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NORBERT DAVIS

THE LETHAL LOGIC

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First published in Detective Fiction Weekly, 29 April 1939

Collected in Dark Lessons, Macmillan, 1985

This e-book edition: Roy Glashan's Library, 2024
Version Date: 2023-01-07

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Detective Fiction Weekly, 29 April 1939, with "The Lethal Logic"



LANGDON CAUGHT Carlson on the path that ran from the parking lot in back of the Library across in front of the Education building. He stopped Carlson with a quickly nervous flutter of his hands and a nervous, ducking bow.

"Professor Carlson. Just—one moment..."

Carlson said: "Yes?" impatiently.

Langdon was a nondescript clerical-looking little man with fine white hair that the wind ruffled. His smile was vague and ready-to-please. He wore a black suit—not a dark one, but black. It was too big for him, and the pockets of the coat were bulging now with pamphlets that had rough edged pages.

"I've been looking for Dean Michels, Professor. Do you know where..."

"He had a luncheon engagement," Carlson said.

"Oh, yes. Of course. If you should see him, will you tell him the copies of his new text have come in? I thought he'd be anxious to know."

"I'll tell him."

"Thank you, Professor."

Carlson walked on across to the Law steps. He walked fast, not because he was in a hurry, but because of the surging impatience that was with him always and that he never could control. He was tall and thin and stooped, and his face had a dark, fine-edged eagerness that had bitten deep lines around his mouth and eyes. He scowled a little as a habit.

There were law students gathered on the steps, waiting for their one o'clocks. Carlson stopped to take a last puff of his cigarette, dropped it, ground it under his heel. He started up the steps and saw Vaster standing at the top. He drew in his breath in a noiseless, swearing whisper and looked down at his climbing feet, hoping for the best, but he knew it would be quite useless, and it was.

"Professor Carlson," said Vaster. "Please—if you could give me a second. You know in the lecture this morning... that about intent. About subjective and objective intent. Now you said if there was a man walking in the woods at night following another man and intending to kill him, and he saw a stump and thought it was the other man and shot the stump and the other man wasn't anywhere near the stump... You said whether or not that was an attempt to commit murder depended on—on... I didn't get that part. Professor Carlson."

Carlson sighed deeply. He went through it carefully and slowly, emphasizing and repeating each point. Vaster had round dull blue eyes, and they blinked mechanically at the end of each of Carlson's sentences, and every time they blinked. Vaster nodded. Vaster had a thick neck and wide sloping shoulders and a thickly lumpy body. He had a flattened, shapeless nose and big lips.

Carlson, watching him as he talked, thought he could see the small, dull brain behind the slope of Vaster's skull, see it actually groping around in the mist, blindly and stubbornly trying to find and follow Carlson's logical path.

Carlson wondered why there had to be minds like that—and why, if they were really necessary, their owners picked out a place like the Law School to foregather. They never seemed to choose any of the several other departments where stupidity was at a premium. The students on the steps had stopped talking among themselves and gathered in a tight, concentrated knot around Carlson and Vaster. Their heads, like Vaster's, all nodded in unison every time Carlson made a point, and he felt like a yogi demonstrating mass hypnotism.

He broke it off abruptly, telling Vaster to see him in his office if he wanted further explanations. As the group split to let him through, he saw that there had been one student who hadn't gathered with them, and he knew at once that it would be Dieckmann. Dieckmann had a mind as sharp as a razor. He was sitting on the top of the steps, absently smoking a pipe. He was short and stocky and hard-looking with a square, tanned face and very bright blue eyes. He nodded at Carlson and winked.

Carlson almost winked back, but caught himself. He walked on under the cool, shadowed archway of gray granite, thinking that it was a shame Dieckmann couldn't parcel out the unneeded bits of his brilliance here and there. He decided, on second thought, that it was probably a good thing he couldn't. As an older and more famous professor had said: Some lawyers are smart and some are elected judges.

Going past the library door, Carlson went in through the faculty entrance, along the narrow, dark corridor that always smelled damply of the last rain and into the rear end of the library. He turned to the left and went past the stacks of state reports.

Janice Lee, Michels' secretary, came around the corridor at the end of the last stack. She was a small girl with smooth, blue-black hair. Her face was very white and smooth, and her soft, small lips framed a whispered answer to Carlson's greeting. She went on by him with a quick thud-thud of rubber heels.

Carlson turned the corner she had come around and saw Reeve sitting in a reading chair that had been moved in close against the last stack. He had a big, loose-leaf volume of Advance Reports open on his lap. He wore a green eye shade. His head was bent and one hand trailed down over the arm of the chair and touched the floor.

Reeve was a student, and he often slept in the library, apparently under the theory that he might absorb some of the knowledge packed around him through his subconscious mind. Carlson had never seen him in this part before, but he thought nothing of it until he had gone three steps on beyond him.

He stopped, then. It was cool and quiet and shadowed here. Carlson stood still, staring straight ahead of him and frowning, for as long as it would take to count ten slowly. Then he turned around and looked back at Reeve. Reeve hadn't moved, and he didn't.


Carlson went back the three steps and touched him on the shoulder. Reeve was slumped down in the chair. He bent forward slowly from the waist until his face bumped against the book he had on his lap.

Carlson moistened his lips and swallowed. He looked quickly both ways along the corridor, and then he took hold of Reeve's shoulder and carefully straightened him back into his first position. He stood there, motionless and uncertain for a long minute. Then he turned and walked quickly around the jog in the corridor and into Dean Michels' reception office.

It was empty. Janice Lee's desk was at the side, and there was a letter half-written in her typewriter. The door of the inner office was ajar.

Carlson tapped on it and said: "Michels."

Michels' pleasing, smooth voice answered: "Yes?"

Carlson went inside the office and stood in front of Michels' big desk. He was frowning and pulling at his lower lip.

"What is it?" Michels asked.

"His name," Carlson said absently. "What the devil was that name?" He looked at Michels. "Reeve is sitting outside in a chair. He's dead."

"What—" Michels began, and then his big, loose face seemed to stretch grotesquely. "Dead! You said—"

Carlson nodded. "Dead. Murdered. Stabbed in the back. What was that fool's name? Ah! Harms!" He picked up the telephone on Michels' desk, and when the University operator answered, said: "Get me the city police department."

Michels sat as though he were afraid to move, staring.

While he waited, Carlson said: "Harms is a lieutenant—a detective—on the police force. I met him once at a banquet. He's very stupid."

A voice in the receiver said: "Police department."

"I'd like to speak to Lieutenant Harms." Carlson said.

Lieutenant Harms had a rumbling, aimless voice. "Harms speaking."

"This is Carlson—at the University."

Harms remembered him. "Oh. Hello, Professor."

"We've got some business for you out here. A student by the name of Reeve has been murdered in the Law library."

"I'll be right out!"

"Don't hurry," Carlson advised. "He'll stay here." He hung up the receiver.

Michels spoke in a mumbling whisper. "Terrible... terrible..."

Carlson shrugged. "I don't know why. He was rather a nasty little rat. I never did like him."


Carlson lived in a bachelor apartment on the west side of the campus. He had just come in from dinner and arranged things to his satisfaction. He had the radio tuned carefully between two stations so that the resulting sound was a pleasant blur. He was looking at a Chinese newspaper. He took several of them. He couldn't read Chinese, but he always went through each one carefully from the front page to the last, comforting himself with the thought that if there was any bad news current in the world, he wouldn't find it out.

The doorbell rang, and he folded up his paper and went to answer it. It was Harms.

"Hello, Professor," said Harms. "Say, I didn't get much of a chance to talk to you this afternoon, so I thought I'd drop around."

Harms went with his voice. He was big and fat and flat-footed. He had yellow teeth and a cigar in the corner of his mouth, and he smiled all the time with a sort of jovial ferocity, as though his feet hurt.

There was another man with him, and the other man walked in the door so close behind Harms that the two of them gave the effect of a couple of prisoners doing the lock-step.

"Who's this?" Carlson asked, pointing at the other man.

"Him?" said Harms, apparently surprised that anyone would notice his companion. "Oh, that's Dogan. He's my partner."

"I got a headache," said Dogan.

He was a small man, hunch-shouldered and white-faced. He looked like the movie version of a gangster's bodyguard except for the fact that he was cross-eyed and wore thick glasses.

"You got any aspirin?" he asked.

"In the bathroom," Carlson said. "I'll get—"

"I'll find it," said Dogan. He went into the bathroom and came out with a bottle of aspirin tablets. He rolled four out on his palm. "You got any whiskey?"

Carlson took a bottle out of the cabinet and gave him a glass. Dogan poured the glass half-full, popped the aspirin tablets in his mouth, and swallowed them and the whiskey with one gulp.

"I got a hell of a headache," he said dully. He went and sat down in a straight chair in the corner.

"Now, about this fellow, Reeve," said Harms. "The doc says he was stuck with an ice pick."

"Yes?" said Carlson politely.

"Uh-huh. And not very long before you found him. Say about a half-hour or less."

"Is that so?"

"Yeah. You know who did it?"

"No."

"Could you find out?"

"Certainly."

"Oh," said Harms. "Certainly, huh? How?"

"By assembling the requisite factual data and reasoning from that to an inevitable logical conclusion."

"Oh," said Harms gloomily. "I don't think I could do that."

"You're right."

Harms squinted at him. "Why do you think I couldn't?"

"I don't think, I know. You haven't the mental ability to reason in a logical sequence. Like all policemen, all you're capable of is a pseudo-logic. You go from conclusion to premise. In other words, you pick out a suspect and try to prove he committed the crime."

"Is that what I've been doing all these years?" Harms wondered. "It works pretty good most of the time."

Carlson shrugged. "Doubtless. So why don't you go and use it on this case? Or, are you? Do you think I committed the crime?"

"I dunno. Did you?"

"As a matter of fact—no. But if I had, you'd never be able to convict me for it."

"Why not?"

"Because I know about ten times as much about criminal law as any judge you've got on this circuit and at least fifty times as much as your district attorney."

"Is that a fact?" Harms asked.

"Yes. If you don't believe me, try me out."

"I guess I kind of believe you," said Harms, more gloomily. "It don't seem like there's any respect for law in this country. I tried to take some fingerprints and ask some questions this afternoon, and all I got was a lot of horse laughs from them law students. They told me to go look at the Constitution. I couldn't get nowhere."

Carlson nodded sympathetically. "Most of them are just learning that the law is a pretty silly business, and they haven't gotten over the shock yet."

"Yeah," said Harms indefinitely. "Well, look. On this case, I got to pinch somebody right away quick."

"Why?"

"Because of that damned college newspaper. It's run by students, and no student likes cops. If I don't pinch somebody, them guys are gonna start writin' funny articles about me, and the articles will be picked up and re-printed in the city papers, and then I'll be out on my ear. How's for you findin' out who did it with your logical premises and such?"

"No."

"Why not?"

"Because I don't care who did it."

"Maybe he'll murder somebody else."

"Let him."

"It's your fault," said Harms accusingly. "All your fault."

"My fault?"

"Sure. You got me into this. You called me." Carlson grinned. "So sorry."

"All right, then," said Harms grimly. "I'm gonna pinch that girl."

"What girl?"

"The dean's secretary. Janice Lee."

Carlson incredulously. "Why?"

Harms moved his big shoulders. "She's a girl, and she's right pretty, and she was near it when it happened."

Carlson exploded, "My God! You don't mean to tell me that any modern police officer follows that antiquated bit of flubdub. Cherchez la femme! Faugh! It makes me sick!"

"Well," said Harms. "She coulda been carryin' on with the dean, and this Reeve coulda spotted it..."

Carlson said clearly and slowly: "She had nothing whatever to do with it. Neither did Dean Michels. If you arrest either one of them on any such insane theory, it will ruin her life and his career."

"I got to arrest somebody—quick."

Carlson drew a deep breath. "All right. Look at it realistically. Reeve was stabbed in the Law library with an ice pick. That gives you three factual bases on which to reason. Stabbed, ice pick, Law library. There are no ice picks around the Law library ordinarily, and the ordinary person doesn't carry one habitually, and, if he did, wouldn't go around stabbing people indiscriminately with it. Following me?"

"Yeah," Harms admitted.

"From this, we can permissibly reason that some person brought an ice pick into the Law library with a purpose in mind. Without trying to reduce any of the logical by-roads to absurdities, I think we can safely reason that the purpose was to stab Reeve."

"Sure," Harms agreed. "That's what he did."

"Don't start that false logic again. I've just given you one clue to his identity."

"What?"

"The murder was premeditated. The murderer had a grudge against Reeve—that is, a reason, real or fancied, for killing him."

Carlson thought a moment, then:

"I'll give you another clue. He was familiar with the Law library—very familiar. The premise for that is because he could go in and find Reeve and get out without being seen, or he was so usual and expected a sight that no one would bother about it if they did see him. Now go find him."

"Huh!" Harms said sourly. "I'll stick to the girl. Come on, Dogan."

Carlson let them get as far as the door, and then he sighed wearily and said: "All right. You win. I'll find out who did it for you."

Harms reassumed his ferocious grin. "Good! When?" Carlson sighed again. "It won't take me more than a couple of hours. It's a stupidly simple problem."


At night the campus always assumed a different aspect in Carlson's eyes. The buildings loomed tall and shadowy with lights pin-pricking out of the scattered windows. There was something majestically mysterious about it, as there was supposed to be something majestically mysterious about knowledge. But then—again like knowledge—when you saw it in the clear light of day the mystery went away, and it was only a group of things conceived by man and built by man—impermanent and weather-beaten and faintly shoddy as are all things conceived and built by man.

There was no one on the Law steps, and Carlson's heels clicked briskly going up them. There was a light above, in the center of the archway, and it threw spidery shadows that wiggled on the worn brick of the walk. Watching the shadows, Carlson unaccountably shivered.

He stopped short, amazed at himself. He had felt like shivering. He still did. Little cold prickles seemed to raise the hair at the back of his neck. Carlson snorted. Now that was nothing but damned foolishness. Only the ignorant are afraid. But nevertheless, he turned and looked behind him.

Of course there was nothing in sight. But he had a vague, sneaking premonition—he hated premonitions—that if he had turned just a little sooner, there would have been something.

He snorted again and turned and marched steadily along the corridor to the Law library, and the little chill of fear followed him right along, touching the back of his neck with its gentle, icy fingers. Carlson opened the door of the main entrance and shut it behind him and leaned against it.

He was perspiring, and he swore at himself for doing it with a practiced, fluent bitterness. Straightening up, he walked on into the library. It was only a little after nine o'clock, and there were several students studying.

Carlson stood in the doorway for a second and then walked down the length of the room to one of the tables at the back. Dieckmann was sitting alone at the table. He was hunched forward, and the book he was reading was spread out flat under the green-shaded bulb of the reading light.

Carlson sat down opposite him. "Dieckmann."

Dieckmann raised his eyes. They were bright and shrewd and quickly alert, and he smiled at Carlson, showing the glisten of his white teeth.

Carlson said: "I'm investigating Reeve's murder."

"Yes?" said Dieckmann.

There was no one sitting near them, and Carlson talked in a low voice, almost a whisper: "Reeve was a certain recognizable type of person. When he was small, he was the kind of little boy who write dirty words on sidewalks and fences. He never outgrew it. His hobby here was looking up cases that dealt with salacious crimes."

"Yes," said Dieckmann.

"There is a case like that in 151 Northern. Quite a famous one. In it the judge—the case was on appeal of course—reprinted quite a lot of testimony of the lower court, either because he was the same type as Reeve or because he was too damned lazy to write enough of his own for an adequate opinion. I read the case when the volume came out about five years ago. I didn't pay any particular attention to it—except as an added example of judicial stupidity—but I never forget anything I read. The complaining witness in that case was a young girl, and her name was Dieckmann."

Dieckmann nodded. "My sister."

"Oh," said Carlson slowly. "I'm sorry. I saw Reeve reading the case the other day. Did he know the girl was your sister?"

"No. He noticed the name, though. He was trying to find out."

Carlson said, "Did you kill him, Dieckmann?"

Dieckmann's smile broadened. "Why do you ask?"

"Because you're worth a hundred of Reeve, so I would figure you had about ninety-nine more murders to go before I should start interfering."

Dieckmann shook his head. "It won't be necessary to wait. I didn't kill Reeve. He was annoying me to some extent, but if I had really wanted to get rid of him, I'd have thought up something less messy and more effective than murder."

Carlson nodded. "Thanks." He got up and started away from the table.

"Professor," said Dieckmann.

Carlson stopped. "Yes?"

"I'd be a little careful if I were you."

Carlson stared sharply. "Why do you say that?"

"Just casual advice," Dieckmann said indifferently. He began to read his book again.


Carlson went back to the front of the library. There was an attendant—a student—on duty at the desk, and Carlson asked him; "Where did Reeve keep his books?"

The attendant's eyes were curious and a little shocked. "At—at the end of that first shelf—on top. Right next to Corpus Juris."

Carlson found the spot. Reeve, like many other students, did a lot of his studying in the library because it was handy for reference work, and he made a habit—as did the others—of keeping his books in the library to save carrying them back and forth from his room.

The shelf contained two casebooks and several regulation stiff-backed notebooks. Carlson thumbed through three of the notebooks and found nothing but inadequate notes and briefed cases in Reeve's spattering, spidery scrawl. There was something in the pocket at the back of the fourth. Carlson pulled it out far enough to see that it was a particularly vicious French postcard.

He made a wry face and shoved it back out of sight. He replaced the notebook on the shelf, noticing that the binding at the back was stretched. He took the notebook out once more, opened and shut it thoughtfully several times while he examined the binding, then put it on the shelf again.

He walked back and addressed the attendant: "Did you clean up around here tonight?"

"Yes, sir."

"You know where Reeve usually—ah—studied, don't you? Not in the main room here, but between the third and fourth stacks at that little table?"

"Yes, sir."

"Find any books on that table?"

The attendant nodded doubtfully. "Well... yes, sir."

"Reports?"

"Yes, sir."

"Same kind Reeve usually read?"

The attendant flushed. "Yes, sir."

Carlson nodded and said: "Thanks," absently. He walked diagonally across the library and into the passageway that led through the middle of the stacks of books. He turned off between the third and fourth stacks, walked clear to the end and looked down at the little table there in a thoughtfully absent way.

The third and fourth stacks extended clear to the wall. There was no way to get around behind them, which was why Reeve had picked the particular spot to pursue his research work. It gave him complete privacy.

Carlson went back to the middle aisle, turned down between the fourth and fifth stacks. The fifth stack didn't go clear to the wall. There was a passageway. Carlson walked through it, past the sixth, seventh, and eighth stacks, and came out at a spot about ten feet from where Reeve's body had been when he had first seen it.

He went to the spot and stopped, looking down at the chair in which Reeve had been sitting. Finally he took the copy of Advance Reports that Reeve had been holding on his lap from the shelf and looked at the case index in it. He shook his head and replaced the book, looking around.

Twenty feet further along the corridor was the door to Lapham's office. Lapham taught the history of Law, and he was at present in Mississippi doing some research work. His office was not in use. Carlson tried the door. It should have been locked, but it wasn't.

Carlson turned on the light in the office. There was a fine layer of dust over all the furniture, and nothing had been disturbed that he could see.

"That's it," he said to himself in a satisfied mutter.

He went back and lifted the chair Reeve had been sitting in. It was a heavy one. It weighed about fifteen pounds, he judged. In his mind, he conjured up an image of Reeve. Reeve had been soft and fat and pudgy. He had weighed about a hundred and seventy, if not more. Carlson did some mental addition and nodded again, pleased with himself.


Carlson went out the faculty entrance, and it was as though that little instinctive prickle of fear had been waiting patiently in the darkness outside the door for him. It stayed with him as he hurried diagonally across the campus, and he had to use the whole force of his will to keep himself from running. The familiar shrubs assumed weird and menacing shapes, and in the pockets of shadow under the archways strangely-shaped things waited and watched him go past.

He came out of the quadrangle, crossed the road to the student's cooperative store. It was a long, low building. The store was closed now, but Carlson peered through the blinds that covered the front door and found a light somewhere at the back. He pounded repeatedly and noisily on the door.

Another light came on, brighter and closer, and a voice said cautiously through the door: "Who is it?"

"Carlson."

"Oh. Professor Carlson." The lock clicked, and one of the doors squeaked open.

Carlson slid through it and closed it behind him and looked down at Langdon. Langdon's fine white hair was rumpled slightly, and the fingers of his right hand were stained with ink. He was smiling his shy, gentle smile, a little bewildered now, but still anxious to please.

"Good evening, Professor. I was working on our books. It's the end of the month, you know, and we close our accounts..."

Carlson nodded impatiently, "Langdon, I'm investigating Reeve's murder."

"Oh," said Langdon.

Carlson watched him. "Langdon, you've been selling and renting erotica to the students, haven't you?"

Langdon's smile went away. "I—I—"

"Don't bother to lie. I know you have. Reeve was one of your customers. You went over to the library this noon either to get some books he was through with, or give him some new ones, or both. Isn't that true?"

Langdon moistened his lips, silently.

Carlson said: "And you found him dead, didn't you?"

Langdon's head moved in a stiff nod. "I didn't—didn't know he had been—killed. Thought he—a stroke—"

"He kept his pamphlets in one of his notebooks he wasn't using. You knew that. You went to the shelf where he kept his notebooks and took the pamphlets out, didn't you?"

"I—I thought they shouldn't—be found..."

Carlson nodded. "I saw them in your pocket when you met me. You gave me that story about wanting to see Dean Michels because you wanted an alibi in case anyone had seen you around the library."

Langdon opened his mouth and hunted for words. "Professor Carlson—not—not what you think.... Just rare unexpurgated editions—classics..."

"You lie. But that doesn't matter. Where was Reeve when you saw him?"

Langdon stared. "Where he always was."

"You mean at that little table between the third and fourth stacks?"

"Yes. I saw his face—his eyes... I knew—something..."

"How close did you come to him?"

"About—about three steps."

Carlson smiled grimly. "You missed being murdered by just those three steps. The murderer was hiding behind Reeve and the chair, watching you. If you had come close enough to see him...."

Langdon's breath made a whistling sound in his throat.

Carlson pointed his finger. "Get out of here, Langdon. I'll give you until tomorrow morning. Be gone by then. Don't ever come back. Do you understand?"

"Yes, sir," said Langdon.


Carlson went outside. He drew a deep breath, and the air felt clear and fresh and pure in his throat. He moved his shoulders in an annoyed shrug.

He crossed the street and headed back toward the quadrangle. He was walking with his head bent a little, staring at the sidewalk in front of him. He went through an archway and ten steps on into the darkness of the campus, and then there were two shadows on the ground in front of him. His own and a heavier, thicker one.

Carlson whirled on his heel. Vaster was standing within arm's reach of him. His dull, round eyes were opened very wide now, and his big lips looked moistly loose.

"Vaster," Carlson said, and his voice scratched in his throat.

"Hello. Professor Carlson."

Carlson swallowed and swallowed again. "You killed Reeve, Vaster."

Vaster had his right hand behind his back. "Yes. You knew it all the time, didn't you?"

Carlson had an aching pulse in his throat. "I knew it—all the time?"

"Yes. Reeve told you."

Carlson couldn't think of any words but those he had just heard, and he repeated them blankly: "Reeve—told me?"

"Yes."

Carlson shook his head, trying to clear it. "I don't understand. You mean that Reeve told me you killed him?"

"No. He told you I cheated."

"Cheated?" Carlson said incredulously.

"Yes. On that last Crime examination. I had all the cases and points written out on tissue paper. He was sitting near me, and he saw me looking at them."

Carlson's mind wavered dizzily. "But you didn't pass the last Crime examination!"

Vaster's head nodded. "Sure. Because he told you I cheated. So you flunked me."

Carlson stared unbelievingly. The whole thing was a fantastic nightmare. Reeve hadn't said anything about Vaster cheating, and Carlson hadn't flunked Vaster because he cheated. He had flunked him because Vaster's examination paper had been childishly inadequate. If Vaster had cheated, he certainly hadn't done a very good job.

Carlson said: "You killed Reeve for that?"

"He laughed at me," said Vaster. "Every time he saw me, he'd laugh and nod his head."

"You fool!" said Carlson breathlessly.

He backed up one step, and Vaster came after him that step, silently. Vaster brought his right hand from behind his back, and he was holding an ice pick. It made a thin, needle-like glimmer in the darkness.

"Vaster!" said Carlson, and the word rattled in the dryness of his throat.

He took another step back, and Vaster came another step after him.

Harms' rumbling voice said: "Hey, there." He was a vaguely big shadow in the darkness ten feet away.

In one motion, Vaster whirled and threw the ice pick at him. It went in a whirling, glittering arc. Harms dropped down on one knee and let it go over his head.

Vaster knocked Carlson aside with a stiff-armed blow in the face and ran. He ran twenty feet and then Dogan's scrawny shape bobbed up from somewhere and ran beside him step for step. Dogan's thin, small legs suddenly tangled with Vaster's heavy ones, and the two of them went down in a long, sliding sprawl on the brick walk. Vaster lay there motionless, and Dogan got up and sat down on top of him.

"You hurt him?" Harms asked.

"Not very much," Dogan said wearily. "My head aches again. It aches terrible. I wish I could go home."

Carlson's cheek hurt where Vaster had hit him. He put his hand up to it, while the darkness wavered around him.


"You did it, all right," said Harms, a sneaking admiration in his tone. "Damned if you didn't. How'd you know it was him?"

Carlson sighed. "When I found Reeve, he was sitting in a place in the library he had never sat before. There were three possibilities. First, the fact that he was sitting there when he was murdered was pure coincidence. Second, that he was murdered because he was sitting there. Third, that he was sitting there because he was murdered. The third was the most likely, I thought, and it proved to be the correct one.

"When he was murdered, Reeve was sitting where he usually sat, at a little table between the third and fourth stacks. The murderer picked him up, chair and all, and carried him around in back of the stacks, intending to put him in Lapham's empty office until he had more time to dispose of the body. He didn't quite get there. Someone or something interrupted him. So he sat Reeve down where he was, put a book in his lap, with the hope that everyone would think he had just dozed off while studying and not investigate until the murderer had time to come back again and get him."

"Yeah," said Harms. "So how does that lead to Vaster?"

"As shown from what he did, the murderer had two characteristics. He was stupid. If he hadn't been, instead of stabbing Reeve and carrying him to Lapham's office, he would have gotten Reeve to go inside the office under his own power and then stabbed him. It would have been much easier and much less risky. The murderer was also enormously strong. He picked up Reeve and the chair he was sitting in and carried them about fifty feet. The two of them must have weighed close to two hundred pounds, and they were very awkward to carry."

"Well, I'll be damned!" said Harms. "That logic stuff does work, don't it? I figured it was all baloney. That's why I looked you up just now, to see what kind of monkey business you were up to. But you know there's one thing you forgot."

"What?" said Carlson.

"Well, now, these logics and premises and factuals and reasonables is all right in books. You use 'em, and you get the answer, and it's fine. But you use 'em in murder, and the answer is liable to get pretty mad about it and come after you with an ice pick."

Carlson shivered a little. "I—I found that out," he agreed, without his usual aggressive self-confidence. "The perfect combination, I am convinced, would be an unprejudiced cooperation of theory and practice."


THE END


Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
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