Sample L16 from Alex Gordon, The Cipher. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1961. Pp. 238-245. A part of the XML version of the Brown Corpus2,016 words 387 (19.2%) quotesL16

Used by permission of Alex Gordon.0010-1730

Alex Gordon, The Cipher. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1961. Pp. 238-245.

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`` Dammit , Phil , are you trying to wreck my career ? ? Because that's what you're doing -- wrecking it , wrecking it , wrecking it '' ! ! Griffith had confronted Hoag on the building's front steps -- Hoag had been permitted no further -- and backed him against a wrought-iron railing . His rage had built up as he made his way here from the second floor , helped by the quantity of champagne he had consumed .

Hoag said , `` I didn't send for you , Leigh . I want the captain in charge . Where is he '' ? ?

`` Phil , for God's sake , go away . The undersecretary's in there . I told you there's nothing between Midge and me , nothing . It's all in your mind '' . A couple of sobs escaped him , followed by a sentiment that revealed his emotional state . `` Why , I'm not fit to touch the hem of her garment '' .

`` Leigh , get a grip on yourself . It's not about you or Midge . I have some security information about the prime minister '' .

Griffith looked at him suspiciously through red-rimmed eyes . `` Not about me ? ? You mean it , Phil ? ? You wouldn't pull my leg , old man ? ? I did get you on the platform this morning '' .

`` I'm not pulling your leg . Will you call that captain '' ? ?

`` No use , he won't come '' . He peered closely at Hoag in the gathering darkness . `` What happened to your head '' ? ?

`` I was hit -- knocked out . Now will you get him '' ? ?

`` He says I'm to take the message '' . He stared at Hoag drunkenly . `` Who'd hit you in the head '' ? ?

`` It doesn't matter . You get back to the captain and tell him this : Somebody's going to take a shot at the prime minister , and Mahzeer is in on the plot . Tell him under no circumstances to trust the prime minister with Mahzeer '' .

Griffith said , `` That's impossible . Mahzeer's the ambassador '' .

`` Nevertheless it's true '' .

`` Impossible '' . Griffith was trying to clear his head of the champagne fuzz that encased it . `` I'll show you how wrong you are . Mahzeer and the prime minister are alone right now '' . He nodded triumphantly . `` So that proves it '' ! !

Hoag looked terrified . `` Where are they '' ? ?

`` Where'd you expect , the john ? ? Mahzeer's office '' .

`` Where is that '' ? ?

`` Facing us , two flights up . Look , old man , you can't go up . They won't even let you in the front door . So why don't you be a good boy and '' --

Hoag grabbed him by the shoulders . `` Listen to me , Leigh . If you want to spend another day in the State Department -- another day -- you get in there and tell that captain what I told you '' . He bit out the words . `` And you know I can do it '' .

Griffith raised placating hands . `` Easy does it , Phil . I was just going . I'm on my way '' . He turned and fled into the house and made his way up the marble stairs without once looking back . On the second landing he paused to look for Docherty , didn't see him , and accepted a glass of champagne . He took several large swallows , recollected that Docherty had gone up another flight , and decided he would be wise to cover himself by finding him . The way Hoag was , no telling what he might say or do . He finished his champagne and climbed uncertainly to the next landing . At the top a uniformed officer blocked further progress . `` Yes , what is it '' ? ? He asked .

`` I want Captain Docherty '' . He spotted Docherty coming out of a room at the far end of the corridor and called to him .

Docherty said , `` It's okay , Bonfiglio , let him by '' . They walked toward each other . `` Well '' ? ?

Griffith said , `` Hoag told me to tell you '' -- he waited until they were close ; ; it was hideously embarrassing -- `` not to let the prime minister be alone with Mahzeer '' .

Griffith looked half-crocked to the captain ; ; it would be just like him . `` Why not '' ? ?

`` He claims Mahzeer's in a plot to kill the P.M. '' .

Docherty went taut : was it possible ? ? Could the ambassador himself be the man on this side the prime minister feared ? ? Not possible , he thought ; ; the prime minister knew who his enemy was here ; ; he wasn't going to allow himself to be led meekly to the slaughter . And if by some wild chance Mahzeer was the man , he wouldn't dare try anything now -- not after Docherty had looked in on the two of them to see that all was well . Docherty was damned if he would make a fool of himself again the way he had earlier over the laundry truck . One more muddleheaded play like that one and they'd be leading him away . Still , this had to be checked out .

`` Where'd your friend Hoag get his information '' ? ? He asked .

`` Haven't the faintest , Captain '' .

`` Would you mind sending him up here ? ? I'd like to talk to him '' . Troubled , he continued along the corridor , poking his head into the next office for a careful look around .

But Hoag had not stayed on the front steps when Griffith disappeared into the building . He was unwilling to rely on Griffith's carrying his message , and he had no confidence the police would act on it . If Mahzeer was alone with the prime minister he could be arranging his execution while Hoag stood out here shivering in the darkening street . He would have to do something on his own . But what ? ?

The door opened and three men and a woman in a sari swept past him and down the stairs . In the lighted interior he saw other men and women struggling into their wraps . These were the early departures ; ; in half an hour the reception would be over . If Mahzeer was planning to set up the prime minister for Muller he would have to do it in the next few minutes . Hoag descended the stone steps to the street and looked up at the building . Wide windows with many small leaded panes swept across the upper stories . On the second floor he saw the animated faces of the party guests ; ; the scene looked like a Christmas card . On the third floor one of the two windows was lighted ; ; it was framed in maroon drapes , and no faces were visible . This would be Mahzeer's office . He and the prime minister would be back from the window , seated at Mahzeer's desk ; ; they would be going over papers Mahzeer had saved as excuse for just such a meeting . In a minute , or five minutes , the business would be done ; ; Mahzeer would stand up , the prime minister would follow . Mahzeer would direct the prime minister's attention to something out the window and would guide him forward and then step to one side . The single shot would come ; ; Hoag would carry its sound to his grave . Mahzeer , of course , would be desolate . How was he to suspect that an assassin had been lurking somewhere across the street waiting for just such a chance ? ?

Hoag turned . Where across the street ? ? Where was Muller waiting with the rifle ? ? Narrow four-story buildings ran the length of the block like books tightly packed on a shelf . Most of them could be eliminated ; ; Muller's would have to be one of the half dozen almost directly opposite . The legation was generously set back from the building line ; ; if the angle of fire were too great the jutting buildings on either side would interfere . Would the shot come from a roof ? ? He ran his eye along the roof copings ; ; almost at once a figure bulked up . But dully glinting on the dark form were the buttons and badge of a policeman . With a cop patrolling the road Muller would have to be inside a building -- if he was here at all , and not waiting for the prime minister somewhere between this street and the terminal building at La Guardia Airport .

Hoag crossed the narrow street , squeezing between parked cars to reach the sidewalk . From this side he could see farther into the legation's third-story window , but he saw no faces ; ; the room's occupants were still seated or they had been called into the hallway by an alarmed police captain . If only the latter were true . He walked rapidly along the buildings scanning their facades : one was a club -- that was out ; ; two others he ruled out because all their windows were lighted . That left three , possibly four , one looking much like the next . He climbed the steps of the first and opened the door to the vestibule . He quickly closed it again . He had assumed that all these buildings had been divided into apartments , but this one , from a glance at the hall furnishings , was obviously still a functioning town house , and its owners were in residence ; ; that made it doubtful as the hiding place of a man whose plans had to be made in advance .

He went on to the next building and found what he expected -- the mingled cooking aromas of a public vestibule . On one wall was the brass front of a row of mailboxes ; ; there were six apartments . Now what ? ? The names on the mailboxes meant nothing to him . This was senseless -- he had no idea what to look for . He peered in the boxes themselves ; ; all were empty except one , and that one was jammed with letters and magazines . The occupants of Apartment Number 3 were probably away for a few days , and not likely to return on a Friday . Had Muller made the same deduction ? ? Muller was attracted to the lore of mailboxes .

He opened the inner door ; ; the cooking odors were stronger -- all over the city , at this hour , housewives would be fussing over stoves . He climbed , as quickly as he could urge his body , up the two unbroken flights to the third floor , pulling himself along on a delicate balustrade , all that remained of the building's beauty . He paused on the landing to steady his breathing and then bent to examine the single door by the light of the weak bulb overhead . Now he was certain : the lock had not yielded to Muller's collection of keys ; ; fresh scars showed that the door had been prized open . It had been shut again , but the lock was broken ; ; he noted with a thrill of fear that the door moved under his touch .

What was he to do now ? ? He had thought no further than finding Muller . He realized now he had more than half hoped he wouldn't find him -- that Muller would not be here , that the attempt would be scheduled for somewhere beyond Hoag's control . He could not break in on an armed man . He would have to climb back down to the street and signal a cop . Was there time ? ?

His thoughts were scattered by the sharp report of a rifle from the other side of the door . Hoag pushed open the door : at the far end of the long dark room Muller was faintly silhouetted against the window , the rifle still raised ; ; he stood with his feet apart on a kitchen table he had dragged to the sill . He turned his head to the source of the disturbance and instantly back to the window and his rifle sight , dismissing Hoag for the moment with the same contempt he had shown in their encounter at Hoag's apartment .

Hoag stretched his left hand to the wall and fumbled for the switch : evil flourishes in the dark . The room was bathed in light at the instant Muller's second shot came . Muller , nakedly exposed at the bright window like a deer pinned in a car's headlights , threw down the rifle and turned to jump from the table ; ; his face wore a look of outrage . A shot caught him and straightened him up in screaming pain ; ; a following volley of shots shattered glass , ripped the ceiling , and sent him lurching heavily from the table . He was dead before his body made contact with the floor . Hoag stumbled back into the hall , leaned against the wall , and started to retch .

After Captain Docherty sent Arleigh Griffith for Hoag he was able to complete his detailed inspection of the third floor and to receive a report from his man covering the floors above before Griffith returned , buoyed up by a brief stop for another glass of champagne .