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Words, you might not know:Hide. At that moment Skip realized how much he hated Frosby



corn, scarecrow.

 

At that moment Skip realized how much he hated Frosby. His blood boiled with anger. Edward (Skip) Skipperton spent most of his life feeling angry. It was his nature. When he was a boy he had a bad temper; now, as a man, he was impatient with people who were slow or stupid. He often met such people in his work, which was to give advice on managing companies. He was good at his job: he could see when people were doing something the wrong way, and he told them in a loud, clear voice how to do it better. The company directors always followed his advice.Now Skipperton was fifty-two. His wife had left him two years ago, because she couldn't live with his bad temper. She had met a quiet university teacher in Boston, ended her marriage with Skip and married the teacher. Skip wanted very much to keep their daughter, Maggie, who was then fifteen. With the help of clever lawyers he succeeded.A few months after he separated from his wife, Skip had a heart attack. He was better again in six months, but his doctor gave him some strong advice.'Stop smoking and drinking now, or you're a dead man, Skip! And I think you should leave the world of business, too - you've got enough money. Why don't you buy a small farm, and live quietly in the country?'So Skip looked around, and bought a small farm in Maine with a comfortable farmhouse. A little river, the Coldstream, ran along the bottom of the garden, and the house was called Coldstream Heights. He found a local man, Andy Humbert, to live on the farm and work for him.Maggie was moved from her private school in New York to one in Switzerland; she would come home for the holidays. Skip did stop smoking and drinking: when he decided to do something, he always did it immediately. There was work for him on the farm. He helped Andy to plant corn in the field behind the house; he bought two sheep to keep the grass short, and a pig which soon gave birth to twelve more.There was only one thing that annoyed him: his neighbour. Peter Frosby owned the land next to his, including the banks of the Coldstream and the right to catch fish in it. Skip wanted to be able to fish a little. He also wanted to feel that the part of the river which he could see from the house belonged to him. But when he offered to buy the fishing rights, he was told that Frosby refused to sell. Skip did not give up easily. The next week he telephoned Frosby, inviting him to his house for a drink. Frosby arrived in a new Cadillac, driven by a young man. He introduced the young man as his son, also called Peter. Frosby was a rather small, thin man with cold grey eyes. 'The Frosbys don't sell their land,' he said. 'We've had the same land for nearly 300 years, and the river's always been ours. I can't understand why you want it.''I'd just like to do a little fishing in the summer,' said Skip. 'And I think you'll agree that the price I offer isn't bad - twenty thousand dollars for about 200 metres of fishing rights. You won't get such a good offer again in your lifetime.''I'm not interested in my lifetime,' Frosby said with a little smile. 'I've got a son here.'The son was a good-looking boy with dark hair and strong shoulders, taller than his father. He sat there with his arms across his chest, and appeared to share his father's negative attitude. Still, he smiled as they were leaving and said, 'You've made this house look very nice, Mr Skipperton.' Skip was pleased. He had tried hard to choose the most suitable furniture for the sitting room.'I see you like old-fashioned things,' said Frosby. 'That scarecrow in your field - we haven't seen one of those around here for many years.' 'I'm trying to grow corn out there,' Skip said. 'I think you need a scarecrow in a cornfield.'Young Peter was looking at a photograph of Maggie, which stood on the hall table. 'Pretty girl,' he said.Skip said nothing. The meeting had failed. Skip wasn't used to failing. He looked into Frosby's cold grey eyes and said: 'I've one more idea. I could rent the land by the river for the rest of my life, and then it goes to you - or your son. I'll give you five thousand dollars a year.''I don't think so, Mr Skipperton. Thank you for the drink, and - goodbye.''Stupid man,' said Skip to Andy, as the Cadillac moved off. But he smiled. Life was a game, after all. You won sometimes, you lost sometimes.It was early May. The corn which they had planted was beginning to come up through the earth. Skip and Andy had made a scarecrow from sticks joined together - one stick for the body and head, another for the arms and two more for the legs. They had dressed it in an old coat and trousers that Andy had found and had put an old hat of Skip's on its head.The weeks passed and the corn grew high. Skip tried to think of ways to annoy Frosby, to force him to rent part of the river to him.But he forgot about Frosby when Maggie came home for the summer holidays.Skip met her at the airport in New York, and they drove up to Maine. Skip thought she looked taller; she was certainly more beautiful!'I've got a surprise for you at home,' Skip said.'Oh - a horse, perhaps?'Skip had forgotten she was learning to ride. 'No, not a horse.' The surprise was a red Toyota. He had remembered, at least, that Maggie's school had taught her to drive. She was very excited, and threw her arms round Skips neck. 'Oh, Father, you're so sweet! And you're looking very well!'Skip and Maggie went for a drive in the new car the next morning. In the afternoon Maggie asked her father if she could go fishing in the stream. He had to tell her that she couldn't, and he explained the reason.'Well, never mind, there are a lot of other things to do.' Maggie enjoyed going for walks, reading and doing little jobs in the house.Skip was surprised one evening when Maggie arrived home in her Toyota carrying three fish. He was afraid she had been fishing in the stream, against his instructions.'Where did you get those?''I met the boy who lives there. We were both buying petrol, and he introduced himself- he said he'd seen my photograph in your house. Then we had coffee together-''The Frosby boy?''Yes. He's very nice. Perhaps it's only the father who's not nice. Well, Pete said, "Come and fish with me this afternoon", so I did. It was fun.''I don't - please, Maggie, I don't want you to mix with the Frosbys.'Maggie was surprised, but said nothing.The next day, Maggie said she wanted to go to the village to buy some shoes. She was away for nearly three hours. With a great effort, Skip didn't question her.Then on Saturday morning, Maggie said there was a dance in the nearest town, and she was going.'I can guess who you're going with,' Skip said angrily.'I'm going alone, I promise you. Girls don't need a boy to take them to dances now.Skip realized that he couldn't order her not to go to a dance. But he knew the Frosby boy would be there. And he knew what was going to happen. His daughter was falling in love with Pete Frosby.Maggie got home very late that night, after Skip had gone to bed. At breakfast, she looked fresh and happy.'I expect the Frosby boy was at the dance?' said Skip.'I don't know what you've got against him, Father.''I don't want you to fall in love with an uneducated country boy. I sent you to a good school.''Pete had three years at Harvard University.' Maggie stood up. 'I'm almost eighteen, Father. I don't want to be told who I can and can't see.'Skip shouted at her: 'They're not our kind of people!'Maggie left the room.During the next week Skip was in a terrible state. In his business life he had always been able to force people to do what he wanted - but he couldn't think of a way to do that with his daughter.The following Saturday evening, Maggie said she was going to a party. It was at the house of a boy called Wilmers, who she had met at the dance. By Sunday morning, Maggie hadn't come home. Skip telephoned the Wilmers' house.A boy's voice said that Maggie had left the party early.'Was she alone?''No, she was with Pete Frosby. She left her car here.'Skip felt the blood rush to his face. His hand was shaking as he picked up the telephone to call the Frosby house. Old Frosby answered. He said Maggie was not there. And his son was out at the moment.'What do you mean? Do you mean he was there earlier and he went out?''Mr Skipperton, my son has his own ways, his own room, his own key - his own life. I'm not going to-'Skip put the telephone down.Maggie was not home by Sunday evening or Monday morning. Skip didn't want to inform the police. On Tuesday there was a letter from Maggie, written from Boston. It said that she and Pete had run away to be married.You may think this is sudden, but we do love each other, and we know what we're doing. I didn't really want to go back to school. Please don't try to find me - you'll hear from me next week. I was sorry to leave my nice new car.Love always,MaggieFor two days Skip didn't go out of the house, and he ate almost nothing. He felt three-quarters dead. Andy was very worried about him. When he needed to go to the village to buy some food, he asked Skip to go with him.While Andy did the shopping, Skip sat in the car, looking at nothing. But then a figure coming down the street caught his eye. Old Frosby!He hoped Frosby wouldn't see him in the car, but Frosby did. He didn't pause, but he smiled his unpleasant little smile as he went past. At that moment Skip realized how much he hated Frosby. His blood boiled with anger, and he felt much better: he was himself again. Frosby must be punished! He began to make a plan.That evening, Skip suggested to Andy that he should go away for the weekend and enjoy himself. 'You've earned a holiday!' he said, and gave him three hundred dollars.Andy left on Saturday evening, in the car. Skip then telephoned old Frosby, and said it was time they became friends. He asked Frosby to come to Coldsteam Heights again. Frosby was surprised, but he agreed to come on Sunday morning at about eleven for a talk. He arrived in the Cadillac, alone.Skip acted quickly. He had his heavy gun ready, and as soon as Frosby was inside the door he hit him on the head several times with the end of the gun until Frosby was dead. He then took off his clothes and tied an old cloth round the body. He burned Frosby's clothes in the Fireplace, and hid his watch and rings in a drawer. Then Skip put one arm around Frosby's body, and pulled him out of the house and up the field to the scarecrow. The corn had already been cut. He pulled down the old scarecrow and took the clothes off the sticks. He dressed Frosby in the old coat and trousers, tied a small cloth round his face and pushed the hat onto his head. When he stood the scarecrow up again it looked almost the same as before. As Skip went back to the house, he turned round many times to admire his work.He had solved the problem of what to do with the body.Next he buried Frosbys watch and rings under a big plant in the garden. It was now half past twelve, and he had to do something with the Cadillac. He drove it to some woods a few kilometres away and left it there, after cleaning off all his fingerprints. He hadn't seen anybody. Soon after he got home a woman telephoned from Frosby's house (his housekeeper, Skip guessed) to ask if Frosby was with him. He told her that Frosby and left his house at about twelve, and he hadn't said where he was going. He said the same thing to the policeman who came to see him in the evening, and to Maggie when she telephoned from Boston. He found it easy to lie about Frosby. Andy arrived back the next morning, Monday. He had already heard the story in the village, and also knew that the police had found Frosby's car not far away in the woods. He didn't ask any questions. In the next week Skip spent a lot of time watching the scarecrow from his upstairs bedroom window. He thought with pleasure of old Frosby's body there, drying - slowly, slowly in the wind, After ten days the policeman came back, with a detective. They looked over Skip's house and land, and they looked at his two guns. They didn't find anything.That evening, Maggie came to see him; she and Pete were at the Frosby house. It was hard for Skip to believe she was married.It had all happened so fast.'Pete's very worried and upset,' she said. 'Was Mr Frosby unhappy when he visited you?'Skip laughed. 'No, very cheerful! And pleased with the marriage. Are you going to live at the Frosby house?''Yes. I'll take some things back with me.'She seemed cold and sad, which made Skip unhappy. 'I know what's in that scarecrow,' said Andy one day.'Do you? What are you going to do about it?' Skip asked.'Nothing. Nothing,' Andy answered with a smile.'Perhaps you would like some money, Andy? A little present - for keeping quiet?''No sir,' Andy said quietly. 'I'm not that kind of man.'Skip didn't understand. He was used to men who liked money, more and more of it. Andy was different. He was a good man.1'he leaves were falling from the trees and winter was coming. The children in the area were getting ready to celebrate the evening of 31st October, when people wore special clothes and had special things to eat, and lit great fires outside and danced around them, singing songs.No one came to Skip's house that evening. There was a party at the Frosbys' house - he could hear the music in the distance. He thought of his daughter dancing, having a good time. Skip was lonely, for the first time in his lite. Lonely. He very much wanted a drink, but he decided to keep his promise to himself.At that moment he saw a spot of light moving outside the window. He looked out. There was a line of figures crossing his field, carrying lights. Anger and fear rushed through him. They were on his land! They had no right! And they were children, he realized. The figures were small.He ran downstairs and out into the field. 'What do you think you're doing?" he shouted. 'Get off my property!'The children didn't hear him. They were singing a song. 'We're going to burn the scarecrow ...''Get off my land!' Skip fell and hurt his knee. Now the children had heard him, he was sure, but they weren't stopping. They were going to reach the scarecrow before him. He heard a cry. They had got there.There were more cries, of terror mixed with pleasure.Perhaps their hands had touched the body.Skip made his way back to his house. It was worse than the police. Every child was going to tell his parents what he had found. Skip knew he had reached the end. He had seen a lot of men in business reach the end. He had known men who had jumped out of windows.Skip went straight to his gun. He put the end in his mouth, and fired. When the children came running back across the field to the road, Skip was dead.Andy heard the shot from his room over the garage. He had also seen the children crossing the field, and heard Skip shouting. He understood what had happened. He began walking towards the house. He would have to call the police. Andy decided to say that he didn't know anything about the body in the scarecrow's clothes. He had been away that weekend, after all.

Woodrow Wilson Tie



Patricia Highsmith

Words, you might not know:

wax, waxwork

 

Madame Thibault's Hall of Waxworks attracted a lot of visitors. The front of the building was bright with red and yellow lights, even during the day. Inside the hall were scenes of murders, and other famous historical events, with lifelike figures made out of wax.Clive Wilkes loved the place, both the outside and the inside. He was a delivery boy for a small supermarket, so he was often able to find some free time during the day to stop and visit the Waxworks. At the entrance to the hall there was a man sitting at a desk selling tickets. Then, after passing through a dark area, you came to the main hall. There in front of you was a bloody murder scene: a girl with long fair hair was pushing a knife into the neck of an old man, who sat at a table eating his dinner. His dinner was a plate of wax meat and wax potatoes.Next there was the eighteenth-century Frenchman, Marat, who was killed as he sat in his bath; then the murder of President Kennedy, and then a scene in a Nazi prison camp. Clive loved every scene, and he never got tired of looking at them. But they didn't frighten him as they frightened other people - they made him smile, or even laugh. They were funny. Why not laugh?One thing which Clive wanted to do very much was to spend a night in the Hall. It wouldn't be too difficult. Clive knew that three people worked there, as well as the ticket seller at the door. There was a rather fat woman with brown hair and glasses, who took the tickets as you went in. There was a man who gave little talks about the different scenes, though not more than half the people listened to him. And there was another man, small, with black hair, who walked around watching people, to make sure they didn't damage anything.So one night in November, Clive went in half an hour before the Hall closed, with a cheese sandwich in his pocket. He hid himself in the shadows and listened to the three people as they got ready to leave. The woman, whose name was Mildred, got the moneybox from Fred, the ticket seller, and took it into a room at the back of the hall. Fred left by the front door, the others by the back - First Mildred, then the taller man, then the small one. When Clive heard the door shut and the key turn in the lock, he waited tor a moment in the beautiful silence. Then he went to look at the room at the back where they kept their coats, because he had never seen it. They seemed to use it as an office: there was an old desk there. Next to the room was a toilet. In a drawer in the desk was the wooden moneybox, but he wasn't interested in the money.Clive started to enjoy himself. He found the lights and put them on, so that the scenes were all lit up. Now he was alone, so he could touch things as well as look at them. He stood next to the figures and touched their faces. He ate his sandwich, and sang a few songs.By two in the morning he was bored, and tried to get out. But both the front door and the back door were locked, and there were no keys anywhere. He used the toilet, and went to sleep on the floor.He woke up early, and had another look around. He wanted to find something to take home with him. He stopped by a waxwork of President Wood row Wilson signing a document in 1918, at the end of the First World War. Yes, he would have Wood row Wilson's tie!When the hall opened at 9.30, Clive was hiding behind a screen. Members of the public began to come in, but Clive waited until ten o'clock before he felt it was safe to join them. He left, with Woodrow Wilson's tie in his pocket.He was half an hour late for work. There was a job waiting for him, so he went off on his bicycle.Clive lived alone with his mother, who worked in a dress shop. She had no other children, and her husband had left her when Clive was five. He was eighteen now; he had left school early, without completing his education. Then he had spent a year doing nothing much. His mother worried about him and so she was pleased when he got the job at the supermarket.When Clive came home that evening, he had a story ready for his mother. Last night, he said, he had met a friend and gone back to his house, and his parents had invited him to spend the night there. She accepted this story.Clive put Woodrow Wilson's tie in the cupboard with his own. It was a beautiful tie, pale grey and expensive. He imagined someone - Mildred, perhaps - looking at the figure of the President and saying, 'Just a minute! What happened to Woodrow Wilsons tie?'He felt very proud of his adventure, and wanted to tell someone about it, but he had no close friends who he could talk to. By the next day it didn't seem exciting any more.One afternoon the following week, Clive had another idea. It was a really amusing idea - one that would certainly make the public take notice. When should he do it? Tonight? No, he needed time to plan it.Two nights later Clive went to the Hall at nine o'clock and bought a ticket. Luckily the ticket seller didn't really look at people; he was too busy.Clive went straight to Woodrow Wilson, and saw that he was still without a tie. The murder scenes didn't interest him as much as usual. Some real murder scenes would be so much better. He laughed. He would kill the woman first.As the visitors went out, Clive hid in a dark corner near the office. When Mildred walked past him, in her hat and coat, he stepped forward and put his arm around her neck.She made only a small 'Ur-rk' sound.Clive pressed her neck with his hands until her body fell to the floor. Then he pulled her to the dark corner.'Has Mildred gone?' said one of the men.'Yes, she's not in the office. Well, I'm going, too.'Clive jumped on him as he passed, and attacked him in the same way. The job was more difficult, because the man fought hard, but Clive managed to knock his head against the wall. It was the taller man, who gave the talks.'What's happening?' The small, dark man appeared.This time Clive tried to hit him on the chin. He missed, and hit him in the neck. The man was unconscious now, so Clive was able to knock his head against the wall, too.They all seemed to be dead. Blood was pouring from the heads of the two men, and the woman was bleeding a little from the mouth. Clive found the keys in the second man's pocket. There was a pocketknife there, which he took, too.Then the taller man moved a little. Clive opened the pocketknife and pushed it into his neck four times. They were all dead now, and that was certainly real blood coming out, not the red paint of the wax figures.Clive turned on the lights which lit up the scenes, and began the interesting job of choosing the right places to put the bodies. The woman should certainly go in Marat's hath. Clive thought of taking off her clothes, but decided against it, because she would look much funnier sitting in a bath with a coat and hat on. He took the figure of Marat out of the bath, carried it into the office and placed it on the desk.Then he carried Mildred to the bath and put her in. God, she looked funny!Now for the men. He decided that the man whose neck was cut would look good in the place of the old man who was having dinner. After all, the girl with the long fair hair was pushing a knife into his neck. The figure of the old man was in a sitting position, so Clive put him on the toilet. He looked so funny there, with a knife in one hand and a fork in the other, waiting for something to eat. Clive laughed and laughed.Last, the little man. Clive looked around and noticed the Woodrow Wilson scene. The figure of the President was sitting at a large desk, signing a paper; that was an excellent place, Clive thought, for a man whose head was cut open and bleeding. He managed to take the wax pen out of Wilson's fingers, carry him into the office and put him on the chair at the desk. His arms were in a position for writing, so Clive found a pen on the desk to put into his right hand.Now he could put the little man in Woodrow Wilson's place. He lifted him up onto the chair, but his head fell forward onto the desk, and Clive could not make his hand hold the pen.At last it was done. Clive smiled. Then he realized that every part of his body was tired. Now that he had the keys he could get out, go home, and sleep well in his own bed. He wanted to be ready to enjoy tomorrow.There was some blood on his coat, so he must throw it away somewhere. But he needed a coat. He took one off a wax figure which was about his size, and put that on. Then he used the inside of his own coat to clean off any possible fingerprints from places he had touched. He turned off the lights, and found his way to the back door. He locked it behind him, and dropped the keys on the ground. In the street was a box with some old newspapers, empty cans and plastic bags in it, where he hid the coat.Clive slept very well that night. The next morning, he was standing across the street from the Hall when the ticket seller arrived just before 9.30. By 9.35 only three people had gone in, but Clive could not wait any longer, so he crossed the street and bought a ticket.The ticket seller was telling people, 'Just go in. Everybody is late this morning.' He went inside to put on the lights, and Clive followed him.There were four other customers now. They looked at Mildred in her hat and coat sitting in Marat's bath without noticing anything strange about her. Two more people came in.At last, by the Woodrow Wilson scene, a woman said to the man with her- 'Was someone shot when they signed that document at the end of the war?' There was blood, real blood, on the papers on the desk. By now they were dark red.'I don't know. I don't think so,' the man answered.Clive wanted very much to laugh, but he managed not to.Suddenly a woman cried out in terror, and at the same time a man shouted, 'My God, it's real!'Another man was examining the body with its face in the meat and potatoes. 'The blood's real! It's a dead man!'The ticket seller, Fred, came in. 'What's the trouble?''There are two dead bodies here! Real ones!'Now Fred looked at Marat's bath. 'Good God! Good God!. Mildred!''And this one! And this one here!''I must call the police!' said Fred. 'Could you all, please - just leave?'He ran into the office, where the telephone was, and Clive heard him cry our. He had seen Woodrow Wilson at the desk, of course, and Marat.Clive thought it was time to leave, so he did. No one looked at him as he made his way out.That was all right, he thought. That was good.He decided to go to work and to ask for the day off. He told his employer he felt ill, and put his hand on his stomach. Old Mr Simmons had to let him go.Clive wanted to take a long bus ride somewhere. He didn't know why he wanted to do this, but the need was very strong. He had brought all his cash with him, about twenty-three dollars, and now he bought a ticket for a bus going west - for seven dollars, one way. This took him, by the evening, to a town in Indiana.There was a cafe here where the bus stopped. As he went in, he saw newspapers on sale. There it was, in big letters:MYSTERY KILLER: THREE DEAD IN WAXWORKS HALL.He bought a paper and read it at the bar, drinking beer.This morning at 9.30 ticket man Fred Keating and several visitors to Madame Thibault's Waxworks discovered three real dead bodies. They were the bodies of Mrs Mildred Veery, aged 41, George Hartley, 43, and Richard MacFadden, 37, all employed at the Hall. Police believe the murders happened at about ten yesterday evening. Because the bodies were put in place of wax figures, police are looking for a killer with a sick mind.Clive laughed over that. 'Sick mind!' But he was sorry that there were no details about the really amusing things: the old man sitting on the toilet, the man signing the document with his head broken and bleeding.Two men were standing at the bar beside him.'Did you read about the murders at the Waxworks?' he asked one of them.'Not really.' He didn't seem interested.'You see, I did them,' said Clive. He pointed to a picture of the bodies. 'That's my work.''Listen, boy,' said the man. 'We're not troubling you, and don't you trouble us.' They moved away from Clive.Clive slept in the street that night. On the road the next day he waved at a passing car, which took him to another town, nearer his hometown. That day's newspapers did not have any more news about the murders, in another cafe that evening he had a similar conversation, this time with two young men. They didn't believe him, either.Next day he stopped a few more cars, and finally reached his hometown. He went straight to the police station.'I have something important to say about a murder,' he told the policeman sitting at a desk. He was sent to the office of a police officer who had grey hair and a fat face. Clive told his story.'Where do you go to school, Clive?''I don't. I'm eighteen.' He told him about his job.'Clive, you've got troubles, bur they're not the ones you're talking about,' said the officer.Clive had to wait in a small room in the police station, and nearly an hour later a doctor was brought in. Then his mother.They didn't believe him. They said he was just telling this story to attract attention to himself.'Clive needs a man around the house,' his mother told them; 'someone who can teach him to behave like a man. Since he was fourteen he's been asking me questions like "Who am I?" and "Am I a person?'"The policeman told Clive he must see the doctor twice a week for treatment.Clive was very angry. He refused to go back to the supermarket, but found another delivery job.'They haven't found the murderer, have they?' Clive said to the doctor on one of his visits. 'You're all stupid - stupid!'The doctor only laughed at him.There was one thing which might help to prove his story: Woodrow Wilson's tie, which was still in his cupboard. But he wasn't going to show it to these stupid people. As he delivered things on his bicycle, as he had supper with his mother, he was planning. Next time, he would do something really big. He would take a gun up to the top of a high building, and shoot at the people in the street. Kill a hundred people at least. Then they would take notice of him - then they would realize that he was a person!

The Absence of Emily

Jack Ritchie

Words, you might not know:

Spade

 





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