~ FREE SAMPLE ~
- A Shot!
- Girl With a Gun
- Found: A Corpse
- Alvin Gets Around
- Out ... And in Again
- Underbrush Work
- Kidnap Hunt
- The Marines Land
The road was twisted and rocky and there was thirty miles of it into the resort. I didn’t think the lake and the country around it looked as though it would be worth the trip, and my ideas of having a sort of vacation with pay went out about the same time two leas es in the right front spring broke.
I limped in the rest of the way and stopped in front of a log cabin that sported a STORE sign and went inside and bought a bunch of postcards that showed a lot of mountains and water. The hatchet-faced old-timer who sold them to me looked me over and said:
You just got in, didn’t you, Mister? You want I should show you a cabin?”
I said I thought there was plenty of time for that and asked him if he was in charge of the place. He said proudly:
“I own her, Mister. I own her and I run her. Now I can give you the ASPEN or I can give you BUENA VISTA. That’s all that’s empty, right now, and you better take one of ‘em right now. I expect there’ll be other parties in before it comes night.”
I said: “Okay! Give me the one that’s nearest. There’s a friend of mine staying here; a Miss Hallam.”
He grinned and rolled his eyes up toward the ceiling. He said: “She ain’t here, Mister, hut some of her girls are here. Oh boy, oh boy! Some chickens, they are, Mister.”
I said: “Don’t go collegiate on me, dad,” and let him lead the way to another cabin with a sign over the door that read THE ASPEN. It was neat even if it wasn’t gaudy, and the old boy told me I could cat at the hotel if I didn’t want to bother with my own cooking.
I walked hack toward the store with him, intending ]to get my car, and he jerked his thumb toward a much larger cabin called THE PINES and said: “That’s where them gals are. They’re herded around by an old wench called Bascom. She’s an old battle-ax, if you ask me.”
I said: “You’re up on your slang, dad, if you’re not fussy about which way is up, that is.”
“It’s these here tourists, Mister. I hear a lot of stuff. I see a lot of stuff, too, Mister. I tell you. It’s a damn’ good thing I’m not one of the strict sort of kind, you can bet your bottom dollar on that.”
“Some of the company play around, eh?”
He said, and almost broke my heart with it: “I’ll tell the world.”
* * * * *
I caught Miss Bascom that evening after dinner. Although it was called supper, dinner being what we ate at noon. I watched her leave her cabin and head for the store and I fell in alongside of her and said: “Miss Bascom?”
She said: “Young man, if you annoy me or annoy the girls in my charge, I’ll turn you over to the proper authorities for prosecution. I’m warning you, sir.”
I said: “My name’s O’Leary. Patrick O’Leary.”
“And what of that?” she asked. “You sent for me. That is, Miss Hallam sent for me.”
She stopped, but she didn’t take the frown from her face. She said, in a complaining voice: “Your office must be crazy. To send someone as young as you. Miss Hallam surely didn’t realize they would send a mere boy up here, in view of the importance of the matter.”
I said: “Miss Bascom, I’m thirty-five. There’s only two of us and my partner happened to be busy with something else. For that matter, I’m the outside man when it’s a question of leaving town. Now what’s the trouble?”
She looked toward the store and then back at her cabin. She said: “We can’t talk here.”
“I could meet you anywhere you suggest.”
She chewed her lower lip a moment and finally admitted that might be arranged. She chewed it some more and came out with:
“Suppose you meet me down by the edge of the lake by the boathouse. Let us say in half an hour. You understand nothing must be said about this.”
“About what? What’s the matter?”
She said, and it sounded odd coming from a prim looking wench like she was: “There’s hell to pay.”
I wandered on to the store and pretended not to watch Miss Bascom while she bought a couple of packages of crackers and a pound of Jack cheese. From the way she was dressed and not made up you’d take her for about forty, but I decided that if she’d fix her hair in some other fashion than the way she had it, she’d take ten years from her age.
It was done up in rolls on the top of her head and she looked like something out of the nineties. I decided that if she’d tone down the facade with a little paint and powder she’d knock off another five years along with the other — all she had on her face was a dozen freckles across her nose and a slight case of sunburn.
Her clothes looked as though somebody had stood away from her and pitched them at her, and they were that kind of clothes. But you could see that she wouldn’t look half bad in a bathing suit because in spite of the outfit she had on, she had some nice curves in just about the right places and in just about the right amount.
I finally decided she was putting on a middle-aged act for some reason, and thought I’d better find out just why. She bought her stuff and dragged herself out in her common-sense shoes, and the old boy that ran the place gave me a wink and said: “Hey, Mister, ain’t she a bag?”
I said: “You’re doing better and better, dad. Are there any more at home like her?”
He said: “There’s eight young ones with her, Mister, and if I wasn’t two years older than your granddad, I’d be chasing after ‘em like Towser chased after the rabbit. I’m telling you, Mister.”
“That’s right, and I don’t mean perhaps. Say, Mister, don’t you go shooting off that gun around here. I’m a deppity game warden, right along with some other things like being a deppity sheriff and such like. You hear?”
I said: “What gun?”
“That gun that you got under your coat, Mister. I spotted it the first thing, this afternoon. If you’re one of these city gangsters, I’m going to have to ask you to get the hell out of here. We don’t go for that shooting stuff up here.”
Then to prove him wrong, we heard a shot. Though it didn’t sound like it came from anything much bigger than a pop gun. We went out the door almost together, and he said:
“Say! Didya hear that? Didn’t it sound like it came from right close?”
I said I thought it did. By the time we started up the path, toward where the bulk of the cabins were, there were about fifty of his customers out in front of their places and staring around. The old boy explained it with:
“It’s summertime, Mister, and it’s against the law to do any shooting up here. The law don’t let anybody shoot at game and I don’t let anybody shoot at anything else. On account of because somebody might get shot by accident and I’d lose trade. As soon as I find out who let off that gun, I’m going to take it away from ‘em and spank their pants with it, by gum.”
I said: “You go ahead and look,” and dropped back and watched him head up the path. Then a piping little voice said:
“Hey, Mister I know where that shot was from. It was from up there.”
I looked down and here was about a ten-year-old boy. Dressed up like something I never hope to see in a dream, because I’d surely think I was hitting the liquor too heavily. He had on boy scout knickers that hit him above his knobby little knees. He had a khaki shirt to go with them and the shirt had medals over part of it. The rest had fish scales. He wore half socks and if he ever grew up to his feet, I could see he was going to make a sizeable man. A scout hat topped off the costume.
* * * * *
He wore glasses, too, but they seemed a part of him. The kind with horn rims and heavy lenses. He must have had adenoids, because of the way his teeth were bucked, and altogether he was as ratty looking a specimen as I’d ever had the misfortune to cast an eye on. I could see the kid was pointing toward THE PINES, where Miss Bascom and her charges were quartered, so I said:
“That right? How d’ya know?”
He said: “I was up that way looking to see what I caught in my snare. I heard the shot and then I saw the man run. He ran fast, too.”
I said: “Probably. Well, I’ve heard of a fellow who jumped an eight-foot fence once, when another man missed a train. Maybe it’s something like that.”
* * * * *
The horror looked at me gravely and admitted he didn’t understand. I told him that he would probably undergo somewhat the same experience, when he grew older, and that all he had to do was wait for the time and in the meanwhile let nature take its course. He didn’t say anything but it was apparent he didn’t understand that, either. He came out with:
“You should have seen the fish I caught today, Mister. That long. After we got him in the boat, he started to jump out and I caught him and held him. In my hands, like that.”
This explained the fish scales on his shirt. I told him he must have a natural talent for fishing to be able to catch them with his bare hands and led him back to what he’d started to talk about.
“Who was the man you saw running?”
“It was somebody that was trying to talk to one of those dam girls in that cabin up there. I saw him hanging around there yesterday, when I went up to look at my snare. I haven’t caught anything in it yet, but I made it just like it says in the book so I know I will.”
“No doubt. Would you know him again?”
“Of course. He had his shoes off and was carrying them in his hands. He was swearing too, something awful.”
I figured that one of the gal’s sweeties had been trying to Indian up to the cabin and have a word with her and that somebody had objected to it And that said sweetie didn’t have time to put on his shoes, that he figured comfort going away wasn’t worth the time it would take him to dress for a cross-country dash. I said to my new pal:
“Okay, buddy! You’d better run along home and I’ll be seeing you.”
When I left him, he was goggling at me through his glasses and looking as though something had happened to him that he was used to having happen but still didn’t like. I like kids all right, but I could see this one was a natural pain in the neck.
Miss Bascom was telling the old boy, with a perfectly straight face while she did it: “I’m sorry, but I can’t help what you think or don’t think. There was no gun fired in the vicinity of this cabin.”
“But I tell you, lady, there’s other people that said it sounded like it came from right in back here.”
“They must be mistaken.”
“Have you got a gun here?”
“I fail to see where that’s any concern of yours,” said she, walking back inside.
He turned to me, looking as though somebody had given him a lemon to chew, and said: “That old hellion!”
I said: “Why, dad! What a way to talk about a customer. Don’t she pay you her rent?”
He said: “If it wasn’t that she did, I’d certainly tell her to move. Don’t rile me, young feller, I’m certainly burned up.”
“Red hot, eh?”
“That’s me. I’ll tell the world I am.”
I said: “I’ll bet you’d do a mean Susie Q. You certainly talk in that let-yourself-go style. Where’s the boathouse?”
He pointed toward a point jutting out in the lake and went back, grumbling, toward his store. And I looked around to be sure my Boy Scout friend wasn’t practising playing Indian and on my trail — and walked down toward the point.
END OF SAMPLE