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THE WANDERING NEPHEW
He wasn’t nervous. He was never nervous. The whole thing was planned pretty neatly. The cops could prove that Jim Metton was within driving distance of his aunt’s place tonight, but he’d out-fox them; he’d admit it before they tried to prove it.
He’d take the news pretty hard about the old lady getting knocked off. Then he’d tell them that he’d been on his way to pay his respects to her, and that he and Merrylee had stopped off at this tourist court for the night.
Oh, he’d lay it on good. The wandering nephew arriving one day after his beloved aunt was brutally murdered. He’d be quiet and dignified about it, but he’d do it good. Just like those friends of his aunt, he’d be—distraught, broken up over the whole thing.
And Merrylee would swear that he hadn’t left her bed. She’d be embarassed about it all, very embarassed when the cops asked her if she had really stayed with him at the camp. Just modest enough she’d be, and just blushing enough and just sentimental enough in telling them they were going to be married anyway. That it ought to make a pretty good alibi; the sweet young thing admitting her indiscretion to prove his alibi.
That’s why he liked Merrylee, he decided as he pulled the car in under the trees along the quiet road. She could turn it on and off when she wanted to; she could see things his way.
None of this sentimental stuff his aunt was always pulling. This rigamarole of pleading with him to let her lend him enough money to start up a business and settle down. Well, he had humored her; he had taken several hundred bucks at a time to start a “business”.
The business had always gone broke. “Dishonest help,” as he had told her one time.
But now he was after big stuff, with no obligations. He knew his aunt kept lots of dough handy, knew where she kept it; and to make sure she’d have plenty on hand he had written saying he was coming on the seventh. Well, this was the sixth, and he was here.
He had made it clear, very clear, because his aunt was always getting things like that mixed up. She was always giving him birthday presents ahead of time, and sending people things on the wrong dates for anniversaries. She sure was bugs on that sentimental pap, parties, or birthdays and all that.
Well, this would be a party, all right, all right. This would be her last one.
SURPRISE! SURPRISE! SURPRISE!
He had walked the quiet road, and in the darkness turned into the drive he knew so well. Far down the road he had left he saw the faint light from somewhere on the lustrous paint of parked cars.
Probably somebody down at Metton’s was having a card-party, playing pinochle or something. Holy Snake-eyes! Pinochle! Well, they were far enough away, he wouldn’t have to worry about anything but pure bad luck, and he had planned most of those things ahead.
And he had planned just the way he’d do it, too. No fooling around. He’d go up the steps as he was now, looking, as he ascended for any last minute thing that might change his plans; seeing, as he was seeing now, that there was only a dim light in the room downstairs where she always sat to save electricity. She was probably knitting something for one of her friends, and she’d be sitting in the old chair with the high back. He was pretty sure of that.
He was perfectly right, of course. She was sitting just there, scrunched up against the chair-back to get the best of the light from the dim bulb. Well, he wasn’t going to give her a chance to start any blabbering. She would hear him come in, as he was coming in now, but before she could get up, he would have the rope over her head. He would be twisting the ends tight before she could get up and kiss him and cry on his shoulder with that sentimental stuff.
It would better be swift. He let the door swing wide. He had the noose tight around her when the door hit the old cast-iron door-stop with a clang. That didn’t bother him, that noise, it would probably be the last thing she ever heard. That, and his foot-steps.
He pulled hard on the rope ends, saw the old, worn hands come up and claw at the coarse fibres. A moment would do it with such an old and feeble thing.
Then the money. Then away and back to Merrylee. He was quite pleased with himself. He felt no qualms, no sentimental twinges of remorse. He had only to hold on a moment longer and then he’d have his hands on some real dough.
He held on. The thin hands picked almost idly at the coarse fibre of the rope. Now, perhaps it was done! He’d hold on, though, best to make a good job of it.
And in that last moment that he felt was the perfection of making sure he began to look toward the place he knew the money would be hidden. That was why his head was turned away when the bright overhead lights came on. That was why he didn’t see the gay onrushing group till they were on top of him.
But he heard the shouts of “Surprise! Surprise! Surprise!”
And he did turn his head in time to see the laughing faces of his aunt’s friends in all their sentimental party gaiety. In fact, big Jim Melton’s face didn’t have time to change as his eye did, and Sally Carver’s scream wasn’t as fast as her husband’s fist.
The big fist travelled just slowly enough to let Jim realize that he hadn’t quite done the thing he had come to do, and just time enough to curse all the soft and mushy people who gave surprise parties and then got their dates mixed on top of that. He tried to scream something like that, but his teeth were in his throat then, and there wasn’t time.
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