December 22, 2010

The Long Saturday Night by Charles Williams 1962(page 10)

Brill stepped inside Scanlon’s private office, leaving
the door open. The three of us remained where we
were, staring at the telephone on the desk between
Scanlon looked at Barbara, the gray eyes flinty. “I
never thought I’d use the sheriff’s office for a routine
like this. If I didn’t have a dirty hunch you could be
right, I’d lock you up.”
The Long Saturday Night — 135
She made no reply. She glanced at me and tried to
smile, but it didn’t quite come off. A minute went by.
At this hour on Sunday morning you could drive
anywhere in town in less than three minutes. It had to
be before then. Two minutes. The silence began to
roar in my ears. The room was swollen and bulging
with it, like some dark and suffocating pressure.
Three minutes. I stared at the telephone, and then
away, and back at it again. Barbara had lowered her
head, and I saw her eyes were closed. Her elbows
rested on the desk, and she was raising and lowering
her fists, so tightly clenched the knuckles were white,
bumping the heels of them gently against the wood in
some rhythmic and supplicant cadence she apparently
wasn’t aware of or didn’t know how to stop. The
telephone rang. I saw her gulp. Her shoulders shook,
and she groped for her handkerchief and pressed it
against her mouth.

The Long Saturday Night by Charles Williams 1962(page 9)

That did it. Without turning his head, Scanlon
snapped to Mulholland. “Get that girl in here.”
Mulholland went out, on the double. When Scanlon
used that tone, he meant jump, and jump fast.
I turned to George. “I realize I’m probably making
your job tougher, but it was necessary.” Obviously,
Doris’ confirmation of the telephone call to me would
nail down the two things the prosecution would be
overjoyed to prove: motive and premeditation. “But
since I didn’t kill her,” I went on, “it doesn’t make any
difference anyway.”
They all looked at me pityingly—everybody except
George. He took a cigarette from a silver case,
studied it thoughtfully as he tapped it on a thumbnail,
and said, “Well, my hands are more or less tied here,
Duke, since I can’t interfere with the investigation,
but perhaps it would have been better. . . .” He let his
voice trail off. In other words: I’ll do my best, but
you’ve probably already hanged yourself.

The Long Saturday Night by Charles Williams 1962(page 8)

I groped my way to the bathroom. There was no
window here, and I could turn on a light. I washed the
blood off my hand. It was only a superficial cut from a
piece of that falling glass; in all the uproar I’d been so
charged with adrenalin I hadn’t even felt it. I rooted
around in his medicine chest for a Band-aid and stuck
it on, but the blood continued to ooze out around the
edges, so I wrapped a towel around it. I wouldn’t
bleed to death from a scratch like that.
There were two windows in the apartment, one in
the living room-bedroom, facing Montrose, and the
other in the kitchen, looking out into the alley. I
closed the door from the kitchen, tore a blanket off
the bed and draped it across the curtain rods of the
window in here to cut off any seepage of light, and
switched on a lamp. The furnishings were meager; it
wouldn’t take long to search the place. A dresser
stood against the front wall, next to the door going
The Long Saturday Night — 110

The Long Saturday Night by Charles Williams 1962(page 7)

“Yes. Probably an hour before George and I left.”
“But on the other hand, it’s almost certain she
called somebody the minute you left the house. That’s
why the line was busy when I tried to call you,
because I’m positive it was after eleven-forty-five. So
it could have been anybody. Now, remember carefully
—how long do you think it was from the time you
called George Clement until he arrived in the Sheriffs
“Not over ten minutes,” I said, and then did a
delayed take. “George?”

The Long Saturday Night by Charles Williams 1962(page 6)

“Long distance?”
“Yes. El Paso is calling. For Miss Bentley.”
The Long Saturday Night — 78
‘This is Miss Bentley, but—”
“Go ahead, please.”
“Hello,” I said. “Hello, Doris?” I heard her gasp. “It
took me a long time to remember where I’d heard
your voice before.”
“Who are you?” she demanded. “And what are you
talking about?”
“You know who I am, so let’s get down to cases. And
don’t hang up on me, because if you do Scanlon’s
going to pick you up. I’ve still got a friend or two
there, and he might get a tip; you didn’t invent the
anonymous telephone call.”
“Just a moment, please,” she said sweetly. I heard
her put down the phone, and then the rattle of coins
from the change dispenser.
She came back. “You wouldn’t dare! I’d tell him
where you are.”
“Try me and see. After all, they’re going to catch me
sooner or later, so I haven’t got much to lose. But you
have, haven’t you?”

The Long Saturday Night by Charles Williams 1962(page 5)

“I want you to send a telegram for me.”
“Hell, is that all?”
“It’s enough. Let’s see—you’re on Mountain Time
there, so send it about eight tomorrow morning,
straight wire. Phone it in from a pay phone, so there’s
no way they can trace it back to you. Got a pencil
“Right. Commence firing.”
The Long Saturday Night — 63
“Check.” He read it back. “Anything else I can do?”
“No,” I said. “Gracias, amigo.”
“Por nada. How bad is this thing, pal?”
“Real bad.”
“Okay. I’m holding it.”

The Long Saturday Night by Charles Williams 1962(page 4)

It was six-twenty and just growing light when I parked
the car in a lot at the New Orleans airport. I was
The Long Saturday Night — 50
hollow-eyed with fatigue and the nervous strain of
sustained highspeed driving with one eye cocked on
the mirror for the Highway Patrol, but still keyed up
mentally as I put the packet of bonds in the suitcase,
locked the car, and carried the bag into the terminal. I
had a cup of coffee at the lunchroom, asked the
cashier for some change, and headed for a telephone
booth, setting the suitcase down where I could watch
it through the door.
I dialed the long distance operator and put in a
person-to-person call to Ernie Sewell. I didn’t know
his number, but he lived on Springer Street, on the
edge of town, in a small ranch-style house he and his
wife were paying off. She worked for the county, in
the Tax Assessor’s office.

The Long Saturday Night by Charles Williams 1962(page 3)

There was no hope of sleeping, so I filled the
percolator, measured out the coffee, and plugged it in.
When I went back to the living room I noticed idly that
one of her gloves was lying on the sofa where she’d
dropped it when I lunged at her. I’d seen it when I
came in from the hall, but had paid no attention. The
other was lying on the rug in front of the sofa. She’d
been too scared and in too big a hurry to remember
them when she’d gathered up the suitcase and purse.
It was odd, though, that Mulholland hadn’t seen them;
he’d thought the suitcase was mine. Curious, I
stepped over to the hall doorway where he’d been
standing, and looked again. The sofa was Danish teak
with pearl-gray cushions, the glove was black, and he
would have been looking straight at it. Well, he was
too busy admiring himself to notice anything.
I remembered then what George had said about my
behaving as if I were jealous of him. Could people
have actually believed that? I disliked him for the
posing and arrogant jerk he was, but it went back a
long time before the Little Theatre production of
Detective Story, and had nothing to do with it.
Anyway, there weren’t many love scenes in the play,
at least between McLeod and Mary McLeod, the two
parts they’d had. I’d objected to her being in it, but
The Long Saturday Night — 37
only because of the long hours of rehearsals, five
nights a week for over a month.

The Long Saturday Night by Charles Williams 1962(page 2)

grabbed the telephone, and it wasn’t until the longdistance
operator was putting through the call that I
wondered what I was going to say to her. This had to
be done face to face. Well, I could tell her to come
home. The hotel switchboard answered.
“Mrs. Warren, please,” I said.
“I believe she’s checked out,” the girl replied. “One
moment, please; I’ll give you the desk.”
She’d said she was going to stay over till Sunday.
What had changed her mind so suddenly? “Desk,” a
man’s voice said.
“This is John Warren. I’m trying to reach my wife on
a very urgent matter. Could you tell me how long ago
she checked out?”

The Long Saturday Night by Charles Williams 1962(page 1)

The day it began was January 5th. I’d gone hunting
that morning, and it was a little after one P.M. When I
got to the office.
Clebourne’s the main street, and the central
business district is about seven blocks long. Warren
Realty is in the second block from the west end, with
J.C. Penney’s on one side and Fuller’s cafe on the
other, and, except that it’s mine, it could be any smalltown
real estate office anywhere—the plate glass
window with a few of the current listings posted in it,
a split-leaf philodendron here and there, two
salesmen’s desks forever cluttered with papers, and,
as a sort of focal point like the medulla oblongata of
the human nervous system, another desk with a
typewriter, several telephones, a Notary sign, and a
girl who knows where everything is buried, including
the bodies. The girl in this case is Barbara Ryan, if girl
is the correct term for a 30-year-old divorcee. She has
reddish mahogany-colored hair that always seems a
little tousled, a wide mouth in a rather slender face,
cool blue eyes, and an air of good-natured cynicism,
as though she were still fond of the human race in
spite of the fact she no longer expected a great deal of
it. When I came in she was alone in the office,
speaking into one of the telephones.

December 20, 2010

The Diamond Bikini by Charles Williams(page 18)

I was worried. “What will they do to Pop?” I asked
the sheriff. “And to Miss Caroline?”
He didn’t act like he even heard me. He just stood
there with that dreamy expression on his face, and
every once in a while he would whisper, “Wonderful.”
And then, “Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful.”
It was maybe five minutes before he looked around
and even noticed I was there, and then I thought of
one other thing that still puzzled me. Uncle
Sagamore had got some clothes for Miss Caroline,
but there she was wearing his old overalls. I asked
the sheriff about it

The Diamond Bikini by Charles Williams(page 17)

“You’re damn right he has.”
The sheriff held up his hands again. “All right. Let
me talk. You ain’t heard the half of it yet. There ain’t
no reward offered for that girl, and never has been.
You’re a bunch of suckers.”
Then Pop was climbing up on the stand.
“He’d better look out,” Murph says, real soft.
Pop was holding up his hands, and talking, but you
couldn’t hear a word he was saying because the
sheriff was drowning him out with the loudspeakers.
Then a rock flew through the air, and it just missed
Pop’s head.
“We’ll see who’s a sucker!” a man yelled in the
Another rock went sailing past Pop.

The Diamond Bikini by Charles Williams(page 16)

the palm of your hand, and he’ll tell you anything you
want to know about it.”
Everybody cheered Uncle Sagamore. He took hold
of the microphone and shifted his tobacco over into
the other cheek, and says, “Well sir, men, I ain’t no
hand at makin’ speeches. You all know that. I’m just
goin’ to tell you I appreciate you comin’ out to help
an’ I know you’re going to be just like me. You’re
goin’ to be right here, by hell, till that girl is found.
“Now, naturally, a man can’t look all the time. We
wouldn’t expect him to. He’s got to have a little rest
now an’ then, so there’s refreshment up here, and
entertainment for when you get tired.”

The Diamond Bikini by Charles Williams(page 15)

We scooted past the sound truck, and then I saw
Pop was up there. He was walking along beside the
front one of the yellow trucks, and he motioned for
them to pull off in an open place beside the ruts
about a hundred yards away. He waved for the one
with the lumber to pull off on the other side.
The one with the lumber stopped, but Uncle Finley
was already there, and before the man could even get
out he ran around back and pulled off a board about
twenty feet long and started running down the hill
towards the ark, dragging the board after him.
“Hey,” the men in the truck yelled, and took out
after him. One of them got hold of the end of the
board and started trying to take it away from him.
The other one yelled at Pop, “Who’s this crazy old
bastard? Tell him to leave this lumber alone.”
Pop was telling the drivers of the yellow trucks
where to park. He looked around and waved a hand.
That’s just Finley. Let him have the plank and he
won’t bother you no more. He’ll be all day nailing it

The Diamond Bikini by Charles Williams(page 14)

And that wasn’t all. There was a light down at the
edge of the lake by Uncle Finley’s ark, and a couple
of cars and an ambulance and a truck, and there was
six or seven men milling around. The light was
coming from gasoline lanterns they was carrying. I
cut down that way, still running, but I give out of
breath before I got there and had to slow down to a
As I came up I could see some of the men was ones
I knew. There was the sheriff and Booger and Otis
and Pearl. Booger and Pearl was helping another
man load a stretcher into the ambulance. Uncle
Sagamore and Otis and Pop was trying to unload a
rowboat off the truck. It dropped, and everybody
cussed. The sheriff was just standing around cussing
to anybody that would listen.
The Diamond Bikini— 124
I thought it was sure funny with me and Miss
Harrington lost like we was that there wouldn’t be at
least one or two of ‘em out looking for us.
I walked up to the light. “Hi, Pop,” I says, “I found
my way back.”

The Diamond Bikini by Charles Williams(page 13)

“Well, well,” he says. “What have we got here?
Looks like a whole passel of laundry. And, by golly,
here’s a cardboard box under it, where you wouldn’t
hardly notice it if you didn’t happen to be looking for
a clogged gas line. Box just settin’ there, all covered
Otis came around to that side too. They looked at
each other, real puzzled.
“What do you reckon is in there?” Otis asked.
Booger shook the box a little.
“Well, heavens to Betsy,” he says. “Listen. It sort of
gurgles. You reckon it’s surp, or perfume, or
something? Maybe it’s Channel Number Five he’s
taking to one of his lady friends.” He thought for a
minute, and then slapped his hands together. “No. I
know what it is. I bet Mr. Noonan has got some spare
gasoline in this here box.”

The Diamond Bikini by Charles Williams(page 12)

“What’s that?” Uncle Sagamore asked.
“Mind you,” Dr Severance says, “I wouldn’t say this
if I didn’t know I was right. But the rabbit season
closed two weeks ago.”
“No!” Uncle Sagamore says, his mouth falling
open. “Is that a fact?” He thought for a minute, and
then he clapped his hands together, and says, “Yes,
by hell, I believe you’re right. I recollect now, I
looked it up just the other day myself.”
The Diamond Bikini— 82
“Why,” Pop says, looking at the two rabbit hunters,
“they ought to of been ashamed of theirselves, ahuntin’
rabbits out of season that way. They’re no
better than common criminals.”
“It’s people like that,” Uncle Sagamore says, “that
destroy the natural resources of a country. It’s just
disheartenin’, that’s what it is. Out here, sneakin’
around and breakin’ the laws behind people’s backs.”
Dr Severance nodded. “That’s right. And as for me,
I wouldn’t have the guts to go bothering a poor
overworked sheriff with ‘em. He’s got enough on his
mind now, protecting the citizens, and looking for
live criminals.”

The Diamond Bikini by Charles Williams(page 11)

The Diamond Bikini— 65
“Good God, what a family,” she says. “Not even
eight yet—”
Then she glanced down and saw I was looking at
the vine, and she started to laugh. “Oh,” she says.
“You had me worried there for a minute.”
“It sure is nice,” I said. “I wish I had one.”
“Well, I wish you had this one,” she says.
“Why?” I asked.
“Well,” she says, “I guess I developed kind of
uneven when I was a kid. I had a place to put it
before I had sense enough not to put it there.”
I didn’t know what she was talking about, but it
didn’t seem to make any difference anyhow because I
just figured then that all the women had vines, and
that if you had one that nice it was all to the good. So
we waded out in the water, kind of slow to see how
deep it was. She’d had to pin her hair up on top of
her head with bobby pins to keep it from getting wet
because she didn’t have a swimming cap.

The Diamond Bikini by Charles Williams(page 10)

She snapped her fingers at him. “Break it up, dad,”
she says. She sauntered out the door and sat down in
one of the canvas chairs and crossed her legs.
“God, this is really back in the jungle,” she said.
“Fine climate, though,” Pop says. “Best place in the
world for anemia.”
“Well, that’s fine,” Miss Harrington said. She
brushed a gnat off her leg, and looked at Uncle
Sagamore again. “If you run across anything you’re
not sure about, Zeb, don’t hesitate to ask me.”
“Well sir,” Uncle Sagamore says to Pop, “I reckon
this is the first time I ever met up with the anemia.
You don’t suppose Bessie’d be likely to catch it?”
“I reckon not,” Pop says. “She’s probably done past
the age when she’s apt to come down with it.”
Just then Dr Severance came out with the two
drinks. He gave them to Pop and Uncle Sagamore
and sat down in the other chair.
The Diamond Bikini— 59

The Diamond Bikini by Charles Williams(page 9)

She snapped her fingers at him. “Break it up, dad,”
she says. She sauntered out the door and sat down in
one of the canvas chairs and crossed her legs.
“God, this is really back in the jungle,” she said.
“Fine climate, though,” Pop says. “Best place in the
world for anemia.”
“Well, that’s fine,” Miss Harrington said. She
brushed a gnat off her leg, and looked at Uncle
Sagamore again. “If you run across anything you’re
not sure about, Zeb, don’t hesitate to ask me.”
“Well sir,” Uncle Sagamore says to Pop, “I reckon
this is the first time I ever met up with the anemia.
You don’t suppose Bessie’d be likely to catch it?”
“I reckon not,” Pop says. “She’s probably done past
the age when she’s apt to come down with it.”
Just then Dr Severance came out with the two
drinks. He gave them to Pop and Uncle Sagamore
and sat down in the other chair.
The Diamond Bikini— 59

The Diamond Bikini by Charles Williams(page 8)

The sheriff jerked his head around and stared at us.
“Oh, no!” he says, like he hurt somewhere. “Oh,
Jesus, no! Not two of you! Not two Noonans in the
same county. God wouldn’t do that to anybody. I’ll—
I’ll—” He choked all up.
“Sam,” Uncle Sagamore went on, “the shurf here is
kind of worried about his men. Seems like they’ve
started sneakin’ off to drink croton oil on the sly, like
The Diamond Bikini— 52
a baby stuffin’ beans up his nose, and he’s afraid the
voters’ll get wind of it. But I was just tellin’ him he
ain’t got a thing to worry about as far as we’re
concerned. We can keep a secret as well as anybody
in the county.”
“We sure can,” Pop says. “Nobody’ll ever find it out
from us. But ain’t that kind of a funny thing for ‘em to
want to do?”
“Well, sir,” Uncle Sagamore says, “we’re not in no
position to judge, Sam. We’re not in politics. Ain’t no
way we can rightly tell what kind of a strain a man
might be under, settin’ there every day with all that
responsibility. Why, a strain like that could get so
bad after a while a man might even start to think
about gettin’ out of politics and goin’ to work, though
offhand I can’t seem to recollect of a case of one ever
crackin’ up quite as bad as that.”
The sheriff was getting a little purple around the
face now. He kept trying to talk, but it was mainly
just sputter, like steam pushing up the lid of a coffee
pot. “Sagamore Noonan!” he yells, “I—I—”
Uncle Sagamore didn’t even seem to hear him. He
just shifted his tobacco over on the other side and
shook his head sort of sad. “Politics is hard on a man,
Sam,” he says. “It always puts me in mind of Bessie’s
cousin, Peebles. Peebles was a dep’ty shurf for a long
time, till he begin to grow this here sort of mildew on
his hunkers. Just regular mildew, like you see on a
pone of bread that’s gone stale. It was a real puzzling
thing, and they couldn’t figure it out at all.
“Well sir, it went on like that for quite a spell, with
Peebles goin’ to the doctor every week or so to have
this mildew scraped off his butt, but they never could
figure out what caused it, till one day the doctor
happened to be goin’ by the courthouse durin’ office
hours an’ he’d seen what it was. Seems like they’d
put in one of them new-fangled sprinklin’ systems on
the lawn, and the edge of one of the sprays, by golly,
reached over just to the edge of Peebles’s settin’
place on the step. Well, they got to inquirin’ around,
and found out that Peebles had been home sick the
The Diamond Bikini— 53
day they’d put in the sprinkler and tried it out, and
they’d forgot to allow for him. So he’d been settin’
there all these months with his tail in that spray of
The sheriff seemed to get hold of hisself at last. His
face was still purple, but he got real quiet. He
reached down for his handkerchief and mopped his
face sort of slow and deliberate; then he took a deep
breath and put the handkerchief in his pocket and
walked over in front of Uncle Sagamore like a man
that was holding onto hisself real hard to keep from
blowing up like a stick of dynamite. He began
“Sagamore Noonan,” he says, real quiet, but still
taking those deep breaths, “when the voters elected
me sheriff for the first time ten years ago I promised
‘em I was going to make this county a decent place to
live by puttin’ you so far back in the pen it’d cost you
eight dollars to send a postcard out to the front gate.
When they re-elected me six years ago, and then
again two years ago, I promised ‘em the same thing.
They knew I was honestly tryin’, and they believed
me. They had patience, because they knew what I
was up against.
“I’m still tryin’. And some day I’m going to do it.
Some day I’m going to get enough evidence on you to
send you up the river so far your grandchildren will
be old men when you get back, and we can hold up
our heads around here and look the rest of the state
in the face.
“Sometimes I’m tempted to quit, to just throw up
the job and sell my home and go somewhere else and
start over, but then I get to thinkin’ about all the
other poor people in this county who’d have to stay
here and go on putting up with you because they
can’t sell out and leave, so I stick it out and keep
trying. It’s an obligation, I reckon. I just can’t
abandon all these defenseless people to you.
“It ain’t just a job. It’s gone beyond that. I went
into the Treasurer’s office the other day and told ‘em
they didn’t have to issue my pay-checks any more till
The Diamond Bikini— 54
I freed the county of you, and that if the people didn’t
re-elect me two years from this fall I’d go on servin’
for nothing, right along with the new sheriff, till we
got the evidence on you to put you away and we
wouldn’t be ashamed to bring innocent children into
a world where you was running around loose.
“And now that I find out there ain’t only you, that
there’s two of you here on this one farm with decent,
God-fearin’ people livin’ all around you, I’m almost
tempted to call the Governor and have him declare
martial law. There must be something on the statute
books to protect the citizens from you without havin’
to go to court with evidence of any one particular
“It’s like I was tellin’ you, Sam,” Uncle Sagamore
says. “This shurf is a real fine man, aside from being
a little inclined to get all het up over triflin’ little
things that don’t amount to a hill of beans. Reckon
he’s got the high blood pressure. An’ then, too, it
must be kind of trying, havin’ your men sneakin’
around Pokin’ beans up their noses when you ain’t
No,” Pop says. “They wasn’t poking beans up their
nose. They were drinking croton oil remember?”
“Oh, sure,” Uncle Sagamore says. “It was croton
oil, wasn’t it?”
The sheriff brought both hands up and rubbed ‘em
across his face, and he didn’t say anything for a
minute. He breathed kind of slow and heavy, but
when he took his hands away he was still quiet.
“While I’m out here,” he says to Uncle Sagamore,
“I’m going to have a look in your barn. We been
gettin’ reports from various towns that you been
doing a little shopping here and there.”
“Why, sure, Shurf,” Uncle Sagamore says. “Help
yourself, I’m always kind of proud when I done a
little shopping. The way I see it, it shows good
management when a man can have a little money left
over to buy something for hisself after he’s fed all the
goddam politicians he’s got lyin’ in his lap.”
“Come on!” the sheriff says, real cold.
The Diamond Bikini— 55
The barn was made out of logs, with split shingles
for a roof. Inside there was some stalls for the mules.
It was kind of dim, and smelled nice, just like the
stables at a race track. In one corner there was a
corncrib with a little door made out of planks.
We all stopped, and the sheriff went over and
opened the corncrib door, “Well, well,” he says,
Ebbing his hands together. “Just like I thought.”
I couldn’t see past him very well, but it looked like
a lot of sacks of something or other piled up five or
six feet high.
“Sure is a lot of awful sweet mule feed,” the sheriff
says. He started counting, pointing with his finger
and moving his lips. Uncle Sagamore leaned against
the wall and sailed out some tobacco juice.
The sheriff finished counting. He turned around
and looked at Uncle Sagamore, and he seemed to feel
a lot better. “Ninety sacks,” he says. “That’s about
the way we heard it. That was quite a little shopping
you did, here and there.”
“Well, you know how it is,” Uncle Sagamore says.
“A man’s workin’ eighteen, twenty hours a day, he
don’t get to town very often.”
“You mind lettin’ me know what you’re aiming to
do with all of it?” the sheriff asked. “Stories like that
interest me.”
“Why, no. Not at all, Shurf,” Uncle Sagamore says.
“You see, when Sam here wrote me he was comin’ to
visit a spell this summer and was bringin’ his boy, I
figured I ort to lay in a little sweetnin’. You know how
boys is. They got a sweet tooth.”
“Nine thousand pounds of sugar?” the sheriff
asked. “They must figure on staying several weeks.
Ain’t you afraid that much’d be bad for his teeth?”
Uncle Sagamore snapped his fingers. “Well sir,” he
says, “you know, I never thought of that.”
The sheriff’s face started to get purple again.
Uncle Sagamore shook his head, kind of sad.
“Imagine that,” he says. “Sure looks like the joke’s on
me, buyin’ all that sugar for nothin’.”
The Diamond Bikini— 56
We walked back to the car. The sheriff opened the
door and started to get in. “Well, you just go right
ahead bein’ smart, Sagamore Noonan,” he says.
“Sooner or later you’re going to laugh on the other
side of your face. It’s here on this land, and we’re
goin’ to find it. It ain’t goin’ to be so funny then.”
“Why, did you lose something, Shurf?” Uncle
Sagamore asked. “You should have told me. Anyway,
me an’ Sam can help, you just let us know. And don’t
you fret none about us tellin’ anybody your men’s
started drinkin’ croton oil. You can depend on us.”
The sheriff said a bad cuss word and got in and
slammed the door. The car jumped ahead and made a
big turn and then went bucking up the hill. It seemed
like him and his men was always in a hurry. I thought
it wasn’t any wonder they kept running over Mr.
Jimerson’s hogs.
I wondered why Uncle Sagamore had bought all
that sugar, but I figured there wasn’t any use asking
him. Maybe I could ask Pop about it later. He might
know. But I was sure he hadn’t bought it on account
of us, like he told the sheriff, because he didn’t even
know we was coming until we’d got there.
Uncle Sagamore looked up the hill to where you
could just see Dr Severance’s trailer in the edge of
The Diamond Bikini— 57
the trees. Pop remembered then that what with that
excitable sheriff talking so much he’d forgot to tell
Uncle Sagamore about it. So he told him.
“Well, is that a fact? A hundred and twenty a
month,” Uncle Sagamore says, aiming some tobacco
juice at a grasshopper about ten feet away on the
sand. He missed him a couple inches. The
grasshopper went away, buzzing. Got the anemia,
has she?”
“That’s right,” Pop says. “She has to eat
“Well sir, that’s a shame,” Uncle Sagamore says. “A
young girl, and all.”
“By the way, have we got any vegetables?” Pop
“Hmmm,” Uncle Sagamore says. “I reckon there’s
still some of Bessie’s turnips out there if the hawgs
ain’t rooted ‘em all out.”
“Well, they ought to do fine,” Pop says. “Come to
think of it, whoever seen a hawg with the anemia?”
We walked up the hill towards the trailer. It was
getting along late in the afternoon now and the
shadows of the trees was lengthening out and it was
pretty out over the lake.
Dr Severance had uncoupled the trailer from the
car and set up a striped canvas shade over the door
like a front porch. There was a couple of canvas
chairs and a little table under it, and a portable radio
on the table was playing music. It was all real nice.
Just as we walked up Dr Severance came out the
door. “Hello,” he says to Pop, and Pop introduced
him to Uncle Sagamore. He still had on the doublebreasted
suit, but he’d took off his tie and had a glass
in his hand with ice and some stuff in it.
“Would you men care for a drink?” he asked.
“Why if’n it wouldn’t put you out,” Uncle Sagamore
He went back inside and we all hunkered down in
the shade. We could hear him in the trailer clinking
The Diamond Bikini— 58
glasses and ice. And just then Miss Harrington came
out of the door.
“Well, ho-ly hell!” Uncle Sagamore says, just the
way Pop had the other time.
She had changed clothes, but this little two-piece
romper outfit was just like the other one except that
instead of being white it was striped like candy. She
had on gold-colored sandals with a strap that went
between her toes, and her toenails was all painted
gold. On her wrist was a big heavy bracelet, and one
ankle had a thin gold chain around it. She rattled the
ice in the glass she was carrying, and leaned against
the door and looked at Uncle Sagamore.
“Does he hurt somewhere?” she asked Pop.
“Oh,” Pop says. “This here is my brother
“Well, I might have guessed that,” she says. There
is something about the way he looks, if you know
what I mean.”
Uncle Sagamore didn’t say anything. He just went
on staring.

The Diamond Bikini by Charles Williams(page 7)

“That’s sweet of you.”
Dr Severance butted in. “Miss Harrington’s anemia
is the very worst kind. It doesn’t show. That’s what
makes it so hard to diagnose and cure. Just looking at
her you wouldn’t think she had anything, would
“Well, I wouldn’t say that,” Pop says.
“Look,” Miss Harrington says to the doctor, “what’s
with this Hiram type, anyway? We going to adopt
him, or something? Tell him to go fry a hush-puppy
and let’s get the hell out of here.”
The Diamond Bikini— 46
“Keep your shirt on,” Dr Severance told her. “Mr.
Noonan is going to rent us a camping place on his
Miss Harrington yawned. “Well, goody.”
“You’ll have absolute rest and quiet, and lots of
fresh leafy vegetables.”
“Just what I always wanted,” she says.

The Diamond Bikini by Charles Williams(page 6)

* * *
Well, after Booger and Otis had come out of the trees
and got back in their car and left, Uncle Sagamore
backed his truck out of the shed by the barn. Him
and Pop loaded the tannery tubs on it and took them
off in the timber back of the cornfield.
The Diamond Bikini— 39
“Think they been in the sun long enough for now,”
he says. “This leather-making is ticklish business. Got
to let it age just right, part of the time up there in the
sun, and then down here in the shade for a few
I wondered why they had to be clear up there
beside the house just to be in the sun, but I didn’t say
anything. This didn’t seem like much of a place for
having your questions answered.
Uncle Sagamore and Pop talked it over about us
staying there for the summer and Uncle Sagamore
said it would be fine, only we’d have to kind of
provision ourselves. He said he’d been so taken up
with his tannery work this spring he’d forgot to plant
any garden, and the chickens always quit laying
when he brought his tubs up to the house to age in
the sun.

The Diamond Bikini by Charles Williams(page 5(2))

“Well, it’s like this,” Uncle Sagamore says.
“Every once in a while, maybe twice a year, Bessie
gets all galled under the britchin’ about something
and starts faunchin’ around here sayin’ she’s takened
all she can take, she just ain’t goin’ to put up with me
no longer, ain’t nobody could live with me. Usually
over some triflin’ little thing that don’t amount to a
hill of beans, like I won’t wash my feet or something,
but she gets all swole up like a snakebit pup and says
she’s leavin’ me for good this time. So she packs her
suitcase and gets her egg money and walks down to
Jimerson’s which is on the party line and calls Bud
Watkins that runs the taxi in town, and Bud comes
after her. She gets on the bus and goes down to
Glencove to stay with her Cousin Viola, the one that
married Vergil Talley.

The Diamond Bikini by Charles Williams(page 5(1))

“Uh—not exactly,” Uncle Sagamore says. “You see,
you kind of make her up yourself. They send you this
powder, whatever it is, and you mix it right at home.
There may be just a teensy smell of alcohol about it,
but don’t let that fool you. It’s just because the only
thing I had to dissolve it in was some old patent
medicine of Bessie’s.”
“Well, imagine that!” the moustache one says. “A
little smell of alcohol. Who would have suspected a
thing like that?”
The gold-tooth one picked the jar up and held it
under his nose. The other one looked at him.
“Can’t smell nothing with that stink out there,” he
says. “But, hell, we know what it is.”
“I tell you it’s just a remedy, boys,” Uncle
Sagamore says. “You wouldn’t want to take that in to
the health department. They’d laugh at you.”
The Diamond Bikini— 26

The Diamond Bikini by Charles Williams(page 4)

“Yeah, but what are we going to do? Sagamore
ain’t here. He’s probably been drafted. Nobody
around here except that old squirrel down there
The Diamond Bikini— 19
hammering boards together. Nowhere else around
here we can go.”
Right behind us somebody said, “Howdy, Sam.”
We whirled around, and there was a man standing
in the front door, leaning against the jamb with a
shotgun hanging in the crook of his arm. I just stared
at him. I couldn’t figure out how he’d got there. The
house had been empty less than a minute ago. And
we hadn’t heard a sound.

The Diamond Bikini by Charles Williams(page 3)

The man didn’t even look around.
“Hey, you, up there!” Pop yells.
The man just went on hammering. Pop and I just
looked at each other. We got out of the car, and Sig
Freed jumped out and started running around,
stopping now and then to look up at the man and
Pop reached in and honked the horn. The man
didn’t pay any mind. In a minute he stopped
The Diamond Bikini— 14
hammering and leaned back a little to look at the
board. He shook his head and started pulling it loose
with his claw hammer. He moved it over a couple of
inches and nailed it down again.
Pop went wonk! wonk! wonk! on the horn. The man
looked at his board again, but he didn’t like it there
either and started pulling it loose once more. The
board was getting chewed up by now.
“We ain’t getting anywhere here,” Pop says,
rubbing his hand across his face. “We want to talk to
him, I guess we got to go up there.”
Pop climbed up the ladder and got on the scaffold. I
went up behind him. We could see the man from the
side here, which was a little better than not seeing
anything but his back.

The Diamond Bikini by Charles Williams(page 2)

The uniformed man followed him, squeezing his
way through the cars and getting redder in the face
all the time. “Here, nice doggie,” he says. “Here, Sig
Freed. Nice Sig Freed. I’ll kick your teeth in, you
dumb sausage bastard.”
But Sig Freed turned and ran down the middle of
the street towards us and the next thing I knew he
was under our car. The traffic was beginning to move
a little now and the people behind us was blowing
their horns and calling Pop a knucklehead, and I was
afraid Pop would start up with him under there, so I
jumped out and crawled in after him. He grinned at
me, and yawned, and licked me on the face.

The Diamond Bikini by Charles Williams(page 1)

The Diamond Bikini
Charles Williams
Oh, that was a fine summer, all right.
Like Pop says, farms are wholesome, and you just
naturally couldn’t find a wholesomer one than Uncle
Sagamore’s. There was a lake where you could catch
real fish, and I had a dog, and there was all the
rabbit hunters with tommy guns, and Miss
Harrington. She was real nice, and she taught me
how to swim.
Miss Harrington? Oh, she was the one with the vine
there was such a hullaballoo about. You remember. It
was in all the papers. It was a tattooed vine, with
little blue leaves, winding around her off bosom like a
path going up a hill, and it had a pink rose right in
the center. Pop raised hell with me because I didn’t
tell him about it sooner but, heck, how did I know
everybody didn’t have one? I just sort of took it for
granted the Welfare ladies had vines on theirs too,

October 23, 2010

The Big Bite by Charles Williams(9)

The telephone stopped ringing just as I picked them up.
Now whoever it was would call the cops. Maybe
somebody already had. I was sweating, and my hands
shook. She hadn’t stirred. I juggled the keys frantically in
my hand and slid out from under the bed. The first one was
right. The handcuffs clicked open and I came erect, lunging
toward her. She lay on her back behind the footboard of the
bed, her eyes closed and one arm stretched out beyond her
head. Her face was dead white and the long lashes made
shadows on her cheek. I fell to the floor beside her and
grabbed her bare shoulder, shaking it furiously. There was
no response.
I sprang up and ran through the hallway to the bath.

The Big Bite by Charles Williams(8)

He stepped back, took out a handkerchief, and wiped the
sweat from his face. He’d been under a strain too, in spite
of the calm way he looked outside. Suddenly he caught her
in his arms. “Julia—!”
She broke it up after the first wild clinch. “Please, Dan.
Not in front of this vermin.”
He turned his face and looked at me for an instant, his
eyes savage. They went out and closed the door. It was an
act out there at the cabin, I thought, but it wasn’t quite all
an act.
They didn’t come back; there was dead silence in the
house. They were probably in her bedroom. I thought about
it, trying to keep from getting panicky. It couldn’t happen,
not here in the quiet upper-middle-class residential district
The Big Bite — 147
of a small town where a dented fender in the Cadillac was a
big deal. Next door they’d be playing bridge; up the street
they were watching television or waiting for a daughter to
get home from a date. Murder? Here? That was a pipe
dream. Murder never happened in a place like this.

The Big Bite by Charles Williams(7)

“Yes,” I said. “What is it?”
“You brute,” she protested above the noise of the shower,
“you’re not even listening to me. I said, aren’t we having a
good time?”
“Sure, sure,” I said. “A wonderful time.”
She went on chattering. I reached out for the telephone,
lifting it carefully off the cradle. When the operator
answered, I said quietly, “I want to make another longdistance
“Yes, sir,” she replied. “Just one moment.”
The yakking went on from the shower. It paused
momentarily on a questioning note.
“Sure, sure,” I answered, holding my hand over the
“Well, that’s better. I think you’re sweet, too.”
“Aren’t we both,” I said. That’ll hold you for a minute, you
sweet, deadly bitch. It did. She started humming in the

The Big Bite by Charles Williams(6)

“Just a few minutes.”
I couldn’t see anyone else, either here on the pier or up by
her car in front of the cabin. “Where’s the moose?”
“I don’t know,” she said.
It was late afternoon, and shadows were reaching out
across the clearing. She wore a dark pleated skirt and a
soft, white, long-sleeved blouse with French cuffs. I turned
my head slightly and completed the survey. She had on
nylons in that area, and sling pumps.
“Nice,” I said.
She made no reply.
“Don’t mind me,” I said. “I always wake up this way.”
She was carrying a pack of cigarettes in her hand, and a
paper book of matches, because women never have pockets
in anything. She fumbled with them now, lighting one.
I reached up a hand for it. “Thanks,” I said. She lit
another for herself.
The Big Bite — 105
“Quite neat,” she said. “An entire philosophy in one
I propped myself on an elbow. “Don’t be an egghead,
honey. You’re stac

The Big Bite by Charles Williams(5)

“Never mind,” I said. “You’ve already answered your own
question. Come on in and sit down. I’ve got something I
want you to read.”
I stepped aside and let them come through the doorway. I
was careful not to let him get too near, and he was just as
careful not to turn his back, though it was all too well
covered to be obvious. Nobody said anything for a moment,
but tension was like smoke in the room.
I’d left the letter on the coffee table intentionally. He’d
have to go there to pick it up, so the logical place to sit
down would be the handiest—the sofa or one of the chairs
facing it. I nodded in that direction. “Mrs. Cannon’s already
read the good news,” I said. “I think she missed one angle
of it, but you’ll probably catch on. If you’ll notice, it’s a
carbon copy.”
“Say, what the hell is this?” he asked roughly. “Who are
you? And what do you want?”
I waved a hand. “The letter, Tallant. Why don’t you just
pick it up and read it? It’ll explain everything.”
The Big Bite — 84

The Big Bite by Charles Williams(4)

”Are you going to be here very long, Mr. Harlan?” ‘she
asked. “Two weeks,” I replied. “Maybe a little less.”
“And you’re out at that same cabin where you were
“I will be,” I said. “Right now I’m at the Enders Hotel. The
friend of mine that owns the shack is mailing me a key. It’ll
probably be here today.”
“Well, I do hope I’ll see you again while you’re here,” she
The Big Bite — 61
I stood up on cue. “It’s been nice meeting you,” I said
earnestly. “I probably won’t come to town much, but if
you’re out that way drop in and go fishing with me. Heh,
She smiled, the way you would at a meat-head who wasn’t
too bright, and came to the door with me. She held out her
hand very graciously. I took it. The brown eyes looked up at
me from about the level of my shoulder. Brother! I thought.
I simpered like a clown and said good-by three times,
standing on one foot; then the other, gave her another poorbut-
honest pitch about how nice it was of her to let me call,
and finally backed out the door like a high school kid
escaping from the stage after winning a scholarship in the
essay contest. She’d call Tallant all right the minute the
door was closed, but they’d just have a good laugh. was
utterly harmless.

The Big Bite by Charles Williams(3)

‘’Private Investigator Slain,” the second page story led off.
“The body of Winton L. Purvis, 38, private detective and
former insurance investigator, was discovered early this
afternoon in his apartment at 10325 Can line Street. He
was apparently struck on the head with terrific force by
some heavy object, though no trace of the murder weapon
was found at the scene. Police are as yet without clue as to
the identity of the assailant, but are convinced he is a large
man of great physical strength.”
There wasn’t much more. Apparently it had broken just in
time to get the bare essential facts in the last edition;
there’d be more tomorrow. But there was enough here to
start it rolling—the address and the fact they were looking
for a big man. I hoped that cabby wasn’t sitting behind his
wheel somewhere in the city as I was, leafing through the
Well, the ball had to bounce—one way or the other. But I
couldn’t sit here and waste time. I switched on the ignition
and rolled out into the river of traffic. Mrs. Cannon, here I
The Big Bite — 41
Wayles . . .

The Big Bite by Charles Williams(2)

It was a walk-up. I went up two steps at a time, meeting
no one in the halls or on the stairs, but hearing snatches of
what sounded like the same television program on all three
floors. Number 303 was the first one on the right at the
The Big Bite — 22
head of the stairs. I touched the bell and Purvis opened the
door almost immediately. He nodded, but said nothing until
I had come inside and the door was closed.
It was a small living-room. Directly across from the door
was a window which presumably looked out on the street,
but the blind was drawn all the way down. At the left was an
open door going into the bedroom, while on the right, just
opposite it, another opened into a small dinette. The livingroom
was fitted with the usual landlord-tan wallpaper and
the beat-up odds and ends of shabby furniture that would
come with a furnished deadfall in this neighborhood, so
dreary and like a thousand others that Purvis’s things stood
out and hit you right in the eye the moment you walked in.
There were five or six framed copies of paintings of girls in
ballet costumes, the same pictures you sometimes see in the
anterooms of doctors’ offices. Some arty, horse-faced girl I
got stuck with once at a party told me who the painter was
that did them, but I couldn’t remember now. Dago was all I
could think of, but that wasn’t it. There were some more
pictures in one big frame over a desk at the right, beside
the doorway going into the dinette, but these were
photographs. They were all signed, and they were, all of
ballet dancers. There must have been a dozen of them. An
aficionado, I thought, remembering that way he had of
describing things with his hands and what he had said

The Big Bite by Charles Williams(1)

They said it was going to be as good as ever, but it wasn’t.
You could see that by the end of the first week of practice.
They’d stuck it back on, all right, and it looked like a leg,
but something was gone. McGilvray, who’s probably the
best T-formation quarterback that ever lived, was handing
the ball off a half stride ahead of me. We’d played together
two years in college and five in the pros, so he knew where I
was supposed to be. I did too, but I wasn’t getting there.
About the tenth time they unpiled the beef off us after the
fumble he spat out some topsoil and said, “We’re just a little
rusty yet, Harlan. Maybe I’m leading you too much.”
“It could be, dear,” I said. I knew better.
The next time he handed the ball off to me where I was,
instead of where I was supposed to be, and two rookies
smeared me back of the line. Not the Cleveland Browns;
just rookies trying out. It went on that way. When they ran
off the pictures looking for the missed blocking

October 21, 2010

Talk of The Town by Charles Williams(1)

It wasn't a very large town. The highway came into it from
the west across a bridge spanning a slow-moving and muddy
river with an unpronounceable Indian name, and then ran
straight through the central business district for four or five
blocks down a wide street with angle parking and four
traffic lights at successive intersections. I was just pulling
away from the last light, going about twenty miles per hour
in the right-hand lane, when some local in a beat-up old
panel truck decided to come shooting backwards out of his
parking place without looking behind him.
There was another car on my left, so all I could do was to
slam on my brakes just before I plowed into him. There was
a crash of metal followed by a succession of tinkling sounds
as fragments of grill-work and shards of glass rained onto
the pavement. Necks craned up and down the sun-blasted
I locked the handbrake and got out, and shook my head
with disgust as I sized up the damage. The front bumper was
knocked loose at one end, and the right fender and smashed
headlight were crumpled in on the wheel. But the worst of it
was the spout of hot water streaming out through the
wreckage of the grill.

Talk of The Town by Charles Williams(10)

“Listen, Frankie,” she said hurriedly. “Pearl just called
from town, and he’s on his way out here now. He said he
tried to get you, but you didn’t answer—”
“He hung up before I could get to the phone,” Frankie
grumbled. “What is it?”
I don’t know, except something’s gone wrong. All he said
was he was leaving right then and for me to call you and
keep calling till I got you, if I had to try every place in town.
Don’t tell anybody, not even your wife, but just get out here
as fast as you can.”
“I’ll be right there,” Frankie said. He hung up.
I replaced the instrument and looked at my watch. It was
12:47. We were cutting it dangerously fine. She’d said Pearl
sometimes came home as early as one. It would take Frankie
a couple of minutes to dress, and then Calhoun would wait
two or three more. It was very still in the room. I was hot in
the flannel jacket. Sweat ran down my face. My hands were
so stiff now I could hardly close them.
“How long have you been living with Pearl?” I asked
“Three or four months,” she said defiantly. Then she
started to whine again. “I didn’t have nothin’ to do with
anything. I came here from Tampa.”
“When did T.J. show up?”
“About the same time. He was in a cuttin’ scrape up in

Talk of The Town by Charles Williams(9)

“Well, I’ll see you,” I said, and started to turn away.
“Anything I can do for you?” he asked. “Run you in to a
doc if you haven’t got a car.”
”I’m all right, thanks. I’ve just got to find Mrs. Langston.”
And get out of sight within the next five or ten minutes, I
thought, if I wanted to see tomorrow’s sunrise. I went out
the door, and looked across the road. Her station wagon was
parked in front of the office. Nothing surprised me any
more. I broke into a run, and was almost hit by a car. The
driver called me something unprintable and sped on. I ran
into the lobby and could hear her moving around in the
living-room. She turned as I shoved through the curtains.
She was still dressed exactly as she had been at dinner, and
Talk of The Town— 172
as far as I could see she was unharmed. She looked at my
face and gasped, and then, is if we’d been rehearsing it for a
week, she was in my arms.
“I’ve been so worried,” she said. “I’ve been looking
everywhere for you. Bill, what happened?”
“No time now,” I said. “We’ve got to get out of here. Fast.”
She grasped the urgency in my voice and asked no
questions. Running into the bedroom, she came out with her
purse and a pair of flat shoes. We hurried out. She locked
the front door. It occurred to me the back one was probably
broken open, but it didn’t seem very important.

Talk of The Town by Charles Williams(8)

Studying him now at close range, I decided he’d probably
also fooled about as many people who had thought he was
stupid as had thought he was fat. He was a hick, a townclown,
if you weren’t careful where you looked. He wore a
farmer’s straw hat, suede shoes, and the pair of wide braces
holding up the khaki trousers could have been props in a
vaudeville skit. The eyes under the shaggy brows, however,
were a piercing and frosty blue.
We sat down. He leaned back in the leather chair with his
beer. “So you came back to look for him?” he asked “I heard
him make the crack.”
I got out a cigarette and fumbled with the lighter. “He
wasn’t the one I was looking for,” I replied. “But while we’re
on the subject, I saw you give the two of ‘em the roust. How
“Why not?” he asked. “That’s what they pay me for.”
Talk of The Town— 153
“But you think she’s guilty yourself.”
“If I do, I keep my mouth shut. And women don’t get
jockeyed around on the streets of this town while I’m
patrolling it.”
“They could use you in the Sheriff’s office,” I said.
“They’ve got a good man in the Sheriff’s office,” he
replied. “He’s a friend of mine.”

Talk of The Town by Charles Williams(7)

“You have,” I said. So she’d left here in February, and
started teaching in Galicia in September. Where was she
and what was she doing for six months?
“I suppose there was some insurance?” I asked.
“Not very much, I’m afraid.” She smiled gently. “Teachers
don’t make a great deal, you know. It seems to me there was
a policy for about five thousand.”
Ten, with a double indemnity clause, I thought. “Would
there be anybody else in town who might know where she
went?” I asked. “Any of his family, perhaps?”
“No,” she said. “He came from Orlando. There are some
Spragues here, but no kin.”
She finished her coffee. I thanked her, and walked back to
the office with her. Apparently I was up against a dead end
now. There was nothing in any of this to link her with
Strader, and I had no lead at all on where she could have
spent that six months. I was in the station wagon and just
turning on the ignition when it hit me. How fat-headed could
you get? I reached for my wallet and snatched out the sheet
of paper on which I’d scribbled the dope Lane had given me.
The dates jibed, all right. Eager now, and very excited, I
strode back into the drugstore and headed for the phone
I couldn’t pull it on her, because she’d recognize my voice.
But I could start with her. I dialed the business office of the
phone company and asked for Ellen Beasley.
“This is that quiz man again,” I said. “If you’ll answer just
one more for me I’ll quit bothering you.”

Talk of The Town by Charles Williams(6)

Assume it was one of the four. Which one? Dunleavy
worked in a filling station just up the road. He would have
been able to see me when I ran over there. Ollie was already
there, naturally. Pearl Talley had come in just after me. That
left only Rupe unaccounted for. Did that make him more or
less likely than the others? He could have been watching
from anywhere around, and remained out of sight.
Wouldn’t that be the natural thing to do, rather than
walking in openly, as Talley had done? Sure, I thought,
except for one thing. As far as my reasoning it out
Talk of The Town— 111
afterwards was concerned, the way they saw it, there was
no sweat at all. Afterwards I was going to be dead.
So it could have been Talley just as well as any of the
others. No, I thought. Not with that mush-mouthed, Georgiaboy
accent of his. Whoever the man was, I’d heard him twice
on the telephone, and while he’d been whispering once and
speaking very softly the other time, some of that houn’-dawg
dialect would have come through if it’d been Talley. That left
three of them.
So now I had two very tenuous threads to follow, both due
to the fact they’d underestimated my life expectancy. They’d
know I had them, and they wouldn’t make the same mistake
again. It was a long time before I got to sleep.
* * *

Talk of The Town by Charles Williams(5)

“Ridiculous,” she said. “I’m as healthy as a horse.”
“Sure you are. A horse that hasn’t had a square meal in a
month, or a full night’s rest since last year. You’re going to
stay right where you are and let me handle it.”
“No buts. Ever since I landed in this town I’ve been
jockeyed around by some character who thinks I’m on your
side. He’s finally convinced me he’s right.”
The telephone rang out in the office. Josie appeared in the
doorway. “It’s for you,” she said. “A long distance.”
Talk of The Town— 91
I went out and took it at the desk. I told the operator we’d
accept the charges, and Lane came on. “Mr. Chatham?”
“Yes. How did you make out?”
“Fairly well. Here’s what I’ve been able to round up since
you called; so far it’s mostly just the stuff anybody would
know who followed the investigation last November.

Talk of The Town by Charles Williams(4)

He nodded. “That’s right. Maybe a kind of home-town
hero, in a way. A local boy that made good down there in
that big-wheeling-and-dealing crowd in south Florida, or at
least showed ‘em we could hold our own with ’em. We were
always a little proud of him. He played some mighty good
football at Georgia Tech. He was officer of a submarine that
sank I don’t remember how many thousand tons of Japanese
shipping in World War Two. After the war he went into the
construction business in Miami—low-cost housing. Made a
lot of money. They say he was worth pretty close to a million
at one time. But the thing was he never seemed to lose
touch like so many kids do when they go away and get
successful. Even after his daddy died—he used to be
principal of the high school—after he died and there weren’t
any Langstons left around here at all, he used to come back
and go duck-hunting and fishing and visit with people.”
“But what happened?” I asked. “Why did he retire and buy
a motel? He was only forty-seven, wasn’t he?”
“That’s right. He got hit by several things all at once.
There was a bad divorce, with a big property settlement—”
“Oh,” I said. “Then how long had he and the second Mrs.
Langston been married when he was killed?”
Talk of The Town— 69
“A little less than a year, I guess. Four or five months
before they came up here and bought the motel.”
“What were the other things?” I asked.

Talk of The Town by Charles Williams(3)

You asked for a cop and they sent you a comic-opera
clown like this. I choked down a sarcastic remark that
wouldn’t have helped the situation a great deal, and was just
about to ask him where he wanted to start when he
shrugged and said, “Well, that’s about it, huh?” He turned
and went out.
I stared at his back in disbelief, but followed him. I caught
up with him on the porch. “What do you mean, that’s it?”
He favored me with an indifferent glance and hitched up
his gunbelt again. “I’ve seen it, haven’t I? I’ll make a report
on it, but we haven’t got much to go on.”
“How about checking this place for prints?” I asked. “Or
don’t you want to? And how about the registration card he
made out? And if you thought it wouldn’t bore you too much,
I can give you a description of him. And the car. Any of that
interest you? And what about those jugs in there?”
“Well, what about the jugs? They had acid in ‘em. So I
know that already.”

Talk of The Town by Charles Williams(2)

Talk of The Town— 24
“You seem to be pretty interested, for it to be none of your
“I’m just studying the native customs,” I said. “Where I
grew up, people accused of murder were tried in court, not
in barrooms.”
“You’re new around here?”
“I’m even luckier than that,” I said. “I’m just passing
“How come you’re riding a taxi? Just to pump Jake?”
I was suddenly fed up with him. “Shove it,” I said.
His eyes filled with quick malice and he made as if to get
off the stool. The bartender glanced at him and he settled
back. His friend, a much bigger man, studied me with dislike
in his eyes, apparently trying to make up his mind whether
to buy a piece of it or not. Nothing happened, and in a
moment it was past.
I fished a dime from my pocket and went back to the
telephone. The dark girl and the man in the cowboy hat had
apparently been paying little attention to us. The girl
glanced up now as I went past. I had an impression she was
scarcely eighteen, but she looked as if she’d spent twice that
long in a furious and dedicated flight from any form of
innocence. Her left leg was stretched out under the edge of
the table with her skirt hiked up, and the man was grinning
slyly as he wrote something on her naked thigh with her
lipstick. She met my eyes and shrugged.

Talk of The Town by Charles Williams(1)

It wasn't a very large town. The highway came into it from
the west across a bridge spanning a slow-moving and muddy
river with an unpronounceable Indian name, and then ran
straight through the central business district for four or five
blocks down a wide street with angle parking and four
traffic lights at successive intersections. I was just pulling
away from the last light, going about twenty miles per hour
in the right-hand lane, when some local in a beat-up old
panel truck decided to come shooting backwards out of his
parking place without looking behind him.
There was another car on my left, so all I could do was to
slam on my brakes just before I plowed into him. There was
a crash of metal followed by a succession of tinkling sounds
as fragments of grill-work and shards of glass rained onto
the pavement. Necks craned up and down the sun-blasted
I locked the handbrake and got out, and shook my head
with disgust as I sized up the damage. The front bumper was
knocked loose at one end, and the right fender and smashed
headlight were crumpled in on the wheel. But the worst of it
was the spout of hot water streaming out through the
wreckage of the grill.

October 20, 2010

River Girl by Charles Williams(14)

had said about the bed she’d made in the back? That
would be perfect. There would be a lot less chance of
our being spotted with just me alone up here than
with both of us. I put her down temporarily in the
seat while I reached for the keys to unlock the trunk.
Then I noticed I was still carrying the jailer’s key
ring in my hand. I threw it out into the street and
went around to the back, and unlocked the trunk and
raised it. She went into it perfectly, curled up like a
child with her head on the pillow. But suppose she
wakes up there in the dark, I thought. I ran back to
the front and looked in the glove compartment.
There was a flashlight, as I had hoped, and I
snapped it on and put it down beside her on the
blankets. She’ll know where she is, I thought.
I didn’t want to leave her. But it’s only for a little
while, I thought. As soon as we’re out of the worst of
the danger area I’ll pull off onto a side road
somewhere, by a little creek, and she can get out
and I’ll shave myself. I put the shell down and went
back and lifted the back seat up, pulled it out a little.
Feeling back with my hand, I could see there was
plenty of opening for air to get through, and with the
shell closed the carbon monoxide from the exhaust
couldn’t back up on her.
I jumped into the seat, and then discovered I had
left the keys in the lock of the trunk. I was getting
jittery with the hurry now. There still wasn’t anyone
in the street and it was growing light. I ran back,
snatched them out, and climbed in. It had been too
easy, and I was scared.

River Girl by Charles Williams(13)

the rifle almost at the same time because he was so
near. Before the sound had even died I was on my
feet, knowing somehow that I had to get up and over
the bank while he was working the bolt or I would
never move from there alive. And then I was in the
trees, hurtling zigzag through them while the gun
cracked again. They had cut the motors and in
another few seconds they would be on the bank
themselves and chasing me.
I didn’t know where I ran, or how far. There was
just the pain in my chest and the crying sound from
my open mouth as it gulped for air, and the only
thing my mind could hold was the picture of that
long, canvas-wrapped bundle like an old rolled-up
rug lying in the bottom of the second boat. After a
while I fell, unable to move, and lay there in the
brush trying to still the tortured sound of my
breathing enough to listen. There was no sound
behind me now.
River Girl — 223
I don't know how long I lay there on the ground with
nothing but the numbness and the terror in my mind.
We were whipped now, and this was the end. They
already had her, and I was trapped. They had found
him; they knew I had killed him and I was a fugitive
with no plan of escape and nothing ahead but futile
and senseless flight. Flight? I thought. To where? I
looked down at my clothes, at the utter ruin that I
had deliberately sought,

River Girl by Charles Williams(12)

I pushed through the crowd to the lunch counter
and ordered a cup of coffee. What had she told
them? That was the question that went through my
River Girl — 208
mind over and over. Everything depended on that,
and there wasn’t any way I could know. Suppose she
had confessed? In spite of the sticky heat I felt the
chill between my shoulder blades. And it was
possible; I knew it. In her terror and confusion, not
even knowing what she had been picked up for, with
all of them firing questions at her, who knew what
she might blurt out?
But suppose, I thought, trying to pick up the
thread of thought I’d had before I realized I had to
get out of the hotel, suppose she kept her head and
hasn’t said anything so far? Then we’re safe enough
—for the moment. The danger then would lie in the
fact that eventually they might wear her down, keep
hammering at her until she let something slip, or
that eventually, as they kept looking for my body,
they might find Shevlin’s. That was a very real
danger now that Raines had joined in the search
because he wasn’t trying to cover anything up, as
Buford was. Therefore, I had to get her out of there.
But how? Obviously, the only way I could do it was
by turning myself in, or coming back to life. And
then they would be asking me the question, the big
one: Where was Shevlin?
But wait, I thought. I was very close to it a while
ago when I had to run away from the hotel. Suppose
I could come back to light in some way that wouldn’t
indicate I had ever been down here at all or even
knew her?

River Girl by Charles Williams(11)

Thinking of the watch reminded me of the time
and I looked at mine. It was after eight. The first
editions of the morning papers should be on the
street in a little while, if they weren’t already. I
should go down to the lobby and get them, I thought,
but it was too pleasant just sitting there waiting for
her to come out again so I could see how she looked.
I’ll pick them up when we go out to dinner, I
River Girl — 192
I heard the door open, and looked up and whistled
softly. She was very tall and smart-looking and cool
in a white skirt and short white jacket, with a blouse
of frosty blue gathered in some kind of ruffle about
her throat. The stockings were very sheer and she
had on white shoes that didn’t appear to be much
more than high heels and straps.
She turned, holding out her arms. “How do I look,
“Don’t come any closer. I might try to bite you.”
“Do I really look all right?”
I got up from the bed, conscious of what a crumbylooking
specimen I was now beside her, with nothing
on except my shorts and with the stubble of black

River Girl by Charles Williams(10)

I ducked into an all-night cafe and went back to
the telephone. Looking up the number of the hotel, I
dialed and waited.
The fan didn’t work and it was stifling inside the
booth. “State Hotel.” It was a girl’s voice. The
operator was still on duty.
“A Mrs. Crawford, please. Is she registered? This
is United Airlines.”
“Just one moment, please.” She paused. “Yes, sir.
I’m ringing.”
“Thank you,” I said. I waited, feeling the tightness
growing inside my chest as I realized how near I was
to her at last. How long had it been since I had let
her out of the car in Colston?
“Hello.” It was Doris.
River Girl — 172
I wanted to cry out, “Darling, this is Jack!” Instead
I asked smoothly, or as smoothly as I could, “Mrs.
Crawford? This is United Airlines, the reservation
desk.” Would she recognize my voice and not say
anything wrong? “We’re very sorry, but so far we’ve
been unable to confirm your reservation west of Salt
Lake. I think we’ll have it in another hour or two,
however. Shall we call you then, or wait till
I heard a barely audible gasp and then she came
through beautifully. “Thank you. Tomorrow morning
will be all right. Just call me at Room Three-twelve
here at the hotel.”
“Thank you,” I said. I hung up.

River Girl by Charles Williams(9)

The water was warm. I lay in it, naked, alongside
the boat, with one hand on the gunwale, trying not
to think of anything except the motor. I can’t wait all
day, I thought. If I don’t do it now I’ll lose my nerve.
Shutting my mind to everything, to all thought, I
took a deep breath and dived. I seemed to go on for
a long time, pulling myself down with powerful
strokes of my hands, wanting to turn back but
forcing myself to go ahead. It must be twenty feet
deep instead of twelve, I thought wildly, and then I
felt the soft mud under my arm. I was against the
bottom. This was the terrible part of it now. Pulling
upward against the water with my hands to keep
myself flat against the mud, I groped around with
them, feeling for the motor. There was no use in
opening my eyes to try to see, for at this depth in the
discolored water there would be no light at all. I
River Girl — 155
swung my arms around wildly and felt nothing. My
lungs were beginning to hurt and I thought of the
boat above me, knowing I had to come up carefully
as I approached the surface or I might bang my head
into it. I couldn’t wait too long. Putting my feet
against the mud, I sprang upward, bringing my arms
up over my head to feel for the boat. I missed it and
came out of the water gasping for breath.
I can’t give up, I thought, my mind still focused
with that terrible intensity on just one thing—the
motor. I gulped a deep breath and dived again.
When I was against the bottom I started sweeping it
again with my arms, and then my left hand brushed
against something just at the ends of my fingers. I
turned toward it, feeling my skin draw up tightly
with revulsion. It was a shoe. Bringing my right hand
around, I groped with it, moving a little, and felt the
canvas coat. I was fighting desperately now to keep
from being sick here twelve feet under water and
drowning myself with the retching.

River Girl by Charles Williams(8)

“No,” I said. “All I see is a chump who got in over
his head and is trying to wiggle out.”
“Maybe you’re not looking from where I am.” She
smiled, and then went on, “But let me tell you what I
had in mind. Tonight when you told Buford what you
were going to do, you didn’t make any mention of
what was going to happen after you abandoned the
River Girl — 141
boat there in the swamp. Have you thought about
that? You don’t mind my asking, do you?”
“No,” I said. “Not at all.”
“Good. You realize, of course, don’t you, that
you’re going to be afoot and that when you get out to
the highway you won’t be able to flag a ride because
whoever gives you a lift will remember you. And,
naturally, you can’t take your car. Also, even if you
walked to the next town, you wouldn’t dare get on a
bus there. They might remember you.”
“Yes,” I said. “I know that. It’s not very good, that
part of it, but it can’t be helped.”
Actually, I had an idea about it, but I didn’t see any
point in telling her. It wasn’t that I didn’t trust her,
but there just wasn’t any reason she had to know.
There was a railroad across on the far side of the
swamp, and at one place a water tank and siding
where freights went in the-hole for passenger trains.

River Girl by Charles Williams(7)

She thanked me again for the money
and got out. I saw her walk up the street toward the
station. What a life, I thought. Cat house behind, cat
house ahead. Then I snapped out of it. I was in a hell
of a spot to be feeling sorry for her.
River Girl — 122
I drove around and parked in front of the
courthouse and sat there for a minute, trying to
think. Cars lazily circled the square, boys out riding
with their girl friends; and something about it,
maybe the summer night or the hissing sound of
tires or the quick, musical laughter of a girl,
suddenly made me think of how it had been before I
went off to the Army all those years ago in 1942,
how it had been to be home from college in the
summer, out riding in the Judge’s automobile, a
Chevrolet somehow forever five years old. God, I
thought, that was a long time back.
I shook my head, trying to clear it, like a fighter
taking a beating. Get up there, I thought. Get up to
the office and see what you can find on Shevlin;
Buford can wait a little while. But what about this
other mess? It was going to blow wide open,
tomorrow or the next day. If I tried to disappear
now, wouldn’t everybody know it was a phony? And,
knowing it was a fake, they would do a lot of looking
into the place where I had disappeared, a place I
didn’t ever want anybody nosing around because
that was where Shevlin was. I’d be better off to stay
here and take the rap on the probable bribery
charge than to direct any attention toward Shevlin.
But, then, there was no use trying to kid myself that
Shevlin’s disappearance was going to continue
unnoticed forever. Somebody would miss him and
start looking into it. I shook my head again, and ran
a hand across my face. It was like being at the
bottom of a well.

River Girl by Charles Williams(6)

“I’m going to tell you good-by here,” I said,
“because I’m going to drop you off a block or so from
the bus station and run. There will be a bus for
Bayou City sometime this evening, around seven, I
think. You’ll arrive there a little before midnight. Go
to the State Hotel. It’s a small one, quiet, and not too
expensive, but still not crumby enough for the cops
to have their eyes on it. Register as Mrs. Crawford
and just wait until I show up. Try to buy yourself a
few clothes, but make the money go as far as
possible, because we’re going to have to travel by
bus. I won’t be able to bring the car the way things
are going to work out. And be sure to remember
this: When I get there, don’t recognize me. It may be
safer for us to travel separately until we get clear
out of the state. You can slip me the number of your
room on the quiet, but don’t let anybody see that you
even know me.”
I took her face in both my hands. “I won’t see you
for forty-eight hours, and after that we’ll be together
River Girl — 105
for the rest of our lives. So this is two days’ worth of
good-by, and then there’ll never be another one.”
She held onto me, and when she finally stirred and
pushed back on my chest her eyes were wet.
“Jack,” she whispered, “I’m afraid.”
“There’s nothing to be afraid of,” I said. “Just hang
“But you’re up to something.”

River Girl by Charles Williams(5)

I could see her fighting to get hold of herself.
“We’ve got to go,” she whispered frantically. “We’ve
got to get out of here! Oh, Jack!” She started to
River Girl — 88
break up again and I shook her a little, holding her
very tightly until she stopped.
“I’m sorry,” she said weakly. “I’ll be all right in a
minute so we can go.”
“No,” I said, not wanting to do it but knowing I had
to. “We can’t go now.”
She stared at me as if I’d lost my mind. “We can’t
go? But Jack, we’ve—we’ve got to.”
“It won’t do any good to run now,” I said. My mind
was working enough to see that.
“But it’s the only thing we can do.”
“No,” I said. “You saw what it did to him; being
hunted, I mean. We can’t do it. We wouldn’t have a
chance of getting out of the country, in the first
place, and if we did we’d just be running the rest of
our lives or until they caught us.”
“But what are we going to do?” she cried out
piteously. “What can we do now. Isn’t he—?” I could
see in her eyes the question she couldn’t ask.
“He’s dead,” I said bluntly, trying to get it on the
line so we could look at it and know where we had to
“But you couldn’t help it, Jack! You couldn’t!
Wouldn’t they see you had to do it, that you were
trying to protect me?”
I shook my head, not wanting to do it, but knowing
there wasn’t room enough for even one of us in that
fool’s paradise. I hadn’t done it because I had to. I’d
done it because I’d lost my head, gone completely
wild when I saw him start for her.

River Girl by Charles Williams(4)

They were slender feet, quite small and beautifully
formed, but rough and calloused on the soles from
going barefoot, and they were dusty from the trail.
Very carefully, with my fingers I brushed all the dust
from them, as if they were very old pieces of
fabulously valuable and very fragile jewelry I had
found gathering cobwebs in an attic. Then I turned
them slightly inward, pressing the soles together up
near the toes, and held them, thinking how small and
breakable they looked, like the delicate feet of a
china doll, in the big, dark hands. I looked up and
River Girl — 69
she was watching me with a misty softness in her
“Why are you doing that, Jack?” she asked.
I shook my head. “I don’t know,” I said.
I looked up again and she was crying, quite silently
and without any movement of her face.
* * *
Time came back for us without any warning. It was
the sound of a motor.

River Girl by Charles Williams(3)

“You took a hell of a long time finding it out,” I
grumbled, but glad he was getting some sense at
last I could still hear the girl inside the room cursing
obscenely and shrilly with the monotonous repetition
River Girl — 45
of a phonograph record with the needle stuck. Afraid
she would get him started again, I stepped over and
stuck my head in through the smashed panel.
“Pipe down,” I said. Then I saw her, and began to
feel scared for the first time. She was sitting on the
bed in a sleazy-looking kimono with her blonde hair
rumpled as if she’d just got up, and if she was a day
over sixteen, I was sixty.
River Girl — 46
She saw me. “Who the hell are you?”
“Never mind,” I said. “Just stop that noise.”
“Why, you jerk!”
I heard the boy behind me and turned around. He
was putting on his clothes, stuffing the shirttail
inside his trousers. He had quit crying, but his face
was white and trembling and I could still see that
wild look in his eyes.

October 19, 2010

River Girl by Charles Williams(2)

“Yes. Do you want me to cut the shirt away?”
I nodded. “That’d be best. Then we can see what
we’re doing.”
She got a small pair of manicure scissors out of the
dresser and slit the shirt around the hook. I
unbuttoned it and slid it off, and turned my back to
the mirror to look over my shoulder. I was deeply
tanned from the waist up and wore no undershirt.
The streamer fly was a vivid slash of white and silver
tinsel against the sun-blackened hide, and as well as
I could tell, the barb was deeply embedded. I caught
a glimpse of my face in the mirror and for the first
time remembered I hadn’t shaved since yesterday,
and wondered what kind of thug I must look like to
her, big, with the flat, sun-darkened face rasping
with black stubble.
I motioned with a hand and passed her the
diagonal pliers. “Pinch the muscle and skin up with
your fingers and run it on through as if you were
baiting a hook,” I instructed.
“It’ll hurt,” she said quietly.
“Some,” I said.
River Girl — 23

October 18, 2010

River Girl by Charles Williams(1)

It was three in the afternoon and hot. Tar was
boiling out of the black-top paving around the square
and heat waves shimmered above the sidewalks. I
drove on through town and down the street to the
jail with the Negro boy. He was about nineteen and
looked scared to death.
“I ain’t done nothing, Cap’n,” he kept saying.
“O.K.,” I said. “Relax. Nobody’s going to hurt you.”
My head still ached from last night and his talking
got on my nerves.
I turned him over to Cassieres at the jail. “Stick
him in the county tank. Did Buford call you?”
“No,” he said. “What’s he booked for?”

October 16, 2010

Nothing In Her Way by Charles Williams(9)

Nothing in Her Way — 181
Pain was still pounding at my skull, but my mind was
clearing a little so I could think. We had to keep our
heads. If we let the sounds on the other side of the door
push us over the edge and started going wild, we’d all
be dead. She would break after a while and tell them
where the money was, but maybe Brock wasn’t
interested primarily in the money alone. You could see
he got his fun in other ways.
I moved shakily to the window and looked out. It was
totally dark now, and fog pressed in on the building like
saturated gauze. Nine floors down the street lamp was
faintly visible, while below and to the left the neon sign
over the cocktail lounge was a diffused and watery
splash of orange. I reached for the light switch and cut
it and looked again. Beyond me to the left one of the
big casement windows in the living room was partly
open. The drapes were drawn but a little light escaped
to seep futilely into the fog and lose itself. I strained my
eyes downward and could just faintly see what I was
looking for, a narrow ledge perhaps five inches wide
running across the front of the building just below the

Nothing In Her Way by Charles Williams(8)

“Nice try,” he said, with something like approval in
the sharp gray eyes. “But to get on—I’ll be as brief as
possible. To put it in four words, Reichert, the jig is up.
My uncle, as you’ve probably already guessed, is a Mr.
Howard C. Goodwin, of Wyecross. It might interest you
to know that he suffered a nervous breakdown as a
result of that expensive bit of hocus-pocus you and your
friends sold him. Incidentally, it was a brilliant piece of
work, and I believe you’d have got away with it entirely
except for the thing that so often happens when a
number of persons—some of them with police records—
are involved. Around three weeks ago Mr. Wolford
Charles fell afoul of the police in Florida on an old
charge, and in the course of the investigation he let
drop a few revelations concerning this particular bit of
I couldn’t say anything. I couldn’t even move. I
wanted to get up and run, but my legs wouldn’t work.
Charlie had been caught, and because she had beaten
him and the double cross and taken all the money, he’d
spilled it to get revenge. All I could do was sit there and
listen while this remorselessly efficient machine
dictated the bill of indictment.

Nothing In Her Way by Charles Williams(7)

Nothing in Her Way — 125
We didn’t get up until late, and around noon she went
out. She was enchanting in a whole new spring outfit,
smart and very lovely from nylons to short-veiled hat,
and when she came to kiss me she left a hint of
fragrance that lingered in the apartment after she was
“I’m off to betray you, darling,” she said.
I prowled irritably around the apartment. Was he
going for it, or was he just going for her? She was
convinced he was rising to the bait, but just how sure
were we as to what he considered the bait? Maybe, as
far as he was concerned, she was it. Lachlan had money
already. He didn’t chase girls to get money; he used
money to chase girls. And what if Bolton had tipped him
off, as he’d threatened, and he was laughing about the
whole thing, playing along with us while the police

Nothing In Her Way by Charles Williams(6)

I could see that routine was out. As she’d said, they’d
known they were sold as soon as they took a look at the
car. I had to try something else.
“Cathy?” I asked in surprise. “How would I know?”
“Oh, I see. She’s not with you?” he murmured
“No,” I said. “I went off and left her in El Paso. She’s
lucky I didn’t strangle her. Leaving me there in
Wyecross to get away the best way I could.”
“Two down,” he said boredly. “Now, if you’re sure
you’re finished with that one, we’ll get on with it. You
left Reno together just a week ago, if that’s any help to
you, so where is she?”
He had me. He knew all the answers. I lit a cigarette
to stall for time. “You don’t think I’m going to tell you,
do you?”
“I don’t know for sure, but I think so. As a matter of
fact, you probably won’t have to. If you’ll just tell her
you saw me and give her a message, she’ll probably call
“She won’t,” I said. “But let’s have the message.”
“Tell her if I don’t get my share of that money, I’m
going to call Lachlan.”
He had us. He had us right over the barrel. One word
to Lachlan and the whole thing would blow up and drift
away in a cloud of smoke before it even got started. I
sat there looking at the wreckage of all our plans with a
sort of numb helplessness, and it was a long minute
before the full implication of it hit me.

Nothing In Her Way by Charles Williams(5)

“It wasn’t too hard to guess what they were up to,”
she said. “When I came back from Houston I had an
idea they were speeding things up a little. I called the
hotel at Ludley Friday morning, and then called
Houston. And when Charlie wasn’t at either place I
knew our laughing boys had their shoes in their hands
and were headed for the door. I tried to call you, but
you were out. It was too late by then to pick you up, of
course, but with luck I might get them before they
could get away from El Paso. Of course, I could have
just gone to them and demanded our share, but since
Nothing in Her Way — 83
they wanted to play winner-take-all—” She smiled
coldly. “Well, they asked for it,” I said.
She turned to face me. “It’s history now, Mike. We’ve
got other things to think about.”
She was always one jump ahead of me. “Such as?” I
“Lachlan. The big one.”
“Oh,” I said. “But not right now.”
“Right at the moment I’m too happy to hate even
Lachlan. Wait here a minute.” I got out of the car. In
the bar that’s never more than two doors from

Nothing In Her Way by Charles Williams(4)

Mrs. Goodwin called me the next morning around
seven-thirty. Would I come over and just talk to
Goodwin? He’d been up all night, waiting for a call from
Nothing in Her Way — 63
Caffery, and there hadn’t been any. Maybe I could help
her calm him down before he collapsed.
I went over in a hurry, knowing Charlie’d be there at
eight. Goodwin was on the telephone again, haggard
and hollow-eyed. He had the hotel at Ludley, but
Caffery had checked out. He put the phone back in its
cradle, let out a long, hopeless sigh, and put his head
down in his hands. He was whipped.
I was looking out the window when the mudspattered
car drove up in front of the house. I saw
Charlie get out, and put my hand on Goodwin’s
shoulder. “Say, is this your man?” I nodded toward the
He came alive as if I’d prodded him with a highvoltage
cable. “Hell, yes,” he said excitedly, springing
up. “But you’ll have to get out of sight. We don’t want
to make him any more suspicious than he is now. I’ll
tell you. Go up there at the head of the stairs.”
I made it just as the doorbell rang. By peeking around
the corner of the landing, I could see them. Charlie was
wearing khaki pants and boots and a leather jacket
with mud on it, and he looked as if he hadn’t shaved for
three days or slept a week. His eyes were red, and
there were lines of weariness around his mouth.
Charlie was a perfectionist.

Nothing In Her Way by Charles Williams(3)

I set him down at the end of one of the work cars. We
were in shadow now, and I looked around again to be
sure no one had seen me. The moonlit plain was empty
except for Donnelly’s car. As I bent down to roll him
under the coupling between two cars he groaned and
tried to sit up.
“What the hell?” he mumbled. Then he looked up.
“Hey, you—”
“Remember me?” I asked, and swung. He didn’t see
the hand.
I massaged my hand and felt it for broken bones, then
got down and rolled him between the rails. I crawled
over the coupling and dragged him out on the other
side. We were between the trains now, in deep shadow.
Remembering the brakie, I squatted down on the
ballast and looked for the lantern. It was far up near
the front end.
I left him lying there and moved along the cars,
looking for an empty. The third boxcar had a door open.
I walked back and got him, letting his feet drag. The
floor of the car was chest high, and I was getting tired
now. I finally got him high enough and rolled him in. I
took a long breath and leaned against the door for a
moment, completely winded.

Nothing In Her Way by Charles Williams(2)

Lachlan was the junior member of the firm, both in
years and in seniority. He had been in residence on that
job in Central America, in charge, with a second in
command by the name of Goodwin. Of course, Dunbar
and my father had been there a dozen times or more,
but you can’t see everything, especially when you trust
the man who’s doing the job. And when the dam folded
up like water-soaked cardboard, they flew in in a
chartered plane. Police were waiting for them at the
Lachlan hadn’t sold any of the reinforcing steel. That
would have been too easy to spot. But with Goodwin in
charge of the concrete work, government inspectors for
sale, and native labor who didn’t know a mix

Nothing In Her Way by Charles Williams(1)

He looked as if he'd got lost from a conducted tour of
I didn’t pay much attention to him when he came in,
except in the general way you notice there’s somebody
standing next to you in a bar. Unless it develops he’s
dead, or he has fingers growing on his ears, or he tips
your drink over, you probably never see him. He did it
that way, in a manner of speaking. I tipped his drink
I wasn’t in any mood for an opening bid about the
weather. The track had gone from sloppy to heavy
during the afternoon and outside the rain was still
crying into the neon glow of Royal Street. It’d be soup
tomorrow, and unless you tabbed something going to
the post with an outboard motor you’d do just as well
sticking a pin in the program or betting horses with
pretty names. I’d dropped two hundred in the eighth
race when Berber Prince, a beautiful overlay at four to
one, just failed to last by a nose. I was feeling low.
It was one of those dim places, with a black mirror
behind the bar, and while it was doing a good business,
I hadn’t known it was that crowded. I’d just put my
drink down and was reaching for a cigarette when I felt
my elbow bump gently against something, and then I
heard the glass break as it went over the bar. I looked
Nothing in Her Way — 2

October 14, 2010

Man on The Run by Charles Williams(10)

I opened my eyes. I was lying on a hospital bed in a
small white-painted room. It was daylight. Across
from me a uniformed policeman was seated in a
chair tilted back against the wall, reading a paper.
He glanced up and saw I was awake.
“What time is it?” I asked.
“Eleven-thirty,” he said. He went to the door and
spoke to someone just outside it. I couldn’t hear
what he said. He came back and sat down again. I
moved my arms and legs, and everything seemed
to work except that I was sore and stiff and my side
hurt. I felt the right side of my face. It was painful.
I thought of Suzy. They might know what had
happened to her, but I couldn’t even ask. There
was a chance she was still all right, and if I even
mentioned her name it would implicate her. They
knew somebody had been helping me.
“Can I make a telephone call?” I asked the
uniformed man.

Man on The Run by Charles Williams(9)

It was Pier Five. I could see the pool of light at
the entrance to the shed, and the watchman
leaning back in a chair reading a magazine in front
of his little office just inside the doorway. There
was no way to get on or off the pier without going
past him, but they didn’t require a pass on most of
them. I searched the street in both directions and
was about to hop down from between the cars
when I saw a police car coming from the right. It
stopped at the watchman’s office of the boat repair
yard that was the next pier beyond Five. The men
in it were talking to the watchman. Then it came on
up to Pier Five. They called the watchman out and
talked to him. I began to catch on. They were
looking for me, probably, and giving my description
to the watchmen at all the piers. They passed the
next one, which was not in use, and went on to Pier
Seven where they did the same thing.
It could be something else, of course, but I
couldn’t take a chance on it. I had to stop and tell
the watchman what I wanted and what boat I
wanted to board, and if he had my description the
police would be there before I could even get to the
outer end. I cursed wearily. Now what?
I’d never find a way to do it from here. I went
back to the left for another fifty yards to where the
watchman couldn’t see me crossing the street, and
hurried over when there were no cars in sight. I
stood in the shadows in front of Pier Six and stared
across the slip. Pier Five ran out for some twohundred
feet, with a long T-head at the outer end.

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn