Authors: Frances and Richard Lockridge
Killing the Goose
A Mr. and Mrs. North Mystery
Frances and Richard Lockridge
Tuesday, March 9, 7:30 P.M. to 8:10 P.M.
After almost two years of marriage you ought to be able to watch your wife across a room and experience no emotion whatever. William Weigand told himself this firmly, watching Dorian leave the table and walk half a dozen steps and sit down in a chair. That, obviously, was essentially unexciting; it was not even difficult. Thousands of women could do it without falling over anything. Hundreds of women, having accomplished this manoeuver, would sit with their feet flat on the floor and their knees together. Assuming that Dorian Weigand was exceptional, as he unhesitatingly assumed she was, it remained ridiculous to believe that she had proved it by walking across the Norths' living room without falling flat and sitting in one of the Norths' chairs without falling apart.
And yet, Weigand realized, his face was rather fatuously decorated with what could only be called a beaming smile. The smile reflected his continued glad surprise that Dorian Weigand lived and moved; that she moved with the unconsidered grace of a first-rate athlete or a medium-rate cat; that, watching her, one realized suddenly what the human animal could do if it put its mind to it. Not, certainly, that Dorian was consciously putting her mind to it. Her grace came, presumably, from some special sense of balance which she possessed without willing it, as some people possessed unusual hearing and others the ability to see to uncommon distances.
After two years of marriage, or almost two years, you should grow accustomed to these minor superiorities in the woman you had married, and grow able to look at her reddish-brown hair with only matter-of-fact approval and not any longer fall to speculating in the middle of even your own conversation as to whether there was really a just perceptible tint of green in her eyes. From all he had ever heard of marriage, and from a good deal he had seen, people very quickly got over these small, gratifying surprises and learned to take other people comfortably for granted. It was supposed to take about six months. The supposition evidently was wrong.
“Flagrant,” Pamela North said, out of the small silence in which Bill Weigand had been living. “Isn't it, Jerry?”
“I don't know,” Jerry said. “I think he's sort of cute, Pam. So round-eyed and everything.”
Weigand looked at them, smiling slightly.
“Hey,” Jerry North said. “Hey,
Weigand looked at them. He said he was afraid of that.
“I felt all along there was something,” he said. “An influence or something. I was just thinkingâ”
“Don't tell us,” Pam commanded. “I don't thinkâ”
Dorian rested her head against the back of the chair and looked up at them, her eyes not more than half open.
“I hope you're all having fun,” she said. “Lots of fun, darlings. Don't you, Bill?”
“Right,” Bill Weigand said. “Why not?”
Probably, he thought, he should feel embarrassed. But the Norths were not really embarrassing. And he was too comfortable, in any case, to achieve embarrassment. And they would drop it in a moment, anyway.
Pam North sat in the chair by the fire and tucked one foot under her. She moved well too, when you thought of it. But her mind always seemed to be moving faster than her body. Probably that was why she sometimes picked things up before she had hold of them. Bill Weigand looked away from Pam, who seemed almost laughing, and found Jerry looking at him. Jerry was smiling faintly and he nodded slowly. But there were no words to go with the nod. Jerry merely said, “Coffee, everybody?”
Everybody had coffee in small, white cups. Jerry looked at his cup and sighed.
“Remember brandy?” he said. “Cognac? Armagnac? Way back?”
“That reminds me,” Pam said. “News. It must be time for news.”
Jerry put his cup down and reached out to the radio at the end of the sofa. He turned a knob and pressed a button. The radio said nothing for almost thirty seconds. Then it saidâ
“âto own those small things which have always been man's life. The little house and the grass in front of it and earth to dig in. The little store. A farm. To hold these things in the old way andâ”
“Darlings,” Dorian said, sitting up, “not Dan Beck. Do we have to have Dan Beck?”
The anxiety in her voice was exaggerated. But it was not simulated.
But almost before she spoke, Gerald North's long fingers had twitched at the radio's dial.
“Here is a summary of the headline news,” the radio told them. “On the Eastern Frontâ”
They listened to the summary of the headline news and were silent a moment thinking about it. Jerry turned the radio off.
“I'm sorry,” Jerry said. “It was set on the dial instead of the button. So we got dangerous Dan and little houses for all mankind.
every man a delver.
the old country store at the cross-roads.”
“Is he?” Pam North said. She looked from one to the other. “Because I think yes,” she said.
“Well,” Weigand said, slowly. “There's something in it.”
in everything,” Pam said. “Jerry likes to grow corn. I like to keep house.” She paused and considered herself. “In theory,” she added. “With somebody to wash the dishes, except very good glasses with a very clean, dry towel and very hot water. Of course there's something in it.”
“And it's dangerous,” Dorian said. “Isn't it, Jerry?”
“Yes,” Jerry said. “I think it's dangerous. I think the great Dan Beck isâwell, dangerous. Because he promises things people will never get. Most people. Because he makes them believeâreally believeâthat we can go back.”
“However,” Weigand said. “We've got to go somewhere. And the world is full of promisesâand beliefs. Some of the thingsâdie things we're promisedâsound worse than Beck's things.”
Jerry nodded and said most of them did. And that there was no harm in remembering other ways, and thinking they had been good ways. But it was dangerous to promise people we could go back to them, when in fact we could never go back. Even if it would be a good idea. Even if you saw quite clearly that there had been a wrong turn back there somewhere, so that now what we called “private property” was not really the old private ownership, but for the most part the possession of pieces of paper with printing on themâso that now we confused the word and the fact.
“But really,” Jerry said, “it's what he does with the ideasâwith Herbert Agar's ideas, and the ideas of the old liberalism, and what was good in laissez-faire. You can demagogue any good thing, and he does.”
“You listen to him,” Weigand said.
“Iâ” Jerry began.
He became conscious of Pam's voice, engaged, it was evident, in an entirely different conversation.
“âhelps me,” Pam said. “He loves to, really, but it drives the salesgirls mad. Because he just looks through them andâ”
“âlisten to him sometimes,” Jerry said. “Enough to know that he doesn't mean to take everybody in. Enough to hear him talk about ânative American stock' and not mean the Indians andâ”
“âBill too;” Dorian said. “But he won't. I can't get him into oneâ”
Jerry wrenched his attention back and came in on the middle of a sentence from Bill.
“âand so, eventually, âprotestant' and âwhite' and finally something like âAryan' although of courseâ”
“âsix of them,” Pam said. “And he just shook his head. But the seventhâ”
Jerry ran a hand through his hair. He found he had, now, come in on the middle of one of his own sentences.
“âso we build a wall around it,” he heard himself saying. “And take care of the non-white, non-protestant, non-natâ”
“âwith murders what they are,” he heard Pam saying. “And no regular hoursâ”
Jerry stopped abruptly, partly because he had forgotten what he was saying; partly to hear more clearly what seemed to be the statement of Pam North that murderers did not keep regular hours, but built a wall around them. It occurred to Jerry that he was getting confused.
“By the way, Bill,” Pam said, “speaking of murders. How are they?”
It occurred to Jerry that Bill had some minutes earlier abandoned the problems raised by the great Dan Beck. At any rate, Bill answered without seeming to come out of a fog.
“Routine,” he said. “Very routine, I'm afraid, Pam.”
“I don't see how it can be, ever,” Pam said. “If I were going to murder somebody it would beâoh, tremendousâoverwhelming. Or going to be murdered. You're getting professional, Bill.”
“Getting?” Bill Weigand repeated. “I've always been professional. A professional murderer-catcher.” He looked quickly at Dorian. There had been a time when the thought of him as a catcher, even of murderers, made her eyes go suddenly blank and far away. But now she smiled in reassurance. “I'm a policeman, with the outlook of a policeman. They're routine if they're easy, with a familiar cast. The boy whose girl ditches him and who kills her in a rage. The wife who gets tired of her husband and hits him with something heavy. The man who kills for insurance. And the mobsters, who just kill when they get annoyed. Things like that.”
“Gangsters are dull,” Pam agreed. “Or they always sound dull. Are they, really?”
“Yes,” Bill said. “Boringâand dangerous as hell. You wouldn't like them, Pam.”
“And nothing else?” Pam insisted. “No stories to tell?”
Bill Weigand, lieutenant of detectives, acting captain of the Homicide Squad, started to shake his head. He thought better of it. He said he would give them an exampleâType A. From today's blotter. Emotionally interestingâpossibly. If you went into it from that side, like a novelist. Routine, if you went into it like a policeman. A girl killed by a boy who was in love with her, after a quarrel, because he thought she was two-timing him. The last, a guess. But no other guesswork.