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Once he allowed that there was nothing personal about someone's leaving a murdered man in his office, Simon Randall began to see the light in this case. Just enough light to reveal a blank wall ahead. . .

Death On Sunday

H. C. Butler

HE WAS as drunk as a dockhand on Saturday night which is one reason I didn't believe him when he said it. I was half looped myself, which was another reason.

He said, very simply, "I'm going to kill a woman."

Just like that . . .

I'm Simon Randall, private investigator, more glamorously known as an eye. It was a hot, muggy Saturday night—the kind Miami doesn't brag about in the travel folders—and I'd been working late in my office. About nine o'clock I closed up and ambled across Biscayne Boulevard to Louie's place for a few beers. That's where I met the little round man.

He was occupying the end stool at the bar and I sat down next to him. He was about five feet tall and five feet wide and had the general contours of a beachball. His greatest circumference was at his beltline, and above and below that point he simply tapered. His face was round, too; his cheeks pink and puffy, his global dome completely bald. And he was talkative.

Nothing's more boring than a talkative lush, but this guy turned out to be different. I found that he could tell the most fanciful lies of anyone I'd ever met. He told me about the time he fought bulls in Barcelona, for example. And the time he'd gone over Niagara Falls in a barrel.

So he was an interesting liar anyway— and if you didn't take anything he said seriously you could spend an entertaining evening with him. It was about ten o'clock—I was on my sixth beer and he was on his umpteenth highball—when he said it.

"I'm going to let you in on a big secret," he said, wagging his chubby finger in my face. "I'm going to kill a woman!"

I just laughed it off. "Better not tell me; I'm a private dick."

"Hoho!" He slapped his knee with his fat hand. "Now just imagine me telling you I'm going to kill a woman!" His round eyes thinned out. "I am, though. By gawd if I'm not!"

It still didn't register with me. How can you believe a guy who's been slinging wild tales all evening? "Why a woman?" I asked, egging him on.

"Why not a woman?" he asked practically. "In detective stories they always kill a beautiful woman—they make such pretty corpses. Why should I be different?"

Like I say, this was at ten o'clock. Time for a hard-working private dick to head for home. I drained my beer.

"Make it a strip-teaser," I suggested, "and leave her on an Oriental rug with a knife between her ample breasts. That's the way it's always done."

I left him sitting there. In ten minutes I'd forgotten all about the little round man and his strange stories.

THE NEXT morning was Sunday and I wouldn't ordinarily have gone to the office. But I'd left some papers there I wanted to pick up, so after a stomach- settling breakfast I went back to the Pennant Building where I had my cubicle.

Ernie, the prune-faced janitor, gave me the eye as I went in the back way. "Working this morning, Mr. Randall?"

"A private dick's work is never done," I paraphrased, grinning at him.

Then I took the elevator to the fourth floor, ambled down the long hallway and unlocked my office door. I stepped inside—and stopped.

There was a man sitting at my desk. This in itself was unusual, especially on a Sunday morning, but there was another aspect that made it more unusual. The man was the little round character I'd met the night before in the bar across the street. He sat in my swivel chair, leaning back comfortably, his chubby hands folded complacently over his bulging stomach.

What threw me was the fact that he had a little round bullet hole in the middle of his forehead.

I stood there a moment, not quite grasping it. After all, finding a murdered man sitting in your locked-up office isn't exactly a commonplace experience. And the fact that it was the little round man made it all the more incongruous.

What was it he had said? Oh, yes— he'd said he was going to kill a woman. A pretty woman, as they did in detective stories. And here he was sitting at my desk with a bullet hole in his own head!

How crazy can you get?

I kicked my office door shut with my heel. I walked over and touched him. He felt clammy and stiff. I'm no doctor, but I've seen a few corpses, and I made a quick guess that he must have been killed about ten hours ago. That would set the time somewhere around eleven o'clock last night. I'd left the bar, and the little round man, at ten.

It occurred to me, then, that I didn't know his name. I felt in his inside coat pocket and found a leather wallet. He had a few dollars, some unimportant papers, and an identification card. The name on the card was Loren Swenson.

It rang a bell in my memory, but not very loudly. Loren Swenson was a name I should know. I had that feeling, anyway. Yet I couldn't place the name. It hung around in my brain like an unwelcome intruder, and it wouldn't leave.

Loren Swenson was something out of the past, something old, something mysterious and vague and without exact meaning.

For the first time I realized there was a draft in the room. I looked at my window and noticed the lower glass pane was punctured near the latch. There was a hole big enough for a man to have reached his hand through and unlatched the window. It was unlatched, too.


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