Sample L11 from Hampton Stone, The Man Who Looked Death in the Eye. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1961. Pp. 56-62. A part of the XML version of the Brown Corpus1,999 words 306 (15.3%) quotes 1 symbolL11

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Hampton Stone, The Man Who Looked Death in the Eye. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1961. Pp. 56-62.

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`` Right '' , said the fingerprint man . `` Also , if you're going to believe those prints , you'll have to look for a killer who's a top-grade piano player '' .

He demonstrated by playing an imaginary piano , doing a staccato passage with a broadly exaggerated attack . To make it clearer he shifted to acting out , but with no change of manner , the killing of Rose Mallory . His hands snatched at an imaginary bucket , swooping down hard to grab it and coming away with equal snap like a ball that's been bounced hard . In the same way he pantomimed grasping a mantel and bouncing cleanly off that , pressing his hands against the floor and bouncing cleanly off that . He was moving like a ballet dancer , playing for laughs . If Rose Mallory's killer acted this way , catching up with him was going to be a cinch . We'd know him by his stretch pants and the flowers he'd wear twined in his hair .

Perhaps if Felix had first come upon us when this boy was not cavorting so gaily up and down the hall outside the murdered woman's apartment , we might have had less trouble convincing Felix of our seriousness . This , you will remember , was still New Year's Day . By the time Felix turned up it was early afternoon , which , one would think , would be late enough so that by then , except for small children and a few hardy souls who had not yet sobered up , it could have been expected that people would no longer be having any sort of active interest in the previous night's noisemakers and paper hats .

Felix was the exception . He had retained his hat and his horn , and , whatever fun might still be going , he was ready to join it . That , incidentally , might give you some idea of what Felix was like . After all , he hadn't happened upon us in that second-floor hall without warning .

The M.E.'s boys had finished their on-the-spot examination and the body had been removed for autopsy . The meat wagon , therefore , was not out in front of the house any more , but the cluster of squad cars was still there and there was a cop on the door downstairs to screen any comings and goings . There was , furthermore , the crowd of curious onlookers gathered in the street and a couple more cops to hold them at a decent distance .

Just put yourself in Felix's place for a moment . You're a taxpayer , householder , landlord . You've been away from home for the New Year festivities , but now the party is over and you come home . Defining sobriety in the limited sense of being free from the clinical symptoms of the effects of alcohol ingested and not yet eliminated from the system , you are sober .

You still have your paper hat and you're wearing it , but then , it is an extraordinary paper hat and , in addition to anything else you may be , you are also the sculptor who created that most peculiar dame out in the back yard . It's not too much to assume that you will have a more lasting interest in paper hats than will Mr. Average Citizen .

You have your paper horn clutched in your big , craggy fist , and for your entrance you have planned a noisy , colorful and exuberant greeting to your friends and tenants . You find your house a focus of public and police attention . Can you imagine yourself forgetting under the circumstances that you are approaching this startling and unexpected situation so unsuitably hatted and armed with a paper horn ? ?

Maybe one could be startled into forgetfulness . You shoulder your way through the cluster of the curious and you barge up to the cop on the door . You identify yourself and ask him what's going on . Instead of answering you , he sticks his head in the door and shouts up the stairs .

`` Got the upstairs guy '' , he bellows . `` The owner . Do I send him up '' ? ? Then he turns back to you . `` Go on in '' , he says . `` They'll tell you what's cooking '' .

Even then , as you go into the house oppressed by the knowledge that something is cooking and that your house has passed under this unaccountable , official control , could you go on forgetting that you still had that ridiculous hat on your head and you were still carrying that childish horn in your hand ? ?

What I'm getting at is that we were fully prepared for Felix's being an odd one . We'd seen his handiwork out in the back yard , and the little his tenants had told us of him did make him sound a little special . We were not , however , prepared for anything like the apparition that confronted us as Felix came up the stairs . He , of course , must have been equally unprepared for what confronted him , but , nonetheless , I did find his reaction startling .

If Felix was still wearing the hat and carrying the horn because he'd forgotten about them , he now remembered . He came bounding up the stairs and joined the dance . He adjusted the hat , lifted the horn to his lips as though it were a flute , and fell in alongside our fingerprint expert to cavort with him .

Our man stopped dead and glowered at Felix . Felix threw his head back and laughed a laugh that shook the timbers of even that solidly built old house . This was a bull of a man . He was big-chested , big-shouldered and heavy-armed . His face was ruddy and heavy and unlined , and when he laughed he showed his teeth , which were big and white and strong and unquestionably home-grown . I don't remember ever seeing teeth that were quite so white and at the same time quite so emphatically not dentures . His hair had receded most of the way to the back of his neck . He had only a fringe of hair and he wore it cropped short . It was almost as white as his teeth . For a man of his mass he was curiously short . He wasn't a dwarf but he was a bit of a comic figure . A man with so big and so staggeringly developed a torso and such long and powerful arms is expected to stand taller than five feet five . For Felix it was a bit of a stretch to make even that measurement . The man was just this side of being a freak .

We waited till he had finished laughing , and that gave us a few moments for taking stock of him . He was dressed in a manner Esquire might suggest for the outdoor man's country weekend . Dark gray sports jacket , lighter gray slacks , pink flannel shirt , black silk necktie . His eyes were clear . He was freshly shaved , and if there had been any alcohol in him we could never have missed detecting some scent of it on the massive gusts of his laughter . Not even a whiff . Eventually he subsided .

`` Felix '' ? ? Gibby said .

`` Me '' , he said merrily . `` Me , the happy one '' .

`` That much Latin we remember '' , Gibby said dryly . `` You always live up to your name , always like this , always making happy '' ? ?

`` I try '' , Felix said blithely . `` The world is full of blokes who put their hearts into making the tragic scene . I've never noticed that it improves things any '' .

`` Bully for you '' , Gibby said . `` What's the rest of your name '' ? ?

`` No rest of it . Felix is all there is '' .

`` All there ever was '' ? ?

`` The past I leave to historians '' , Felix intoned , demonstrating that he could be pompous as well as happy .

`` You live in the present '' ? ?

`` In the present '' , Felix proclaimed . `` For the future . Is there any other time in which a man can live '' ? ?

`` We '' , Gibby announced , `` are not philosophers . We are Assistant District Attorneys . This gentleman is a police officer . He is a fingerprint specialist . Could your future , your immediate future , be made to include taking us upstairs , giving us a bit of space in which our friend can work , and making available to him your finger tips '' ? ?

The happy one could never have looked happier . This was more than joy . It was ecstasy .

`` Those lovely whorls '' , he chortled . `` So intricate , so beautiful . Come right along . I love fingerprints '' .

He was prancing along the hall , heading for the next flight of stairs .

Gibby called him back . `` We're here because of what happened last night '' , he said . `` Past , yes , but important . Since it is important , for the record let's have the full name '' .

`` That important '' ? ? Felix asked .

`` That important '' .

`` Grubb '' , Felix whispered .

`` Felix Grubb '' ? ? Gibby asked , not bothering to whisper .

`` Shh '' , Felix implored . `` I can't see what would make it necessary for you to know . Nothing could make it necessary to proclaim it to the whole world '' .

Obligingly Gibby lowered his voice . `` Felix Grubb '' ? ? He repeated . `` No . Edmund , but not for years . For years it's been just Felix . First thing I did after my twenty-first birthday was go into court and have it officially changed , and this is something I don't tell everybody . That was almost forty years ago '' .

Having volunteered that he was a man of about sixty , he bounded up the stairs and with each leap rendered the number less credible . This was a broth of a boy , our Felix , and nothing was more obvious than the joy he took in demonstrating how agile he was and how full of juice and spirit . We followed him up the stairs . The cops would gather up Connor and the foursome on the third floor and bring us those of them who would voluntarily submit to fingerprinting .

You may think we didn't need Nancy and Jean , but you always get what you can when you can , and we had no guarantee that a fingerprint record on them couldn't be useful before we were through with this case . Also , if we had excluded the ladies we would have to that extent let the whole world know at least that much of where we stood . The killer , if in our present group , would certainly be interested in knowing that much , and even though with the fingerprint evidence what it was I could see no way he could use this bit of information to improve on his situation , there might always be some way . If you can possibly avoid it , you don't hand out any extra chances .

Felix took us into his studio . It was that oddly shaped space at the very top of the house , where ceiling heights had to accommodate themselves to the varying angles of roof slope . At each angle of its pitch a big skylight had been fitted into the roof and all these skylights were fitted with systems of multiple screens and shades .

When Felix first opened the door on it , all these shades were tightly drawn and the whole studio was as dark as night . He quickly fixed that , rolling back the shades on some of the skylights and adjusting screens on the others . He flew about the place making these adjustments and it was obvious that what he was doing was the fruit of long experience . None of his movements was tentative . There was no process of trial and error . Starting with the room completely blacked out , as it was when we came in , he unerringly fixed things so that the whole place was bathed in the maximum of light without at any point admitting even so much as a crack of glare .

Expecting something more-than-average wacky , I was surprised by what we found . There was no display of either works in progress or of finished work . Here and there on work table or pedestal stood a shape with a sheet or a tarpaulin draped over it . These shapes might have been mad , but there was no telling . They were all completely shrouded . The equipment was solid and heavy and in good condition . Everything was orderly and it seemed to be arranged for the workman's comfort , convenience and efficiency . There were tools about but they were neatly kept . There was no confusion and no litter . Supplies of sheet metal were neatly stacked in bins .