Sample L18 from George Harmon Coxe, Error of Judgement. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1961. Pp. 24-29. A part of the XML version of the Brown Corpus2,005 words 337 (16.8%) quotesL18

Used by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. 0010-1640

George Harmon Coxe, Error of Judgement. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1961. Pp. 24-29.

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`` She says she has to finish a story '' . He shrugged . `` I asked her why she couldn't do it tomorrow , but it seems the muse is working good tonight and she's afraid to let it go '' .

Casey made some comment , but his mind was busy as he considered the man . His name was George Needham and he , too , had come from a good family . He was perhaps thirty-two , nicely set up , with light brown hair that had a pronounced wave . He was always well groomed and well tailored , and he had that rich man's look which was authentic enough and came from two good prep schools and a proper university . An only child , he had done all the things that young men do who have been born to money and social position until his father double-crossed him by dying broke . Since then he had worked at this and that , though some said his main interest was gambling .

All this went through Casey's mind in the first instant , but what held his interest was the fact that these two should be together at all . For he had understood that Betty had been engaged to a boy named Barry Jenkins . She had grown up with young Jenkins , and he had heard that they had been at the point of getting married at least twice . He wanted to ask her about Jenkins now , but he knew he couldn't do so in Needham's presence . And so , still wondering and a little perplexed , he grinned at the girl and spoke lightly to make sure that she would know he was kidding .

`` Where did you pick him up '' ? ?

`` Oh , I've known him quite a while '' . She glanced at her companion fondly . `` Haven't I , George '' ? ?

`` I've been after her for years '' , Needham said , `` but I've never been able to get anywhere until the last few days '' .

The girl's eyes were softly shining as she reached out and touched Casey's hand . `` Can I tell you a secret ? ? We're going to get married . Do you approve '' ? ?

Casey kept his smile fixed , but some small inner disturbance was working on him as he thought again about Needham , who was eight or ten years older than the girl . He wondered whether Needham was going to swear off gambling and get a steady job or whether he was counting on the income from Betty's estate to subsidize him . None of this showed in his face , and he tried to keep his skepticism in hand . He made a point of frowning , of acting out the part of the fond father-confessor .

`` I'll have to give it some thought '' , he said . `` You wouldn't want me to say yes without making sure his intentions are honorable , would you '' ? ?

She made a face at him and then she laughed . `` Of course not '' .

`` I'll get my references in order '' , Needham said , and though he spoke with a smile , Casey somehow got the idea that he was not particularly amused . `` Stop by any time , Casey '' . He stood up and touched the girl's arm . `` Come on , darling . If you're really serious about working on that story , I'd better take you home '' .

Casey watched them go , still frowning absently and then dismissing the matter as he called for his check . As he went out he told Freddie the dinner was perfect , and when he got his hat and coat from Nancy Parks and put a fifty-cent piece in the slot , he told her to be sure that it went toward her dowry .

A taxi took him back to the bar and grill where he had left his car , and a few minutes later he found a parking place across the street from his apartment . Because his mind had been otherwise occupied for the past couple of hours , he did not think to look and see if Jerry Burton's car was still there . In fact , he did not think about Jerry Burton at all until he entered his living room and closed the door behind him . Only then , when his glance focused on the divan and saw that it was empty , did he remember his earlier problem .

Even from where he stood he could see the neatly folded blanket that he had spread over Burton , the pillow , the sheet of paper on top of it . Then he was striding across the room , his thoughts confused but the worry building swiftly inside him as he snatched up the note .

Jack :

Look in the wastebasket . I knew the only way I could beat you was to play possum , but it was a good try , kid , and I appreciate it .

The wastebasket stood near the wall next to the divan , and the instant Casey picked it up he knew what had happened . The discarded papers inside were sodden , there was a glint of liquid at the bottom , and the smell of whisky was strong and distinct . He put the basket down distastefully , muttering softly and thoroughly disgusted with himself and his plan that had seemed so foolproof . For he remembered too well how he had brought back the loaded drinks to Burton and then returned to the kitchen to get weaker drinks for himself .

For another second or two he gave in to the annoyance that was directed at himself ; ; then his mind moved on to be confronted by something far more serious , and as the thought expanded , the implications jarred him . It no longer mattered that Burton had outsmarted him . The important thing was that Burton had gone somewhere to meet a blackmailer with a gun in his pocket . And that gun was empty .

Even before his mind had rounded out the idea , he thrust one hand into his trousers pocket and pulled out the six slugs he had taken from the revolver . He considered them with brooding eyes , brows bunched as his brain grappled with the problem and tried to find some solution . He said : `` The crazy fool '' , half aloud . He put the shells on the table , as though he could no longer bear to hold them . He thought : Where the hell could he have gone ? ? How can I find him ? ?

There was no answer to this and he began to pace back and forth across the room , his imagination out of control . He tried to tell himself that maybe Burton had sobered up enough to get some sense . Maybe he only intended to scare the blackmailer , whoever he was , in which case an unloaded gun would be good enough . He thought of other possibilities , none of them satisfactory , and finally he began to think , to wonder if there was some way he could reach Burton . Then , as he turned toward the telephone , it rang shrilly to shatter the stillness in the room and he reached for it eagerly .

`` Yeah '' , he said .

`` Casey '' ? ?

`` Yeah '' .

`` Tony Calenda '' .

Casey heard the voice distinctly and he knew who it was , but it took him a while to make the mental readjustment and control the disturbance inside his head . When he heard Calenda say : `` What about that picture you took this afternoon '' ? ? It still took him another few seconds to remember the job he had done for Frank Ackerly .

`` What picture '' ? ? He demanded .

`` You took a picture of me at the corner of Washington and Blake about three thirty this afternoon '' .

`` Who says so '' ? ?

`` One of my boys '' .

Casey believed that much . Calenda was not the sort who walked around without one of his `` boys '' close at hand .

`` So '' ? ?

`` With my trial coming up in Federal Court next week I wouldn't want that picture published '' .

`` Who says it's going to be published '' ? ?

`` I wouldn't even want it to get around '' .

Under normal circumstances Casey was a little fussy when people told him what to do with pictures he had taken . Even so , he generally listened and was usually reasonable to those who voiced their objections properly . Right now , however , he was still too worried about Jerry Burton , and the gun that had no bullets , and the story Burton had told him , to care too much about Tony Calenda . His nerves were getting a little ragged and his impatience put an edge in his voice .

`` Look '' , he said . `` I was hired to take a picture . I took it . That's all I know about it and that's all I care '' .

`` Maybe you'd better tell the guy who hired you what I said '' .

`` You tell him '' .

`` All right '' , Calenda said , his voice still quiet . `` But I meant what I said , Casey . If that picture gets around and I find out you had anything to do with it , I'm going to send a couple of my boys around to see you '' .

`` You do that '' , Casey said . `` Just be sure to send your two best boys , Tony '' .

He hung up with a bang , annoyed at himself for running off at the mouth like that but still terribly concerned with the situation he had helped to create . As soon as he could think logically again he reached for the telephone directory and found Jerry Burton's home number . He dialed it and listened to it ring ten times before he hung up . He called the bar and grill where he had picked Burton up that afternoon . When he was told that no one had seen Burton since then , he thought of three other places that were possibilities . Each time he got the same answer and in the end he gave up .

By the time he had smoked three cigarettes he had calmed down . He had done all he could and that was that . And anyway Burton was not the kind of guy who would be likely to get in trouble even when he was drunk . He , Casey , had been scared for a while , but that had come mostly from the fact that he felt responsible . He should have stayed here and watched Burton . He didn't . So he made a mistake . So what ? ?

He kept telling himself this as he went out to the kitchen to make a drink . Only then did he decide he didn't want one . He considered opening a can of beer but vetoed that idea too . Finally he went into the bedroom and sat down to take off his shoes . He had just finished unlacing the right one when the telephone rang again . When he snatched it up the voice that came to him was quick and urgent .

`` Casey ? ? You don't know me but I know you . If you want a picture get to the corner of Adams and Clark just as fast as you can . If you hurry you might beat the headquarters boys '' .

Casey heard the click of the distant receiver before he could open his mouth , and it took him no more than three seconds to make his decision . For over the years he had received many such calls . Some of them came from people who identified themselves . Some telephoned because he had done them a favor in the past . Others because they expected some sort of reward for the information . A few passed along a tip for the simple reason that they liked him and wanted to give him a break . Only an occasional tip turned out to be a phony , and , like the police , Casey had made a point of running down all such suggestions and he did not hesitate this time .

He was in his car with his camera and equipment bag in less than two minutes , and it took him only three more to reach the corner , a block from Columbus Avenue . It was a district of small factories and loft buildings and occasional tenements , and he could see the police radio car as he rounded the corner and slammed on the brakes . He did not bother with his radio -- there would be time for that later -- but as he scrambled out on the pavement he saw the filling station and the public telephone booth and knew instantly how he had been summoned .

The police car had pulled up behind a small sedan , its headlights still on .