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An Accountable Death

"An older professor, head of the accounting department at a local Boston college, is murdered in a men's room at the college. He has been a widower for fifteen years and for all those years has walked around Franklin, Maine every chance he could, since his wife's death by hit-and-run car, probing the earth with a steel rod. He was the person who hired private detective Harry Krisman's girlfriend, Maxine, into his college accounting department as an associate professor."

"Kell Thorn knew his end of the business. He knew the law, the books, the loopholes. The midnight oil had been burned by him on a thousand nights or more. In the core of his brain what he had to do was always in a fight with what he wanted to do. The odds had come out against his want. That he was cut short in no way hampered his zeal and his zest for the scales of justice to be properly weighed and executed, even if a little ballast had to be employed."

Recessed under a heavy skull, his dark eyes seemed full of curiosity. 'Who're those fellows over with Carlton Evers last week? Hung around' most of the day I hear. Were up on the hill too? Nice little car they had, that little black one. Kind of pert and sassy if you ask me. Seems awful small for that big feller, the bigger of the two, the one with the doo-dad clothes. Looked mighty prosperous he did. Fact is, so did the other feller, sum total of that.'"

"What the hell, Merchant," he said a little louder, "this is dead man's country anyways. Never knows what's gonna hit you from yon winder. Or where it might come from, being so dark out there it appears. My mother, rest her pore soul, always said to be ready for your Maker and have clean drawers on, case'n someone else's lookin' on."

"Maxine thought she would burst a gut. Her mind, too, exploded. She couldn't wait to tell Harry the story. It would bring everything right into focus. The light would shine on all the fifteen years of darkness. It would shine, once and for all, on George Hinckler's endless mission, his endless passion. It would shine on Miriam's picture."

"All of them realized that the dead man had lugged it and probed with it through fifteen or so long years. Hill and dale. Swamp and meadow. Crest of crown and foot of gulch or gully. Maybe it was longer when it was new. Maybe it had been shortened by all its work. Maybe it had found at last gold or silver or some lost mine or had endlessly and fruitlessly searched for them. Maybe a forgotten foundation of an old house or a barn long since gone to mold and decay. Maybe in another time it could tell the strange story of its use and its existence."

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