A Taste for Murder
" It's my belief that the sausage is one of the noblest inventions of mankind," Henry Chandler said. "And presented in the form of a sandwich, it is not only nourishing, but also so practical. One can conduct the process of eating without undue preoccupation. One may read, watch, or hold a gun."
On the wall, the electric clock read fifteen minutes after twelve noon, and except for Chandler and me the offices were empty.
He bit into the sandwich , he chewed, and he swallowed. Then he smiled. "You and my wife were aquainted, Mr. Davis. Exceptionally aquainted, and that now works to my advantage. I will, of course, arrange matters to make it appear that you have taken your own life. But should the police not be deceived and decide a murder has been committed, they will still be at a loss for a motive. There is nothing obvious to link the two of us beyond the fact that you employ me... and twenty others."
I placed my cold fingers on the desk top. "Your wife will know. She'll go to the police."
"Really I doubt it. A woman may do a great deal for her lover when he is alive. But once he is dead it is another matter. There is a fact that she will only suspect that I may have murdered you. She will not know. And this uncertainly, if all else fails, will prevent her from going to the police. She will tell herself, that there is no reason to bring her affair with you into the open. Perhaps there are dozens of people besides me who might want you dead."
I was desperate and it appeared in my voice. "The police will check on everyone. They'll discover that you stayed here after the others left."
He shook his head. " I don't think so. No one knows I'm here. I left when the others did, but I returned because I knew you were alone." He chewed for a moment or two. " I decided that it would be wisest to kill you during the lunch period, Mr. Davis. That is the time in which the police would have the most difficulty in placing anyone. People eat, they wander about, go shopping, or go to the bathroom, and eventually they return to their work. It is almost impossible to verify... or disaprove... where they claim to have been."
He reached into the brown-paper bag again. "Ordinarily I eat in any of the number of cafeterias in this area. But I am not the type who is noticed or missed. For two weeks, Mr. Davis, I have been waiting for you to linger after the others left." He smiled. "And this morning I noticed that you brought your lunch to the office. Did you decide that you would be too busy to go out and eat?"
I licked my lips. "Yes"
He raised the half of the sandwich and peered at the two small sausages. " The human body reacts in peculiar ways. I understand that in moments of stress, grief, fear, and anger-- it often responds with hunger. And at this moment, Mr. Davis, I find myself verrrry hungry." He smiled. "Are you positive you wouldn't care for a sandwich? After all, they are yours."
He wiped his lips with a paper napkin. "When I am presented with a steak, I approach it timidly. Did you know that should I bite into just one morsel of gristle, I am immediately so shattered that I cannot finsh the meal." He studied me. " Perhaps you think I am a bit hysterical to be discussing food at a time like this?" Then he nodded almost to himself. " I don't know why I shouldn't shoot you this instant. Is it because I enjoy these moments and wish to prolong them? Or is it because I really dread the final act?" He shrugged. "But even if I do dread it, let me assure you that I have every intention of finishing this business."
I took my eyes off the paper bag and reached for the pack of gum on my desk. " Do you know where Helen is know?"
"Did you want to say good bye? Or try to have her persuade me to not do this? I am sorry that I can't arrange that Mr. Davis. Helen lft on Thursday to spend a week wioth her sister."
I popped a piece of gum into my mouth and chewed. " I have no regrets about dying. I think I'm quite even with the world and the people in it."
He tilted his head slightly, not understanding.
"It's happened three times," I said. "Three times. Before Helen there was Beatrice, and before Beatrice there was Dorothy."
He smiled suddenly. "Are you trying to waste time? That will not do any actual good, Mr. Davis. I have locked the outer doors to the corridor. Should anyone enter before one o' clock -- which I doubt-- he or she cannot enter. If he or she is persistent and knocks, I will merely shoot you and leave by the back way."
My fingertips left wet marks on the desk top." Love and hate are close, Chandler. Especially with me. When I love or hate I do it itensely. I loved Dorothy and I was certain that she loved me. We would be married. I had planned upon it. Let me put it this way, I expected it. But at the last moment, she told me that she didn't love me. That she never had."
Chandler smiled and bit into the sandwich.
I listened for a moment to the street traffic outside. "I couldn't have her , but no one else could either." I looked at Chandler. " I KILLED HER."
He blinked and and stared at me for a moment. "Why are you telling me this?"
"What difference does it make now?" I said. "I killed her , but that wasn't enough . Do you understand, Chandler? It wasn't enough. I hated her. Hated her."
I chewed on my gum vigorously and spoke. " I bought a knife and a hacksaw. And when I was through cutting up the pieces, I weighed the bag with stones and I dropped it into the river."
Chandler's face had paled.
I glared at the gum in the ashtray. "And two years later I met Beatrice. She was married, but we went out together. For six months. I thought that sheloved me as I loved her. But when I asked her to divorce her husband and come with me she laughed. She laughed.
Chandler had backed away a step.
I could feel the perspiration on my face. "This time the hacksaw and the knife weren't enough. Oh no, that wouldn't satisfy me." I leaned forward. "It was night when I took the bag to the animals. Moonlight. And I watched as they gowled and tore and waited at the bars for more."
Chandler's eyes were wide.
I got up slowly. I touched the sanwich he had left on my desk and lifted up the slice of bread. Then I smiled. "Porked casing come packed in salt, Chandler. Did you know that? In a little round carton. Fifty feet of casing for ten dollars."
I put the slice of bread back in place. "Did you know that sausage stuffers cost thirty-five dollars?"
I stared past him and gave an erie smile, "Firts you bone the meat and then cut it into convenient-sized pieces. The lean, the fat, the grislte."
I met his eyes. "Your wife would not leave you, Chandler. She had been toying with me. I loved her and I hated her. More than I ever hated anyone in this world. And I remembered the cats and how they had enjoyed....."
I looked into Chandler's horror-filled eyes. "Where do you think Helen really is now?"
And I extended the half-eaten sandwich toward him.
After the funeral, I helped helped Helen back into the car. When we were alone, she turned to me. " I' m positive Henry didn't know a thing about us. I just can't understand why he would kill himself, and in your office."
I drove out of the cemetery gate and smiled. " I don't know. Maybe it was something he ate."