Cleo Harper is nineteen, and pretty enough to catch any boy’s eye. But when the police find her, there’s a gash in her throat and blood on her clothes. Cleo’s been dead for just a few minutes. She’d been eating lunch in a coffee shop when she was stabbed in the neck, and all the evidence paints Franklin Martinelli as the killer. Every kid in the neighborhood knew he loved her; every diner in the restaurant saw them arguing before she died. To the police, it’s cut and dried. But Pamela North isn’t convinced.
A vivacious, if occasionally scatterbrained, amateur sleuth, Mrs. North hears the story straight from her friend Lt. William Weigand, and she doesn’t believe a word of it. Her reasons may not make any sense, but Pamela is determined find the truth, even if nobody understands how she gets there.
Killing the Goose is the 7th book in the Mr. and Mrs. North Mysteries, but you may enjoy reading the series in any order.
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Killing the Goose
A Mr. and Mrs. North Mystery
By Frances Lockridge, Richard Lockridge
MysteriousPress.com/Open Road Integrated MediaCopyright © 1958 Frances and Richard Lockridge
All rights reserved.
Tuesday, March 9, 7:30 P.M. to 8:10 P.M.
After almost two years of marriage you ought to be able to watch your wife across a room and experience no emotion whatever. William Weigand told himself this firmly, watching Dorian leave the table and walk half a dozen steps and sit down in a chair. That, obviously, was essentially unexciting; it was not even difficult. Thousands of women could do it without falling over anything. Hundreds of women, having accomplished this manoeuver, would sit with their feet flat on the floor and their knees together. Assuming that Dorian Weigand was exceptional, as he unhesitatingly assumed she was, it remained ridiculous to believe that she had proved it by walking across the Norths' living room without falling flat and sitting in one of the Norths' chairs without falling apart.
And yet, Weigand realized, his face was rather fatuously decorated with what could only be called a beaming smile. The smile reflected his continued glad surprise that Dorian Weigand lived and moved; that she moved with the unconsidered grace of a first-rate athlete or a medium-rate cat; that, watching her, one realized suddenly what the human animal could do if it put its mind to it. Not, certainly, that Dorian was consciously putting her mind to it. Her grace came, presumably, from some special sense of balance which she possessed without willing it, as some people possessed unusual hearing and others the ability to see to uncommon distances.
After two years of marriage, or almost two years, you should grow accustomed to these minor superiorities in the woman you had married, and grow able to look at her reddish-brown hair with only matter-of-fact approval and not any longer fall to speculating in the middle of even your own conversation as to whether there was really a just perceptible tint of green in her eyes. From all he had ever heard of marriage, and from a good deal he had seen, people very quickly got over these small, gratifying surprises and learned to take other people comfortably for granted. It was supposed to take about six months. The supposition evidently was wrong.
"Flagrant," Pamela North said, out of the small silence in which Bill Weigand had been living. "Isn't it, Jerry?"
"I don't know," Jerry said. "I think he's sort of cute, Pam. So round-eyed and everything."
Weigand looked at them, smiling slightly.
"Hey," Jerry North said. "Hey, Bill! We're here."
Weigand looked at them. He said he was afraid of that.
"I felt all along there was something," he said. "An influence or something. I was just thinking —"
"Don't tell us," Pam commanded. "I don't think —"
Dorian rested her head against the back of the chair and looked up at them, her eyes not more than half open.
"I hope you're all having fun," she said. "Lots of fun, darlings. Don't you, Bill?"
"Right," Bill Weigand said. "Why not?"
Probably, he thought, he should feel embarrassed. But the Norths were not really embarrassing. And he was too comfortable, in any case, to achieve embarrassment. And they would drop it in a moment, anyway.
Pam North sat in the chair by the fire and tucked one foot under her. She moved well too, when you thought of it. But her mind always seemed to be moving faster than her body. Probably that was why she sometimes picked things up before she had hold of them. Bill Weigand looked away from Pam, who seemed almost laughing, and found Jerry looking at him. Jerry was smiling faintly and he nodded slowly. But there were no words to go with the nod. Jerry merely said, "Coffee, everybody?"
Everybody had coffee in small, white cups. Jerry looked at his cup and sighed.
"Remember brandy?" he said. "Cognac? Armagnac? Way back?"
"That reminds me," Pam said. "News. It must be time for news."
Jerry put his cup down and reached out to the radio at the end of the sofa. He turned a knob and pressed a button. The radio said nothing for almost thirty seconds. Then it said —
"— to own those small things which have always been man's life. The little house and the grass in front of it and earth to dig in. The little store. A farm. To hold these things in the old way and —"
"Darlings," Dorian said, sitting up, "not Dan Beck. Do we have to have Dan Beck?"
The anxiety in her voice was exaggerated. But it was not simulated.
But almost before she spoke, Gerald North's long fingers had twitched at the radio's dial.
"Here is a summary of the headline news," the radio told them. "On the Eastern Front —"
They listened to the summary of the headline news and were silent a moment thinking about it. Jerry turned the radio off.
"I'm sorry," Jerry said. "It was set on the dial instead of the button. So we got dangerous Dan and little houses for all mankind. And every man a delver. And the old country store at the cross-roads."
"Is he?" Pam North said. She looked from one to the other. "Because I think yes," she said.
"Well," Weigand said, slowly. "There's something in it."
"There's something in everything," Pam said. "Jerry likes to grow corn. I like to keep house." She paused and considered herself. "In theory," she added. "With somebody to wash the dishes, except very good glasses with a very clean, dry towel and very hot water. Of course there's something in it."
"And it's dangerous," Dorian said. "Isn't it, Jerry?"
"Yes," Jerry said. "I think it's dangerous. I think the great Dan Beck is — well, dangerous. Because he promises things people will never get. Most people. Because he makes them believe — really believe — that we can go back."
"However," Weigand said. "We've got to go somewhere. And the world is full of promises — and beliefs. Some of the things — die things we're promised — sound worse than Beck's things."
Jerry nodded and said most of them did. And that there was no harm in remembering other ways, and thinking they had been good ways. But it was dangerous to promise people we could go back to them, when in fact we could never go back. Even if it would be a good idea. Even if you saw quite clearly that there had been a wrong turn back there somewhere, so that now what we called "private property" was not really the old private ownership, but for the most part the possession of pieces of paper with printing on them — so that now we confused the word and the fact.
"But really," Jerry said, "it's what he does with the ideas — with Herbert Agar's ideas, and the ideas of the old liberalism, and what was good in laissez-faire. You can demagogue any good thing, and he does."
"You listen to him," Weigand said.
"I —" Jerry began.
He became conscious of Pam's voice, engaged, it was evident, in an entirely different conversation.
"— helps me," Pam said. "He loves to, really, but it drives the salesgirls mad. Because he just looks through them and —"
"— listen to him sometimes," Jerry said. "Enough to know that he doesn't mean to take everybody in. Enough to hear him talk about 'native American stock' and not mean the Indians and —"
"— Bill too;" Dorian said. "But he won't. I can't get him into one —"
Jerry wrenched his attention back and came in on the middle of a sentence from Bill.
"— and so, eventually, 'protestant' and 'white' and finally something like 'Aryan' although of course —"
"— six of them," Pam said. "And he just shook his head. But the seventh —"
Jerry ran a hand through his hair. He found he had, now, come in on the middle of one of his own sentences.
"— so we build a wall around it," he heard himself saying. "And take care of the non-white, non-protestant, non-nat —"
"— with murders what they are," he heard Pam saying. "And no regular hours —"
Jerry stopped abruptly, partly because he had forgotten what he was saying; partly to hear more clearly what seemed to be the statement of Pam North that murderers did not keep regular hours, but built a wall around them. It occurred to Jerry that he was getting confused.
"By the way, Bill," Pam said, "speaking of murders. How are they?"
It occurred to Jerry that Bill had some minutes earlier abandoned the problems raised by the great Dan Beck. At any rate, Bill answered without seeming to come out of a fog.
"Routine," he said. "Very routine, I'm afraid, Pam."
"I don't see how it can be, ever," Pam said. "If I were going to murder somebody it would be — oh, tremendous — overwhelming. Or going to be murdered. You're getting professional, Bill."
"Getting?" Bill Weigand repeated. "I've always been professional. A professional murderer-catcher." He looked quickly at Dorian. There had been a time when the thought of him as a catcher, even of murderers, made her eyes go suddenly blank and far away. But now she smiled in reassurance. "I'm a policeman, with the outlook of a policeman. They're routine if they're easy, with a familiar cast. The boy whose girl ditches him and who kills her in a rage. The wife who gets tired of her husband and hits him with something heavy. The man who kills for insurance. And the mobsters, who just kill when they get annoyed. Things like that."
"Gangsters are dull," Pam agreed. "Or they always sound dull. Are they, really?"
"Yes," Bill said. "Boring — and dangerous as hell. You wouldn't like them, Pam."
"And nothing else?" Pam insisted. "No stories to tell?"
Bill Weigand, lieutenant of detectives, acting captain of the Homicide Squad, started to shake his head. He thought better of it. He said he would give them an example — Type A. From today's blotter. Emotionally interesting — possibly. If you went into it from that side, like a novelist. Routine, if you went into it like a policeman. A girl killed by a boy who was in love with her, after a quarrel, because he thought she was two-timing him. The last, a guess. But no other guesswork.
The girl had been a filing clerk, doing routine chores in a large investment house. She had been about nineteen — slight and dark-haired, pretty because she was young; talking, they said, with the suggestion of a Southern accent. The police had never heard her talk; when men from a radio patrol car pushed their way into a confused, excited crowd in the coffee shop of the Hotel Greystone on Madison Avenue, a block above Madison Square, Frances McCalley had been beyond talking. She had been a collapsed object in a corner of a booth, with blood around her and a gash in her throat; she had been dead only a matter of minutes, those who found her thought. She had died, they could guess, a few minutes after she had pushed back a plate which still, when the first policemen arrived, held the remnants of a bacon and tomato sandwich on toast. Whoever had eaten with her had had liver and bacon. The plate was near the other plate. Some blood had splattered on the green-composition top of the table; there was a great deal of blood on the green composition floor under the girl's body. A cut throat bleeds.
"That was what they found," Weigand said. "That and girls who knew her and were ready to talk. A girl who had stood beside her at the counter — it's a cafeteria — and seen her put the bacon and tomato sandwich on her tray; seen her take a custard cup for dessert when she couldn't get a baked apple because they were out of baked apples; seen her talking to the boy who killed her."
"The boy —?" Pam repeated.
Weigand nodded. The boy who killed her — the boy who was in love with her and thought, they supposed, that she was two-timing him. Or was, for some other reason, emotionally disturbed to the point of murder.
There had been no problem about finding him; it was all routine. Three or four girls knew him by sight; one knew him by name. She had bumped into him a few minutes before the girl's body was found. He was leaving the coffee shop — going out so rapidly that he left the revolving door spinning wildly. The girl — one Cleo Harper — had been exasperated and looked after him, ready to say what she thought of him if he stopped. He had not stopped; he had gone on violently, his face, as she subsequently remembered it, "terrible — all full of hate." She also recognized him as Franklin Martinelli, Frances McCalley's friend. She had wondered why he was so angry and had suspected a quarrel between the two. She had told her story to the police after Frances's body was found. It was found, she said, about ten minutes after she had seen the Martinelli boy, his dark face twisted, hurl himself out of the coffee shop.
That would have been enough — that and the suspicion held by the police that Italians are violent in emotional upheavals and apt with knives. It alone would have been enough to set them after young Martinelli. They did not need the statement of two girls in the next booth that they had heard angry voices through the partition and that the girl's voice stopped suddenly.
Mullins had it pretty much in hand by the time Weigand got to the cafeteria, late because he had been at lunch himself and there had been delay in reaching him. The boy had been sullen and stubborn — and he had seemed to be shocked and overcome with grief. Perhaps he was; murderers sometimes were, especially when they had killed violently, without thought. He had denied, of course, that he had killed at all. For a time he had denied the quarrel; then he had admitted it, but still insisted that they had made things up before he left and that then Frances was alive.
"She smiled at me," Franklin Martinelli had insisted. "I tell you she smiled at me."
He had left hurriedly because he was already late at the loft-factory where he worked as a shipping clerk. He had not wanted to be fired. Perhaps he had looked worried because he was late, and because he didn't want to lose the job. He was trying to save all the money he could before he went into the army, and he had to have the job. But anybody who said he looked scared or angry was making things up. Everything was all right between him and Frances.
"She smiled at me when I left," he said, over and over. "She looked happy and smiled. Everything was all right."
But nobody believed him. They made him tell it over and over again and shook their heads and said, "No, buddy, it wasn't that way." "Come on, son," they said. "Spill it. You may as well spill it."
They did not hit him, with fists or rubber hose. They kept him sitting on a straight chair with a strong light on him and they made him tell it over and over again. And over and over again he told them he had not killed the girl; that she was alive and smiled at him when he left the restaurant; that he ran out of the restaurant, with the door whirling behind him, because he was late back at his job.
"All right," they said. "Tell it over again, fella."
They looked at each other and let heavy disbelief show in their faces; they laughed a little, contemptuously. Weigand said that he had sat in on it for a while and decided the boy was going to hold out for a long time yet and left it to Mullins. When the boy broke and told it, Mullins would call him.
"It's horrible," Pam said. "If he didn't do it — it's horrible. Because if he didn't do it, it was bad enough without that."
"Right," Weigand said. "If he didn't do it. Only it's a hundred to one he did do it — two hundred to one. And it was horrible about the girl. She was — well, she was sort of a pretty girl. And very young, Pam."
He looked at her and then he looked at Dorian.
"Right," he said. "It's tough — it's too damned bad. And do you want us to let him get away with it? Is it all right he stuck a knife in the kid's throat?"
He spoke rather harshly, for him; and rather defensively. Dorian smiled, not happily.
"It's just the poor kids, Bill," she said. "The poor young kids. We know you can't do anything else."
Bill Weigand, who had been leaning forward, looked into her face and into Pam's, and then he sat back and for a moment said nothing. When he spoke, it was in his normal tone.
"So," he said. "There you have it. From the police point of view — routine. A poor fool kid kills a girl he's in love with because he gets mad at her. And we —"
He did not finish, because the telephone bell rang. Jerry crossed the room and dug under a table where the telephone lived. It seemed to be caught on something, and he jerked. There was an indignant yow and Toughy came out, his tail enlarged. He stopped, looked at Jerry reproachfully, scram bled suddenly on the carpet, ran headlong across the room, leaped to the windowsill, crashed into the venetian blinds, bounced, landed half way across the room, leaped convulsively into the air, dashed furiously at the sofa, climbed the back of the sofa and suddenly sat down. He began to wash his back. Toughy had awakened.
"My," Pam said. "His tail must have been caught in the telephone wire, or something. Isn't he strange?"
Excerpted from Killing the Goose by Frances Lockridge, Richard Lockridge. Copyright © 1958 Frances and Richard Lockridge. Excerpted by permission of MysteriousPress.com/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.
Table of Contents
ContentsI. Tuesday, March 9, 7:30 P.M. to 8:10 P.M.,
II. Tuesday, 8:10 P.M. to 8:55 P.M.,
III. Tuesday, 8:10 P.M. to 9 P.M.,
IV. Tuesday, 8:50 P.M. to 9:45 P.M.,
V. Tuesday, 9:45 P.M. to 11:25 P.M.,
VI. Tuesday, 10:45 P.M. to 11:30 P.M.,
VII. Tuesday, 11:31 P.M. to Wednesday, 1:15 A.M.,
VIII. Wednesday, 9:15 A.M. to 9:35 A.M.,
IX. Wednesday, 9:40 A.M. to 10:55 A.M.,
X. Wednesday, 11:10 A.M. to 11:45 A.M.,
XI. Wednesday, 2:33 P.M. to 10:40 P.M.,
XII. Thursday, 6:40 A.M. to 9:50 A.M.,
XIII. Thursday, 10:20 A.M. to 9:35 P.M.,
XIV. Thursday, 10:59 P.M. to 11:31 P.M.,
XV. Friday, 6:30 P.M. and Thereafter,
About the Authors,