Three Witnesses (book)

Three Witnesses (book)

Infobox Book |
name = Three Witnesses

image_caption =
author = Rex Stout
cover_artist = Bill English
country = United States
language = English
series = Nero Wolfe
genre = Detective fiction
publisher = Viking Press
release_date = March 10, 1956
media_type = Print (Hardcover)
pages = 185 pp. (first edition)
isbn = NA
preceded_by = Before Midnight
followed_by = Might as Well Be Dead
"Three Witnesses" is a collection of Nero Wolfe mystery novellas by Rex Stout, published by the Viking Press in 1956 and itself collected in the omnibus volume "Royal Flush" (Viking 1965). The book contains three stories that first appeared in "The American Magazine":
* "The Next Witness" (May 1955, as "The Last Witness")
* "When a Man Murders..." (May 1954)
* "Die Like a Dog" (December 1954, as "The Body in the Hall")

Each story in this collection features a witness, not to a murder but to its prologue.

quotation|There wouldn't have been the slightest excuse for my missing the exact spot for a dead kidney punch, and I didn't. Air exploded out of him, and he crumpled, not sprawling, but in a compact heap. Then he sort of settled to get comfortable.
His attractive wife took a couple of steps toward him, stopped to look at me, and said, "I'll be damned."
"You will if they consult me," I told her emphatically.

Archie, irked by a sucker punch, in Chapter 4 of "When a Man Murders. . ."

The Next Witness

Plot summary

Wolfe and Archie are in court, under subpoena to testify as witnesses for the prosecution in a murder trial. The State contends that Leonard Ashe hired Bagby Answers, Inc., an answering service, and that he did so to get information about his wife's phone calls. The State also contends that when one of the operators refused to cooperate with Ashe, and threatened to tell his wife, Ashe strangled her with a phone cord. Wolfe and Archie are in court to testify that Ashe had tried to hire Wolfe to spy on his wife. Ashe had been circumspect about it, but that's what Wolfe inferred, and he turned Ashe down.

Now Clyde Bagby, owner of the answering service, is on the witness stand and ADA Mandelbaum is questioning him. Bagby testifies that one of his operators, Marie Willis, came to him to complain that Ashe had asked her to listen in on his wife's telephone conversations. Miss Willis had refused, and was going to tell Ashe's wife, the actress Robina Keane, what her husband was doing. Bagby tried unsuccessfully to dissuade Miss Willis. That evening, the police phoned to tell Bagby that Miss Willis had been found, strangled, at her switchboard.

At this point in Bagby's testimony, Wolfe leaves the courtroom, with Archie in tow. Wolfe wants to see some people, but Archie objects that they are both under subpoena and Wolfe's testimony is scheduled to follow Bagby's. Wolfe doesn't care: he has now concluded that Ashe did not kill Marie Willis, he does not want to testify in corroboration of Bagby, and the woman sitting next to him in the courtroom was wearing too much perfume. He's not returning until he has more information.

Wolfe and Archie head for the answering service's office, where they find Bella Velardi and Alice Hart, two of Miss Willis' co-workers. Due to arcane employment regulations, the offices are in an apartment, where each of the employees has a bedroom. Wolfe and Archie invade one of the bedrooms, and Wolfe is determined to be as obnoxious as possible, so as to see how much incivility the service's employees will stand for. As they are questioning Miss Velardi and Miss Hart, they note the presence of an original Van Gogh painting on the wall, and a stack of racing forms on a table.

The interrogations yield little information, except that the women are scared enough to submit to Wolfe's boorish behavior in their own rooms. Wolfe does learn that another employee, Helen Weltz, is in Westchester that afternoon, at a cottage that she has leased for the summer. That's Wolfe and Archie's next stop.

When they arrive, Archie has to avoid hitting a new Jaguar parked in front of the cottage. Miss Weltz is not alone, but accompanied by Guy Unger, an acquaintance of several of the women who work at the answering service. To Archie, Unger has the look of an underworld character – mean little eyes and mouth in a big round face. He describes himself as a broker, but when Wolfe presses him, Unger is vague about the sort of business he transacts.

Unger wants to talk with Wolfe alone. When Archie takes Miss Weltz for a stroll he learns that she wants out from under something, but is too frightened of Unger to tell Archie what it is. Archie gets her to agree to phone Wolfe's office that evening; Fritz will relay her call to Archie. Back in the car, Wolfe tells Archie that Unger tried to pay him to drop his investigation.

Wolfe and Archie head back to the city. They can't go to the brownstone because the judge has issued a warrant for their arrest – they have not complied with their subpoenas. Archie phones Saul and arranges for them to spend the night at his apartment. First, though, Wolfe has another errand: he wants to meet with Ashe's wife.

She agrees to see them, and Wolfe convinces her to set up a meeting with Ashe the following morning. By meeting with Ashe, Wolfe contrives to trap ADA Mandelbaum into asking a particular question – one with an answer that Mandelbaum doesn't want to hear.

Cast of characters

*Nero Wolfe — The private investigator
*Archie Goodwin — Wolfe's assistant, and the narrator of all Wolfe stories
*Clyde Bagby — Owner of a telephone answering service
*Leonard Ashe — A Bagby client
*Robina Keane — Ashe's wife, a retired stage actress
*Marie Willis — A Bagby employee, found strangled with her phone cord
*Helen Weltz, Alice Hart and Bella Velardi — Other Bagby employees
*Guy Unger — Mysterious friend of Marie Willis and Helen Weltz
*Jimmy Donovan — Leonard Ashe's defense lawyer
*Assistant District Attorney Irving Mandelbaum — Representing the people of the City of New York

When a Man Murders...

Plot summary

Sidney Karnow has returned from the dead. In 1951 he enlisted in the Army and was sent to Korea as a soldier in the infantry. Injured in battle, he was left for dead by retreating American forces, but in fact was only stunned. Karnow was taken prisoner by the enemy, but after a couple of years he escaped to Manchuria and lived there in a village until the truce. Then he made his way to South Korea and was sent home by the Army.

Unusual enough by itself, but Karnow was also a millionaire. He had inherited money from his parents but felt that he should serve in the military. Before enlisting, he had met and married Caroline, who now calls on Wolfe along with her new husband, Paul Aubry. Caroline and Paul are in a terrible spot: Karnow's return from the dead apparently voids their marriage, and they have spent a large portion of Caroline's inheritance to set Paul up in business as a car dealer. They have decided to offer what is left of the inheritance, plus the dealership, to Karnow in return for his consent to a divorce.

Paul has gone to Karnow's hotel room to put the proposition to him, but got cold feet before knocking on the door. He discusses the situation once again with Caroline, and they decide to come to Wolfe for help. Wolfe explains that he is a detective, not a lawyer, but Aubry replies that "We want you to detect a way of getting Karnow to accept our proposition."

Ignoring Aubry's diction, Wolfe sends Archie, along with Aubry and Caroline, to the Hotel Churchill to put the proposition to Karnow. Archie leaves the clients in the bar and goes upstairs to Karnow's room, gets no answer to his knock, tries the doorknob and finds it unlocked. When he enters, he finds Karnow, shot dead, and a gun lying a few feet away. Archie leaves the room as he found it, collects the clients and returns to the brownstone, where Purley Stebbins soon shows up. Archie, Paul and Caroline were seen at the hotel where Karnow's body was just found.

Stebbins takes Paul and Caroline for questioning (although Wolfe and Archie insist that he do so from the sidewalk: Wolfe will not tolerate a client, even a potential client, being taken into custody inside his house). Archie follows shortly thereafter, and as he is waiting to meet with the DA, he encounters Caroline's in-laws: Karnow's Aunt Margaret, cousins Anne and Richard, and Anne's huband Norman Horne. With them is Jim Beebe, Sidney's lawyer and executor. Archie learns nothing from them except that Anne Horne has a facetious sense of humor.

Archie has no information for ADA Mandelbaum and Inspector Cramer, and shortly after he returns home Caroline rings the doorbell. She brings the news that the police have arrested Paul for Karnow's murder, and she wants to hire Wolfe to clear him. Wolfe accepts, but needs to knows more about Karnow's relatives. They had received bequests in Karnow's will, stood to lose those bequests when he turned up alive, and therefore had motive. Caroline knows little about them except that they had always depended on Karnow's support, and have not managed their inheritances prudently. Wolfe sends Archie to bring them to the office.

Archie tries Beebe first but can't corral him, and has no better luck with Karnow's Aunt Margaret and his cousin Richard. When he calls on cousin Anne, he gets more of her persiflage. Trying to draw her out, he lets her read his palm – and then her husband Norman returns to their apartment. Anne slows Archie down just enough that Norman, unencumbered, can clip Archie in the jaw. Then Archie decks Norman, and leaves.

Finally Wolfe hears from Saul Panzer, who has been investigating a different side of the problem. Wolfe has Archie phone Inspector Cramer, and gives him the choice of bringing all involved to Wolfe's office, or declining to cooperate and letting Wolfe work through the DA's office. Cramer chooses the former option. In the traditional meeting with the suspects in Wolfe's office, Wolfe makes public what Saul has turned up: an unwitting but crucial witness to the motive for Karnow's murder.

Cast of characters

*Nero Wolfe — The private investigator
*Archie Goodwin — Wolfe's assistant, and the narrator of all Wolfe stories
*Sidney Karnow — Wealthy, picturesque heir, thought killed in the Korean War
*Caroline Karnow — His widow, newly remarried
*Paul Aubry — Caroline's new husband
*Margaret Savage — Karnow's aunt
*Richard Savage and Anne Savage Horne — Karnow's cousins
*Norman Horne — Anne's husband
*Jim Beebe — Karnow's lawyer and executor
*Inspector Cramer and Sergeant Purley Stebbins — Representing Manhattan Homicide

Die Like a Dog

Plot summary

It's a rainy day in Manhattan, and Richard Meegan has grabbed the wrong raincoat after getting the brushoff from Wolfe. Meegan came to the brownstone to hire Wolfe, apparently on the sort of marital matter that Wolfe won't touch. Now Archie wants to get his raincoat back: it's newer than the one Meegan left behind.

As Archie approaches Meegan's small apartment house on Arbor Street [The fictional Arbor Street appears a number of times in the Wolfe corpus. For example, Sarah Dacos lives there in "The Doorbell Rang", as does Amy Wynn in "Plot It Yourself". ] in the Village, he sees police near the front, including Sgt. Purley Stebbins. Opting for discretion, Archie starts back home when he realizes he's being tailed by a friendly black Labrador. It's windy enough that Archie's hat blows off his head and across the street, but the dog risks its life retrieving it. After that, Archie can't bring himself to shoo the dog, so he takes him back to the brownstone.

And there, in the office, Archie discovers that Wolfe likes dogs. With what passes in Wolfe for fondness, he recalls that he had a mutt in Montenegro, one with a rather narrow skull. This Labrador has a much broader skull – Wolfe asserts that it's for brain room, and decides that the dog is to be named Jet. Then Fritz reports that Jet has excellent manners in the kitchen. Wolfe has one-upped Archie once again: he would enjoy keeping the dog, but can blame Archie for any problem it causes.

Now Cramer appears at the front door, wanting to know about a dog. A man named Philip Kampf was murdered in the Arbor Street apartment house. Kampf had owned a black Labrador, and a policeman noticed that the dog left with Goodwin. Hence Cramer's questions: Meegan, who saw Wolfe that morning, lives in the apartment house where Kampf was murdered, and Archie has Kampf's dog. Wolfe and Archie describe the day's events for Cramer, who wants more but will wait until the next day.

That evening, looking for a rationale to keep Jet, Wolfe sends Archie for Richard Meegan. But Meegan doesn't answer the buzzer, and when another man leaves the apartment house, Archie follows him.

Archie catches up, introduces himself, and points out that the man's being followed by a police detective. Grateful, the man introduces himself as Victor Talento. Archie wants to know where he's going, and Talento tells him that he's meeting a young woman. Her name is Jewel Jones, and Talento asks Archie to go in his place, and tell her that Talento couldn't make it – Talento doesn't want the police to see them meet.

Archie agrees, meets up with Miss Jones, and since he can't bring Meegan to Wolfe, brings her instead. When they enter Wolfe's office, all three get a surprise: Jet, who has been keeping Wolfe company, runs to Miss Jones and stands in front of her, wagging his tail.

So she knows Jet, and therefore Kampf, and Wolfe pries it out of her that she knew him intimately – and in fact lived for almost a year in the Arbor Street apartment house where Kampf was killed. She knows, less well, three of the men who live there: Talento, Jerome Aland, and Ross Chaffee

Archie interviews Aland, Meegan and Chaffee separately. From Meegan he learns more about his reason for seeing Wolfe: Meegan comes from Pittsburgh, and his wife left him – completely disappeared – about a year earlier. Not long ago Meegan saw a painting of a woman in a Pittsburgh museum, and he's sure it was his wife. He tracked down the artist, Ross Chaffee, and asked him about the model he used. Chaffee couldn't remember the model, but Meegan did not believe him and, to stay close by, rented the empty apartment in the Arbor Street building where Chaffee lives.

Archie takes a blind, but successful, stab at finding the painting and learns that it belongs to a Manhattan collector. He calls on the collector, gets a look at the painting, and sees in it a woman who looks a lot like Jewel Jones. Archie brings her to the office. Informed that she sat for the painting, and is therefore Meegan's missing wife, Wolfe speaks with Chaffee by phone. He threatens to turn Miss Jones over to the police but gives Chaffee the option of bringing the other three tenants with him to Wolfe's office.

With the Arbor Street residents collected, Wolfe zeros in on the murderer, and along the way explains the dog's strange behavior, particularly that it followed Archie from the apartment house.

Cast of characters

*Nero Wolfe — The private investigator
*Archie Goodwin — Wolfe's assistant, and the narrator of all Wolfe stories
*Philip Kampf — The murder victim
*Jet — Kampf's Labrador. Also known as Bootsy
*Richard Meegan — A man searching for his wife
*Victor Talento, Jerome Aland and Ross Chaffee — Residents of the apartment house where Kampf was murdered
*Jewel Jones — Nightclub singer and close friend of Kampf
*Inspector Cramer, Sergeant Stebbins and Sergeant Loftus — Representing Manhattan Homicide

The unfamiliar word

In most Nero Wolfe novels and novellas, there is at least one unfamiliar word, usually spoken by Wolfe. Those found in these novellas include:

*Daddled. "The Next Witness" Chapter 2. The "Shorter Oxford English Dictionary" regards this word as from the first element of "dadder", long obsolete except in dialect and meaning to quake or tremble.
*Justicial. "The Next Witness" Chapter 1.
*Demirep. "Die Like A Dog" Chapter 3.
*Prepossession. "Die Like A Dog" Chapter 7.

Reviews and commentary

* Jacques Barzun and Wendell Hertig Taylor, "A Catalogue of Crime" — This is unquestionably the best of the Nero Wolfe "threesomes," containing as it does the little masterpiece called "The Next Witness," about a telephone-answering service; "When a Man Murders...", a first-rate Enoch Arden tale; "Die Like a Dog," in which a dog and a raincoat mixed up figure prominently and skillfully. Archie is tops in all, and in the first we not only enjoy Wolfe subpoenaed and in a courtroom, but subsequently driving around and doing genuine detection on the hoof.Barzun, Jacques and Taylor, Wendell Hertig. "A Catalogue of Crime". New York: Harper & Row. 1971, revised and enlarged edition 1989. ISBN 0-06-015796-8]


"A Nero Wolfe Mystery" (A&E Network)

The Next Witness

"The Next Witness" was adapted for the second season of the A&E TV series "A Nero Wolfe Mystery" (2001–2002). Written by Sharon Elizabeth Doyle and directed by James Tolkan, the episode made its debut April 21, 2002, on A&E. The A&E version of the episode was expanded from 45 minutes to 90 minutes for international broadcast.

Timothy Hutton is Archie Goodwin; Maury Chaykin is Nero Wolfe. Other members of the cast of "The Next Witness," in credits order, include Bill Smitrovich (Inspector Cramer), Conrad Dunn (Saul Panzer), Christine Brubaker (Bella Velardi), R.D. Reid (Sergeant Purley Stebbins), Saul Rubinek (Lon Cohen), Robert Bockstael (Jimmy Donovan), Nicky Guadagni (Alice Hart), Richard Waugh (Guy Unger), David Schurmann (Leonard Ashe), Boyd Banks (Clyde Bagby), Wayne Best (District Attorney Mandelbaum), Francie Swift (Helen Weltz), Beau Starr (Judge Corbett) and Rebecca Jenkins (Robina Keane).

Die Like a Dog

"Die Like a Dog" was adapted for the second season of the A&E TV series "A Nero Wolfe Mystery" (2001–2002). Written by Sharon Elizabeth Doyle and directed by James Tolkan, the episode made its debut April 28, 2002, on A&E.

Timothy Hutton and Maury Chaykin star as Archie Goodwin and Nero Wolfe. Other members of the cast of "Die Like a Dog," in credits order, include Colin Fox (Fritz Brenner), Bill Smitrovich (Inspector Cramer), Kari Matchett (Jewel Jones), James Tolkan (Loftus the dog expert), R.D. Reid (Sergeant Purley Stebbins), Steve Cumyn (Ross Chaffee), Julian Richings (Jerome Aland), Bill MacDonald (Richard Meegan) and Alex Poch-Goldin (Victor Talento). The Labrador Retriever "Jet" (Jesse) [] is from the BRB K9 kennels of Sherri Davis. []

"A Nero Wolfe Mystery" is available on DVD from A&E Home Video. ISBN 076708893X

"Nero Wolfe" (CBC Radio)

"The Next Witness" was adapted as the eleventh episode of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's 13-part radio series "Nero Wolfe" (1982), starring Mavor Moore as Nero Wolfe and Don Francks as Archie Goodwin. Written by Ron Hartmann, the hour-long adaptation aired on CBC Stereo March 27, 1982.

Publication history

*1956, New York: Viking Press, March 10, 1956, hardcover
*1956, Toronto: Macmillan, 1956, hardcover
*1956, New York: Viking Press (Mystery Guild), June 1956, hardcover
*1956, London: Collins Crime Club, October 22, 1956, hardcover
*1957, New York: Bantam Books, July 1957, paperback
*1965, New York: Viking Press, "Royal Flush" (with "Fer-de-Lance"and "Murder by the Book"), July 23, 1965, hardcover
*1976, London: Hamish Hamilton, 1976
*1994, USA, Bantam Crimeline ISBN 0553249592 September 1, 1994, paperback
*1997, USA, Books on Tape, Inc. ISBN 0736637516 July 21, 1997, audio cassette (unabridged, read by Michael Prichard)


External links

*imdb title|id=0394819|title=A Nero Wolfe Mystery — "The Next Witness"
* [ "A Nero Wolfe Mystery" — "The Next Witness"] at The Wolfe Pack, official site of the Nero Wolfe Society
*imdb title|id=0394815|title=A Nero Wolfe Mystery — "Die Like a Dog"
* [ "A Nero Wolfe Mystery" — "Die Like a Dog"] at The Wolfe Pack, official site of the Nero Wolfe SocietyThe unfamiliar word

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