Saturday, September 19, 2020

"That Door Is Always Kept Locked"

THERE'S AN OLD SAYING: You can choose your friends but not your relatives. Our protagonist is about to discover that, relatively speaking, it's possible to have . . .

"Death from a Family Tree."
By Sam Merwin, Jr. (1910-96).
Illustration by Ed DeLavy (1916-89).

First appearance: Popular Detective, May 1948.
Short short story (9 pages).
Online at (HERE).

     "No man could be alive with the hole he had in his head."

"The love of money," said the preacher, "is the root of all evil." In the process of probating the Lucius Weaver estate, there's plenty of money love at stake—"upwards of half a million dollars"—leading, as you might guess, to evil in the form of a well-deadened bullet and an "infernal nightmare chariot". . .

Principal characters:
~ Leonie Carroll:
  ". . . terrifyingly beautiful . . ."
~ Wilfrid I. Hull:
  ". . . he didn't know what to do about it, so soon after a murder. So he compromised by merely sitting."
~ Orrin S. Gorman:
  "If he hadn't kept everything locked in his own head, we might know who did it."
~ Lieutenant Venner:
  "I get it. In English, this meeting here was a showdown of sorts—right?"
~ Leffords:
  "In the vernacular—yes."

~ Tom Hollingsworth:
  "Weaver left just before the shot."
~ Morgan Weaver:
  "He's not his nephew until he proves it in court."

References and resources:
- "said the jehu": "Originally a commander of chariots for Ahab, king of Israel, Jehu later led a revolt against the throne and became king himself. In the Bible, it is noted of Jehu that 'he drives furiously' (II Kings 9:20). In the 17th century, English speakers began using jehu as a generic term meaning 'coachman' or, specifically, 'a fast or reckless coachman.' Today, we are more likely to use the word in reference to reckless cabdrivers. The phrase drives like Jehu is encountered occasionally, too." (Merriam-Webster HERE).
- "a descendant of Captain Isaac Hull of the Constitution": Hull (1773-1843) was an accomplished sailor, to say the least. "For the infant U.S. Navy, the battle of USS Constitution vs HMS Guerriere on August 19, 1812, at the beginning of the war, was the most important single ship action of the War of 1812 and one that made Isaac Hull a national hero." (Wikipedia HERE). His most famous command (launched in 1797) is still around. "USS Constitution, also known as Old Ironsides, is a wooden-hulled, three-masted heavy frigate of the United States Navy. She is the world's oldest commissioned naval vessel still afloat." (Wikipedia HERE). As for "Major General Hull": "Hull was also uncle to Isaac Hull, son of his brother Joseph. Joseph died while Isaac was young, so Hull adopted the boy. Isaac commanded the USS Constitution during the War of 1812." (Wikipedia HERE).
- "a police positive in his right hand": A venerable sidearm. "The Colt Police Positive is a small-frame, double-action revolver featuring a six-round cylinder, chambered for either .32 or .38 caliber. It was also offered in .22 caliber cartridges. Designed primarily for sale to federal, state, or local law enforcement agencies, the Police Positive was introduced into the firearms market by Colt's Manufacturing Company in 1905." (Wikipedia HERE).
- We've been sampling Samuel Kimball Merwin, Jr.'s fiction for quite a while now, mainly his SFF, such as "Arbiter" (HERE) and "Third Alternative" (HERE).

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