Date With Murder and Other Stories – three stories of crime and death by Harold Q. Masur (1909-2005).
Date With Murder (1942) – A Girl in Distress Plunges Lawyer Massey into the Vortex of a Death Conspiracy!
Chapter I – THE LADY LAYS AN EGG
Chapter II – MURDER IS HATCHED
Chapter III – GREEN EYES
Chapter IV – TAKE A TIP FROM ME
Chapter V – CURTAINS FOR KINCAID
Knaves and Knives (1941) – Lady Luck was snubbing Sam Quentin. He wanted a new deal in the crazy homicide honeymoon case—but all he got was a double-deal in knaves and knives.
Homicide Tally (1941) – From warblers to wicker baskets in one easy hop. That was the setup Counselor Carew found at the Humming Bird Club. For he arrived just in time to see a glamor gal canary swing into a dance of death.
Date With Murder and Other Stories has 7 illustrations.
I WAS crowding the gas pedal and had the roadster doing sixty, which wasn’t bad for a dark night. The head lamps were two bright concentric fingers that merged into a yellow cone of light down the parkway. Along its edge I could see the blurred shape of trees. My hat was crammed down on my skull. My coat collar was turned up. I was hunched deep in the red leather seat. I was wet and uncomfortable and sore. A thin drizzle was slanting out of the dark sky, and the mechanical top had jammed and wouldn’t go up.
Suddenly, an apparition loomed in the glare of the headlights. I had only a flash of her, but it was a girl. She was standing in the dead center of the road, waving her arms. I twisted the wheel, and if I missed her, it was only by inches. My heart wedged somewhere against my tonsils. The brakes gave an unholy squeal as the car slewed to a stop. I sent the roadster backward, almost certain I’d knocked that kid kicking.
But I hadn’t.
“Listen,” I said heatedly, “You might’ve got killed—”
My anger faded. She was standing at the side of the car, her face level with mine—a very scared face. In the half light from the dashboard, I made out a pair of golden-brown eyes, a short straight nose, and a wealth of taffy-colored hair spilling out from under one of those ridiculous little skull caps. A belted sport coat failed to conceal an exciting figure.
She turned a smile on me, but it was twisted, forced, wooden.
“Are you driving back to the city?” she asked.
“Would you give me a lift?”
I nodded and swung open the door.
She crossed to the other side of the car and climbed in beside me. I got the car going and stole a glance at her. She was staring straight ahead, blank-eyed, and the mist was glistening on her hair.
“Sorry about the top,” I said. “It’s jammed.”
“That’s all right.”
I lit a cigarette and passed it over to her. It probably wouldn’t last long in the drizzle, but a couple of puffs might help. She took her hand out of her pocket, and I saw the blood.
I SWALLOWED an exclamation and slowed the car. The rushing sound of the wind died down. The gash in her hand wasn’t bad, but I didn’t know that then. All I saw was the crimson stain that blotted her fingers. I didn’t say anything about it. Instead I spoke quite casually.
“How’d you get out on the highway at this hour?”
“My car ran out of gas. I was looking for the nearest station when you came along.”
My nostrils detected a faint and subtle perfume that was quite pleasant. Most perfumes have a sickish, cloying odor that make me ill.
“Shall I let you off at the next gas station?” I asked. “They’ll drive you back to your car and refuel it.”
“No, please don’t bother,” she answered quickly. “I’d rather go straight to the city. I’ll send someone for the car tomorrow.”
“How about your hand? Wouldn’t it be wise to let a doctor have a look at it?”
She gasped. Her eyes jumped to her stained fingers. She tried to plug them back into her pocket, but of course it was too late. Nor was her explanation a good one.
“I cut myself on my compact. The mirror broke when I dropped it.” I removed the Irish linen display handkerchief from my breast pocket and dropped it in her lap.
“Here, wrap this around the cut, Miss—”
“Smith,” she supplied. “Sally Smith.”
A poor alias, but I kept a straight face. I don’t imagine we had driven more than several hundred yards when I spotted the wreck at the side of the road and ground the car to a stop beside it.
The coupe had hit a tree that wasn’t more than a sapling and had tilted it forward at a sharp angle. The coupe’s grill-work was smashed, and so was part of the windshield, but it didn’t look as if it had been traveling very fast when it struck. In the seat, slumped over the wheel, was the figure of a man.
Jumping out of the roadster, I caught another glimpse of the girl. Her face was pulled taut, the corners of her mouth were down and the fingers of her good hand were curled tightly about her throat.
I walked over to the coupe. My footsteps rang hollow on the concrete. Opening the door I pulled the man back against the seat. The motor had stalled, but the dashboard light made a yellow glow. He had a face that could have been handsome, but just then he didn’t look so good. His mouth hung slack, and his skin had an odd waxen pallor. Some dried froth clung to his lips. I turned to the girl.
“This man is dead.”
SHE just sat there, staring at me through blank eyes that seemed to shrivel in their sockets. If I’ve ever seen terror in a girl’s face it was in hers. She was scared green.
I swung back to the coupe. There was something mighty funny about this set-up. The car certainly hadn’t struck the tree with enough force to kill a man. What’s more, he didn’t have the look of a man who’d—
The right front fender of the roadster took hold of my thigh, spun me around and sent me sprawling on my face along the wet road. The motor uttered a deep-throated roar, and the car shot by, swift, fleet, knifing away into the darkness. I lay there, watching the tiny red tail-light grow t smaller and disappear into the mist. The girl had run off with my car.
Excerpt From: Harold Q. Masur. “Date With Murder and Other Stories.”
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