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Butterfly of Death by John H. Knox
noir

Butterfly of Death

by John H. Knox

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A queer kind of a chuckle hit my eardrum. “You’re Joe Delaney,” repeated the voice, and then it added, “So you think you can take my little Butterfly away from me and nothing will happen to you?”


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Table of Contents
  1. The Phone Call
  2. A Beautiful Creature
  3. The Proper Procedure
  4. The Same Voice
  5. Drop Dead
  6. The Mitone Recorder
  7. Nursemaid
  8. Butterfly
  9. The Rat
  10. Loyalty of a Good Man

Chapter 1

The Phone Call

On that particular Friday evening I was exceedingly tired. Working for Frank Parker, of Parker Publications, wasn’t exactly the type of work in which you could take it easy. My job was to edit three of his magazines, Detective Adventures, Science and Crime and Private Eye. It meant spending hours reading all kinds of manuscripts, good, bad, and indifferent. Which all accounted for the fact that at about 7:30 I tried to relax in the easy chair that faced the street, in the living room of my apartment on East 53rd Street.

I closed my eyes to get some kind of relief. The meal I had eaten at Luigi’s was light; there were thousands of little round red dots dancing around my two eyeballs. I opened both eyes as though to chase them away; it was futile.

The phone rang twice.

“Odd” was the only comment I made to myself; I had a private, unlisted, number—known only to my editor, the printer, and my personal physician. Not once had my phone rung during the past year. I arose, went over to my desk, and lifted the receiver from the hook.

A muffled voice asked, “Joe Delaney?”

Mechanically I replied, “Yes, who is this and what do you wish?”

A queer kind of a chuckle hit my eardrum. “You’re Joe Delaney,” repeated the voice, and then it added, “So you think you can take my little Butterfly away from me and nothing will happen to you?”

Remember, I was tired and that accounted for the fact my brain cells failed to react quickly. Something had to be said and I went searching for words. Then I found them. “What kind of a trick is this?” was what finally came from my lips.

“This isn’t a gag,” was the reply. “I’m going to make your life a living hell, just like you made mine. And don’t think I’m kidding; you’re going to be tortured and when you have suffered enough, then I’ll kill you.”

Nice words to hear over a phone. I was getting back to myself and trying to think a mile a second. “There are lots of Joe Delaneys in the phone book,” I protested; “You got the wrong one.”

“No,” was the reply, “I got the right one. The one who works as an editor at Parker Publications and thinks in his spare time he can play around with my wife. You damaged my Butterfly; I’m going to damage you.”

This was getting on what was left of my nerves. “I’m going to hang up now,” I shouted through the mouthpiece of the phone.

“Still think I’m kidding,” the voice continued. “I’ll show you I’m not bluffing. Wait fifteen minutes, then walk down on the east side of 47th Street, between Ninth and Tenth Avenues, and see what happens. Then you’ll know whether this is a joke or the beginning of the end for you, Joe Delaney.”

That was all; I heard a little laugh, and then I, too, hung up.

Back I went to my easy chair to try a bit of thinking. This is all a joke on me. Some fools are having a little celebration and someone who knows me is having fun at my expense. My inner brain snapped back, But if you don’t take that date and walk out, you will never know whether it is a joke.

I arose from my easy chair and looked at my wristwatch. If I walked quickly, I could just make it. When I got downstairs, my heart was beating so rapidly, I realized it would be silly to walk; I hailed a cab and got out at 47th Street and Ninth Avenue. I walked slowly towards Tenth Avenue. As I passed an alley, I turned instinctively, just pressing my head to one side. From somewhere out of the alley, came a baseball, thrown with tremendous force, just missing my skull. It hit against the side of the wall and fell to the ground. I gasped for breath, then came a little unconscious hysterical laughter from my lips.

“Some kids playing baseball,” I said to reassure myself.

I picked it up and walked down the alley, looking for the kids, so I could return that ball. Yet I knew deep down in my heart, I wouldn’t find any youngsters.

Slowly I walked home, trying to make some sense out of this situation. It wasn’t a joke; there actually existed a person who was determined to torture and eventually kill me. Why? He must be some kind of a nut, who had a mistaken idea that I had played around with his wife; somehow, I had to get hold of that fellow. When I reached my apartment, I sank into that easy chair, completely exhausted. Maybe I slept for an hour or two. But I had a nightmare; I saw an executioner trying to throw stones at me. He missed the first five. Then the sixth hit my head, bounced off and landed on a large bell I could hear it ring. It rang, rang, and rang.

When my eyes opened, I realized the phone was ringing. Wearily I lifted the receiver. “Missed you,” said the voice, “but don’t worry, I’ll get you before the week is over. And don’t think you can trace this phone; I’m too smart for yea.”

That was all. I knew the phone call couldn’t be traced; the devil take the new dial phone. And the caller was probably using different pay stations.

~ End of Sample ~

Additional Info

  • MBIN No: 55ccf75fb3901011515aeeff
  • Length: ~ 16 pages (depending on ereader font and font size)
  • Original Publication: Smashing Detective | Sept. 1951 | Vol. 1, No. 3
  • Republication Date: Aug 16, 2018