Friday, December 4, 2015

"He Was Used, by This Time, to the Idea of Doing Murder"

"There's Always One Witness."
By Hugh MacNair Kahler (1883-1969).
First appearance: Collier's Weekly, August 27, 1932.
No known reprintings.
Short short short story (4 pages, with 8 illustrations).
Online starting HERE and concluding HERE (scroll to page 49, bottom).
Warning: Some of the text is hard to read.
"Saul Varney gets rid of an obstacle. You'll be willing to agree that, whatever his limitations, Saul could plan well . . ."
As you might have already guessed, Saul is planning something evil:
TOWARD evening, when a dogged fall of rain began, Saul Varney's weather wisdom told him that his chance had come. Here was the three-day rainstorm that was going to make it safe, at last, for him to kill Wayne Polder.  . . .
Now that the time has come, Saul marvels at his own composure, at this new and unaccustomed feeling for him, courage:
. . . Varney wasn't scared. He seemed to have suddenly forgotten how to be afraid of anything; he wasn't even frightened now by the one danger that no amount of planning and plotting could avoid—the certainty that when Wayne Polder died by mystery and violence, as he was going to die tomorrow night, people would remember the profit that would come to Saul Varney, and wonder, yes, and ask, perhaps, where he had been when his cousin died.  . . .
But Saul seems to be forgetting the old saying that you should be careful what you wish for:
. . . Always, till tonight, Varney had cringed back from the thought of standing in that thin shadow of suspicion; now he almost wanted to stand there. His secret triumph would lose part of its edge unless he faced and outwitted the clumsy, groping agencies of the law. He wanted to deal with Calvin Tupper, the sheriff, old and fat and half asleep; he even hoped, or almost hoped, for arrest and jail and a trial, a trial where a dozen witnesses would be bound to give unwilling, perjured evidence for the defense.  . . .
And there's another old saying that especially applies to Saul and these, his best-laid plans: Timing is everything.

Alfred Hitchcock could have done a lot with this one, a distant echo of Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart."
- For tips on how others have committed—or tried to commit—the perfect murder, go HERE (TV Tropes, with hidden SPOILERS); there are also books for sale HERE and HERE which discuss the perfect crime.
- We were last in touch with our author HERE.

The bottom line: "Every murderer is probably somebody's old friend."
— Hercule Poirot

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