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."

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