Helen of Marlowe's Blog

Nero Wolfe’s Income Taxes

Posted in "North Carolina", Literature, Politics by helenofmarlowe on August 25, 2012

Nero Wolfe, detective extraordinaire who sprang from the imagination of Rex Stout in the 1930s, is in the 90%  (marginal) tax bracket.

I was reminded of today’s conflict between Tea Party Republicans and the Occupiers, and almost everyone in between, when I recently read a Nero Wolfe mystery.

Most of Nero Wolfe’s clients come into his office with a $10,000 deposit. And with assurance that this is only a deposit, and that after the job is completed, Wolfe can make out the bill for whatever he wants it to be. Wolfe usually replies something to the effect that he always makes out his bill for whatever he wants it to be.

But in “Instead of Evidence” (1946) Wolfe is about to turn down a job. Not just because he doesn’t like the job, but also because the fee being offered is absurdly low, only – at least for deposit – $5000.

The client stuck his cigar in his mouth, took it out again, and asked, “What’s the matter, don’t you want five thousand dollars?”

Wolfe said gruffly, “I wouldn’t get five thousand dollars. This is October. As my nineteen forty-five income now stands, I’ll keep about ten per cent of any additional receipts after paying taxes. Out of five thousand, five hundred would be mine. If Mr. Blaney is as clever as you think he is, I wouldn’t consider trying to uncover him on a murder for five hundred dollars.”

The prospective client is not so easily deterred. His hand went into a pocket and came out full of folded money, and he began to speak to Mr. Wolfe of the advantage of taking cash, thereby allowing the detective to keep the full amount. No receipt required.

But, as narrator and Wolfe sidekick Archie Goodwin reports,

Wolfe’s look stopped him. “Pfui,” Wolfe said. He hadn’t had as good a chance to show off for a month. “I am not a common cheat. Not that I am a saint. Given adequate provocation, I might conceivably cheat a man – or a woman or even a child. But you are suggesting that I cheat, not a man or woman or child, but a hundred and forty million of my fellow citizens. Bah.”

No Swiss bank accounts or off-shore investments or hedge funds for Nero Wolfe.  No hiding assets in the Cayman Islands.  Cheat a hundred and forty million of his fellow citizens? Bah!

Up the Greenway Without a Bike

Posted in "North Carolina", Winston-Salem by helenofmarlowe on August 8, 2012

The older I get, the more I depend upon the kindness of strangers.

We started the day with our decision to go out to Salem Lake. The gravel and crushed-stone trail around Salem Lake is seven miles, a bit longer than my bicycle likes to go when I’m the one pedaling, but I do enjoy the last two miles almost as much as the first five. I can make most of the hills without getting off to push – not all, but most.

So that was the plan – to leave about 9:30 and bike seven miles before high noon. As per our usual M.O. we actually got my bike into the truck about 10:45. We headed up University Parkway, took a left on Eighth Street, and drove on out to Salem Lake, listening to classical WVTF 89.1 Roanoke along the way.

When we got to the lake, the truck bed was empty.

Bob! My bike is gone!

Hard to believe, but undeniable. Nothing in that truck bed but a bungee cord hanging loosely over a few brown poplar leaves.

We retraced our treads, back through the city, knowing it was useless but hoping to find my bike lying on the side of an inner city street untrammeled. I groaned that if the bike had not been run over and was not hurt too bad, then someone picked it up and rode off on it a half hour ago.

What a pessimist.

It turns out the bike stayed with us through a dozen stoplights, and fell off the truck on MLK Blvd.  Heading back, all eyes peeled along the highway, we spotted a bicycle propped up against a chain-link fence at the intersection of MLK and Linden. Bob stopped the truck at the stop light, and while he waited for a left-turn signal, I jumped out and ran across the street.

It’s mine!  It is!  It’s my bike!

I didn’t have the presence of mind to take a photo of my bicycle leaning against that fence, but it would have made a good shot.  Here is where we found it.  A google map photo.  Right there.  See that chain link fence? Propped up right there! I got on it and rode it – or tried to ride it – to where Bob had pulled the truck over.

Click the photo to enlarge.

The chain was off, but I wasn’t sure whether it was damaged or just off.

We took the bike to Ken’s Bike Shop on Reynolda Road, and Ken had it fixed up in ten minutes.

No charge.

As I rode my bike slowly across Ken’s  parking lot on Reynolda Road, toward our unlocked Toyota pick-up, I saw through the open windows that I had left my camera on the seat.

At my age, I guess I can look forward to more reliance on the kindness of strangers.


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