The Maltese Falcon


Dashiell Hammett

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The Maltese Falcon: Chapter 14 Summary & Analysis

The next morning, Spade quietly opens his office door to find Effie asleep at the reception desk. He wakes her and she’s shocked to see the large bruise on his head. He explains that Gutman drugged him and that he’s been unconscious for twelve hours, which has given Gutman and Wilmer Cook time to look for the statue without his interference. As Spade puts a cold compress against this head, he reports what Gutman told him about the falcon so that Effie can ask her cousin, a history professor, if the story has any truth to it.
Without warning, the narrative jumps ahead twelve hours, beginning with Spade already awake after being drugged and at his office. This disorientating jump in time reflects Spade’s disorientation from being drugged and also captures the sense of how Spade has lost time that his enemies have used to benefit themselves. Spade, meanwhile, is still trying to figure out what is and isn’t true.
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Spade next heads to Cairo’s hotel where he meets up with Luke, the hotel detective, and together they search Cairo’s room. In the room, Spade notices a newspaper with a section about ship arrivals ripped out. Spade goes to the hotel store where he reads in the same newspaper issue that the ship La Paloma had arrived in San Francisco from Hong Kong yesterday morning. Remembering that Brigid said she met Thursby in Hong Kong, Spade realizes that Brigid must have seen the same notice in the newspaper and had gone to the Ferry Building to meet the ship.
The hole in the newspaper is a metaphor for how information works in this novel. No matter what, there are always holes in Spade’s knowledge and, to understand what’s going on, Spade must fill in the missing information. This scene also contrasts with when Spade burned the note with Brigid’s info on it. Cairo, not as mistrustful as Spade, doesn’t realize that he should have destroyed the paper.
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Back at the office, Spade returns the calls of Tom Polhaus and District Attorney Bryan, arranging individual meetings with each of them. After he makes his calls, Effie enters his office with the news that her cousin has verified the information about the falcon. When Spade notices some black soot on her face, she mentions that she passed the harbor where a boat, the La Paloma, was on fire. Realizing that fire must mean that La Paloma has something to do with Brigid and the bird, Spade smiles at her knowingly.
Spade’s smile at the end of the chapter appears heartless. Since Spade assumes that Brigid went to La Paloma, she may have also been injured on board the burning ship. However, instead of feeling concern for her safety, Spade feels gratification that his hunch was right.
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