Thursday, November 29, 2012

"Pseudo-Murder" by Anonymous


In the cold dawn Detective Mike Hart jammed his brakes and turned into the driveway of the small house set back from the highway. A dead man lay face down in the open garage. He was clutching an automatic in his hand. A large hole gaped in his temple.

A dirty sedan stood in the garage. In the rear of the car were cartons on which was stenciled the name, Marcus and Co. Other cartons stenciled the same way stood piled along the wall.

The only identifying documents on the dead man were an envelope addressed to him from the County Hospital and a social security card. They showed his name to be Frank Turner and his employer Marcus and Co. Hart placed these items in his pocket.

The detective found the rear door of the house open. Inside a certain untidiness evidenced a man's having lived alone for some time.

From the house, Hart telephoned headquarters. He reported what he had found and added: "It looks like suicide. I'm going to call on Marcus and Co. from here."

The lettering on the plate glass of the office door told Hart that Marcus and Co. dealt in wholesale cosmetics. He had to wait outside until Marcus arrived, for it was still early. Finally, when Marcus came, Hart showed his badge.

"Come in," Marcus said. He was big, nervous, muscular.

"You have a Frank Turner here?" Hart asked.

Marcus showed no emotion.

"He ran us out of business. He's stolen forty thousand dollars in merchandise and sold it. And now we're bankrupt." Then he shot a glance at Hart. "But why?"

"Turner committed suicide last night."

Marcus meditated a while. "I offered to lend Turner the three thousand. But he helped himself. Turner's wife is in the hopsital over a year."

Hart left.

It was ten-thirty at night before Hart returned. There was no light in the office. He walked gingerly down the alley to the rear of the warehouse. The floodlight was out, but a ten-watt bulb glowed yellow inside a wide open overhead door. Marcus's big frame stood against the light. A closed van had backed up to the loading platform.

"Moving day?" Hart rasped. Marcus wheeled.

"What are you getting at?"

But Marcus raised his hands as he saw the gleaming blue steel of Hart's gun. A shadow then blacker than the darkness caught Hart's eye, a shadow coming from the front of the truck. Mike Hart ducked, but the barrel of a gun crashed against his head. He stumbled backward. A gun flashed orange and roared. Lead spattered on concrete close to Hart's head as he went down.

Hart pulled his own trigger. The acrid smell of powder burned his nostrils, as he saw the shadow falling.

Hart saw Marcus's heavy boot swinging toward his head and he rolled. The boot sent his gun flying. Hart grabbed Marcus's legs and Marcus swore as he went down on top of the detective. Marcus's hand found Hart's throat. Steel fingers closed. Hart gasped. Suddenly the detective brought his knee into Marcus's abdomen. Marcus doubled up, as Hart gave him a clout behind the ear. Marcus lay still.

At headquarters Hart explained.

"Marcus confessed. He and his truck driver killed Turner, planted merchandise in Turner's garage. They planned to sell their stock to a crooked outfit and go bankrupt, defrauding their creditors.

"About a year ago Marcus heard Turner phoning someone that his wife had fallen and he couldn't pay a three thousand dollar hospital bill. Marcus kept asking Turner about his wife, and all the time Turner insisted that his wife was still in the county hospital.

"So a few days ago, to plant a motive for Turner's thefts, Marcus sent the County Hospital three thousand dollars by registered mail in Turner's name. The money was returned to Turner by check and was in the envelope I found on the body.

"For you see, Turner had lied, too. He didn't want Marcus to know the telephone conversation he had had that night had been with a bookie about a hot race tip, that the three thousand mentioned was Marcus's money, lifted from the cash receipts and placed on a horse. All this I found out piecemail as I checked on Turner. Because I learned almost at once that Turner was not married. The 'My Wife' he had mentioned was the name of the nag that fell during the race. Turner all the time had been talking about a race horse."

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