By David Wright O'Brien (1918-44).
First appearanace: Fantastic Adventures, June 1943.
Reprinted in Fantastic Adventures Quarterly, Fall 1943 and Winter 1943.
Short story (16 pages).
Online at UNZ HERE.
(Parental caution: Some strong language.)
"Stenton carried out the perfect crime. No one could possibly connect him with it. Then why was he being shadowed?"The besetting problem with the perfect murder is that there are no perfect murderers. Some-where along the way from its inception to its execution the perfect crime founders on the unforeseen element, the thing that the imperfect criminal fails to allow for. In the instance of Stenton—intelligent, fearless, methodical, patient, and ruthless—who murders not for mone-tary gain but for the power it gives him over others, the unforeseen element is something which, despite all of his careful planning, he mistakenly believes he has utterly destroyed.
~ Stenton (no first name):
"Stenton stood there with his hand on the knob of the door, momentarily shaken by the conflict that had been waged in his soul. Something closely akin to fright passed through his eyes and was gone in the next instant. He smiled then, a cold, curiously inhuman smile, and turned the knob beneath his hand."
~ Richard Frawley:
"But now, the once-young Frawley lay upstairs in the palatial master bedroom, an old, weary man. A man without a wife, children, even relatives. A man with no one in the world to count on save Stenton."
~ The doctor:
"But stop worrying. Unless something entirely unforeseen occurs, my prediction is that Mr. Frawley might well reach eighty-five or more."
~ The shadow:
"For fully half a minute Stenton stared across the street at the figure in the doorway. Stared steadily, curiously, uneasily, as if compelled to do so by some hypnotic force. And as he stared, the figure in the doorway returned the stare while remaining motionless, hands deep in his overcoat pockets."
"The old butler looked both concerned and embarrassed. 'Your complexion, sir, is positive-ly ashen.'"
Typos: "'Can—can I see him, now?' Seenton asked"; "That passed with the attck"; "he manged to save himself"; "fast gambling, riotious collegiate existence"; "Something eeriely, ominously—although ridiculously—strange"; "the expression on Stetson's usually poker-cold face."
- For more about David Wright O'Brien, a fine pulp fantasist who died in an air raid on Berlin, go to Wikipedia (HERE), the SFE (HERE), and the ISFDb (HERE).
The bottom line: "Murder in the murderer is no such ruinous thought as poets and romanc-ers will have it; it does not unsettle him, or fright him from his ordinary notice of trifles; it is an act quite easy to be contemplated."
— Ralph Waldo Emerson