George Keith Król
Crime for Christmas
Home
Imprintable Impressions
Reduce Federal Taxes
Essays of 2012
Essays of 2011
Essays of 2010
Essays of 2008
Essays of 2009
Essays of 2007
Frank Franklin
Essays of 2005
2006
Political Philosophy
Essays of 2004
Skied Skier
Crime for Christmas
Boisterous Boys
Assistant Assassin
Characters
Secreted Secret
Deluded Delinquents
Essays 2002
Essays 2003-04

In this story from December 1989, Krol finds one case he's working on, and another one, are linked to a local radio station.  Eventually, a hitman invades his life and his friends, almost killing them all. @Copyright 1989, 2002 Alopex

I decided to publish this story before the others.  I have 25 mysteries written between 1977 and 1994 to put on the internet, so I must decided which ones are the best of the bunch, and rewrite some of the bombs!  At the time, I was really working at some of these places, but I also projected what I would be doing had I not the disease of Reaganomics.  I find it somewhat fun to go back to my life in 1989, when I was denouncing the father of the current usurper in the White House.
I suggest everyone write down the life he wants, for it is how one sets goals.  As Robert Kiyosaki et alii have written, one must set goals to get there.  Keep in mind, it's 1989, so there is no internet, no cellphones, and no microwaves.  (Yes, microwaves were around, but I was too poor to afford one -- yet.)
I finally found my sketchbook from 1989, so I can scan and place those scenes I drew for this story on this page.  It is the reason I'm using this story.  At the time, I wrote and drew about three stories within sixteen months.  I drew scenes for all of them.  All of these scenes were in one sketchbook, which I'd thought I lost.  I was going to place this story here in 2000, but the lack of those scenes postponed it until now (2002).  Of course, I do welcome constructive feedback on all these stories.  It'll take me ten years to get all these mysteries on the web!

 It had begun to snow.  The white flakes floated earthward en masse, signalling a serious snowstorm, the first one of the winter.

My mind was only tangentially on the weather.  I had just finished insulating the bungalow I rented in November, with an option to buy.  Otherwise, my business demanded I visit a motel on South Atherton, called the Port Cochere.

Since August, various miseries and mishaps had plagued the partnership at the Port Cochere.  It was an elegant and expensive place for State College's finest.  Its motel, bar, restaurant, and lunch shop were tops in the area.  In late August, a vicious salamellar poisoning occurred in the restaurant.  Health officials conceded that they could not solve the mystery a month later.

With the fall came a steady decline.  Despite the vigilant desk clerks, a huge loss appeared in the books for September.  Then the first robbery occurred on Halloween.  By late November, the partnership decided the police were useless and called in a private detective.  After three weeks, he quite abruptly and with alacrity.  The partnership suspected bribery, but they accepted his decision.

So the snow fell on Monday the Eighteenth.  That afternoon I received a call for my services.  I felt annoyed due to its proximity to the holidays, but that bungalow needed more work.  I had one eye on buying it and with as much down as possible.

A frigid gust chilled me as I entered the building.  I went to the front desk and asked for my contact.  Andrea, the desk clerk, appeared flustered and called for the manager.  A fellow named Joe Miller, with fluffy dark hair and a mustache, arrived.  He stood 1.74 m tall, and he had been expecting me.

"Mr Krol, the partners are waiting for you in the back," he reported mansuetudinally.  He acted as if he expected baksheesh before he guided me to the backroom.  Muller introduced me to the three partners.

The obviously senior partner, Jacob Krilley, was the only one dressed in a suit.  He appeared the most worried as he figited throughout the session.  Another parterner, Mike Ferrin, was an average-height, blond, and saturnine man.  He appeared the most irriated of the three.  Finally, there was Jim Majors. who asked most of the questions.

"What do you need to get started?" he inquired after the amenities.

"I want to know the details of the previous private eye's investigation."

"You need to know why he quit?" Krilley asked incredulously.

"No.  I must know where to begin an investigation without duplicating the effort," I explained.  "After all, you don't want to pay twice for the same investigation."

"When do you expect to solve this mystery?" Ferrin piped in.

"The sooner I get started, the sooner I will finish." 

It doesn't make sense, I thought.  I had just spent two hours in the upstairs room where the previous investigator had been working.  The partners assured me that the room had been in desuetude since then, but I could not find a clue on what he had been doing.
It was dark outside as I left the Porte Cochere.  I was going to visit Leon Dunson, the previous investigator.  I sauntered back to Alan Street and searched for the apartment.  Fortunately the main door was still unlocked.  I climbed the stairs to the second floor.  I was lucky: the apartment door stood ajar with a stream of light into the hall.  I knocked on the door to no answer.
It was like one of those mysteries I used to watch when I had a television.  As the door creaked open, I saw a body lying on the davenport.  I crept close enough to feel no pulse.  No weapons lay nearby, so I examined the corpse.  A needlemark appeared in a vein of the left arm.  Someone had ransacked the place, and I realized the danger of remaining there.
I opened the door, saw the coast was clear, and left the building.  I dropped a quarter into a nearby public telephone.  As I walked home, I evaluated the situation.  There was little doubt of murder, the big problem was why.,  There were disparate reasons besides my investigation.  I was duly afraid that there might be no answer.
In the distance, a siren wailed.  As the Doppler effect dropped the pitch, I felt befuddled, but I took solace that it might look better tomorrow.
 
Tuesday the Nineteenth dawned cheerlessly overcast, a veritable clerihew of the case.  I no sooner entered the motel when I saw the Stacy boys in the coffeeshop.  I thought to greet them, but I decided the work upstairs was more important.
The next three hours went along tediously.  I was sorting through the umpteenth clueless scrap of paper when I heard someone scream.  I grabbed the banisters and jumped steps to the front desk.  Unexpectedly the Stacy boys were there also.  Despite the augmenting crowd, I could see one of the crew's kneeling alongside a sprawled man.
"What happened?" I inquired as I leaned over the candy display case.
The young, dark-haired figure stared at me.  His clefted chin trembled before he answered.  "He's dead!"
It was Joe Muller, but what disturbed me more was a piece of paper near the empty cash register drawer.  The intruder had taken even the credit card receipts, but he left a conspicuous souvenir.  I thought it to be a simple, missed piece of paper until I tried to read it.
I was astonished.  It was in some code!  The Stacys saw my taking the piece to put it in my pocket.  Ferrin was already behind me.
"So, Krol," he blared.  "Is this what we get for your services -- a dead employee?"  I didn't get a chance to reply, for the police were arriving.  Lieutenant Drack was in the front of the group.  I knew how I was going to get through the day. 

This is the first scene at the Porte Cochere
crimeport.jpg
@C Alopex, 1989, 2002

"What happened?" I inquired as I leaned over the candy display case.... His clefted chin trembled before he answered, "He's dead!"

Author's Note:  I created the Stacy boys off the Hardy boys back in 1988 in the case of the "Staid Stadium".  Soon after this story, I realized that the characters were not working, so I faded them out.  Eventually, I changed Krol into a father figure in "Boisterous Boys" in 1994, some five years later.  Both those stories will appear here eventually over the next few years. 

It was late afternoon when I dragged myself into the bungalow.  The cloudiness and the snow on the ground added to my unceremonial firing after the police left.  I sat in my JFK (Carolina) rocker and pulled out the paper.  What could the message be?  Could the killer have accidentally dropped it?  No.  It was purposely placed there for someone to find it, but why?  I felt my exhaustion overtake me, and soon I was snoozing.  I awoke no closer to the mystery and placed the paper back in my breast pocket.
My doorbell rang as I began to prepare supper.  As I expected, the Stacys were standing on the stoop. 
"How'd you like to share a meal?" I broached.  "While we try to unravel this problem?"
The boys agreed.  We sat down at the table.  After I served, I began the inquiry.  I told them of the circumstances; I had discovered the corpse of the previous investigator.
As soon as I had finished, Allen looked at me with his brown eyes.  "It confirms the rumors.  Krilley called my Dad after Dunson quit for us to go undercover.  Ferrin was our immediate boss, and he never treated us differently (than anyone else on the staff)."
"So, I may surmise you are still well undercover," I concluded.
"Quite", Darrell agreed.  "The murders make it more imperative that we get to the bottom of this mystery."
"What did you uncover so far?"
"I dread to admit -- nothing," Allen frowned.  "After you left, we absorbed the rumors.  No one could comprehend why anyone would shoot Muller at the desk."
"What did the police theorize?"
"A simple robbery," Darrell answered with doubt in his blue eyes.
"Did Muller resist the thief?"
"Apparently it was an adscititious impluse.  Muller showed no sign of resistance.  Maybe the pilferer had a mean streak," Allen postulated.  "Futhermore, Muller was engaged, hardly a reason to be impulsive in any case."
"So we have two mysterious murders on our hands.  I suppose you two will help the police in the investigation," I started.
Darrell paused while chewing his lips.  "We will remain until we reach a deadend.  We just returned from a meeting with Krilley.  He thinks we should stay more than ever."
 
Suddenly my telephone summoned me.  Jonah Stalker offered me a job at a nearby radio station, WRSK. 
"I'd be glad to join, Jonah, but I no longer need a job."
"It will be undercover.  Our chief suspects someone is on payola.  Are you familiar with the service on channel 13?"
"When I had a television, I remember seeing the rotating messages.  What do you mean by payola?  I thought it meant that record companies paid discjockeys for playing their records on the air.  Both your stations play classical rock," I wondered.
"I'll tell you what," Jonah explained.  "I'm at the station now.  Come over tonight so our discjockey can show you the board.  Later on, I'll stop at your bungalow to explain the situation."
 
"Well, guys," I said.  "It seems I have another case.  I shall relinquish being doyen, but if you need help, call me."
"What's the case?"  Allen requested.
"I really don't know," I confessed.  "Someone I knew from collegiate radio asked me to investigate the professional station for payola.  He wants me to join the staff undercover.  After the disaster of this case, I should engage in another unless you call me back."
"We certainly will," Allen agreed.  "By the way, what was the message you picked off the register?"
"That was some code," I replied while pulling the paper out of my pocket. I took another piece of paper, copied it, and gave it to Darrell.  "Now that I cannot be there any longer, maybe you can decode it.  Maybe one of the cash registers had these symbols, and they each stand for a letter of the alphabet or some word."
"Hmm," Allen mused with his fist curled around his mouth.  "What do you think?"
"My guess is that the code will be impossible unless I receive more such messages.  I have an inkling how to crack it, but I need more samples."
"Well, George," Darrell concluded.  "We'll give it a good endeavor.  We'll contact you if we crack it or need you." 

If one can read Greek letters, it would help to
crimestacys.jpg
decipher this message! These are the Stacys!

"My guess is that the code will be impossible unless I received more such messages.  I have an inkling how to crack it, but I need more samples." @C 1989, 2002 Alopex

Despite the flurries, I walked to the station in ten minutes.  Traveling a kilometer in snow seemes appropriate for the occasion; mentally, I'd also would persevere over adversity.

Clayton Humphrey, an average-height African-American, showed me the operation of the control board.  I attempted not to be too anxious about Channel 13.  I cleared my mind as I watched the carts trip each other.I played passive as Humphrey instructed me in all the details of being an AM jock.

Jonah put me on the AM side to learn the Channel 13 board.  The FM jock spent much time taking requests, a situation I could not tolerate if I were to have time for investigation.

One of the policies of the station provided me with a quick way to assess the situation.  I had to take a sheet, as a requisite toward "employment" to the main cheeses.  Fortunately I did not have the opportunity to do so that evening.  Hence, I could procure a few clues from Jonah for my raison d'etre

I returned home to heavier snowing.  More than likely, It would remain for Christmas.  I sat up waiting for Jonah until ten o'clock, then I dressed for bed. I had just turned out the livingroom lights when I heard a knock at the door.  I wrapped a robe around my pajamas and opened to a snow-covered Jonah Stalker on my stoop.

"The storm delayed me," he explained.

"Shake yourself off and come in," I replied.

As I turned the lights back on, Jonah began to expatiate the logic for my stint at WRSK.

"George, it's this simple.  Our supervising partner, Rob Chamberlain, suspects someone in the organization is obtaining payola through the facilities of the station.  We suspected irregularities in the advertising department and found none."

"Did you check your advertisers?" I suggested.

"Oh, yes," Jonah agreed.  "Our sales department was quite sedulous, yet Chamberlain has an intuition about the payola."

"What aren't you telling me?"

"Chamberlain suspects our news director, Gil Rickles, is making more than his salary indicates.  Furthermore, there has been rumors that some State College cops are on the take, and Rickles is blackmailing them to keep quiet."

"Wait a minute.  Doesn't Rickles get this information  from the police?  I would think the force would have leaks leading to an investigation without some else's ability to blackmail them.  This situation lacks coherence."

"Okay," Jonas succumbed to my persistence.  "There's more, so I might as well remove my overcoat and give you the details."

I politely sat in my winged chair while Jonah peeled off his outerwear and piled it on the couch on an adjacent pillow.

"Back in late October, Chamberlain was at a broadcasters' convention and heard that since the so-called 'War on Drugs", the crack dealers have moved into smaller areas like State College.  Then someone let Chamberlain know anonymously in November that someone on the staff was involved with the local cartel.  Subsequently, one of Rickle's news stories turned out to be a local murder of a man who just happened to have a copy of the letter Chamberlain had received."

"Allow me to digest all this information before I get mental emesis.  Whey do you want me to investigate the station?"

"Right now, I'd say Friday night will be the best night."

"About when?"

"After midnight."

"Which discjockey will bet me in?"

"You will be the AM discjockey!"

"How'm I going to search while I am running the board?"

"It'll be easiest overnight.  Besides, we don't want to arouse suspicion.  It'll give you a few days to meet the staff."

"And to give the station a good going over in the daytime," I added.

 

I had just seen Jonah out when my telephone rang its irritable tone.  I contemplated not answering it, for I could not hear it in the bedroom.  On the offchance it was a wrong number, I thought I'd quash the source of irritance.  "George, it's Kevin.  I'll be arriving there tomorrow afternoon."

"Kev, what's going on?"

"I can't explain over the phone.  Just make up the guestroom.  I promise I will clarify everything when I get there."

 

I spent a good part of the morning at WRSK, meeting the various personages and getting them to initial the sheet.  Gil Rickles showed me how to operate the keyboard of Channel 13.  Rickles appeared superciliously professional.  I could not detect how anything could turn Rickles out of the professional groove, even greed.

"Where do the advertisements come in?" I asked.

"Don't worry about it," Rickles snapped.  "The discjockeys don't change the ads."

I arose and scanned the sheet explaining the procedure to send out the pages to the television monitors in the various towns.  Rickles ignored me as he typed a news story.  I figured a better time would be when there wasn't so much traffic at the station.  Besides, it was time to go home and meet my guest.

 

 

Author's note: most of the material for my stories comes from real life.   In the summer of 1989, I worked briefly and parttime at a motel.  Back in the fall of 1989, I was working parttime at a real radio station.  Anyone who worked with me would recognize the real people in these characters.  I hope eventually to do the same for the people in my current employment!

Kevin had estimated that he'd be there around noon.  I began to plan my move at the keyboard at Channel 13.  I had asked the sales department about those ads before I left the station.  Bob Willson told me that there was a book with the ads spelled out and several variations for different times of the week.  I intended to check the listing for the day against what was on the screen.
I had just reached the bungalow when Kevin's van pulled up in the driveway.  My eyes dilated when I saw Keith Cahill exit the passenger side.  They made a contrasting pair.  Kevin, like me, was tall with flaxen hair.  I still had about five centimeters more height, but Kevin had wavy hair.  Keith was his usual short and Celtic self, save for his nosebrow.
"What's with the mustache?" I broached.
"I'm afraid," Kevin answered.  "It involves the reason why we're here; there's a hitman on your trail."
"On my trail?" I repeated.  "From which case?"
"The last case we were together," Joe Tunn yelled as he egressed the van.  "It's our archfoe, Renchburg."
"So," I accepted the news. "Renchburg hired someone else to do his dirty work."
"Which case are you on now?" Kevin continued.
"Actually, it's an intermingled one," I replied, before narrating the events of the past few days.
"Do you need help searching the station?" asked Kevin.  "I could search while you run the board with no one the wiser."
"Thanks, bro," I refused.  "But I have to do it myself.  If you miss something significant, it'll be my fault."
"Suppose we search together," Keith suggested.  "Maybe more than one searcher would catch something significant."
I pondered the suggestion.  "I suppose I have to trust someone on this aspect of the case."
"Ultimately," Joe interrupted.  "We're going to have to take care of something."
"What?" I said, still in reverie.
"Scilcit, the hitman.  All we know is that he's pilgarlic."
"I'm sorry; I was in mental hebetude."
"Maybe I'd better clarify," Kevin began.  "Although Renchburg put a price on you, he also offered bonuses for Keith and Joe."
"What about Tim Miskey?"
"We don't think there's a bonus on him.  In any case, we couldn't find him,"  Joe answered me.
"Let's look at the cryptogram," Kevin suggested.  "The hitman could have left it."
"But why kill someone else in the process?"
"Maybe Muller was just another job," Keith ventured to answer my question.  "Muller could have been ahead of you on the list."
By this time, I had the paper retrieved from the rocker.  "I'm sure it's a cryptogram.  I asked the Stacys to test the code from one of the machines at the Porte Cochere, just in case the killer is an insider.  Now that I know a hitman's on my tail, I suppose it's possible, it's an outsider."
"You are familiar with the code from Edgar Allen Poe's The Gold Bug, " Kevin prescienced.  "So, I can conclude that the most common letters are not the most common in this note."
"Wait a minute!" I exclaimed.  "I tried that before I knew there was a killer on my tail.  Suppose he addressed the message to me!"
"Then the first four letters are K-R-O-L!" Keith added.  The third word in the sentence is k-ll, or kill.  The word before it is -ll."
"The first word must be 'I'.  So the first three words are 'I will kill'", Joe continued.
"The fourth and the sixth are the same three letter with no other clue but -o-.  I suspect the word is 'you'", I finished the triune thought.
"We're certainly further along," Kevin admitted.  "Not only do we know the basic content of the message, but we also know our fears are concrete.  We did right to come here."
"Do you suppose the hitman will call for reinforcements once he knows we're teamed up," Keith mentioned.
"I wouldn't rule it out," I concluded.
 
That evening I went to WRSK alone.  Ostensibly I was going to practice the keyboard of Channel 13.  I arrived just past 8, and just in time to see Rickles leave.  Clayton gave me a few changes to send out over the television.  I had a devil of a time sending them out.  Finally I took an atmanic breath and crawled through the procedure.
Patience, I told myself.  I could figure it out if I concentrated upon one thing at a time.  About an hour later, I had fooled around enough and gone home.  I expected to have a more precise battleplan the next day.  On the way home, I stopped at the supermarket just in case someone were following me.
 
The telephone interrupted my slumber.  I awoke from a delightful, colorful dream to hear the blare from the livingroom.  I wondered who had put the ring up so loudly.
Kevin easily beat me to the answer.  I was practically shuffling into the room while trying to awaken.  He had his back to me when I entered the room.
"No, we partially unravelled the mystery.  Just you boys be careful."
"Anything?" I asked as he cradled the phone.
"No.  The Stacys could not find any intrument with those particular marks."
"Well," I ended.  "Let's have breakfast.  I'm due at WRSK to watch the changing of the ads."
"While you do that, I'm getting Keith and Joe up so I can sleep," Kevin smiled at me.  My startled expression caused him to comment, "You don't think I left this house unguarded, do you?"
I patted Kevin on the back, and we parted.  It did explain how all three of them managed to crowd into one queen(-sized bed); Keith and Joe had spent the night in the queen while Kevin kept watch.  I found it hard to remain cautious with this mystery's occupying my mind.  Then it occurred to me that Renchburg had planned it that way.  It might also be the ultimate cause of these cases.  Renchburg was trying to catch me off guard while I analyzed the cases.
(Note: Krol had ruined Renchburg, the District Attorney of State College back in 1983, when Renchburg murdered a professor.  Renchburg had escaped into Canada and tried to kill Krol a few times earlier.)
 
Thursday the Twentyfirst was the hibernal solstice.  The sun rose over snow-covered mountains and glowed weakly upon the earth.
I truged through the snow to the station.  Eric Fogel was already changing the ads.
"I don't see how the ads could be used illicitly," Fogel said.  "Any consistent alterations would give it away.  There are four of us who check the ads."
"Perhaps it's far too subtile for you to notice," I replied.  "Do you mind if I write all these ads and the ones you just replaced?"
"Not at all," Fogel agreed.  "If it gets Chamberlain off my back."
 
I took my outlines after I had crosschecked the ads with what was supposed to go on the screen.  I figured the next day I would go into the advertising department itself.  I spent the rest of the morning in the rocker crosschecking the ads.  I fiugred I'd give Kevin a shot at them when he arose.
The telephone rang about twenty minutes to noon.  I left the rocker and answered on the third ring.  "Hello."
"George, it's Tim Miskey."
"Tim, What's up?"
"I must see you today.  Could you give me directions to your bungalow?"
"Sure.  What's this about?"
"It's too dangerous.  In fact, you should give me directions in code."
We had worked out a code similar to the translation of nucleic acids into proteins.  I suggested we have lunch when he arrived.
"Another revelation?" Joe called from behind me.
"We're about to lunch with Tim Miskey."
"I don't like the sound of this situation," Keith commented as he entered the room.
"Neither do I," Joe agreed.  "The only possible explanation for this situation is that Renchburg put a hit on Tim also."
"Should we tell Kevin?" Keith asked.
"No.  Let him sleep, unless we have to leave," I opined.  "We may need him then."
 

I used the kitchen we had in 1967 as the model for
crimetim.jpg
this one. Note the toaster oven in the corner, not a mircowave!

I had just finished preparing a lunch for my guests as the clock struck noon.  Tim's knock on the backdoor startled me. 
Tim  appeared sheepish at my reaction. When I let him in, he naded me a sheet of paper with the very same symbols, like thos of the first cryptogram I took from the front desk at the Port Cochere.  The same four symbols headed the message; it was addressed to me!  Kevin was already up and stood behind me.
"It's the same four symbols, like the first cryptogram, Kevin informed everyone.  "Those mean Krol.  That fourth word has 'l' as the second of five letters."
"If I was correct on the first note, the first word is 'you', the second with _r_ is probably 'are'.  'You are ___ _le_er...'" I maundered.
"Let's see what the dicovery does to the first message," Kevin pondered while pulling out the first one.  "I will kill you _e_ore you __ol_e __is _a_e.'  It doesn't quite do it."
"It looks as if these messages used a larger variety of letters," I concluded.,  "It's a bigger challenge."
"How did you get this message?" Kevin quizzed Tim as we sat down.
Tim's lentigenous visage seemed paler as he spoke.  "I received a call at the lab yesterday.  The voice said to give you a message left in my mailbox.  Before I could ask any questions, I was hearing the dial tone.
"When I returned home, I found that message with 'for George Krol' on the outside."
"Very clever", I commented.  "Renchburg would do the same.  He has our guessing what his hitman will do without giving us a clue."
"Are you sure it isn't Renchburg himself stalking us?" Keith asked Kevin.
"We can't be sure of anything," Kevin admitted.
"What I don't understand is why this hitman doesn't just strike and get it over," Joe muttered.
"He'll wait until we're vulnerable," I ventured.  "My guess is Saturday, after Tim's warning evanesces.  Meanwhile I have more than a few loose ends to tie.  Who wants to tackle the WRSK ads?"
"I wonder whether you should continue with these cases.  The hitman is obviously involved," Kevin warned.
"That's exactly why I'm so determined to continue," I answered.  "If I keep moving along, maybe we'll force him out.  Does anyone want a piece?  I have enough tasks for everyone."
"Someone must be here all the time," Kevin stated.  "Someone must keep contact with the Stacys.  I would guess we should try to stay in pairs when we leave the premises."
 
We finished lunch and rummaged through the ads. The advertising department expected me about two o'clock.
Before I walked into the advertising room, I ducked into the Channel 13 room.  Rickles was busy typing the board.  Nearby a portable communicator lay.  (Author's note: now called a cellphone)  I ducked out before he saw me.
"Does Rickles have a carphone?" I asked Bob Willson, the advertising director.
"Sure, as news director, he needs one."
"How do you sell these advertisements?"
"Well," Willson said while tilting back his chair.  "Basically I sell them, put them in the book, and they go over Channel 13 or the air."
"What kind of marketing do you do in the area?"  I quizzed.
"Actually, I simply call all the local businesses and offer our assistance."
"Do you check the ads regularly to see if they're correct?"
"I go over with Maggie what should be on the operating logs and with Christine what should be on Channel 13."
"How do you know when you goof?"
"It gets back to me when the customer complains, then I complain."
 
As I left the station, the flurries began.  I knew right well that I was barking up the wrong tree.  I had just checked the ads again.  They were according to the book.  I figured they had to be right -- unless the customer obviously was in cahoots!  I pivoted and was returning to the station when it began to snow.  Nah, I decided to recheck when I was there again the next night.  It would be easier if I could narrow the likely customers as suspects!
 
I returned home, sat in the rocker and began to write out the pieces of the puzzle.  The telephone ring broke my concentration hours later. 
"George, it's Allen.  The police just found some interesting evidence in Joe Muller's apartment.  They found receipts and letters indicating that he was the mastermind behind the problems at the Porte Cochere."
"That's fine except for one thing."
"It's a frame."
"Exactly.  What does Krilley say?"
"He thanked us for our services!"
"Boys, you have a problem if you stay there.  Either Krilley is behind the sabotage, or someone has fooled him and will abate you one way or another.  Come here for a confabulation."
"Trouble on another front?" Keith questioned as I cradled the receiver.  "Are the Stacys in trouble?"
"The only trouble is that someone is trying to close the Port Cochere case before it's solved.  Someone killed Muller to put culpabililty on him.  I wonder if he even knew the culprit." 
"Complications, bro?" Kevin smiled as he entered the livingroom.  "Maybe they'll join us."
"Oh, drat," I uttered.  "I just brought them into the range of the hitman!"
"Do you think he'll strike this soon?" Joe joined the group.
"The exiguous evidence suggests nothing," I muttered akimbo.  "How'd you like to help me clean this place?"
"Huh?" Tim honked as he joined us.
"If there be a hitman, isn't there also a likelihood that he's cased this place, maybe plainting a bug or something?" I speculated.
"How're we going to know what belongs here?" Kevin objected.   
"I'll supervise," I responded cheerfully.  "I'm going to search the loft.  Let me know when the Stacys get here."
 
After I left, the guys caucused.  Kevin become the doyen of the myrmidons.  "I haven't even been here before."
"Yeah," TIm agreed.  "But you have an idea of his paraphernalia. I've never been in any of his homes!"
"What's with you guys?" Keith rebuked.  "I suspect he went upstains for a reason."
"What reason would that be?" Joe queried.
Keith frowned pensively, subtiley revealing his dimples.  "I don't know, but I do know that our lives are in jeopardy., and George does nothing purposelessly in such situations."
A light from outside flew across the wall, putting the four on the qui vive.  Kevin peered past the curtains at the front window.  "Tim, Keith," he called.  "Are these the Stacys?"
Both Tim and Keith sighed relief when they came to the eyetril.  Keith zipped past the frontdoor to the stairs.  He climbed the stairs until he heard me whisper loudly, "Go back, little buddy!  I'll be down when I can!"
 
Nonplussed, Keith descended the stairs in time to see the Stacys enter.  Kevin brought the Stacys up to date on the other cases.  When he finished,  he went to the newelpost.  "George, Come down for the Stacy's story!" he shouted up the balustrade with his hand on the newelcap.
"Paitence, Kev," I replied.  "You didn't need me for the narration."  I then turned to the livingroom.  "Go on, boys," I greeted as I sat in the rocker.  "What did Krilley say?"
"Well," Allen began. "That was just it.  We were left out on a limb.  We failed to upend anything suspicious at the Porte Cochere, and our case was over!"
:"That's how I felt about WRSK," I sympathized.  "I have no evidence that there is anything illegal occurring.  This payola appears to be as exitant as a moa."
"We used Dad's connections to the police," Darrel added.  "The police found letters from an underworld figure in the apartment.  They found a book with all shipments of various drugs into and out of State College.  It was in Muller's handwriting!"
"Are you sure?" I blurted astonishedly.
"Absolutely," Allen averred.  "We're going to try to get a look at that book tomorrow."
"Don't tell me how," I said with a wink.  "But when you do, I want to be there."
"What about us?" Kevin asked.
:"Someone must be here to watch for the hitman."
"If he exists," Tim began.
"Believe me," I announced.  "He's real, and I expect him to strike soon."
Even Kevin was stunned.  "You found something upstairs!"
"That's not the half or it," I smirked.

Friday the Twentysecond dawned clearly.  I arose late, while anticipating an overnight stint at WRSK.  The Stacys picked me up in their yellow sedan.  We arrived at police headquarters around eleven o'clock. 
"It's good to see you three are working on this case," the frontdesk officer, Bob Johnson, greeted us.
"Where can we see this log?" Allen began seriously.
"Here's the logbook," Johnson said while pulling it from behind the desk.  "Go into the room for interrogation on the left.  You've an hour before I put that book back in the basement."
Allen took the book and led us into that room.
"Maybe we should give the book the Miranda warnings," Darrel jested.
Allen sat on the side of the table with Darrel on his left and me on his right.  I took out a notebook. 
"Do those entries have dates?" I asked.
"Yes, they start in August.  The first shipment was the Ninth, a Wednesday.  It says, '0025 PORT'"
"That makes no sense," I commented.  "There are no ports around here!"
"Here's something else," Darrel said while leafing to the back.  "The back of the book has the code: 'PORT=horse'."
"Heroin!" Allen and I inoculated in unison.
"'PARTY=nickles with a 5, dimes with a 10'.  Could this be bags of crack?" Darrel wondered.
"Whatever it is, I'm writing it down," I said.
"Now that we know the code, what does it mean?" Darrel pondered.
"We have the rest of the day to figure it out," I prophesized.  "Let's write down the entries and compare them with the dates in which the Porte Cochere had incidents."
 
Before we closed the book, I noticed something perculiar on the last page of the entries.  I held it up to the light and gulped; they were the same symbols impressed into the paper as the messages.  I showed the boys.
"These symbols link the cases.  What is the nexus between payola and the Porte Cochere?"
"All right,"Darrel continued.  "Where do we go from here?"
"Hold it," Allen interplaced.  "We can translate some of those symbols! 're_-u_e'."
"The hyphen suggests an unusual word," I noted.
"Let's return to your house and attack those messages again," Allen suggested.
 
"I think our best bet is that first message," I ventured.  "'I will kill you _e_ore you...'  Aha! before!  That third letter is an 'f'."
"Ref-," Darrel repeated, "referee?"
"I'll read the second one," I spoke.  "'You are _o_ _le_er e_o___ for _e'.  That last word must be 'me'.  Unfortunately, there are no other m's in any of the messages.  Let's see, we haven't found a 'c'."
"Clever," Allen shouted.
"There're no 'v's elsewhere.  The first message ends with ca_e.  Cage? Cane? Cape? Case?"
"Ah," Darrel rejected my assumption.  "There is another 'v' in the first message.  'I will kill you before you _olve' must be 'solve.  I will kill you before you solve __is case.  It must be 'this case'."
"'You are _ot clever e_ou_h for me' must be 'You are not clever enough for me'" Allen added.
"Our solution is ref-use," I finished.
"Ref-use?" Darrel wondered.  "As in garbage?"
"As in trash hauler," I answered while grabbing the yellow pages.  "Let's see where in State College such a company is.
"Whoever wrote these symbols goofed.  Those symbols were almost as clearly impressed on the sheet of the book as if they were actually written on the sheet.  This fact suggests Muller wrote them in a hurry.  Ah, ha!  Here's the company.  It hauls trash out of State College to landfills and such."
"Didn't the legislator just outlaw hauling produce in the same trucks used to haul garbage the other way?" Allen asked.
"It makes one wonder what they're bringing into State College now," Darrel followed ominously.
 
"According to the deed, someone bought Ref-use recently, a company linked to Mafia control.," Allen read as we rummaged through the deeds in the county courthouse in Bellefonte.
"Let me guess, July," I kidded.
"June", Darrel chimed in.
Allen gave us a dimpled smirk.  "May!"
"Now our problem is to prove it without arousing suspicion," I retracked.
"If we could figure how the code gets transported..."  Darrel began.
"In any case, I'm going to copy these documents before the place closes," Allen interrupted.
"We don't have much time before I have to show up at WRSK," I announced.
"Darrel and I will watch the Ref-use company tonight."  Allen said simply. "If they're hauling narcotics into State College, they'll be doing it at night."
While Allen copied the documents, Darrel and I plotted strategy.  We finally had an activity for Joe and Tim -- surveillance on the Porte Cochere.  Keith would stand guard on the house against the hitman.
Because of our schedule, I decked into bed about six thirty for some sleep.  I couldn't help but look under my bed for traps.  I slept well early that evening, perhpas in the knowledge that everyone else was awake.  By the time I arose to go to the station at midnight, only Keith was still there.  He promised to keep the radio on in addition to the monitor tying everyone else together.  I warned him that the music I would broadcast was soporific!
Kevin had gone to bed soon after I did.  He would wait until midnight  to arise.  Then he would arrive at the station a halfhour after I took over the AM.  Only the FM jock would be in the building in an adjacent controlroom.
I had to bang openly palmed on the front plate glass to get in.  Everyone else had left by ten minutes after twelve, so I went into the Channel 13 room to type in some screen changes, and I would be closer to the frontdoor whenever Kevin came.  On the keyboard lay a familiar-looking paper.  On its outside were the words, "to George Krol".  There were those symbols again!  Only the symbol for 'p' I had not seen previously, yet I translated it immediately as "Krol, a warning will not keep you safe."
 
The message had not been there when I arrrived, and I was certain that it had not been there before I chekced the doors.  Fortunately, the message told me that the hitman did not know that I had found his present in my guestroom.
By the time Kevin was at the door, I had sent out the changes on Channel 13.  Kevin decided to search the nearer offices first while I kept watch for the FM jock.
All the while the code ran through the back of my mind, I checked each page for so-called dating -- making sure the "todays" and "tomorrows" were now "Fridays" and :"Saturdays".  Then I saw the ad for the Porte Cochere.  I pulled out the ad book and my notebook.  There were four kinds of ads in the book, and each had a different word that just happened to mean a different narcotic!  As I returned to the controlroom, I realized that it couldn't be that simple.  Then I remembered the numbers!  The whole operation dawned on me.  I went back to the screen, carefully checked that what I saw was indeed on the television, then called the Stacys.  I knew it would be an uneventful night, but I knew the egg would hatch sometime.  I called my contact in the police department before I left the station.
 
 

I slept well on the morning of Saturday the Twentythird.  It was after two o'clock when I arose.  I washed my face, put on a robe and slippers, and walked into the kitchen.  Kevin, Tim, and Joe were playing cards.
"Where's Keith?" I asked as I entered.
"He didn't get to bed until eight," Kevin stated.  "We decided to let him sleep."
"The Stacys called about an hour ago," Joe added.  "They asked whether they should monitor Channel 13 every hour."
"I'll call them," I answered while reaching for the telephone.  Dareel answered, and I told him of the plan.
"Although they change the ads at three certain times a day, I suspect whoever is working for this gang is not going to follow the rules, especially when they know we're on their trail.  So keep monitoring.  I have mine on here.  My guess is the next shipment will be tomorrow night."
"Why tomorrow night?"
"It's simple.  Can you think of a better night than a Sunday Christmas Eve?"
"Will there always be someone there, so we can call when the action happens?"
"We've been on twentyfour-hour surveillance since Wednesday.  More importantly, can we contact you?"
"We should have someone here, who can contact us within minutes," Darrel informed me.
"Good.  Keept alert. It could be tonight."
"It could also be tonight when the hitman strikes," warned Kevin as I cradled the receiver.
 
"How do you feel, little buddy?" I accosted Keith as he drifted into the kitchen.
"I guess I'm not used to staying up all night," Keith replied while forcing a smile.
I gave him a hug, then said, "I think that's the last night you'll be up all night."
"Well,:" Tim commented indignantly.  "Aren't you going to join us?"
"Yes," I agreed.  "We're going to have breakfast."
"Here's something to eat," Kevin fulgurated.  "Mom's sources implicate Madame Lee in this caper.  They say she came to State College with the hitman, Scull."
"But no Renchburg," I added hopefully.
"Aren't two killers enough?" Keith interjected somewhat irritably.
"Sorry, little buddy," I apologized.  "I was thinking of the fact we have two versus one after us instead of three."
"Why do you suppose Lee is here?  I mean one hitman should be enough," Tim opined.
"Perhaps this revelation will help us unwind this mystery before the climax," I replied ironically.  "I have a call to make at WRSK."
 
After dark, we put on the Christmas lights and acted as if nothing were unusual.  We kept watch on the surrounding woods.
I was scanning the monitor when Joe shouted, "There's someone in the woods behind the house!"
I strained my eyes while peering through the bedroom window.  "Are you sure?  I don't see anything moving in the shadows."
"Let's make sure," Kevin commanded behind me in the tenebration.  "I'll stay here while you four investigate."
"Kevin's right," I concurred.  "Keith and I will search the front while Joe and Tim do the back."
"Why are you doing the front?" Joe queried.
"Because it's where a vehicle will likely be parked.  I don't think a hitman would walk all the way out here," I revealed my logic.
We quickly manteaued and egressed.  The wind howled enough to be a distraction.  The winter constellations shone brilliantly in the clear skies.  The eerie shadows of grey reminded me of a late-night horror movie.  The old crescent moon would not rise until early the next morning.
Joe squinted in the direction he had seen the movement.  The wind whistled through the trees as he strained his ears.  The -2-degree temperature helped us tolerate the bluster.  It felt warmer whenever the wind ceased.  Like the calm before the storm, I thought.  I expected the temperature to plummet and danger to attack soon.
 
Joe and Tim converged upon the location.
"There's no one here," Joe maundered.
"Don't be too sure no one wasn't here," Tim cautioned as he bent over and reached into the arid grass.
Keith and I strolled down the driveway.  When we reached the road, I held Keith's right shoulder with my left hand as we looked both ways.  There was no sign of the hitman.  Keith walked down the road past the neighboring house while I walked up the road to the route.  I decided we needed more provisions in case the hitman placed us under siege.
"Look what I found," Tim announced.  We gasped at the paper in his hand.  It was addressed to us with the same symbols, which deciphered to "die"!  We chose to remain in the bungalow until dawn.
Christmas Eve dawned a sunny Sunday.  Joe, Keith and I drove off for groceries.  Kevin and Tim kept watch on the house and on the monitor.  By the time we returned, Tim looked puzzled.
"WRSK called.  They asked you to come there tonight about six.."
"Did Jonah call me?"
"No.  It was a woman."
"Did she ask me to bring anyone?"
"No.  She asked only you."
 
 

Here I envisioned my own house back in 1989
crimehitman.jpg
I was dreaming a little too big! @C 1989, 2002 Alopex

It was just past six when I arrived at the station with Kevin in the backseat.  Joe and I went into the lobby.  We went into the Channel 13 room.  I sat down at the keyboard, noted where the Porte Cochere ad was.  As soon as I recalled the page, Joe exclaimed," The delivery is tonight!"
Sure enough, alongside the ad were the numbers "0025".  It meant $25 bags of crack was the shipment because PARTY was in the ad!
"What I don't understand is why we didn't see that on the monitor," I admitted as I looked at the room monitor.  "Why, it isn't there.  Someone must have --"
"Put it there to send out?" a voice finished.
 
Joe and I whirled to face an armed Madame Lee.  She almost laughed at me.  "It looks as if I'm going to get the bounty."
"What's going on in there?" a voice called from the lobby.  Lee backed into the hallway.
"What are you doing here?" Gil rickles demanded until he saw the pistol.
"Rickles, you're a moron!" Lee spat while taking aim.  The silencer added to horror as Rickles tumbled backwards.
"Get behind me!" I commanded Joe while I pulled out my revolver.
"Now it's your turn.  I still have five bullets left," Lee said upon approaching.
"Unfortunately for you, I have no silencer," I began.  "Want to duel?"
As i expected, Lee had already made a strategic withdrawal by the time I advanced into th corridor.  I told Joe to call the Stacys and the guys at home while I ascertained that Lee was gone.
One of the jocks was coming down the corridor as I stepped over the demised Rickles.  I turned to face him and said authoritatively, "Call Lieutenant Drack of Homicide.  Tell him there's going to be a large shipment of crack tonight at the Ref-use Corporation."
Kevin then ran into the building.  "She's gone.  She took a shot at me."
"I have a very good idea where she went."
 
We walked back to the Channel 13 room.  Joe was still on the phone with the Stacys.  I saw down at the keyboard and sent the message out.  i figured the entire systme went out at 6 PM as usual, and that Madame Lee had left it there to titilate us before she killed us.
The Stacys were soon off to Ref-use Corporation.  We had no idea how long it would take before the receiving team would spring into action.  I figured it was best if Tim and Keith stayed put in my bungalow in the meantime.
I welcomed the Lieutenant as he entered the station and quickly expatiated the situation. As ususal, Sergeant Holcum doubted my story, but Drack overruled him.
Meanwhile the Stacys called the bungalow and offered to take the guys with them.  Keith demurred and deferred to Tim, who left with them.  Keith did not know how long he'd be there alone, but he was not in the mood for action.  He rocked awhile to stay awake.
Allen was driving th sedan toward Ref-use.  "I surely home the police don't get there before we do.  We don't want to scare them away."
"George said that Drack and Holcum are there at the station.  He probably convinced Drack to wait until we get there," Tim noted.
"Are they going to join us as soon as possible?" Darrel joined in.  "Joe wasn't sure."
"George wasn't sure.  he gave me the impression he was still contemplating his next move," Tim informed the Stacys.  "Are we going to confront these guys?  Did you guys bring guns with you?"
"Dont' worry, Tim," Allen tranquillized.  "We are there only for observation."
"That doen't mean we're unprepared for such contingencies," Darrel assured.
Tim gulped and sat back into the backseat.  I surely hope these kids know what they're doing, he thought.
A few minutes later, the Stacys were moving through bare woods and up a hill.  Tim gasped when he joined them on the crest.  Darrel already had binoculars in his gloved hands.  "They're ready for receiving the crack," he reported.
"Whare're the police" Tim wondered.
"I'm sure George'll get them if he has to force them to chase him," Allen assured.  "Meanwhile we'll make sure the shippers come."
 
"Where are you going, George?"  Joe alarmed.  "Ref-use is that way!"
"We're going to the Porte Cochere," Kevin explained.  "We've a huge end to tie."
"The place looks busy on a Christmas Eve," I observed.  "Do you think Ferrin will be there?"
"I don't know," Kevin confessed reluctantly.  "If Lee warned him already, he's long gone.  It's been almost two hours."
"Just be glad I convinced Drack to let us go.  hous could have sent the bunko squad to Ref-use while disallowing us the opportunity to check this angle out."  I  parked the car near the coffee shop.  We walked in and asked for Ferrin.  Krilly soon came into the coffee shop.
"I thought we'd fired you," Krilley hissed.
"How did Ferrin threaten you?" I counterattacked..  "And did you comply in Muller's death?"
Krilley was taken aback.  My verbal assault had worked.  He started shaking spasimatically, took out a handkerchief, and mopped his brow.  "H-how did you know?" he asked as he sat in a nearby booth.
"I will admit I checked on a few records to be sure, but I deduced it.  This luxurious lodge was fine in August.  I couldn't understand why the problems occurred afterward unless it was an inside job.  Such a suspicion led me to one of the partners.
"I guessed you were not initially involved.  My guess is that Ferrin coerced you into going along to stop the incidents."
"I had nothing to do with Muller's death."
"Did Ferrin plant that evidence in Muller's apartment?" Kevin continued the questioning.
"I'm unsure who did it.  That's why I kept the Stacys on, until Ferrin found out."
"Is Ferrin still here?" Joe added impatiently.
"No," Krilley denied.  "He left about an hour ago.  He said something about an early holiday."
"Where does he live?" I jumped in.
"This is my only pleasant task," Krilley said while handing us a piece of paper.  "I suspect he will drive to Pittsburgh and catch the first flight out of Canada."
"Canada?" we three repeated.
"Madame Lee must be with him," Joe vocalized our thoughts.  "Maybe we can catch them both!"
 
"Darrel, Allen," Tim called.  "They're leaving!"
"Someone must have warned them," Allen concluded as he took the binoculars.  "Where are those police?"
"Shhh," Darrel interrupted the pause.  "Do you hear those sirens?"
"Quickly," Allen commanded.  "Write down the numbers of the license plates as I give them."
With a leap over the crest, the three charged downhill as fast as the starlit night allowed.  The Stacys arrived at the environs just as the last of the gang left the warehouse.  Tim joined them as they raced to the patrol cars.
 
 
 

Keith rocked in the prosaic setting.  Nearby a Channel 13 monitor continued to show the message that had stimulated the night.  Although it was only nine o'clock, the little guy felt sleepy.  His metabolic level dropped as he lost consciousness and rocked in smaller arcs.
Keith dozed for twenty minutes before a noise aroused him.  He pushed himself out of the rocker and went into the kichen to investigate.  He pushed his dark hari back with his left hand and stood in the kitchen.  George should have a dog, he thought as he returned to the livingroom.
Scull emerged from the basement stairs, carefully closing the door behind him, which he had just unlocked with a skeleton key.  He moved quickly to the doorway where the light of the livingroom illuminated his victim.
Noting Keith's height as he stood with his back to him, Scull sheathed his poignard.  Here was a challenge for the skill he had just acquired before this hit.  he put the knife on the kitchen table.
Flexing his arm muscles, Scull approached the smalller man from behind.  His stealth disallowed Keith a warning.  Scull extended his right arm out and dropped it around Keith's neck.  Keith's hands immediately shot up.  Keith felt the pressure on his trachea as Scull pulled him backwards.  Once Keith was off his feet, the pressure became intolerable.  Keith tried to lift himself and landed a vicious kick at Scull's right tibia.  Scull almost dropped Keith, but just as Keith felt his shoes reach the floor, Scull recovered.  Scull kicked the back of Keith's knees as he lifted him up.  Keith's lungs burned for air as the killer raised him off the floor.  Keith 170-cm height allowed the hitman to strangle him with his own weight!
My thought here is that Scull allowed Keith only rhonchus in auscultation.  Keith could only gasp hoarsely as Scull strangled him.  Scull didn't want Keith's body to welter in blood when we returned.  After Keith expired, Scull would lay him on the upstairs bed.
Keith was losing all continence as Scull strangled him.  Despite the pain, Keith felt sexually aroused.  If death were the ultimate orgasm, he would find out soon enough.  With his head about to explode, Keith's eyes dropped to see his shoes' hovering the floor.  He felt himself losing consciousness as he began an Act of Contrition.  He could no longer feel his legs as he reached the third line.  The last thing he remembered was his hanging feet as he prayed to be in a state of grace.

After this adventure I decided that I use too much
keithscull.jpg
Schadefreude on Keith's character. @C 1989, 2002 Alopex

"We might as well go home and inform Keith before we decide what to do next," Kevin suggested after we had left the Porte Cochere.
"We have all the bad guys on the run, and we can't catch any of them," I complained.  "At least Pittsburgh is almost 250 km away.  If both Lee and Ferrin are driving there, they couldn't have reached the city yet."
"Aren't we forgetting the hitman?" Joe reminded. 
"Lee probably took him with her.  She certainly didn't want to risk capture for the bounty," I surmised.  I parked the car in the driveway.
"We'll check the woods in the back just to be sure," Kevin said as he and Joe alit the vehicle.
"You take all the exciting jobs," I complained lugubriously.  "Keith's probably asleep in there."
I walked up the hill and knocked on the door.  Two lights were on in the livingroom, so I was nonplussed when no one answered.  The door was locked, so I fished out my key.
I noticed a fleeting shadow as I unlocked the door.  I called Keith's name as I opened the door.  I saw Keith's lying on the couch with his feet toward me.  I had just thought that he was indeed asleep when my peripheral vision detected movement in the bedroom to my left.
I flinged my backpack to the floor as Scull charged me.  I grabbed his head and rammed it into the frontdoor.  Before I could get to Keith, Scull had me by the neck from behind.  He kicked me off my feet, but I placed them on the couch and pushed us toward the wall.  I crashed atop him as he sat into the stuffed chair.  The ottoman in front of the chair kept me from standing easily.  Scull used the chair for leverage and pushed me off the chair, over the pouf, and into the sofa.  To avoid Keith, I shifted my movement over the couch.  Briefly I lay stunned on the floor as I heard Kevin and Joe enter from the kitchen.
"Look out!  Scull's in here," I shouted as I lay supinely.  I pulled myself up the back of the sofa in time to see that Scull had gone.
"Where's Scull?" Kevin demanded as he entered the room.
I shook the grogginess from my head.  "I don't know.  He didn't go out the front."
"That leaves the bedroom, bathroom, and upstairs," Kevin figured.  "Stay here, Joe, while I eliminate the possibilities!"
By the time Kevin had searched the bedroom, I was on my feet, although a little woozy.  By the time I had joined Kevin, he had scanned the bathroom.  Just as Kevin started up the balustrade, we heard from upstairs a shout:
"Come up here, Krols, and I will detonate the bomb up here!"
"Fat chance, Scull," I sneered.  "I dismantled that bomb on Thursday!"
A breeze flowed across the room.  We rushed up the stairs in time to see Scull's sitting on the back windowsill.  As soon as he saw us, he jumped.  I knew he had aimed for a branch about three meters from the sill.  Nonetheless, I ran into the bedroom to make sure he had jumped.  He could have pulled himself up to the gable roof, from which he could drop three meters to the veranda and escape out the backwoods.
I didn't see Scull in the tree.  Just as I look down four meters to the ground, Scull grabbed me by the neck and pulled me out the window! 
"I'll get my bounty after all, Krol," Scull snickered triumphantly.  He was pulling me from the gable on the right side of the window.  My hips were at the window ledge when Kevin and Joe appeared on the ground below us.  Using the sash for leverage, I pulled my head down as violently as I could.  This jolt pulled Scull off the roof head first.  He hit the ground head first five meters later.  I fell into the room with a throbbing head.  By the time I stuck my head out the window, Kevin called that Scull was dead.  I could barely see the wind play with his ruddy hair.
I staggered to the bed and lay down.  It took five minutes for me to regain my normal breathing.  Joe came up the stairs.
"Good news, George.  They caught Ferrin."
"What about Madame Lee?"
"She must have left an hour earlier alone.  The authorites figure she left the airport in State College at 7 PM.  She must have called Ferrin from there."
"So we still have Lee and Renchburg at large in Canada," I concluded.
"The Stacys and Tim are here.  They helped the police round up the gang at Ref-use.  We have smashed the Mafia drug storage in State College!"
"Did Ferrin say who killed Muller and Dunson?"
"He denied he did it, but he won't say whom he paid to do it.  Krilley will testify that Lee and Scull came here to kill us.  They approached Ferrin through one of Scull's underworld connections.  Scull probably killed them both and started to leave those notes.  Lee managed to cajole the WRSK management to give her a position.  She decided to make some illegal profit on the side until Scull carried out the contract."
"Did you tell Keith all this yet?" I queried after a moment's reflection.
"George," Joe mourned.  "Keith's dead!"
I was shocked a good ten seconds.  "How?"
"It looks as if Scull strangled him."
"No," I denied.  "I won't believe it until I see it."  I jumped off the bed and the illumination from the skylight.  I took the steps slowly due to my slight imbalance.  There Keith lay on the couch as I had first seen him.  With tears in my eyes, I felt his trachea.  I felt nothing broken in his neck.  Some of my tears wet his face and his cheek twitched.  He had a faint pulse!
"Get me some ammonia from the bathroom atop the toilet," I commanded.  I saw that cardiopulmonary resuscitation would be unnecessary, so I took his right hand.
"Keith, little buddy," I called. Can you hear me?"
Joe returned with a sponge and the ammonia bottle.  I soaked the sponge and ran it under Keith's nose.  He coughed, then opened his hazel eyes. 
"Welcome back," I greeted as we embraced. 

Here I had an overemotional scene, which I intend
crimecouch.jpg
to moderate on the rewrite. @C 1989, 2002 Alopex

The Stacys went home that evening.  The guys stayed overnight, then went their separate ways.  Keith stayed on until the next day when we went back to Wilkes-Barre together.  All in all, it was a very close way to end 1989.  Kevin and I would find ourselves involved in enought perilous adventures in the future.
 
Epilogue
Here I sit in my rocker on New Year's Eve night.  Now that I'm a week away from the events, I can see clearly my problem of staying in State College.  With my two archenemies in Canada who know where I am, I think I must consider leaving.
Sure, we foiled the attempt this time.  Suppose I had not found the bomb under the bed.  Scull was going to kille us, dump our bodies on the bed, and burn the place down.
Despite our vigilance, Scull still got in here and just missed murdering Keith.  I walked in just in time to thward that endeaver.  I could have been too late to save my little buddy, and maybe myself.  We found Scull's knife in the kitchen.  Suppose he had had the time to retrieve it!
I should start looking elsewhere, maybe in a safer line of work near Philadelphia.  I find the heinous thought of Keith's ineffable death overwhelming any rhadamanthine revenge.
Of course, I could never quench the danger.  Renchburg and Lee could still trace me through the others.  Nonetheless, I should eliminate as much of the risk as possible.  I suppose this revelation is the epimyth of the case.
 
Author's Notes: Soon after I wrote this mystery in December 1989, I did indeed leave State College.  Eventually, my prolific days of writing took a hiatus, and I'm trying to revive them.  I also ended up in reality where I wrote in this case.  Was it magic?  If so, it's time I get back to writing where I want to go from now!
 
Now you know where I get my passion and compassion, which I had long before I'd heard of Matthew Shepard!