Thursday, July 7, 2016

"As He Died—by Accident or Design—or Maybe Just That Bad Luck Which Works Against Every Murderer—He Branded You"

"The Scarlet Letter."
By Ray Cummings (1887-1957).
First appearance: Detective Fiction Weekly, December 12, 1936.
Short story (10 pages).
Online at UNZ HERE.
(Parental caution: Strong language.)
(Note: Text is smudgy but legible.)
"He Had Just Killed the Man—and He Knew It Was a Perfect Crime. But He Didn't Know That Murder Always Marks a Man Unmistakably!"
When it comes to professional rivalry and internecine envy, it's hard to top artists and their work; take a jealous rival with a mountain of gambling debts, the object of his warped affec-tions (a pretty girl with a sizable inheritance), and her reluctant artist father, toss them all into the mix and you've got yourself more than enough ingredients for murder . . .

Principal characters:
~ Kenneth Rance, "the famous illustrator":
    "I tell you I'm through with him. Out of my will he goes—the first chance I have to get to the lawyers' and change it. You're only a child. You're in love with his handsome face. He's got a dozen girls like you—any pool room loafer downtown could tell you."
~ Dianne Walters, Rance's niece:
   "'We're going to be married, Uncle. I'm eighteen—' The abrupt firmness of her tone made Rance stop before her, startled, so that he looked almost frightened."
~ George Gregg, "an artist" through whose perceptions the story unfolds:
    ". . . the idea of murdering Rance was still only a vague conjecture in his mind. He would kill Rance—if necessary. But he would plan it carefully."
~ John Martin:
   "Gregg knew him—a hardware salesman named John Martin—a fellow fascinated by Dianne's beauty—or the money she would inherit from Rance. Gregg's rival."
~ Melvin Cone, "the famous sleuth":
   "He had a very cordial, grave sort of smile. And then Gregg noticed his eyes—mild, blue eyes, but damnably restless. They seemed never still. Darting. Questing. As though the man's calm, poised voice, his smile, were things unconnected with those questing eyes."

Typos: "the'd never prove anything"; "They're got him"; "I don't what to think."

- Nathaniel Hawthorne's famous novel about Puritan guilt and hypocrisy (HERE) manages to insinuate itself obliquely into our story.
- We last bumped into pulpmeister Ray Cummings (HERE).

The bottom line: "There are, fortunately, very few people who can say that they have actually attended a murder."
Margery Allingham

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