A Kiss Before Dying by Ira Levin Copyright (c) 1953 by Ira Levin. Copyright renewed 1981 by Ira Levin. Part One DOROTHY His plans had been running so beautifully, so goddamned beautifully, and now she was going to smash them all. Hate erupted and flooded through him, gripping his face with jaw-aching pressure. That was all right though; the lights were out. And she, she kept on sobbing weakly in the dark, her cheek pressed against his bare chest, her tears and her breath burning hot. He wanted to push her away. Finally his face relaxed. He put his arm around her and stroked her back. It was warm, or rather his hand was cold; all of him was cold, he discovered; his armpits were creeping with sweat and his legs were quivering the way they always did when things took a crazy turn and caught him helpless and unprepared. He lay still for a moment, waiting for the trembling to subside. With his free hand he drew the blanket up around her shoulders. "Crying isn't going to do any good," he told her gently. Obediently, she tried to stop, catching her breath in long choking gasps. She rubbed her eyes with the worn binding of the blanket. "It's just... the holding it in for so long. I've known for days... weeks. I didn't want to say anything until I was sure..." His hand on her back was warmer. "No mistake possible?" He spoke in a whisper, even though the house was empty. "No." "How far?" "Two months almost." She lifted her cheek from his chest, and in the dark he could sense her eyes on him. "What are we going to do?" she asked. "You didn't give the doctor your right name, did you?" "No. He knew I was lying though. It was awful..." "If your father ever finds out..." She lowered her head again and repeated the question, speaking against his chest. "What are we going to do?" She waited for his answer. He shifted his position a bit, partially to give emphasis to what he was about to say, and partially in the hope that it would encourage her to move, for her weight on his chest had become uncomfortable. "Listen, Dorrie," he said, "I know you want me to say we'll get married right away-tomorrow. And I want to marry you. More than anything else in the world. I swear to God I do." He paused, planning his words with care. Her body, curled against his, was motionless, listening. "But if we marry this way, me not even meeting your father first, and then a baby comes seven months later... You know what he'd do." "He couldn't do anything," she protested. "I'm over eighteen. Eighteen's all you have to be out here. What could he do?" "I'm not talking about an annulment or anything like that." "Then what? What do you mean?" she appealed. "The money," he said. "Dorrie, what kind of man is he? What did you tell me about him-him and his holy morals? Your mother makes a single slip; he finds out about it eight years later and divorces her, divorces her not caring about you and your sisters, not caring about her bad health. Well what do you think he would do to you? He'd forget you ever existed. You wouldn't see a penny." "I don't care," she said earnestly. "Do you think I care?" "But I do, Dorrie." His hand began moving gently on her back again. "Not for me. I swear to God not for me. But for you. What will happen to us? We'll both have to quit school; you for the baby, me to work. And what will I do?-another guy with two years' college and no degree. What will I be? A clerk? Or an oiler in some textile mill or something?" "It doesn't matter..." "It does! You don't know how much it does. You're only nineteen and you've had money all your life. You don't know what it means not to have it. I do. We'd be at each other's throats in a year." "No. . . no... we wouldn't!" "All right, we love each other so much we never argue. So where are we? In a furnished room with- with paper drapes? Eating spaghetti seven nights a week? If I saw you living that way and I knew it was my fault..."-he paused for an instant, then finished very softly-"... I'd take out insurance and jump in front of a car." She began sobbing again. He closed his eyes and spoke dreamily, intoning the words in a sedative chant. "I had it planned so beautifully. I would have come to New York this summer and you would have introduced me to him. I could have gotten him to like me. You would have told me what he's interested in, what he Ekes, what he dislikes-" He stopped short, then continued. "And after graduation we would have been married. Or even this summer. We could have come back here in September for our last two years. A little apartment of our own, right near the campus..." She lifted her head from his chest. "What are you trying to do?" she begged. "Why are you saying these things?" "I want you to see how beautiful, how wonderful, it could have been." "I see. Do you think I don't see?" The sobs twisted her voice. "But I'm pregnant. I'm two months pregnant." There was silence, as though unnoticed motors had suddenly stopped. "Are... are you trying to get out of it? To get away? Is that what you're trying to do?" "No! God no, Dorrie!" He grabbed her by the shoulders and pulled her up until her face was next to his. "No!" "Then what are you doing to me! We have to get married now! We don't have any choice!" "We do have a choice, Dorrie," he said. He felt her body stiffen against his. She gave a small terrified whisper-"No!"-and began shaking her head violently from side to side. "Listen, Dorrie!" he pleaded, hands gripping her shoulders, "No operation. Nothing like that." He caught her jaw in one hand, fingers pressing into her cheeks, holding her head rigid. "Listen!" He waited until the wildness of her breathing subsided. "There's a guy on campus, Hermy Godsen. His uncle owns the drugstore on University and Thirty-Fourth. Hermy sells things. He could get some pills." He let go of her jaw. She was silent. "Don't you see, baby? We've got to try! It means so much!" "Pills..." she said gropingly, as though it were a new word. "We've got to try. It could be so wonderful" She shook her head in desperate confusion. "Oh God, I don't know..." He puts his arms around her, "Baby, I love you. I wouldn't let you take anything that might hurt you." She collapsed against him, the side of her head striking his shoulder. "I don't know... I don't know..." He said, "It would be so wonderful..."-his hand caressing;-"A little apartment of our own... no waiting for a damn landlady to go to the movies..." Finally she said, "How... how do you know they would work? What if they didn't work?" He took a deep breath. "If they don't work,"-he kissed her forehead, and her cheek, and the corner of her mouth-"If they don't work well get married right away and to hell with your father and Kingship Copper Incorporated. I swear we will, baby." He had discovered that she liked to be called •baby.' When he called her 'baby' and held her in his arms he could get her to do practically anything. He had thought about it, and decided it had something to do with the coldness she felt towards her father. He kept kissing her gently, talking to her with warm low words, and in a while she was calm and easy. They shared a cigarette, Dorothy holding it first to his lips and then to hers, where the pink glow of each puff would momentarily touch the feathery blonde hair and the wide brown eyes. She turned the burning end of the cigarette towards them and moved it around and around, back and forth, painting circles and lines of vivid orange in the darkness. "I bet you could hypnotize someone this way," she said. Then she swung the cigarette slowly before his eyes. In its wan light her slim-fingered hand moved sinuously. "You are my slave," she whispered, lips close to his ear. "You are my slave and completely in my power! You must obey my every bidding!" She was so cute he couldn't help smiling. When they finished the cigarette he looked at the luminous dial of his watch. Waving his hand before her, he intoned, "You must get dressed. You must get dressed because it is twenty past ten and you must be back at the dorm by eleven." He was born in Menasset, on the outskirts of Fall River, Massachusetts; the only child of a father who was an oiler in one of the Fall River textile mills and a mother who sometimes had to take in sewing when the money ran low. They were of English extraction with some French intermixed along the way, and they lived in a neighborhood populated largely by Portuguese. His father found no reason to be bothered by this, but his mother did. She was a bitter and unhappy woman who had married young, expecting her husband to make more of himself than a mere oiler. At an early age he became conscious of his good looks. On Sundays guests would come and exclaim over him-the blondness of his hair, the clear blue of his eyes-but his father was always there, shaking his head admonishingly at the guests. His parents argued a great deal, usually over the time and money his mother devoted to dressing him. Because his mother had never encouraged him to play with the children of the neighborhood, his first few days at school were an agony of insecurity. He was suddenly an anonymous member of a large group of boys, some of whom made fun of the perfection of his clothes and the obvious care he took to avoid the puddles in the schoolyard. One day, when he could bear it no longer, he went up to the ringleader of the hazers and spat on his shoes. The ensuing fight was brief but wild, and at the end of it he had the ringleader flat on his back and was kneeling on his chest, banging his head against the ground again and again. A teacher came running and broke up the fight. After that, everything was all right. Eventually he accepted the ringleader as one of his friends. His marks in school were good, which made his mother glow and even won reluctant praise from his father. His marks became still better when he started sitting next to an unattractive but brilliant girl who was so beholden to him for some awkward cloakroom kisses that she neglected to cover her paper during examinations. His school-days were the happiest of his life; the girls liked him for his looks and his charm; the teachers liked him because he was polite and attentive, nodding when they stated important facts, smiling when they attempted feeble jokes; and to the boys h6 showed his dislike of both girls and teachers just enough so that they liked him too. At home, he was a god. His father finally gave in and joined his mother in deferent admiration. When he started dating, it was with the girls from the better part of town. His parents argued again, over his allowance and the amount of money spent on his clothes. The arguments were short though, his father only sparring half-heartedly. His mother began to talk about his marrying a rich man's daughter. She said it jokingly, of course, but she said it more than once. He was president of his senior class in high school and was graduated with the third highest average and honors in mathematics and science. In the school yearbook he was named The Best Dancer, The Most Popular, and The Most likely to Succeed. His parents gave a party for him, which was attended by many young people from the better part of town. Two weeks later, he was drafted. For the first few days of Basic Training, he coasted along on the glory he had left behind. But then reality rubbed off the insulation, and he found the impersonal authority of the Army to be a thousand times more degrading than his early schooldays had been. And here, if he went up to the sergeant and spat on his shoes, he'd probably spend the rest of his life in the stockade. He cursed the blind system which had dropped him into the infantry, where he was surrounded by coarse, comic-book-reading idiots. After a while he read comic-books too, but only because it was impossible to concentrate on the copy of Anna Karenina he had brought with him. He made friends with some of the men, buying them beers in the PX, and inventing obscene and fantastically funny biographies of all the officers. He was contemptuous of everything that had to be learned and everything that had to be done. When he was shipped out of San Francisco, he vomited all the way across the Pacific, and he knew it was only partly from the lift and drop of the ship. He was sure he was going to be killed. On an island still partially occupied by the Japanese, he became separated from the other members of his company and stood terrified in the midst of a silent jungle, desperately shifting this way and that, not knowing in which direction safety lay. A rifle slapped, sent a bullet keening past his ear. Jagged bird screams split the air. He dropped to his stomach and rolled under a bush, sick with the certainty that this was the moment of his death. The bird sounds fluttered down into silence. He saw a gleam in a tree up ahead, and knew that that was where the sniper waited. He found himself inching forward under the bushes, dragging his rifle with one hand. His body was clammy cold and alive with sweat; his legs were trembling so badly that he was sure the Jap would hear the leaves rustling under them. The rifle weighed a ton. Finally he was only twenty feet from the tree, and looking up, he could discern the figure crouched in it He lifted his rifle; he aimed, and fired. The bird chorus shrieked. The tree remained motionless. Then suddenly a rifle dropped from it, and he saw the sniper slide clumsily down a vine and drop to the ground with his hands high in the air; a little yellow man grotesquely festooned with leaves and branches, his lips emitting a terrified sing-song chatter. Keeping the rifle trained on the Jap, he stood up. The Jap was as scared as he was; the yellow face twitched wildly and the knees shivered; more scared, in fact, for the front of the Jap's pants was dark with a spreading stain. He watched the wretched figure with contempt. His own legs steadied. His sweating stopped. The rifle was weightless, like an extension of his arms, immobile, aimed at the trembling caricature of a man that confronted him. The Jap's chatter had slowed to a tone of entreaty. The yellow-brown fingers made little begging motions in the air. Quite slowly, he squeezed the trigger. He did not move with the recoil. Insensate to the kick of the butt in his shoulder, he watched attentively as a black-red hole blossomed and swelled in the chest of the Jap. The little man slid clawing to the jungle floor. Bird screams were like a handful of colored cards thrown into the air. After looking at the slain enemy for a minute or so, he turned and walked away. His step was as easy and certain as when he had crossed the stage of the auditorium after accepting his diploma. He received an honorable discharge in January of 1947, and left the Army with the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart, and the record of a shell fragment traced in a vein of thin scar tissue over his dextral ribs. Returning home, he found that his father had been killed in an automobile accident while he was overseas. He was offered several jobs in Menasset, but rejected them as being of too little promise. His father's insurance money was sufficient to support his mother and she was taking in sewing again besides, so after two months of drawing admiration from the townspeople and twenty dollars a week from the federal government, he decided to go to New York. His mother argued, but he was over twenty-one, if only by a few months, so he had his way. Some of the neighbors expressed surprise that he did not intend to go to college, especially when the government would pay for it. He felt, however, that college would only be an unnecessary stopover on the road to the success he was certain awaited him. His first job in New York was in a publishing house, where the personnel manager assured him there was a fine future for the right man. Two weeks, however, was all he could take of the shipping room. His next job was with a department store, where he was a salesclerk in the men's wear department. The only reason he remained there an entire month was that he was able to buy his clothes on a twenty per cent discount. By the end of August, when he had been in New York five months and had had six jobs, he was again prey to the awful insecurity of being one among many rather than one alone; unadmired and with no tangible sign of success. He sat in his furnished room and devoted some time to serious self-analysis. If he had not found what he wanted in these six jobs, he decided, it was unlikely that he would find it in the next six. He took out his fountain pen and made what he considered to be a completely objective list of his qualities, abilities and talents. In September, he enrolled in a dramatic school under the G. I. Bill. The instructors expressed great hopes for him at first; he was handsome, intelligent, and had a fine speaking voice, although the New England accent would have to be eliminated. He had great hopes too, at first Then he discovered how much work and study were involved in becoming an actor. The exercises the instructors gave-"Look at this photograph and act out the emotions it brings to mind"-struck him as ridiculous, although the other students seemed to take them seriously. The only study to which he applied himself was diction; he had been dismayed to hear the word 'accent' used in relation to himself, having always thought of it as something someone else had. In December, on his twenty-second birthday, he met a fairly attractive widow. She was in her forties and she had a good deal of money. They met on the corner of Fifth Avenue and Fifty-Fifth Street,-quite romantically, they later agreed. Stepping back onto the curb to avoid a bus, she tripped and fell into his arms. She was embarrassed and terribly shaken. He made some humorous comments on the ability and thoughtfulness of Fifth Avenue bus drivers, and then they went down the street to a dignified bar where they had two Martinis each, for which he paid the check. In the weeks that followed they attended small East Side art movies and dined in restaurants where there were three or four people to be tipped at the end of the meal. He paid many more checks, although not again with his money. Their attachment lasted for several months, during which time he weaned himself away from the dramatic school-no painful process-and devoted his afternoons to squiring her on shopping tours, some of which was for him. At first he was somewhat embarrassed at being seen with her because of the obvious discrepancy in their ages, but he soon found himself getting over that. He was, however, dissatisfied with the relationship on two accounts; firstly, while her face was fairly attractive, her body, unfortunately, was not; secondly, and of greater importance, he learned from the elevator operator in her apartment house that he was only one of a series of young men, each of whom had been replaced with equinoctial regularity at the end of six months. It seemed, he reflected humorlessly, that this was another position with no future. At the end of five months, when she began to exhibit less curiosity about how he spent the nights he was not with her, he anticipated her move and told her that he had to return home because his mother was deathly ill. He did return home, after reluctantly excising the custom tailor's labels from his suits and pawning a Patek Philippe wristwatch. He spent the early part of June lounging around the house, silently lamenting the fact that the widow had not been younger, prettier, and open to a more permanent sort of alliance. That was when he began to make his plans. He decided he would go to college after all. He took a summer job in a local dry goods store because, while the G. I. Bill would cover his tuition, his living expenses would be quite high; he was going to attend a good school. He finally chose Stoddard University in Blue River, Iowa, which was supposed to be something of a country club for the children of the Midwestern wealthy. There was no difficulty in his gaining admission. He had such a fine high school record. In his first year he met a lovely girl, a senior, the daughter of the vice-president of an internationally organized farm equipment concern. They took walks together, cut classes together, and slept together. In May she told him that she was engaged to a boy back home and she hoped he hadn't taken it too seriously. In his sophomore year, he met Dorothy Kingship. He got the pills, two grayish-white capsules, from Hermy Godsen. They cost him five dollars. At eight o'clock he met Dorothy at their regular meeting place, a tree-shrouded bench in the center of the wide stretch of lawn between the Fine Arts and Pharmacy buildings. When he left the white concrete path and cut across the darkness of the lawn he saw that Dorothy was already there, sitting stiffly with her fingers locked in her lap, a dark coat cloaking her shoulders against the April coolness. A streetlamp off to the side cast leaf shadows on her face. He sat down beside her and kissed her cheek. She greeted him softly. From the rectangle of lighted windows in the Fine Arts Building drifted the conflicting themes of a dozen pianos. After a moment he said, "I got them." A couple crossed the lawn towards them and, seeing the bench occupied, turned back to the white path. The girl's voice said, "My God, they're all taken." He took the envelope from his pocket and put it into Dorothy's hand. Her fingers felt the capsules through the paper. "You're to take both of them together," he said. "You're liable to get a little fever, and you'll probably feel nauseous." She put the envelope in her coat pocket. "What's in them?" she asked. "Quinine, some other things. I'm not sure." He paused. "They can't hurt you." He looked at her face and saw that she was staring off at something beyond the Fine Arts Building. He turned and followed her gaze to a winking red light miles away. It marked the local radio station's transmitting tower, which stood atop Blue River's tallest structure, the Municipal Building,-where the Marriage License Bureau was. He wondered if she were staring at the light because of that, or only because it was a winking red light in a sky of darkness. He touched her hands and found them cold. "Don't worry, Dorrie. Everything will be all right." They sat in silence for a few minutes, and then she said, "I'd like to go to a movie tonight. There's a Joan Fontaine picture at the Uptown." "I'm sorry," he said, "but I've got a ton of Spanish homework." "Let's go over to the Student Union. I'll help you with it." "What are you trying to do, corrupt me?" He walked her back across the campus. Opposite the low modern shape of the Girls' Dormitory, they kissed goodnight. "See you in class tomorrow," he said. She nodded, and kissed him again. She was trembling. "Look, baby, there's nothing to worry about. If they don't work we get married. Haven't you heard?-love conquers all." She was waiting for him to say more. "And I love you very much," he said, and kissed her. When their lips parted, hers were pressed into an unsteady smile. "Good night, baby," he said. He returned to his room, but he couldn't do his Spanish. He sat with his elbows planted on the bridge table, his head in his hands, thinking about the pills. Oh God, they must work! They will work! But Hermy Godsen had said: "I can't give you no written guarantee. If this girlfriend of yours is two months gone already..." He tried not to think about it. He got up and went to the bureau and opened the bottom drawer. From under the neatly folded pajamas he took two pamphlets whose supple covers gleamed with a copper finish. On first meeting Dorothy and discovering, through one of the student-secretaries in the Registrar's office, that she was not merely one of the 'Kingship Copper" Kinships but actually a daughter of the corporation's president, he had written a businesslike letter to the organization's New York office. In it he represented himself as contemplating an investment in Kingship Copper (which was not entirely an untruth), and requested descriptive brochures of its holdings. Two weeks later, when he was reading Rebecca and pretending to love it because it was Dorothy's favorite book, and when she was doggedly knitting him bulky argyle socks because a previous boyfriend had liked them and so the knitting of them had become the badge of her devotion, the pamphlets arrived. He opened their envelope with ceremonial care. They proved wonderful-Technical Information on Kingship Copper and Copper Alloys and Kingship Copper, Pioneer in Peace and War they were called, and they were crammed with photographs: mines and furnaces, concentrators and converters, reversing mills, rolling mills, rod mills and tube mills. He read them a hundred times and knew every caption by heart. He returned to them at odd moments, a musing smile on his lips, like a woman with a love letter. Tonight they were no good. "Open-cut mine in Landers, Michigan. From this single mine, a yearly output..." What angered him most was that in a sense the responsibility for the entire situation rested with Dorothy. He had wanted to take her to his room only once -a down-payment guaranteeing the fulfillment of a contract. It was Dorothy, with her gently closed eyes and her passive, orphan hunger, who had wished for further visits. He struck the table. It really was her fault! Damn her! He dragged his mind back to the pamphlets, but it was no use; after a minute he pushed them away and rested his head in his hands again. If the pills didn't work... Leave school? Ditch her? It would be futile; she knew his Menasset address. Even if she should be reluctant to seek him out, her father would hasten to do so. Of course there could be no legal action (or could there?), but Kingship could still cause him plenty of trouble. He imagined the wealthy as a closely knit, mutually protective clan, and he could hear Leo Kingship: "Watch out for this young man. He's no good. I feel it my duty as a parent to warn you..." And what would be left for him then? Some shipping room? Or if he married her. Then she would have the baby and they'd never get a cent out of Kingship. Again the shipping room, only this time saddled with a wife and child. Oh God! The pills had to work. That was all there was to it. If they failed, he didn't know what he'd do. The book of matches was white, with Dorothy Kingship stamped on it in copper leaf. Every Christmas Kingship Copper gave personalized matches to its executives, customers and friends. It took her four strokes to light the match, and when she held it to her cigarette the flame trembled as though in a breeze. She sat back, trying to relax, but she couldn't tear her eyes from the open bathroom door, the white envelope waiting on the edge of the sink, the glass of water... She closed her eyes. If only she could speak to Ellen about it. A letter had come that morning-"The weather has been beautiful... president of the refreshment committee for the Junior Prom... have you read Marquand's new novel?..."-another of the meaningless mechanical notes that had been drifting between them since Christmas and the argument. If only she could get Ellen's advice, talk to her the way they used to talk... Dorothy had been five and Ellen six when Leo Kingship divorced his wife. A third sister, Marion, was ten. When the three girls lost their mother, first through the divorce and then through her death a year later, Marion felt the loss most deeply of all. Recalling clearly the accusations and denunciations which had preceded the divorce, she recounted them in bitter detail to her sisters as they grew up. She exaggerated Kingship's cruelty to some degree. As the years passed she grew apart, solitary and withdrawn. Dorothy and Ellen, however, turned to each other for the affection which they received neither from their father, who met their coldness with coldness, nor from the series of odorless and precise governesses to whom he transferred the custody the courts had granted him. The two sisters went to the same schools and camps, joined the same clubs and attended the same dances (taking care to return home at the hour designated by their father). Where Ellen led, Dorothy followed. But when Ellen entered Caldwell College, in Caldwell, Wisconsin, and Dorothy made plans to follow her there the next year, Ellen said no; Dorothy should grow up and become self-reliant. Their father agreed, self-reliance being a trait he valued in himself and in others. A measure of compromise was allowed, and Dorothy was sent to Stoddard, slightly more than a hundred miles from Caldwell, with the understanding that the sisters would visit one another on weekends. A few visits were made, the length of time between them increasing progressively, until Dorothy austerely announced that her first year of college had made her completely self-reliant, and the visits stopped altogether. Finally, this past Christmas, there had been an argument. It had started on nothing-"If you wanted to borrow my blouse you might at least have asked me!"-and had swollen because Dorothy had been in a depressed mood all during her vacation. When the girls returned to school, the letters between them faded to brief, infrequent notes. . . There was still the telephone. Dorothy found herself staring at it. She could get Ellen on the line in an instant. . . But no; why should she be the one to give in first and chance a rebuff? She squashed her cigarette in an ashtray. Besides, now that she had calmed down, what was there to hesitate about? She would take the pills; if they worked, all well and good. If not; marriage. She thought about how wonderful that would be, even if her father did have a fit She didn't want any of his money anyway. She went to the hall door and locked it, feeling a slight thrill in the unaccustomed and somewhat melodramatic act. In the bathroom, she took the envelope from the edge of the sink and tilted the capsules into her palm. They were gray-white, their gelatin coating lustrous, like elongated pearls. Then, as she dropped the envelope into the wastebasket, the thought flashed into her mind-"What if I don't take them?" They would be married tomorrow! Instead of waiting until the summer, or more likely until graduation-over two years-they'd be married by tomorrow night! But it wouldn't be fair. She had promised she would try. Still, tomorrow..." She lifted the glass, clapped the pills into her mouth, and drained the water in a single draught. The classroom, in one of Stoddard's new buildings, was a clean rectangle with one wall of aluminum-framed glass. Eight rows of seats faced the lecturer's platform. There were ten gray metal seats to a row, each with a right arm that curved in and fanned to form a writing surface. He sat in the back of the room, in the second seat from the window. The seat on his left, the window seat, the empty seat, was hers. It was the first class of the morning, a daily Social Science lecture, and their only class together this semester. The speaker's voice droned in the sun-filled air. Today of all days she could have made an effort to be on time. Didn't she know he'd be frozen in an agony of suspense? Heaven or hell. Complete happiness, or the awful mess he didn't even want to think about. He looked at his watch; 9: 08. Damn her. He shifted in his seat, fingering his keychain nervously. He stared at the back of the girl in front of him and started to count the polka dots in her blouse. The door at the side of the room opened quietly. His head jerked around. She looked awful. Her face was pasty white so that the rouge was like paint. There were gray arcs under her eyes. She was looking at him the instant the door opened, and with a barely perceptible motion, she shook her head. Oh God! He turned back to the keychain in his fingers and stared at it, numb. He heard her coming around behind him, slipping into the seat on his left. He heard her books being put on the floor in the aisle between them, and then the scratching of a pen on paper, and finally the sound of a page being torn from a spiral-bound pad. He turned. Her hand was extended towards him, holding a folded piece of blue-lined paper. She was watching him, her wide eyes anxious. He took the paper and opened it in his lap: I had a terrible fever and I threw up. But nothing happened. He closed his eyes for a moment, then opened them again and turned to her, his face expressionless. Her lips made a tight nervous smile. He tried to make himself return the smile, but he couldn't His eyes went back to the note in his hand. He folded the paper in half, then folded it again and again, until it was a tight wad, which he placed in his pocket. Then he sat with his fingers locked firmly together, watching the lecturer. After a few minutes, he was able to turn to Dorothy, give her a reassuring smile, and form the words "Don't worry" with silent lips. When the bell sounded at 9: 55, they left the room with the other students who were laughing and pushing and complaining about coming exams and overdue papers and broken dates. Outside, they moved from the crowded path and stood in the shadow of the concrete-walled building. The color was beginning to return to Dorothy's cheeks. She spoke quickly. "It'll be all right. I know it will. You won't have to quit school. You'll get more money from the government, won't you? With a wife?" "A hundred and five a month." He couldn't keep the sourness out of his voice. "Others get along on it. . . the ones in the trailer camp. We'll manage." He put his books down on the grass. The important thing was to get time, time to think. He was afraid his knees were going to start shaking. He took her by the shoulders, smiling. "That's the spirit. You just don't worry about anything." He took a breath. "Friday afternoon we'll go down to the Municipal-" "Friday?" "Baby, it's Tuesday. Three days won't make any difference now." "I thought we'd go today." He fingered the collar of her coat. "Dorrie, we can't. Be practical. There are so many things to be taken care of. I think I have to take a blood test first. I'll have to check on that. And then, if we get married Friday we can have the weekend for a honeymoon. I'm going to get us a reservation at the New Washington House..." She frowned indecisively. "What difference will three days make?" "I guess you're right," she sighed. "That's my baby." She touched his hand. "I... I know it isn't the way we wanted it, but... you're happy, aren't you?" "Well what do you think? Listen, the money isn't that important. I just thought that for your sake..." Her eyes were warm, reaching. He looked at his watch. "You have a ten o'clock, don't you?" "Solamente el Espanol. I can cut it." "Don't. We'll have better reasons to cut our morning classes." She squeezed his hand. "I'll see you at eight," he said. "At the bench." Reluctantly, she turned to go. "Oh, Dorrie..." "Yes?" "You haven't said anything to your sister, have you?" "Ellen? No." "Well you better not. Not until after we're married." "I thought I'd tell her before. We've been so close. I'd hate to do it without telling her." "If she's been so rotten to you the past two years..." "Not rotten." "That was the word you used. Anyhow, she's liable to tell your father. He might do something to stop us." "What could he do?" "I don't know. He would try anyway, wouldn't he?" "All right. Whatever you say." "Afterwards you'll call her up right away. We'll tell everybody." "All right." A final smile, and then she was walking to the sun-bright path, her hair glinting gold. He watched her until she disappeared behind the corner of a building. Then he picked up his books and walked away in the opposite direction. A braking car screeched somewhere, making him start. It sounded like a bird in a jungle. Without forming a conscious decision he was cutting the rest of the day's classes. He walked all the way through town and down to the river, which was not blue but a dull muddy brown. Leaning on the rail of the black-girded Morton Street Bridge, he looked into the water and smoked a cigarette. Here it was. The dilemma had finally caught up with him and engulfed him like the filthy water that pounded the abutments of the bridge. Marry her or leave her. A wife and a child and no money, or be hounded and blackmailed by her father. "You don't know me, sir. My name is Leo Kingship. I'd like to speak to you about the young man you have just employed... The young man your daughter is going with... I think you should know..." Then what? There would be no place to go to but home. He thought of his mother. Years of complacent pride, patronizing sneers for the neighbors' children, and then she sees him clerking in a dry goods store, not just for the summer, but permanently. Or even some lousy mill! His father had failed to live up to her expectations, and he'd seen what love she'd had for the old man burn itself into bitterness and contempt. Was that in store for him too? People talking behind his back. Oh Jesus! Why hadn't the goddamned pills killed the girl? If only he could get her to undergo an operation. But no, she was determined to get married, and even if he pleaded and argued and called her "baby" from now till doomsday, she'd still want to consult Ellen before taking such a drastic measure. And anyway, where would they get the money? And suppose something happened, suppose she died. He would be involved because he would have been the one who arranged for the operation. He'd be right where he started-with her father out to get him. Her death wouldn't do him a bit of good. Not if she died that way. There was a heart scratched into the black paint of the railing, with initials on either side of the arrow that pierced it. He concentrated on the design, picking at it with his fingernail, trying to blank his mind of what had finally welled to the surface. The scratches had exposed cross-sections of paint layers; black, orange, black, orange, black, orange. It reminded him of the pictures of rock strata in a geology text. Records of dead ages. Dead. After a while he picked up his books and slowly walked from the bridge. Cars flew towards him and passed with a rushing sound. He went into a dingy riverside restaurant and ordered a ham sandwich and coffee. He ate the sandwich at a little corner table. While sipping coffee, he took out his memorandum book and fountain pen. The first tiling that had entered his mind was the Colt .45 he had taken on leaving the Army. Bullets could be obtained with little difficulty. But assuming he wanted to do it, a gun would be no good. It would have to look like an accident, or suicide. The gun would complicate matters too much. He thought of poison. But where would he get it? Hermy Godsen? No. Maybe the Pharmacy Building. The supply room there shouldn't be too hard to get into. He would have to do some research at the library, to see which poison... It would have to look like an accident or suicide, because if it looked like anything else, he would be the first one the police would suspect. There were so many details-assuming he wanted to do it. Today was Tuesday; the marriage could be postponed no later than Friday or she might get worried and call Ellen. Friday would be the deadline. It would require a great deal of fast, careful planning. He looked at the notes he had printed: 1. Gun 2. Poison a) Selection b) Obtaining c) Administering d) Appearance of (1) accident or (2) suicide Assuming, of course, that he wanted to do it. At present it was all purely speculative; he would explore the details a little. A mental exercise. But his stride, when he left the restaurant and headed back through town, was relaxed and sure and steady. He reached the campus at three o'clock and went directly to the library. In the card catalogue he found listed six books likely to contain the information he wanted; four of them were general works on toxicology; the other two, manuals of criminal investigation whose file cards indexed chapters on poisons. Rather than have a librarian get the books for him, he registered at the desk and went into the stacks himself. He had never been in the stacks before. There were three floors filled with bookshelves, a metal staircase spiraling up through them. One of the books on his list was out. He found the other five without difficulty on the shelves on the third floor. Seating himself at one of the small study tables that flanked a wall of the room, he turned on the lamp, arranged his pen and memorandum book in readiness, and began to read. At the end of an hour, he had a list of five toxic chemicals likely to be found in the Pharmacy supply room, any one of which, by virtue of its reaction time and the symptoms it produced prior to death, would be suitable for the plan whose rudimentary outline he had already formulated during the walk from the river. He left the library and the campus, and walked in the direction of the house where he roomed. When he had gone two blocks he came upon a dress shop whose windows were plastered with big-lettered sale signs. One of the signs had a sketch of an hourglass with the legend Last Days of Sale. He looked at the hourglass for a moment. Then he turned around and walked back towards the campus. He went to the University Bookstore. After consulting the mimeographed booklist tacked to the bulletin board, he asked the clerk for a copy of Pharmaceutical Techniques, the laboratory manual used by the advanced pharmacy students. "Pretty late in the semester," clerk commented, returning from the rear of the store with the manual in his hand. It was a large thin book with a distinctive green paper cover. "Lose yours?" "No. It was stolen." "Oh. Anything else?" "Yes. I'd like some envelopes, please." "What size?" "Regular envelopes. For letters." The clerk put a pack of white envelopes on the book. "That's a dollar-fifty and twenty-five. Plus tax -a dollar seventy-nine." The College of Pharmacy was housed in one of Stoddard's old buildings, three stories of ivy-masked brick. Its front had broad stone steps that led up the main entrance. At either side of the building were steps leading down to a long corridor which cut straight through the basement, where the supply room was located. There was a Yale lock on the supply room door. Keys to this lock were in the possession of the usual university functionaries, the entire faculty of the College of Pharmacy, and those advanced students who had received permission to work without supervision. This was the regular arrangement followed in all departments of the university which used enough equipment to necessitate the maintenance of a supply room. It was an arrangement familiar to almost everyone on campus. He came in at the main entrance and crossed the hall to the lounge. Two bridge games were in session and some other students sat around, reading and talking. A few of them glanced up when he entered. He went directly to the long clothes rack in the corner and put his books on the shelf above it. Removing his corduroy jacket, he hung it on one of the hooks. He took the pack of envelopes from among his books, removed three of them and folded them into his hip pocket. He put the rest of the envelopes back with the books, took the lab manual, and left the room. He went downstairs to the basement corridor. There was a men's room to the right of the stairwell. He entered it and after looking under the doors to make sure the booths were empty, dropped the manual on the floor. He stepped on it a few times and then kicked it all the way across the tiled floor. When he picked it up it had lost its blatant newness. He put it on the ledge of a sink. Watching himself in the mirror, he unbuttoned the cuffs of his shirt and rolled the sleeves halfway up his arms. He unfastened his collar and lowered the knot of his tie. Tucking the manual under his arm, he stepped out into the corridor. The door to the supply room was midway between the central stairwell and one end of the corridor. On the wall a few feet beyond it was a bulletin board. He walked down to the board and stood before it, looking at the notices tacked there. He stood with his back turned slightly towards the end of the corridor, so that from the corner of his eye he could see the stairwell. He held the manual under his left arm. His right arm was at his side, fingers by his keychain. A girl came out of the supply room, closing the door behind her. She carried one of the green manuals and a beaker half full of a milky fluid. He watched her as she went down the corridor and turned to climb the stairs. Some people entered from the door behind him. They walked past, talking. Three men. They went straight down the corridor and out the door at the other end. He kept looking at the bulletin board. At five o'clock bells rang, and for a few minutes there was a great deal of activity in the hallway. It subsided quickly though, and he was alone again. One of the notices on the board was an illustrated folder about summer sessions at the University of Zurich. He began to read it. A bald-headed man emerged from the stairwell. He had no manual, but it was apparent from the angle at which he approached and the movement of his hand towards his keychain that he was coming to the supply room. There was, however, the look of an instructor.... Putting his back toward the approaching man, he turned a page of the Zurich pamphlet. He heard the sound of a key in the door, and then the door opening and closing. A minute later, it opened and closed again, and the sound of the man's footsteps diminished and then changed to a stair-climbing rhythm. He resumed his former position and lighted a cigarette. After one puff he dropped it and ground it under his foot; a girl had appeared, coming towards him. There was a lab manual in her hand. She had lanky brown hair and horn-rimmed glasses. She was taking a brass key from the pocket of her smock. He lessened the pressure on the manual under his arm, letting it drop down into his left hand, conspicuous with its green cover. With a last casual finger-flick at the Zurich folder, he moved to the supply room door, not looking at the approaching girl. He fumbled wife his keychain as though the keys had caught in the pocket's lining. When he finally brought out. the bunch of keys the girl was already at the door. His attention was on the keys, shuffling through them, apparently looking for a certain one. It seemed as though he didn't become conscious of the girl's presence until she had inserted her key in the lock, turned it and pushed the door partially open, smiling up at him. "Oh... thanks," he said, reaching over her to push the door wide, his other hand rucking the keys back in his pocket. He followed the girl in and closed the door behind them. It was a small room with counters and shelves filled with labeled bottles and boxes and odd-looking apparatuses. The girl touched a wall switch, making fluorescent tubes wink to life, incongruous among the room's old-fashioned fittings. She went to the side of the room and opened her manual on a counter there. "Are you in Aberson's class?" she asked. He went to the opposite side. He stood with his back to the girl, facing a wall of bottles. "Yes," he said. Faint clinkings of glass and metal sounded in the room. "How's his arm?" "About the same, I guess," he said. He touched the bottles, pushing them against each other, so that the girl's curiosity should not be aroused. "Isn't that the craziest thing?" she said. "I hear he's practically blind without his glasses." She lapsed into silence. Each bottle had a white label with black lettering. A few bore an additional label that glared POISON in red. He scanned the rows of bottles quickly, his mind registering only the red-labeled ones. The list was in his pocket, but the names be had written on it shimmered in the air before him as though printed on a gauze screen. He found one. The bottle was a bit above eye level, not two feet from where he stood. White Arsenic -As4O6-POISON. It was half filled with white powder. His hand moved towards it, stopped. He turned slowly until he could see the girl from the corner of his eye. She was pouring some yellow powder from the tray of a balance into a glass cup. He turned back to the wall and opened his manual on the counter. He looked at meaningless pages of diagrams and instructions. At last the girl's movements took on sounds of finality; the balance being put away, a drawer closing. He leaned more closely over the manual, following the lines of print with a careful finger. Her footsteps moved to the door. "So long," she said. "So long." The door opened and closed. He looked around. He was alone. He took his handkerchief and the envelopes from his pocket. With the handkerchief draped over his right hand, he lifted the arsenic bottle from the shelf, put it on the counter and removed the stopper. The powder was like flour. He poured about a tablespoonful into the envelope; it fell in whispering puffs. He folded the envelope into a tight pack, folded that into a second envelope and pocketed it. After he had stoppered and replaced the bottle, he moved slowly around the room, reading the labels on drawers and boxes, the third envelope held open in his hand. He found what he wanted within several minutes: a box filled with empty gelatin capsules, glittering like oval bubbles. He took six of them, to be on the safe side. He put them in the third envelope and slipped it gently into his pocket, so as not to crush the capsules. Then, when everything appeared as he had found it, he took the manual from the counter, turned out the lights, and left the room. After retrieving his books and his jacket, he left the campus again. He felt wonderfully secure; he had devised a course of action and had executed its initial steps with speed and precision. Of course it was still only a tenative plan and he was in no way committed to carry it through to its goal. He would see how the next steps worked out. The police would never believe that Dorrie had taken a lethal dose of arsenic by accident, It would have to look like suicide, like obvious, indisputable suicide. There would have to be a note or something equally convincing. Because if they ever suspected that it wasn't suicide and started an investigation, the girl who had let him into the supply room would always be able to identify him. He walked slowly, conscious of the fragile capsules in the left-hand pocket of his trousers. He met Dorothy at eight o'clock. They went to the Uptown, where the Joan Fontaine picture was still playing. The night before, Dorothy had been anxious to go; her world had been as gray as the pills he had given her. But tonight-tonight everything was radiant. The promise of immediate marriage had swirled away her problems the way a fresh wind swirls away dead leaves; not only the looming problem of her pregnancy, but all the problems she had ever had; the loneliness, the insecurity. The only hint of gray remaining was the inevitable day when her father, having already been appalled by a hasty unquestioning marriage, would learn the truth about its cause. But even that seemed of trifling importance tonight. She had always hated his unyielding morality and had defied it only in secrecy and guilt. Now she would be able to display her defiance openly, from the security of a husband's arms. Her father would make an ugly scene of it, but in her heart she looked forward to it a little. She envisioned a warm and happy life in the trailer camp, still warmer and happier when the baby came. She was impatient with the motion picture, which distracted her from a reality more beautiful than any movie could ever be. He, on the other hand, had not wanted to see the picture on the previous night. He was not fond of movies, and he especially disliked pictures that were founded on exaggerated emotions. Tonight, however, in comfort and darkness, with his arm about Dorothy and his hand resting lightly on the upper slope of her breast, he relished the first moments of relaxation he had known since Sunday night, when she had told him she was pregnant. He surrendered all his attention to the picture, as though answers to eternal mysteries were hidden in the windings of its plot. He enjoyed it immensely. Afterwards he went home and made up the capsules. He tunneled the white powder from a folded sheet of paper into the tiny gelatin cups, and then fitting the slightly larger cups that were the other halves of the capsules over them. It took him almost an hour, since he ruined two capsules, one squashed and the other softened by the moisture of his fingers, before he was able to complete two good ones. When he was finished, he took the damaged capsules and the remaining capsules and powder into the bathroom and flushed them down the toilet. He did the same with the paper from which he had poured the arsenic and the envelopes in which he had carried it, first tearing them into small pieces. Then he put the two arsenic capsules into a fresh envelope and hid them in the bottom drawer of his bureau, under the pajamas and the Kingship Copper pamphlets, the sight of which brought a wry smile to his face. One of the books he had read that afternoon had listed the lethal dose of arsenic as varying from one tenth to one half of a gram. By rough computation, he estimated that the two capsules contained a total of five grams. He followed his regular routine on Wednesday, attending all his classes, but he was no more a part of the life and activity that surrounded him than is the