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Death Comes to Pym's Publicity
"And by the way," said Mr. Hankin, arresting Miss Rossiter as she rose to go, "there is a new copy-writer coming in today."
"Oh, yes, Mr. Hankin?"
"His name is Bredon. I can't tell you much about him; Mr. Pym engaged him himself; but you will see that he is looked after."
"Yes, Mr. Hankin."
"He will have Mr. Dean's room."
"Yes, Mr. Hankin."
"I should think Mr. Ingleby could take him in hand and show him what to do. You might send Mr. Ingleby along if he can spare me a moment."
"Yes, Mr. Hankin."
"That's all. And, oh, yes! Ask Mr. Smayle to let me have the Dairyfields guard-book."
"Yes, Mr. Hankin."
Miss Rossiter tucked her note-book under her arm, closed the glass-panelled door noiselessly after her and tripped smartly down the corridor. Peeping through another glass-panelled door, she observed Mr. Ingleby seated on a revolving chair with his feet on the cold radiator, and talking with great animation to a young woman in green, perched on the corner of the writing-table.
"Excuse me," said Miss Rossiter, with perfunctory civility, "but Mr. Hankin says can you spare him a moment, Mr. Ingleby?"
"If it's Tomboy Toffee," replied Mr. Ingleby defensively, "it's being typed. Here! you'd better take these two bits along and make it so. That will lend an air of verisimilitude to an otherwise—"
"It isn't Tomboy. It's a new copy-writer."
"What, already?" exclaimed the young woman. "Before those shoes were old! Why, they only buried little Dean on Friday."
"Part of the modern system of push and go," said Mr. Ingleby. "All very distressing in an old-fashioned, gentlemanly firm. Suppose I've got to put this blighter through his paces. Why am I always left with the baby?"
"Oh, rot!" said the young woman, "you've only got to warn him not to use the directors' lav., and not to tumble down the iron staircase."
"You are the most callous woman, Miss Meteyard. Well, as long as they don't put the fellow in with me—"
"It's all right, Mr. Ingleby. He's having Mr. Dean's room."
"Oh! What's he like?"
"Mr. Hankin said he didn't know, Mr. Pym took him on."
"Oh, gosh! friend of the management." Mr. Ingleby groaned.
"Then I think I've seen him," said Miss Meteyard. "Tow-coloured, supercilious-looking blighter. I ran into him coming out of Pymmie's room yesterday. Horn-rims. Cross between Ralph Lynn and Bertie Wooster."
"Death, where is thy sting? Well, I suppose I'd better push off and see about it."
Mr. Ingleby lowered his feet from the radiator, prised up his slow length from the revolving chair, and prowled unhappily away.
"Oh, well, it makes a little excitement," said Miss Meteyard.
"Oh, don't you think we've had rather too much of that lately? By the way, could I have your subscription for the wreath? You told me to remind you."
"Yes, rather. What is it? A bob? Here's half-a-crown, and you'd better take the sweep-money out of it as well."
"Thanks awfully, Miss Meteyard. I do hope you get a horse this time."
"High time I did. I've been five years in this beastly office and never even been placed. I believe you wangle the draw."
"Indeed we don't, Miss Meteyard, or we shouldn't let all the horses go to those people in the Printing. Wouldn't you like to come and draw for us this time? Miss Parton's just typing out the names."
"All right." Miss Meteyard scrambled down leggily and followed Miss Rossiter to the typists' room.
This was a small inconvenient cubicle, crowded at the moment to bursting-point. A plump girl in glasses, with head tilted back and brows twisted to keep the smoke of a cigarette out of her eyes, was rattling off the names of Derby runners on her type-writer, assisted by a bosom-friend who dictated the list from the columns of theMorning Star. A languid youth in shirt-sleeves was cutting the names of sweep-subscribers from a typed sheet, and twisting the papers into secretive little screws. A thin, eager young man, squatting on an upturned waste-paper basket, was turning over the flimsies in Miss Rossiter's tray and making sarcastic comments upon the copy to a bulky, dark youth in spectacles, immersed in a novel by P. G. Wodehouse and filching biscuits from a large tin. Draped against the door-posts and blocking the entrance to all corners, a girl and another young man, who seemed to be visitors from another department, were smoking gaspers and discussing lawn-tennis.
"Hullo, angels!" said Miss Rossiter, brightly. "Miss Meteyard's going to draw for us. And there's a new copy-writer coming."
The bulky young man glanced up to say "Poor devil!" and retreated again into his book.
"Bob for the wreath and sixpence for the sweep," went on Miss Rossiter, scrabbling in a tin cash-box. "Has anybody got two shillings for a florin? Where's your list, Parton? Scratch Miss Meteyard off, will you? Have I had your money, Mr. Garrett?"
"No money till Saturday," said the Wodehouse-reader.
"Hark at him!" cried Miss Parton, indignantly. "You'd think we were millionaires, the way we have to finance this department."
"Pick me a winner," replied Mr. Garrett, "and you can knock it off the prize-money. Hasn't that coffee come yet?"
"Have a look, Mr. Jones," suggested Miss Parton, addressing the gentleman on the door-post, "and see if you can see the boy. Just check these runners over with me, duckie. Meteor Bright, Tooralooral, Pheidippides II, Roundabout—"
"Roundabout's scratched," said Mr. Jones. "Here's the boy just coming."
"Scratched? No, when? What a shame! I put him down in the Morning Star competition. Who says so?"
"Evening Banner lunch special. Slip in the stable."
"Damn!" said Miss Rossiter, briefly. "There goes my thousand quid! Oh, well, that's life. Thank you, sonnie. Put it on the table. Did you remember the cucumber? Good boy. How much? One-and-five? Lend me a penny, Parton. There you are. Mind out a minute, Mr. Willis, do you mind? I want a pencil and rubber for the new bloke."
"What's his name?"
"Where's he come from?"
"Hankie doesn't know. But Miss Meteyard's seen him. She says he's like Bertie Wooster in horn-rims."
"Older, though," said Miss Meteyard. "A well-preserved forty."
"Oh, gosh! When's he coming?"
"'Smorning. If I'd been him I'd have put it off till tomorrow and gone to the Derby. Oh, here's Mr. Ingleby. He'll know. Coffee, Mr. Ingleby? Have you heard anything?"
"Star of Asia, Twinkletoes, Sainte-Nitouche, Duke Humphrey ..."
"Forty-two," said Mr. Ingleby. "No sugar, thanks. Never been in advertising before. Balliol."
"Golly!" said Miss Meteyard.
"As you say. If there is one thing more repulsive than another it is Balliolity," agreed Mr. Ingleby, who was a Trinity man.
"Bredon went to Balliol
And sat at the feet of Gamaliel,"
chanted Mr. Garrett, closing his book.
"And just as he ought
He cared for nought,"
added Miss Meteyard. "I defy you to find another rhyme for Balliol."
"Flittermouse, Tom Pinch, Fly-by-Night ..."
"And his language was sesquipedalial."
"It isn't sesquipedalial, it's sesquipedalian."
"Twist those papers up tight, duckie. Put them in the lid of the biscuittin. Damn! that's Mr. Armstrong's buzzer. Stick a saucer over my coffee. Where's my note-book?"
"... two double-faults running, so I said ..."
"... I can't find the carbon of that Magnolia whole-treble ..."
"... started at fifty to one ..."
"Who's bagged my scissors?"
"Excuse me, Mr. Armstrong wants his Nutrax carbons ..."
"... and shake 'em up well ..."
"... hail you all, impale you all, jail you all ..."
"Mr. Ingleby, can you spare me a moment?"
At Mr. Hankin's mildly sarcastic accents, the scene dislimned as by magic. The door-post drapers and Miss Parton's bosom-friend melted out into passage, Mr. Willis, rising hurriedly with the tray of carbons in his hand, picked a paper out at random and frowned furiously at it, Miss Parton's cigarette dropped unostentatiously to the floor, Mr. Garrett, unable to get rid of his coffee-cup, smiled vaguely and tried to look as though he had picked it up by accident and didn't know it was there, Miss Meteyard, with great presence of mind, put the sweet counterfoils on a chair and sat on them, Miss Rossiter, clutching Mr. Armstrong's carbons in her hand, was able to look business like, and did so. Mr. Ingleby alone, disdaining pretence, set down his cup with a slightly impudent smile and advanced to obey his chiefs command.
"This," said Mr. Hankin, tactfully blind to all evidences of disturbance, "is Mr. Bredon. You will—er—show him what he has to do. I have had the Dairyfields guard-books sent along to his room. You might start him on margarine. Er—I don't think Mr. Ingleby was up in your time, Mr. Bredon—he was at Trinity. Your Trinity, I mean, not ours." (Mr. Hankin was a Cambridge man.)
Mr. Bredon extended a well-kept hand.
"How do you do?"
"How do you do?" echoed Mr. Ingleby. They gazed at one another with the faint resentment of two cats at their first meeting. Mr. Hankin smiled kindly at them both.
"And when you've produced some ideas on margarine, Mr. Bredon, bring them along to my room and we'll go over them."
"Right-ho!" said Mr. Bredon, simply.
Mr. Hankin smiled again and padded gently away.
"Well, you'd better know everybody," said Mr. Ingleby, rapidly. "Miss Rossiter and Miss Parton are our guardian angels—type our copy, correct our grammar, provide us with pencils and paper and feed us on coffee and cake. Miss Parton is the blonde and Miss Rossiter the brunette. Gentlemen prefer blondes but personally I find them both equally seraphic."
Mr. Bredon bowed.
"Miss Meteyard—of Somerville. One of the brighter ornaments of our department. She makes the vulgarest limericks ever recited within these chaste walls."
"Then we shall be friends," said Mr. Bredon cordially.
"Mr. Willis on your right, Mr. Garrett on your left—both comrades in affliction. That is the whole department, except Mr. Hankin and Mr. Armstrong who are directors, and Mr. Copley, who is a man of weight and experience and does not come and frivol in the typists' room. He goes out for his elevenses, and assumes seniority though he hath it not."
Mr. Bredon grasped the hands extended to him and murmured politely.
"Would you like to be in on the Derby sweep?" inquired Miss Rossiter, with an eye to the cash-box. "You're just in time for the draw."
"Oh, rather," said Mr. Bredon. "How much?"
"Oh, yes, rather. I mean, it's jolly good of you. Of course, absolutely—must be in on the jolly old sweep, what?"
"That brings the first prize up to a pound precisely," said Miss Rossiter, with a grateful sigh. "I was afraid I should have to take two tickets myself. Type Mr. Bredon's for him, Parton. B,R,E,D,O,N—like summer-time on Bredon?"
Miss Parton obligingly typed the name and added another blank ticket to the collection in the biscuit-box.
"Well, I suppose I'd better take you along to your dog-kennel," said Mr. Ingleby, with gloom.
"Right-ho!" said Mr. Bredon. "Oh, rather. Yes."
"We're all along this corridor," added Mr. Ingleby, leading the way. "You'll find your way about in time. That's Garrett's room and that's Willis's, and this is yours, between Miss Meteyard and me. That iron staircase opposite me goes down to the floor below; mostly group managers and conference rooms. Don't fall down it, by the way. The man whose room you've got tumbled down it last week and killed himself."
"No, did he?" said Mr. Bredon, startled.
"Bust his neck and cracked his skull," said Mr. Ingleby. "On one of those knobs."
"Why do they put knobs on staircases?" expostulated Mr. Bredon. "Cracking fellows' skulls for them? It's not right."
"No, it isn't," said Miss Rossiter, arriving with her hands full of scribbling-blocks and blotting-paper. "They're supposed to prevent the boys from sliding down the hand-rail, but it's the stairs themselves that are so—oh, I say, push on. There's Mr. Armstrong coming up. They don't like too much being said about the iron staircase."
"Well, here you are," said Mr. Ingleby, adopting this advice. "Much the same as the rest, except that the radiator doesn't work very well. Still, that won't worry you just at present. This was Dean's room."
"Chap who fell downstairs?"
Mr. Bredon gazed round the small apartment, which contained a table, two chairs, a rickety desk and a bookshelf, and said:
"It was awful," said Miss Rossiter.
"It must have been," agreed Mr. Bredon, fervently.
"Mr. Armstrong was just giving me dictation when we heard the most frightful crash. He said, 'Good God, what's that?' I thought it must be one of the boys, because one of them fell down last year carrying an Elliot-Fisher typewriter and it sounded exactly like it, only worse. And I said, 'I think one of the boys must have fallen downstairs, Mr. Armstrong,' and he said, 'Careless little devil,' and went on dictating and my hand was so shaky I could hardly make my outlines and then Mr. Ingleby ran past and Mr. Daniels' door opened and then we heard the most terrific shriek, and Mr. Armstrong said, 'Better go and see what's happened,' so I went out and looked down and I couldn't see anything because there was such a bunch of people standing round and then Mr. Ingleby came tearing up, with such a look on his face—you were as white as a sheet, Mr. Ingleby, you really were."
"Possibly," said Mr. Ingleby, a little put out. "Three years in this soul-searing profession have not yet robbed me of all human feeling. But that will come in time."
"Mr. Ingleby said, 'He's killed himself!' And I said, 'Who?' and he said, 'Mr. Dean,' and I said, 'You don't mean that,' and he said, 'I'm afraid so,' and I went back to Mr. Armstrong and said, 'Mr. Dean's killed himself,' and he said, 'What do you mean, killed himself?' and then Mr. Ingleby came in and Mr. Armstrong gave one look at him and went out and I went down, by the other staircase and saw them carrying Mr. Dean along to the board-room and his head was all hanging sideways."
"Does this kind of thing happen often?" inquired Mr. Bredon.
"Not with such catastrophic results," replied Mr. Ingleby, "but that staircase is definitely a death-trap."
"I fell down it myself one day," said Miss Rossiter, "and tore the heels off both my shoes. It was awfully awkward, because I hadn't another pair in the place and—"
"I've drawn a horse, darlings!" announced Miss Meteyard, arriving without ceremony. "No luck for you, Mr. Bredon, I'm afraid."
"I always was unlucky."
"You'll feel unluckier still after a day with Dairyfields Margarine," said Mr. Ingleby, gloomily. "Nothing for me, I suppose?"
"Nothing, I'm afraid. Of course Miss Rawlings had drawn the favourite—she always does."
"I hope it breaks its beastly leg," said Mr. Ingleby. "Come in Tallboy, come in. Do you want me? Don't mind butting in on Mr. Bredon. He will soon become used to the idea that his room is a public place within the meaning of the act. This is Mr. Tallboy, group-manager for Nutrax and a few other wearisome commodities. Mr. Bredon, our new copy-writer."
"How do you do?" said Mr. Tallboy, briefly. "Look here, about this Nutrax 11-inch double. Can you possibly cut out about thirty words?"
"No, I can't," said Mr. Ingleby. "I've cut it to the bone already."
"Well, I'm afraid you'll have to. There isn't room for all this guff with a two-line sub-head."
"There's plenty of room for it."
"No, there isn't. We've got to get in the panel about the Fifty-six Free Chiming Clocks."
"Damn the clocks and the panel! How do they expect to display all that in a half-double?"
"Dunno, but they do. Look here, can't we take out this bit about 'When your nerves begin to play tricks on you,' and start off with 'Nerves need Nutrax'?"
"Armstrong liked that bit about playing tricks. Human appeal and all that. No, take out that rot about the patent spring-cap bottle."
"They won't stand for dropping that," said Miss Meteyard. "That's their pet invention."
"Do they think people buy nerve-food for the sake of the bottle? Oh, well! I can't do it straight away. Hand it over."
"The printer wants it by two o'clock," said Mr. Tallboy, dubiously.
Mr. Ingleby damned the printer, seized the proof and began cutting the copy, uttering offensive ejaculations between his teeth.
Excerpted from Murder Must Advertise by Dorothy L. Sayers. Copyright © 1961 Lloyd's Bank Ltd., Executor of the Estate of Dorothy L. Sayers. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted February 7, 2014
Crime, mystery, and detective fiction is one of my favorite genres. I thought I had read everything, Chandler, Macdonald, Coben, etc. I thought there was nothing good left. I came across Dorothy Sayers while reading about the Inklings, that legendary group of authors that included JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis. This book is excellent. A clever mystery, exceptionally witty dialogue, and some funny and pulse-pounding moments. This is detective fiction at its highest level. Lord Peter Wimsey is the man.
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