Wednesday, November 10, 2021

"Now They Are Dying Off Like Flies at the Rate of a Thousand Dollars a Head"

"The Seven Tortoise-Shell Cats."
By F. L. Nelson (1873-1947).
First appearance: The Cavalier, July 1911.
Short story (12 pages).
Online at (HERE).

     "If for no other reason than curiosity, the company wishes to learn why six perfectly good risks in the same county die within a few weeks of each other, of fright."

At least, that's what everybody thinks. For someone bent on vengeance, however, not even the wide world is enough. As Claudius said, "No place, indeed, should murder sanctu-arize. Revenge should have no bounds."

Main characters:
~ Foster:
  "Hyde and I, some months before, had retired from the Munro Detective Agency, with which I had been connected for some dozen or more years, and had joined forces on our own account as investigators of all criminal and business mysteries."
~ Gordon Hyde:
  "Do you know, Foster, I have in preparation a book on the thousands of methods by which the thread of life may be snapped."
~ Stephen Burt:
  "There is quite a reign of terror in the community, I understand, and these events are looked upon as some sort of a visitation."
~ Robertson:
  ". . . I read his history from patrolman to plain-clothes man—from fly-cop to private detective—as plainly as if it had been printed on his shirt-front."
~ Dr. Bullwinkle:
  ". . . admitted that he had made no autopsies, and tacitly confessed that he himself did not know the cause of either of the deaths."
~ Schuyler:
  "Lying on a pile of ragged blankets was a man, gaunt, cadaverous, his beard matted, his grizzled hair long and tangled as a mop, his nose thin and beaklike, his eyes deep set under shaggy brows and flashing in the red firelight."
~ Colonel Jim Shackelford:
  "We both looked through the window, and saw the thin, spare form of an elderly man lying on the bed. His limbs were drawn, and the face was distorted, as if a horrible vision suddenly had congealed there."
~ Sara Jane:
  "I was wakened in the night. It was a scream like the scream of a cat. I thought it was the storm, the wind howling through the pines, and then I heard it again. It was in the house. I was afraid, and I lay still and waited."

Typo: "siad".

References and resources:
- "my favorite Macaulay": A very popular English author who used his literary skills to launch a political career:
  "Macaulay's first essays were contributed to Knight's Quarterly Magazine, but in January 1825 the Edinburgh Review published an article of his on West Indian slavery and in August of the same year an essay on Milton which made his name. Over the next twenty years he became one of their most regular and most popular reviewers, and his success in this line helped to promote his rise in politics" (Wikipedia HERE and HERE).
- "gave his upper lip the appearance of a chevaux-de-frise": That's an imposing mustache:
  "chevaux-de-frise: Plural of cheval-de-frise: defensive structure consisting of a movable obstacle composed of barbed wire or spikes attached to a wooden frame; used to obstruct cavalry" (The Free Dictionary HERE).
- "a fine exemplification of Pope’s warning against a little learning": From his An Essay on Criticism:
  "A little Learning is a dangerous thing. Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian Spring" (Wikipedia HERE).
- "it was cholrie": Cholera:
  "Cholera is an infection of the small intestine by some strains of the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. Unlike tuberculosis ('consumption') which in literature and the arts was often romanticized as a disease of denizens of the demimondaine or those with an artistic temperament, cholera is a disease which almost entirely affects the lower-classes living in filth and poverty" (Wikipedia HERE).
- "a county in eastern Tennessee": That would put them in . . .
  "The Great Smoky Mountains (Cherokee: ᎡᏆ ᏚᏧᏍᏚ ᏙᏓᎸ, Equa Dutsusdu Dodalv), a mountain range rising along the Tennessee–North Carolina border in the south-eastern United States" (Wikipedia HERE).
- "the track of the cayman": Lots of scales and a bad temper:
  "A caiman (also cayman as a variant spelling) is an alligatorid . . . Due to the large size and ferocious nature of the caimans, they have few natural predators within their environments. Humans are the main predators of the caimans as they have been hunted for their meat and skin" (Wikipedia HERE).
- "It must be curare": Potentially fatal:
  "Curare is a common name for various plant extract alkaloid arrow poisons originating from indigenous peoples in Central and South America. Used as a paralyzing agent for hunting and for therapeutic purposes, Curare only becomes active by a direct wound contamination by a poison dart or arrow or via injection" (Wikipedia HERE).
- FictionMags's thumbnail for Frank Lovell Nelson: "Former picture editor for the New York Times; author and journalist. Born in Cincinnati, Ohio; died in Miami, Florida."
- Quite a few stories, some of them being of the SFFnal kind, have centered on insurance investigations:
   Ronald A. Knox's The Three Taps (HERE)
   Donald E. Westlake's "The Risk Profession" (HERE)
   A.E.W. Mason's "The Ginger King" (HERE)
   Lawrence G. Blochman's "Calendar Girl" (HERE)
   Robert Sheckley's "Double Indemnity" (HERE)
   O. B. Myers's "Bonds to Burn" (HERE)
   Donald Barr Chidsey's "The Murderer's Left Hand" (HERE)
   Fredric Brown's "Twice-Killed Corpse" (HERE)
   and Curtiss T. Gardner's "Museum of the Dead" (HERE).

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