Sample N09 from Jim Thompson, The Transgressors. New York: The New American Library of World Literature. Inc., 1961. Pp. 9-13. A part of the XML version of the Brown Corpus2,012 words 483 (24.0%) quotesN09

Used by permission of Jim Thompson. 0010-1760

Jim Thompson, The Transgressors. New York: The New American Library of World Literature. Inc., 1961. Pp. 9-13.

Typographical Error: ommission [0330]

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Miraculously , she found exactly the right statement . She began it deliberately , so that none of her words would be lost on him .

`` I want to tell you something Thomas DeMontez Lord . I'm well aware that you've got a pedigree as long as my leg , and that I don't amount to anything . But '' --

`` But it don't matter a-tall '' , Lord supplied fondly . `` To me you'll always be the girl o' my dreams , an' the sweetest flower that grows '' .

Beaming idiotically , he pooched out his lips and attempted to kiss her . She yanked away from him furiously .

`` You shut up ! ! Shu-tt up-pp ! ! I've got something to say to you , and by God you're going to listen . Do you hear me ? ? You're going to listen '' ! !

Lord nodded agreeably . He said he wanted very much to listen . He knew that anything a brainy little lady like her had to say would be plumb important , as well as pleasin' to the ear , and he didn't want to miss a word of it . So would she mind speaking a little louder ? ?

`` I think you stink , Tom Lord ! ! I think you're mean and hateful and stupid , and -- louder '' ? ? Said Joyce .

`` Uh-huh . So I can hear you while I'm checkin' the car . Looks like we might be in for a speck of trouble '' .

He opened the door and got out . He waited at the car side for a moment , looking down at her expectantly .

`` Well ? ? Wasn't you goin' to say somethin' '' ? ? Then , helpfully , as she merely stared at him in weary silence , `` Maybe you could write it down for me , huh ? ? Print it in real big letters , an' I can cipher it out later '' .

`` Aah , go on '' , she said . `` Just go the hell on '' .

He grinned , nodded , and walked around to the front of the car . Lips pursed mournfully , he stared down at its crazily sagging left side . Then he hunkered down on the heels of his handmade boots , peered into the orderly chaos of axle , shock absorber , and spring .

He went prone on his stomach , the better to pursue his examination . After a time , he straightened again , brushing the red Permian dust from his hands , slapping it from his six-dollar levis and his tailored , twenty-five-dollar shirt .

He wore no gun -- a strange ommission for a peace officer in this country . Never , he'd once told Joyce , had he encountered any man or situation that called for a gun . And he really feels that way , she thought . That's really all he's got , all he is . Just a big pile of self-confidence in an almost teensy package . If I could make myself feel the same way

She studied him hopefully , yearningly ; ; against the limitless background of sky and wasteland it was easy to confirm her analysis . Here in the God-forsaken place , the westerly end of nowhere , Tom Lord looked almost insignificant , almost contemptible .

He was handsome , with his coal-black hair and eyes , his fine-chiseled features . But she'd known plenty of handsomer guys , and , conceding his good looks , what was there left ? ? He wasn't a big man ; ; rather on the medium side . Neither was he very powerful of build . He could move very quickly , she knew ( although he seldom found occasion to do so ) , but he was more wiry than truly strong . And his relatively small hands and feet gave him an almost delicate appearance .

Just nothing , she told herself . Just so darned sure of himself that he puts the Indian sign on everyone . But , by gosh , I want him and I'm going to have him ! !

He caught her eye , came back around the car with the boot-wearer ; ; teetering , half-mincing walk . Why did these yokels still wear boots , anyway , when most had scarcely sat a horse in years ? ? He slid in at her side , tucked a cigar into his mouth , and politely proffered one to her .

`` Oh , cut it out , Tom '' ! ! She snapped . `` Can't you stop that stupid clowning for even a minute '' ? ?

`` This ain't your brand , maybe '' , Lord suggested . `` Or maybe you just don't feel like a cigar '' ? ?

`` I feel like getting back to town , that's what I feel like ! ! Now , are you going to take me or am I supposed to walk '' ? ?

`` Might get there faster walkin' '' , Lord drawled , `` seein' as how I got a busted front spring . On the other hand , howsomever , maybe you wouldn't either . I figger it's probl'y a sixty-five-mile walk , and I c'n maybe get this spring patched up in a couple of hours '' .

`` How -- with what ? ? There's nothing out here but rattlesnakes '' .

`` Now , ain't it the truth '' ? ? Lord laughed with secret amusement . `` Not a danged thing but rattlesnakes , so I reckon I'll get the boss rattler to help me '' .

`` Tom ! ! For God's sake '' ! !

`` Looky '' . He pointed , cutting her off . `` See that wildcat '' ? ?

She saw it then , the distant derrick of the wildcat -- a test well in unexplored country . And even with her limited knowledge of such things , she knew that the car could be repaired there ; ; sufficiently , at least , to get them back into town . A wildcatter had to be prepared for almost any emergency . He had to depend on himself , since he was invariably miles and hours away from others .

`` Well , let's get going '' , she said impatiently . `` I '' -- She broke off , frowning . `` What did you mean by that rattlesnake gag ? ? Getting the boss rattlesnake to help you '' ? ?

`` Why , I meant what I said '' , Lord declared . `` What else would I mean , anyways '' ? ?

She looked at him , lips compressed . Then , with a shrug of pretended indifference , she took a compact from her purse and went through the motions of fixing her make-up . In his mood , it was the best way to handle him ; ; that is , to show no curiosity whatsoever . Otherwise , she would be baited into a tantrum -- teased and provoked until she lost control of herself , and thus lost still another battle in the maddening struggle of Tom Lord Vs. Joyce Lakewood .

The car lurched along at a snail's crawl , the left-front mudguard banging and scraping against the tire , occasionally scraping against the road itself . Lord whistled tunelessly as he fought the steering wheel . He seemed very pleased with himself , as though some intricate scheme was working out exactly as he had planned . Along with this self-satisfaction , however , Joyce sensed a growing tension . It poured out of him like an electric current , a feeling that the muscles and nerves of his fine-drawn body were coiling for action , and that that action would be all that he anticipated .

Joyce had seen him like this once before -- more than once , actually , but on one particularly memorable occasion . That was the day that he had practically mopped up the main street of Big Sands with Aaron McBride , field boss for the Highlands Oil & Gas Company .

Tom had been laying for Aaron McBride for a long time , just waiting to catch him out of line . McBride gave him his opportunity when he showed up in town with a pistol on his hip . He had a legitimate reason for wearing it . It was payday for Highlands , and he was packing a lot of money back into the oil fields . Moreover , as long as the weapon was carried openly , the sheriff's office had made no previous issue of it .

`` So what's this all about '' ? ? He demanded , when Lord confronted him . I'm not the only man in town with a gun , or the only one without a permit '' .

It was the wrong thing to say . By failing to do as he was told instantly -- to take out a permit or return the gun to his car -- he had played into Lord's hands .

The trouble was that he had virtually had to protest . The deputy had forced him to by his manner of accosting him .

So , `` How about it '' ? ? He said . `` Why single me out on this permit deal '' ? ?

`` Well , I'll tell you about that '' , Lord told him . `` We aim t' be see-lective , y'know ? ? Don't like to bother no one unless we have to , which I figger we do , in your case . Figger we got to be plumb careful with any of you Highlands big shots '' .

McBride reddened . He himself had heard that there was gangster money in the company , but that had nothing to do with him . He was an honest man doing a hard job , and the implication that he was anything else was unbearable .

`` Look , Lord '' , he said hoarsely . `` I know you've got a grudge against me , and maybe I can't blame you . You think that Highlands swindled you and I helped 'em do it . But you're all wrong , man ! ! I'm no lawyer . I just do what I'm told , and '' --

`` uh-huh . An' that could mean trouble with a fella that's workin' for crooks . So you get rid of that pistol right now , Mis-ter McBride . You do that or take you out a permit right now '' .

McBride couldn't do either , of course . Not immediately , as the deputy demanded . Not without a face-saving respite of at least a few minutes . To do so would make his job well-nigh impossible . Oil-field workers were a rough-tough lot . How could he exert authority over them -- make them toe the line , as he had to -- if he knuckled under to this small-town clown ? ?

`` I'll get around to it a little later '' , he mumbled desperately . `` Just as soon as I go to the bank , and '' --

`` huh-uh . Now , Mis-ter McBride '' , said Lord , and he laid a firmly restraining hand on the field boss's arm .

It was strictly the deputy's game , but McBride had gone too far to throw in . Now , he could only play the last card in what was probably the world's coldest deck .

He flung off Lord's hand and attempted to push past him , inadvertently shoving him into a storefront .

It was practically the last move that McBride made of his own volition .

Lord slugged him in the stomach , so hard that the organ almost pressed against his spine . Then , as he doubled , gasping , vomiting the breakfast he had so lately eaten , Lord straightened him with an uppercut . A rabbit punch redoubled him . And then there was a numbing blow to the heart , and another gut-flattening blow to the stomach

But he couldn't keep up with them . No more could he defend himself against them . He seemed to be fighting not one man but a dozen . And he could no longer think of face-saving , of honor , but only of escape .

Why , he's going to kill me , he thought wildly . I meant him no harm . I've given willful hurt to no man . I was just doing my job , just following orders , and for that he's going to kill me . Beat me to death in front of a hundred people .

Somehow more terrible than the certainty that he was about to die was the knowledge that Lord would probably not suffer for it : the murder would go unpunished . He , McBride , would be cited as in the wrong , and he , Lord , would go scot-free , an officer who had only done his duty , though perhaps too energetically .

McBride staggered into the street , flopped sprawling in the stinging dust . Fear-maddened , fleeing the lengthening shadow of death , he scrambled to his feet again . He couldn't see ; ; he was long past the point of coherent thinking . Dimly , he heard laughter , hoots of derision , but he could not read the racket properly . He could not grasp that Lord had withdrawn from the fight minutes ago , and that his leaden arms were flailing at nothing but the air .

He hated them too much to understand -- the people of this isolated law-unto-itself world that was Lord's world . This , he was sure , was the way they would act ; ; laughing at a dying man , laughing as a man was beaten to death . And nothing would be done about it . Nothing unless

Donna ! ! Donna , his young wife , the girl who was both daughter and wife to him . Donna was like he was . She lived by the rules , never compromising , never blinded or diverted by circumstance . And Donna would --

When he regained consciousness he was in Lord's house , in the office of Doctor Lord , the deputy's deceased father .