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He put his drink down in one piece and lunged for a mahogany call box on his desk. I caught the name Galbraith. I went over and unlocked the door.

I just wonder the meaning of above 'in one piece' is 'untouched or unharmed' as explained in dictionary, which mean he put down the glass on the desk without drinking.

Or aside from idiomatic dictionary meaning it is just a description of motion, that is, he put down his glass in an uninterrupted motion, regardless of drinking it or not.

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The phrase "in one piece" means "intact" or "unharmed".

http://www.dictionary.com/browse/in-one-piece

In this case it could mean one of two things:

  • His glass/mug/cup/whatever was intact when he put it down, rather than being cracked or shattered or otherwise damaged

  • He didn't drink any of it before putting it down

The former is literal; maybe there was a possibility that he'd damage it somehow (hard to tell without context). The latter is more figurate, implying that to drink from it is to damage it, or - yet more figurative - perhaps he is the one going unharmed? Maybe the drink is intoxicating or even poisonous!

Either way, this is a strange usage of the phrase.

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http://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/in+one+piece

According to the above reference, the the phrase "in one piece" is based off of something being unbroken. So, though I have never seen "in one piece" used in this context, we can assume the author merely means to say that he put it down without it breaking, rather then him slamming on the table and it shattering into 1000 pieces.

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