BANTAM BOOKS 990
 Printing History:
 Dutton Edition Published December, 1950
 1st Printing October, 1950
 Unicorn Mystery Book Club Edition Published February, 1951
 Bantam Edition Published April, 1952
 1st Printing March, 1952
 Copyright, 1950, by Fredric Brown



     ALL VERSES INTRODUCING
     CHAPTERS ARE FROM THE WORKS
     OF CHARLES LUTWIDGE DODGSON,
     KNOWN IN WONDERLAND AS LEWIS
     CARROLL.








          'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
                 Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
          All mimsy were the borogoves,
                 And the mome raths outgrabe.

     In my dream I was  standing in the middle of Oak Street and it was dark
night. The street lights were off; only  pale moonlight glinted on the  huge
sword that I swung in circles about my head as the  Jabberwock crept closer.
It bellied along the pavement, flexing its wings and tensing its muscles for
the final  rush; its claws clicked  against the stones like the  clicking of
mats down the channels of a Linotype. Then, astonishingly, it spoke.
     "Doc," it said. "Wake up, Doc."
     A hand - not the hand of a Jabberwock - was shaking my shoulder.
     And it  was early dusk instead of black night and I  was sitting in the
swivel chair at my battered desk, looking over my shoulder at Pete. Pete was
grinning at me.
     "We're  in, Doc," he  said. "You'll have to cut two lines on this  last
take and we're in. Early, for once."
     He put a galley proof down in front of me, only one stick of type long.
I  picked up a blue pencil and knocked off two lines and they happened to be
an even sentence, so Pete wouldn't have to reset anything.
     He went over to the  Linotype and  shut it off and it was suddenly very
quiet in the place, so quiet that I could hear the drip of the faucet way in
the far corner.
     I stood up  and stretched, feeling good, although a little  groggy from
having dozed off while Pete was setting that  final take.  For once, for one
Thursday, the  Carmel City Clarion was ready for the press early. Of course,
there wasn't any real news in it, but then there never was.
     And only half-past six and not yet dark outside. We were through  hours
earlier than usual. I decided that that called for a drink, here and now.
     The bottle in my desk turned  out to have enough  whisky in it  for one
healthy  drink or two short ones. I asked Pete if  he wanted a snort and  he
said no, not  yet, he'd  wait till  he  got over to  Smiley's, so  I treated
myself to a healthy drink, as I'd hoped to be  able to do.  And it had  been
fairly safe to ask Pete; he seldom took  one  before he was through for  the
day,  and although my  part of the  job was done  Pete  still  had almost an
hour's work ahead of him on the mechanical end.
     The drink made a warm spot under my belt as I walked over to the window
by the Linotype and stood staring out into the quiet dusk. The lights of Oak
Street flashed on while I  stood there.  I'd been dreaming - what had I been
dreaming?
     On the sidewalk across the  street Miles Harrison hesitated in front of
Smiley's Tavern as though the thought of a cool glass of beer tempted him. I
could almost feel his  mind  working: "No, I'm a  deputy  sheriff of  Carmel
County  and I  have a job to do yet  tonight and I  don't drink while I'm on
duty. The beer can wait."
     Yes, his conscience must have won, because he walked on.
     I wonder now - although of course I didn't wonder then - whether, if he
had known that he would  be dead  before midnight, he wouldn't have  stopped
for that beer. I think he would have. I know I would have,  but that doesn't
prove anything because I'd have done  it anyway; I've never had a conscience
like Miles Harrison's.
     Behind me, at the stone, Pete was putting the final  stick of type into
the chase of the front page. He said, "Okay, Doc, she fits. We're in."
     "Let the presses roll," I told him.
     Just a manner of speaking,  of course. There was only  one press and it
didn't roll, because it was a Miehle vertical that shuttled up and down. And
it wouldn't even do that until morning. The  Clarion is a weekly  paper that
comes out on Friday; we put it to bed on Thursday evening and  Pete  runs it
off the press Friday morning. And it's not much of a run.
     Pete asked, "You going over to Smiley's?"
     That was a  silly question; I always go over to Smiley's on a  Thursday
evening and usually, when he's finished locking up the forms, Pete joins me,
at least for a while. "Sure," I told him.
     "I'll bring you a stone proof, then," Pete said.
     Pete always does that, although  I seldom  do more than  glance at  it.
Pete's too good  a printer for me  ever to catch any important errors on him
and as for minor typographicals, Carmel City doesn't mind them.
     I  was free and Smiley's  was waiting, but for some reason I wasn't  in
any hurry to leave. It was pleasant, after the hard work of a Thursday - and
don't let that  short nap fool you; I had been working  - to stand there and
watch  the  quiet  street  in  the  quiet  twilight, and to  contemplate  an
intensive campaign of  doing nothing for the rest of the evening, with a few
drinks to help me do it.
     Miles  Harrison, a  dozen  paces  past  Smiley's, stopped, turned,  and
headed back. Good, I thought, I'll have someone to drink with. I turned away
from the window and put on my suit coat and hat.
     I said, "Be seeing you, Pete," and I went  down the stairs and out into
the warm summer evening.
     I'd misjudged Miles Harrison; he  was  coming  out of Smiley's already,
too soon  even  to  have had  a quick one,  and  he  was opening a  pack  of
cigarettes. He saw me and waved, waiting  in front of Smiley's door to light
a cigarette while I crossed the street.
     "Have a drink with me, Miles," I suggested.
     He  shook his head regretfully. "Wish I could, Doc. But I got a  job to
do later. You know, go with  Ralph Bonney over  to Neilsville to get his pay
roll."
     Sure, I knew. In a small town everybody knows everything.
     Ralph Bonney owned the Bonney Fireworks Company, just outside of Carmel
City.  They  made fireworks,  mostly  big  pieces  for  fairs  and municipal
displays, that were sold all over the  country. And during the few months of
each year up to about the first of July they  worked a day and a night shift
to meet the Fourth of July demand.
     And Ralph  Bonney had something against Clyde Andrews, president of the
Carmel City  Bank,  and  did  his banking  in  Neilsville. He drove  over to
Neilsville late every Thursday night and  they opened the bank there to give
him  the  cash  for  his night  shift pay roll. Miles  Harrison,  as  deputy
sheriff, always went along as guard.
     Always seemed like a  silly procedure to me, as the night side pay roll
didn't amount to  more than a few thousand dollars and Bonney could have got
it along with the cash for his day side pay roll and  held it at the office,
but that was his way of doing things.
     I said, "Sure, Miles, but that's not for hours yet. And one drink isn't
going to hurt you."
     He grinned.  "I  know it wouldn't, but I'd probably  take another  just
because the first one didn't  hurt  me.  So I stick to the rule that I don't
have even one drink till I'm off duty for  the day,  and if I don't stick to
it I'm sunk. But thanks just the same, Doc. I'll take a rain check."
     He had a  point, but I wish he hadn't made it. I wish  he'd  let me buy
him that drink, or several of them, because that rain check wasn't worth the
imaginary  paper  it was printed  on to a man  who was going to be  murdered
before midnight.
     But I didn't know that, and I didn't insist. I said, "Sure, Miles," and
asked him about his kids.
     "Fine, both of 'em. Drop out and see us sometime."
     "Sure," I said, and I went into Smiley's.
     Big, bald Smiley  Wheeler was  alone. He smiled as I came in and  said,
"Hi,  Doc. How's the editing business?"  And then he laughed as though  he'd
said something excruciatingly funny.  Smiley hasn't  the ghost of a sense of
humor  and he has the mistaken  idea that he disguises that fact by laughing
at almost everything he says or hears said.
     "Smiley, you  give me  a pain,"  I told  him.  It's always safe to tell
Smiley a truth  like that; no  matter  how seriously you say and mean it; he
thinks you're joking. If he'd laughed  I'd have told  him where he gave me a
pain, but for once he didn't laugh.
     He said, "Glad you got here early, Doc. It's damn dull this evening."
     "It's dull every evening in Carmel City," I told  him. "And most of the
time I like  it.  But Lord, if only something  would  happen  just once on a
Thursday evening, I'd love it. Just once in my long career, I'd like to have
one hot story to break to a panting public."
     "Hell, Doc, nobody looks for hot news in a country weekly."
     "I know," I  said.  "That's why  I'd like to fool them just once.  I've
been running the Clarion twenty-three years. One hot story. Is  that much to
ask?"
     Smiley frowned. "There've been a couple of burglaries.  And one murder,
a few years ago."
     "Sure,"  I said, "and so what? One of the factory hands out at Bonney's
got in a drunken argument  with another and hit  him  too hard in the  fight
they  got  into.  That's not  murder; that's  manslaughter,  and  anyway  it
happened on a Saturday and it was  old  stuff - everybody in town knew about
it - by the next Friday when the Clarion came out."
     "They buy your paper  anyway, Doc. They look for their names for having
attended church socials and who's got a used washing machine for sale  and -
want a drink?"
     "It's about time one of us thought of that," I said.
     He poured a shot for me and, so I wouldn't have to drink alone, a short
one  for himself.  We drank them and I  asked him, "Think Carl  will  be  in
tonight?"
     I meant Carl Trenholm, the  lawyer,  who's about my  closest friend  in
Carmel City, and one  of the three or four in town who play chess and can be
drawn  into  an  intelligent  discussions of  something  besides  crops  and
politics. Carl often dropped in Smiley's  on Thursday evenings, knowing that
I always came in for at least a few drinks after putting the paper to bed.
     "Don't  think  so," Smiley said. "Carl was in most of the afternoon and
got himself kind of  a snootful, to celebrate. He got through in court early
and he won his case. Guess he went home to sleep it off."
     I said, "Damn. Why couldn't he  have waited till this evening? I'd have
helped  him -  Say, Smiley, did you say Carl was celebrating  because he won
that case? Unless we're talking about two different  things, he lost it. You
mean the Bonney divorce?"
     "Yeah."
     "Then Carl  was representing Ralph  Bonney, and  Bonney's wife won  the
divorce."
     "You got it that way in the paper, Doc?"
     "Sure," I said. "It's the nearest thing I've  got to  a good story this
week."
     Smiley shook his head. "Carl was saying to me he hoped you wouldn't put
it in, or anyway  that  you'd hold it down to a short squib,  just  the fact
that she got the divorce."
     I said, "I don't get it, Smiley. Why? And didn't Carl lose the case?"
     Smiley leaned forward  confidentially across the bar, although he and I
were  the  only ones  in his  place. He said,  "It's  like this, Doc. Bonney
wanted the divorce. That wife of his was a bitch, see?  Only  he didn't have
any  grounds to  sue on, himself - not  any that he'd  have  been willing to
bring up  in  court, anyway, see? So he - well, kind of bought  his freedom.
Gave her  a settlement if she'd do the suing, and he admitted to the grounds
she gave against him. Where'd you get your version of the story?"
     "From the judge," I said.
     "Well, he just saw the outside of it. Carl says Bonney's a good joe and
those cruelty  charges were a bunch of hokum.  He never laid a hand on  her.
But the  woman  was  such  hell on  wheels  that Bonney'd  have  admitted to
anything to get free of her. And give her a settlement of a hundred grand on
top of it. Carl was worried about the  case because the cruelty charges were
so damn silly on the face of them."
     "Hell,"  I  said,  "that's not  the  way  it's  going to  sound  in the
Clarion."
     "Carl  was  saying he knew you couldn't tell the truth about the story,
but he hoped you'd  play  it down. Just  saying Mrs. B. had  been  granted a
divorce and that  a settlement  had  been made, and not  putting in anything
about the charges."
     I  thought  of my one  real  story of the  week, and  how carefully I'd
enumerated  all  those  charges Bonney's  wife bad  made  against him, and I
groaned at the thought of having to rewrite or cut the story. And cut it I'd
have to, now that I knew the facts.
     I said, "Damn Carl, why didn't he come  and tell  me about it before  I
wrote the story and put the paper to bed?"
     "He thought about doing that,  Doc. And then  he decided he didn't want
to use his friendship with you to influence the way you reported news."
     "The  damn fool,"  I said. "And  all  he had to  do was walk across the
street."
     "But Carl did say that Bonney's a swell guy and it would be a bad break
for  him if you listed those charges  because none of them were really  true
and-"
     "Don't  rub it in," I interrupted him. "I'll change the story.  If Carl
says it's that way, I'll believe  him. I  can't say that the charges weren't
true, but at least I can leave them out."
     "That'd be swell of you, Doc."
     "Sure it would.  All right, give me one more drink, Smiley, and I'll go
over and catch it before Pete leaves."
     I had the  one more drink, cussing myself for being sap enough to spoil
the only mentionable story I had,  but knowing I had to do it. I didn't know
Bonney personally, except just to say hello to on the street, but I did know
Carl Trenholm well enough to be damn sure that if he said Bonney was  in the
right, the story wasn't fair the way I'd written it. And I knew Smiley  well
enough  to  be sure he hadn't given me  a bum steer on what Carl  had really
said.
     So I grumbled my way back across the street and upstairs to the Clarion
office. Pete was just tightening the chase around the front page.
     He loosened the quoins when I told him what we had to  do, and I walked
around the stone so I could read the story again, upside down, of course, as
type is always read.
     The  first paragraph could  stand as  written and  could constitute the
entire story. I told Pete to put the rest of the type in the hell-box  and I
went over  to the  case  and set a short head in  tenpoint, "Bonney  Divorce
Granted," to replace the twenty-four point head that had been on  the longer
story. I handed Pete the stick and watched while he switched heads.
     "Leaves about a nine-inch hole in the page," he said. "What'll we stick
in it?"
     I sighed. "Have to use filler," I told him. "Not on the front page, but
we'll have to find something on page four we  can move front  and then stick
in nine inches of filler where it came from."
     I wandered down  the stone  to page four and picked up a pica  stick to
measure things. Pete went over to the rack and got a galley of filler. About
the only  thing  that  was  anywhere near  the right size was the story that
Clyde Andrews, Carmel City's banker and  leading  light of the local Baptist
Church,  had given me about the rummage sale the church had planned for next
Tuesday evening.
     It  wasn't exactly a story of earth-shaking importance, but it would be
about the right length if we reset it indented to go in a box.  And it had a
lot of names  in it,  and that meant it would please a lot  of  people,  and
particularly Clyde Andrews, if I moved it up to the front page.
     So we moved it. Rather, Pete reset it for a front page box item while I
plugged the gap in page four with filler items and locked up the page again.
Pete  had the rummage  sale item reset by the time  I'd  finished  with page
four, and this time I waited for him to  finish up page one, so we could  go
to Smiley's together.
     I  thought about .that front page  while  I washed my hands.  The Front
Page. Shades of Hecht and MacArthur. Poor revolving Horace Greeley.
     Now I really wanted a drink.
     Pete was  starting to  pound out a  stone proof  and I told  him not to
bother. Maybe the customers would read page one, but I wasn't going  to. And
if there was an upside-down headline or a pied paragraph,  it would probably
be an improvement.
     Pete  washed up and  we  locked  the  door.  It  was  still early for a
Thursday evening, not much after seven. I should have been happy about that,
and I probably would have been if we'd had a good paper. As for the one we'd
just put to bed, I wondered if it would live until morning.
     Smiley had a couple of other customers and was waiting on  them,  and I
wasn't in any mood to  wait for Smiley so I  went around  behind the bar and
got the  Old Henderson  bottle and two glasses  and took them to a table for
Pete and myself. Smiley  and I know one another  well  enough so it's always
all right  for me to help myself, any time  it's convenient and settle  with
him afterward.
     I poured drinks for Pete and me. We drank and Pete  said, "Well, that's
that for another week, Doc."
     I wondered how many times  he'd said that in the ten years  he'd worked
for me, and  then  I got to wondering how  many times I'd thought  it, which
would be-
     "How much is fifty-two times twenty-three, Pete?" I asked him.
     "Huh? A hell of a lot. Why?"
     I  figured it myself. "Fifty times  twenty-three is - one  thousand one
hundred and fifty; twice  twenty-three more makes  eleven ninety-six.  Pete,
eleven  hundred  and ninety six times have  I put that  paper to  bed  on  a
Thursday night and never once was there a really big hot news story in it."
     "This isn't Chicago, Doe. What do you expect, a murder?"
     "I'd love a murder," I told him.
     It would  have been funny if  Pete had said, "Doc, how'd you like three
in one night?"
     But he  didn't, of course. In a way, though, he said something that was
even  funnier. He said, "But suppose it  was a  friend of  yours?  Your best
friend, say.  Carl  Trenholm.  Would you want  him  killed just to  give the
Clarion a story?"
     "Of course not," I said. "Preferably somebody  I don't know at all - if
there is anybody in Carmel City I don't know at all. Let's make it Yehudi."
     "Who's Yehudi?" Pete asked.
     I looked at Pete to see if he was kidding me, and apparently he wasn't,
so I explained: "The  little  man who  wasn't there.  Don't you remember the
rhyme?

                       I saw a man upon the stair,
                       A little man who was not there.
                       He was not there again today;
                       Gee, I wish he'd go away."

     Pete  laughed. "Doc,  you  get  crazier  every day.  Is that  Alice  in
Wonderland, too, like all the other stuff you quote when you get drinking?"
     "This  time, no.  But  who says I  quote Lewis  Carroll only  when  I'm
drinking? I can quote  him now, and I've hardly started drinking for tonight
- why, as  the Red Queen said to Alice, `One has to do this much drinking to
stay  in  the same place.'  But listen and I'll  quote  you something that's
really something:
          `Twas brillig and the slithy toves
                 Did gyre and gimble in the wabe-"

     Pete stood up. "Jabberwocky, from  Alice Through the Looking-Glass," he
said. "If you've recited that to me once, Doc, it's been  a hundred times. I
damn near know it myself. But I got to go, Doc. Thanks for the drink."
     "Okay, Pete, but don't forget one thing."
     "What's that?"
     I said:

          "Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
                 The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
          Beware the Jubjub bird and shun
                 The frumious-"
  Smiley was calling to me, "Hey, Doc!" from over beside
the  telephone and  I  remembered now that I'd heard  it ring  half a minute
before. Smiley yelled, "Telephone  for you, Doc," and laughed as though that
was the funniest thing that had happened in a long time.
     I stood up and started for the phone, telling Pete good night en route.
     I picked up the phone and said  "Hello" to  it and it said "Hello" back
at me. Then it said, "Doc?" and I said, "Yes."
     Then it said,  "Clyde Andrews speaking, Doc."  His voice sounded  quite
calm. "This is murder."
     Pete must  be almost to the door by  now; that was my first  thought. I
said, "Just a second, Clyde,"  and  then jammed my hand over  the mouthpiece
while I yelled, "Hey, Pete!"
     He was at the door; but he turned.
     "Don't go," I yelled  at  him, the length of the bar. "There's a murder
story breaking. We got to remake!"
     I could  feel  the  sudden  silence  in Smiley's  Bar. The conversation
between the two other  customers  stopped  in  the middle of a word and they
turned to look at me. Pete, from the door, looked at me. Smiley, a bottle in
his hand, turned  to look at me - and he didn't even smile. In fact, just as
I turned back to  the phone, the bottle  dropped out of his hand and hit the
floor with a noise  that made me jump and  close my mouth quickly to keep my
heart from jumping from it. That bottle crashing on the floor  had sounded -
for a second - just like a revolver shot.
     I  waited  until I felt that I  could talk again without stammering and
then I took my  hand off  the mouthpiece  of  the  phone and said calmly, or
almost calmly, "Okay, Clyde, go ahead."



          "Who are you, aged man?" I said.
                "And how is it you live?"
          His answer trickled through my head,
                Like water through a sieve.

     "You've gone to press, haven't you, Doc?" Clyde's voice said. "You must
have because  I tried phoning you at the office first and then somebody told
me if you  weren't there, you'd  be at Smiley's, but  that'd  mean  you were
through for the-"
     "That's all right," I said. "Get on with it."
     "I  know  it's murder,  Doc, to ask you to  change a  story when you've
already  got  the paper ready to run and have  left the office,  but - well,
that rummage  sale  we were going to have Tuesday; it's been called off. Can
you still kill the article? Otherwise a lot of people will read about it and
come around to the church Tuesday night and be disappointed."
     "Sure, Clyde," I said. "I'll take care of it."
     I  hung up.  I went over  to  the table and sat down. I poured myself a
drink of whisky and when Pete came over I poured him one.
     He asked me what the call had been and I told him.
     Smiley and his  two  other customers were still staring at  me,  but  I
didn't say anything until Smiley called out, "What happened, Doc? Didn't you
say something about a murder?"
     I said, "I was just kidding, Smiley." He laughed.
     I drank my drink and Pete drank his: He said, "I knew there was a catch
about getting through  early tonight. Now  we got  a  nine-inch hole  in the
front page all over again. What are we going to put in it?"
     "Damned if I know," I told him. "But the hell with it for tonight. I'll
get down when you do in the morning and figure something out then."
     Pete said, "That's what you say now, Doc.  But if you don't get down at
eight o'clock, what'll I do with that hole in the page?"
     "Your lack  of faith horrifies me,  Pete. If I  say I'll be down in the
morning, I will be. Probably."
     "But if you're not?"
     I sighed. "Do  anything  you want." I knew Pete would fix it up somehow
if I didn't get down. He'd drag something from a back page and plug the back
page  with filler  items  or a  subscription ad. It was  going  to be  lousy
because we  had  one  sub ad  in already and too damn much filler; you know,
those little items that  tell you  the number of board feet in a sequoia and
the current rate of mullet manufacture in the Euphrates valley. All right in
small doses, but when you run the stuff by the column-
     Pete  said  he'd better go, and this time he did.  I  watched  him  go,
envying him a little. Pete Corey is  a good printer and I pay him just about
what I make myself. We  put in about the  same  number of hours, but I'm the
one who has to worry whenever there's any worrying to be done, which is most
of the time.
     Smiley's  other customers left, just after Pete, and  I didn't  want to
sit alone at the table, so I took my bottle over to the bar.
     "Smiley," I said, "do you want to buy a paper?"
     "Huh?" Then he laughed. "You're kidding me, Doc. It isn't off the press
till tomorrow noon, is it?"
     "It isn't," I told him. "But it'll be well worth waiting for this week.
Watch for it, Smiley. But that isn't what I meant."
     "Huh? Oh, you mean do I want to buy the paper. I don't think so, Doc. I
don't  think  I'd be very good at running a paper.  I can't spell very good,
for one thing. But look, you  were telling me the other night  Clyde Andrews
wanted  to buy it from you.  Whyn't you sell it to him,  if you want to sell
it?"
     "Who the devil said I wanted to sell it?" I asked him. "I just asked if
you wanted to buy it."
     Smiley looked baffled.
     "Doc," he said, "I never know whether you're serious or not. Seriously,
do you really want to sell out?"
     I'd been  wondering that. I said slowly, "I  don't know, Smiley.  Right
now, I'd be damn tempted. I think I hate  to quit mostly because before I do
I'd like to get out one good issue.  Just one good issue out of twenty-three
years."
     "If you sold it, what'd you do?"
     "I  guess,  Smiley,  I'd  spend  the rest  of  my  life  not  editing a
newspaper."
     Smiley decided I was being funny again, and laughed.
     The door opened and  Al Grainger came in. I waved the bottle at him and
he came down  the  bar to where I was standing, and Smiley got another glass
and a chaser of water; Al always needs a chaser.
     Al  Grainger is just a young  squirt  - twenty-two or -three - but he's
one of  the  few chess players in town  and one of the even fewer people who
understand  my enthusiasm for Lewis  Carroll. Besides  that,  he's by way of
being a Mystery Man in Carmel  City. Not that you have to be very mysterious
to achieve that distinction.
     He said, "Hi, Doc. When are we going to have another game of chess?"
     "No time like the present, Al. Here and now?"
     Smiley kept chessmen on hand for screwy customers like Al  Grainger and
Carl  Trenholm and  myself.  He'd  bring them out,  always  handling them as
though he expected them to explode in his hands, whenever we asked for them.
     Al shook his head. "Wish I had time. Got to go home and do some work."
     I poured whisky in his glass  and spilled a little trying to fill it to
the brim. He shook  his head slowly. "The  White Knight is  sliding down the
poker," he said. "He balances very badly."
     "I'm only in the second square," I told him. "But the next move will be
a good one. I go to the fourth by train, remember."
     "Don't keep it waiting, Doc. The smoke alone is worth a thousand pounds
a puff."
     Smiley  was looking from me of us to the other. "What the  hell are you
guys talking about?" he wanted to know.
     There wasn't any use trying to  explain.  I leveled my finger at him. I
said,  "Crawling  at  your feet you may observe a bread-and-butter  fly. Its
wings are  thin slices of bread-and-butter, its body a crust and its head is
a lump of sugar. And it lives on weak tea with cream in it."
     Al said, "Smiley, you're supposed to ask  him what happens if  it can't
find any."
     I said, "Then I say it would die of course and you say that must happen
very often and I say it always happens."
     Smiley looked at us again and shook his head slowly. He said, "You guys
are really nuts." He walked down the bar to wash and wipe some glasses.
     Al Grainger grinned at me. "What  are  your plans for tonight, Doc?" he
asked. "I just  might possibly be  able to sneak in  a game  or two of chess
later. You going to be home, and up?"
     I  nodded.  "I was just working myself up to the idea  of walking home,
and when I get there I'm  going to read.  And  have another drink or two. If
you get there before  midnight I'll still  be sober  enough  to  play. Sober
enough to beat a young punk like you, anyway."
     It was  all right  to say  that last part  because it  was so obviously
untrue. Al had been beating me two games out of  three  for the last year or
so.
     He chuckled, and quoted at me:

          " `You are old, Father William,' the young man said,
                 `And your hair has become very white;
          And yet you incessantly stand on your head-
                 Do you think, at your age, it is right?' "
     Well, since Carroll had the answer to that, so did I:

          " `In my youth,' Father William replied to his son,
                 `I feared it might injure the brain;
          But, now that I'm perfectly sure I have none,
                 Why, I do it again and again.' "

     Al   said,  "Maybe  you  got  something  there,  Doc.  But  let's  quit
alternating  verses  on that before you get  to `Be off,  or - I'll kick you
down-stairs!' Because I got to be off anyway."
     "One more drink?"
     "I - think not, not  till I'm through working. You  can drink and think
too. Hope I can do the same thing when I'm your age. I'll try my best to get
to your place  for some chess, but don't look for me unless I'm there by ten
o'clock - half past at the latest. And thanks for the drink."
     He went out and,  through Smiley's window, I could see him getting into
his shiny convertible. He blew the Klaxon and  waved back at me as he pulled
out from the curb.
     I looked at myself in the mirror back of  Smiley's bar and wondered how
old Al Grainger thought I was. "Hope I  can  do the same thing when I'm your
age," indeed. Sounded as though he thought I  was eighty, at least. I'll  be
fifty-three my next birthday.
     But I had to admit that I looked that old, and that my hair was turning
white. I  watched myself in the  mirror and that whiteness scared me just  a
little. No, I wasn't old  yet, but  I was getting that way.  And,  much as I
crab  about it, I like  living. I don't  want to get old and I don't want to
die. Especially  as  I can't  look forward, as  a  good  many of  my  fellow
townsmen do, to an eternity of harp playing and picking bird-lice out of  my
wings.  Nor,  for that matter,  an eternity of shoveling coal, although that
would probably be the more likely of the two in my case.
     Smiley came back. He jerked his finger  at the door. "I don't like that
guy, Doc," he said.
     "Al?  He's all right. A little  wet behind the ears, maybe. You're just
prejudiced because you don't know where his money comes from. Maybe he's got
a printing press and  makes it himself.  Come to  think  of it,  I've got  a
printing press. Maybe I should try that myself."
     "Hell, it  ain't that,  Doc. It's not my business  how  a guy earns his
money - or where he gets it if  he don't earn it. It's the way he talks. You
talk crazy, too, but - well, you do it in a nice way. When he says something
to me  I  don't understand  he  says it  in a way that makes me feel like  a
stupid bastard. Maybe I am one, but-"
     I  felt suddenly ashamed of all the things I'd ever said to Smiley that
I knew he wouldn't understand.
     I  said,  "It's not  a matter of  intelligence, Smiley. It's  merely  a
matter of literary background. Have  one drink with  me, and then I'd better
go."
     I poured  him  a drink  and - this time - a small one for myself. I was
beginning to feel the effects, and I didn't want to get too drunk to give Al
Grainger a good game of chess if he dropped in.
     I  said, for  no reason at  all,  "You're a good guy,  Smiley," and  he
laughed  and  said, "So  are you, Doc. Literary background  or not, you're a
little crazy, but you're a good guy."
     And  then, because  we were both embarrassed at having caught ourselves
saying things like that, I found myself staring past Smiley at  the calendar
over the bar. It had the usual kind of picture one sees on barroom calendars
-  an  almost too  voluptuous naked  woman -  and  it was  imprinted by Beal
Brothers Store.
     It was just a bit of bother to keep my eyes focused on  it,  I noticed,
although I hadn't  had enough to drink to affect my mind at all. Right then,
for instance, I was thinking of two things at one and the same time. Part of
my brain, to my disgust, persisted in wondering if I could get Beal Brothers
to  start running  a quarter page ad instead of an eighth page; I  tried  to
squelch the thought by telling  myself that I didn't care,  tonight, whether
anybody advertised in the Clarion at all, and  that part of my brain went on
to ask me why, damn it, if I  felt that way about it, I didn't  get out from
under while  I had the chance  by selling the Clarion  to Clyde Andrews. But
the  other part of my mind kept getting more and more annoyed by the picture
on the calendar, and I said, "Smiley,  you ought to take down that calendar.
It's a lie. There aren't any women like that."
     He turned  around and  looked at it. "Guess  you're  right, Doc;  there
aren't any women like that. But a guy can dream, can't he?"
     "Smiley," I said, "if that's not the  first profound thing you've said,
it's the most profound. You are right, moreover. You have my full permission
to leave the calendar up."
     He laughed  and moved  along the bar to finish  wiping glasses,  and  I
stood there and wondered why I didn't go on  home. It was still early, a few
minutes before eight o'clock. I didn't want  another drink, yet. But by  the
time I got home, I would want one.
     So  I got out my wallet and called  Smiley back. We estimated  how many
drinks  I'd  poured  out  of  the bottle  and I settled for them, and then I
bought another bottle, a full quart, and he wrapped it for me.
     I went out with it under my arm and said "So long, Smiley," and he said
"So  long, Doc," just as casually as though, before the gibbering night that
hadn't started yet was over, he  and I would not - but let's  take things as
they happened.
     The walk home.
     I had  to go past  the post  office anyway,  so I stopped  in. The mail
windows  were closed,  of course, but  the outer lobby is  always  left open
evenings so those who have post office boxes can get mail out of them.
     I  got my  mail  -  there wasn't anything  important in  it - and  then
stopped, as I usually do, by the bulletin board to look over the notices and
the wanted circulars that were posted there.
     There  were  a  couple  of new ones and  I read them  and  studied  the
pictures.  I've got a  good memory for  faces,  even  ones  I've  just  seen
pictures of, and I'd always hoped that some day  I'd spot a wanted  criminal
in Carmel City and get a story out of it, if not a reward.
     A few doors farther on I passed the bank and that reminded me about its
president,  Clyde  Andrews,  and  his wanting to  buy  the paper from me. He
didn't want to run it himself, of course; he had a brother somewhere in Ohio
who'd had newspaper experience and who would run the paper for Andrews if  I
sold it to him.
     The thing I liked least about the idea, I decided, was that Andrews was
in  politics and,  if  he controlled the Clarion, the Clarion would back his
party. The way  I ran it, it threw mud  at both  factions when they deserved
it,  which  was  often, and  handed  either one  an  occasional bouquet when
deserved, which was  seldom. Maybe  I'm crazy - other people than Smiley and
Al have said so - but that's the way  I think a newspaper should be run, and
especially when it's the only paper in a town.
     It's not, I might mention, the best way  to make money.  It had made me
plenty of friends and subscribers, but a newspaper doesn't  make money  from
its subscribers. It makes money from advertisers and most of the men in town
big enough to be  advertisers  had fingers in politics  and no matter  which
party I slammed I was likely to lose another advertising account.
     I'm  afraid that policy didn't help my  news coverage, either. The best
source of news is  the sheriff's department  - and, at the  moment,  Sheriff
Rance Kates was just  about  my worst enemy. Kates is honest, but he is also
stupid, rude  and full of race  prejudice; and race prejudice, although it's
not a burning issue in Carmel City, is one of my pet peeves. I hadn't pulled
any  punches  in my  editorials  about Kates,  either before  or  after  his
election. He  got into  office  only because his  opponent  - who wasn't any
intellectual heavyweight either - had got into a  tavern brawl in Neilsville
a week  before election and was  arrested there and charged with assault and
battery.  The  Clarion  had reported that, too, so the Clarion was  probably
responsible for Rance Kates'  being  elected  sheriff. But  Rance remembered
only the things  I'd said about him, and barely spoke to me  on the  street.
Which,  I might add, didn't concern me  the slightest bit personally, but it
forced me to get all of my police news, such as it is, the hard way.
     Past  the supermarket  and Beal  Brothers and past Deak's Music Store -
where  I'd  once  bought a  violin  but  had  forgotten  to  get  a  set  of
instructions with it - and the corner and across the street.
     The walk home.
     Maybe I weaved just a little, for at just that stage I'm never quite as
sober as I am later on. But my mind - ah, it was in that delightful state of
being crystal clear in the center and fuzzy around the edges, the state that
every moderate drinker  knows but can't explain or define,  the  state  that
makes  even  a Carmel City seem delightful and  such  things as its  squalid
politics amusing.
     Past the comer  drugstore - Pop Hinkle's place -  where I used to drink
sodas  when I was  a  kid,  before I went away to college  and made the  big
mistake of studying journalism. Past Gorham's Feed Store, where  I'd  worked
vacations  while  I was  in high  school. Past the  Bijou Theater. Past Hank
Greeber's Undertaking Parlors, through which  both of my parents had passed,
fifteen and twenty years ago.
     Around the  corner at  the courthouse, where  a light was  still on  in
Sheriff Kates' office - and I  felt so cheerful that, for a thousand dollars
or so, I'd have stopped in to talk to him. But no one was around to offer me
a thousand dollars.
     Out of the store district now, past the house in which Elsie Minton had
lived - and  in which she had died while  we were engaged, twenty-five years
ago.
     Past the house Elmer Conklin had lived in when  I'd bought the  Clarion
from him. Past the church where I'd been sent  to Sunday School when I was a
kid, and where I'd once won a prize for memorizing verses of the Bible.
     Past my past, and walking,  slightly weaving, toward the house in which
I'd been conceived and born.
     No, I hadn't  lived there fifty-three years. My parents had sold it and
had moved to a bigger house when I was nine and when my sister - now married
and living in Florida - had been born. I'd bought  it back twelve  years ago
when it happened to be vacant and on the market at a good price. It's only a
three-room cottage, not too big  for a man  to live in alone, if he likes to
live alone, and I do.
     Oh,  I like people, too. I like someone to drop in for conversation  or
chess  or a drink or all three. I like to  spend an hour or two in Smiley's,
or any other tavern, a few times a week. I like an occasional poker game.
     But  I'll settle,  on any given evening,  for my books. Two walls of my
living room are  lined with  them  and  they overflow into  bookcases in  my
bedroom and I  even have a shelf  of them in  the bathroom.  What do I mean,
even? I think a bathroom  without a bookshelf is as  incomplete  as would be
one without a toilet.
     And  they're good books, too. No, I wouldn't be lonely tonight, even if
Al  Grainger  didn't  come  around for that game of chess.  How  could I  be
lonesome with  a bottle in  my pocket and good company waiting  for me? Why,
reading  a book  is almost as  good as  listening  to  the man who  wrote it
talking to you. Better, in one way, because you don't  have to  be polite to
him. You can shut him up any moment you feel so  inclined  and  pick someone
else  instead. And  you can take  off your  shoes and put your feet  on  the
table. You can drink  and  read until you forget everything but what  you're
reading; you can  forget who you are and the fact that  there's a  newspaper
that hangs around your neck like  a millstone,  all day and every day, until
you get home to sanctuary and forgetfulness.
     The walk home.
     And so to the corner of Campbell Street and my turning.
     A June  evening,  but cool,  and  the  night  air had almost completely
sobered me in the nine blocks I'd walked from Smiley's.
     My turning, and I saw that the  light  was  on in the  front room of my
house. I started  walking a little faster,  mildly puzzled.  I knew I hadn't
left  it on when I'd left for the office that morning. And if  I had left it
on, Mrs. Carr, the  cleaning  woman who comes in  for  about two hours every
afternoon to keep my place in order, would have turned it off.
     Maybe, I thought,  Al  Grainger had finished whatever he was  doing and
had come  early  and had - but no, Al wouldn't have come without his car and
there wasn't any car parked in front.
     It might have been a mystery, but it wasn't.
     Mrs. Carr was there, putting on her hat in front of the panel mirror in
the closet door as I went in.
     She  said, "I'm just leaving, Mr. Stoeger. I  wasn't able to  get  here
this  afternoon,  so  I  came  to  clean up  this  evening  instead; I  just
finished."
     "Fine," I said. "By the way, there's a blizzard out."
     "A - what?"
     "Blizzard. Snowstorm." I held up the  wrapped  bottle.  "So maybe you'd
better have a little nip with me before you start home, don't you think?"
     She laughed. "Thanks, Mr. Stoeger. I will. I've had a pretty rough day,
and it sounds like a good idea. I'll get glasses for us."
     I put my hat in the closet and followed her out into the kitchen.
     "A rough day?" I asked her. "I hope nothing went wrong."
     "Well -  nothing  too serious.  My husband - he works, you know, out at
Bonney's fireworks factory -  got burned in a little accident they  had  out
there this afternoon, and  they brought him home.  It's  nothing  serious, a
second  degree burn the doctor said, but it was pretty painful and I thought
I'd  better  stay  with him  until after supper, and then he  finally got to
sleep so I ran over here and I'm afraid I straightened  up your place pretty
fast and didn't do a very good job."
     "Looks spotless to me," I said. I'd been opening the bottle while she'd
been getting glasses for us.  "I hope he'll be all  right, Mrs. Carr. But if
you want to skip coming here for a while-"
     "Oh, no, I  can still come.  He'll be home only a few  days, and it was
just that  today  they  brought  him  home  at two o'clock,  just when I was
getting ready to come here and - That's plenty, thanks."
     We  touched glasses and  I downed mine  while  she  drank about half of
hers. She said, "Oh, there was a phone call  for you,  about an  hour ago. A
little while after I got here."
     "Find out who it was?"
     "He wouldn't tell me, just said it wasn't important."
     I shook my head sadly. "That, Mrs.  Carr, is one of the major fallacies
of the  human mind. The idea, I mean, that things can be arbitrarily divided
into  the important and  the unimportant.  How can anyone  decide whether  a
given  fact is important or not unless one knows everything about it; and no
one knows everything about anything."
     She smiled, but a bit vaguely, and I decided to bring it down to earth.
I said, "What would you say is important, Mrs. Carr?"
     She  put her head on one side and  considered it seriously. "Well, work
is important, isn't it?"
     "It  is not," I told her. "I'm  afraid you score  zero. Work is only  a
means to an end. We work in order  to enable ourselves  to do the  important
things,  which are the things we want  to do. Doing  what we  want to  do  -
that's what's important, if anything is."
     "That sounds like  a  funny way of putting it, but maybe you're  right.
Well,  anyway,  this  man  who called  said he'd either  call again  or come
around.  I  told  him you  probably wouldn't be home  until  eight  or  nine
o'clock."
     She  finished her drink  and declined an encore. I walked to  the front
door with her, saying that I'd have been glad to drive her home but  that my
car had two flat tires. I'd discovered them that morning when I'd started to
drive to work. One  I might have  stopped to fix, but two  discouraged me; I
decided  to leave the car in  the garage  until Saturday afternoon, when I'd
have  lots of time. And then, too, I know that I should get  the exercise of
walking to  and  from work every day,  but as long as  my car is  in running
condition,  I don't. For Mrs. Carr's sake, though,  I  wished  now  that I'd
fixed the tires.
     She said, "It's only a  few  blocks, Mr.  Stoeger.  I wouldn't think of
letting you, even if your car was working. Good night."
     "Oh, just  a minute,  Mrs. Carr. What department at Bonney's does  your
husband work in?"
     "The Roman candle department."
     It made me forget, for the moment, what I'd been leading up to. I said,
"The  Roman candle department! That's a wonderful phrase;  I love  it. If  I
sell the paper, darned if I don't look up Bonney the very next day. I'd love
to work in the Roman candle department. Your husband is a lucky man."
     "You're joking, Mr. Stoeger. But are you really thinking of selling the
paper?"
     "Well - thinking of it." And  that reminded me. "I didn't get any story
on the accident  at Bonney's, didn't even hear about it.  And I'm  badly  in
need  of  a story  for  the  front  page.  Do you know the  details of  what
happened? Anyone else hurt?"
     She'd been part way  across the  front porch, but she  turned and  came
back nearer the  door. She  said, "Oh, please don't put it in  the paper. It
wasn't  anything important; my husband was the only one hurt and it was  his
own  fault, he says. And Mr.  Bonney wouldn't like it being in the paper; he
has enough  trouble  now  getting as many people as he needs  for  the  rush
season before the Fourth,  and so many  people  are  afraid  to work  around
powder and  explosives anyway. George  will probably  be  fired if  it  gets
written up in the paper and he needs the work."
     I sighed;  it  had been an idea  while it lasted.  I assured her that I
wouldn't print anything about it. And  if George Carr  had been the only one
hurt and I didn't have any  details, it wouldn't  have made over a  one-inch
item anyway.
     I would  have loved, though,  to get that beautiful  phrase, "the Roman
candle department," into print.
     I went  back inside and closed the  door. I made myself comfortable  by
taking  off  my  suit coat and loosening  my tie, and then I got the  whisky
bottle and my glass and put them on the coffee table in front of the sofa.
     I didn't  take the tie off yet, nor  my  shoes;  it's nicer to do those
things one at a time as you gradually get more and more comfortable.
     I picked out a few books and put them within easy reach,. poured myself
a drink, sat down, and opened one of the books.
     The doorbell rang.
     Al  Grainger had  come early, I thought. I went to the  door and opened
it. There was a man standing there, just lifting his hand to ring again. But
it wasn't Al; it was a man I'd never seen before.



          How cheerfully he seems to grin,
                 How neatly spreads his claws,
          And welcomes little fishes in
                 With gently smiling jaws!

     He  was short, about my  own height, perhaps, but  seeming even shorter
because of his greater girth. The first thing you noticed about his face was
his nose; it was long, thin, pointed, grotesquely at variance with his pudgy
body. The light coming past me through the doorway reflected glowing  points
in his eyes,  giving them a catlike gleam. Yet  there  was nothing  sinister
about him. A short pudgy  man can never  manage to seem  sinister, no matter
how the light strikes his eyes.
     "You are Doctor Stoeger?" he asked.
     "Doc Stoeger,"  I  corrected  him.  "But not a  doctor of  medicine. If
you're looking for a medical doctor, one lives four doors west of here."
     He smiled, a nice smile. "I am aware that you are not a medico, Doctor.
Ph. D., Burgoyne  College -  nineteen twenty-two, I believe. Author of Lewis
Carroll Through the Looking-Glass and Red Queen and White Queen."
     It startled me. Not so much that he knew my college and  the year of my
magna cum laude, but the rest  of it was amazing. Lewis  Carroll Through the
Looking-Glass was  a  monograph  of  a  dozen.  pages;  it  had been printed
eighteen years ago and only a hundred copies had been run  off. If one still
existed anywhere outside of my own library, I was greatly surprised. And Red
Queen  and  White Queen was a magazine article that  had appeared  at  least
twelve years ago in a magazine that had been obscure then and had long since
been discontinued and forgotten.
     "Yes," I said. "But how you know of them, I can't imagine, Mr.-"
     "Smith,"  he  said  gravely.  Then he  chuckled. "And the first name is
Yehudi."
     "No!" I said.
     "Yes. You see,  Doctor Stoeger, I was named  forty years ago,  when the
name  Yehudi, although uncommon, had not yet acquired the  comic connotation
which it has today. My  parents did not  guess that  the name would become a
joke  -  and  that it  would  be particularly ridiculous when combined  with
Smith. Had they guessed the difficulty I now have in  convincing people that
I'm  not kidding them when I tell them  my name-"  He  laughed ruefully.  "I
always carry cards."
     He handed me one. It read:

                        Yehudi Smith

     There was no address, no other information. Just the  same, I wanted to
keep that card, so I stuck it in my pocket instead of handing it back.
     He  said,  "People are named Yehudi, you  know. There's Yehudi Menuhin,
the violinist. And there's-"
     "Stop, please,"  I interrupted. "You're making it plausible. I liked it
better the other way."
     He smiled. "Then I haven't  misjudged you, Doctor. Have you  ever heard
of the Vorpal Blades?"
     "Plural? No. Of course, in Jabberwocky:

          One, two! One, two! And through and through
                The vorpal blade went snicker-snack.

     But -  Good  God!  Why are  we  talking  about vorpal  blades through a
doorway? Come on in. I've got a bottle, and I hope and presume that it would
be ridiculous to ask a man who talks about vorpal blades whether or  not  he
drinks."
     I stepped back  and he came  in. "Sit anywhere," I  told him. "I'll get
another glass. Want either a mix or a chaser?"
     He  shook his  head, and  I  went out into  the kitchen and got another
glass. I came in,  filled it and handed it to him. He'd already made himself
comfortable in the overstuffed chair.
     I sat back down on the sofa and lifted my glass toward him. I said, "No
doubt about a toast  for this one. To Charles Lutwidge  Dodgson, known, when
in Wonderland, as Lewis Carroll."
     He said, quietly, "Are you sure, Doctor?"
     "Sure of what?"
     "Of your phraseology in that toast. I'd word it: To Lewis Carroll,  who
masqueraded  under  the  alleged  identity of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson,  the
gentle don of Oxford."
     I  felt vaguely  disappointed. Was  this going to  be another, and even
more ridiculous, Bacon-was-Shakespeare deal? Historically, there couldn't be
any possible doubt that the Reverend Dodgson, writing under  the  name Lewis
Carroll, had created Alice in Wonderland and its sequel.
     But the main point, for  the  moment, was, to get the drink drunk. So I
said solemnly, "To avoid all  difficulties, factual or  semantic, Mr. Smith,
let's drink to the author of the Alice books."
     He  inclined  his head with solemnity  equal to my  own, then tilted it
back and downed his drink. I was a little late in downing mine because of my
surprise at,  and  admiration  for,  his manner of drinking. I'd  never seen
anything quite  like it. The glass had stopped, quite suddenly, a good three
inches from his mouth. And the whisky had kept on going and not a drop of it
had been lost. I've seen people toss down a shot before, but never with such
casual precision and from so great a distance.
     I  drank my own in a  more prosaic manner,  but I resolved. to try  his
system sometime - in private and with a towel or handkerchief ready at hand.
     I refilled  our glasses and  then  said, "And now what? Do we argue the
identity of Lewis Carroll?"
     "Let's start back of that," he said. "In fact, let's put it aside until
I  can offer you definite proof of  what we believe - rather, of what we are
certain."
     "We?"
     "The  Vorpal Blades.  An  organization.  A very  small organization,  I
should add."
     "Of admirers of Lewis Carroll?"
     He leaned forward. "Yes,  of course. Any man who is  both  literate and
imaginative  is an admirer of Lewis Carroll. But - much more than  that.  We
have a secret. A quite esoteric one."
     "Concerning the identity  of Lewis Carroll? You mean that you believe -
the  way  some  people  believe,  or used  to  believe, that  the  plays  of
Shakespeare were written by Francis Bacon - that someone  other than Charles
Lutwidge Dodgson wrote the Alice books?"
     I hoped he'd say no.
     He said, "No. We believe that Dodgson himself - How much do you know of
him, Doctor?"
     "He was born in eighteen thirty-two," I said, "and died just before the
turn of the century - in either ninety-eight  or nine. He was an Oxford don,
a mathematician. He wrote several treatises on  mathematics. He liked -  and
created - acrostics and other puzzles and problems. He never married  but he
was  very fond of children, and his best writing was done for them. At least
he thought he was writing only for  children; actually, Alice in  Wonderland
and Alice  Through  the Looking-Glass,  while having  plenty of  appeal  for
children, are adult literature, and great literature. Shall I go on?"
     "By all means."
     "He was also capable of - and perpetrated - some  almost incredibly bad
writing. There  ought to  be  a law  against the printing of volumes  of The
Complete Works  of  Lewis Carroll.  He should  be remembered  for the  great
things he  wrote,  and the  bad ones interred with his bones.  Although I'll
admit that even the bad things have  occasional touches of brilliance. There
are moments in Sylvie and  Bruno  that are almost worth reading  through the
thousands  of  dull words to  reach. And there are occasional  good lines or
stanzas in even the worst poems. Take the first three lines of The Palace of
Humbug:
          I dreamt I dwelt in marble halls,
          And each damp thing that creeps and crawls
          Went wobble-wobble on the walls.

     "Of  course  he should have stopped there instead  of adding fifteen or
twenty bad triads. But `Went wobble-wobble on the walls' is marvelous."
     He nodded. "Let's drink to it."
     We drank to it.
     He said, "Go on."
     "No," I said. "I'm just realizing that I could  easily go on for hours.
I  can quote every line of verse in the Alice books  and most of The Hunting
of the Snark. But,  I both hope and presume, you  didn't come here to listen
to me lecture on Lewis Carroll. My information about him is fairly thorough,
but quite orthodox. I judge that yours isn't, and I want to hear it."
     I refilled our glasses.
     He nodded  slowly:  "Quite right,  Doctor.  My  -  I should  say  our -
information is extremely unorthodox. I think you have the background and the
type  of mind to understand  it, and to believe it when you have seen proof.
To a more ordinary mind, it would seem sheer fantasy."
     It was getting better by the minute. I said, "Don't stop now."
     "Very well. But before I go any farther, I must warn you, of something,
Doctor.  It is also  very dangerous  information  to have.  I do  not  speak
lightly  or  metaphorically. I mean  that  there is serious  danger,  deadly
danger."
     "That," I said, "is wonderful."
     He  sat there and toyed with his  glass - still with the third drink in
it - and didn't look at me. I studied his face.  It was an interesting face.
That long,  thin, pointed nose, so  incongruous  to  his build that it might
have been false - a veritable Cyrano de Bergerac of a  nose. And now that he
was in the light, I could see that there were deep laughter-lines around his
generous mouth. At first  I would have guessed his  age at thirty instead of
the forty he claimed to be; now, studying his face closely, I could see that
he had not exaggerated his age. One would have to laugh a  long time to etch
lines like those.
     But he wasn't laughing now. He  looked deadly  serious,  and he  didn't
look crazy. But he said something that sounded crazy.
     He said, "Doctor, has it ever occurred to you that - that the fantasies
of Lewis Carroll are not fantasies at all?"
     "Do you mean," I  asked, "in the sense that fantasy is often nearer  to
fundamental truth than is would-be realistic fiction?"
     "No.  I mean that they are literally, actually  true. That they are not
fiction at all, that they are reporting."
     I stared at him. "If you  think that, then who - or what - do you think
Lewis Carroll was?"
     He smiled faintly, but it wasn't a smile of amusement.
     He  said, "If you really want to know, and aren't  afraid, you can find
out tonight. There is a meeting, near here. Will you come?"
     "May I be frank?"
     "Certainly."
     I said, "I think it's crazy, but try to keep me away."
     "In spite of the fact that there is danger?"
     Sure, I was going, danger or  no. But maybe I could use  his insistence
on  warning me to pry something more out of him. So I  said, "May I ask what
kind of danger?"
     He seemed to hesitate a moment and then he took out his wallet and from
an inner  compartment took a newspaper clipping, a short one of  about three
paragraphs. He handed it to me.
     I read it, and I  recognized the type and the setup; it was  a clipping
from the Bridgeport Argus. And I  remembered now having read it, a couple of
weeks  ago. I'd considered  clipping  it as an  exchange  item, and then had
decided not to, despite the fact that the heading had caught my interest. It
read:

              MAN SLAIN BY UNKNOWN BEAST

     The facts were few  and simple. A man named Colin Hawks, living outside
Bridgeport, a recluse, had been found dead  along  a path through the woods.
The  man's throat had  been  torn,  and  police opinion was that a large and
vicious  dog  had  attacked  him. But the reporter  who  wrote  the  article
suggested the possibility  that a  wolf - or  even a panther or a  leopard -
escaped from a circus or zoo might have caused the wounds.
     I folded the clipping again and handed it back to Smith. It didn't mean
anything, of course. It's easy to  find  stories like that if one  looks for
them. A man named  Charles  Fort  found thousands of them and  put them into
four books he had written, books which were on my shelves.
     This particular  one was  less  mysterious  than  most. In  fact, there
wasn't any real mystery  at all;  undoubtedly some  vicious dog had done the
killing.
     Just the same something prickled at the back of my neck.
     It was the headline, really, not the article. It's  funny what the word
"unknown" and the thought  back  of it can do to you. If that story had been
headed "Man Killed by  Vicious Dog" -  or by a lion or  a  crocodile or  any
other specified creature,  however  fierce and  dangerous, there'd have been
nothing frightening about it.
     But  an  "unknown beast"  -  well, if  you've  got  the  same  kind  of
imagination I  have,  you  see what  I  mean.  And if you  haven't,  I can't
explain.
     I  looked at Yehudi Smith, just in time to see him toss down his whisky
- again like  a conjuring trick. I  handed him  back  the  clipping and then
refilled our glasses.
     I said, "Interesting story. But where's the connection?"
     "Our last meeting was in  Bridgeport. That's all I can tell you.  About
that, I mean. You  asked  the nature of the danger;  that's why I showed you
that. And it's not too late for you to say no. It won't be, for that matter,
until we get there."
     "Get where?"
     "Only a few miles from  here. I have directions to guide me to a  house
on a road called the Dartown Pike. I have a car."
     I said, irrelevantly, "So have I, but the tires are flat. Two of them."
     I thought about the Dartown Pike. I said, "You wouldn't, by any chance,
be heading for the house known as the Wentworth place?"
     "That's the name, yes. You know of it?"
     Right then and there, if I'd been completely sober,  I'd have seen that
the whole thing was too good to be true. I'd have smelled fish. Or blood.
     I said, "We'll have to take candles or flashlights. That house has been
empty since  I was a kid. We used to  call it a haunted house. Would that be
why you chose it?"
     "Yes, of course."
     "And your group is meeting there tonight?"
     He  nodded.  "At  one  o-clock in the morning, to be exact. You're sure
you're not afraid?"
     God, yes, I was afraid. Who  wouldn't be, after the  build-up he'd just
handed me?
     So I grinned  at him and said, "Sure, I'm afraid. But just try to  keep
me away."
     Then I had an idea. If I was going to a haunted house at one o'clock in
the morning to hunt  Jabberwocks or try to invoke the ghost of Lewis Carroll
or some equally sensible thing, it wouldn't hurt  to have someone along whom
I already knew. And  if Al  Grainger dropped  in - I  tried  to  figure  out
whether or not Al would be interested.  He was a Carroll fan, all right, but
- for the rest of it, I didn't know.
     I said, "One question, Mr. Smith. A  young friend of mine might drop in
soon for a  game of chess. How exclusive  is this deal? I mean, would it  be
all right if he came along, if he wants to?"
     "Do you think he's qualified?"
     "Depends on what the qualifications are," I said, "Offhand, I'd say you
have to be a Lewis Carroll fan and a little crazy. Or, come to think of  it,
are those one and the same qualification?"
     He laughed.  "They're not too far apart. But  tell me  something  about
your friend. You said young friend; how young?"
     "About twenty-three. Not  long  out of college. Good literary taste and
background, which  means he knows and likes Carroll. He can quote almost  as
much of it as I can.  Plays chess, if that's a qualification - and I'd guess
it is. Dodgson not only played chess but  based Through the Looking-Glass on
a chess game. His name, if that matters, is Al Grainger."
     "Would he want to come?"
     "Frankly," I admitted, "I haven't an idea on that angle."
     Smith said, "I hope he comes; if he's a Carroll enthusiast, I'd like to
meet him. But, if he comes, will you do me the favor of saying nothing about
-  what I've told you, at least until I've had  a chance to judge him a bit?
Frankly, it would be almost unprecedented if I  took the liberty of inviting
someone to  an important meeting  like tonight's  on my  own.  You're  being
invited because we know quite a bit about  you.  You were voted on  - and  I
might say that the vote to invite you was unanimous."
     I  remembered his familiarity with the two obscure things  about  Lewis
Carroll that I'd written, and I didn't doubt that he - or they, if he really
represented a group - did know something about me.
     He said, "But  -  well, if  I  get a chance to  meet him and think he'd
really fit in, I  might take  a chance and ask him. Can you tell me anything
more about him? What does he do - for a living, I mean?"
     That  was  harder to answer. I said,  "Well,  he's writing plays. But I
don't think he makes  a living  at it; in fact, I don't know that  he's ever
sold any.  He's a bit of  a mystery to Carmel City. He's lived here  all his
life  - except  while he was  away  at college  - and nobody knows where his
money comes from. Has a swanky car and a place of his own - he  lived  there
with his mother until she died a few years ago - and seems to have plenty of
spending money, but nobody knows where it comes  from."  I grinned. "And  it
annoys the  hell out of Carmel City not to know.  You know how  small  towns
are."
     He nodded. "Wouldn't it  be a logical assumption that he  inherited the
money?"
     "From one point  of view,  yes.  But  it doesn't  seem too  likely. His
mother worked all her  life as a milliner, and without  owning her own shop.
The town, I remember, used to wonder  how she  managed to own  her own house
and send her son to college  on  what she earned. But she  couldn't possibly
have earned enough to have done both of those things and still have left him
enough money to have supported him in idleness -  Well, maybe, writing plays
isn't idleness, but it isn't remunerative unless you sell them - for several
years."
     I shrugged. "But there's  probably  no mystery to it. She must have had
an income from investments her husband had made, and Al either inherited the
income or got the capital from which it came. He probably doesn't talk about
his business because he enjoys being mysterious."
     "Was his father wealthy?"
     "His father died before  he was born, and before Mrs. Grainger moved to
Carmel City. So nobody here knew his father. And  I guess that's  all I  can
tell you about Al, except that he can beat me at chess most of the time, and
that I hope you'll have a chance to meet him."
     Smith nodded. "If he comes, we'll see."
     He glanced at his empty glass and I  took the hint and filled it and my
own. Again I watched the incredible  manner of his  drinking it, fascinated.
I'd swear that, this time the glass came no closer than  six inches from his
lips. Definitely it  was a trick I'd have to learn myself. If  for no  other
reason than  that  I don't really like the taste of  whisky, much as I enjoy
the effects of it. With his way  of drinking, it didn't seem that he had the
slightest chance of tasting  the stuff. It was there, in the glass, and then
it was gone. His  Adam's apple didn't seem to work and if he  was talking at
the time he drank there was scarcely an interruption in what he was saying.
     The phone rang. I excused myself and answered it.
     "Doc," said Clyde Andrews' voice, "this is Clyde Andrews."
     "Fine,"  I  said,  "I suppose you realize  that  you sabotaged  my this
week's issue by canceling a story on my front page. What's  called  off this
time?"
     "I'm sorry about that, Doc,  if it really inconvenienced you,  but with
the sale called off, I thought  you wouldn't want to run the story and  have
people coming around to-"
     "Of course," I  interrupted him. I  was  impatient to  get back  to  my
conversation with  Yehudi Smith. "That's all  right,  Clyde. But what do you
want now?"
     "I want to know if you've decided whether  or not you want to  sell the
Clarion."
     For a second I was unreasonably angry. I said, "God damn it, Clyde, you
interrupt the only really interesting conversation I've had in  years to ask
me that,  when we've been talking about it  for months,  off and on? I don't
know. I do and I don't want to sell it."
     "Sorry for heckling you, Doc,  but I just got a special delivery letter
from my brother in Ohio.  He's got an offer  out West. Says he'd rather come
to Carmel City on the proposition I'd made him - contingent on your deciding
to sell me the  Clarion, of course. But he's  got to accept  the other offer
right away  - within a day or so, that  is -  if  he's going to accept it at
all.
     "So, you see that makes it different, Doc. I've got to know right away.
Not tonight,  necessarily;  it isn't in that much of a rush. But I've got to
know by tomorrow sometime, so I thought I'd call you right away so you could
start coming to a decision."
     I  nodded and  then realized that he  couldn't see  me nod so  I  said,
"Sure, Clyde, I  get it. I'm sorry for popping off. All right,  I'll make up
my mind by tomorrow morning. I'll let you know one way or the other by then.
Okay?"
     "Fine," he said. "That'll be plenty of time. Oh, by the way, there's an
item of news  for you if it's not too late to put it in. Or have you already
got it?"
     "Got what?"
     "About the escaped  maniac. I don't know the details,  but a friend  of
mine just drove over from  Neilsville and he says they're stopping cars  and
watching the roads  both  sides of the county  asylum. Guess you can get the
details if you call the asylum."
     "Thanks, Clyde," I said.
     I put the phone back down in its cradle and looked  at  Yehudi Smith. I
wondered  why,  with all  the fantastic things  he'd said,  I hadn't already
guessed.



          "But wait a bit," the Oyster cried,
                 "Before we have our chat;
          For some of us are out of breath,
                 And all of us are fat!"

     I felt a hell of a  letdown. Oh, not that  I'd really quite believed in
the Vorpal Blades  or that we were going to a  haunted house to conjure up a
Jabberwock or whatever we'd have done there.
     But it had been exciting  even to think about it, just  as one can  get
excited over a chess game even though he knows that the  kings and queens on
the board aren't real entities and that when a bishop slays a knight no real
blood  is shed. I guess it had been that  kind  of excitement, the vicarious
kind,  that I'd felt about the  things Yehudi Smith had promised. Or maybe a
better comparison would be that it had been like reading an exciting fiction
story that one knows isn't true but which  one can believe in for as long as
the story lasts.
     Now  there wasn't even  that.  Across  from  me,  I realized  with keen
disappointment, was only a man who'd escaped from an  insane asylum. Yehudi,
the little man who wasn't there - mentally.
     The funny part of it  was that I  still liked him. He was a nice little
guy and he'd given me  a fascinating half  hour, up to now. I hated the fact
that  I'd have  to turn him over to the  asylum guards and have him put back
where he came from.
     Well, I  thought, at  least it would give me a news story  to fill that
nine  inch hole in the front page of the  Clarion. He said, "I hope the call
wasn't anything that will spoil our plans, Doctor."
     It had spoiled  more than that, but of course I couldn't  tell  him so,
any more  than I could have told  Clyde  Andrews over the  phone, in Smith's
presence, to call the asylum and tell them  to drop  around  to my  house if
they wanted to collect their bolted nut.
     So I shook my head while I figured out an angle to get out of the house
and to put in the phone call from next door.
     I stood up. Perhaps I  was a bit more drunk than I'd thought, for I had
to catch my balance. I remember how crystal clear my mind seemed to be - but
of  course nothing seems more crystal clear than a prism that makes you  see
around corners.
     I said,  "No, the  call  won't  interrupt  our plans except  for a  few
minutes. I've got to  give a message  to the man  next door. Excuse me - and
help yourself to the whisky."
     I went through the kitchen and outside into the black night. There were
lights in  the  houses  on  either side  of me, and I wondered  which of  my
neighbors to bother. And then I wondered why I was in such a hurry to bother
either of them.
     Surely,  I  thought, the man who  called  himself Yehudi  Smith  wasn't
dangerous. And, crazy  or not,  he was  the most interesting  man I'd met in
years. He did seem to know  something about Lewis Carroll. And  I remembered
again that he'd known about my obscure brochure and equally obscure magazine
article. How?
     So, come to think of it, why shouldn't I stall  making that  phone call
for another hour or so, and relax and enjoy myself? Now  that I was over the
first disappointment of learning that  he was insane, why  wouldn't  I  find
talk about  that  delusion  of his almost as interesting  as though  it  was
factual.
     Interesting in a different way, of course. Often I had thought I'd like
the chance to talk to a paranoiac about his delusions - neither arguing with
him nor agreeing with him, just trying to find out what made him tick.
     And the evening  was still a pup; it couldn't  be later than about half
past eight so my neighbors would be up at least another hour or two.
     So why was I in a hurry to make that call? I wasn't.
     Of course I had to kill  enough  time outside to  make it reasonable to
believe that I'd actually gone next door and delivered a message, so I stood
there at the bottom of my  back steps, looking up at the black  velvet  sky,
star-studded but moonless, and wondering  what was behind it and why  madmen
were mad. And how strange it would  be if one of  them was right and all the
rest of us were crazy instead.
     Then I  went back inside and  I was cowardly enough to  do a ridiculous
thing. From the  kitchen I  went  into my bedroom and to  my  closet.  In  a
shoebox on the top shelf was a short-barreled thirty-eight caliber revolver,
one  of  the compact, lightweight models  they call  a Banker's Special. I'd
never shot at anything with it and hoped that I never would - and  I  wasn't
sure I could  hit anything smaller than an elephant or farther  away  than a
couple of  yards. I  don't even  like guns.  I  hadn't  bought this one;  an
acquaintance had once borrowed twenty bucks from me and  had insisted on  my
taking the pistol  for security. And later he'd wanted another five and said
if  I gave  it to him I could keep the gun.  I  hadn't wanted  it, but  he'd
needed the five pretty badly and I'd given it to him.
     It  was  still  loaded with bullets that were in it when we'd made  the
deal four or five years ago, and I didn't know whether they'd still shoot or
not, but I put it in my trouser pocket. I wouldn't use it, of course, except
in dire extremity - and I'd miss anything I shot at even then, but I thought
that  just carrying the gun would make my coming conversation seem dangerous
and exciting, more than it would be otherwise.
     I went  into  the living room and he was still there. He  hadn't poured
himself a drink,  so  I poured one for each of us  and then sat  down on the
sofa again.
     I lifted my drink and  over the rim of it watched him do that marvelous
trick again - just a toss of the  glass toward his lips. I drank my own less
spectacularly  and said, "I wish I had a movie camera. I'd like  to film the
way you do that and then study it in slow motion."
     He laughed. "Afraid it's my  one way  of  showing off.  I used  to be a
juggler once."
     "And now? If you don't mind asking."
     "A student," he said. "A student of Lewis Carroll - and mathematics."
     "Is there a living in it?" I asked him.
     He hesitated  just a second.  "Do you  mind  if  I defer answering that
until you've learned - what you'll learn at tonight's meeting?"
     Of  course there wasn't going to  be  any meeting tonight; I knew  that
now. But I said, "Not at  all.  But I hope you don't mean that we can't talk
about Carroll, in general, until after the meting."
     I hoped he'd give the right answer to that;  it would mean that I could
get him going on the subject of his mania.
     He said,  "Of course not. In fact,  I want to talk about him. There are
facts I want to  give you that will enable you to understand things  better.
Some of the facts yon already know, but I'll refresh you on them anyway. For
instance, dates. You had his birth and death dates correct, or nearly enough
so. But do you know the dates of the Alice  books or any other of his works?
The sequence is important."
     "Not exactly," I told him. "I think that he wrote  the first Alice book
when he was comparatively young, about thirty."
     "Close.  He  was  thirty-two.  Alice  in  Wonderland was  published  in
eighteen sixty-three, but even before then he was on the trail of something.
Do you know what he had published before that?"
     I shook my head.
     "Two books. He  wrote and published  A Syllabus  of  Plane Geometry  in
eighteen  sixty   and  in  the  year  after  that  his  Formulae  of   Plane
Trigonometry. Have you read either of them?"
     I had to shake my head again. I said, "Mathematics isn't my forte. I've
read only his non-technical books."
     He smiled.  "There  aren't  any. You  simply  failed  to recognize  the
mathematics embodied in the  Alice books and in his poetry. You do know, I'm
sure, that many of his poems are acrostics."
     "Of course."
     "All of them are acrostics, but in a much more  subtle manner. However,
I can see why you failed to find the clues if you haven't read his treatises
on   mathematics.  You  wouldn't  have   read  his  Elementary  Treatise  on
Determinants, I suppose. But how about his Curiosa Mathematica?"
     I hated to disappoint him again, but I had to.
     He frowned  at me.  "That  at least  you  should  have  read.  It's not
technical  at all, and most of  the clues to the fantasies are contained  in
it. There are further - and  final - references  to  them  in  his  Symbolic
Logic, published in eighteen  ninety-six,  just two years before  his death,
but they are less direct."
     I said, "Now,  wait a minute. If I understand you correctly your thesis
is that Lewis Carroll - leaving aside any question of who  or what he really
was - worked out through mathematics and expressed in fantasy  the fact that
- what?"
     "That there is another  plane of existence  besides  the one we are now
living in. That we can have - and do sometimes have - access to it."
     "But  what  kind  of  a plane?  A  through-the-looking-glass  plane  of
fantasy, a dream plane?"
     "Exactly, Doctor. A dream plane. That isn't strictly accurate, but it's
about  as  nearly as I can explain it to you just  yet." He  leaned forward.
"Consider  dreams.  Aren't  they  the almost perfect parallel of  the  Alice
adventures?  The  wool-and-water  sequence, for instance,  where  everything
Alice looks  at changes into something  else. Remember in the shop, with the
old  sheep knitting, how Alice looked hard  to see what was  on the shelves,
but the shelf she  looked at was  always empty although the others  about it
were always full - of something, and she never found out what?"
     I nodded slowly. I said, "Her comment was, `Things flow about so here.'
And then the  sheep asked  if  Alice  could  row  and handed  her a  pair of
knitting needles  and  the needles turned into oars in her hands and she was
in a boat, with the sheep still knitting."
     "Exactly,   Doctor.  A  perfect   dream  sequence.  And  consider  that
Jabberwocky - which is probably the best thing in the second Alice book - is
in the very language of dreams. It's full of  words  like trumious, manxome,
tulgey, words that give you a perfect picture in context - but you can't put
your finger on what  the  context is.  In a dream  you fully understand such
meanings, but you forget them when you awaken."
     Between "manxome" and "tulgey" he'd downed  his  latest drink. I didn't
pour another this time; I was beginning  to wonder how  long the bottle - or
we - would  last.  But he  showed  no effect whatsoever from the drinks he'd
been  downing. I can't quite say the  same  for myself. I knew  my voice was
getting a bit thick.
     I said, "But why postulate the reality of such a world? I can see  your
point otherwise. The Jabberwock itself is the epitome of nightmare creatures
- with eyes of  flame  and jaws  that  bite  and  claws that catch,  and  it
whiffles and burbles  - why, Freud and James  Joyce in tandem  couldn't have
done any better.  But why  not take it that  Lewis Carroll  was  trying, and
damned successfully, to  write as  in a dream? Why make the  assumption that
that world is real? Why talk of getting through to  it  - except, of course,
in the sense that we invade it nightly in our dreams?"
     He smiled. "Because that world is real, Doctor. You'll hear evidence of
that tonight, mathematical evidence.  And,  I  hope, actual proof.  I've had
such proof  myself, and I hope you'll have. But you'll see the calculations,
at least, and it will be explained to you how they were derived from Curiosa
Mathematica, and then corroborated by evidence found in the other books.
     "Carroll  was more than a century ahead of his time, Doctor.  Have  you
read  the recent  experiments  with the  subconscious made  by Liebnitz  and
Winton -  the feelers they're putting forth in the right direction, which is
the mathematical approach?"
     I admitted I hadn't heard of Liebnitz or Winton.
     "They aren't  well known," he conceded. "You see, only recently, except
for  Carroll, has  anyone  even considered the possibility of our reaching -
let's call  it the dream  plane until  I've shown  you what it  really  is -
physically as well as mentally."
     "As Lewis Carroll reached it?"
     "As  he  must  have,  to  have known  the  things  he  knew. Things  so
revolutionary and dangerous that he did not dare reveal them openly."
     For a  fleeting moment it  sounded so reasonable that I wondered if  it
could be true.  Why not?  Why couldn't there be other dimensions besides our
own? Why couldn't a brilliant mathematician with a fantastic mind have found
a way through to one of them?
     In  my mind, I cussed  our Clyde  Andrews  for having told me about the
asylum break. If only I hadn't learned about that, what a wonderful  evening
this one would be. Even knowing Smith was insane, I found  myself - possibly
with the whisky's  help - wondering if  he  could be right. How marvelous it
would have been  without the knowledge of his insanity to temper  the wonder
and the wondering. It would have been an evening in Wonderland.
     And,   sane  or  crazy,  I  liked  him.  Sane  or  crazy,  he  belonged
figuratively  in  the   department  in  which  Mrs.  Carr's  husband  worked
literally.  I  laughed  and then, of  course, I had to explain what I'd been
laughing about.
     His eyes  lighted. "The Roman candle  department. That's marvelous. The
Roman candle department."
     You see what I mean.
     We  had  a  drink to the  Roman candle department, and then it happened
that neither of us  said  anything right away  and it  was so quiet  that  I
jumped when the phone rang.
     I picked it up and said into it, "This is the Roman candle department."
     "Doc?" It was the  voice of Pete Corey,  my printer.  It sounded tense.
"I've got bad news."
     Pete doesn't get  excited  easily.  I sobered  up  a little  and asked,
"What, Pete?"
     "Listen, Doc. Remember just a  couple of hours  ago you were saying you
wished  a  murder  or something would happen so  you'd have a  story for the
paper  - and remember how I asked you if  you'd like one even if it happened
to a friend of yours?"
     Of course I remembered; he'd mentioned my best friend, Carl Trenholm. I
took a tighter grip on the phone. I said, "Cut out breaking it gently, Pete.
Has something happened to Carl?"
     "Yes, Doc."
     "For God's sake, what? Cut the build-up. Is he dead?"
     "That's what I heard. He was found out on the pike;  I don't know if he
was hit by a car or what."
     "Where is he now?"
     "Being brought in. I guess. All I know is that Hank called me-" Hank is
Pete's brother-in-law and a deputy sheriff. "- and said they got a call from
someone who  found  him  alongside  the  road out  there. Even  Hank  had it
third-hand - Rance  Kates phoned him and said  to come down and take care of
the office while  he went  out there. And  Hank knows Kates doesn't like you
and wouldn't give you the  tip, so Hank called me.  But  don't get  Hank  in
trouble with his boss by telling anybody where the tip came from."
     "Did you call the hospital?" I asked. "If Carl's just hurt-"
     "Wouldn't  be time for them to get him there yet - or  to wherever they
do take  him. Hank  just phoned me from his own place  before he started for
the sheriff's office, and Kates had just called him from  the office and was
just leaving there."
     "Okay, Pete,"  I  said. "Thanks. I'm going back downtown; I'll call the
hospital  from the Clarion office.  You call  me there  if you hear anything
more."
     "Hell, Doc, I'm coming down too."
     I told  him he didn't have to, but he  said the hell with having to; he
wanted to. I didn't argue with him.
     I cradled the phone and found that  I was already standing up.  I said,
"Sorry, but  something  important's  come up  - an accident  to  a friend of
mine." I  headed for the closet  to get my coat.  "Do you want to wait here,
or-"
     "If you  don't mind," he said. "That is, if you think you won't be gone
very long."
     "I don't know that, but  I'll phone here and let you know as soon  as I
can. If the phone rings answer it; it'll  be me. And help yourself to whisky
and books."
     He  nodded. "I'll get  along  fine.  Hope your friend  isn't  seriously
hurt."
     That  was  all I was worrying about myself. I put on my hat and hurried
out, again, and this time  seriously, cussing those two flat tires on my car
and the fact that I hadn't taken time  to fix them that morning. Nine blocks
isn't  far  to walk  when you're not in any  hurry, but it's  a  hell  of  a
distance when you're anxious to get there quickly.
     I walked fast, so fast, in fact,  that I winded myself in the first two
blocks and had to slow down.
     I kept thinking the same thing Pete had obviously thought - what a hell
of a coincidence it was that we'd mentioned the possibility of Carl's being-
     But we'd been talking about  murder. Had  Carl been murdered? Of course
not; things like that  didn't happen  in Carmel City. It  must have been  an
accident, a  hit-run  driver. No  one would  have  the slightest  reason for
killing, of all people, Carl Trenholm. No one but a-
     Finishing that  thought  made  me stop walking suddenly. No one  but  a
maniac would have the slightest reason for killing Carl Trenholm.  But there
was  an escaped  maniac at large tonight  and  - unless he'd left instead of
waiting for me - he was sitting right in my living room. I'd  thought he was
harmless -  even though I'd  taken the precaution  of putting that gun in my
pocket  - but how could I  be sure? I'm no psychiatrist; where did I get the
bright idea that I could tell the difference between  a  harmless nut  and a
homicidal maniac?
     I  started to turn back and then realized  that  going back was useless
and foolish. He would either have left as soon as I  was out of sight around
the corner, or he hadn't guessed that I suspected  him and would wait as I'd
told him to, until he  heard from me. So  all I  had  to do was to phone the
asylum as soon as I could and they'd send guards to close in on my house and
take him if he was still there.
     I started walking again. Yes,  it would be ridiculous for me to go back
alone, even though I still had that gun in my pocket. He might resist, and I
wouldn't want to have to use the gun, especially as I hadn't any real reason
to believe  he'd killed  Carl.  It could have  been an auto accident just as
easily; I couldn't even form  an intelligent opinion on that until I learned
what Carl's  injuries were.  I  kept walking, as fast  as  I  could  without
winding myself again.
     Suddenly I thought of that newspaper  clipping - "MAN  SLAIN BY UNKNOWN
BEAST." A prickle went down my spine - what if Carl's body showed-
     And then  the horrible thought pyramided. What if the unknown beast who
had killed  the man near Bridgeport and the escaped maniac were  one and the
same. What if he had escaped before at the time of the killing at Bridgeport
- or, for that matter, hadn't been committed  to the asylum until after that
killing, whether or not he was suspected of it.
     I thought of lycanthropy, and shivered.  What might I have been talking
about Jabberwocks and unknown beasts with?
     Suddenly the gun I'd put in my pocket felt  comforting  there. I looked
around  over  my shoulder to  be sure that nothing was coming after me.  The
street behind  was empty,  but I started  walking a  little  faster just the
same.
     Suddenly  the street lights  weren't bright enough and the night, which
had been  a pleasant June evening,  was a  frightful, menacing thing.  I was
really scared. Maybe it's as well that  I  didn't guess  that things  hadn't
even started to happen.
     I felt glad that I was passing  the courthouse - with a light on in the
window of the  sheriff's office. I  even considered going in. Probably  Hank
would be there by now  and Rance Kates  would still  be  gone. But no, I was
this  far now and I'd  carry on  to  the Clarion office and start my phoning
from  there.  Besides,  if Kates found out I'd been in his office talking to
Hank, Hank would be in trouble.
     So I kept on going. The corner of Oak Street, and I  turned, now only a
block and a half from the Clarion. But it was going to take me quite a while
to make that block and a half.
     A big,  dark blue Buick sedan  suddenly pulled near the curb and slowed
down alongside me. There were two men in  the front seat and the one who was
driving stuck his  head out of the window and said,  "Hey, Buster, what town
is this?"



          When the sands are all dry, he is gay as a lark,
            And will talk in contemptuous tones of the Shark:
          But, when the tide rises and sharks are around,
            His voice has a timid and tremulous sound.

     It had been a  long time  since anyone had  called  me "Buster,"  and I
didn't particularly like it. I didn't like the looks of the men, either,  or
the tone of  voice the question had been asked in. A minute ago, I'd thought
I'd be glad  of  any  company short of  that of  the  escaped maniac;  now I
decided differently.
     I'm not often rude, but  I can be when  someone else starts it. I said,
"Sorry, pal, I'm a stranger here myself." And I kept on walking.
     I heard the  man behind the wheel  of  the Buick say  something  to the
other,  and then  they passed  me  and swung in to the curb just  ahead. The
driver got out and walked toward me.
     I stopped short  and tried  not to do a double-take when  I  recognized
him. My attention to the  wanted circulars on the post office bulletin board
was about to pay off - although from  the expression on his face, the payoff
wasn't going to be the kind I'd want.
     The man coming toward me and only two steps away when I stopped was Bat
Masters, whose picture had been posted only last week and was still there on
the  board. I couldn't be wrong about his face, and I  remembered  the  name
clearly  because of  its similarity to the name of Bat Masterson, the famous
gunman of the old West. I'd thought of it as a coincidence at first and then
I realized that the similarity of Masters to Masterson had made the nickname
"Bat" a natural.
     He was  a  big  man with a long, horselike face,  eyes wide apart and a
mouth that  was a narrow straight line separating a lantern jaw from  a wide
upper lip; on the latter there was a two-day stubble  of hair that indicated
he  was starting a  mustache. But it would have taken plastic surgery  and a
full  beard to disguise  that face  from  anyone who had  recently,  however
casually, studied a picture of it. Bat Masters, bank robber and killer.
     I had a gun in my pocket, but  I didn't remember it at  the  time. It's
probably just as  well; if I'd remembered, I might have been frightened into
reaching for it. And that probably would not have been a healthful  thing to
do. He was coming at me with his fists  balled but no gun in either of them.
He didn't intend  to kill me - although one of those fists might do it quite
easily and unintentionally. I weigh a hundred and forty wringing wet, and he
weighed almost twice that and had shoulders that bulged out his suit coat.
     There  wasn't  even time  to turn  and run. His left  hand came out and
caught the front of my coat and pulled me toward him, almost lifting me  off
the sidewalk.
     He said, "Listen, Pop, I don't want any lip. I asked you a question."
     "Carmel City," I said. "Carmel City, Illinois."
     The  voice of the other man, still  in the car, came back to  us. "Hey,
Bill, don't hurt the guy. We don't  want to-" He didn't finish the sentence,
of  course; to say  you don't want  to  attract attention is the best way of
drawing it.
     Masters  looked  past me right  over my head  -  to see  if  anybody or
anything was  coming that way and  then, still keeping his grip on the front
of my coat, turned and looked the other way. He wasn't afraid of my swinging
at  him enough  to bother keeping his eyes on me, and I didn't blame him for
feeling that way about it.
     A  car was coming now, about  a block away. And two men came out of the
drugstore on  the opposite side of  the street, only  a few buildings  down.
Then  behind me  I could  hear  the  sound  of  another car turning into Oak
Street.
     Masters turned back to me and let go, so we  were just two men standing
there face to  face  if anyone  noticed us. He  said, "Okay,  Pop. Next time
somebody asks you a question, don't be so God damn fresh."
     He still glared at me as though  he hadn't yet completely  given up the
idea  of giving  me something  to  remember  him  by  -  maybe just  a light
open-handed slap that  wouldn't do anything worse than crack  my jawbone and
drive my dentures down my throat.
     I said, "Sure, sorry," and let my voice sound  afraid, but tried not to
sound quite  as afraid  as  I  really  was  - because  if  he even  remotely
suspected  that I might have recognized him, I wasn't going to get out of it
at all.
     He swung around and  walked  back  to the ear, got in and drove off.  I
suppose I should  have  got  the license  number, but it would  have  been a
stolen car anyway - and besides  I didn't think of it. I  didn't even  watch
the car as it drove away; if either of them looked  back I  didn't want them
to think I was giving them what criminals call the big-eye. I didn't want to
give them any possible reason to change their minds about going on.
     I started walking  again,  keeping  to the middle  of the  sidewalk and
trying to look like a man minding his own business. Also  trying  to keep my
knees from shaking so hard that I couldn't walk at all. It had been a narrow
squeak all right. If the street had been completely empty-
     I could  have  notified the sheriff's office about a  minute quicker by
turning  around and  going  back that way, but I  didn't  take a chance.  If
someone  was watching  me out  of the  back window of the car,  a  change in
direction  wouldn't  be a  good idea. There was a difference of only a block
anyway; I was half  a block past the courthouse  and a block and a half from
Smiley's and the Clarion office across the  street from it. >From either one
I could phone  in the  big  news that Bat  Masters and  a companion had just
driven through Carmel City heading north, probably  toward Chicago. And Hank
Ganzer, in the sheriff's office, would  relay the story to the state  police
and  there  was  probably better than  an even  chance that they'd be caught
within an hour or two.
     And if they were, I might even get a slice of the reward for giving the
tip - but I didn't care as much about that as about the story I was going to
have. Why, it was a story, even if they weren't caught, and if they were, it
would be a really big one. And a local  story - if the  tip came from Carmel
City  -  even  if  they  were actually caught several counties  north. Maybe
there'd even be a gun battle - from my all too close look at Masters I had a
hunch that there would be.
     Perfect timing, too, I thought. For once  something  was happening on a
Thursday night. For once I'd beat the Chicago papers. They'd have the story,
too, of course, and a  lot of  Carmel City  people take Chicago dailies, but
they don't come in until the late  afternoon train and the  Clarion would be
out hours before that.
     Yes, for once I was going to have a newspaper with news  in it. Even if
Masters and his pal weren't caught, the fact that they'd passed through town
made  a story. And besides  that,  there  was  the escaped maniac, and  Carl
Trenholm-
     Thinking about Carl again made me walk faster. It was  safe by now; I'd
gone a quarter of a block since the Buick had driven off. It wasn't anywhere
in sight and again the street was quiet; thank God it hadn't been this quiet
while Masters had been making up his mind whether or not to slug me.
     I  was past Deak's Music Store, dark. Past the supermarket, ditto.  The
bank-
     I had passed the  bank, too, when  I  stopped as suddenly as though I'd
run into a wall.  The bank had  been dark too. And it  shouldn't have  been;
there's a small night light that always burns over the safe.  I'd passed the
bank thousands of times after dark and never before had that light been off.
     For  a  moment the wild thought  went through my head  that Bat and his
companion  must  have  just burglarized  the bank  - although  robbery,  not
burglary,  was Masters' trade - and then I saw  how ridiculous  that thought
had been. They'd  been driving toward the bank and a quarter of a block away
from it when they'd stopped to  ask me what town  they were  in. True,  they
could have burglarized the bank and then circled the block in their car, but
if they had they'd  have been intent on their getaway. Criminals  do  pretty
silly  things  sometimes  but not quite so  silly as  to  stop a getaway car
within spitting  distance of the scene of the crime to ask what town they're
in, and then to top it by getting out of the car to slug a random pedestrian
because they don't like his answer to their question.
     No,  Masters and  company  couldn't  have  robbed  the bank.  And  they
couldn't  be burglarizing  it  now, either.  Their car  had gone on  past; I
hadn't watched it, but my ears had  told me that it  had kept on going.  And
even if it hadn't, I had.  My encounter with them had been only seconds ago;
there wasn't possibly time for them to have broken in there, even  if they'd
stopped.
     I went back a few steps and looked into the window of the bank.
     At  first I saw  nothing except the vague silhouette of a window at the
back - the  top half of the window, that is,  which  was visible  above  the
counter. Then  the  silhouette became  less vague  and I  could see that the
window had been opened; the top bar of the lower sash showed clearly, only a
few inches from the top of the frame.
     That was the means of entry  all right  - but was  the burglar still in
there, or had he left, and left the window open behind him?
     I strained  my  eyes against  the  blackness to the left of the window,
where the safe was. And suddenly a dim  light flickered briefly, as though a
match had been struck but had gone out before the phosphorus had ignited the
wood. I could see only the brief light of it, as  it was below the level  of
the counter; I couldn't see whoever had lighted it.
     The burglar was still there.
     And suddenly I was running on  tiptoe  back through the areaway between
the bank and the post office.
     Good God, don't ask me why. Sure, I had money in the bank, but the bank
had insurance against burglary and it wasn't any skin off my backside if the
bank was robbed. I wasn't  even thinking that it would be a better story for
the Clarion if  I got the burglar - or if he got  me. I just wasn't thinking
at  all. I was running back alongside the bank toward  that window that he'd
left open for his getaway.
     I think  it  must have been reaction  from  the cowardice I'd shown and
felt  only  a  minute  before.  I  must  have  been  a bit punch drunk  from
Jabberwocks  and  Vorpal Blades and homicidal maniacs  with  lycanthropy and
bank bandits  and  a  bank  burglar  - or maybe I thought I'd suddenly  been
promoted to the Roman candle department.
     Maybe I  was drunk, maybe I was a little mentally unbalanced -  use any
maybe you want, but there I was running tiptoe through the areaway. Running,
that  is, as far as  the  light from the street  would let me; then I groped
along the side  of the building  until I came  to the  alley. There was  dim
light there, enough for me to be able to see the window.
     It was still open.
     I stood there looking at it and vaguely beginning to realize  how crazy
I'd been. Why hadn't  I run to the sheriff's office for Hank? The burglar  -
or, for all I knew, burglars - might  be just starting his work  on the safe
in there. He might  be in a long  time, long enough for Hank to get here and
collar him. If  he came out now, what was I going to do about it? Shoot him?
That  was ridiculous; I'd rather let him get away with robbing the bank than
do that.
     And then it  was too late because suddenly there  was a soft  shuffling
sound  from the window and a  hand appeared on the sill. He was  coming out,
and there wasn't a chance that I could get away without his hearing me. What
would happen then, I didn't know. I would just as soon not find out.
     A moment before, just as I'd  reached the place beside the window where
I now stood, I'd stepped on a piece of  wood, a one-by-two stick of it about
a foot  long. That was  a  weapon I could  understand.  I  reached  down and
grabbed it and swung, just in time, as a head came through the window.
     Thank God  I  didn't swing too hard. At the  last second, even  in that
faint light, I'd thought-
     The head  and the hand weren't in the window any more and there was the
soft thud of a body  falling inside. There wasn't  any sound or movement for
seconds.  Long seconds, and then  there was  the  sound of my stick  of wood
hitting the dirt of the alley and I knew I'd dropped it.
     If it hadn't been  for what I'd thought  I'd seen in that last fraction
of a second before it  was  too late to stop the  blow, I could have run now
for the sheriff's office. But-
     Maybe here went my head, but I had to chance it. The sill of the window
wasn't much over waist high. I leaned across  it and struck a match, and I'd
been right.
     I climbed  in the window and felt for his  heart and it was beating all
right. He seemed to  be breathing normally. I ran my hands very  gently over
his head and then held them in the open window to look at them; there wasn't
any blood. There could be, then, nothing worse than a concussion.
     I lowered the window so nobody would notice that it was open and then I
felt  my  way  carefully  toward  the nearest desk -  I'd been in  the  bank
thousands of times; I knew  its layout -  and groped for a telephone until I
found  one. The  operator's voice said,  "Number, please?" and I started  to
give  it and  then remembered; she'd know where the call came  from and that
the bank was closed.  Naturally,  she'd listen in. Maybe she'd even call the
sheriff's office to tell them someone was using the telephone in the bank.
     Had I recognized her voice? I'd thought I had. I said, "Is this Milly?"
     "Yes. Is this - Mr. Stoeger?"
     "Right,"  I said. I was glad she'd known my  voice. "Listen, Milly, I'm
calling from the bank, but it's all right. You don't need to worry about it.
And - do me a favor, will you? Please don't listen in."
     "All right, Mr. Stoeger. Sure. What number do you want?"
     I  gave it; the number of Clyde Andrews, president of  the  bank. As  I
heard the ringing of the phone at the other end, I thought how lucky it  was
that I'd known Milly all her life and that we liked one another. I knew that
she'd be burning with curiosity but that she wouldn't listen in.
     Clyde Andrews' voice answered. I was still careful  about what  I  said
because I didn't know offhand whether he was on a party line.
     I said, "This is Doc  Stoeger, Clyde. I'm down  at  the  bank. Get down
here right away. Hurry."
     "Huh? Doc, are you drunk or something?  What would you be doing  at the
bank. It's closed."
     I said, "Somebody was inside here. I hit him over the head with a piece
of wood when he started back out of the window, and he's unconscious but not
hurt  bad. But  just to be sure, pick  up  Doc  Minton on your way here. And
hurry."
     "Sure," he said. "Are you phoning the sheriff or shall I?"
     "Neither  of us.  Don't phone  anybody.  Just  get Minton and  get here
quick."
     "But - I don't get it. Why not phone the sheriff? Is this a gag?"
     I said, "No, Clyde. Listen  - you'll  want to see the burglar first. He
isn't badly hurt, but for God's sake quit arguing and get down here with Dr.
Minton. Do you understand?"
     His  tone  of voice was  different  when he  said, "I'll be there. Five
minutes."
     I  put the receiver back  on  the phone and then lifted  it again.  The
"Number,  please"  was  Milly's  voice  again and I  asked  her  if she knew
anything about Carl Trenholm.
     She didn't; she hadn't known anything  had happened at all. When I told
her  what little I  knew  she said yes,  that  she'd  routed a  call  from a
farmhouse out on the pike to the sheriff's office about half an hour before,
but she'd had several other calls  around the same time and  hadn't listened
in on it.
     I decided  that I'd better wait until  I  was  somewhere else, before I
called to report  either  Bat  Masters' passing through or about the escaped
maniac at  my  own house. It wouldn't be  safe to risk making  the call from
here, and a few more minutes wouldn't matter a lot.
     I  went  back, groping my way through the dark toward the dim square of
the  window, and  bent down  again  by  the  boy,  Clyde  Andrews' son.  His
breathing and his heart  were  still okay and he moved a little and muttered
something  as  though he was  coming out of it. I don't know anything  about
concussion, but I thought  that was  a good sign  and felt better. It  would
have  been  terrible if  I'd  swung a little  harder and had killed  him  or
injured him seriously.
     I sat down on the floor so my head would be out of the line of sight if
anyone looked  in the  front  window, as  I had  a few minutes  before,  and
waited.
     So much had been happening that I felt a little numb. There was so much
to think about that I guess I didn't think about any of it. I just sat there
in the dark.
     When the phone rang I jumped about two feet.
     I groped to it and  answered  it. Milly's  voice  said, "Mr. Stoeger, I
thought  I'd  better tell  you  if you're  still  there.  Somebody  from the
drugstore  across the street just  phoned the sheriff's office and said  the
night light in the bank is out, and whoever answered at the sheriff's office
- it sounded like one  of  the deputies,  not  Mr. Kates - said  they'd come
right around."
     I said, "Thanks, Milly. Thanks a lot."
     A car was  pulling up at the  curb outside; I could  see it through the
window. I breathed a sigh of relief when I recognized the men getting out of
it as Clyde Andrews and the doctor.
     I  switched  on the lights inside while Clyde was  unlocking the  front
door. I told him  quickly about the call that had been made to the sheriff's
office while  I was leading them back to where Harvey Andrews  was lying. We
moved him slightly to a point where neither he  nor Dr. Minton, bending over
him,  could be seen from the front of the bank, and we did it  just in time.
Hank was rapping on the door.
     I stayed out of sight, too, to avoid having to explain what I was doing
there.  I heard  Clyde Andrews  open  the  door for  Hank  and explain  that
everything was all right, that someone had phoned  him,  too, that the night
light  was out and that he'd just got here to check up and that the bulb had
merely burned out.
     When Hank  left, Clyde  came back,  his  face,  a bit white. Dr. Minton
said,  "He's going to be all right, Clyde. Starting to come  out of it. Soon
as he can walk between us,  we'll get him to the hospital for a  checkup and
be sure."
     I said, "Clyde, I've got to run. There's a  lot popping tonight. But as
soon as you're sure the boy's all right will you let me know? I'll  probably
be at the Clarion, but I might be at Smiley's - or if it's  a long time from
now, I might be home."
     "Sure, Doc." He  put his hand on  my shoulder. "And  thanks a lot for -
calling me instead of the sheriff's office."
     "That's all  right," I told him. "And, Clyde, I didn't know who it  was
before I hit. He was coming out of the back window and I thought-"
     Clyde said, "I looked in his room after you  phoned. He'd packed. I - I
can't  understand it, Doc. He's only fifteen. Why he'd do  a thing like-" He
shook his  head.  "He's  always  been headstrong and he's  got  into  little
troubles a few times, but - I don't  understand this."  He looked at me very
earnestly. "Do you?"
     I thought maybe I did understand  a little of it, but I was remembering
about Bat Masters and the fact that he was getting farther away every minute
and that I'd better get the state police notified pretty quickly.
     So I said, "Can I talk to you about  it tomorrow, Clyde? Get  the boy's
side  of it when he can  talk - and just try  to  keep  your mind open until
then. I think - it may not be as bad as you think right now."
     I left him still looking like a man  who's just taken an almost  mortal
blow, and went out.
     I headed down the street thinking what a damn fool I'd been  to do what
I'd  done.  But then, where  had I  missed a  chance to do  something  wrong
anywhere down the line tonight? And then, on second thought, this one  thing
might not have  been wrong. If I'd called Hank, the boy just might have been
shot instead of knocked out. And in any case he'd have been arrested.
     That  would have been bad.  This  way, there was a  chance he could  be
straightened  out before it was too  late. Maybe a  psychiatrist could  help
him. The only thing  was, Clyde  Andrews would have to realize that he, too,
would  have  to take advice from the  psychiatrist. He was a good man, but a
hard father.  You  can't  expect  the  things of a fifteen year-old boy that
Clyde expected of Harvey, and not have something go wrong somewhere down the
line. But burglarizing a bank,  even his own father's bank - I couldn't make
up my mind whether  that  made it better  or worse was certainly something I
hadn't looked for. It appalled me,  a bit. Harvey's running away  from  home
wouldn't have surprised me at all;  I don't know  that I'd even have  blamed
him.
     A man can be  too good a man and  too conscientious and strict a father
for his son ever to  be able to love him.  If Clyde Andrews would  only  get
drunk - good  and stinking drunk - just once in  his  life, he  might get an
entirely  different  perspective  on things,  even  if he  never again  took
another drink. But he'd  never taken a drink yet, nor one in his whole life.
I don't think he'd ever smoked a cigarette or said a naughty word.
     I liked him anyway; I'm pretty tolerant, I guess. But I'm glad I hadn't
had a  father like him. In my books, the man in town who was the best father
was Carl Trenholm. Trenholm - and I hadn't found out yet whether he was dead
or only injured!
     I was only half  a block, now,  from Smiley's and  the Clarion. I broke
into a trot. Even at  my age, it  wouldn't wind me to trot that far. It  had
probably  been less than  half an hour  since  I'd  left home,  but with the
things  that  had happened  en  route, it seemed  like days.  Well,  anyway,
nothing could happen to me between here and Smiley's. And nothing did.
     I could see through the glass that  there weren't  any customers at the
bar and that  Smiley was alone behind it. Polishing  glasses, as  always;  I
think  he must polish  the  same  glasses a dozen  times over  when  there's
nothing else for him to do.
     I burst in and headed  for  the  telephone.  I  said,  "Smiley,  hell's
popping tonight.  There's an  escaped lunatic, and  something's  happened to
Carl Trenholm,  and  a couple  of  wanted bank  robbers  drove through  here
fifteen or twenty minutes ago and I got to-"
     I was back by the telephone  by the time I'd  said all that and  I  was
reaching up for the receiver. But I never quite touched it.
     A voice behind me said, "Take it easy, Buster."



"What matters it how far we go?" his scaly friend replied.
  "The further off from England the nearer is to France.
There is another shore, you know, upon the other side.
  Then turn not pale, beloved snail, but come and join the dance."

     I turned around slowly. They'd been sitting at the table around  the el
of the  tavern,  the one  table that can't be  seen through the glass of the
door or the  windows.  They'd probably picked  it for  that reason. The beer
glasses in front of them were empty. But I didn't  think  the guns in  their
hands would be.
     One of the  guns - the one in the hand  of Bat Masters' companion - was
aimed at Smiley. And  Smiley, not smiling, was keeping his hands very still,
not moving a muscle.
     The gun in Masters' hand was aimed at me.
     He said, "So you knew us, huh, Buster?"
     There wasn't  any use  denying it; I'd said  too  much already. I said,
"You're Bat Masters." I looked at the other man, whom I hadn't  seen clearly
before, when  he'd been in the car. He was  squat  and stocky, with a bullet
head and  little pig eyes. He  looked like a  caricature  of  a  German army
officer. I said, "I'm sorry; I don't know your friend."
     Masters  laughed.  He  said, "See, George, I'm  famous and  you're not.
How'd you like that?"
     George  kept his eyes  on Smiley.  He  said,  "I  think you better come
around this side of the bar. You just might have a gun back there and take a
notion to dive for it."
     "Come on over  and sit with us," Masters said. "Both of you. Let's make
it a party, huh, George?"
     George said, "Shut up," which changed my opinion of George quite a bit.
I personally wouldn't have cared to tell Bat Masters to shut up, and in that
tone of voice. True, I had been fresh with him  about twenty minutes before,
but I hadn't known who he was. I hadn't even seen how big he was.
     Smiley was coming around the end of the bar. I caught his eye, and gave
him  what  was probably a pretty sickly grin.  I  said, "I'm sorry,  Smiley.
Looks like I put our foot in it this time."
     His face was completely impassive. He said, "Not your fault, Doc."
     I  wasn't too  sure  of  that myself. I was just  remembering that  I'd
vaguely noticed a car  parked in  front of Smiley's place. If  my brains had
been in the proper end of my anatomy I'd have had the sense to take at least
a quick look at that car. And if I'd had that much sense, I'd  have had  the
further  sense  to go across  to  the  Clarion  office  instead  of  barging
nitwittedly into Smiley's and into the arms of Bat Masters and George.
     And  if  the state  police had  come  before  they'd left Smiley's, the
Clarion  would  have had a really good story.  This  way, it might be a good
story too, but who would write it?
     Smiley and  I were standing close together now, and  Masters must  have
figured that one gun was enough for both of us. He stuck his into a shoulder
holster and looked at George. "Well?" he said.
     That proved again that George  was the boss, or  at least  was on equal
status with  Masters.  And  as I studied George's  face, I  could  see  why.
Masters was big and probably had plenty of brass and courage, but George was
the one of the two who had the more brains.
     George said, "Guess we'll have to take 'em along, Bat."
     I knew what that meant. I said, "Listen, there's a back room. Can't you
just  tie us up? If we're  found a few  hours from now, what does it matter?
You'll be clear."
     "And you might be found in a few minutes. And you probably noticed what
kind of a car we got, and you know which  way we're  heading." He shook  his
head, and it was definite.
     He said, "We're not sticking around,  either, till somebody  comes  in.
Bat, go look outside."
     Masters got up and started toward the front; then he hesitated and went
back of the bar instead. He took two pint bottles of whisky  and put  one in
either coat pocket. And he punched  "No Sale"  on the register and  took out
the bills;  he didn't bother with the change. He folded the bills and  stuck
them in his trouser pocket. Then he came back around the bar and started for
the door.
     Sometimes I think people are crazy. Smiley stuck out his hand. He said,
"Five bucks. Two-fifty apiece for those pints."
     He could  have got shot  for  it, then and there, but for  some  reason
Masters  liked it. He  grinned and  took  the wadded  paper money out of his
pocket, peeled a five loose and put it in Smiley's hand.
     George said, "Bat, cut the  horseplay. Look outside." I noticed that he
watched very  carefully  and  kept  the gun trained smack in the  middle  of
Smiley's chest while Smiley stuck the five dollar bill into his pocket.
     Masters opened the door and stepped outside, looked around casually and
beckoned to us. Meanwhile George had  stood  up and walked around behind us,
sliding his gun into a coat pocket out of sight but keeping his hand on it.
     He said, "All right, boys, get going."
     It was all very friendly. In a way.
     We went out the door into the cool pleasant  evening  that wasn't going
to last  much longer, the way things looked now.  Yes, the  Buick was parked
right in front of Smiley's. If I'd only  glanced at it before I went in, the
whole mess wouldn't have happened.
     The Buick was a four-door sedan. George said, "Get in back," and we got
in back. George got in front but sat sidewise, turned around facing us  over
the seat.
     Masters got in behind the wheel and started the engine.
     He said over his shoulder, "Well, Buster, where to?"
     I said, "About five miles out there  are woods.  If you take us back in
them  and tie us up, there  isn't a  chance  on earth we'd be  found  before
tomorrow."
     I didn't want to die, and I  didn't  want Smiley to die,  and that idea
was such a good one that for a moment I hoped. Then Masters said, "What town
is this, Buster?" and I knew there wasn't any chance. Just because I'd given
him  a fresh answer to  a fresh question half an hour ago, there  wasn't any
chance.
     The car pulled out from the curb and headed north.
     I was  scared, and sober. There didn't seem to be any reason  why I had
to be both. I said, "How about a drink?"
     George reached into Masters'  coat  pocket and handed  one  of the pint
bottles over the  back of the seat.  My hands shook a little while I got the
cellophane  off with  my thumbnail and  unscrewed the  cap. I  handed  it to
Smiley first and he took a short drink and passed it back. I took a long one
and  it put a warm spot where  a very cold one had been. I don't mean to say
it made me  happy,  but I felt a  little better.  I wondered what Smiley was
thinking about and I remembered that he  had  a  wife and  three kids and  I
wished I hadn't remembered that.
     I handed him back  the  bottle  and he took another  quick nip. I said,
"I'm sorry, Smiley," and he said, "That's  all right,  Doc." And he laughed.
"One bad  thing, Doc. There'll  be a swell  story  for your Clarion, but can
Pete write it?"
     I  found myself wondering that, quite seriously. Pete's one of the best
all-around printers in  Illinois,  but  what kind of a job would he make  of
things tonight and tomorrow morning? He'd get  the paper out all right,  but
he'd never done any news writing - at  least as long as he'd worked for me -
and  handling  all the  news he was going to have tomorrow  would be  plenty
tough. An  escaped maniac, whatever had happened to Carl,  and whatever - as
if I  really wondered - was going to happen to Smiley and  me. I wondered if
our bodies  would be  found  in time to make the paper,  or  if  it would be
merely a  double  disappearance.  We'd both  be missed  fairly soon.  Smiley
because his tavern was still open but no one behind the bar. I because I was
due to meet Pete  at the Clarion and  about an hour from  now, when I hadn't
shown up yet, he'd start checking.
     We were just leaving town by  then, and I noticed that we'd got off the
main street which  was part of  the main highway. Burgoyne Street,  which we
were on, was turning into a road.
     Masters stopped the car as we came to a fork and turned around.  "Where
do these roads go?" he asked.
     "They  both go to  Watertown,"  I told him. "The  one to the left  goes
along the river and the other one cuts  through the hills; it's shorter, but
it's trickier driving."
     Apparently Masters  didn't mind tricky driving. He swung  right  and we
started  up  into  the  hills.  I wouldn't have done  it myself, if I'd been
driving. The hills are pretty hilly  and the road through them is narrow and
does plenty of winding, with a drop-off on one side or the other most of the
time. Not the long precipitous drop-off you find on real mountain roads, but
enough to wreck a car that goes over the edge, and enough to bother my touch
of acrophobia.
     Phobias are ridiculous things, past reasoning. I felt mine  coming back
the  moment there  was that  slight  drop-off  at the side of the road as we
started up the first  hill. Actually,  I was for  the moment  more afraid of
that  than of George's  gun.  Yes,  phobias are funny things. Mine,  fear of
heights, is one  of the commonest. Carl is afraid of  cats. Al Grainger is a
pyrophobiac, morbidly afraid of fire.
     Smiley said, "You know. Doc?"
     "What?" I asked him.
     "I was thinking of Pete having to write that newspaper. Whyn't you come
back and help him. Ain't there such things as ghost writers?"
     I groaned. After all these years, Smiley had picked a time like this to
come up with the only funny thing I'd ever heard him say.
     We were  up  high now, about  as high as  the  road went;  ahead was  a
hairpin turn  as it started downhill again. Masters  stopped the car. "Okay,
you mugs," he said. "Get out and start walking back."
     Start, he'd  said;  he hadn't made  any mention of finishing.  The tail
lights of  the car would give them  enough illumination to shoot us down by.
And  he'd  probably picked this  spot  because it  would be easy to roll our
bodies off the edge of the road, down  the slope, so they  wouldn't be found
right away. Both of them were already getting out of the car.
     Smiley's big hand gave my arm a quick squeeze; I didn't know whether it
was a farewell gesture  or a signal. He said, "Go ahead, Doc,"  as calmly as
though he was collecting for drinks back of his bar.
     I opened the door on my side, but I was afraid to step out. Not because
I knew I was going to be shot -  that would happen anyway, even if I  didn't
get out. They'd either drag me  out or else shoot me where I sat  and bloody
up the back seat of their  car. No, I  was afraid to get out because the car
was on the outside edge of the road and the slope started only  a yard  from
the  open door of the car. My damned acrophobia. It was dark out there and I
could  see the edge of the road and no  farther and  I pictured a  precipice
beyond. I hesitated, half in the door and half out of it.
     Smiley said again, "Go ahead, Doc," and I heard him moving behind me.
     Then  suddenly  there was  a click  - and complete and utter  darkness.
Smiley  had reached a long arm  across the back of the seat to the dashboard
and had turned the light switch off. All the car lights went out.
     There was a shove in the middle of my back that sent me out of that car
door  like  a cork popping out of a champagne  bottle; I don't think my feet
touched that yard-wide strip  of road at all. As I went  over the  edge into
darkness  and the unknown I heard  swearing and  a shot  behind me. I was so
scared of falling that I'd gladly  have been  back up  on the road trying to
outrun a  bullet back toward town. At  least I'd have been dead before  they
rolled me over the edge.
     I hit and fell and  rolled. It wasn't really steep, after  all;  it was
about a forty-five degree slope, and it  was grassy. I flattened a couple of
bushes before one stopped me. I could hear  Smiley coming after me, sliding,
and I scrambled on as fast as I could. All of my arms and legs  seemed to be
working, so I couldn't be seriously hurt.
     And I  could see a little now that  my  eyes  were getting used  to the
darkness. I could  see  trees ahead, and I scrambled toward  them  down  the
slope, sometimes running,  sometimes  sliding and sometimes  simply falling,
which is the simplest if not the most comfortable way to go down a hill.
     I made the trees, and heard Smiley make them, just as the lights of the
car flashed on, on the road above us. Some shots  snapped our way and then I
heard George  say,  "Don't  waste it. Let's get going," and Bat's, "You mean
we're gonna-"
     George growled, "Hell, yes. That's woods down  there. We could waste an
hour playing hide and seek. Let's get going."
     They were the sweetest words I'd heard in a long time.
     I heard car doors slam, and the car started.
     Smiley's voice, about two yards to my left, said, "Doc? You okay?"
     "I think so," I said. "Smart work, Smiley. Thanks."
     He came around a tree toward me and I could see him now. He said, "Save
it, Doc. Come on, quick.  We  got a chance -  a  little chance, anyway -  of
stopping them."
     "Stopping them?" I  said. My voice went shrill  and  sounded strange to
me. I wondered if Smiley had gone crazy. I couldn't think of anything in the
whole wide world that I wanted to do less than stop Bat Masters and George.
     But he had hold of my arm and was starting down-hill, through the dimly
seen trees and away from the road, taking me with him.
     He said,  "Listen, Doc, I  know this country like the  palm of my foot.
I've hunted here, often."
     "For bank robbers?" I asked him.
     "Listen,  that  road makes a hairpin and  goes by  right below  us, not
forty yards from here.  If we  can  get just above the  road before they get
there and if I can find a big boulder to roll down as the car goes by-"
     I wasn't  crazy about  it,  but  he was pulling me  along  and  we were
through the  trees  already. My  eyes were used to the darkness by now and I
could see the road dimly,  a dozen yards  ahead and a dozen  yards below. In
the  distance, around a curve, I could hear the sound of the car; I couldn't
see it yet. It was a long way off, but coming fast.
     Smiley said, "Look for a boulder, Doc. If you can't find one big enough
to  roll, then  something we can  throw.  If we  can hit their windshield or
something-"
     He was bending over,  groping  around. I did the same; but the bank was
smooth and grassy. If there were stones, I couldn't find any.
     Apparently Smiley wasn't having any luck either. He swore. He said, "If
I only had a gun-"
     I remembered something. "I've got one," I said.
     He straightened up and looked at me  - and  I'm glad it was dark enough
that he couldn't see my face and that I couldn't see his.
     I handed him the  gun.  The headlights of the car were coming in  sight
now around the curve. Smiley pushed me back into the trees and  stood behind
one himself, leaning out to expose only his head and his gun hand.
     The  car came  like a bat out of hell, but  Smiley took aim calmly.  He
fired his  first  shot when the car  was about forty yards away,  the second
when it was only twenty. The  first shot  went into the radiator  - I  don't
mean we could tell that then, but that's where it was found  afterwards. The
second went through the windshield, almost dead center but, of course, at an
angle. It plowed a  furrow along the side of Masters' neck. The car careened
and then went off the road  on the downhill  side, away  from us. It  turned
over once, end for end, the headlight beams stabbing the night  with drunken
arcs, and then it banged into a tree with a noise like the  end of the world
and stopped.
     For just a  second after all  that noise there was a  silence  that was
almost deafening. And then the gas tank exploded.
     The car caught fire  and  there was plenty of light. We saw, as we  ran
toward it, that one  of  the  men had been thrown  clear; when  we got close
enough we could see that it was Masters. George was still in the car, but we
couldn't  do a thing  for him.  And  in that roaring inferno  there wasn't a
chance on earth that  he  could have lived even the minute it took us to get
to the scene of the wreck.
     We dragged Masters farther away from the fire before we checked  to see
whether or  not  he was alive. Amazingly, he was. His face  looked as though
he'd  held it  in a meat  grinder and both of  his arms were broken. Whether
there was  anything  wrong with him beyond that we couldn't tell, but he was
still breathing and his heart was still beating.
     Smiley  was  staring  at the flaming wreck. He said, "A  perfectly good
Buick shot to hell. A fifty model at that." He shook his head sadly and then
jumped back, as I did, when there was another explosion in  the car; it must
have been the cartridges in George's pistol going off all at once.
     I told Smiley, "One of us  will have  to walk back. One had better stay
here, on account of Masters' still being alive."
     "I  guess  so," he said. "Don't know what either of us can  do for him,
but  we  can't both  just walk  off and leave  him. Say, look, that's  a car
coming."
     I looked where he was pointing,  toward the upper stretch of road where
we'd got out of the car before it made  the hairpin turn, and there were the
headlights of a coming car all right.
     We got  out on the  road ready  to hail it, but  it  would have stopped
anyway. It was a  state police  car with two coppers in it. Luckily,  I knew
one of  them - Willie Peeble - and Smiley knew the other  one, so they  took
our word for what had happened. Especially  as Peeble knew about Masters and
was able to identify him in spite of the way his face was cut up.
     Masters was still alive and his heartbeat and breathing were as good as
they'd been when we'd got to him. Peeble decided he'd better not try to move
him.  He went back to the police car and used the two-way  radio to  get  an
ambulance  started  our  way  and  to report  in  to headquarters  what  had
happened.
     Peeble  came back and said, "We'll give you and your friend a lift into
town as soon as  the  ambulance gets  here.  You'll have  to  make and  sign
statements and stuff,  but the chief says you can do that tomorrow; he knows
both of you and says it's all right that way."
     "That's swell," I said. "I've got to get back  to the office as soon as
I can. And as for Smiley here, his place  is open and nobody there." I had a
sudden thought and said, "Say, Smiley,  you don't by  any chance  still have
that pint we had a nip out of in the car, do you?"
     He  shook  his head. "What with turning off the lights  and pushing you
out and getting out myself-"
     I sighed at the waste  of good liquor. The  other pint bottle, the  one
that had been in Bat Masters' left coat pocket,  hadn't survived the  crash.
Still,  Smiley had saved our  lives, so I  had to forgive him for abandoning
the bottle he'd been holding.
     The fire was dying down now, and  I was getting  a little  sick  at the
barbecue odor and  wished the ambulance would come so we could get away from
there.
     I suddenly remembered Carl and asked Peeble if there'd  been any report
on  the police radio  about a Carl Trenholm.  He  shook  his head.  He said,
"There was a looney loose, though. Escaped from the  county asylum.  Must've
been caught, though; we had a cancellation on it later."
     That was good news, in a way. It meant that  Yehudi hadn't waited at my
place  after  all. And somehow I'd hated the thought  of having  to sick the
guards on him while he was  there. Insane or not,  it didn't seem like  real
hospitality to a guest.
     And  the fact that nothing had been on  the police radio about  Carl at
least wasn't discouraging.
     A car came along  from  the opposite  direction  and  stopped when  its
driver saw the smoldering wreckage and  the state police car. It turned  out
to be a break for Smiley and me.  The driver was a Watertown man whom Willie
Peeble knew and who was on his way to Carmel City. When Peeble introduced us
and vouched for  us, he said he'd be glad to take Smiley and  me into Carmel
City with him.
     I didn't believe it  at  first  when  I  saw  by the  clock dial on the
instrument panel of the car that it was only a few minutes after ten o'clock
as we entered Carmel City; it seemed incredible that so much had happened in
the few hours - less than four - since I'd left the Clarion. But we passed a
lighted  clock  in a store window and I saw that  the clock  in  the car was
right  after all, within a  few minutes, anyway. It was only a quarter after
ten.
     We were let off in front of Smiley's.  Across the  street I  could  see
lights were on at the Clarion, so Pete would be there. I  thought I'd take a
quick drink with Smiley, though, before I went to the  office, so  I went in
with him.
     The place  was as we'd left it.  If any customer had come  in, he'd got
tired of waiting and bad left.
     Smiley went around back of the bar and poured us drinks while I went to
the phone. I was going to call the hospital to find out about Carl Trenholm;
then I decided to  call Pete instead. He'd  surely  have called the hospital
already. So I gave the Clarion number.
     When Pete recognized my voice, he  said, "Doc, where  the hell have you
been?"
     "Tell you in a minute, Pete. First, have you got anything about Carl?"
     "He's  all  right. I  don't  know yet what  happened, but  he's okay. I
called the hospital and they said he'd been treated and released. I tried to
find out what  the injuries had been and how they'd happened,  but they said
they couldn't  give out that information. I tried  his  home, but I guess he
hadn't got there yet; nobody answered."
     "Thanks, Pete," I  said.  "That's swell.  Listen,  there's going  to be
plenty to write up. Carl's accident, when we get in touch with him, and  the
escape  and capture of the lunatic, and - something even  bigger than either
of those. So I guess we might as well do it tonight, if that's okay by you."
     "Sure, Doc. I'd rather get it over with tonight. Where are you?"
     "Over at Smiley's. Come on  over  for a quick one - to celebrate Carl's
being okay. He can't even be badly hurt if they released him that quickly."
     "Okay,  Doc, I'll  have one.  But  where were you? And Smiley, too, for
that matter? I looked  in  there  on my way to  the office - saw  the lights
weren't on here, so I knew you  weren't here yet - and you  and Smiley  were
both  gone. I waited five or ten minutes and then I  decided I'd better come
across here in  case of any phone calls and to start melting  metal  in  the
Linotype."
     I said, "Smiley and I had a little ride. I'll tell you about it."
     "Okay, Doc. See you in a couple of minutes."
     I  went back  to the  bar and when  I  reached for  the shot Smiley had
poured for me, my hand was shaking.
     Smiley grinned and said, "Me too,  Doc." He held out his hand and I saw
it wasn't much steadier than mine.
     "Well," he  said,  "you  got  your story, Doc. What  you were squawking
about.  Say,  here's   your  gun  back."  He  took  out  the  short-barreled
thirty-eight and put  it on the bar. "Good as  new, except two  bullets gone
out of it. How'd you happen to have it with you, Doc?"
     For some reason I didn't want to tell  him, or anyone, that the escaped
lunatic had  made such a sap out of me and  had been a guest at my house. So
I, said, "I had to walk down here,  and Pete had  just phoned me there was a
lunatic loose, so I stuck that in my pocket. Jittery, I guess."
     He looked at me and shook his head slowly. I know he was thinking about
my having had that gun in  my pocket  all along, during what  we thought was
our  last  ride,  and never having  even tried to use it. I'd been so scared
that  I'd  completely forgotten  about it until Smiley had said he wished he
had a gun.
     I grinned and said, "Smiley, you're right in what you're thinking. I've
got no more business with a gun  than  a  snake has with roller skates. Keep
it."
     "Huh? You mean it, Doc? I've  been thinking  about getting one to  keep
under the bar."
     "Sure,  I mean  it," I told him. "I'm afraid of the damn things and I'm
safer without one."
     He hefted it appraisingly. "Nice gun. It's worth something."
     I said, "So's my life, Smiley. To me, anyway. And you saved it when you
pushed me out of that car and over the edge tonight."
     "Forget it, Doc.  I couldn't have  got out that door  myself  with  you
asleep  in it. And  getting out of the  other side of the  car wouldn't have
been such a hot idea. Well, if you really mean it, thanks for the gun."
     He put it out  of  sight under the bar and then poured us each a second
drink. "Make it short," I told him. "I've got a lot of work to do."
     He  glanced at his clock  and  it was  only ten thirty. He said, "Hell,
Doc, the evenin's only a pup."
     I thought, but didn't say, what a pup!
     I wonder what I'd have thought if I'd even guessed that the  pup hadn't
even been weaned yet.
     Pete came in.



          "It seems a shame," the Walrus said
                 "To play them such a trick.
          After we've brought them out so far,
                 And made them trot so quick!"

     Neither Smiley nor I had touched,  as yet, the second drink he'd poured
us, so there was time for Pete Corey to get in on the round; Smiley poured a
drink for him.
     He said, "Okay, Doc, now what's this gag about Smiley and you going for
a ride? You told me your car was laid up and Smiley doesn't drive one."
     "Pete," I said, "Smiley doesn't have to be able to drive a  car. He's a
gentleman of  genius. He  kills  or captures killers.  That's what  we  were
doing. Anyway, that's what Smiley  was doing.  I went  along,  just for  the
ride."
     "Doc, you're kidding me."
     I said, "If you don't believe me, read tomorrow's Clarion. Ever hear of
Bat Masters?"
     Pete shook his head. He reached for his drink.
     "You will," I told him. "In tomorrow's Clarion. Ever hear of George?"
     "George Who?"
     I opened my mouth to say I didn't know, but Smiley beat me to the punch
by saying, "George Kramer."
     I stared at Smiley. "How'd you know his last name?"
     "Saw  it in a  fact  detective magazine. And his picture, too,  and Bat
Masters'. They're members of the Gene Kelley mob."
     I stared harder at Smiley.  "You recognized them? I mean, before I even
came in here?"
     "Sure,"  Smiley said. "But it  wouldn't have been a good idea to  phone
the cops while they  were here, so  I was going to wait till  they left, and
then  phone the state cops to  pick 'em up between here  and Chicago. That's
where they  were heading. I listened to what they said, and it wasn't  much,
but I did get that much out of it.  Chicago. They had a date  there tomorrow
afternoon."
     "You're not kidding, Smiley?" I asked him. "You really had them spotted
before I came in here?"
     "I'll show  you the magazine, Doc, with their pictures in it.  Pictures
of all the Gene Kelley mob."
     "Why didn't you tell me?"
     Smiley shrugged his big shoulders. "You didn't ask. Why didn't you tell
me you had a gun in your pocket? If you coulda  slipped it to me in the car,
we'd  have polished 'em off sooner. It would  have been a cinch;  it  was so
dark in that back  seat after we  got out of town, George Kramer wouldn't of
seen you pass it."
     He laughed as though he'd said something funny. Maybe he had.
     Pete was looking from one to the other of us. He said, "Listen, if this
is a gag, you guys are going a long way for it. What the hell happened?"
     Neither of us paid any  attention  to Pete. I  said, "Smiley,  where is
that fact detective magazine? Can you get it?"
     "Sure, it's upstairs. Why? Don't you believe me?"
     "Smiley," I  said, "I'd believe you if you told me  you were lying. No,
what I had in mind is  that that magazine will save me a lot of grief. It'll
have background  stuff  on the boys  we  were playing cops and  robbers with
tonight. I  thought  I'd have  to phone to Chicago and get it  from the cops
there. But  if there's  a whole article on the Gene Kelley mob  in that mag,
I'll have enough without that."
     "Get  it  right  away,  Doc."  Smiley went  through  the  door that led
upstairs.
     I took pity on Pete and gave him a  quick sketch of our experience with
the gangsters. It was fun to watch his mouth drop open and to think  that  a
lot  of other mouths in Carmel  City would do that same  thing tomorrow when
the Clarion was distributed.
     Smiley came back  down with the magazine and I put  it in my pocket and
went  to the  phone again. I still  had  to have the  details about what had
happened to Carl,  for the paper. I still wanted  it for my  own information
too, but that wasn't so important as long as he wasn't seriously hurt.
     I  tried the hospital first but they gave me  the same runaround they'd
given  Pete; sorry, but since Mr.  Trenholm had been  discharged, they could
give out no information. I thanked them. I tried Carl's own phone and got no
answer, so I went back to Pete and Smiley.
     Smiley  happened to be staring out the window.  He said, "Somebody just
went in your office, Doc. Looked like Clyde Andrews."
     Pete turned to look, too, but was too late. He said,  "Guess that's who
it must've been. Forgot to tell you, Doc; he phoned about twenty minutes ago
while I was waiting for  you  over at the office. I told  him I expected you
any minute."
     "You didn't lock the door, did you, Pete?" I asked. He shook his head.
     I waited a minute to give the banker time to get up the stairs and into
the office and  then I went back to the phone and called the Clarion number.
It rang  several  times while Clyde,  apparently,  was  making  up his  mind
whether to answer it or not. Finally he did.
     "This is Doc, Clyde," I said. "How's the boy?"
     "He's all right, Doc. He's fine. And I want to thank you again for what
you did  and - I want to talk to you about  something. Are  you  on your way
here?"
     "I'm across the street at Smiley's. How about dropping over here if you
want to talk?"
     He hesitated. "Can't you come here?" he asked.
     I grinned  to myself. Clyde  Andrews  is not only  a strict  temperance
advocate; he's head of a  local chapter  (a small  one,  thank God)  of  the
Anti-Saloon League. He'd probably never been in a tavern in his life.
     I said, "I'm afraid  I can't, Clyde."  I made my voice very grave. "I'm
afraid if you want to talk to me, it will have to be here at Smiley's."
     He got me, all right. He said stiffly, "I'll be there."
     I sauntered  back to  the bar. I said, "Clyde  Andrews is  coming here,
Smiley. Chalk up a first."
     Smiled stared at me. "I don't believe it," he said. He laughed.
     "Watch," I told him.
     Solemnly I went  around behind the bar and got a bottle and two glasses
and took them to a table - the one in the  far corner farthest from the bar.
I liked the way Pete and Smiley stared at me.
     I  filled  both the glasses and sat down.  Pete  and Smiley stared some
more. Then they  turned and stared the  other way  as Clyde came in, walking
stiffly. He said, "Good evening, Mr. Corey,"  to Pete and "Good evening, Mr.
Wheeler" to Smiley, and then came back to where I was sitting.
     I said, "Sit down, Clyde," and he sat down.
     I looked at him. I said sternly, "Clyde, I don't like -  in  advance  -
what you're going to ask me."
     "But, Doc," he said earnestly, almost pleadingly, "must you print  what
happened? Harvey didn't mean to-"
     "That's what I meant," I said. "What makes  you think I'd even think of
printing a word about it?"
     He looked at me and his face changed. "Doc! You're not going to?"
     "Of course not." I leaned forward. "Listen, Clyde, I'll make you a  bet
- or I would if you  were a betting man. I'll bet  I know exactly the amount
of money  the kid had  in his pocket when  he was leaving - and, no I didn't
look in his pockets. I'll  bet he had a savings  account - he's been working
summers several years now, hasn't he? - and he was running away. And he knew
damn well you wouldn't let  him draw his own money and that he couldn't draw
it without  your knowing it. Whether he  had twenty dollars  or  a thousand,
I'll bet you it was the exact amount of his own account."
     He took a deep  breath. "You're right. Exactly right. And -  thanks for
thinking that, before you knew it. I was going to tell you."
     "For a fifteen-year-old, Harvey's a good kid, Clyde. Now listen, you'll
admit I  did  the right  thing  tonight calling  you instead  of calling the
sheriff? And in keeping the story out of the paper?"
     "Yes."
     "You're in a  saloon, Clyde. A  den  of iniquity. You should  have said
`Hell, yes.' But  I don't suppose it would sound natural  if you did,  so  I
won't insist on it. But, Clyde, how much thinking have you been doing  about
why the boy was running away? Has he told you that yet?"
     He  shook his  head  slowly. "He's all  right now, in  bed, asleep. Dr.
Minton gave him a sedative, but told me Harvey had better not do any talking
till tomorrow."
     "I'll  tell  you  right  now,"  I said,  "that he  won't have  any very
coherent story about  it.  Maybe he'll say  he was running away to join  the
army or to go on  the stage  or -  or  almost anything. But it  won't be the
truth, even if he  thinks it  is. Clyde, whether he knows  it or not, he was
running away. Not toward."
     "Away from what?"
     "From you," I said.
     For  a second  I thought  he was going to get  angry  and I'm  glad  he
didn't, because then I might have got angry too and that  would have spoiled
the whole thing.
     Instead, he slumped a little. He said, "Go on, Doc.
     I hated to, then,  but I had to strike  while the striking was good.  I
said, "Listen, Clyde, get up and walk out any time you want to; I'm going to
give it to you straight. You've been a lousy father." At any other time he'd
have  walked out on me on that one. I could tell by his face that, even now,
he didn't like  it. But at any other time he wouldn't have been sitting at a
back table in Smiley's tavern, either.
     I said, "You're  a good man, Clyde, but you work at it too hard. You're
rigid, unyielding,  righteous.  Nobody  can love  a ramrod. There's  nothing
wrong  with  your being  religious,  if  you  want to.  Some  good  men  are
religious. But you've got to realize that everybody who doesn't think as you
do isn't necessarily wrong."
     I  said, "Take alcohol -  literally,  if you  wish; there's  a glass of
whisky in front of you. But take it figuratively, anyway. It's been a solace
to the human race, one of  the things that can make life  tolerable, since -
damn it, since before the human race was even human. True, there are  a  few
people  who can't  handle it - but that's no reason to try  to  legislate it
away  from the  people who can  handle it, and whose  enjoyment  of life  is
increased  by  its moderate use - or even by  its occasional immoderate use,
providing it doesn't make them pugnacious or otherwise objectionable.
     "But -  let's skip  alcohol. My point is that a man can  be  a good man
without trying to interfere with  his neighbor's life too much. Or  with his
son's. Boys are human,  Clyde. People in  general are human; people are more
human than anybody."
     He didn't say  anything,  and that was a hopeful sign. Maybe a tenth of
it was sinking in.
     I said,  "Tomorrow, when you can talk with the kid, Clyde, what are you
going to say?"
     "I - I don't know, Doc."
     I said, "Don't say anything. Above all, don't ask him any question. Not
a damn question. And let  him keep that money,  in cash, so he can run  away
any time he decides to.  Then maybe he won't.  If you change  your  attitude
toward him.
     "But, damn it,  Clyde, you can't  change your attitude toward  him, and
unbend,  without unbending in  general  toward the  human race.  The kid's a
human being,  too. And you could be, if you wanted to.  Maybe you  think  it
will cost you your immortal soul to be one - I don't think so, myself, and I
think  there are a great  many  truly  religious people who  don't  think so
either - but if you persist in not being one, then you're going to lose your
son."
     I decided that that was it. There wasn't anything more that I could say
that couldn't weaken my case. I decided I'd better shut up. I did shut up.
     It seemed  like  a  long,  long  time before he  said  anything. He was
staring at the wall over my head. When he answered what I'd  said, he  still
didn't say anything. He did better, a lot better.
     He picked up the whisky  in front of him.  I got mine picked up in time
to down it as he took a sip of his. He made a face.
     "Tastes horrible," he said. "Doc, do you really like this stuff?"
     "No," I told him. "I hate  the taste of it. You're right,  Clyde, it is
horrible."
     He  looked  at the glass  in his hand and shuddered  a  little. I said,
"Don't drink it. That sip you took proved  your point. And don't try to toss
it off; you'll probably choke."
     He said,  "I suppose  you  have to learn to like it. Doc, I've drunk  a
little wine a few times, not recently, but I  didn't  dislike it  too  much.
Does Mr. Wheeler have any wine?"
     "The name is Smiley," I said, "and he does." I stood  up. I clapped him
on the back, and it  was the first time in my life I'd ever done so. I said,
"Come on, Clyde, let's see what the boys in the back room will have."
     I took him over to the bar, to Pete and Smiley. I told Smiley, "We want
a  round, and it's on Clyde. Wine  for him, and I'll take a short  beer this
time; I've got to rewrite a paper tonight."
     I frowned at Smiley because of the utterly amazed look on his face, and
he got  the hint and straightened it out. He said, "Sure,  Mr. Andrews. What
kind of wine?"
     "Do you have sherry, Mr. Wheeler?"
     I said, "Clyde, meet Smiley. Smiley, Clyde."
     Smiley laughed, and Clyde smiled. The smile was a bit stiff, and  would
take  practice, but I knew and knew damned  well that Harvey Andrews  wasn't
going to run away from home again.
     He was going, henceforth,  to have a father who  was human. Oh, I don't
mean that I  expected  Clyde  suddenly  to turn into Smiley's best customer.
Maybe he'd  never  come back to Smiley's again. But by ordering one drink  -
even of wine  -  across a bar,  he'd crossed  a Rubicon.  He wasn't  perfect
anymore.
     I  was  beginning to feel  my own drinks again and I didn't really want
the one Clyde bought for me, but it was an Occasion, so I took it. But I was
getting  in a hurry to get back across the street to the Clarion and get  to
work on all the stories  I  had to  write, so I downed it fairly quickly and
Pete and I  left.  Clyde left when we  did, because he wanted to get back to
his son; I didn't blame him for that.
     At the Clarion, Pete checked the pot  on the Linotype and  found it hat
enough - while I pulled up the typewriter stand beside  my  desk and started
abusing  the ancient  Underwood. I figured that, with the dope in  the  fact
detective  magazine  Smiley had given me for background, I could run  it  to
three  or four columns, so I  had  a lot  of work ahead of  me.  The escaped
looney and Carl could wait - now that the former was captured and now that I
knew Carl was safe - until I got the main story done.
     I told  Pete, while he  was  waiting for the  first take, to hand set a
banner head, "TAVERNKEEPER CAPTURES WANTED KILLERS," to see if it would fit.
Oh, sure,  I was going to  put myself in the story, too, but I  was going to
make Smiley the hero of it, for one simple reason: he had been.
     Pete had the head set up - and it fitted - by the time I had a take for
him to start setting on the machine.
     In the middle of the second take I realized that I didn't know for sure
that  Bat Masters was still alive, although I'd put it that way in the lead.
I might as well find  out for sure that he really was, and what condition he
was in.
     I knew better than to call the hospital for anything more detailed than
whether  he was dead or not,  so  I picked up the phone and called the state
police office at Watertown. Willie Peeble answered.
     He said,  "Sure, Doc,  he's alive.  He's even been conscious and talked
some. Thinks he's dying, so he really opened up."
     "Is he dying?"
     "Sure, but  not the way he thinks. It'll cost the state some kilowatts.
And he can't beat the rap; they've got the whole gang  cold, once they catch
them. There  were  six people - two of 'em women  - killed in that bank  job
they pulled at Colby."
     "Was George in on that?"
     "Sure. He  was  the one that shot the women. One  was a  teller and the
other one was  a customer who was too  scared to move when they told  her to
lie flat."
     That made  me feel a  little better about  what had happened to George.
Not that it had worried me too much.
     I said, "Then I can put in the story that Bat Masters confesses?"
     "I dunno  about that, Doc. Captain Evans is at  the hospital talking to
him now,  and  we had one report here that  Masters is talking, but  not the
details. I  don't  think  the cap  would even  bother  asking him about that
stuff."
     "What would he ask him, then?"
     "The rest of the mob, where they are. There are two others besides Gene
Kelley, and it'd be a real break if the cap can get out of Masters something
that would  help  us  find the  others.  Especially Kelley.  The  two we got
tonight are peanuts compared to Kelley."
     I said, "Thanks a lot, Willie. Listen, if  anything more breaks  on the
story,  will  you give me a ring? I'll be  here at the Clarion  for a  while
yet."
     "Sure," he said. "So long."
     I hung up and went  back to the story.  It  went  sweetly. I was on the
fourth take  when  the phone  rang and  it  was Captain Evans  of  the state
police, calling from the  hospital where  they'd  taken Masters.  He'd  just
phoned Watertown and knew about my call there.
     He said, "Mr. Stoeger? You going to be  there another fifteen or twenty
minutes?"
     I was probably going to be working another several hours, I told him.
     "Fine," he said, "I'll drive right around."
     That was duck  soup; I'd have  my story about  his questioning  Masters
right  from the horse's mouth. So I didn't bother  asking him any  questions
over the phone.
     And I found myself, when I'd finished that take, up to the point in the
story where the questioning of Masters  should come, so I decided I might as
well wait until I'd talked to Evans, since he was going to be here so soon.
     Meanwhile I  might as  well  start checking on  the  other  two stories
again.  I called Carl  Trenholm, still got  no  answer. I called  the county
asylum.  Dr. Buchan,  the  superintendent, wasn't  there,  the girl  at  the
switchboard told  me; she asked if I  wanted to talk to his assistant and  I
said yes.
     She put him on and before I'd finished explaining who I was and what  I
wanted, he'd  interrupted  me. "He's  on his way  over  to see  you now, Mr.
Stoeger. You're at the Clarion office?"
     "Yes,"  I said, "I'm here now.  And you say Dr.  Buchan's  on  his way?
That's fine."
     My  stories were  coming to  me, I thought happily, as  I put the phone
back. Both Captain Evans and Dr. Buchan. Now if only  Carl would drop in too
and explain what had happened to him.
     He did. Not that exact second, but  only about  two minutes later.  I'd
wandered over to the stone and was looking  gloatingly at the horrible front
page with  no news on it  and thinking how lovely it  was going  to  look  a
couple of hours  from now  and listening with  pleasure to the click  of the
mats down the channels of the Linotype, when the door opened and Carl walked
in.
     His clothes were  a little dusty and disheveled; he had  a big patch of
adhesive tape on his forehead and  his eyes looked a little bleary. He had a
sheepish grin.
     He said, "Hi, Doc. How's everything?"
     "Wonderful," I told him. "What happened to you, Carl?"
     "That's  what I dropped  in  to tell you, Doc.  Thought you might get a
garbled version of it and be worried about me."
     "I couldn't even get a garbled version. No version at all; the hospital
wouldn't give. What happened?"
     "Got drunk. Went for a walk out the pike to sober up and got so woozy I
had to lie down a minute, so I headed for the grassy strip the other side of
the  ditch alongside the road and - well, my foot  slipped as I was stepping
across the ditch and the  ground, with a chunk  of rock in its hand, reached
up and slapped me in the face."
     "Who found you, Carl?" I asked him.
     He chuckled. "I don't  even know.  I woke up  -  or  came to  -  in the
sheriff's car on the way to the hospital. Tried to talk him out of taking me
there, but he insisted. They checked me for a concussion and let me go."
     "How do you feel now?"
     "Do you really want to know?"
     "Well," I said, "maybe not. Want a drink?"
     He  shuddered. I didn't insist.  Instead, I  asked  him where he'd been
since he'd left the hospital.
     "Drinking black  coffee at  the Greasy Spoon. Think I'm able to make it
home  by  now. In fact, I'm on my way. But I  knew you'd have heard about it
and thought you might as well have the - uh - facts straight in case - uh-"
     "Don't be  an ass, Carl," I told him. "You don't rate a  stick of type,
even if  you wanted  it. And, by the way, Smiley gave me  the inside dope on
Bonney's  divorce,  so I  cut  down the story to  essentials and cut out the
charges against Bonney."
     "That's swell of you, Doc."
     "Why didn't you  tell me  the truth about  it yourself?"  I  asked him.
"Afraid of interfering with the freedom of the press? Or of taking advantage
of a friendship?"
     "Well - somewhere in between, I guess. Anyway, thanks. Well, maybe I'll
see you tomorrow. If I live that long."
     He left and I  wandered back  to my desk. The Linotype was caught up to
the typewriter  by now, and I hoped Evans would show up soon - or Dr. Buchan
from the asylum - so I could get ahead with at least one of  the stories and
not keep Pete working any later than necessary.  For myself, I didn't give a
damn. I was too keyed up to have been able to sleep anyway.
     Well, there was one thing we could be doing to save time later. We went
over  to the stone and  started pulling all the filler items out of the back
pages so we  could move back the least important stories on page one to make
room  for the  two  big stories we still had coming. We'd need at least  two
full page one columns  - and more if we could manage it - for the capture of
the bank robbers and the escape of the maniac.
     We were just getting the pages unlocked, though, when Dr.  Buchan  came
in. An elderly lady - she looked vaguely familiar to me but I couldn't place
her - was with him.
     She smiled at me and said, "Do  you remember me, Mr. Stoeger?"  And the
smile did it;  I did remember her. She'd lived next door to  me when I was a
kid, forty-some years ago, and she'd given me  cookies. And I remembered now
that,  while I  was away at college, I'd heard that she had gone mildly, not
dangerously, insane  and had been taken to the asylum. That must have been -
Good Lord - thirty-some years ago. She must be well over seventy by now. And
her name was-
     "Certainly,  Mrs. Griswald," I told  her.  "I even remember the cookies
and candy you used to give me."
     And I smiled back at her. She looked  so happy  that one  couldn't help
smiling back at her. She said, "I'm so glad you remember, Mr. Stoeger.  want
you to do me a big favor - and I'm so glad  you remember those days, because
maybe you'll do it for me. Dr. Buchan - he's so wonderful - offered to bring
me here so I could ask you. I - I really wasn't running away this evening. I
was just confused. The door was open and  I forgot. I  was thinking that  it
was forty years ago and I wondered what I  was doing  there and why I wasn't
home with Otto, and so I  just  started  home, that's all. And by the time I
remembered  that Otto was dead for  so long  and that  I was-" The smile was
tremulous  now, and there were tears in her eyes. "Well, by that time I  was
lost and couldn't find my way back,  until they  found me.  I  even tried to
find my way back, once I remembered and knew where I was supposed to be."
     I glanced over her head at tall Dr. Buchan, and  he nodded to me. But I
still  didn't know what  it  was all about. I didn't see, so I said, "I see,
Mrs. Griswald."
     Her  smile was back. She nodded brightly. "Then you won't put it in the
paper? About my wandering away, I  mean? Because  I didn't really mean to do
it. And Clara,  my  daughter,  lives  in  Springfield  now,  but  she  still
subscribes to your paper for news from home, and if she reads in the Clarion
that I - escaped - she'll think I'm not happy there and it'll worry her. And
I am happy, Mr. Stoeger - Dr. Buchan is wonderful to me -  and I don't  want
to  make Clara unhappy or have  her worry about me, and - you won't write it
up, will you?"
     I patted her shoulder gently. I said, "Of course not, Mrs. Griswald."
     And  then  suddenly  she  was  against my  chest,  crying,  and  I  was
embarrassed as hell. Until Dr. Buchan pulled her gently away and started her
toward the door. He stepped back a second and said to me so quietly that she
couldn't hear, "It's straight, Stoeger. I mean, it  probably would worry her
daughter a lot and she really wasn't escaping -  she just wandered off.  And
her daughter really does read your paper."
     "Don't worry," I said. "I won't mention it."
     Past him,  I  could see  the door  open and Captain Evans  of the state
police was coming in. He left the door open and Mrs. Griswald  was wandering
through it.
     Dr. Buchan shook hands quickly. He said, "Thanks a lot, then. And on my
behalf as well as Mrs.  Griswald's. It  doesn't do an institution like  ours
any good to have publicity on escapes, of  course. Not that I'd  have  asked
you, myself,  to  suppress  the story on that account. But since our patient
had a really good, and legitimate, reason to ask you not to-"
     He happened to turn and see that his patient was  already  herding down
the  stairs. He hurried after her before she could again become confused and
wander into limbo.
     Another story  gone,  I thought, as  I  shook hands  with  Evans. Those
cookies  had  been expensive  - if worth it. I thought, suddenly, of all the
stories I'd had to kill  tonight. The  bank  burglary - for good and obvious
reasons.  Carl's accident  -  because it had  been  trivial after  all,  and
writing it up  would have hurt his reputation as a  lawyer. The  accident in
the Roman  candle department, because it might have lost Mrs. Carr's husband
a needed job. Ralph Bonney's divorce - well, not killed, exactly, but played
down from a  long,  important story  to a  short  news item. Mrs. Griswald's
escape  from the asylum -because she'd given me cookies once and because  it
would have worried her daughter. Even the auction sale at the Baptist Church
- for the most obvious reason of all, that it had been called off.
     But what the hell did any of  that matter  as  long as I had one really
big story  left, the biggest of  them  all? And there wasn't any conceivable
reason why I couldn't print that one.
     Captain Evans took the  seat  I pulled up for him by my desk and I sank
back  into the swivel chair and got a pencil ready for what  he was going to
tell me.
     "Thanks  a  hell of  a  lot for coming  here, Cap. Now what's the score
about what you got out of Masters?"
     He  pushed his  hat back on his head and frowned. He said,  "I'm sorry,
Doc. I'm  going to have to ask you - on orders from the top - not to run the
story at all."



          He took his vorpal sword in hand:
                 Long time the manxome foe he sought-
          So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
                 And stood a while in thought.

     I don't know what my face looked like.  I know I dropped the pencil and
that I had to clear my throat when what I started  to say  wouldn't come out
the first time.
     The  second time,  it  came  out,  if a bit  querulously. "Cap,  you're
kidding me. You can't really mean it. The one big thing that's ever happened
here - Is this a gag?"
     He shook his head. "Nope, Doc. It's the McCoy.  It comes right from the
chief himself. I can't make you hold  back the story, naturally. But I  want
to tell you the facts and I hope you'll decide to." I breathed a little more
freely when he said he couldn't make me hold it back. It wouldn't hurt me to
listen politely.
     "Go ahead," I told him. "It had better be good."
     He leaned forward. "It's this way, Doc.  This Gene Kelley  mob is nasty
stuff. Real killers. I guess you  found that out tonight  about two of them.
And, by the way, you did a damn good job."
     "Smiley Wheeler did. I just went along for the ride."
     It was a  weak joke, but he laughed at it. Probably just to please  me.
He said, "If we can keep it quiet for about forty more hours - till Saturday
afternoon  -  we can break  up the gang  completely.  Including the big shot
himself, Gene Kelley."
     "Why Saturday afternoon?"
     "Masters and Kramer had a  date for  Saturday afternoon with Kelley and
the rest of  the mob.  At a hotel  in  Gary, Indiana. They've been separated
since their last job,  and they'd arranged that date to get together for the
next one, see? When Kelley and the others show up for that date, well, we've
got 'em.
     "That is, unless the news  gets out that Masters and Kramer are already
in the bag. Then Kelley and company won't show up."
     "Why can't we  twist one little thing in the story," I suggested. "Just
say Masters and Kramer were both dead?"
     He shook his head. "The other boys wouldn't take  any chances. Nope, if
they know our two boys  were either caught or killed, they'll stay away from
Gary in droves."
     I sighed. I knew it wouldn't work, but I said hopefully, "Maybe none of
the gang members reads the Carmel City Clarion."
     "You  know better  than  that, Doc. Other papers all  over the  country
would pick it up. The Saturday  morning papers would have it,  even  if  the
Friday evening editions didn't get it." He had a sudden  thought and  looked
startled. "Say,  Doc,  who represents the news services here?  Have they got
the story yet?"
     "I represent them," I said sadly. "But I hadn't wired either of them on
this yet. I was going to wait till my own paper  was out. They'd  have fired
me,  sure, and it would  have cost me a few bucks a year, but for once I was
going to  have a  big story  break in my own paper before I threw it to  the
wolves."
     He said, "I'm sorry, Doc. I guess this is a big thing for you. But now,
at least, you won't lose out with  the  news  services. You can say you held
the story at  the request of the police - until, say, midafternoon Saturday.
Then send it in to them and get credit for it."
     "Cash, you mean. I want the credit of breaking it in  the Clarion, damn
it."
     "But  will  you hold it up, Doc? Listen, those boys are killers. You'll
be  saving lives  if you let us  get them. Do you know anything  about  Gene
Kelley?"
     I nodded; I'd been reading  about him in  the magazine Smiley  had lent
me. He wasn't a very nice man. Evans was right in saying it would cost human
lives to print  that  story if the story kept Kelley  out of  the trap  he'd
otherwise walk into.
     I looked up  and Pete was standing there listening. I  tried  to  judge
from  his  face what  he thought  about it, but he  was keeping it carefully
blank.
     I  scowled at him and said; "Shut off  that God damn Linotype. I  can't
hear myself think."
     He went and shut it off.
     Evans  looked relieved. He said,  "Thanks, Doc." For no reason at all -
the evening was moderately cool - he pulled out a handkerchief and wiped his
forehead. "What a break it was that Masters hated the rest of the mob enough
to turn them in for us when he figured he was done himself. And that  you're
willing to hold the story till we get 'em. Well, you can use it next week."
     There wasn't  any use telling him that I could also print  a chapter or
two of Caesar's Gallic Wars next week; it was ancient history too.
     So I  didn't say anything and after  a  few more seconds he  got up and
left.
     It seemed awfully quiet  without the Linotype running. Pete came  over.
He said, "Well, Doc, we still got that nine-inch hole in the front page that
you said  you'd find  some way of filling in the  morning. Maybe while we're
here anyway-"
     I ran my fingers through what is left of my hair. "Run it as is, Pete,"
I told him, "except with a black border around it."
     "Look, Doc, I can pull  forward that story on the Ladies'  Aid election
and if I reset it narrow measure to fit a box, it'll maybe run long enough."
     I couldn't think of anything  better. I said, "Sure, Pete," but when he
started toward the Linotype to  turn it  back on, I said,  "But not tonight,
Pete. In  the  morning. It's half  past  eleven. Get  home  to the wife  and
kiddies."
     "But I'd just as soon-"
     "Get  the hell out of  here," I said,  "before I bust out blubbering. I
don't want anybody to see me do it."
     He  grinned to show  he knew I didn't really mean  it and  said, "Sure,
Doc. I'll get down a little early, then. Seven- thirty.  You going  to stick
around a while now?"
     "A  few minutes," I said.  " `Night, Pete. Thanks for  coming down, and
everything."
     I kept  sitting at my  desk for a  minute after he'd left, and I didn't
blubber, but I wanted to all right. It didn't seem possible that so much had
happened and that  I couldn't get even a stick of type out of any of it. For
a  few minutes I wished that I was a son-of-a-bitch instead of a sucker so I
could go ahead and print it all.  Even if it let the Kelley  mob get away to
do  more killing, lost my housekeeper's husband her job, made a fool  out of
Carl Trenholm, worried  Mrs.  Griswald's daughter and ruined Harvey Andrews'
reputation by  telling  how he'd been caught robbing his father's bank while
running away from home. And while  I was at it, I might as well smear  Ralph
Bonney by listing the untrue charges brought against him in the divorce case
and write a humorous little  item about  the leader of  the local antisaloon
faction  setting  up a round for  the  boys  at Smiley's.  And even run  the
rummage sale story on the ground that the cancellation had been too late and
let a  few dozen citizens make a trip in vain. It would be wonderful to be a
son-of-a-bitch  instead of a sucker so I could do all that.  Sons-of-bitches
must  have more fun than  people. And  definitely  they get  out bigger  and
better newspapers.
     I wandered  over and looked at the front page lying there on the stone,
and for  something to  do I dropped the  filler items back in page four. The
ones we'd taken out to let us  move back  the present junk from page one  to
make room for all  the big  stories we were going to  break. I locked up the
page again.
     It was quiet as hell.
     I wondered why I didn't get out of there  and have another drink - or a
hell of a  lot of drinks  - at Smiley's. I wondered why I didn't want to get
stinking drunk. But I didn't.
     I wandered  over to  the window and  stood  staring down  at  the quiet
street. They hadn't rolled the sidewalks in yet  - closing time for  taverns
is midnight in Carmel City - but nobody was walking on them.
     A car  went  by and I  recognized  it as  Ralph  Bonney's  car, heading
probably, to pick up Miles Harrison and take him over to Neilsville  to pick
up  the night  side pay roll for  the fireworks  plant,  including the Roman
candle department. To which I had briefly-
     I decided I'd smoke one more cigarette and then go home. I reached into
my pocket and pulled  out the cigarette  package and something  fluttered to
the floor - a card.
     I picked it up and stared at it. It read.

                              Yehudi Smith

     Suddenly the  dead night was alive again. I'd  written off Yehudi Smith
when I'd heard that the escaped lunatic  had been  captured. I'd written him
off so completely that I'd forgotten  to write him on again  when Dr. Buchan
had brought in Mrs. Griswald to talk to me.
     Yehudi Smith wasn't the escaped lunatic.
     Suddenly I wanted to jump up into the air and click  my heels together,
I wanted to run, I wanted to yell.
     Then  I remembered how  long  I'd been gone  and I  almost ran  to  the
telephone on my  desk. I gave  my own number and  my heart  sank as it  rang
once, twice, thrice - and  then after the fourth ring Smith's voice answered
with a sleepy-sounding hello.
     I said, "This is Doc Stoeger, Mr. Smith. I'm starting home now. Want to
apologize for having kept you waiting so long. Some things happened:"
     "Good. I mean, good that you're coming now. What time is it?"
     "About half past eleven. I'll  be there in fifteen  minutes. And thanks
for waiting."
     I hurried into my coat and grabbed my hat. I almost  forgot to turn out
the lights and lock the door.
     Smiley's first,  but not for  a drink; I  picked  up a  bottle  to take
along. The one at my house had  been  getting low when I left; only God knew
what had happened to it since.
     Leaving Smiley's with the bottle, I swore again at the fact that my car
was laid up with those flat tires. Not that  it's a long walk or that I mind
walking in the slightest  where I'm not  in a  hurry,  but  again I was in a
hurry. Last time  it had been because I  thought Carl Trenholm  was  dead or
seriously injured - and to get  away from Yehudi Smith. This  time it was to
get back to him.
     Past  the post  office, now  dark. The bank, this  time  with the night
light on and no  evidence of crime in sight. Past the spot where  the  Buick
had pulled up and a voice had asked someone named Buster what town this was.
There wasn't a  car in sight now,  friend or foe. Past  everything  that I'd
passed so  many thousand times, and off the main  street into  the friendly,
pleasant side streets no longer infested  with homicidal  maniacs  or  other
horrors. I didn't look behind me once, all the way home.
     I  felt  so good I  felt silly.  Best  of  all  I  was  cold-sobered by
everything that had  been happening, and I was ready  and in  the mood for a
few more drinks and some more screwy conversation.
     I still didn't completely believe he'd be there, but he was.
     And  he  looked  so  familiar sitting  there  that  I wondered why  I'd
doubted. I said  "Hi," and shied my hat at the hatrack and it hit a  peg and
stayed there. That was the  first time that had happened in months so I knew
from that that I was lucky tonight. As if I needed that to prove it.
     I took the seat across from him, just as we'd  been sitting before, and
I poured us each a drink - still from the first bottle; apparently he hadn't
drunk much while I'd been gone - and started to renew the apologies I'd made
over the phone for having been away so long.
     He waved  the apologies away with a casual gesture. "It doesn't  matter
at all, as long as you got back." He smiled. "I had a nice nap."
     We touched glasses and drank. He said, "Let's  see; just where were  we
when you got  that phone call - oh, which reminds me; you said it  was about
an accident to a friend. May I ask-?"
     "He's all right,"  I told him.  "Nothing  serious. It was - well, other
things kept coming up that kept me away so long."
     "Good.  Then - oh, yes, I remember. When the phone rang we were talking
about the Roman candle department. We'd just drunk to it."
     I remembered and nodded. "That's where I've been,  ever  since  I  left
here."
     "Seriously?"
     "Quite,"  I said. "They fired me half an hour ago, but it was fun while
it  lasted.  Wait; no, it  wasn't. I won't  lie to you. At  the time  it was
happening, it was pretty horrible."
     His  eyebrows went up  a little. "Then you're  serious.  Something  did
happen. You know, Doctor-"
     "Doc," I said.
     "You know, Doc, you're different. Changed, somehow."
     I  refilled our  glasses,  still from the first  bottle, although  that
round killed it.
     "It's temporary, I think. Yes, Mr. Smith, I had-"
     "Smitty," he said.
     "Yes, Smitty, I had a rather bad experience, while it  lasted, and  I'm
still in reaction  from  it, but the reaction won't last. I'm still  jittery
from it and I may be even more jittery tomorrow when I realize what a narrow
squeak I had, but I'm still the same  guy.  Doc Stoeger, fifty-three, genial
failure both as a hero and as an editor."
     Silence for a few seconds and then he said, "Doc,  I  like you. I think
you're a swell guy. I don't know what happened, and I don't suppose you want
to tell me, but I'll bet you one thing."
     "Thanks, Smitty,"  I said.  "And it's not that I don't want to tell you
what happened this evening; it's just  that I don't want to talk about it at
all, right now. Some other time I'll be  glad to  tell you, but right now  I
want to stop thinking about  it  - and start  thinking  about Lewis  Carroll
again. What's the one thing you want to bet me, though?"
     "That you're not a failure as an editor. As  a hero, maybe - damned few
of us  are  heroes.  But  I'll bet you said you were a  failure as an editor
because  you killed a story  - for  some good reason. And not a selfish one.
Would I win that bet?"
     "You would,"  I said.  I didn't tell him  he'd have  won  it five times
over. "But I'm not proud of  myself -  the only thing is that I'd have  been
ashamed of myself otherwise. This way, I'm going  to be ashamed of my paper.
All newspapermen, Smitty, should be sons-of-bitches."
     "Why?"  And before  I could answer  he  tossed off the drink  I'd  just
poured him -tossed it off as before with that fascinating trick of the glass
never really nearing  his  lips  -  and  answered  it  himself  with  a more
unanswerable question.  "So that  newspapers will be more entertaining? - at
the expense of human lives they might wreck or even destroy?"
     The  mood  was gone, or the mood was wrong. I shook  myself a little. I
said,  "Let's  get back to Jabberwocks. And  -  My God, every  time I get to
talking seriously  it sobers  me up.  I had such a nice  edge early  in  the
evening.  Let's have another - and to Lewis Carroll again. And then go  back
to  that  gobbledegook you were  giving  me,  the  stuff that  sounded  like
Einstein on a binge."
     He   grinned:   "Wonderful   word,  gobbledegook.  Carroll  might  have
originated it, except that there was less of it in his time. All right, Doc,
to Carroll."
     And  again his glass was  empty. It was a  trick I'd have to learn,  no
matter how much time it took  or  how much whisky it wasted. But, the  first
time, in private.
     I drank mine  and it was the third since I'd come home, fifteen minutes
ago; I was beginning to feel  them.  Not that I  feel three drinks, starting
from scratch, but these didn't start from scratch. I'd had quite a few early
in the evening, before the  fresh air of my little ride with Bat  and George
had cleared my head, and several at Smiley's thereafter.
     They were hitting me now. Not hard, but definitely.
     There was a mistiness about the room. We were talking about Carroll and
mathematics again, or Yehudi Smith was talking, anyway, and I was trying  to
concentrate on what he was saying. He seemed, for a moment, to blur a little
and to advance and recede as I looked at him. And his voice was a blur, too,
a blur of sines  and cosines. I shook my head to clear it a  bit and decided
I'd better lay off the bottle for a while.
     Then I  realized that  what he'd just said was a question  and I begged
his pardon.
     "The clock on your mantel," he repeated, "is it correct?"
     I managed to focus my eyes on it. Ten minutes to twelve.  I said, "Yes,
it's right. It's still  early. You're  not thinking of  going, surely. I'm a
little woozy at the moment, but-"
     "How long will it take us to get there from here? I have directions how
to reach it, of course,  but  you could probably estimate  the time it  will
take us better than I can."
     For a  second I stared  at him blankly,  wondering  what he was talking
about.
     Then I remembered.
     We were going to a haunted house to hunt a Jabberwock - or something.



          "First, the fish must be caught."
                 That is easy: a baby, I think, could have caught it.
          "Next, the fish must be bought."
                 That is easy: a penny, I think, would have bought it.

     Maybe you won't believe that I could have forgotten that, but I had. So
much had happened between the time I'd left my house and the time I returned
that  it's a wonder, I suppose,  that I  still remembered my  own name,  and
Yehudi's.
     Ten  minutes before twelve  and we were  due  there, he'd said,  at one
o'clock.
     "You have a car?" I asked him.
     He nodded. "A few doors down. I got  out at the wrong place to look for
street numbers, but I was close enough that I didn't bother moving the car."
     "Then somewhere between twenty and thirty minutes will get us there," I
told him.
     "Fine, Doctor. Then we've got forty minutes yet  if we  allow  half  an
hour."
     The  woozy spell was  passing fast, but I refilled his glass this  time
without refilling  my own. I wanted to  sober up  a  bit  -  not completely,
because  if I were sober  I might  get  sensible and decide not to go, and I
didn't want to decide not to go.
     Smith had settled back in his chair, not looking at me, so  I looked at
him, and wondered what  I was  doing even to listen to the absurd story he'd
told me about Vorpal Blades and the old Wentworth house.
     He wasn't  the  escaped  lunatic, but that  didn't  mean  he  wasn't  a
screwball, and that I wasn't a  worse one. What the hell were we going to do
out  there?  Try to  fish a Bandersnatch out of  limbo?  Or break through  a
looking-glass  or dive  down  a rabbit hole to go hunting one  in its native
element?
     Well,  as long as I  didn't  get  sober enough to spoil things, it  was
wonderful. Crazy or not,  I  was having a marvelous  time. The best time I'd
had since the Halloween almost forty years ago when we- But never mind that;
it's a sign of  old age to reminisce about the  things you did when you were
young, and I'm not old yet. Not very, anyway.
     Yes, my eyes  were  focusing all right again now, but the mistiness  in
the room was still there, and I realized that it wasn't mistiness but smoke.
I looked across at  the window and wondered if I wanted it open badly enough
to get up and open it.
     The window. A black square framing the night.
     The midnight. Where were you  at midnight? With Yehudi. Who's Yehudi? A
little  man who wasn't there. But I  have the card. Let's see it, Doc. Hmmm.
What's your bug number? My bug number?
     And the black rook takes the white knight.
     The smoke was  definitely too thick,  and  so  was I.  I  walked to the
window and threw up  the bottom sash. The lights behind me made it a mirror.
There was my reflection. An insignificant little  man with graying hair, and
glasses, and a necktie badly askew.
     He grinned at me and  straightened his  necktie. I remembered the verse
from Carroll that Al Grainger had quoted at me early in the evening:

          "You are old, Father William," the young man said
          "And your hair has become very white
          And yet you incessantly stand on your head.
          Do you think, at your age, it is right?"

     And that  made me think of Al Grainger. I wondered  if  there was still
any chance of his showing up. I'd told him to come  around  any time  up  to
midnight and  it  was that  now. I wished  now that  he  would come. Not for
chess, as we'd planned, but so he could go along an our expedition. Not that
I was exactly afraid, but - well, I wished that Al Grainger would show up.
     It occurred to me that he might have come or phoned and that Yehudi had
failed to mention it. I asked him.
     He shook his head, "No, Doc.  Nobody came  and  the only phone call was
the one you yourself made just before you came home."
     So that was that, unless Al showed up in the next half hour or unless I
phoned  him.  And  I didn't want to  do that. I'd  been enough of  a  coward
earlier in the evening.
     Just the same I felt a little hollow-
     My  God,  I was  hollow. I'd had a sandwich late in the afternoon,  but
that  had been eight  hours ago and I hadn't eaten anything since. No wonder
the last couple of drinks had hit me.
     I suggested to  Yehudi that  we raid the icebox and  he said it sounded
like a wonderful idea  to him. And it must have been, for it turned out that
he was as hungry as I. Between us we killed a pound of boiled ham, most of a
loaf of rye and a medium-sized jar of pickles.
     It  was  almost half past-twelve  when we finished. There was just time
for a stirrup cup, and we had one.  With food in my stomach, it tasted  much
better and went down  much more smoothly than the last one had. It tasted so
good,  in fact, that I decided  to take the bottle - we'd started the second
one by then - along with us. We might, after all, run into a blizzard.
     "Ready to go?" Smith asked.
     I  decided I'd better put the window down. In its reflecting pane, over
my  shoulder I could  see Yehudi Smith standing by the door waiting for  me.
The reflection was clear and  sharp; it brought out  the bland  roundness of
his  face,  the  laughter-tracks around  his  mouth  and  eyes,  the  rotund
absurdity of his body.
     And  an impulse made me walk over and hold out my hand to him and shake
his hand when he put it into mine rather wonderingly. We hadn't shaken hands
when we'd introduced ourselves on the porch and something made me want to do
it now. I don't mean that I'm clairvoyant. I'm not, or I'd  never have gone.
No, I don't know why I shook hands with him.
     Just an impulse, but one I'm very glad I followed. Just as I'm glad I'd
given him  food and  drink  instead of  letting him  go to his strange death
sober or on an empty stomach.
     And I'm even gladder that I said, "Smitty, I like you."
     He looked pleased; but somehow embarrassed. He said, "Thanks, Doc," but
for the first time his eyes didn't quite meet mine.
     We went out and walked up the quiet street to where he'd left his  car,
and got in.
     It's odd how clearly you remember some things and how vague others are.
I recall that there was a push  button radio  on the dashboard  and that the
button for WBBM was  pushed in, and I  recall that the  gear shift knob  was
brightly polished onyx. But I don't recall whether the car  was a coupe or a
sedan, and haven't the vaguest idea what make or color it was. I recall that
the engine was quite noisy - my only clue as to whether it was an old car or
a new one, that and the fact that the gear shift was on the floor and not on
the steering wheel post.
     I remember that he drove well and carefully and talked little, probably
because of the noisiness of the motor.
     I directed him, but I don't recall now, not that it matters, what route
we took. I remember, though, that I didn't recognize the driveway of the old
Wentworth place - the house itself was set quite  far back from the road and
you  couldn't see  it  through  the  trees even  in daylight - but a  little
farther on I recognized the farm that an aunt and uncle of mine had lived in
many years ago and knew we'd passed our objective.
     He  turned back,  then, and  this time I  spotted the driveway  and  we
turned in  and followed  the drive back among the trees to the house itself.
We parked alongside it.
     "First ones  here," Smith said in the  sudden silence as he  turned off
the engine.
     I got  out of the car and - I don't know why;  or  do I? -  I took  the
bottle  with  me. It was  so dark outside that I couldn't  see the bottle in
front of my eyes as I tilted it upward.
     Smith had turned  out the headlights and was getting out of his side of
the car.  He had a flashlight in his hand and  I could see again as he  came
around to my side of  the car.  I held out the bottle to him and said, "Want
one?" and he  said, "You read my  mind,  Doc," and  took one.  My eyes  were
getting a little used to the dark now  and I could  see the outlines  of the
house, and I thought about it.
     God,  but  the place must be  old, I realized. I knew it well  from the
weeks in summer when, as a kid, I'd visited my aunt and uncle just down  the
road  for a taste of farm life  -  as  against the big city of Carmel  City,
Illinois.
     That  had been  over forty  years ago  and  it had been old  then,  and
untenanted. It had been lived in since, but for brief intervals. Why the few
people  who had tried  to live there had left,  I  didn't know. They'd never
complained -  publicly, at least - of its being  haunted. But none had  ever
stayed there for long. Perhaps it was merely the house itself; it really was
a depressing place. A year or more ago the Clarion had carried an ad for the
rental of it - and at a very reasonable price - but no one had taken it.
     I thought of Johnny Haskins,  who lived  on the farm between my uncle's
place and this one. He and I had explored the place  several times together,
in daylight. Johnny was dead  now. He'd been killed in  France in 1918, near
the end of the first  world  war. In daytime, I hope, for Johnny  had always
been afraid of the dark - just as I was afraid of heights and as Al Grainger
was afraid of fire and as everyone is afraid of something or other.
     Johnny had been afraid of  the  old  Wentworth place, too -  even  more
afraid than I was, although he was several years older than I. He'd believed
in  ghosts, a  little; at least he'd  been  afraid of them, although  not as
afraid as  he  was of the dark. And I'd picked up a little of that fear from
him and I'd kept it for quite a few years after I grew up.
     But not any more. The older you get the less afraid of ghosts you are -
whether  you  believe in them or not. By  the time you  pass the  fifty mark
you've known so  many people who are now dead that  ghosts, if there are any
such, aren't all strangers. Some of your best friends are ghosts; why should
you be afraid of  them? And it's not  too many years before you'll be on the
other side of the fence yourself.
     No, I wasn't afraid  of ghosts or the dark or of the haunted house, but
I was afraid of something. I wasn't afraid  of Yehudi Smith, I liked him too
well to be afraid of him. Undoubtedly, I  was a fool  to come here with him,
knowing nothing at all about  him. Yet I  would  have bet money at long odds
that he wasn't dangerous. A crackpot, maybe, but not a dangerous one.
     Smith opened the car door again and said, "I just remembered  I brought
candles; they told me  the electricity wouldn't  be on. And  there's another
flashlight in here, if you want one, Doc."
     Sure  I  wanted one. I  felt a little better, a  little less  afraid of
whatever I was afraid of once  I had  a flashlight of my own  and was  in no
sudden danger of being alone in darkness.
     I ran the  beam of the flashlight up on  the porch, and  the  house was
just  as I remembered it. It had been  lived in  just often enough for it to
have been kept in repair, or at least in fairly good shape.
     Yehudi Smith  said,  "Come on, Doc.  We might as well wait inside," and
led  the way up  the porch steps. They creaked as we walked up them but they
were solid.
     The front  door wasn't  locked. Smith must have known that it  wouldn't
be, from the confident way he opened it.
     We  went  in and  he  closed  the  door behind  us. The  beams  of  our
flashlights  danced ahead  of us down  the  long dimness of the  hallway.  I
noticed with surprise that the place was carpeted and furnished; it had been
empty and bare at the time I'd explored it as a kid. The most  recent tenant
or owner who had lived here, for whatever reason he had moved away, had left
the place furnished, possibly hoping to rent or sell it that way.
     We turned into a huge living room on the left of the hallway. There was
furniture there, too, white-sheeted. Covered  fairly recently, from the fact
that the sheets were not too dirty nor  was  there  a  great amount  of dust
anywhere.
     Something  made  the  back  of  my  neck  prickle.  Maybe  the  ghostly
appearance of that sheeted furniture.
     "Shall we wait here or go up in the attic?" Smith asked me.
     "The attic? Why the attic?"
     "Where the meeting is to be held."
     I  was  getting to like  this less and less. Was  there going  to  be a
meeting? Were others really coming here tonight?
     It was five minutes of one o'clock already.
     I looked around and wondered whether. I'd rather stay here or go  on up
into the attic. Either  alternative seemed crazy. Why didn't I go home?  Why
hadn't I stayed there?
     I didn't like that spectral white-covered  furniture. I said, "Let's go
on up into the attic. Might as well. I guess."
     Yes, I'd come this far. I might as  well see it through the rest of the
way. If there was a looking-glass up there in  the attic and he wanted us to
walk through it, I'd do that, too. Provided only that he went first.
     But  I wanted another short  nip out of  that  bottle I was carrying. I
offered it to Smith and he shook his  head so I went ahead and took the  nip
and it slightly warmed the  coldness  that  was  beginning to develop in  my
stomach.
     We went up the stairs to  the second floor and we didn't meet any ghost
or any snarks. We opened the door that led to the steps to the attic.
     We  walked  up them,  Smith in  the  lead  and  I following, his  plump
posterior just ahead of me.
     My  mind kept reminding me how ridiculous  this was. How utterly insane
it was for me to have come here at all.
     Where were you at one o'clock?  In a haunted house. Doing what? Waiting
for the Vorpal Blades to  come. What are  these Vorpal Blades? I don't know.
What were  they going to do? I don't know, I  tell you. Maybe  anything. Get
with child a mandrake root. Hold court to see who stole the tarts or put the
white knight back on his horse. Or maybe only read  the  minutes of the last
meeting  and  the  treasurer's report, by Benchley.  Who's  Benchley?  WHO'S
YEHUDI?
     Who's your little whoozis?
     Doc, I hate to say this, but-
     I'm afraid that-
     Very pitying,  and oh, so sensibly true. You were  drunk,  weren't you,
Doc? Well, not exactly, but-
     Yehudi  Smith's plump  posterior  ascending the attic stairs. A horse's
posterior ascending after him.
     We reached the top  and  Smith asked me to hold my  flashlight aimed at
the post of the stair railing until he got a candle lighted there. He took a
short, thick candle from his  pocket  -  one  that would  balance easily  by
itself without a holder - and got it lighted.
     There were  trunks and  a few  pieces of broken or  worn-out  furniture
scattered about the sides of the attic; the middle of it was clear. The only
window was at the back and it was boarded up from the inside.
     I  looked  around and, although the  furniture here  wasn't sheeted,  I
didn't like the place any better than I'd liked the big room downstairs. The
light of one candle  was far too dim to dispel the darkness, for one  thing,
in so large a space. And I didn't like  the flickering shadows it cast. They
might  have  been  Jabberwocks  or anything your imagination wanted to  name
them.  There ought to  be Rorschach tests with  flickering shadows; what the
mind would  make out of them ought to be a  lot more revealing than what the
mind makes out of ink blots.
     Yes, I  could have used more light, a lot more light. But Smith had put
his flashlight  in  his pocket and I did the same with the other one; it was
his, too, and I  didn't have any  excuse to wear  out the battery keeping it
on. And besides it didn't do much good in so large a room.
     "What do we do now?" I asked.
     "Wait for the others. What time is it, Doc?"
     I managed to read my watch by the light of the candle and told him that
it was seven minutes after one.
     He nodded.  "We'll give them until  a  quarter after. There's something
that I must  do then, at  that exact  time,  whether  they're  here  or not.
Listen, isn't that a car?"
     I  listened  and I thought it was. Way up here in the  attic, it wasn't
clearly  audible, but I thought I  heard  a car  that could have been coming
back from the main road to the house. I was pretty sure of it.
     I  uncorked the bottle again  and  offered it.  This time  Smith took a
drink, too. Mine was a fairly long pull. I was getting sober. I thought, and
this was no  time  or place to get  sober.  It was silly enough to  be here,
drunk.
     I couldn't hear the car any more, and then suddenly - as though it  had
stopped  and then started again  -  I could hear it, and louder than before.
But the sound seemed to diminish, as though the car had driven back from the
road, stopped  a minute,  and then headed for the main road again. The sound
died out.
     The shadows flickered. There was no sound from downstairs.
     I shivered a little.
     Smith said, "Help me look for something,  Doc. It's supposed to be here
somewhere, ready. A small table."
     "A table?"
     "Yes, but don't touch it if you find it."
     He had  his flashlight out again and was working his way along one wall
of  the attic,  and I  went  the  other  way, glad  of  a chance  to use  my
flashlight on those damned shadows. I wondered what the hell kind of a table
I was looking for. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence  of mine
enemies, I thought. But there weren't any of my enemies here, I hoped.
     I found it first. It was in the back corner of the attic.
     It  was a small, three-legged, glass-topped table,  and  there were two
small objects lying on it.
     I started laughing. Ghosts and shadows or not. I laughed  out loud. One
of the objects on the table  was a small key and the other was a  small vial
with a tag tied to it.
     The glass-topped table Alice had found in the hall at the bottom of the
rabbit hole -  the table on which had  been the  key that  opened the little
door to the  garden and the bottle with the paper label that said "DRINK ME"
tied around its neck.
     I'd  seen that table often - in the John Tenniel illustration  of it in
Alice in Wonderland.
     Smith's footsteps coming up behind me made me stop laughing. After all,
this ridiculous flummery might be something of a ritual to him. It was funny
to me, but I liked him and I didn't want to hurt his feelings.
     He wasn't even smiling. He said, "Yes,  that's it.  Is it one-  fifteen
yet?"
     "Almost on the head."
     "Good."  He picked up the key with  one  hand and the  bottle  with the
other. "The others  must be delayed, but we shall take the first step. This,
keep." He dropped the key into  my pocket. "And this, I  drink." He took the
cork out of the bottle. "I apologize for not being able to share it with you
- as you have so generously shared your drinks with me - but you understand,
until you have been fully initiated-"
     He  seemed  genuinely  embarrassed,  so  I   nodded  understanding  and
forgiveness.
     I  wasn't afraid any more, now. It had become  too ridiculous for fear.
What was that "drink me" bottle supposed to do? Oh, yes, he'd shrink in size
until he  was only a  few inches high - and then he'd have to find and use a
little box labeled - "EAT ME" and eat the cake inside and he'd suddenly grow
so big that-
     He lifted the bottle and said, "To Lewis Carroll."
     Since that was the toast,  I said, "Wait!" and got the cork quickly out
of the bottle  of whisky  I was  still carrying,  and raised  it, too. There
wasn't any reason why I couldn't  and shouldn't get in on that toast as long
as my lips, as a neophyte's, didn't defile whatever sacred elixir the "drink
me" bottle held.
     He  clinked the little  bottle lightly against  the big one I held, and
tossed it off - I could see from the corner  of my eye as I tilted my bottle
-  in  that strange conjuring trick again, the  bottle stopping  inches away
from his lips and the drink keeping on going without the loss of a drop.
     I was putting the cork into the whisky bottle when Yehudi Smith died.
     He dropped  the bottle labeled "DRINK ME" and started to clutch at  his
throat, but he died, I think, even before the bottle hit the floor. His face
was hideously contorted with pain, but  the pain couldn't have lasted over a
fraction of  a  second. His eyes, still  open, went  suddenly blank, utterly
blank.  And the thud of his fall  shook  the floor under my  feet, seemed to
shake the whole house.



          And, as in uffish thought he stood,
                 The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
          Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
                 And burbled as it came!

     I think  I  must  have  done  nothing but  stand  there and  jitter for
seconds. Finally I was able to move.
     I'd seen his face and I'd seen  and heard him fall;  I didn't have  the
slightest  doubt that he was  dead. But I had to  be sure. I  got down on my
knees and groped my hand inside his coat and shirt, hunting for a heartbeat.
There wasn't any.
     I made even surer.  The flashlight he'd given me had a round flat lens;
I held it over his mouth and in front of his nostrils for a while and  there
was no slightest trace of moisture.
     The small empty bottle from which he'd drunk was of fairly heavy glass.
It hadn't broken  when he'd dropped it, and the tag tied around its neck had
kept it from rolling far. I didn't touch it, but I got on my hands and knees
and sniffed at the open end. The smell was the smell of good whisky, nothing
else that I could detect. No odor of bitter almonds, but if what had been in
that whisky hadn't been prussic acid, it had been some corrosive poison just
about as strong. Or  could  it have been prussic,  and would  the  smell  of
whisky have blanketed the bitter almond smell? I didn't know.
     I stood up again and found that my  knees  were  shaking.  This was the
second man  I'd  seen die tonight. But I hadn't so much minded about George.
He'd had it coming, for one  thing, and for another his body had been inside
the crumpled-up  car; I'd not  actually seen him  die. Nor  had I been alone
then;  Smiley had  been with  me. I'd have  given my whole bank account, all
three hundred and twelve dollars of it, to have Smiley  with me there in the
attic.
     I wanted  to  get out of  there, fast, and I was too scared to  move. I
thought I'd be less scared  if I could figure out what it was all about, but
it  was  sheerly mad.  It didn't  make  sense that even a madman would  have
brought me out here under so weird a pretext so that I  could be an audience
of one to his suicide.
     In fact, if I was sure of anything, I was sure that Smith hadn't killed
himself. But who had, and why? The Vorpal Blades? Was there such a group?
     Where were they? Why hadn't they come?
     A sudden thought put shivers down my spine. Maybe they had. I'd thought
I heard a car  come and go, while we'd waited.  Why couldn't it have dropped
off passengers? Waiting for me  downstairs - or  even  now  creeping up  the
attic steps toward me.
     I  looked  that way.  The  candle flickered and the  shadows danced.  I
strained my ears, but there wasn't any sound. No sound anywhere.
     I was afraid to move,  and then gradually I found that I was afraid not
to move.  I had  to get out of  here before I went crazy.  If  anything  was
downstairs I'd rather go down and meet it than wait till it decided to  come
up here after me.
     I wished to hell and back that I hadn't given Smiley that revolver, but
wishing didn't get me the revolver back.
     Well, the whisky bottle was a weapon of sorts. I shifted the flashlight
to my left hand and picked  up the whisky bottle,  by its neck, in my right.
It was still more than half full and heavy enough for a bludgeon.
     I tiptoed  to the head of the steps. I don't  know why I tiptoed unless
it was to avoid scaring myself worse  by making  noise; we hadn't been quiet
up here before and  Smith's  fall had shaken the whole house. If anyone  was
downstairs, he knew he wasn't alone in the building.
     I looked at  the square post  at the top  of the railing and the short,
thick candle still burning on top of it. I didn't want to touch it; I wanted
to be able to say that I hadn't touched anything at  all, except to feel for
a  heartbeat  that  wasn't there. Yet  I  couldn't leave the candle burning,
either;  it  might set  the  house afire if  it fell  over,  as Smith hadn't
anchored it down with molten wax, but had merely stood it on its base.
     I compromised by blowing it out but not touching it otherwise.
     My  flashlight  showed  me there was  nothing or no one on  the  stairs
leading down to the second floor and that the door at the bottom of them was
still closed, as we had left it. Before I started down them I took one  last
look around the attic with  my flash. The  shadows jumped as the  beam swept
around the walls, and then, for some reason, I brought  the circle of  light
to rest on Yehudi Smith's body lying sprawled there on the floor, eyes  wide
open  and  still staring unseeingly at the rafters overhead, his  face still
frozen in the grimace of that horrible, if brief, pain in which he'd died.
     I hated to leave him alone there in the dark. Silly and  sentimental as
the  thought was,  I couldn't help  feeling that way. He'd been  such a nice
little guy. Who the hell had killed  him, and why, and why in such a bizarre
manner, and what was it all about? And he'd  said  it was dangerous  to come
here tonight, and he was dead right, as far as he himself was concerned. And
I-?
     With  that thought, I was afraid  again. I wasn't out of here  yet. Was
someone or something waiting downstairs?
     The attic stairs  were uncarpeted and  they squeaked  so loudly that  I
gave up trying to walk quietly and hurried. The attic door creaked, too, but
nothing was waiting for me on the other side of it. Or downstairs. I flashed
my  light  into the big  living  room as  I passed  the  doorway  and  got a
momentary fright as I thought something  white was coming toward me - but it
was only the sheeted table and it had only seemed to move.
     The porch and down the porch steps.
     The car was still  there  on  the driveway beside the house.  It was  a
coupe, I noticed  now, and the same make and model as mine. My feet crunched
gravel as I walked  to it;  I was still scared but I didn't dare  let myself
run. I wondered if Smith  had left the key in the car, and hoped frantically
that he had. I should have thought of it while  I was still in the attic and
could have felt in his pockets. I wouldn't go back up there now, I realized,
for anything in the world. I'd walk back to town first.
     At least the car door wasn't  locked. I slid in under the  wheel,  and,
flashed my light on  the dashboard. Yes, the ignition key was in the lock. I
slammed the  door behind me and felt  a little more secure inside the closed
car.
     I fumed the key  and stepped on  the starter and the engine started the
first try. I shifted into low  gear and then, before I let out the clutch, I
carefully  shifted  back into  neutral  again and  sat there with  the motor
idling.
     This wasn't the car in which Yehudi Smith had driven me here. The  gear
shift knob was hard rubber with  a ridge around it, not the smooth onyx ball
I'd  noticed on  the gear shift  lever of his car. It was like the one on my
car, which was back home in the garage with two flat tires that I hadn't got
around to fixing.
     I turned on the dome light, although by then I didn't really have to. I
knew already from the feel of the controls in starting and in shifting, from
the sound of the engine, from a dozen little things.
     This was my car.
     It was so impossible  that I forgot to be afraid,  that I was in such a
hurry to get away from the house. Oh, there was a little logic in my lack of
fear, too;  if anybody had been laying for me, the house would have been the
place. He wouldn't have  let me get this far  and he wouldn't  have left the
ignition key in the car so I could get away in it.
     I got out  of the car and looked, with the flashlight, at the two tires
which had been flat this morning.  They weren't flat now. Either someone had
fixed them, or someone had simply let the air out of them last night and had
subsequently  pumped them up again  with the hand pump I keep in my  luggage
compartment. The  second idea seemed more likely; now that I thought  of it,
it  was strange that two  tires - both in good shape and with  good tubes in
them - should have gone  flat, completely flat,  at  the same time and while
the car was standing in my garage.
     I walked all  the way around the car, looking at it, and  there  wasn't
anything wrong with it that I could see.  I got back in under  the wheel and
sat there  a  minute  with the  engine  running,  wondering if it  was  even
remotely possible that Yehudi Smith had driven me here in my own car.
     No, I decided, not remotely. I hadn't noticed his car at all except for
three  things, but those three things were plenty  to make me sure.  Besides
the gear shift knob, I remembered that push button radio with the button for
WBBM pushed  in - and my  car has no radio at all - and there  was  the fact
that his engine was noisy and mine is quiet. Right  then, with  it idling, I
could barely hear it.
     Unless I was crazy-
     Could  I have  imagined that other car? For that  matter, could I  have
imagined Yehudi Smith? Could I have driven out here by myself in my own car,
gone up to the attic alone- ?
     It's  a  horrible  thing  to  suspect  yourself  suddenly  of  complete
insanity, equipped with hallucinations.
     I realized I'd better quit thinking along those lines, here alone in  a
car, alone in the night, parked beside a haunted house. I might drive myself
nutty, if I wasn't already.
     I took  a long drink  out of the bottle that was now on the seat beside
me, and then drove out to the highway and back to town. I didn't drive fast,
partly because I  was a little drunk - physically anyway. The horrible thing
that had happened up in the attic, the fantastic, incredible death of Yehudi
Smith, had shocked me sober, mentally.
     I couldn't have imagined-
     But at the edge of  town the doubts came back, then the answer to them.
I pulled to  the  side of  the road and turned  on the dome light. I had the
card and the key and the flashlight, those three souvenirs of my experience.
I took  the  flashlight out of my coat  pocket and looked at it. Just a dime
store flashlight; it meant nothing except that it wasn't mine. The card  was
the thing.  I hunted  in several pockets, getting worried  as hell; before I
found it in the pocket of my shirt. Yes,  J had it, and it still read Yehudi
Smith. I felt a little better as I put it back in my pocket. While  I was at
it,  I  looked at the key, too. The  key that  had  been with the "DRINK ME"
bottle on the glass-topped table.
     It  was still  there in the  pocket Smith had dropped it  into; I'd not
touched  it or looked at  it  closely. It was, of course, the wrong kind  of
key,  but I'd noticed  that at first glance when I'd seen it on the table in
the attic; that had been part of my source of amusement when I'd laughed. It
was a Yale key, and it should have been a small gold key, the one Alice used
to open the fifteen-inch-high door into the lovely garden.
     Come  to think of it, all three of those  props  in the attic  had been
wrong,  one  way or  another. The table had been a  glass-topped one, but it
should have been  an  all-glass table; the wooden legs were  wrong.  The key
shouldn't have been a nickel-plated Yale, and the "DRINK ME" should not have
contained poison. (It had, in fact, a sort  of mixed flavour of cherry-tart,
custard,  pine  apple,  roast  turkey,  toffy,  and hot  buttered  toast.) -
according to Alice. It couldn't have tasted anything like that to Smith.
     I started driving again, slowly. Now  that I was back in town I  had to
make up my mind whether I was going to the sheriff's office or going to call
the state  police. Reluctantly I decided I'd better go right to the sheriff.
Definitely this case was in his department,  unless he called  on  the state
police  for help. They'd dump it in his lap  anyway, even if I  called them.
And he  hated my guts enough as  it was, without  my making  it any worse by
by-passing  him in reporting a major crime.  Not that I didn't hate his guts
just as much, but tonight he was in a better position to make trouble for me
than I for him.
     So I parked my coupe across the street from the courthouse and took one
more swig  from the  bottle to give me courage to tell Kates the story I was
going to have  to tell him. Then  I marched myself across the  street and up
the courthouse stairs  to the sheriff's office on the second floor. If I was
lucky, I  thought, Kates might be out and his deputy, Hank  Ganzer, might be
there.
     I wasn't lucky. Hank wasn't there at all; and Kates was talking  on the
phone. He glared at me when I came in and then went back to his call.
     "Hell,  I could have done  it on the phone from  here. Go see the  guy.
Wake him up and be sure he's awake enough to remember  any little thing that
might have been said. Yeah, then call me again before you start back."
     He  put  the receiver  down and his swivel chair squeaked shrilly as he
swung about to face  me. He yelled, "There isn't any story on it yet." Rance
Kates  always yells; I've never heard him say  anything in a  quiet tone, or
even a normal one. His voice matches his red face, which always looks angry.
I've often wondered if he looks like  that  even when he's in bed. Wondered,
but had no inclination to find out.
     What he'd just yelled  at me, though, made so little  sense that I just
looked at him.
     I said, "I've come to report a murder, Kates."
     "Huh?"  He  looked  interested. "You mean  you  found either  Miles  or
Bonney?"
     For a minute neither name registered at all. I said, "The man's name is
Smith."  I  thought I'd  better sneak up on the Yehudi part gradually, maybe
let Kates read it himself off the card. "The body is in the attic of the old
Wentworth place out on the pike."
     "Stoeger, are you drunk?"
     "I've been drinking," I told him. "I'm not drunk." At least I  hoped  I
wasn't. Maybe that last one I'd taken in the car just before I'd left it had
been one too many. My voice sounded  thick, even to me, and I had a hunch my
eyes were looking a trifle bleary from the outside;  they were  beginning to
feel that way from my side of them.
     "What were you doing  in the attic of the Wentworth place? You mean you
were there tonight?"
     I wished again that Hank Ganzer had  been there  instead of Kates. Hank
would have taken my word for it  and gone  out for the  body;  then my story
wouldn't have sounded so incredible when I'd have got around to telling it.
     I said, "Yes, I just came from  there. I went there with  Smith, at his
request."
     "Who is this Smith? You know him?"
     "I met him tonight for the first time. He came to see me.
     "What for? What were you doing out there? A haunted house!"
     I  sighed. There  wasn't  anything  I  could  do  but  answer his  damn
questions and they were getting tougher all the time. Let's see, how could I
put it so it wouldn't sound too crazy?
     I  said, "We were  there because  it is supposed to be a haunted house,
Kates.  This Smith  was interested in the occult - in  psychic phenomena. He
asked me to go out there with him to perform  an experiment. I gathered that
some other people were coming, but they didn't."
     "What kind of an experiment?"
     "I don't know. He was killed before we got around to it."
     "You and him were there alone?"
     "Yes,"  I  said, but  I saw where that was leading so  I added,  "But I
didn't kill him. And I don't know who did. He was poisoned."
     "Poisoned how?"
     Part of  my brain wanted to tell him,  "Out of a little bottle  labeled
`DRINK ME' on a glass  table, as in Alice in Wonderland." The sensible  part
of my brain told me to let him find that out for himself. I said, "Out  of a
bottle that was planted  there for him to drink. By whom, I don't  know. But
you  sound  like you  don't believe  me. Why don't you go  out  and see  for
yourself, Kates? Damn it, man, I'm reporting a murder." And then it occurred
to me there wasn't really any proof of that so I amended it a little: "Or at
least a death by violence."
     He stared  at me and I  think he was becoming convinced, a  little. His
phone rang and his swivel chair screamed again as he swung around. He barked
"Hello. Sheriff Kates," into it.
     Then his  voice tamed  down  a  little. He  said, "No,  Mrs.  Harrison,
haven't heard  a thing. Hank's over at Neilsville, checking up at that  end,
and  he's going to  watch  the road again on his way back. I'll call you the
minute I learn anything  at  all. But  don't  worry;  it  can't be  anything
serious."
     He  turned back. "Stoeger,  if this  is  a  gag,  I'm going to take you
apart." He meant it,  and he could do it, too. Kates is only  a medium-sized
man,  not  too  much  bigger than  I,  but he's tough  and  hard  as a  rock
physically. He can handle men weighing half  again as much as  he does.  And
he's got enough  of a sadistic streak to enjoy  doing it  whenever  he has a
good excuse for it.
     "It's  no  gag,"  I said. "What's this about Miles Harrison  and  Ralph
Bonney?"
     "Missing. They left Neilsville with the Bonney pay roll a  little after
half past eleven and should have been back here around midnight. It's almost
two o'clock and nobody knows  where they are. Look,  if I  thought you  were
sober and there  was a stiff out on the pike, I'd call the state cops. I got
to stay here till we find what happened to Miles and Bonney."
     The  state cops were fine,  as far as I was  concerned. I'd reported it
where it should have been reported, and Kates would have  no kickback  if he
himself called the  state police.  I was  just opening my mouth to  say that
might be a good idea when the phone rang again.
     Kates yelled into it,  and then, "As far  as the teller knew, they were
heading right back, Hank? Nothing unusual happened  at that  end, huh? Okay,
come back, and watch both sides of the road all the way in case they ran off
it or  something... Yeah, the pike. That's  the only way they could've come.
Oh, and listen, stop at the  Wentworth place on your way and take a  look in
the attic... Yeah. I said the attic. Doc Stoeger's  here, drunk as  a  coot,
and he says there's a stiff in the  attic there. If there is one, I'll worry
about it."
     He slammed the receiver down  and started shuffling papers on his desk,
trying to  look busy. Finally he thought  of something to do and  phoned the
Bonney Fireworks Company to see if Bonney had showed up there yet, or called
them. Apparently, from what I could hear of the conversation, he hadn't done
either.
     I  realized that I was still standing  up and that now, since Kates had
given that order to his  deputy, nothing was going  to happen until Hank got
back - at least half  an hour if he drove slowly to watch both sides of  the
road.  So I found myself a chair and  sat down. Kates  shuffled papers again
and paid no attention to me.
     I got to wondering about Bonney and Miles, and hoped they hadn't had an
accident. If they had had one, and were two hours overdue, it must have been
a bad one. Unless both were seriously hurt, one of them would have reached a
phone  long before this. Of course  they could  have stopped somewhere for a
drink, but it didn't seem likely,  not for two hours  at least. And, come to
think of it, they couldn't have; the closing hour for taverns applied to the
whole county, not  just to Carmel  City. Twelve o'clock  had been almost two
hours ago.
     I wished that it wasn't.  Not that I either  needed or  wanted a  drink
particularly at that moment, but it would have been much more pleasant to do
my waiting at Smiley's instead of here in the sheriff's office.
     Kates suddenly swiveled his chair at me. "You don't know anything about
Bonney and Harrison, do you?"
     "Not a thing," I told him.
     "Where were you at midnight?"
     With Yehudi. Who's Yehudi? The little man who wasn't there.
     I said, "Home, talking  to  Smith. We stayed there  until  I  half past
twelve."
     "Anybody else there?"
     I shook my head. Come to think of it, nobody but myself had, as far  as
I knew,  even  seen Yehudi  Smith. If his  body wasn't in  the attic  at the
Wentworth place,  I  was  going  to have a hell of  a time proving he'd ever
existed. A card and a key and a flashlight.
     "Where'd this Smith guy come from?"
     "I don't know. He didn't say."
     "What was his first name?"
     I stalled  on  that one. I said, "I don't remember.  I've got his  card
somewhere. He gave me one."  Let him think  the card was probably out at the
house. I wasn't ready to show it to him yet.
     "How'd he happen to come to you to go to a haunted house with him if he
didn't even know you?"
     I said, "He knew of me, as a Lewis Carroll fan."
     "A what?"
     "Lewis Carroll. Alice in Wonderland,  Alice Through the Looking-Glass,"
And a "DRINK ME" bottle on a  glass table, and a key, and Bandersnatches and
Jabberwocks.  But let Kates  find that out for himself, after he'd  found  a
body and knew that I wasn't either drunk or crazy.
     He said, "Alice in Wonderland!" and sniffed. He glared at me a full ten
seconds and then decided, apparently, that he was wasting his time on me and
swiveled back to his paper shuffling.
     I felt in my pockets to make sure that the card and the key  were still
there. They were. The flashlight  was still in the car,  but  the flashlight
didn't mean anything anyway. Maybe the key didn't either. But  that card was
my contact with reality, in a sense.  As long as it still said Yehudi Smith,
I  knew I wasn't stark  raving  mad. I knew that there'd really  been such a
person and that he wasn't a figment of my imagination.
     I slipped it out of my  pocket to look at it again. Yes, it  still said
"Yehudi Smith,"  although my  eyes had  a  bit of  trouble  focusing  on  it
clearly. The  printing  looked fuzzy,  which meant I needed  either one more
drink or several less.
     Yehudi  Smith, in fuzzy-edged type. Yehudi, the  little man  who wasn't
there.
     And  suddenly -  don't ask me  how I knew, but I knew. I didn't see the
pattern, but I saw that much of it. The little man who wasn't there.
     Wouldn't be there.
     Hank was going to come in and say,  "What's this  about  a stiff in the
Wentworth attic? I couldn't find one."
     Yehudi. The little man who wasn't there. I saw a man upon  the stair, A
little man who wasn't there.  He wasn't  there again today; Gee, I wish he'd
go away.
     It was preordained; it had to  be. That much of the pattern I  saw. The
name Yehudi hadn't been an accident. I think that almost, just then, I had a
flash of insight that would have shown me most of the pattern, if not all of
it. You  know how it  is sometimes when you're drunk, but not too drunk, you
think you're trembling on the verge of understanding something important and
cosmic that has eluded  you all your  life? And - just barely possible - you
really are. I think I was, at that moment.
     Then I looked up from the card and the  thread of  my thought  was lost
because Kates was staring at me. He'd turned just his head this time instead
of the  squeaking  swivel  chair  he  was sitting on. He  was looking at  me
speculatively, suspiciously.
     I  tried to ignore it; I was  trying to  recapture  my thoughts and let
them lead me. I was close to something. I saw a man upon  the  stair. Yehudi
Smith's plump posterior ascending the attic stairs, just ahead of me.
     No, the dead body with the contorted face - the poor piece of cold clay
that had been a nice  little guy with laughter lines around his eyes and the
corners  of  his mouth  - wouldn't be there in  the attic  when  Hank Ganzer
looked for  it. It couldn't  be there;  its presence there wouldn't fit  the
pattern that I still couldn't see or understand.
     Squeal of the swivel chair as Rance Kates turned his body to  match the
position of his head. "Is that the card that guy gave you?"
     I nodded.
     "What's his full name?"
     The hell with Kates. "Yehudi," I said. "Yehudi Smith."
     Of course it wasn't really; I knew at least that much now. I got up and
walked  to Kates' desk. Unfortunately for my dignity, I weaved a little. But
I made it without falling. I put the card down in front of him and went back
and sat down again, managing to walk straight this time.
     He looked at the card and  then at me and then at the card and  then at
me.
     And then I knew I must be crazy.
     "Doc," he asked - and  his voice was  quieter  than I'd ever  heard  it
before - "What's your bug number?"



          "O Oysters," said the Carpenter,
                "You've had a pleasant runt
          Shall we be trotting home again?"
                But answer came there none-

     I just stared at him. Either he was crazy or  I was - and several times
in the last  hour I'd been wondering about myself. What's  your bug  number?
What a question to ask a man in the spot I was in. What's yours?
     Finally I managed to answer. "Huh?" I said.
     "Your bug number. Your label number."
     I got it then. I wasn't crazy after all. I knew what he meant.
     I  run a union shop,  which means that I've signed  a contract with the
International  Typographical  Union and pay  Pete, my  only  employee, union
wages. In a  town as  small as  Carmel City, you can get by with a non-union
shop, but I happen to believe in unions and to think the typographical union
is a good one.  Being a union shop, we put the  union label on everything we
print.  It's a little oval-shaped dingus, so small  you can  barely read the
type if you've got good eyesight. And alongside it is an equally tiny number
which is the number of my particular shop among the  other union shops in my
area. By the combination of the place name which is part of the label itself
and the number of the shop beside  it, you can tell where any given piece of
union printing has been done.
     But  that little oval  logotype  is known to non-union printers as "the
bug." It  does, I'll admit, look rather like a  tiny bug crawling across the
bottom corner of whatever it's  put on. And non-union printers call the shop
number  alongside  the "bug" the "bug number." Kates wasn't a printer, union
or otherwise,  but I remember now that two  of his brothers,  both living in
Neilsville, were  non-union printers, and naturally he'd have picked up  the
language - and the implied prejudice back of it - from them.
     I said, "My label number is seven."
     He  slapped the calling  card  down on  the desk  in front  of him.  He
snorted -  quite  literally; you often read about people snorting but seldom
hear them  do it.  He said, "Stoeger, you  printed this damn thing yourself.
The whole thing is a gag. Damn you-"
     He started to get up and then sat  down  again and looked at the papers
in front of him. He looked back at me and I think he was going to tell me to
get the hell out, and then apparently  he decided he might as well wait till
Hank got back.
     He shuffled papers.
     I sat there and tried to absorb the fact that - apparently, at any rate
- that Yehudi Smith calling card had been printed  in  my own shop. I didn't
get up to look at it. Somehow, I was  perfectly willing  to take Kates' word
for it.
     Why not?  It was part of the pattern. I should have guessed, it myself.
Not from  the typeface; almost every shop has eight-point Garamond. But from
the fact that the "DRINK  ME" bottle had contained  poison and Yehudi wasn't
going to be there when Hank looked  for him. It  followed the pattern, and I
knew now what the pattern was. It was the pattern of madness.
     Mine - or whose?  I was getting  scared. I'd been  scared several times
already that night, but this was a different  variety of  scaredness. I  was
getting scared of the night itself, of the pattern of the night.
     I needed a drink,  and I  needed it bad. I stood up and started for the
door. The  swivel chair  screamed and Kates  said, "Where the hell you think
you're going?"
     "Down to  my car. Going  to get something. I'll be back." I didn't want
to get into an argument with him.
     "Sit down. You're not going out of here."
     I did want to get into an argument with him. "Am I under arrest? And on
what charge?"
     "Material witness in a murder  case, Stoeger. If there's a corpse where
you say  there's  one.  If  there  isn't,  we  can  switch it to  drunk  and
disorderly. Take your choice."
     I took my choice. I sat down again.
     He had me over a barrel and I could see that he loved it. I wished that
I'd   gone  to  my  office  and  phoned  the  state  police,  regardless  of
repercussions.
     I waited. That "bug number" angle of Kates' had thrown  me off thinking
about how it  could be  and why it would be that Yehudi Smith's calling card
had been printed  in my own print shop. Not  that, come to thick of  it, the
"how" had been difficult. I lock the door when I leave, but I lock it with a
dime-store skeleton key.  They come two on a card  for  a dime. Yes, Anybody
could have got in. And Anybody, whoever he was, could have printed that card
without knowing a damn thing about printing. You have to know the  printer's
case  to set  type in quantity, but anybody  could pick out a dozen letters,
more or  less, to  spell out Yehudi Smith  simply  by  trial  and error. The
little hand press I print cards on is so simple that a child - well, anyway,
a high school kid - could figure out how to operate it. True, he'd get lousy
impressions and  waste  a  lot of  cards  trying  to  get  one good one. But
Anybody, if he tried long enough, could have printed one good card that said
Yehudi Smith and carried my union label in the bottom corner.
     But why would Anybody have done something like that?
     The more I thought about it the less  sense it made, although one thing
did emerge that made even less sense than the rest of it. It would have been
easier to print  that  card without the union label than with it, so Anybody
had gone to a little  additional trouble to bring out the fact that the card
had been printed at  the Clarion.  Except  for the death of Yehudi Smith the
whole thing might have been  the pattern of a  monstrous practical joke. But
practical jokes  don't include sudden death. Not even such a fantastic death
as Yehudi Smith had met.
     Why had Yehudi Smith died?
     Somewhere there had to be a key.
     And  that reminded me of  the  key in  my pocket and I took  it out and
stared at it, wondering what  I could  open with  it. Somewhere there was  a
lock that it fitted.
     It didn't look either familiar or unfamiliar. Yale keys don't. Could it
be mine? I thought about all the keys I  owned. The key to the front door of
my house was a Yale type key, but not actually a Yale. Besides-
     I took the keytainer from my pocket and opened it. My front door key is
on the left  and I compared it with the key I'd brought away from the attic.
The notches didn't match;  it  wasn't  a  duplicate of that  one. And it was
still more different from my back door key, the one on the other side of the
row. In between were two other keys but both were quite different types. One
was the  key  to the door at the  Clarion office and the  other  was for the
garage behind my house. I  never use the garage key; I keep nothing of value
in the garage except the car itself and I always leave it locked.
     It seemed to me that  I'd had five keys  instead of  four, there on the
keytainer, but I couldn't remember for sure and  I couldn't  figure out what
the missing one was, if one really was missing.
     Not the key to my  car; I didn't keep  that on the keytainer (I hate  a
keytainer dangling and swinging from my  ignition lock,  so I  carry the car
key loose in my vest pocket).
     I  put  the keytainer back in  my pocket and stared at  the single  key
again. I wondered suddenly if it could  be  a duplicate of my car key. But I
couldn't compare it to  see because, this time, I'd left the key in the lock
when I'd got out of the  car, thinking  I  was going to  be  up  here in the
sheriffs office only  a minute or two and that then  he'd  be heading out to
the Wentworth place with me.
     Kates must  have turned his head -  not his swivel chair, for it didn't
squeak - and seen me staring at the key. He asked, "What's that?"
     "A key," I said. "A key to unlock a riddle. A key to murder."
     The chair did squeak then. "Stoeger, what the hell? Are you just drunk,
or are you crazy?"
     "I don't know," I said. "Which do you think?"
     He snorted. "Let's see that key." I handed it to him.
     "What's it open?"
     "I don't  know." I  was getting  mad again - not particularly at  Kates
this time; at everything. "I know what it's supposed to open."
     "What?"
     "A little door fifteen inches high off a room at the bottom of a rabbit
hole. It leads to a beautiful garden."
     He looked at me a long time. I looked back. I didn't give a damn.
     I heard a car outside. That would be Hank Ganzer, probably. He wouldn't
have found the body of Yehudi Smith  in the attic  out  on the pike.  I knew
that, somehow.
     And how Kates was going to react to that,  I could guess. Even  though,
obviously, he didn't believe a damn word of it to begin with. I'd have given
a  lot, just then, to be inside  Rance Kates' mind, or what he uses for one,
to see just what he was  thinking. I'd have given a lot  more, though, to be
inside the mind of Anybody, the person  who'd printed Yehudi Smith's card on
my hand press and who'd put the poison in the "DRINK ME" bottle.
     Hank's steps coming up the stairs.
     He came in the door and his eyes happened to be looking in my direction
first. He said, "Hi, Doc," casually and then turned to Kates. "No sign of an
accident, Rance. I drove slow, watched both sides  of the road. No sign of a
car going off. But look, maybe we should both do it. If one of us could keep
moving the spotlight back and forth while the other drove, we could see back
farther."  He  looked  at his wrist watch. "It's only two-thirty. Won't  get
light until six, and in that long a time-"
     Kates nodded.  "Okay, Hank. But listen, I'm going to get the state boys
in  on  this case - well, in  case  Bonney's car turns up somewhere else. We
know when they  left  Neilsville, but we can't be positive they  started for
Carmel City."
     "Why wouldn't they?"
     "How would I  know?" Kates said.  "But  if  they  did  start here, they
didn't get here."
     I might as well not have been there at all.
     I cut in. "Hank, did you go to the Wentworth place?"
     He looked at me. "Sure, Doc. Listen, what kind of a gag was that?"
     "Did you look in the attic?"
     "Sure. Looked all around it with my flashlight."
     I'd known it, but I closed my eyes.
     Kates surprised me, after all. His  voice  was almost gentle. "Stoeger,
get the hell out of here. Go home and sleep it off."
     I opened my eyes again and looked at Hank. "All right,"  I  said,  "I'm
drunk or crazy. But listen, Hank, was there a candle stub standing on top of
the post at the top of the attic steps?"
     He shook his head slowly.
     "A glass-topped table, standing in one corner  - it'd be the  northwest
corner of the attic?"
     "I  didn't  see it, Doc.  I wasn't  looking  for tables. But  I'd  have
noticed a  candle stub, if it had been on the stair post. I remember putting
my hand on it when I started down."
     "And you don't recall seeing a dead body on the floor?"
     Hank  didn't even answer me. He looked back at Kates. "Rance, maybe I'd
better  drive Doc home while you're making those  calls.  Where's  your car,
Doc?"
     "Across the street."
     "Okay, we  won't  give  you  a  parking  ticket. I'll drive you home in
mine." He looked at Kates for corroboration.
     Kates gave it. I hated Kates for it. He was  grinning at me. He had  me
in such a nasty spot that, damn  him, he could afford to be  generous. If he
threw me  in the can overnight, I could fight  back. If he sent  me  home to
sleep it off - and even gave me a chauffeur to take me there-
     Hank Ganzer said, "Come on, Doc." He was going through the door.
     I got to  my feet.  I didn't want to  go home. If I went  home now, the
murderer of  Yehudi Smith  would have the rest  of the night, to finish - to
finish what? And what was  it to me, except that I'd liked Yehudi Smith? And
who the hell was Yehudi Smith?
     I said, "Listen, Kates-"
     Kates looked past me at the doorway. He said, "Go on,  Hank. See if his
car  is parked straight  or out in the middle of the street. I want to  tell
him something and then I'll send him down. I think he can make it."
     He probably hoped I'd break my neck going down the steps.
     "Sure, Rance." Hank's footsteps going down the stairs. Diminuendo.
     Kates looked up at me. I was standing  in front of his desk, trying not
to look like a  boy caught cheating in  an examination standing in  front of
his teacher's desk.
     I caught his eyes,  and almost took a step backward: I  hated Kates and
knew that he hated me, but I hated him as one hates a man in office whom one
knows  to be a stupid oaf  and a crook. He hated me,  I  thought, as someone
who, as an editor, had power - and used it - against men like him.
     But the look in his  eyes wasn't that. It was sheer personal hatred and
malevolence. It was something  I  hadn't  suspected,  and it  shocked  me. I
don't, after fifty-three years, shock easily.
     And then  that look was gone, as suddenly as when you turn out a light.
He was looking at me  impersonally.  His voice  was impersonal, almost flat,
not  nearly as loud as usual. He said, "Stoeger, you know what I could do to
you on something like this, don't you?"
     I  didn't  answer; he didn't  expect  me to.  Yes, I knew  some  of the
things. The  can overnight on a drunk and  disorderly charge was a  starting
point. And if, in the morning, I persisted in my illusions, he could call in
Dr. Buchan for a psychiatric once-over.
     He said, "I'm not  doing it. But I want you out of my hair from now on.
Understand?"
     I  didn't answer  that,  either.  If  he wanted  to  think  silence was
consent, all right. Apparently he did. He  said, "Now  get the hell  out  of
here."
     I  got the  hell out of  there. I'd  got off easy. Except for that look
he'd given me.
     No, I didn't feel  like a conquering hero about it. I should have faced
up to it, and I should have  insisted that there had been a  murder in  that
attic, whether there  was a corpus  delicti there now or not. But  I was too
mixed up myself. I wanted time to think things out, to figure what  the hell
had really happened.
     I went down the stairs and out into the night again.
     Hank  Ganzer's car was  parked right in front, but he  was just getting
out of my car, across the street. I walked over toward him.
     He said, "You were  a little  far out from the curb, Doc. I moved it in
for you. Here's your key."
     He handed me the key and I stuck it in my pocket and then  reopened the
door he'd just closed  to get  the bottle of  whisky  that was  lying on the
seat. No use leaving that, even if I had to leave the car here.
     I stepped back, then,  to  the  back of the car to take another look at
those back tires.  I still  couldn't  believe them; this morning they'd been
completely flat. That was part of the puzzle, too.
     Hank came back and stood by me. "What's the matter, Doc?" he asked. "If
you're looking  at your tires, they're okay." He  kicked the one  nearest to
him and  then walked around and  kicked  the  other. He  started  back,  and
stopped. He said, "Say, Doc, something you got in  your luggage  compartment
must've spilled over. Did you have a can of paint or something in there?"
     I shook my head and came around to see  what he was  looking at. It did
look as though something  had run  out from  under  the bottom edge  of  the
luggage compartment door. Something thick and blackish.
     Hank turned the handle and tried to lift.
     "It's not locked," I said. "I never bother to lock it. Nothing in there
but a worn-out tire without a tube in it."
     He tried again. "The hell it's not locked. Where's the key?"
     Another piece of the pattern fell into place. I knew now what the fifth
key,  the  middle  one,  on my keytainer should have been.  I never lock the
luggage  compartment of  my car except  on the rare occasions when I  take a
trip and really have luggage in it. But I carry the key on my keytainer. And
it was  a Yale  key and it hadn't been there when  I'd  looked a few minutes
ago.
     I  said, "Kates  has  got it." It had  to be.  One Yale key  looks like
another, but the card, Yehudi Smith's card, had been printed in my own shop.
The key would be mine, too.
     Hank said, "Huh?"
     I said again, "Kates has got it."
     Hank looked at  me strangely. He said, "Wait just  a minute, Doc,"  and
walked across to his own car. Twice, on the way, he looked back as though to
be sure I wasn't going to get in and drive away.
     He got a flashlight out of his glove compartment and came back. He bent
down with it and took a close look at those streaks.
     I stepped closer  to look, too. Hank  stepped  back,  as  though he was
suddenly afraid to have me behind him and peering over his shoulder.
     So I didn't have to  look. I knew what those streaks were, or what Hank
thought they were.
     He said, "Seriously, Doc, where's the key?"
     "I'm  serious," I told him. "I  gave it to Rance  Kates.  I didn't know
what key it was then. I'm pretty sure I do, now."
     I thought I knew what was in that luggage compartment now, too.
     He looked at me uncertainly and then walked part way across the street,
angling so he could watch me. He cupped his hands around his lips and called
out,  "Rance! Hey, Rance!" And then  looked  quickly back to see that I  was
neither sneaking up on him nor trying to get into the car to drive away.
     Nothing happened and he did it again.
     A window opened and Kates was silhouetted against the light back of it.
He called back,  "What the hell, Hank,  if you want  me  come up here. Don't
wake up the whole God damned town."
     Hank looked back over  his shoulder  at me again. Then he  called, "Did
Doc give you a key?"
     "Yes. Why? What kind of a yarn is he feeding you?"
     "Bring down the key, Rance. Quick."
     He  looked back over his shoulder again, started  toward, me, and  then
hesitated. He compromised by staying where he was, but watching me.
     The window slammed down.
     I walked back around the car and I  almost decided to light a match and
look at those stains myself. And then I decided, what the hell.
     Hank came a few steps closer. He said, "Where you going, Doc?"
     I was at the curb by then. I said, "Nowhere," and sat down.
     To wait.



          Then fill up the glasses as quick as you can,
                 And sprinkle the table with buttons and bran:
          Put cats in the coffee, and mice in the tea-
                 And welcome Queen Alice with thirty-times three!

     The courthouse door opened and  closed.  Kates crossed the  street.  He
looked at me and asked Hank, "What's wrong?"
     "Don't  know,  Rance.  Looks like  blood  has dripped from the  luggage
compartment of Doc's car. It's locked. He says he gave you the key. I didn't
want to - uh - leave him to come up and get it. So I yelled for you."
     Kates nodded. His face was toward me and Hank Ganzer couldn't see it. I
could. It looked happy, very happy.
     His  hand went inside his coat  and came out with a pistol.  He  asked,
"Did you frisk him, Hank?"
     "No."
     "Go ahead."
     Hank came around Kates and came up to me from the side. I stood up  and
held  out my hands to make it easy for him. The bottle of whisky was  in one
of them. He found nothing more deadly than that.
     "Clean," Hank said.
     Kates didn't  put his pistol away.  He reached into a pocket  with  his
free hand and  took  out the key  I'd given him. He tossed it to Hank. "Open
the compartment," he said.
     The key fitted. The handle turned. Hank lifted the door.
     I heard the sudden  intake  of his breath and  I turned and looked. Two
bodies; I could  see  that  much. I couldn't tell who they were from where I
stood. Hank leaned farther in, using his flashlight.
     He said, "Miles Harrison, Rance. And Ralph Bonney. Both dead."
     "How'd he kill 'em?"
     "Hit over the  head  with something. Hard.  Must've been  several blows
apiece. There's lots of blood."
     "Weapon there?"
     "What looks  like it. There's a revolver  - an old  one - with blood on
the  butt.  Nickel-plated  Iver-Johnson,  rusty  where  the  plating's  off.
Thirty-eight, I think."
     "The money there? The pay roll?"
     "There's what looks like a brief case under Miles." Hank turned around.
His face was as pale as the starlight. "Do I got to - uh - move him, Rance?"
     Kates thought a minute. "Maybe  we better not. Maybe we  better take  a
photo  first.  Listen,  Hank,  you go  upstairs  and  get  that  camera  and
flash-gun. And while you're there, phone Dr. Heil to get here right away. Uh
- you're sure they're both dead?"
     "Christ,  yes, Rance. Their heads are beaten  in. Shall I call Dorberg,
too?"  Dorberg  is  the  local  mortician  who  gets whatever  business  the
sheriff's  office can throw his  way; he's  Kates' brother-in-law, which may
have a bearing on the fact.
     Kates said, "Sure, tell him to bring the wagon.  But tell him no hurry;
we want the coroner to have  a look before we  move 'em. And we want the pix
even before that."
     Hank  started for  the courthouse door  and then  turned  again.  "Uh -
Rance, how about calling Miles' wife and Bonney's factory?"
     I sat down on the curb again. I wanted a drink  more badly than before,
and  the bottle was  in my  hand. But it didn't  seem  right,  just  at that
moment, to take one.  Miles' wife,  I thought, and Bonney's factory.  What a
hell of a  difference that was. But Bonney had been divorced  that very day;
he had no  children, no relatives at all - at least in Carmel City  - that I
knew  of.  But  then  I didn't  have either.  If I  was  murdered, who'd  be
notified? The Carmel  City Clarion,  and maybe Carl Trenholm, if whoever did
the notifying  knew that Trenholm was my closest friend.  Yes,  maybe on the
whole it was better  that I'd never  married. I thought of Bonney's  divorce
and  the facts behind it  that Carl -  through  Smiley - had told me. And  I
thought of how Miles Harrison's wife would be feeling tonight as soon as she
got  the news. But that was different; I didn't  know whether it was good or
bad that nobody would feel that way about me if I died suddenly.
     Just  the same I felt  lonely as hell. Well, they'd arrest  me now  and
that would mean I could call Carl as  my attorney. I was  going to  be in  a
hell of a spot, but Carl would believe me - and believe that I was sane - if
anybody would.
     Kates had been thinking. He said,  "Not yet -  either  of  them,  Hank.
Milly especially;  she might rush  down here  and get here before we got the
bodies  to Dorberg's.  And  we  might  as  well be able to tell  the factory
whether  the pay  roll's  there when we phone  them. Maybe  Stoeger  hid  it
somewhere else and we won't get it back tonight."
     Hank  said, "That's right,  about  Milly. We  wouldn't  want her to see
Miles  - that way.  Okay, so I'll call  Heil and Dorberg and  then come back
with the camera."
     "Quit talking. Get going."
     Hank went on into the courthouse.
     It  wasn't  any use, but I had to  say it.  I  said, "Listen, Kates,  I
didn't do that. I didn't kill them."
     Kates said, "You son of a bitch. Miles was a good guy."
     "He was. I didn't kill him." I thought, I wish Miles had let me buy him
that  drink  early in the  evening. I wish I'd known;  I'd have insisted and
talked him into it. But that was silly, of course; you  can't know things in
advance. If you could, you could stop them from happening. Except of  course
in the Looking-Glass  country where people sometimes lived backwards,  where
the White Queen had screamed first and then later stuck  the needle into her
finger. But even then - except,  of course, that the Alice books were merely
delightful nonsense, - why hadn't  she simply not  picked up the needle  she
knew she was going to stick herself with?
     Delightful  nonsense,  that is,  until  tonight.  Tonight  somebody was
making gibbering horror out of Lewis Carroll's most amusing episodes. "Drink
Me" - and die suddenly and horribly. That key - it had been supposed to open
a  fifteen-inch-high door into a  beautiful garden.  What it had opened  the
door to - well, I didn't care to look.
     I sighed and thought,  what the  hell, it's over with now. I'm going to
be arrested  and Kates thinks I killed Miles and  Bonney, but I can't  blame
him for thinking it. I've got to wait till Carl can get me out of this.
     Kates said, "Stand up, Stoeger."
     I didn't. Why should I? I'd just thought, why would Miles or Ralph mind
if I took a drink out of  this bottle in my  hand? I  started to unscrew the
top.
     "Stand up, Stoeger. Or I'll shoot you right there."
     He meant it. I stood up. His face, as he stood then, was in the shadow,
but I  remembered that look of malevolence he'd given me in his office,  the
look that said, "I'd like to kill you."
     He was going to shoot me. Here and now.
     It was safe as  houses for him to do  so. He could claim - if I  turned
and ran and he shot me in the back - that  he'd shot because I was trying to
escape.  And if from the front that I - a  homicidal maniac  who had already
killed Miles and Bonney - was coming toward him to attack him.
     That was why he'd sent Hank away and given him  two phone calls to make
so he wouldn't be back for minutes.
     I said, "Kates,  you're not  serious. You wouldn't shoot a man down  in
cold blood."
     "A man  who'd killed  a deputy of mine, yes. If  I don't, Stoeger,  you
might beat the rap.  You might  get certified as a looney  and get away with
it. I'll make sure." That wasn't all of it, of  course,  but  it gave him an
excuse to help his own conscience. I'd killed a deputy of his, he'd thought.
But he'd hated me enough to want to  kill me even before he'd  thought that.
Hatred and sadism - given a perfect excuse.
     What could I do? Yell? It wouldn't help. Probably nobody awake - it was
well  after  three  o'clock  by  now  - would hear me  in  time to see  what
happened.  Hank would be phoning in the back office; he wouldn't  get to the
window in time.
     And Kates would claim that I yelled as I jumped him; yelling would just
trigger the gun.
     He stepped closer; if he shot me in the front there'd have to be powder
marks  to show  that  he'd shot  while  I was coming at him.  The gun muzzle
centered on my chest, barely  a  foot away. I could live seconds longer if I
turned  and ran; he'd probably  wait until I was a dozen  steps away in that
case.
     His face was still in the shadow, but I could see that he was grinning.
I  couldn't see his eyes or most  of the rest of his face, just that grin. A
disembodied grin,  like  that  of the Cheshire cat in Alice. But unlike  the
Cheshire cat, he wasn't going to fade away.
     I  was. Unless something unexpected  happened.  Like  maybe  a  witness
coming along, over there on the opposite  sidewalk. He  wouldn't shoot me in
cold blood before a witness. Carl Trenholm, Al Grainger, anybody.
     I looked over Kates' shoulder and called out, "Hi, Al!"
     Kates  turned. He  had to; he couldn't take a chance on the possibility
that there was really someone coming.
     He turned his head just for a quick glance, to be sure.
     I  swung  the  whisky bottle. Maybe I should say  my hand swung  it;  I
hadn't even remembered that I still held it. It hit Kates alongside the head
and like as not the brim  of his hat saved his life. I  think  I  swung hard
enough to have killed him if he'd been bare headed.
     Kates and the revolver  he'd been holding  hit the  street, separately.
The  whisky  bottle slid  out of my hand and hit  the paving; it  broke. The
paving  must  have  been harder  than Kates' head - or maybe it  would  have
broken on Kates' head if it hadn't been for the brim of his hat.
     I didn't even stop to find out if he was dead. I ran like hell.
     Afoot,  of course.  The ignition key of my car  was still in my pocket,
but driving off with two corpses was just about the  last thing in the world
I wanted to do.
     I ran a block and winded myself before I realized I hadn't the faintest
idea  where  I was going. I slowed down and  got off Oak Street.  I cut back
into the first alley.  I fell over a garbage can and then sat down on  it to
get my wind back  and to think out what I was going to do. But I had to move
on because a dog started barking.
     I found myself behind the courthouse.
     I wanted,  of course, to know  who  had killed Ralph  Bonney  and Miles
Harrison and put their bodies in my car, but there was something that seemed
of even more immediate interest; I wanted to know if I'd killed Rance  Kates
or seriously  injured him. If  I had, I was  in a hell of a jam because - in
addition  to everything  else against me - it  would be my word against  his
that I'd done it in  self-defense, to save my own life. My word against his,
that is, if he were  only injured. My word  against nothing  at all  if  I'd
killed him.
     And my word  wouldn't mean a damn  thing  to anybody until and unless I
could account for two corpses in my car.
     The  first window I tried was unlocked. I guess they're  careless about
locking  windows of the courthouse because, for  one reason, there's nothing
kept  there that  any ordinary burglar would want to steal, and  for another
reason because the  sheriff's office is in the  building, and somebody's  on
duty there all night long.
     I  slid  the window up very slowly and it didn't  make much  noise, not
enough, anyway, to have been heard  in the sheriffs office, which is  on the
second floor and near the front. I pat it down again, just as quietly, so it
wouldn't be an open giveaway if the search for me went through the alley.
     I groped in the dark till I found a chair and sat  down to collect what
wits  I had left and  figure  what to  do next. I  was fairly safe  for  the
moment. The room I'd entered was one of  the  small anterooms off the  court
room; nobody would look for me here, as long as I kept quiet.
     They'd found the sheriff, all right, or the sheriff had come around and
found himself. There were footsteps on the front stairs,  footsteps of  more
than one  person. But back  here I was too far away  to  hear what was being
said, if any talking was going on.
     But that could wait for a minute or two.
     I wished to  hell that I had a  drink; I'd never wanted one worse in my
life. I cussed myself for having dropped and broken that bottle - and  after
it had saved my life, at that.  If I hadn't happened to have  it in my hand,
I'd have been dead.
     I  don't  know  how long I sat there, but it probably wasn't over a few
minutes  because I  was still breathing  a little  hard when  I decided  I'd
better move. If I'd  had a  bottle to  keep me company, I'd have  gladly sat
there the rest of the night, I think.
     But I had to find out what happened to Kates. If I'd killed him - or if
he'd been taken to the hospital and was out of the picture - then I'd better
give  myself up and  get it  over  with. If he was all right, and was  still
running things, that wouldn't be a very smart thing to do. If he'd wanted to
kill me  before I'd knocked him out with that bottle, he'd want to  do it so
badly  now  that he would  do  it,  maybe without even bothering to  find an
excuse, right  in front of  Hank  or  any  of  the  other deputies  who were
undoubtedly being waked up to join the manhunt, in front  of the  coroner or
anybody else who happened to be around.
     I bent down and took my shoes off before I got up. I put one in each of
the side pockets of my coat and then  tiptoed out through  the court room to
the back stairs. I'd been in the building so many thousand times that I knew
the layout almost as well as that of my own home or the  Clarion office, and
I didn't run into anything or fall over anything.
     I guided myself up the dark back  staircase with a hand on the banister
and avoiding the middle of the steps, where they'd be most likely to creak.
     Luckily there is an el in the upstairs hallway that runs from the front
stairs to the back ones so there  wasn't any danger  of my being seen,  when
I'd reached  the top of  the  stairs, by  anyone  entering  or  leaving  the
sheriff's  office.  And I had  dim light now,  from  the light in the  front
hallway near the sheriff's office door.
     I tiptoed along almost to the turn of the hall and then  tried the door
of the  county surveyor's office, which is next  to the sheriff's office and
with only an ordinary door with a ground glass pane  between them.  The door
was unlocked.
     I got it open very quietly. It slipped out of my hand when I started to
close it from  the inside and almost slammed,  but I caught  it  in time and
eased it shut. I would have liked to  lock it, but I didn't know whether the
lock would click or not, so I didn't take a chance on that.
     I  had  plenty of light, comparatively, in the  surveyor's  office; the
ground glass pane of the door to the  sheriff's office  was  a bright yellow
rectangle through which came enough light to let me see the office furniture
clearly.  I  avoided  it carefully and  tiptoed my  way toward  that  yellow
rectangle.
     I could hear voices now and as I neared the door I could hear them even
better, but I couldn't  quite  make  out whose they were or  what they  were
saying until I put my  ear against the glass.  I  could hear perfectly well,
then.
     Hank Ganzer was saying, "It still throws me, Rance. A gentle little old
guy like Doc. Two murders and-"
     "Gentle, hell!" It was Kates'  voice.  "Maybe when he was sane he  was,
but he's crazier than a bedbug now. Ow! Go easy with that tape, will you?"
     Dr. Heil's voice was soft, harder to understand. He seemed to be urging
that  Kates  should  let himself be taken to the hospital  to  be sure there
wasn't any concussion.
     "The  hell with that," Kates said.  "Not till we get  Stoeger before he
kills anybody else. Like he killed Miles and Bonney and damn near killed me.
Hank, what's about the bodies?"
     "I made a quick preliminary examination." Heil's voice was clearer now.
"Cause of death is pretty  obviously repeated blows on their heads with what
seems to have been that  rusty pistol on your  desk. And with  the stains on
the pistol butt, I don't think there's any reason to doubt it."
     "They still out front?"
     Hank  said, "No,  they're at Dorberg's - or on their way there.  He and
one of has boys came around with his meat wagon."
     "Doc." It  was  Kates' voice and  it  made  me  jump a  little until  I
realized that he was talking to Dr. Heil and not to me.  "You about through?
With that God  damn  bandage, I mean. I  got to get going on this. Hank, how
many of the boys did you get on the phone? How many are coming down?"
     "Three,  Rance.  I got  Watkins, Ehlers  and Bill  Dean. They're all on
their way down. Be here in a few minutes. That'll make five of us."
     "Guess that fixes up things as well as I can  here,  Rance," Dr. Heil's
voice said. "I still suggest you go around to the  hospital for an X-ray and
a check-up as soon as you can."
     "Sure, Doc. Soon  as I catch Stoeger. And he can't get out of town with
the state police watching the roads for us, even  if he steals a car. You go
on around to Dorberg's and take care of things there, huh?"
     Heil's  voice,  soft  again, said something I  couldn't hear, and there
were footsteps toward the outer hall. I could hear other footsteps coming up
the stairs. One or more of the day-shift deputies were arriving.
     Kates said, "Hi, Bill, Walt. Ehlers with you?"
     "Didn't see  him. Probably be here in a minute." It  sounded  like Bill
Dean's voice.
     "That's  all right. We'll  leave him here,  anyway. You both  got  your
guns? Good. Listen, you  two  are going  together and Hank  and I  are going
together.  We'll work in pairs. Don't worry about the roads leading out; the
state boys are watching them for  us. And there's  no train or bus  out till
late tomorrow morning. We just comb the town."
     "Divide it between us, Rance?"
     "No. You,  Walt,  and Bill  cover the whole  town. Drive  through every
street  and alley. Hank and I will take places he  might have  holed  in  to
hide. We'll  search  his house and the Clarion  office,  whether  there  are
lights on or not,  and  we'll  try any place else that's  indoors  where  he
might've holed in.  He might pick an empty house, for  instance. Anybody got
any other suggestions where he might think of holing in?"
     Bill Dean's voice said, "He's pretty thick with Carl Trenholm. He might
go to Carl."
     "Good idea, Bill. Anybody else?"
     Hank said, "He looked pretty drunk to me. And he broke  that bottle  he
had. Might get into his head he wants another drink and break into a tavern.
Probably Smiley's; that's where he hangs out, mostly."
     "Okay, Hank. We'll  check - That must  be Dick coming.  Any more ideas,
anybody, before we split up?"
     Ehlers  was coming  in  now. Hank said,  "Sometimes a guy  doubles back
where  he  figures nobody'll figure  where he is.  I  mean,  Rance, maybe he
doubled back here and got in  the back way or something, thinking the safest
place to hide's right under our noses. Right here in the building."
     Kates said, "You heard that, Dick. And you're staying here to watch the
office, so that's your job. Search the building here first before you settle
down."
     "Right, Rance."
     Kates said, "One  more  thing. He's dangerous. He's probably  armed  by
now. So don't take any chances. When you see him, start shooting."
     "At  Doc  Stoeger?"  Someone's voice  sounded  surprised  and a  little
shocked. I couldn't tell which of the deputies it was.
     "At  Doc Stoeger,"  Kates said.  "Maybe  you think of him as a harmless
little  guy - but that's  the kind  that  generally makes homicidal maniacs.
He's  killed two men tonight and tried  to kill me,  probably thought he did
kill  me,  or he'd stayed  and finished the job. And don't forget who one of
the men he did kill was. Miles."
     Somebody muttered something.
     Bill Dean - I think it was Bill Dean - said, "I don't get it, though. A
guy like Doc. He isn't broke; he's got a paper that makes money and he's not
a  crook. Why'd he  suddenly want  to kill two men for  a couple of thousand
lousy bucks?"
     Kates swore. He said, "He's nuts, went off the beam. The money probably
didn't have much to do  with it, although he  took it all  right. It was  in
that brief  case under Miles' body. Now listen, this is the last time I tell
you; he's a  homicidal maniac and you  better remember Miles the  minute you
spot him and shoot  quick.  He's crazy as a bedbug. Came in here with a cock
and bull story about a guy being croaked out at  the Wentworth place - a guy
named Yehudi Smith, of all names.  And Doc had  a card to prove  it, only he
printed the  card himself. Crazy enough to put  his  own bug number -  union
label number -  on it. Gives me a key that he says opens a fifteen-inch-high
door  to  a  beautiful  garden.  Well,  that  was  the  key to  the  luggage
compartment of his own car, see?  With  Miles' and  Bonney's bodies, and the
pay roll  money, in it. Parked right in front. He'd driven it here. Comes up
and  gives me  the key. And tries  to  get me to go to a haunted house  with
him."
     "Did anybody look there?" Dean asked.
     Hank said,  "Sure, Bill. On my way back  from Neilsville.  Went through
the whole dump. Nothing. And listen, Rance is right about him being crazy. I
heard some of  the I stuff  he said,  myself.  And  if you don't  think he's
dangerous, look at Rance. I'm sorry about it, I liked  Doc. But damn it, I'm
with Rance on shooting first and catching him afterwards."
     Somebody: "God damn it, if he killed Miles-"
     "If he's that crazy-" I think it was Dick Ehlers. "-we'd be doing him a
favor,  the way I figure it. If I  ever go that far off the beam, homicidal,
damn if I wouldn't rather be shot than spend the rest of my life in a padded
cell. But what made him go off that way? All of a sudden, I mean?"
     "Alcohol. Softens the brain, and then all of a sudden, whang."
     "Doc didn't drink that much. He'd get drunk, a little, a night or two a
week, but he wasn't an alcoholic. And he was such a nice-"
     A fist hit a desk. It would have been  Kates' fist and Kates'  desk. It
was Kates' swivel chair that squealed and his voice said, "What the hell are
we  having a sewing circle for. Come on, let's go out and get him. And about
shooting  first, that's orders. I've  lost one deputy tonight  already. Come
on."
     Footsteps, lots of them, toward the door.
     Kates' voice calling back  from  it. "And don't forget  to  search this
building, Dick. Cellar to roof, before you settle down here."
     "Right, Rance."
     Footsteps, lots of heavy footsteps, going down the steps.
     And one set of them turning back along the hallway.
     Toward the County Surveyor's office.
     Toward me.



          And he was very proud and stiff;
                 He said "I'd go and wake them, if-"
          I took a corkscrew from the shelf;
                 I went to wake them up myself.

     I  hoped he'd take  Rance Kates' orders literally and search  the place
from cellar to attic, in that order.  If he did, I could get out either  the
front or back way while he was in the basement. But  he might start  on this
floor, with this room.
     So I tiptoed to the door, pulling one of my shoes out of my pocket as I
went. I stood flat against the wall by the door, gripping the shoe, ready to
swing the heel of it if Ehlers' head came in.
     It  didn't. The footsteps went  on  past  and  started  down  the  back
staircase. I breathed again.
     I  opened the door  and  stepped  out  into the  hall  as soon  as  the
footsteps were at  the bottom of the  back steps. Out there in the  hall, in
the quiet of the night, I could hear him moving  about down there. He didn't
go to the  basement;  he was  taking the main floor first. That wasn't good.
With  him  on the first floor I couldn't  risk either  the front or the back
stairs; I was stuck up here.
     Outside  I heard  first one  car start and then  another. At  least the
front entrance was  clear  if I had  to try  to  leave that  way,  if Ehlers
started upstairs by the back staircase.
     I took a  spot  in the  middle  of the hallway,  equidistant from  both
flights of  steps. I could still  hear him walking  around down on the floor
below, but it was difficult to tell just where  he was. I had to be ready to
make a break in either direction.
     I swore to myself at the  thoroughness of Kates'  plans for finding me.
My house, my office, Carl's  place, Smiley's or another tavern - every place
I'd actually be likely to go. Even here, the courthouse, where I really was.
But luckily,  instead of all of them pitching in for a quick once-over here,
he'd left only one man to do the job, and as long as I could hear him and he
couldn't hear  me - and probably didn't believe I was really here at all - I
had an edge.
     Only,  damn it, why  didn't Ehlers  hurry?  I wanted a drink,  and if I
could get out of here,  I could get  one somewhere,  somehow. I was  shaking
like a leaf,  and  my thoughts  were, too. Even  one drink  would  steady me
enough to think straight.
     Maybe Kates kept a bottle in the bottom drawer of his desk.
     The way I  felt just then, it was worth trying. I listened hard to  the
sounds  below me and decided Ehlers was probably at the back of the building
and I tiptoed to the front and into Kates' office.
     I  went  back to his  desk and pulled the drawer  open very quietly and
slowly. There was a whisky bottle there. It was empty.
     I cussed Kates under my breath. It wasn't bad enough that he'd tried to
kill me; on top of that, he'd had to finish off  that bottle without leaving
a single drink in it. And it had been a good brand, too.
     I closed the drawer again as carefully as I'd opened  it, so there'd be
no sign of my having been there.
     Lying on  the  blotter on Kates' desk was  a revolver. I  looked at it,
wondering whether I should take it along with me. For a second the fact that
it was rusty didn't register and then I remembered Hank's description of the
gun  that had been  used as  a bludgeon to kill Miles and Bonney, and I bent
closer. Yes, it was  an Iver-Johnson, nickel-plated where the plating wasn't
worn or knocked off. This was the death weapon, then.
     Exhibit A.
     I reached out to pick it up, and then  jerked my hand  back.  Hadn't  I
been   framed  well  enough  without   helping  the  framer  by  putting  my
fingerprints  on that gun? That was all I needed, to have my fingerprints on
the  weapon  that  had  done  the  killing.  Or  were  they  there  already?
Considering  everything else, I wouldn't have  been too  surprised  if  they
were.
     Then I almost went through the ceiling. The phone rang.
     I  could hear, in  the silence between the  first  ring and the second,
Ehlers' footsteps starting upstairs. But back here in the office, I couldn't
tell whether  he was coming up the  front way  or the back, and I  might not
have time to make it anyway, even if I knew.
     I looked around frantically and saw a closet,  the door ajar. I grabbed
up the Iver-Johnson and ducked into the closet, behind the door. And I stood
there, trying not to breathe, while Ehlers came in and picked up the phone.
     He said, "Sheriff's  office,"  and  then, "Oh, you  Rance," and then he
listened a while.
     "You're phoning from the Clarion? Not at Smiley's or there, huh?... No,
no  calls have  come in... Yeah, I'm almost  through  looking  around  here.
Searched the  first floor and the basement. Just  got to go over this  floor
yet."
     I  swore at myself. He'd been down in the  basement, then, and I  could
have got away. But  the building had been so  quiet that his walking  around
down there had sounded to me as though it had been on the main floor.
     "Don't worry, I'm not taking any chances,  Rance. Gun in one hand and a
flashlight in the other."
     There was  a gun  in my hand too, and suddenly I realized what a damned
foolish thing I'd done to pick it up off Kates' desk. Ehlers must have known
it was  there. If he  missed it,  if he happened  to glance down at the desk
while he was talking on the phone-
     God must have loved me. He didn't. He said,  "Okay, Rance," and then he
put the phone down and walked out.
     I heard him  go back  along the  hallway and  around the  el  and start
opening doors back  there. I had  to  get  out quick, down  the front steps,
before he worked his way back  here. As a matter of  routine, he'd  probably
open this closet door too when he'd searched his way back to the office he'd
started from.
     I let  myself out and tiptoed down the steps. Out into the night again,
onto  Oak Street.  And  I had to get off it quick, because either of the two
cars looking for me might cruise by  at any moment. Carmel City isn't large;
a  car  can cruise all  of its streets  and  alleys  in  pretty short order.
Besides I still  had my shoes in my pockets  and - I  realized now - I still
had a gun in my hand.
     Hoping Ehlers wouldn't  happen to be looking out of any of the windows,
I  ran  around  the  corner  and into the  mouth of  the  alley  behind  the
courthouse. As soon as I was comparatively  safe in the friendly darkness, I
sat down  on  the alley curbstone  and put my shoes back on, and put the gun
into my pocket. I hadn't meant  to bring  it along at all, but as  long as I
had I couldn't throw it away now.
     Anyway, it was  going to get Dick Ehlers  in trouble  with  Kates. When
Kates looked for that gun and found it was missing, he'd know that  I'd been
in  the courthouse and that  Ehlers had missed  me. He'd know that  I'd been
right in his own office while he'd been out searching for me.
     And so there I was in the dark, in safety for a few minutes until a car
full of  deputies  decided to cruise down that particular  alley looking for
me. And I had a gun  in  my pocket that might or might not shoot -  I hadn't
checked that - and I had my shoes on and my hands were shaking again.
     I didn't even have to ask myself, Little man, what now. The  little man
not only wanted a drink; he really needed one.
     And Kates had  already been to Smiley's looking  for me and  had  found
that I wasn't there.
     So I started down the alley toward Smiley's.
     Funny, but  I was getting over being  scared. A little, anyway. You can
get only  just so  scared, and then something happens to your adrenal glands
or  something.  I can't  remember  offhand whether  your  adrenals  make you
frightened or whether they get going and operate against it,  but  mine were
getting either into or out of action, as the case  might be. I'd been scared
so much that night that I - or my glands - was getting tired of it.
     I was  getting brave, almost. And it wasn't  Dutch courage,  either; it
had been so long since  I'd had a drink that I'd  forgotten what  one tasted
like. I was cold damn sober. About three times during the course of the long
evening and the long night  I'd been on  the borderline of intoxication, but
always something had happened to  keep me from drinking for a while and then
something had sobered me up. Some foolish little thing  like being taken for
a ride by gangsters or watching a man die suddenly or horribly by quaffing a
bottle labeled "Drink Me" or finding murdered men in the  back of my own car
or discovering that a sheriff intended to shoot me down in cold grue. Little
things like that.
     So I kept going down the alley toward Smiley's. The dog that had barked
at me before barked again. But I  didn't  waste time barking back. I kept on
going down the alley toward Smiley's.
     There was the street to cross. I took a quick look both ways but didn't
worry  about  it  beyond  that.  If the sheriff's car  or the  deputies' car
suddenly turned the  corner and started spraying me with headlights and then
bullets,  well, then  that was that.  You can  only get so worried; then you
quit  worrying.  When things can't get any worse,  outside of  your  getting
killed, then either you get killed or things start getting better.
     Things started to get better; the window into the back room of Smiley's
was open. I didn't bother  taking  off  my shoes this time.  Smiley would be
asleep  upstairs, but alone, and Smiley's so sound  a sleeper that a bazooka
shell  exploding  in the next room wouldn't wake him.  I  remember times I'd
dropped  into the  tavern on a dull afternoon and found him  asleep; it  was
almost hopeless to try to wake him,  and I'd generally help myself and leave
the money on the ledge of the register. And he dropped asleep so quickly and
easily that even if Kates and Hank had wakened him when they'd looked for me
here, he'd be asleep again by now.
     In fact - yes, I could hear  a faint rumbling sound overhead, like very
distant thunder. Smiley snoring.
     I groped my  way  through the dark back room and opened the door to the
tavern.  There was a dim light in there that burned  all night long, and the
shades  were  left up. But Kates had already been here  and the  chances  of
anyone else  happening  to pass and  look in at half past three of a  Friday
morning were negligible.
     I took a bottle of the best bonded Bourbon Smiley had from the back bar
and because it looked as though there were still at least a fair chance that
this might be the last drink I ever had, I took a bottle of seltzer from the
case under  the bar. I took them to the table around the el,  the one that's
out of sight of the windows, the table at which Bat and George had sat early
this evening.
     Bat and George seemed,  now,  to have sat there  along time ago,  years
maybe, and seemed  not a tenth as  frightening as  they'd been at  the time.
Almost, they seemed a little funny, somehow.
     I  left  the  two  bottles on the  table  and went  back for a glass, a
swizzle  stick, and some ice  cubes  from  the  refrigerator. This drink I'd
waited a long time for, and it was going to be a good one.
     I'd even pay a  good price for it, I decided, especially after I looked
in my wallet and found I had several  tens but nothing  smaller. I put a ten
dollar  bill on the ledge of the register, and I wondered if I'd ever get my
change out of it.
     I went back to the table and made myself a drink, a good one.
     I lighted up a cigar, too. That was  a  bit risky because if Kates came
by here again for another check, he might see cigar  smoke in the dim light,
even  though I was out of his  range of vision.  But I decided the  risk was
worth it. You can, I was finding, get into such a Godawful jam that a little
more risk doesn't seem to matter at all.
     I  took a  good long  swig of the  drink  and then a deep drag from the
cigar, and I felt pretty good. I held out my hands and they weren't shaking.
Very silly of them not to be, but they weren't.
     Now, I thought, is my first chance  to  think for a long time. My first
real chance since Yehudi Smith had died.
     Little man, what now?
     The pattern. Could I make any sense out of the pattern?
     Yehudi  Smith  - only that undoubtedly wasn't his  real name, else  the
card he gave  me wouldn't have been printed in my own  shop - had called  to
see me and had told me-
     Skip  what he told you, I told  myself. That was gobbledegook, just the
kind of gobbledegook  that would entice you  to go to such a crazy place  at
such a crazy time. He knew you - that is, I corrected myself - he knew a lot
about  you. Your hobby and your weakness  and what  you  were and what would
interest you.
     His coming there was  planned. Planned well in advance; the card proved
that.
     According to a plan, then, he called on you at a time when  no one else
would be there. Probably,  sitting in his car, he'd watched  you  come home,
knowing  Mrs. Carr was there  - in all probability he  or  someone had  been
watching the house  all evening - and waiting  until she'd  left  to present
himself.
     No one had seen him, no one besides yourself.
     He'd  led  you on a wild-goose chase. There weren't any  Vorpal Blades;
that was gobbledegook, too.
     Connect  that with the  fact  that Miles Harrison and  Ralph Bonney had
been killed while  Yehudi Smith  was keeping you  entertained and busy,  and
that their bodies had been put in the back compartment of your car.
     Easy. Smith was an accomplice of the murderer, hired to  keep you  away
from anybody else who might alibi you while the crime was going  on. Also to
give you such an  incredible story to account for where you really were that
your own mother, if she were still alive,  would have a  hard time believing
it.
     But  connect that with the  fact that  Smith had been killed, too.  And
with the fact that the  pay roll money had been left in your car  along with
the bodies.
     It added up to gibberish.
     I took another  sip of my drink and it tasted weak.  I looked at it and
saw  I'd been sitting there  so long between sips that  most of the ice  had
melted.  I put more  of the bonded  Bourbon  in  it and it tasted  all right
again.
     I remembered about the gun I'd grabbed up  from Kates' desk,  the rusty
one  with which  the  two murders  had been  committed. I took  it out of my
pocket  and looked at  it.  I handled it so I wouldn't have  to touch  those
dried stains on the butt.
     I broke it to see if  any shots had been fired from it and found  there
weren't  any  cartridges  in it, empty or otherwise. I clicked it  back into
position  and tried the trigger. It was  rusted shut.  It hadn't, then, been
used as a gun at all. Just as a hammer to bash out the brains of two men.
     And  I'd certainly made a fool of myself by bringing it along. I played
right into the killer's hands by doing that. I put it back into my pocket.
     I wished that I had someone to talk  to. I felt that I might figure out
things aloud better  than I could  this way. I wished that Smiley was awake,
and for  a moment I was tempted  to  go upstairs to  get him. No, I decided,
once already tonight  I'd put Smiley into danger -  danger out of which he'd
got both of us and without any help from me whatsoever.
     And this was my problem. It wouldn't be fair to Smiley to tangle him in
it.
     Besides, this wasn't a matter for  Smiley's brawn  and  guts. This  was
like  playing chess, and  Smiley didn't play chess.  Carl might possibly  be
able  to help me figure  it out, but Smiley -  never. And I  didn't want  to
tangle Carl in this either.
     But I wanted to talk to somebody.
     All right, maybe I was a little crazy - not drunk, definitely not drunk
- but a little crazy. I wanted to talk to somebody, so I did.

     The little man who wasn't there.
     I imagined him sitting across the table from me,  sitting there with an
imaginary drink in his hand. Gladly, right gladly, would I have poured him a
real one if he'd been really there. He was looking at me strangely.
     "Smitty," I said.
     "Yes, Doc?"
     "What's your real name, Smitty? I know it  isn't Yehudi Smith. That was
part of the gag. The card you gave me proves that."
     It wasn't  the right question to ask. He wavered a little, as though he
was going to disappear on me. I shouldn't  have asked him a question  that I
myself  couldn't  answer,  because he was  there  only  because my  mind was
putting  him  there.  He couldn't tell  me anything I didn't know  myself or
couldn't figure out.
     He wavered  a little, but he rallied. He  said, "Doc,  I can't tell you
that. Any more than I can tell you whom I was working for. You know that."
     Get it; he said "whom I was working for" not "who I was working for." I
felt proud of him and of myself.
     I said, "Sure, Smitty. I shouldn't have asked. And  listen, I'm sorry -
I'm sorry as hell that you died."
     "That's all right, Doc. We all die  sometime. And - well, it was a nice
evening up to then."
     "I'm glad I fed you,"  I said. "I'm glad I  gave you all you  wanted to
drink.  And listen,  Smitty, I'm  sorry  I laughed out loud when I  saw that
bottle and key on the glass-topped table. I just  couldn't  help it.  It was
funny."
     "Sure, Doc.  But I had to play it straight. It was part of the act. But
it was corny; I don't blame you  for acting amused. And Doc, I'm sorry I did
it. I didn't know the whole score - you've  got proof of that. If I  had,  I
wouldn't  have drunk what was in that bottle. I didn't look like a  man  who
wanted to die, did I, Doc?"
     I shook my head slowly,  looking at the  laughter-lines around his eyes
and his mouth. He didn't look like a man who wanted to die.
     But he had died, suddenly and horribly.
     "I'm sorry, Smitty," I told him. "I'm sorry as hell. I'd give a hell of
a lot to bring you back, to have you really sitting there."
     He chuckled. "Don't get maudlin, Doc. It'll spoil your thinking. You're
trying to think, you know."
     "I know," I said. "But I had to  get it  out of my system.  All  right,
Smitty. You're dead and I can't do anything about  it. You're the little man
who isn't there. And I can't ask you any questions I can't answer myself, so
really you can't help me."
     "Are you sure, Doc? Even if you ask the right questions?"
     "What do  you mean? That my subconscious mind  might  know  the answers
even if I don't?"
     He  laughed. "Let's not get Freudian. Let's stick  to Lewis Carroll.  I
really was a  Carroll enthusiast, you know. I was a fast study, but not that
fast. I couldn't have memorized all that about him just for one occasion."
     The  phrase struck  me, "a fast study." I repeated it and went on where
it led me, "You  were an actor, Smitty? Hell, don't answer it. You must have
been. I should have guessed that. An actor hired to play a part."
     He grinned a  bit  wryly. "Not too good an actor, then, or you wouldn't
have  guessed it.  And  pretty  much of a sucker, Doc, to have accepted  the
role. I should have guessed that there was more in it than what he told me."
He shrugged. "Well, I played you a  dirty trick, but I played a worse one on
myself. Didn't I?"
     "I'm sorry you're dead, Smitty. God damn it, I liked you."
     "I'm glad, Doc.  I  haven't liked myself too well these last few years.
You've figured it out  by now so I can tell you - I was pretty down and  out
to take a booking like that, and at the price he offered me for it. And damn
him, he didn't pay me in advance except my expenses,  so what did I gain  by
it? I got killed. Wait, don't get maudlin  about that  again. Let's drink to
it."
     We  drank to it. There are worse things than getting  killed. And there
are  worse ways of dying than suddenly  when  you  aren't expecting it, when
you're slightly tight and-
     But that subject wasn't getting us anywhere.
     "You were a character actor," I said.
     "Doc,  you disappoint  me by belaboring the  obvious.  And that doesn't
help you to figure out who Anybody is."
     "Anybody?"
     "That's  what you were calling him  to yourself  when you were thinking
things out, in a half-witted sort of way, not so long ago. Remember thinking
that Anybody could have got  into your printing shop and  Anybody could have
set up one line of type and figured out  how to  print one good card on that
little hand press, but why would Anybody-"
     "Unfair," I said. "You can get inside my mind, because - because, hell,
that's where you  are. But I can't get into yours. You  know who Anybody is.
But I don't."
     "Even  I, Doc, might not know his  real  name.  In case something  went
wrong, he wouldn't have  told me that. Something  like - well, suppose you'd
grabbed that `Drink Me' bottle when  you first found the table and tossed it
off before I  could tell you that it was my prerogative to do so. Yes, there
were a lot of things that could have gone wrong in so complicated  a deal as
that one was."
     I  nodded. "Yes,  suppose Al Grainger had come around  for that game of
chess and we'd taken him along. Suppose - suppose I hadn't lived to get home
at all. I had a narrow squeak earlier in the evening, you know."
     "In that case, Doc, it never would have happened. You ought to  be able
to figure that out without my  telling you..  If you'd  been killed, you and
Smiley, earlier in the evening, then - at least if Anybody had learned about
it,  as  he  probably would have - Ralph Bonney and Miles Harrison  wouldn't
have  been killed later. At least not tonight.  A wheel would  have come off
the  plans and I'd have  gone back to - wherever I came from. And everything
would have been off."
     I  said, "But suppose  I'd  stayed  at  the office far  into the  night
working  on one  of those big stories I thought  I had -  and  was  so happy
about. How would Anybody have known?"
     "Can't tell you that, Doc. But you might guess. Suppose I had orders to
keep Anybody  posted on your movements,  if they went off schedule. When you
left the house, saying you'd be back shortly, I'd  have used your  phone and
told  him that. And when you phoned  that you were on your way back I'd have
let him know, while you were walking home, wouldn't I?"
     "But that was pretty late."
     "Not  too late for him  to  have intercepted Miles  Harrison and  Ralph
Bonney on their way back from Neilsville -  under certain circumstances - if
his plans had been held in abeyance until he was sure you'd be home and  out
of circulation before midnight."
     I said, "Under certain circumstances," and wondered  just what I  meant
by it.
     Yehudi  Smith smiled. He lifted  his glass and  looked  at me mockingly
over the rim of it before he drank. He said, "Go on, Doc. You're only in the
second square, but your next move will be  a good one. You go  to the fourth
square by train, you know."
     "And the smoke alone is worth a thousand pounds a puff."
     "And that's the answer, Doc," he said, quietly.
     I stared at him. A prickle went down my back.
     Outside, in the night, a clock struck four times.
     "What do you mean, Smitty?" I asked him, slowly.
     The  little man  who wasn't there poured more whisky from an  imaginary
bottle into  his imaginary glass.  He said, "Doc,  you've been  letting  the
glass-topped table  and the  bottle and the key fool you. They're from Alice
in Wonderland. Originally, of course, called Alice's Adventures Underground.
Wonderful book. But you're in the second."
     "The second square? You just said that."
     "The  second book. Through  the  Looking-Glass,  and  What  Alice Found
There. And, Doc, you know as well as I what Alice found there."
     I poured myself another drink, a short  one this time, to match his.  I
didn't bother with ice or seltzer.
     He raised his glass. "You've got it now, Doc," he said. "Not all of it,
but enough to start on. You might still see the dawn come up."
     "Don't be  so God damn dramatic," I said; "certainly  I'm going  to see
the dawn come up."
     "Even if Kates comes  here again looking for you? Don't forget  when he
misses that rusty gun in your pocket, he'll know you  were at the courthouse
when he was looking for you here.  He might recheck  all his previous stops.
And you're awfully  damned  careless in filling the place with cigar  smoke,
you know."
     "You mean it's worth a thousand pounds a puff?"
     He  put back  his  head  and laughed  and then he quit laughing  and he
wasn't there any more, even in my imagination, because a sudden slight sound
made me look toward the door that led  upstairs, to Smiley's rooms. The door
opened and Smiley was standing there.
     In a nightshirt. I hadn't known anybody wore  nightshirts any more, but
Smiley wore one. His eyes looked sleepy and his hair - what was left of it -
was tousled  and  he was  barefoot. He had  a  gun in his  hand, the  little
short-barreled  thirty-eight Banker's Special  I'd given him some hours ago.
In his huge hand  it looked tiny, a toy.  It didn't look like something that
had  knocked  a Buick  off  the  road, killing one  man  and badly  injuring
another, that very evening.
     There wasn't any expression on his face, none at all.
     I wonder what mine looked like. But  through a looking- glass or not, I
didn't have one to look into.
     Had I been talking  to myself aloud? Or had my conversation with Yehudi
Smith been imaginary, within my own mind? I honestly didn't know.
     If I'd really  been talking to myself, it  was  going to be a hell of a
thing to  have to  explain.  Especially  if  Kates had,  on  his  stop here,
awakened Smiley and told him that I was crazy.
     In any case, what the hell  could I possibly  say right now but "Hello,
Smiley?"
     I opened my mouth to say "Hello, Smiley," but I didn't.
     Someone was  pounding  on  the glass  of  the  front door.  Someone who
yelled, "Hey, open up here!" in the voice of Sheriff Rance Kates.
     I did the only reasonable thing to do. I poured myself another drink.



           "You are old," said the youth, "one would hardly suppose
                 That your eye was as steady as ever;
           Yet you balanced an eel on the end of your nose-
                 What made you so awfully clever?"

     Kates hammered again and tried the knob.
     Smiley stared at me and I stared back at him. I couldn't say anything -
even if  I  could have thought of anything to say - to him at that  distance
without the probability of Kates hearing my voice.
     Kates hammered again. I heard him say something to Hank about  breaking
in the glass. Smiley bent down and placed the gun on the step behind him and
then  came out of the door into the tavern. Without looking at  me he walked
toward the front door and, at sight of him, Kates stopped the racket there.
     Smiley didn't  walk  quite  straight toward the door; he made  a slight
curve that took him past my  table. As he  passed, he reached out and jerked
the cigar out of my hand. He stuck it in his mouth and then went to the door
and opened it.
     I couldn't see in that direction, of course, and I didn't stick my head
around the corner of the el. I sat there and sweated.
     "What you want? Why such a hell of a racket?" I heard Smiley demand.
     Kates' voice: "Thought Stoeger was here. That smoke-"
     "Left my cigar down here," Smiley  said. "Remembered it when I got back
up and came down to get it. Why all the racket?"
     "It  was  damn near  half  an  hour  ago when  I was  here," Kates said
belligerently. "Cigar doesn't burn that long."
     Smiley said patiently, "I  couldn't sleep after you  were here. I  came
down  and got myself a drink  five minutes ago. I left my  cigar down here."
His voice got soft, very soft. "Now get the hell out of here. You've spoiled
my night  already. Didn't get to sleep till two and you wake me at half past
three and come around again at four. What's the big idea, Kates?"
     "You're sure Stoeger isn't-"
     "I  told you  I'd call  you if I saw  him. Now, you bastard, get out of
here."
     I could imagine Kates turning purple.  I could imagine  him looking  at
Smiley and realizing that Smiley was half again as strong as he was.
     The door  slammed so hard  it must have come very  near to breaking the
glass.
     Smiley came back.  Without looking back at me he  said quietly,  "Don't
move, Doc. He might look back in a minute or two." He  went on around behind
the bar, got himself a glass and poured a drink. He sat down on the stool he
keeps  for  himself back  there, facing slightly  to  the  back  so  his lip
movement  wouldn't show to anyone looking in the front window. He took a sip
of the drink and a puff of my cigar.
     I kept  my voice as low as he'd kept his. I said, "Smiley, you ought to
have your mouth washed out with soap. You told a lie."
     He grinned. "Not that I know of, Doc. I told him I'd call  him if I saw
you. I did call him. Didn't you hear what I called him?"
     "Smiley," I said, "this is the  screwiest night  I've ever been through
but the screwiest thing about it is that you're developing a sense of humor.
I didn't think you had it in you."
     "How bad trouble are you in, Doc? What can I do?"
     I said, "Nothing.  Except what  you just did do, and thanks to hell and
back for  that.  It's something  I've got to  think out;  and work  out  for
myself, Smiley. Nobody can help me."
     "Kates said, when he was  here the first time, you were  a ho  - homi -
what the hell was it?"
     "Homicidal maniac," I said. "He thinks  I killed two men tonight. Miles
Harrison and Ralph Bonney."
     "Yeah. Don't bother telling me you didn't."
     I said, "Thanks, Smiley." And then it occurred to me that "Don't bother
telling me you didn't" could be taken either one of two ways. And I wondered
again if I had been talking to  myself aloud or only in my imagination while
Smiley had been walking down those stairs and opening the door. I asked him,
"Smiley, do you think I'm crazy?"
     "I've always thought you were crazy, Doc. But crazy in a nice way."
     I thought how  wonderful  it is  to have friends. Even if I  was crazy,
there were two people in Carmel City that I could count on to go to bat for,
me. There was Smiley and there was Carl.
     But, damn it, friendship should work both ways. This was my  danger and
my problem  and I had no business dragging  Smiley into it any  farther than
he'd already stuck  his neck. If I told Smiley  that Kates had tried to kill
me  and still intended to,  then Smiley - who hates  Kates'  guts  already -
would go out looking for Kates and like as not kill him with his bare hands,
or get shot trying it. I couldn't do that to Smiley.
     I said,  "Smiley, finish your drink and go up to bed again. I've got to
think."
     "Sure there's no way I can help you, Doc?"
     "Positive."
     He tossed off the  rest of his drink and tamped out the cigar in an ash
tray.  He  said, "Okay, Doc, I  know you're smarter  than I am,  and if it's
brains you need for help, I'm just in the way. Good luck to you."
     He walked back to the door of the staircase. He looked carefully at the
front  windows to be sure  nobody was looking in  and then he reached inside
and picked up the revolver from the step on which he'd placed it.
     He came walking over to my table. He said, "Doe, if you are a ho - homi
-  what  you  said, you might want to  kill  somebody else  tonight.  That's
loaded. I even replaced the two bullets I shot out of it, earlier."
     He put it down on the table in  front of me,  turned his back to me and
went back to the  stairs. I watched him  go, marveling. I'd never yet seen a
man in  a nightshirt who hadn't looked ridiculous. Until then. What more can
a man do to prove he  doesn't think you're insane than give you a loaded gun
and then turn his  back and walk away. And  when I thought of  all the times
I'd razzed Smiley and ridden him, all the cracks I'd made at him, I wanted-
     Well, I couldn't  answer when he said  "Goodnight, Doc," just before he
closed  the door behind  him. Something  felt a little wrong with my throat,
and if I'd tried to say anything, I might have bawled.
     My hand shook a little as I poured myself another drink, a short one. I
was beginning to feel them and this had better be my last one, I knew.
     I had to think  more  clearly than I'd ever thought before. I  couldn't
get drunk, I didn't dare.
     I tried  to get my mind back to what I'd been thinking about - what I'd
been  talking about to  the  little man who wasn't  there -  before Smiley's
coming downstairs and Kates' knocking had interrupted me.
     I looked across the  table where Yehudi Smith,  in  my mind,  had  been
sitting. But he wasn't there. I couldn't bring him back. He was dead, and he
wouldn't come back. The quiet room in the quiet night. The dim  light of the
single twenty-watt bulb over the cash register.  The creaking of my thoughts
as I tried to turn them back into the groove. Connect facts.
     Lewis Carroll and bloody murder.
     Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There.
     What had Alice found there?
     Chessmen, and a game of  chess. And Alice herself had been a pawn. That
was why,  of course,  she'd crossed the third  square by  railroad. With the
smoke alone  worth a thousand pounds  a puff - almost  as  expensive as  the
smoke from  my cigar  might have been had not Smiley taken it out of my hand
and claimed it as his own.
     Chessmen, and a game of chess.
     But who was the player?
     And suddenly I knew. Illogically, because he didn't  have a shadow of a
motive. The Why I did not see, but Yehudi Smith had told me the How, and now
I saw the Who.
     The pattern. Whoever had arranged tonight's little chess problem played
chess all right, and played it well.  Looking- glass  chess and  real chess,
both. And  he  knew  me  well  - which meant I  knew him,  too.  He knew  my
weaknesses, the things I'd fall for. He knew I'd go with Yehudi Smith on the
strength of that mad, weird story Smith had told me.
     But  why? What had he to gain? He'd killed Miles Harrison, Ralph Bonney
and Yehudi Smith.  And he'd left the money Miles and Ralph had been carrying
in that brief case and put it in the back of my car, with the two bodies.
     Then money hadn't been the motive. Either that, or the motive had  been
money in such large  quantity that the couple of thousand dollars Bonney had
been carrying didn't matter.
     But wasn't a  man concerned who  was one  of the richest men in  Carmel
City?  Ralph Bonney. His fireworks factory, his other investments,  his real
estate must have added  up to - well,  maybe half  a  million dollars. A man
shooting  for half a million dollars can well abandon the  proceeds of a two
thousand dollar holdup and  leave them with  the bodies of  the men  he  has
killed, to  help  pin  the  crime  on  the pawn  he  has selected  to divert
suspicion from himself.
     Connect facts.
     Ralph Bonney was divorced today. He was murdered tonight.
     Then  Miles  Harrison's  death was  incidental.  Yehudi Smith had  been
another pawn.
     A  warped  mind,  but a brilliant mind.  A cold, cruel mind.  And  yet,
paradoxically, a mind  that  loved  fantasy,  as  I  did,  that  loved Lewis
Carroll, as I did.
     I started to pour myself another drink and then remembered that I still
had only part of the  answer, and that even  if I  had  it all, I hadn't the
slightest idea what I could do with  it, without a shred of  evidence, or an
iota of proof.
     Without even an idea, in my own  mind, of the reason,  the motive.  But
there must be one; the rest of it was too well planned, too logical.
     There was one possibility that I could see.
     I sat there listening a while to be sure there was no  car approaching;
the night was so quiet that, I could have heard one at least a block away.
     I looked at the  gun Smiley had given me  back,  hesitated, and finally
put it  in my pocket. Then I went  into the back room and let  myself out of
the window into the dark alley.
     Carl Trenholm's house was  three blocks away. Luckily,  it was  on  the
street  next  to Oak  Street and  parallel to it.  I could make  all of  the
distance through the alley except for the streets I'd have to cross.
     I heard  a car coming  as I approached the second street  and I  ducked
down and hid behind  a garbage can until it had gone by. It was going slowly
and  it  was probably  either  Hank and the  sheriff or the  two deputies. I
didn't look out to see for fear they might flash a spotlight down the alley.
     I waited until  the sound of  it died away completely before I  crossed
the street.
     I let myself  in the  back gate of Carl's  place. With his wife away, I
wasn't positive which bedroom he'd be  sleeping  in, but I found pebbles and
tossed them at the most likely window and it was the right one.
     It went up and  Carl's head came out. I stepped close to the house so I
wouldn't have to yell. I said, "It's Doc, Carl. Don't light a light anywhere
in the house. But come down to the back door."
     "Coming, Doc."  He closed the window. I went up on  the  back porch and
waited until the  door opened and I went in. I closed the door behind me and
the kitchen was as black as the inside of a tomb.
     Carl said,  "Damned if I know where a flashlight  is, Doc. Can't we put
on a light? I feel like hell."
     "No, leave it off," I told him. I  struck  a match, though, to  find my
way to a chair and it showed me Carl in rumpled pajamas, his hair mussed and
looking like he was in for the grandfather of all hangovers.
     He sat down, too, while the match flared. "What's it  about, Doc? Kates
and Ganzer  were  here looking  for you. Waked me up  a while ago, but  they
didn't tell me much. Are you in a jam, Doc? Did you kill somebody?"
     "No," I said. "Listen, you're Ralph Bonney's lawyer, aren't you? I mean
on everything, not just the divorce today."
     "Yes."
     "Who's his heir, now that he's divorced?"
     "Doc, I'm afraid I can't tell you that. A lawyer isn't supposed to tell
his clients' business. You know that as well as I do."
     "Didn't Kates tell you Ralph Bonney is dead, Carl?  And Miles Harrison?
They  were  murdered  on their  way back  from Neilsville with the  payroll,
somewhere around midnight."
     "My God," Carl said. "No, Kates didn't tell me."
     I said, "I  know you're still not supposed to tell his business until a
will is probated, if  there is one. But listen, let me make a guess and  you
can tell me if I'm  wrong. If I guess right, you won't have to  confirm  it;
just keep your mouth shut."
     "Go ahead, Doc."
     "Bonney had an  illegitimate son  about twenty-three  years ago. But he
supported the boy's mother all her life until she died recently; she worked,
too, as a  milliner but  he  gave  her enough extra so that she lived better
than she would have otherwise,  and she sent the boy to college and gave him
every break."
     I stopped there and waited and Carl didn't say anything.
     I  went on. "Bonney still gave the boy  an allowance. That's how  he  -
hell,  let's call  him by name  -  that's how Al  Grainger  has  been living
without working.  And unless he knows he's in Bonney's will,  he's got proof
of his parentage and can claim the bulk of the estate anyway. And it must be
half a million."
     Carl said, "I'll talk. It'll run about  three hundred thousand. And you
guessed right on Al Grainger, but how you guessed it, I don't know. Bonney's
relations to Mrs. Grainger and  to Al  have  been the best-kept  secret I've
ever  known of. In  fact, outside  of  the parties concerned, I was the only
person who ever knew - or even suspected. How did you guess?"
     "By what happened to me tonight - and that's too complicated to explain
right now. But  Al plays  chess and has  the type  of mind to do things  the
complicated way, and that's  the  way they  happened.  And  he  knows  Lewis
Carroll and-" I stopped because I was still  after facts and didn't want  to
start explaining.
     The night was almost over. I saw a greenish  gleam in the darkness that
reminded me Carl wore a wrist watch with a luminous dial. "What time is it?"
I asked him.
     The gleam  vanished as he turned the dial toward himself. "Almost  five
o'clock. About ten minutes of. Listen, Doc, you've got so  much you might as
well  have the  rest. Yes, Al  has proof of  his parentage.  And, as an only
child,  illegitimate or  not, he can claim the entire estate now that Bonney
isn't married.  He could have cut in for a  fraction of it, of  course, even
before the divorce."
     "Didn't he leave a will?"
     "Ralph  didn't  ever  make a  will. Superstitious about it. I've  often
tried to talk him into making one, but he never would."
     "And Al Grainger knew that?"
     Carl said, "I imagine he would have."
     "Is there any reason why Al would have been in such a  hurry?" I asked.
"I  mean, would there have been any change in status if he'd waited a  while
instead of killing Bonney the night after the divorce?"
     Carl  thought a  minute. "Bonney  was planning  to leave tomorrow for a
long vacation.  Al  would  have had to  wait several months,  and  maybe  he
figured  Bonney might remarry  - meet someone on the cruise he  was going to
take.  It happens that way,  sometimes, on the  rebound after a divorce. And
Bonney is - was, only fifty-two."
     I nodded - to  myself, since Carl couldn't see me in the darkness. That
last bit of information covered everything on the motive end.
     I knew everything  now, except the details and they didn't matter much.
I  knew  why Al had done  everything  that he  had done;  he had to  make an
airtight frame  on someone because  once he claimed Bonney's estate, his own
motive would be obvious.  I could  even guess  some of the reasons why  he'd
picked me for the scapegoat.
     He must have hated me, and kept it carefully under cover. I could see a
reason for  it, now that I knew more about him. I've got a loose tongue  and
often swear at people  affectionately, if you know  what I  mean. How often,
when Al had beaten me in a game of chess had I grinned at him and said, "All
right, you bastard. But try to do it again."
     Never dreaming, of course, that he was one, and knew it.
     He must  have hated me like hell. In some ways he could have picked  an
easier  victim, someone  more  likely than I to  have committed  murder  and
robbery for money. Choosing  me, his plan took more  gobbledegook; he had to
give me such a mad story to tell that nobody would believe a  word of it and
would think, instead, that I'd gone insane. Of course, too, he knew how much
Kates hated me; he counted on that.
     A sudden  thought shook me; could  Kates  have been in on the deal with
Al? That  would account for his trying  to kill  me rather than  lock me up.
Maybe that  was the deal - for a twenty or fifty thousand dollar cut of  the
estate, Kates  had  agreed to shoot me down  under the  pretense that  I had
attacked him or had tried to escape.
     No, I decided  on second  thought, it  hadn't  been that way. I'd  been
alone with Kates in his office for almost half an hour while Hank Ganzer had
been on his way back from Neilsville.  It would have been too easy for Kates
to  have killed me then, planted a weapon on me and claimed that I'd come in
and attacked  him. And when the two  bodies had been  found  in my car,  the
story  would have been perfectly credible. It would even have pointed up the
indication that I'd gone homicidally insane.
     No,  Kates' motive for wanting  to kill  me  had  been  personal, sheer
malice because of the things I'd written about him in editorials and the way
I'd fought him in elections.  He'd wanted to kill  me and had seen  a sudden
opportunity when the bodies had been found in my car. He'd passed up a  much
better chance because, when I was alone with him for so long  in his office,
he hadn't known the bodies were there.
     No, definitely this was a one-man job, except for Yehudi  Smith. Al had
hired  Smith  to  keep me diverted, but when  Smith's job was  done,  he was
eliminated. Another pawn. Chess isn't a team game.
     Carl said, "How are you mixed in this, Doc? What can I do?"
     "Nothing," I  said. It was my problem, not Carl's. I'd kept  Smiley out
of  it;  I'd keep Carl out of it,  too. Except for the  information and help
he'd already given me. "Go up to bed, Carl. I've  got a little more thinking
to do."
     "Hell with that. I can't sleep with you sitting down here thinking. But
I'll sit here and shut up unless you talk to me. You  can't tell whether I'm
here or not anyway, if I shut up."
     I said, "Shut up, then."
     Proof, I thought. But what proof?  Somewhere,  but God knew where,  was
the dead body of the actor Al had hired to play the role of Yehudi. But this
had been planned, and well planned.  Suitable disposal of that body had been
arranged for long before  Al  had taken it away from the  Wentworth place. I
wasn't going to turn up at random and one guess was as good as another as to
where he'd hidden or buried it. He'd had hours to do it in and he'd known in
advance every step he was going to take.
     The  car in which Yehudi Smith had driven me to the Wentworth house and
which he'd switched  for my  own car after he'd  used mine for  the supposed
holdup. No,  I couldn't find that car as proof and it wouldn't mean anything
if I did. It could have been - probably was - a stolen car, and now returned
to  wherever  he'd stolen it  from, never  missed by its owner. And I didn't
even remember what make or model it was. All I remembered was that it had an
onyx gear shift knob and a  push button radio. I didn't even know whether it
was a Cadillac convertible, or a Ford business coupe.
     Had Al arranged any kind of an alibi for himself?
     Maybe, maybe not, but  what did it matter unless I could find something
against him besides motive?  That, and my own certainty that he'd done it. I
hadn't any alibi, none at all. I had an incredible  story and two bodies and
the  stolen money in my car. And a sheriff and three deputies looking for me
and ready to shoot on sight.
     I had the  murder weapon in my pocket.  And another gun, too,  a loaded
one.
     Could I  go to Al Grainger and scare him into writing out and signing a
confession?
     He'd laugh at me. I'd laugh at myself for trying. A man with the warped
brain that would work out something  like Al's plan tonight wasn't  going to
tell me what time it was just because I pointed a gun at him.
     A  faint touch of light was showing  at the  windows. I could even make
out Carl sitting there across the table from me.
     "Carl," I said.
     "Yes, Doc? Say, I was letting  you think but  I'm glad you  spoke. Just
had an idea."
     "An idea's what I need," I told him. "What is it?"
     "Want a drink?"
     I asked, "Is that the idea?"
     "That's the idea. Look, I'm hung over to hell and back and I can't have
one with you, but I just realized what a lousy host I was. Do you want one?"
     "Thanks," I said, "but I had a drink. Listen, Carl, talk to me about Al
Grainger. Don't ask me what to say. Just talk."
     "Anything, at random?"
     "Anything, at random."
     "Well,  he's  always  impressed  me  as being  a little  off the  beam.
Brilliant, but - well, twisted, somehow. Maybe his knowledge of who and what
he was contributed to that. Smiley always felt that, too; he's  mentioned it
to me.  Not that Smiley knows who or  what Al is, but he just felt something
was wrong."
     I said, "My opinion  of Smiley has changed a lot tonight. He's smarter,
and a better guy, than both of us put together, Carl. But go on about Al."
     "Touch of Oedipus, complicated by bastardry. Probably, in some  obscure
way, managed  to blame Bonney for  his mother's death. Not a real paranoiac,
but near enough to do something like  that. Sadism - most of us have a touch
of it, but Al a little more than most."
     I said, "Most of us have a touch of everything. Go on."
     "Pyrophobia.  But you  know about that.  Not  that  we  haven't all got
phobias. Your acrophobia  and my being afraid  of  cats. But  Al's is pretty
bad. So afraid of fire that he doesn't smoke and I've noticed him wince when
I've lighted a cig-"
     "Shut up, Carl," I said.
     I should have thought of it myself, sooner. A lot sooner.
     I said, "I'll have that drink, Carl. Just one, but a good one."
     I didn't need it physically, but I  needed it mentally this time. I was
scared stiff at the very thought of what I was going to do.



          One, two! One, two! And through and through
                 The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
          He left it dead, and with its head
                 He went galumphing back.

     The windows were faint gray rectangles; now, with my eyes accustomed to
the decreasing darkness, I could see Carl almost clearly as he  went  to the
cupboard and groped until he had the bottle he was looking for.
     He said, "Doc, you sound happy enough that I'll have one with you. Hair
of the dog, for me. Kill or cure."
     He got two glasses, too, from over the sink, breaking only one glass by
knocking  it into the  sink in  the process. He said a  nasty  word and then
brought the  glasses  to the table. I struck a match and  held  it  while he
poured whisky into them.
     He said, "Damn you, Doc, if you're going to do this often. I'm going to
get  some luminous paint.  I could  paint bands  around the glasses and  the
bottles. And say, know what else I could do? I could paint a chessboard  and
a set of chessmen with luminous paint, too.  Then we could sit here and play
chess in the dark."
     "I'm playing, Carl, right now. I just reached the seventh square. Maybe
somebody'll  crown me on the next move, when I reach the king-row.  Have you
got any cleaning fluid?"
     He'd  started to reach for his glass,  but  he pulled his hand back and
looked at me instead.
     "Cleaning fluid? Isn't whisky good enough for you?"
     "I don't want it to drink," I explained. "I want it not to burn."
     He shook his head a trifle. "Again and slowly."
     "I want some of the kind that isn't inflammable. You know what I mean."
     "Wife's got  some kind of cleaning fluid around. Whether it's that kind
or not, I don't know. I'll look."
     He  looked, using  my matches  and examining the  labels  of a  row  of
bottles in the compartment under the sink. He came up with one and looked at
it  closely. "Hope. This is marked `Danger'  in big  letters  and `Keep away
from fire.' Guess we haven't got the non-inflammable kind."
     I sighed. It would  have been simple if Carl had had the right brand. I
had some myself, at home, but I didn't want to go there. It meant a  trip to
the supermarket.
     And  I  didn't  ask  Carl  for  a  candle.  I  could  get  that at  the
supermarket, too, and I neither wanted Carl  to think I was crazy or to have
to explain to him what I was going to do.
     We had our drink. Carl shuddered  at his, but got  it  down.  He  said,
"Doc, listen, isn't there anything I can do?"
     I turned back  at the door.  "You've done plenty," I told him.  "But if
you want to do more, you might get dressed and ready. I might be phoning you
soon if everything goes all right. I might need you then."
     "Doc, wait. I'll get dressed now, and-"
     "You'd be in the way, Carl," I told him.
     And got out quickly before he could press  me any farther. If he'd even
guessed how bad a jam I was in  or what a damn fool thing I was going to do,
he'd have  knocked  me down and  tied me up  before he'd have let me out  of
there.
     Dim gray  light of early morning now, and I  no longer had to grope  my
way. I'd forgotten to ask Carl the time again but it must be about a quarter
after five.
     I was under greater risk, now, of being seen if Kates and the  deputies
were still cruising around  looking for  me, but  I had  a hunch that they'd
have  given up by now,  convinced that I'd holed in somewhere.  Probably now
they were concentrating  on  the roads  so I couldn't get  out of  town. And
getting out of town was the farthest thing from my mind.
     I stayed in the alleys, just  the same. Back the way I'd come and ready
to dive between garages or behind a garbage can at the first sound of a car.
But there weren't any cars; five-fifteen is early even in Carmel City.
     The  supermarket wasn't open  yet. I wrapped my handkerchief around the
butt of one of my two revolvers  - Two-Gun Stoeger, they call me - and broke
a pane in one  of the back windows.  It made a hell  of  a racket, but there
aren't any  residences in that block and nobody heard me, or at least nobody
did anything about it.
     I let myself in and started my shopping.
     Cleaning fluid.  Two kinds;  I needed some of the non- inflammable kind
and, now that I thought of it, a bottle of the kind that was marked "Danger.
Keep away from fire."
     I  opened  both of  them  and they smelled  about alike. I  poured  the
inflammable kind down the drain of the sink at the back and replaced it with
the kind that doesn't burn.
     I even  made  sure  that it  wouldn't burn; I poured  some on a rag and
tried to light the rag. Maybe it  would have been in keeping with everything
else that had been happening if that rag had burned and I hadn't  been  able
to put  it out,  if I'd burned  the supermarket down and added arson  to  my
other accomplishments of the night. But  the rag wouldn't burn any more than
if I'd soaked it with water instead of the gasoline-smelling cleaning fluid.
     I  thought  out carefully  what other items  I'd  need, and shopped for
them;  some rolls of  one-inch adhesive tape, a candle,  and a cake of soap.
I'd  heard that a  cake of soap, inside a sock, made a  good  blackjack; the
soap is just soft enough to stun without killing. I took off one of my socks
and made myself a blackjack.
     My pockets  were pretty well laden by the time I left the supermarket -
by the same window through which I'd entered. I was pretty far gone in crime
by then; it never occurred to me to leave money for my purchases.
     It was  almost daylight. A clear gray dawn that looked  like the herald
of a good day - for someone; whether for me or not I'd know soon.
     I  stuck to the  alleys, back the way I'd come and three blocks on past
Carl's house.
     Al Grainger's. A one-story, three-room house, about the size of mine.
     It was almost six o'clock by then. He was asleep by now, if he was ever
going  to sleep. And somehow I thought he would  be asleep by now. He'd have
been through with everything he  had  to do by two  o'clock, four hours ago.
What he'd done might have kept him awake for a while, but not into  the next
day.
     I cased  the joint, and sighed with relief at one problem solved when I
saw that the bedroom window wasn't closed. It opened onto the back porch and
I could step into it easily.
     I  bent  and stepped  through  it.  I  didn't make  much  noise  and Al
Grainger,  sleeping soundly  in the bed, didn't  awaken. I had my gun -  the
loaded one - in my right hand and ready to use in case he did.
     But  I kept my right hand and the loaded  gun out of  sight.  I got the
rusty,  unloaded Iver-Johnson, the gun that had been  used  as a bludgeon to
kill Miles and Bonney, into my left hand. I had a test  in mind which, if it
worked, would be absolute proof to me that Al was guilty. If it didn't work,
it wouldn't  disprove it and I'd go ahead just the same, but it  didn't cost
anything to try.
     It was  still dim in the  room and I reached  out with my left hand and
turned on the lamp that stood beside the bed. I wanted him  to see that gun.
He moved restlessly as the light went on, but he didn't awaken.
     "Al," I said.
     He wakened then, all right. He  sat up in bed and stared at me. I said,
"Put up your hands, Al," and held the  gun in my  left hand pointed at  him,
standing far enough back that he couldn't grab at me but near enough that he
could see the gun clearly in the pale glow of the lamp I'd lighted.
     He looked from my face to the gun and  back  again.  He threw  back the
sheet  to get  out  of bed. He said,  "Don't be a fool, Doc. That  gun isn't
loaded and it wouldn't shoot if it was."
     If I'd needed any more proof, I had it.
     He  was starting  to move  his feet toward  the  edge of the bed when I
brought my  right hand, holding the  other gun,  around into sight. I  said,
"This one is loaded, and works."
     He stopped  moving  his feet.  I dropped  the rusty  gun  into  my coat
pocket. I said, "Turn around, Al."
     He hesitated and I cocked  the revolver. It was aimed at him from about
five feet, too  close to miss him if  I pulled the  trigger and just too far
for  him to risk grabbing at,  especially from  an awkward sitting-up-in-bed
position. I could see him considering the odds, coldly, impartially.
     He decided they weren't good. And he decided, probably, that if  he let
me take him, it wouldn't matter to his plans anyway. If I turned him over to
the police  along  with  my  story, it wouldn't  strengthen my  story in the
least.
     "Turn around, Al," I repeated.
     He still stared at me calculatingly. I  could see what he was thinking;
if he turned, I was probably going to slug him with the butt of the revolver
and whatever my intentions, I might hit too hard. And if I killed him,  even
accidentally, it wouldn't help him any  to know  that they'd get me for  one
extra murder. I repeated,  "Turn around, and put your  hands out in  back of
you."
     I could see some of the  tenseness go out of him at that. If I was only
going to tie him up-
     He turned around. I  quickly switched the revolver to my  left hand and
pulled out the improvised blackjack I'd made of a sock and a cake of soap. I
made  a silent prayer that  I'd guessed right on the  swing  and not hit too
hard or not hard enough, and I swung.
     The thud scared me. I thought I'd killed him, and I knew that he wasn't
shamming when he dropped back flat on the bed because his  head hit the head
of the bed with a second thud that was almost as loud as the first.
     And if he had been  shamming  he could  have taken me easily, because I
was so  scared  that I put the revolver  down. I couldn't even put it in  my
pocket because  it  was cocked and I  didn't know  how to uncock it  without
shooting it off. So I put it on the night stand beside the bed and bent over
him to feel his heart. It was still beating.
     I got  the rolls of adhesive tape out of my pocket and started to work.
I taped around his mouth so he  couldn't yell, and I taped his legs together
at  the ankles  and at the knees. I taped his left  wrist to his left thigh,
and I used a whole roll of adhesive to tape  his right arm against  his side
above the elbow. His right hand had to be free.
     I  found  some  clothesline in  the kitchen  and  tied him to the  bed,
managing as I did so to pull him  up into an almost sitting position against
the head of the bed.
     I got a  pad  of paper, foolscap, from  his  desk  and I  put it and my
ball-point pen within reach of his right hand.
     There wasn't anything I could do but sit down and wait, then.
     Ten minutes, maybe fifteen, and it  was getting pretty light outside. I
began to get impatient. Probably there  wasn't any hurry; Al Grainger always
slept late so no one would miss  him for a long time yet but the waiting was
horrible.
     I decided that I could take a drink again and that I needed one. I went
out into his kitchen and hunted till I found a bottle. It was gin instead of
whisky, but it would serve the purpose. It tasted horrible.
     When I got back to the bedroom he was awake.  So wide awake that I felt
pretty sure that he'd been playing possum for a while, stalling for time. He
was trying desperately with his free right hand  to peel  off the tape  that
held his left wrist to his thigh.
     But  with his right arm held  tight  against  his side  at the elbow he
wasn't making much headway. When I picked up the gun off  the night stand he
stopped trying. He glared at me.
     I said, "Hi, Al. We're in the seventh square."
     I wasn't in any hurry now, none at all. I sat down comfortably before I
went on.
     "Listen, Al," I told him, "I left your right  hand free so you can  use
that paper and the pin. I want you to do a  little writing for me. I'll hold
the pad for you so you can see what you're writing. Or don't you feel in the
mood to write, Al?"
     He merely lay back quietly and closed his eyes.
     I said, "All I  want you to write  is that you  killed Ralph Bonney and
Miles Harrison last night. That you took my car out and  intercepted them on
the way back  from Neilsville, probably on  foot  with my car out  of sight.
They knew you and would stop for you and  let you in  the car. So you got in
the  back seat and before Miles, who'd be driving, could start the car again
you slugged him over the head  and  then slugged Bonney. Then you  put their
bodies  in my car and left theirs somewhere off the road. And then you drove
to the Wentworth place and  left my  car  instead of whatever  car  I'd been
driven there in. Or am I wrong on any little details, Al?"
     He didn't answer, not that I'd expected him to.
     I said, "There'll be quite a bit  of writing, because I, want you  also
to  explain how you hired an actor to use the name Yehudi Smith and  give me
such an incredible story to tell that no one would ever  believe me.  I want
you to tell how you had him  entice me to the Wentworth place and about that
bottle you left there and what was in it. And that you'd instructed him that
he was to drink  it. And what his  right name was and what you did with  his
body."
     I said,  "I guess that'll be enough for you to  write, Al.  You needn't
write  what the motive  was; that'll be obvious after  your relationship  to
Ralph  Bonney comes  to  light, as it will. And you  needn't  write  all the
little details  about  how or when  you let  the air  out  of my  tires so I
wouldn't be using my car nor how or when you used my shop to print that card
with the name Yehudi Smith and my union label number. And you  needn't write
why you picked me to take the blame for the murders. In fact,  I'm not proud
of that part of it  at all.  It makes  me  a little ashamed of the thing I'm
going  to  have  to do in order to persuade you  to do the writing I've been
talking about."
     I was a little ashamed, but not enough so to keep me from doing it.
     I  took the bottle  of non-inflammable cleaning fluid that smelled like
gasoline and opened it.
     Al Grainger's  eyes opened,  too,  as  I began to sprinkle  it over the
sheets and his pajamas. I  managed to hold the  bottle so he could  read the
"Danger" warning and, if his eyes were good enough for the smaller type, the
"Keep away from fire" part.
     I emptied the whole bottle, ending up with quite  a big  wet spot of it
at  a point at one side of his knees where he could see it clearly. The room
reeked with the gasoline-like odor.
     I got out the candle and my knife and cut a piece an inch long  off the
top  of  the candle.  I smoothed out the wet spot on the sheet  and put  the
candle top down carefully.
     "I'm going to light this, Al, and you'd better not  move much or you'll
knock it over. And I'm sure a pyrophobiac wouldn't like what would happen to
him then. And you're a pyrophobiac, Al."
     His eyes  were wide with horror  as  I lighted the match.  If his mouth
hadn't been taped, he'd have  screamed  in  terror. Every muscle of his body
was rigid.
     He tried to play  possum on me again, probably figuring  I wouldn't  go
through with it  if he was unconscious, if I thought he'd fainted. He  could
do it with his eyes, but the muscles of the  rest of his body gave him away.
He couldn't relax them if it would have saved his life.
     I lighted the candle, and sat down again.
     "An inch  of  candle, Al," I  said. "Maybe ten minutes if you  stay  as
still as that. Sooner if you get reckless and wriggle a toe or finger.  That
candle isn't too stable standing there on a soft mattress."
     His eyes were open again,  staring at  that candle burning down  toward
the soaked  sheet, staring in utter horror.  I  hated myself for what I  was
doing to him, but I kept on doing  it just the  same. I thought of three men
murdered tonight and steeled myself. And after all,  Al's only danger was in
his  mind.  That wet spot  on the sheet was stuff that would keep  the sheet
itself from burning.
     "Ready to write, Al?"
     His  horror-filled eyes  shifted from  the candle to  my  face, but  he
didn't nod. I thought for a moment that  he was calling my bluff, and then I
realized that the reason  he didn't nod  was  because he was  afraid to make
even  that slight a  muscular movement for fear of  knocking  over the short
candle.
     I said, "All  right,  Al, I'll see if you're ready. If you aren't, I'll
put the  candle back where it was, and I'll let it keep burning meanwhile so
you won't have gained any time." I  picked up the candle gently and  put  it
down on the night stand.
     I held the pad. He started to write and then stopped, and I reached for
the candle. The pen started moving again.
     After a while I said, "That's enough. Just sign it."
     I sighed with relief and went to the telephone. Carl Trenholm must have
been sitting beside his own phone; he answered almost before it had finished
ringing the first time.
     "Dressed and ready?" I asked him.
     "Right, Doc. What do I do?"
     "I've got Al Grainger's confession. I want it turned over to the law to
clear me, but it's not safe for me to do it direct. Kates would shoot before
he'd read and some  of  the  deputies might. You'll have to do  it  for  me,
Carl."
     "Where are you? At Al's?"
     "Yes."
     "I'll be around. And I'll bring Ganzer to get Al. It's  all right; Hank
won't  shoot. I've been talking  reason to him and  he admits  somebody else
could  have  put those  bodies  in  your car. And  when I tell him there's a
confession from Grainger, he'll listen."
     "How  about  Kates, though?  And  how  come  you  were talking  to Hank
Ganzer?"
     "He called up here, looking for Kates. Kates left him to go back to the
office an hour or two  ago and  never got  to the office and they don't know
where he is. But  don't worry. Kates won't take  any  shots at you if you're
with Ganzer and me both. I'll be right around."
     I phoned Pete and told him that all hell had been popping  and that now
we had a  story we could  use, one even  bigger than the  ones  that had got
away. He said he'd  get right down to the shop and get the fire going  under
the  Linotype's metal pot.  "I was just leaving anyway, Doc," he said. "It's
half past seven."
     It was. I looked out the window and  saw that  it was broad daylight. I
sat down and jittered until Carl and Hank got there.
     It  was eight  o'clock exactly when I  got to the office. Once Hank had
seen that confession  he'd let Carl and me talk him into letting Grainger do
any  explaining that remained so I could get the paper out  in time. It  was
going  to take  me a  good  two hours  to get  that story  written  and we'd
probably go to press a little later than usual anyway.
     Pete got  to work dismantling page one to make room for it - and plenty
of  room. I phoned the restaurant  and talked  them  into sending  up  a big
thermos jug of hot black coffee and started pounding my typewriter.
     The  phone  rang and  I picked it up. "Doc Stoeger?" it said. "`This is
Dr.  Buchan at the asylum. You were so kind last night about not running the
story about Mrs. Griswald's escape and recapture that I decided  it was only
fair to tell you that you can run it after all, if there's still time."
     "There's  still time," I said.  "We're going to  be late going to press
anyway. And thanks. But what came up? I thought Mrs. G. didn't want to worry
her daughter in Springfield."
     "Her daughter knows anyway. A friend of hers here - one whom we went to
see while we were hunting our patient - phoned her to tell her about it. And
she telephoned the  asylum to  be  sure  her  mother  was all right.  So she
already knows and you might as well have the story after all."
     I said, "Fine, Dr. Buchan. Thanks a lot for calling."
     Back to the typewriter. The black coffee came and I drank almost a full
cup of it the first gulp and damn near scalded myself.
     The asylum story was quick and easy to get out of the way so I wrote it
up first. I'd just finished when the phone rang again.
     "Mr. Stoeger?" it asked me. "This is Ward Howard, superintendent of the
fireworks factory. We  had a slight accident in the plant yesterday that I'd
like you to run a short story on, if it's not too late."
     "It's  not too  late," I said, "provided the  accident was in the Roman
candle department. Was it?"
     "Oh, so you already knew. Do you have  the details or shall I give them
to you?"
     I let him give them and took  notes and then I asked him how  come they
wanted the story printed.
     "Change of policy,  Mr. Stoeger. You  see there have been rumors  going
around  town about  accidents here  that don't  happen - but are supposed to
have  happened  and to  have  been  kept  out  of  the paper. I'm  afraid my
grammar's a bit involved there. I  mean that we've decided that if the truth
is printed about accidents that really do happen, it will help prevent false
rumors and wild stories."
     I told him I understood and thanked him.
     I   drank   more   black   coffee   and   worked   a   while   on   the
Bonney-Harrison-Smith murder story  and then sandwiched in the  Roman candle
department story and then went back to the big story.
     All I needed now was-
     Captain  Evans  of the state police came in. I  glared up at him and he
grinned down at me..
     I said,  "Don't tell me. You've come to tell me that  I can, after all,
run the story of Smiley's  and my little ride with the two gangsters and how
Smiley  captured  one and killed one. It's  just what I need. I can  spare a
stick of type back in the want ads."
     He grinned again and  pulled up a chair. He sat down in it,. but I paid
no further attention; I went on typing.
     Then  he  pushed  his hat  back on his  head  and said quietly, "That's
right, Doc."
     I made four typing errors in a three letter word and then turned around
and looked at him. "Huh?" I said. "I was kidding. Wasn't I?"
     "Maybe you were, but I'm not. You can run the story, Doc. They got Gene
Kelley in Chicago two hours ago."
     I  groaned happily. Then  I glared  at him again. I said, "Then get the
hell out of here. I've got work to do."
     "Don't you want the rest of the story?"
     "What rest of it? I don't need  details of how they got Kelley, just so
they got him. That's, from my  point of view, a footnote of the local angle,
and the  local angle is what happened here in the county to George and Bat -
and to Smiley and me. Now scram."
     I typed another sentence. He said, "Doc,"  and the  way he said it made
me take my hands away from the typewriter and look at him.
     He said,  "Doc, relax. It is local. There was  one  thing I didn't tell
you last night because it was too local and  too hot. One other thing we got
out of  Bat  Masters.  They weren't heading for Chicago or  Gary Tight away.
They  were going to hole up overnight at a hideout  for crooks - it's a farm
run by a man named George Dixon, up in the hills. An isolated place. We knew
Dixon as an  ex-crook but never guessed he was  running a rest home for boys
who were  hiding  out from  the  law. We raided it  last night. We  got four
criminals  wanted  in Chicago who  were staying there.  And we  found, among
other things, some  letters and  papers that told  us where Gene Kelley  was
staying. We phoned Chicago quick and they got him, so  you can run the whole
story - the other members of the gang won't keep that hotel date anyway. But
we'll settle for having Kelley in the bag - and the rest of  our haul at the
Dixon farm. That's local, Doc. Want names and such?"
     I wanted names and such. I grabbed a pencil.  Where  I was going to put
the story, I didn't know.  Evans talked a while and I took notes until I had
all I wanted and then I said again, "Now please don't give me any  more. I'm
going nuts already."
     He  laughed and got up. He said, "Okay, Doc."  He strolled to  the door
and then turned around after he was halfway through it. "Then you don't want
to know about Sheriff Kates' being under arrest."
     He went on through and was halfway down  the stairs before I caught him
and dragged him back.
     Dixon, who ran  the crook-hideout, had  been paying protection to Kates
and  had  proof  of  it. When  he'd  been  raided  he'd  thought  Kates  had
double-crossed him, and he'd talked. The  state police had headed for Kates'
office and  had picked him  up  as he was entering  the  courthouse  at  six
o'clock.
     I sent out for more black coffee.
     There was only  one more interruption and it came  just before  we were
finally closing the forms at half past eleven.
     Clyde Andrews. He said, "Doc,  I want  to thank you again for  what you
did last night. And to tell you  that the boy and I have had a long talk and
everything is going to be all right."
     "That's wonderful, Clyde."
     "Another thing, Doc, and I hope this isn't bad news for you.  I mean, I
hope you were deciding not to sell the paper, because I  got a telegram from
my brother in Ohio;  he's definitely taking that offer from out West, so the
deal on the paper is off. I'm sorry if you were going to decide to sell."
     I said, "That's wonderful, Clyde. But hold the line a second. I'm going
to put an ad in the paper to sell it instead."
     I yelled across the room to Pete. "Hey, Pete, kill something  somewhere
and  set up an ad in sixty-point type. `FOR SALE,  THE CARMEL  CITY CLARION.
PRICE, ONE MILLION DOLLARS.' "
     Back into the phone, "Hear that, Clyde?"
     He chuckled. "I'm glad you feel that way about it, Doc. Listen, there's
one more thing. Mr. Rogers  just  called  me. He says  that we've discovered
that the Scouts are going to use the church gym next Tuesday instead of this
Tuesday.  So we're going to have the rummage sale  after all. If you haven't
gone to press and if you haven't got enough news to fill out-"
     I nearly choked, but I managed to tell him we'd run the story.
     I  got to  Smiley's at half past  twelve with  the first paper  off the
press in my hands. Held carefully.
     I  put  it proudly on the bar. "Read," I  told  Smiley. "But first  the
bottle and  a glass. I'm half  dead and I haven't had a drink for almost six
hours. I'm too keyed up to sleep. And I need three quick ones."
     I had three quick ones while Smiley read the headlines.
     The  room began  to waver a little and I realized I'd better get to bed
and quickly. I  said, "Good night, Smiley.  'Sbeen wonnerful  knowing you. I
gotta-"
     I started for the door.
     Smiley said, "Doc. Let me  drive you  home."  His voice came from miles
and miles away. I saw him start around the end of the bar.
     "Doc," he was saying, "sit down and hang on till I get there before you
fall down flat on your face."
     But the nearest stool  was miles  away through the  brillig, and slithy
toves were gimbling at me from the  wabe. Smiley's warning had been at least
half a second too late.

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