The perfect murder (by Roy L. Mangum)
For twenty-two years Mark Melcher had walked from his drugstore to his house at exactly 5 o’clock. Methodical Mark was. For twenty-two years he had been greeted respectfully along the way by men and women who had grown old with him. Dignified and kindly Mark was. “Wouldn’t hurt a fly,” as Bob Barstow, the sheriff, often said. Emily Holden was a mighty pretty girl of about 22. The schoolteacher, and a good one. She had come to Willowville early in September and by Christmas she was dead in love with Andrew Fellows. Old Man Fellows – he wasn’t so very old, though – was the richest man in town and a head of school board. So, naturally, he saw a lot of Emily Holden, and after a spell she was gone over him – like some women get over a man. Well, Emily came into Mark Melcher’s drugstore one day and got behind the prescription counter and began to talk on something awful. Mark listened to her story, and while she was telling it his eyes got to looking mighty ugly. “And you say Andrew Fellows is the man?” he demanded when she got through.
“Oh, I have been such a fool.” Emily sobbed. “But I loved him so, and he promised to marry me. And now he threatens to tell something he says he knows about me, Mr. Melcher. Something he says is terrible. Oh, what shall I do, Mr. Melcher?” Mark put his arms around Emily Holden and held her close and cried. It was awful. Pretty soon he pulled himself together and went to the bank and cashed a fat check. Then he came back and gave Emily the money.
“You go,” he said, “to this address”- he gave her the name of somebody in New York-“and tell the lady there all about it. Tell her Mark Melcher sent you. And don’t you ever come back to Willowville, Emily.” Emily insisted she wouldn’t take the money, of course. But Mark just took her in his arms and kissed her mighty tenderly and made her do it. Then, when she was gone, he got behind his prescription counter again and waited. He had made up his mind to kill Old Man Fellows, to confess, and to let them hang him if they wanted to. Pretty soon Old Man Fellows came in to ask for some of the eyewash he usually bought. “Got a new kind, Andrew,” Mark said slowly. “Smell nice too”. He went behind the counter and got a half-ounce of prussic acid. The pure stuff, undiluted. Then he let Old Man Fellows take a little whiff of it. “Smells sort of like peach blossoms,” said Old Man Fellows. “Kind of nice, isn’t it?” “It’s nice,” said Mark, “and just as good for the eyes as it smells. I’ve only got this much, but I’ll let you have it, same price as the other”. Old Man Fellows smiled. Mark smiled too, for he knew that a single drop of pure prussic acid inside the eye would kill Old Man Fellows almost as quick as lightning. Old Man Fellows paid over his money and started to leave. It was 5 o’clock, so Mark went along with him. At his house Mark turned in and bade his friend good-bye.
Early next morning the news spread like wildfire. Mrs. Thompson, Old Man Fellows’ house-keeper had found him deader than a doornail when she went upstairs to see what had kept him so long before breakfast. Near her master she had found a little bottle, and gripped in Old Man Fellows’ hand, so tightly that he had crushed it, an eyedropper.
At 5 o’clock that afternoon Mark Melcher closed his store, locked it, and walked over to the sheriff’s office. He was going to confess, and clear his conscience, and make his peace with God, even if they hanged him for it. He didn’t care now what would happen.
‘Bob,” he said to the sheriff. “I’ve come to give myself up. I killed Andrew Fellows”. The sheriff started to laugh, but one look at Mark’s eyes stopped him. Wild-looking and sort of glassy they were – like crazy people’s eyes. The sheriff told Mark to sit down and went outside for a minute to whisper something to his deputy. “Mark Melcher’s going crazy”, he said. “He thinks he’s killed Old Man Fellows. Can you beat it? Why, Mark wouldn’t hurt a fly. Too bad! They were friends for years, those two. Guess it must have hit Mark pretty bad”. That news spread like wildfire, too. Mark Melcher had gone kind of crazy over Old Man Fellows’ death. Wasn’t it shame? And Mark such a fine man. So sympathetic. Too sympathetic, he was, worrying himself crazy over his friend’s death because he had sold him some poison. As if he could have known that Old Man Fellows was going to commit suicide, like the coroner said! He got to wandering around Willowville, telling everybody he had killed Old Man Fellows. Folks would listen, shake their heads, and say, “That’s too bad, Mark. That’s too bad”. Then they would walk on. Pretty soon Mark got so nervous that he would wake up at night and scream. His housekeeper left him. They put Mark away in Doe Smith’s sanatorium. Everybody says it’s too bad and they can’t imagine how Mark Melcher ever got the idea that he killed Old Man Fellows. But then, Willowville folks don’t know to this day that Emily Holden was Mark Melcher’s daughter, that Mark had never been married, and that Old Man Fellows was the only human being on earth who knew those things.
Task 1. Choose the correct ending of the sentence:
- Why did Andrew Fellows see a lot of Emily Holden? Because he…
- considered himself to be very attractive.
- was the richest man in town.
- was the head of school board.
- was crazy about her.
- What news was discussed the whole day in the town of Willowville? The main news was that…
- Mr. Melcher had committed a murder and had come to the sheriff to give himself up.
- Mr. Melcher’s best friend had committed suicide and this had affected the moral state of Mr. Melcher.
- Mr. Melcher had murdered his best friend and that had affected his moral state.
- Mr. Melcher had come to give himself up for the committed murder and had been arrested.
- Why didn’t the sheriff believe what Mr. Melcher had told him? Because…
- Mr. Melcher and Andrew Fellows had been friends for many years.
- Mr. Melcher was the best-loved citizen who couldn’t hurt a fly.
- Mr. Melcher was considered to be crazy by everyone in the town.
- The sheriff had found the real murderer.
- When Mark Melcher came to the office of the sheriff he felt …
- Where was Mark Melcher sent to recover his health? To…
- a health resort.
- a rest-house.
- a mental institution.
- an almshouse.
- Why did Mark Melcher kill Andre Fellows? Because Andrew…
- knew Mark had never been married.
- knew Mark had a daughter born out of wedlock.
- knew Emily Holden was his daughter.
- had threatened Emily Holden.
Task 2. Choose the right answer to the question:
- Why did Emily Holden come to the drugstore?
- She wanted to get some medicine.
- She was going to ask Mark Melcher for some money.
- She was seeking some advice.
- She was hiding from Andrew Fellows.
- Which word does not describe the attitude of Mark Melcher, which he displayed towards Emily after listening to her story?
- For what purpose did Andrew Fellows come to the drugstore?
- To find Emily Holden.
- To talk to Mr. Melcher.
- To buy some eye drops.
- To buy some prussic acid.
- What was the attitude of the citizens to Mark Melcher after they learnt the news?
- They blame him.
- They sympathized with him.
- They were happy for him.
- They were afraid of him.
Task 3. Give your own opinion about:
- Mark Melcher
- Andrew Fellows
- Emily Holden
Task 4. Give your opinion about death penalty in a short summary
Answers: task 1 — c, b, b, a, a, d; task 2 — c, c, c, b.
#murder, #crime, #poison, #confess, #suicide