Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Poor Man's Wealth

On a sunny spring day long, long ago a sad raccoon found himself tired and alone in the middle of a forest. For many days the raccoon had been traveling in search of something that would bring him happiness, but his journey had found him only more sadness. His feet were sore, his fur was matted, and—as he had eaten his last cob of corn the night before—he was without food. Just when the raccoon was about to surrender all hope of ever finding happiness a man with a wide smile on his face and a sack of potatoes over his shoulder came into sight.

"Hello," the raccoon said.

"Hello," the man returned.

Please sir, I'm so hungry. Could I have some potatoes? Just one?”

The man thought for a moment, but his smiling expression never changed.

"Alright," he answered, "I will share my potatoes with you."

The man handed the raccoon a potato and together they sat amidst the trees and enjoyed a delightful meal and a pleasant conversation. But as he turned to leave the sack tore open and potatoes spilled out across the forest floor. The smiling man didn't seem to notice and continued on his way, leaving the potatoes and the raccoon behind.

"With all these potatoes I won't go hungry for weeks!" exclaimed the raccoon, and he greedily stuffed the spuds into his own purse.

The next day he continued his search. He discovered a cottage in a clearing deep within the woods. Curious as to who would live in such a place, the raccoon knocked on the door. When it opened he found himself looking at none-other than the man from the day before. The man's smile was still so wide that the raccoon wondered if the potatoes had been missed at all.

"My friend Mr. Raccoon," the man said merrily. "What a surprise to see you here. Come, you must meet my family."

Before the raccoon could utter a single word of greeting, he was yanked into the cottage and the door was shut behind him. He found himself in a small room filled with blankets and beds. Playing with some wooden toys scattered about the floor were two children, a girl and a boy. Sitting on a rocking chair beside a tender fire was a woman feeding an infant child from a bottle of warm milk. All the occupants of the home wore smiles so wide they seemed too large for their faces. After introductions had been made, the raccoon asked the man to join him outside where they could speak privately.

"What do you wish to ask me, Mr. Raccoon?"

"Yourself and your family all seem so happy," said the raccoon. "Where does your happiness come from?"

"Our happiness? Our happiness comes from our wealth of course," the man laughed.

"What wealth? From all outward appearance, you're as poor as they come!"

"Stay with us," said the man, "and I shall share my wealth with you.”

And so the raccoon stayed with the family for many months. Each day he would try to uncover the secrets of their happiness. On one day when they were having scrambled eggs for breakfast he asked if the family's wealth was eggs but the man said no, that wasn't it. On another day the raccoon asked if the wealth came from the livestock kept in the barn outside, but no, the man said that was not the wealth either. It seemed to the raccoon that the man must have been hiding his wealth, so the raccoon cooked up a nasty scheme. Each day he would hide something that belonged to the man and see what he wept for most. Whichever thing brought the most tears would have to be whatever he considered his wealth.

That night the raccoon snuck out to the barn. He unlocked all the gates and opened all the doors, releasing the animals into the forest. When the next day came, the raccoon found the man did not weep but was merely puzzled by the animals' sudden disappearance. Deciding the livestock was not the man's wealth, the raccoon looked for something else. That night, while all were asleep, the raccoon stole the cooking supplies and buried them in the forest. Neither the man nor his wife seemed troubled by the vanishing pots and pans, and continued their day smiling as they always did.

For several days and nights this continued, until at last there was little left in the home. The raccoon had hidden the man's gold watch, the children's toys, the wife's rocking chair and even the infant's bottle, but nothing seemed to make the family stop smiling. At last the raccoon decided the wealth must be the house itself. So one day, while the family was outside hanging laundry and watching the clouds in the sky, the raccoon lit fire to their home and burned it to the ground.

"What a terrible loss," the raccoon said to the man as they watched the cottage burn.

"Indeed it is, but we have family who will take us in," the man said, still smiling.

The man's smile finally caused the raccoon to snap. "Listen you. You've lost everything. Your pots and your pans, your roosters and hens, even the gold watch from your old man. Before you is your home, rising to the heavens in pillars of black smoke. Yet you smile. You still smile. Tell me good sir; please tell me as you promised I would learn. What is the wealth that keeps you happy?"

The man looked at the raccoon. "Oh, poor Mr. Raccoon. None of those things were my wealth. Despite staying with us for so long, you still have not learned what it is that keeps us happy? I suppose I will need to tell you then."

The man walked over to his children and his wife and his infant son. "This is my family, and they are all the wealth I need."

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

"Homicide Handicap" by Anonymous/Unknown

Homicide Handicap

Beads of perspiration stood out on Mike Radcliff's brow as he rose from the poker game. Danny Hackett, the big shot of the gambling racket, stood with fishy eyes glaring down on the stack of chips.

"Go to your old man, then," said Hackett. "Go anywhere, but have the dough here by tomorrow morning or the bank examiners will be looking over your accounts. We have ways of putting the right parties wise."

"I'll have it," said Radcliff.

He went to his car and turned about in the bluestone drive. Only the red neon sign of Hackett's Tavern lit the night's darkness. The rest of the town was still and quiet.

Outside the city limits he opened up and made sixty-five before he came to the curve in the road. As he slowed down to take the curve, he spotted a dim light in a little junction store. He went ahead a hundred yards until the road turned again, then pulled his car over to the gutter, stopped his motor and turned off the lights.

He walked back to the store. Outside the door the storekeeper was just turning the key in the lock. As he stepped out onto the sidewalk, Radcliff approached him.

"I'm having trouble with my car," he said. "Run out of gas. Can you give me a lift into town?"

The old man never had a chance to answer before Radcliff brought the rock down on the top of his head. The man sank to the ground and Radcliff lifted him bodily and set him in the seat of the sedan parked in front of the store.

With trembling fingers Radcliff ran through the old man's pockets until he touched the wallet inside his coat. He drew it out. His fingers felt inside the leather. There were bills there. He couldn't take time to count, but the wad was thick. Reaching into the man's pocket he found a bunch of keys. He tried one that seemed right for the car's ignition. The key turned on the switch. Radcliff started the motor.

Then in the light of the dash, he fingered through the wallet. He drew out seventy-five dollars. It left quite a bit more, but he resisted the temptation, folded the wallet, placed it back in the man's pocket.

He threw the car into low gear and started off down the road. A quarter of a mile beyond the store the road rose along a hill. Radcliff took the climb in second. Just past the crown of the rise, he turned the wheels for the white rail fence, jumped out onto the pavement. He stood transfixed as the car swerved. A clash of steel and glass, of splintering wood! The car dove out of sight.

Radcliff retraced his steps. No car or person came by as he appraoched his own car on the road side. He got into his own car and drove on down the road.

At the crest of the hill he stopped his car and got out, inspected the damage to the fence, retraced his steps to his car and roared on to the next town of Davis.

He drove up to the policeman on the street and said, "There's been an accident on the Mountain Road. I can direct you to the place."

Julian Cross, the detective from the Davis police department, looked inside the car.

"Old Pop Quigley," he mused. "Who could ever have wanted to kill the old man?"

Radcliff blanched in the darkness. "Why, how do you figure that?" he asked. "It looks to me like an accident."

"Maybe so," the officer replied. "But I'd say offhand it's murder."

"But I saw it, Officer. The old man left the store, was just driving off when I came up to the curve."

"Go on," said Cross.

"Well, that's about all. He drove on up the hill and crashed through the fence."

Cross walked over to Radcliff. "You wouldn't have happened to have murdered him, would you?"

Radcliff gasped. Then, guiltily, without reason, he reached toward the ground.

Cross sprang forward, as Radcliff rose with a stone in his hand. The cop swept a haymaker full against Radcliff's jaw. The murderer went down.

"Come up with your hands raised," he said. "You picked the wrong guy that time. Pop Quigley's as blind as a bat. He was expecting his daughter to come along by bus and drive him home."

"Lessons in Larceny" by Anonymous/Unknown

Lessons in Larceny

Jerry Burns rose from the caddy bench at the Greenway Golf Club and walked slowly toward the roadster. His nose was deep in Hershey's Elementary Chemistry.

"Come on, kid, hurry up!" Al Salvo shouted from the car.

"Sorry, Mr. Salvo. I've got a high school chemistry exam coming up."

Salvo was a slight man. He left the car and approached Jerry.

"Don't you want to caddy for me?" Salvo asked impatiently. "I'm here to play golf, not to worry about you."

"Yes, sir," said Jerry. He shoved Hershey's Chemistry into his shirt and took the two golf bags from Salvo's hands.

Three others of the party approached. Jerry knew Dina Cross, Salvo's secretary, but the other two were strangers. Salvo's expression changed as they drew near. He smiled, looking as if trying hard to be a charming host.

"Let Betty and Ben tee off first," said Salvo.

Dina Cross flashed a smile at Betty. "Go ahead, dear," she said laughing.

Betty swung the driver gracefully, but she blushed as she watched the ball bounce off the fairway and into the rough.

Al Salvo laughed. "Let's all help find the ball."

Jerry was poking about the dry leaves and could not help overhearing Betty.

"Isn't Mr. Salvo nice, Ben?" she asked. "I'm sure glad I work for him and Miss Cross, for now he'll promote your invention. Did you bring the formula?"

"Right here," Ben replied.

There was a gentle breeze blowing from off where Salvo and Dina Cross were searching. As Jerry worked his way through the leaves in their direction, their conversation came to him.

"It will take all night to get around the course the way they play," he heard Dina say. "You've got to think of a way to get the formula sooner. He might change his mind."

"Yeah, and gasoline made from sawdust will make millions for us, baby. I'll suggest dinner at the clubhouse."

Jerry stood uncertainly, wondering what to do. He had never before faced this sort of problem. Then Salvo called Ben and Betty Lake.

As he came out of the thicket, Jerry saw an envelope on the ground. He opened it. On the paper inside were typed chemical symbols. Jerry followed to the clubhouse.

Salvo and his guests were in the dining room when Jerry came out of the clubhouse office. He went toward the table.

"I found this," said Jerry. "Out on the course. I thought maybe it was yours."

As Salvo snatched the envelope, Ben Lake's jaw dropped.

"The formula!" he gasped. Betty turned pale.

"Oh, Ben, you lost it!" Turning to Jerry, she smiled. "I hope sometime we can do you a favor."

Jerry grinned, waited awkwardly for a moment.

"Could Mr. Lake help me with my chemistry?" he asked.

"Come home with us," Ben Lake said. "Sure I'll help you, Jerry."

In Ben Lake's cellar laboratory Jerry Burns was not listening to Ben Lake. He heard only the steps outside the door and held his breath.

Salvo was with Dina Cross. Ben Lake smiled a friendly greeting, but it froze on his lips as he saw the small pistol in Salvo's hand.

"Never mind the formula, Lake," Salvo sneered. "Just fork over a sample of the synthetic gasoline."

Ben Lake's surprise was genuine. "What do you mean?"

Jerry grasped a bottle from the bench and heaved it. Dina Cross screamed and Salvo's gun went off, but the shot went wild as the glass crashed in his face. Betty ran down the cellar stairs and Salvo swung on her. Jerry made a flying tackle.

"Call the cops!" he shouted. Jerry picked up Salvo's gun.

When it was over, Ben Lake and his sister listened in wide-eyed wonder as Jerry told Ben of Salvo's plot to rob the formula.

"But he had the formula!" Ben exclaimed. "I don't see why he came here!"

Jerry chuckled, drew a paper from his pocket. "No. I've got it," he said. "All I gave Salvo was a mess of symbols out of my chemistry book. I copied them off on the clubhouse typewriter."

"Monument to Death" Anonymous/Unknown

Monument to Death

Olin Carpenter shook his head sadly as he looked down at the dead body of his engineer, Sheen Muldoon, lying on the floor of the contracting office. Sheen had been a nice boy, honest and clean-cut. Carpenter felt really sorry he had had to murder him.

But then Muldoon had brought it on himself. If he had kept his nose out of business that didn't concern him! If he had not learned that Carpenter once had served a stretch for robbery, had sprung himself from stir by killing a prison guard!

Carpenter since then had become respectable, was even growing rich on this state bridge contract. Carpenter even smiled a little sadly to think how Muldoon had laid his cards on the table and had said he was going to turn Carpenter over to the police.

Carpenter took twenty thousand dollars in cash from the safe and placed it in Muldoon's pocket. There was no question that the money would be missing along with Muldoon. And the bonding company would have to make it good anyway.

It was dark outside and the darkness hid Carpenter as he carried Muldoon's limp body up the loose gravel to the level of the road. Just beyond, the floodlights shone on the huge concrete forms as the night shift poured soft cement from the big mixers into the gaping walls of wood.

Carpenter carried his burden along the top of the bank until he came to the very edge of the great cavern where the bridge structure began. The floodlights showed the long trough of oozing concrete as it flowed from the opposite bank to the very center of the network of wood. And the glare of the lights hid Carpenter with his eerie cargo from the eyes of his own men. It was so simple: he walked along the planking and with a shift of his shoulder he dropped Muldoon's body into the gaping jaws, even as the splashing river of concrete rose higher between the supporting walls.

Carpenter took one chance to satisfy his curiosity. Kneeling down he held his flashlight inside and lit it. Muldoon hung over an iron tie rod and soon the wash of rising concrete would engulf him and the truth would be sealed forever from prying eyes.

One thing this experience had taught Carpenter, however; he would burn the clippings he had been careless enough to leave lying on his desk. The clippings that described the jail break and had reproduced Carpenter's picture over his true name, Rufus Olean.

Next, Carpenter approached his men from another direction, as if he had just arrived by way of the highway. He began to drive the labor as if he were a person possessed of the devil. What had been a slow seeping stream of concrete now became a rushing, splashing torrent as the whole gang scooped shovels along the trough to hasten the flow. After all, a crime had to be covered up but fast. And at last the section containing Muldoon's body had been filled!

He was careful not to return to his office, so that he did not report to the police until the following morning that his engineer had disappeared with twenty thousand dollars of the firm's cash. Carpenter also remembered to notify the bonding company.

The bonding company investigator was a man named John Cramer and he had gone to college with Muldoon. He seemed shocked and unable to believe that Muldoon was a crook.

The day the forms were being removed the state commissioner and Cramer were both at the job.

"Muldoon was a first rate engineer," said the commissioner. "And we want to be sure the job will go ahead according to specifications without him. Inspections will be mighty rigid."

Carpenter smiled. "This job will pass the most severe inspections," he replied, "if for no other reason than to prove to Muldoon, wherever he is, that we're well rid of him."

A solid wall of firm smooth concrete appeared before them as the forms came down. Like the removing of a mask and a masquerade.

"Ever see a prettier sight?" asked Carpenter. Then his face froze. Every precaution he had taken, every care in planning and all the assurance of safety he had enjoyed left him like a fog in a high wind. His world came tumbling down about him. He followed his true bent and reached for his pocket, but he had no gun. He turned and began to run, but John Cramer let him have one straight to the jaw and he had not the will to fight back.

The commissioner and Cramer smiled grimly as the cops shoved Carpenter into the wagon. And Carpenter recalled forlornly and too late how he had forced the men that night of the murder. The pressure of the increased flow of concrete had moved the body and—

Half way up the wall of concrete, still doubled over as if hanging to the tie rods, could be seen the hardened outline of the body of Sheen Muldoon—a monument to the handiwork of Olin Carpenter.

"Shot in the Dark" by Anonymous/Unknown

Shot in the Dark

Standing outside the small window at the jog in the building, Corky Spangler watched Jack West, working late at Tiff Brothers, Jewelers, replace the one hundred pearls in the bottle in which Mrs. Van Doughby had brought them for matching and restringing. He watched West lock the pearls in the safe and leave after turning out the light. Then Corky drew a heavy bunch of master keys from his coat pocket and tried them one at a time until he unlocked the rear door.

With collodion on his finger tips to eliminate prints, he worked at the safe with the skill of a master. He needed no flashlight, for his sensitive fingers told him the movement of each lock tumbler. He smiled quietly in the darkness as he slipped the bottle of pearls into his pocket and closed the safe once more and locked it shut. Then he left as he had come and faded into the shadows.

Through the front window of Uncle Henry's Bar and Grill he saw Joe Redpan washing glasses, so he went around to the private entrance on Audion Street and rang the bell—two short and a long. Uncle Henry let him in.

Corky spilled the pearls out on the table.

"One hundred pearls, Uncle Henry, and each one perfect."

"Ten thousand," said Uncle Henry. "I could maybe get eleven for them. Besides I had to plant an alibi for you."

Corky picked up the little white spheres and dropped them back into the bottle. He put the bottle back into his pocket and shook his head.

"Fifteen, Uncle Henry."

Uncle Henry counted out ten one-thousand dollar bills. Corky looked greedily at the money. He slid the bottle to Uncle Henry and picked up the greenbacks.

"After all," he laughed. "A good night's work."

"You better get upstairs," Uncle Henry cautioned, "and throw out that bum who's been sleeping in the corner with your clothes on."

Detective Mike Torrent walked into Uncle Henry's and ordered a short one. Uncle Henry was there himself and he tapped the glass and scooped off the foam.

Mike asked, "Who's the stiff?"

Uncle Henry shook his head.

"Corky Spangler. Been sleeping it off all night in the corner."

"I'm thirsty," Mike said.

He drank fast and tipped his head way back to drain the glass. He let his eyes stare down the glass to the mirror over the counter of the back bar. He held that pose while the foam trickled slowly into his mouth. Then Mike set the glass down and went out.

The next morning when Mike Torrent reported at headquarters he found Chief Waters grilling Jack West.

"You admit," said Waters, "that you were the last one out of the store. And you admit having looked at the pearls while you had no business to. Why don't you own up?"

Jack West's nostrils dilated. His eyes shot helplessly about the room.

"Because I didn't steal them," he said in clearly clipped diction. "I just looked at them and put them back."

Mike Torrent wrote on a slip of paper: "Pick up Corky Spangler," and handed the note to Officer Jules Blane.

Being grilled was nothing new to Corky Spangler.

"I was drunk all night in Uncle Henry's," he said jauntily. "Uncle Henry will tell you I was. Besides, you can't find any prints, you say. Looks like you're guessing."

Mike eased his leg over the edge of the chief's desk.

"You see, Corky," he chuckled affably, "we're not exactly accusing you of anything. Better say we're trying to protect you."

Corky laughed. "Are you kidding?"

Mike shrugged his shoulders. "You see, Corky, Uncle Henry is out gunning for a guy, so we brought you in, just in case."

Corky's eyes snapped open for just a split second. Then he became a poker face.

Mike went on: "For taking a lot of dough for a lousy bottle of collodion."

Instinctively Corky's hand went to his pocket. Chief Waters went forward with a pair of handcuffs. Corky's hand whipped fast with an automatic in it. A gun belched, but it wasn't Corky's. Corky stepped back and grabbed his shoulder, as Mike Torrent dropped his smoking gun back into its holster.

"In the mirror at Uncle Henry's I saw Corky shoving the souse out of the way, but I didn't know why then. When there were no prints I guessed that Corky used collodion. He's used it before. I threw in the gag about the mixed bottles and it caught him up fast."

Mike started for the door. "Now I'll pick up Uncle Henry. Looks like Corky's slow wits turned out to be a bottle neck for Uncle!"

"Registered for Ransom" by Anonymous/Unknown

Registered for Ransom

Detective Ed Grant looked at the victim of the brutal murder. The dead man was big, well dressed, but his clothes were torn. His head had been bashed by a rock from the stone wall. The death weapon lay in mute bloody evidence on the ground.

Papers on the dead man's body bore the name, Jan Cordell, the address Hotel Fremont.

"We'll go to the hotel," Grant said to Sergeant Lacy.

The hotel clerk could tell nothing, but said that there was a note waiting for him from Mr. Cordell. Grant frowned, took the envelope and tore it open. There was nothing inside the envelope but a zipper sewed to a piece of cloth. The envelope contained no return address.

It was not a new zipper and when Ed Grant held it to his nose he detected the faint odor of tobacco on it.

"Lot to go on," he said to Lacy. "Don't even know if it has anything to do with Cordell's death." He put the item in his pocket and said to the clerk, "Let's have the key to Cordell's room."

The hotel bed had not been slept in. But Cordell's leather traveling bag was on the floor. Grant found it unlocked. The bag contained a few items of clothing, a comb and brush, a nail file and at the bottom of the case the tobacco pouch whence had come the zipper. Grant fitted the cloth and found that it matched.

He sat down in the chair, lit a cigarette and stared blankly at Lacy.

Lacy asked, "What do you make of it?"

Grant shook his head. "Same as you do," he replied. "Nothing."

Then suddenly Ed Grant jammed his half-smoked cigarette hard against the bottom of the glass ash tray. "Come on!" he shouted. "Good Lord!"

Lacy followed dumbly, like a faithful dog. But he had to run to keep up to his superior. Grant hardly waited until Lacy was in the squad car before he let the clutch out hard and raced up to forty in second.

"I don't get it, Ed," Lacy said puffing.

"You will," Grant replied. "Keep your eyes peeled for a..."

Grant cut the sentence short and took the corner on two wheels at the next block, opened the motor and raced down the short street and turned right again.

"Hey, what the—" began Lacy and before he could say, "You're heading right around the block to the rest of the hotel!" the car stopped short and threw Lacy forward.

"Grab your gun, grab your gun!" Grant yelled. His own service weapon was already in his hands.

Grant shouted at the two men who were running for the black sedan across the parking lot. They kept running. Grant fired.

There was a grinding of the sedan's starter. As the black sedan opened up in low, Grant who had climbed back into the police car, steered straight for it. He met a volley from the escaping car and he let his own vehicle run head on into the side of the other car.

A volley blasted from the sedan and Lacy went down, rolled under a parked auto. The crowd that had started to collect ran for cover. Grant, lying on the floor of the police car, kicked the door open. Through the space that opened with the working of the offset hinge he saw the hat crown above the glass. He took aim and fired. The hat crown disappeared.

He got out cautiously and decided to make a run. Both cars were close together, so by ducking he kept out of vision. He yanked at the handle to the sedan door and pulled it open. The dead guy with the slouch hat fell out and Grant pulled him up as a shield.

He didn't stop firing as he hauled the dead man before him and a blast from inside the car sent a bullet into the corpse. It was a large bullet and it shook the body.

Grant sprang forward, dove inside and grabbed a wrist. The one inside the car grunted and tried to bite. Then he stopped and came out, his hands raised.

"If you killed Lacy," Grant said, "I'm going to give it to you right now, Scarface Joe Wiggam!"

"He didn't," Lacy called, limping up. "Just wounded me in the leg. But what's it all about, Ed?"

"When these birds kidnapped Jan Cordell, he put up a fight and they killed him. Then, knowing he had just registered here and wasn't known, they notified his family to call for evidence of Cordell's being in their hands. Then of all things Wiggam registered here as Cordell and watched who came for the note. They didn't recognize us until we went to the room. Then they scrammed as soon as they found out whether or not we'd found the pouch in the bag. Naturally I left that there in the bag and they ran right into our trap, trying to escape."

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Blog Going on Indefinite Hiatus (Again)

Don't worry, this time the break isn't because of an emotional meltdown (although I can feel one brewing simply because I have been unable to get anything on the blog done...). The deal is, I edit all of my blogs by hand. "This shit is actually edited?" I hear you ask. To that question I give a stiff upper lip and turn away. Editing by hand slows me down, which I think is an important aspect of analyzing anything. Unfortunately, my printer ate some nut shells and has an awful stomach ache that I can't seem to nurse. Until a replacement or a fix comes around, the blog is going quiet. Since I can't shut up, I'll still be yammering away just... uh... you won't be hearing it.

Thinking as I write: perhaps I'll use this as an opportunity to catch up on my transcriptions...