Sample L20 from Ed Lacy, "Death by the Numbers,' Manhunt, 9: 4 (August, 1961), 8-12. A part of the XML version of the Brown Corpus2,009 words 1058 (52.7%) quotesL20

Used by permission of Manhunt and Ed Lacy. 0010-1690

Ed Lacy, "Death by the Numbers,' Manhunt, 9: 4 (August, 1961), 8-12.

Arbitrary Hyphen: ocean-going [1480]Typographical Error: apostrophe missing in Harbors [0610]

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Harbor Point sticks out into the ocean like the fat neck of a steamer clam . It's a rich village but not much for action -- too many solid residents , not enough tourists or working stiffs . It's at the far end of the county and the last time I came here was for a hit and run manslaughter -- about seven months ago .

Chief Bob Moore looked his same hick-self ; ; a man mountain running to lard in his middle-age . Seeing me he said with real surprise , `` Well , well , ain't we honored ! ! Hardly expected the head of County Homicide up for this murder . You sure climbed fast , Jed . Rookie investigator last summer and now it's Inspector Jed . Took me 19 years to become Chief of our three man police force . Proves a college education pays off '' . His sarcasm was followed by a stupid grin of his thick mouth and bad teeth .

`` I guess it helps '' , I said , paying no attention to his ribbing .

`` Never could figure out why you ever wanted to be a cop , Jed . You're not only young but well , you don't even look like a police officer . A runt with narrow shoulders and that brush haircut hell , you'd pass for a juvenile delinquent of the hotrod set . In my day the first requirement for a cop was to look like the law , big and tough . Man , when my 275 pounds and six-four comes along , why it's the same as another badge . When I say move , a guy moves '' ! !

`` Don't worry about my being tough , Moore . Also , it's far too early in the day for corny lines like the bigger they come You've had your gassy lecture , let's get to work . Who was the murdered woman Mrs. Buck '' ? ?

`` Widow , nice sort of woman . Comfortably fixed . Ran a fair-sized farm . Came to the Harbor as a bride and Don't worry Jed , this one is in the bag . I know the killer , have the only road off the peninsula covered '' .

`` Yeah , passed your road block as I drove in '' , I said , sitting on his polished desk . Although Bob dressed like a slob , he kept a neat office . `` Okay , what happened '' ? ?

`` About nine this morning Mrs. Buck phones me she's having trouble with one of her farm hands -- money trouble . Colored fellow named Tim Williams -- only hand she has working for her now . Tim come with the migratory workers that follow the crops up from the South last year , but Tim and his wife settled here . Never had no trouble with him before , thought he was a hard worker , hustling around to get a full week's work . Anyway , Julia asks me to .

`` Julia '' ? ?

`` Come on , Inspector , look alive . Julia Buck , the deceased '' , Moore said , slipping me his smug , idiot-grin again . `` Julia asks me to come out at once . But she didn't sound real alarmed you know , like there was any immediate danger . I got there at 9:47 A.M. , found her strangled . I would have come sooner if I'd known . No doubt about Tim being the killer -- I have a witness . Don't know why the County had to send anybody up here . Told them I can handle this '' .

`` Yeah , seems you have a nice package , with all the strings tied . Who's '' ? ?

`` I'll collar Tim before night '' .

`` Who's your witness '' ? ?

`` Julia had -- has -- an old Indian woman cooking for her -- Nellie Harris . Probably the last of the original Island Indians . Nellie was in the kitchen , had just come to work , when she heard Tim arguing with Julia in the living room . Swears she recognized his voice , that Tim yelled , ' It's my money and I want it ' ! ! And then rushed out of the house . Then she heard Julia phone me . Nellie went on with her house work -- until I found Julia dead . And before you say it , Nellie ain't near strong enough to have strangled Julia . There's no doubt this Tim sneaked back and killed Mrs. Buck . Another fact : Tim's disappeared -- on the run . But there's no way off the Point except through my road block . Guess you want to see the body -- have her up the street in Doc Abel's office '' . `` Let's see it '' .

We walked up Main Street to this big white house , then around to the back . Being the Harbor's sole doctor , Abel was also its Medical Examiner . The corpse was on a table , covered by a sheet . Doc Abel was busy up front with some of his live patients . Pulling back the sheet , I examined the bruises around Julia Buck's once slender throat . Powerful hands had killed her . `` Find any prints '' ? ?

Chief Moore shook his big head , seemed lost in thought as he stared at the nude body . Then he said , `` Never noticed it before I mean , when she was dressed but for a woman her age , Julia had a real fine figure '' .

I dropped the sheet , glanced at my watch . It was almost one and I hadn't had lunch . Still , I wanted to get this over with , had a lot of paper work waiting in my own office . I told him , `` I want to go see the Buck house '' .

`` Sure '' .

Walking back down Main Street , I said , `` I saw the Harbor's one squad car at the road block , we'll ride out in my car '' .

`` Naw , we'll use mine '' , Moore said , opening the door of a sleek white Jaguar roadster . As I slid in beside him he said , `` Some heap , hey ? ? Got a heck of a buy on this , dirt cheap '' .

`` Yeah , it's a real load '' , I told him , looking up the street at my battered Ford .

Five racing minutes later we pulled into the driveway of this typical two-story house , and when the Jaguar stopped I managed to swallow . There was a garage and a modern barn in the rear , all of it standing between two large flat fields planted in early potatoes . Everything shouted gentleman farming , the kind of grandfather-father-to-son folding money the Point is known for . The fins of a Caddy were sticking out of the garage , while the inside of the house was a comfortable mixture of old and expensive contemporary furniture .

Nellie Harris wasn't old , she was ancient -- a tiny shriveled woman with a face like a tan prune . She was also stone deaf in her right ear . She calmly repeated what Moore had told me . When I asked , `` Why didn't you go into the living room to see how Mrs. Buck was '' ? ? The old gal stared at me with her hard eyes , said , `` She didn't call . I do the living room last . I went up stairs and did the bath and her bedroom -- way I always do in the morning '' .

`` Have you any idea what this Tim and Mrs. Buck were arguing about '' ? ?

`` Probably wages . Miss Julia was a hard woman with a dollar . Years ago when I asked her to put me in Social Security , so's I wouldn't have to be working now , Miss Julia threatened to fire me -- all because it would mean a few more dollars a year to her '' .

`` Did you hear Tim return '' ? ?

`` No sir . Nobody came until Chief Moore '' .

I drummed on the kitchen table with my pencil . `` Mrs. Buck have any men friends '' ? ?

`` Her '' ? ? The wrinkled mouth laughed , revealing astonishingly strong , white , teeth . `` I never see none . But then I wasn't her social secretary '' .

`` Was she on friendly terms with other members of her family '' ? ?

`` Didn't have no family -- around here . They had a son -- killed in the war '' .

I walked into the living room . There didn't seem to be any signs of a struggle . I told Moore , `` Where does Tim's wife live '' ? ?

`` I'll take you there . Look Jed , this is an open and shut case and I have to relieve my men at the road block soon . Okay , come on '' .

We did 80 miles an hour across a hard dirt road to a cluster of shacks . In late summer migratory workers lived five and six to a room in these . Now they were empty , except for a cottage across the road .

Mrs. Tim Williams was about 21 , with skin the color of bitter chocolate , and if you discounted the plain dress and worn slippers , she was startlingly pretty . The inside of their place was full of new furniture , five bucks down and a buck a week stuff , but all of it clean and full of the warmth of a home .

Mrs. Williams was both sullen and frightened . She said she didn't know a thing -- Tim had left the house at six in the morning , as usual . She hadn't seen him since .

`` Did Mrs. Buck owe him any wages '' ? ? I asked .

`` Well , for this week , but they wasn't due 'till Saturday . Listen , Mr. Inspector , no matter what anybody say , my Tim didn't kill that woman ! ! Tim is a good man , hard working . He strong as a bull but gentle as a baby . Even if he angry , Tim wouldn't hurt a woman . He never in his life took a hand to a woman or ''

`` We'll get him soon , see what he says '' , Chief Moore cut in .

`` Does your husband have a car '' ? ? I asked .

`` Got us an old station wagon . Need it for the job '' .

I asked a silly question : `` You've no idea where your husband could be , now '' ? ?

She shook her head . I knew she was lying . I stood there , staring at her for a moment -- thinking mostly of her beauty and her poverty .

Moore said , `` Come on , Jed , I have to get to my men '' .

On my way out I told her , `` If you should eh just happen to see your husband , get him to give himself up . He'll get a fair trial . Hiding out like this won't get him anything , except more trouble , or a bullet '' .

`` Yes . I'll tell him -- if I see him '' .

We made it back to the Harbor in less than four minutes . I tried not to act scared . That Jaguar could really barrel along . I told Moore I was going to eat , get some forms filled out by Doc Abel .

Chief Moore said , `` If I don't see you when I return , see you for certain at my road block , Inspector '' .

I had a bowl of decent chowder , phoned the Doc and he said he'd leave the death statements with his girl -- in a half hour . Lighting my pipe , I took a walk . The Harbor is a big yachting basin in the summer . Even now , there were several slick cruisers tied to the dock , an ocean-going yawl anchored inside the breakwater . There was a 34 foot Wheeler with Chief Bob's in big gold letters on its stern also tied up at the dock . It wasn't a new boat , about five years old , but fitted with fishing outriggers and chairs . I asked an old guy running a fishing station if the boat was Moore's . He said , `` You bet . Bob Moore is plumb crazy about blue fishing '' .

I dropped into the doctor's office , picked up my forms . As I was walking back to the Police Station , which was in the same building with the City Hall and Post Office , I saw Mrs. Tim Williams sneaking into the back of my car . If she moved gracefully , she was clumsy at it .

I got into the front seat . She was ' hiding ' on the floor of the back seat , the soft curves of her back and hips -- rousing lines . I drove out of the Harbor , turned off into a dirt road among the scrub pine trees and stopped . I waited a few minutes and she sat up . For another moment we didn't talk , then she began to weep . She mumbled , `` I just know that Chief Moore is out to kill my Tim '' ! !

`` Maybe . I never saw him so anxious before '' , I said , lighting my pipe and offering her a cigarette . `` Of course , it could be because this is his first murder case . You know where Tim is , don't you , Mrs. Williams '' ? ?

She puffed on the cigarette slowly , sitting slumped against the back seat ; ; didn't answer .