thought.

Thursby’s demise has raised suspicions that Maria may now be working as a double-agent, but it’s best she continue to believe we trust her. Thus I expect you to keep this communication strictly confidential. As you’ve been known to say, “Five thousand dollars is a lot of money.”

Yours sincerely,

Sherlock Holmes, GBE, Ret.

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Crimeculture was created in Summer 2002 by Lee Horsley and Kate Horsley. The site now gets around five million hits a year from all over the world, and has published several dozen essays on crime fiction, crime films and representations of criminality. We are very grateful to the growing number of writers and critics who have contributed to the site, adding greatly to its range and diversity.

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