Hammett: “Brigid Skates”

Back in 2009 I had a potential brush with the Court of Historical Review in San Francisco, which plays with old crimes — for fun, they re-try them. The loose plan was that I would provide background info on evidence in the case of Brigid O’Shaughnessy gunning down Sam Spade’s partner Miles Archer.

To make it actually fun for me, I thought I’d rope Bill Arney into the deal.

On April 3 I dropped Bill a dime — er, email — and gave him the scoop: “If all the elements come together, the Court of Historical Review plans on holding a trial for Brigid.

“I recall that you are the one who has long said that there isn’t enough evidence to convict her in a court trial.

“If so, and depending on what happens, I figure we could help out and ‘write’ part of the deal — that is, outline stuff for whoever plays the lawyers, and they’d be using real lawyers.

“My bigger idea would be to write into the whole scenario voice-over narration for you to read like at Noir City, give it a nice extra touch.

“Keep it in mind. If we can work something agreeable to us out of it, cool. But I’d want a bigger piece of the ‘action’ and a role for you. (They really need something like you doing voice-over to take it beyond their current level, to jazz it up).”

So, I had Bill prepped, but we never were called into action. Have no idea if they even had some local lawyers debate it or not, or just skipped ahead to the next thing.

If Bill and I weren’t involved, who cared, right?

I did, however, receive an outline that briefs us on Bill’s theories, which I really ought to toss before the public.

Here’s what Bill Arney thought a decade ago, back in 2009:

“Of course Brigid would get off. There’s not a shred of physical evidence linking her to any crime, and all the potential witnesses are dead.

“Presumably she kept her fingerprints off the Webley.

“Her story would be that she hired Thursby to escort her from the Far East and keep her safe from Gutman and Cairo. They had some idea that she had stolen an object of value from them.

“She can claim Cairo had stolen it and framed her with Gutman.

“No living witness can describe what happened in re: the falcon until Captain Jacoby had it when he stumbled into Spade’s office full of bullets. Both Spade and Effie could testify to that, but no more.

“So Brigid’s story is that she became afraid of Thursby, who was a very violent man, and hired Spade and Archer.

“That night, Thursby spotted Archer tailing him, dropped Brigid off at her hotel and told her to change hotels as a precaution. She went to her room and packed, unable to warn Archer.

“She heard about the killings the next day and contacted Spade.

“Spade can talk all he wants, but the jury will have only his word on Brigid’s confession, which might even be excluded from the trial if Brigid’s lawyer is any good.

“It can be argued that Spade was making Archer’s wife, or that Spade killed Thursby as revenge for Miles. Any number of alternate theories square with the known facts and physical evidence.

“The jury might even believe Spade, but his testimony alone is not enough to send Brigid to the gallows. There is certainly more than a reasonable doubt.

“Case closed. Brigid skates.”

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