Friday, July 1, 2016

"The Trap Appeared on the Eighth Morning"

"The Trap."
By Murray Leinster (Will F. Jenkins, 1896-1975).
First appearance: Munsey's Magazine, August 1929.
Short story (11 pages).
Online at UNZ HERE.
"Colby's murder plan was perfect—except at one point"
Live and learn, as they say:

   "THIS is a very instructive story. It deals with the value of a reputation, the best way to commit murder, what to do with embarrassing letters, and where stolen thousand-dollar bills may be exchanged or spent with the minimum discount—all of which information is useful; but mostly it deals with the value of a reputation."

Main characters:
~ Colby, rather squeamish for a killer:
   "Colby felt hideously ashamed — not of the murder, of course, or even of the fact that
he was a thief; but searching like this, searching a dead man's clothing, made him feel unclean."
~ Grahame, D.O.A.:
   "No, there was no money belt. Colby swore, a trifle shaken. Grahame must have the money on him! He was a free-lance bootleg operator. He had come down to make a deal for two thousand gallons of corn whisky. Colby told him that he had been running a still for three months, and wanted to sell all his product in a lump, avoiding constant dealings and myste-rious trucks and cars, and so eliminating the probability of suspicion. Grahame must surely have brought the money; but where was it?"
~ Detective Sergeant Nesbit, "coarse and unlovely":
   "Then he remembered Nesbit's heavy, dull-witted patience, and how he had hanged Jud Harris two years after his first wife's murder. It had taken him two years to solve that crime, but he had done it. If he believed Colby had murdered Grahame, he would keep on working until he had an air-tight case, if it took him ten years."
". . . the benevolent dog and the pink starched dress . . ."
Resources:
- Our story takes place during the Prohibition Era in the United States (1920-33; see HERE); zealous Progressive reformers took their cause very seriously indeed, with backwoods moonshiners (see HERE) being as much the objects of their ire as anyone else who would dare defy the law.
- For detailed biographical accounts of Murray Leinster go to Wikipedia (HERE), a dedicated website (HERE), and the Encyclopedia Virginia (HERE); the SFE (HERE) and the ISFDb (HERE) have more bibliographical data.

The bottom line: "If it weren't for greed, intolerance, hate, passion and murder, you would have no works of art, no great buildings, no medical science, no Mozart, no Van Gogh, no Muppets and no Louis Armstrong."
Jasper Fforde

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