Study Guide

The Maltese Falcon Chapter 16

By Dashiell Hammett

Chapter 16

The Third Murder

  • At the Belvedere, the hotel detective tells Spade that Cairo checked out fifteen minutes ago.
  • When Spade returns to the office, he tells Effie that he had gone down to the pier to see La Paloma. Apparently Brigid had been there yesterday afternoon to see the Captain. There were also three other visitors: Gutman, Wilmer, and Cairo. Quite the reunion.
  • Around 11 o'clock, a gunshot was heard, but the Captain informed the watchman that everything was fine and no one had been injured. The meeting ended around midnight, and the Captain has since not been seen anywhere. The police have been unable to determine who set the boat on fire, although it was likely started yesterday.
  • Suddenly, a rasping voice calls out from the corridor: "Where's Spade?"
  • A seven-foot tall man stumbles into the office, clutching against his chest a brown parcel about the size of a football.
  • He manages to say two words, "You know—", before falling forward. Sam jumps up to catch him, just as blood spurts from his mouth and the brown package rolls across the floor. The man is dead, shot in the chest half a dozen times.
  • Spade reaches for the parcel, and slowly peels away the sheets of brown paper to reveal… [pause for dramatic effect]… a foot-high figure of a black bird.
  • A telephone rings. It's Brigid calling to say she's at the Alexandria, and in danger. But something happens to her before she can finish explaining.
  • Spade orders Effie to phone the police and explain what happened, but to leave out the falcon. When Effie asks who the man is, Spade replies that it's Captain Jacobi of La Paloma.
  • He then rushes off in the direction of the Alexandria.