Author's Note: SFFS is pronounced "SaFFS" for the same reason that "stf" is pronounced "stef"adding a vowel changes the recitation of initials into a word.

ODTAA: vol 2. Bill-032466-Glass

Did you ever notice how much crud was presented under the title of



The corpse on the floor was mine. Not that it was mine because I killed it. That would be too simple. It was mine because I used to live there. And now I was dead. What the hell, toujours gai....

There I lay spilled out onto the floor from the tipped over chair in front of the littered desk. My right arm had tilted one of the piles of the plastic-bagged magazines across the pseudo-oriental rug. My left hand clutches the small silver sliver protruding from the back of my neck. That silly hurt-puppy expression fading from my eyes and the purply tongue that casually insults the ceiling made my death seem as dramatic as last week's Beverly Hillbillies.

That's the way I always knew I'd die. Neat, quiet, and almost painlessly. Alive, I would be apologizing for the inconvenience I will be causing the police.

But I am dead. How 'bout that. No harps, glory, or winged visions; no flames or screaming fiends. Some of the people I knew who are still religious would be quite disappointed. There was that one naked, absolutely-cold moment of exposure to the infinite Universe before the implosion to self. But now mycall it my immortal soul, my imperishable personality, if you will: I'll be informal and call it memy self sits (floats?) here feeling as alert as a thawed-out minute steak.

The old ideas about a murdered man haunting the scene of the crime seem to be valid. I feel so much a part of this room. I sense it as though through that "sense of perception" Doc Smith described his Lensmen as having. The dull, fuzzy, trampled pattern of the rug; the downward, frosted, pebbled bulge of the light from the painted plaster ceiling; the scratch of the faded linen curtains against the dusty glass of the French doors; the inanely random pattern made by the dust jacket spines jammed in shelves covering the walls; the green stencil slumped half-filled in the IBM electric typewriter: all simultaneously converge with equal clarity and emphasis upon that personality point-of-view that is me.

So here is my questing personality with a beautiful opportunity. Here I have my very own corpse. I was present during an act of murder. I know the murder weapon. I even know the thoughts the dying man used as a tagline for his life. I am the best possible amateur detectivethe victimand I do not know who killed me.

I'm not even sure why I was killed.

At times I get this feeling I can't do anything right.

I had that sort of feeling aboutby the Timex on what was my left wrista half-hour ago. I was cutting an article for Alternate Universe, comparing the book and magazine serial versions of Doc Smith's Lensman series. My typing ability was inaccurate at its two-fingered best. I noticed the line intended to read "...and having crushed the Eich planet between two other planets (symbolism) came out "too other planets."

It was while reaching for the bottle of correcting fluid that I heard someone walking up the sidewalk outside the duplex. As I wasn't expecting any visitors for an hour, I dismissed the footsteps as the man next door coming home from work.

The corflu was becoming rather viscous. I hunched over and carefully wiped the thick liquid onto the stencil. In concentrating on not getting the stuff too thick to type through and wondering if I would be able to meet the bi-monthly deadline I had set myself with AU, I missed the sound of the French door being edged open.

I heard the first pfft but somehow missed the second when I felt the dart hit my neck. It must have struck near a small because the poison hit my brain almost immediately. It was like getting clobbered on the head from the inside out. My lungs stopped. My heart stopped. I stopped.

I had been turning in the chair. All the good it did me was to spill me onto the floor when the convulsant permeated my brain. I caught a glimpse of a face turning away, but it didn't help either.

My last cohesive though was that nobody would really want to kill me. And then I was dead.

Lew Robert's old Rambler scrapes up to the curb outside. The body is dead, but my Timex keeps on ticking. 7:15. There are, from the sounds as the car doors slam, two people with Lew: Ron Fell and his wife Georgine. The three laugh and chat as they come lightly up the walk. Ron's arm pushes open the door for Goe.


Most science fiction fans either wear glasses or beards. Ron does bothemphatically. He looks like the kind of person who keeps control in any situation, saving his reactions for later. His beard just looks a little blacker in contrast to his face as he sees my body. His voice is calm as he squats down by me. "Wait in the car, Gee. Call the police, Lew. Ben has been murdered."

Lew Roberts usually remains isolated and independent, especially since the Galactic Observer affair a few years back. His apologetic mustache is the closest he has ever come to giving in to a beard. His wire-framed glasses do their best to pretend they're not on his face. At times, he seems to be apologizing for occupying space.

That is all that he is good for now. He is sort of weaving back and forth giving himself motion sickness. "But that was impossible? Who would want to"

"I know," Ron says scanning the floor and finding the telephone sitting in my overstuffed "visitor's chair." "Things like this don't happen in real life. It is an emergency, operator. Nobody would want to kill a science fiction fan. Hello. Yes. I would like to report a murder. 2158 Sheffield off Wyoming. Second from the corner on the right. Ronald Henry Fell. Yes, I will wait and not touch anything.

Lew, who has sat in the chair, takes the telephone. Ron looks at the half-finished stencil, smiles at the spelling. "SaFFS ought to finish this AU for Ben."

"What? Yes. At least we all have alibis," Lew mutters, nervously pushing his glasses back up his nose. "I'd hate to be fandom's first murderer."

"That would almost be as bad as being fandom's first murdered," Ron retorts.

Outside I hear Goe's voice as the police car pulls up.


"Soft gee, oh, ee; so it's pronounced 'joe'," Goe explains to the Negro policeman as the man in the white coat enters. He's so large he diminishes Ron to bare significance. He looks Hawaiian, and they used to breed them big like that in the old days there. He must weigh at least two hundred fifty pounds. Some of that has settled into a band of fat around his abdomen. But his huge chest, thick legs and arms, and massive, neckless head put his waist into proportion. His fingers are normal-sized, which gives them the illusion of being long and slender.

Unless he does something about his diet, the scale collecting in his steampipe arteries and veins will kill him within ten years. And his heart itself isn't in that sturdy a condition. He looks as if he would worry about such things just before falling asleep or after making love.

He looks at what was once my face. He squats down beside my head and glares up at Ron and the second policeman, who stand on the other side of me. "You were told not to touch anything. But you could have closed his eyes."

His voice was a delicate illusion like the fingers he uses to slide my eyelids closed.

Disregarding the policemen, he stands up and turns to Ron. "Mr. Fell? I an Lt. Tamatoa. How long had you known Mr....?"

"Lynn. Frank Lynn. I think you can see why, but we all called him Ben. I met him about five years ago when he was a student at UCLA. He kept in touch with Goe and me when he was snatched into the army for two years. When he got out, a little over a year ago, he tried to finish out his four years, but couldn't hack it. He worked for a while in one of the food services in a dorm, then he started working over at the Santa Monica Library. He and another fan shared expenses here, but Jerry moved out last week to get married..."

"Fan? Later. But why did you and your wife?your wife come here this evening?"

"Our station wagon's transmission was out, and we needed a ride to the SaFFSScience Fiction and Fantasy Societymeeting tonight and we knew that Lew Roberts always takes Ben in."

Lt. Tamatoa notices Lew for the first time. "Mr. Roberts?"

Lew's head jerks up. He slides his glasses back up along his nose. "Yes?"

"How long have you known Mr. Lynn?"

"Well, he first started coming to SaFFS about five years ago, but I didn't get to knew him for about a year. He usually didn't get involved in club doings to a great extent, and I never did. So I guess I've known him for about four years, I'd say."

Lt. Tamatoa turns as the Negro policeman hrumphs at his elbow. He takes the cellophane envelope, reads the label, then holds it up to the light and turns, it looking at the darts inside. "Poison darts? One in his neck, the other on the desk. With my luck, they have been dipped in curare and we will find a feather from an ancient Aztec breechcloth outside. Mr. Fell, had Mr. Lynn desecrated any temples recently?"

Ron smiles for the first time that evening. Lew looks up, incomprehension filling his face. Goe sits down on the chair's right arm, brushes back her hair, and listens quietly. Outside, the ambulance stops. The driver and attendant slam their doors, slide out the stretcher, and pull it clattering up the walk.

"Not that I knew of. Fans may be a little strange, but they usually die in as mundane a manner as anyone else."

"Fans again. You said you are all members of this Science Fiction and Fantasy Society. How many others are in this group, and do you think any one of them would have disliked Mr. Lynn enough"

"I don't think anyone from SaFFS would kill Ben, officer," interrupts Lew.

The men from the ambulance swing my body onto the stretcher. Goe reaches into her large handbag, draws out a small spiral sketch book and a pencil. Lew and Ron watch the stretcher roll out to the ambulance. I am glad it is gone myself. I have better things to do than watch myself decay. I may not have a stomach, but even a legless man's toes twitch.

The lieutenant signs the form handed him and then turns back to Lew. "Why do you think that no one from your group would kill a fellow member?"

"They... They just wouldn't."

"I'm sure. And married couples would never hate each other because they are in love. Would you like to know how many husbands and wives try to or succeed in killing each other?"

"What I think Lew means, Lt. Tamatoa," Ron interjects, "is that science fiction fandom is largely held together by bonds of hate. At any time, someone in fandom is feuding with someone else, usually with backers egging them on and fence sitters egging both sides on. But fans usually disassociate themselves or perpetuate their grievances in long-running, one-sided arguments in their amateur magazines. Fans usually relieve themselves in print and don't get physical. And besides, Ben has never been involved in any large-scale feuds.

Goe finishes up her sketch of the room and the chalk outline, flips her pad closed, and stuffs it back into her handbag. "Why not come to SaFFS tonight, Lieutenant? You could sign in as a guest and observe people. Later you could question those who looked guilty."

"The members don't notice visitors anyway," Ron adds.

Lt. Tamatoa thinks. Then he asks the policemen if they will be able to handle everything. The other detective, who has been standing in the doorway, says he has things under control. Lt. Tamatoa tells him he will be back in a few hours.

"Shall we see how much hate you 'fans' can generate, Mr. Fell? Mr. Roberts, you take Mrs. Fell. I would like Mr. Fell to ride with me in case we lose you."


My perception seems to follow Lt. Tamatoa and Ron and Lew and Goe out to their respective cars. It is not as if I 'see through' the wall as through a window. No, I still sense the inner surface of the wall, the joists and wire within, and the plaster on the outer wall as well as the people sliding into the cars out on the street.

Now I just 'see' the wall again.

I think I realize what my problem is. Whatever it is that still 'lives' is dominated by earthbound/fleshbound preconceptions. Much more is impressing itself upon me than I allow to enter my point-of-view consciousness as sensations. As I could only see surfaces when alive, I assume I can only sense surfaces now that I am freshly dead; so I do not see any deeper.

Wait. That's not right. I could see into Lt. Tamatoa for a moment when he came in. And I just saw through the wall. I wonder what would happen if I opened my mind to all the sensations impinging upon it....


I don't think that I am ready to encompass the Cosmic All.

Too many details of the universe are irrelevant to my interests. How can the impact of a bursting photon, the sound of one bacterium splitting in two, the color of the center of Aldebaran, or the odor of (either) Magellanic Cloud help me find my murderer.

Something else now occurs to me. If my preconceptions have been limiting my perceptions, could they also be limiting my location? I expand my sensing south and eastward to the freeway until it finds two cars. Then my center locus slides to a new position moving along in the car carrying Lt. Tamatoa and Ron Fell.

Something about the sliding disturbs me. It isn't the feeling of passing by (and through?) the atoms of the walls, air, and the roof of the car. It's that shift in the movement of the photons moving with me: they seem to slow, then reverse direction. First, stuff like that ain't supposed to happen according to whirligig Al. Second, how could I move so fast as to produce such a shift and still sense it?

As the lieutenant might say, "Later."

Right now, Lt. Tamatoa is saying, "Could you give me a brief run-down of youryour wife's and your ownmovements today, Mr. Fell?"

" 'Just the facts, Ma'am.' Just this afternoon okay?"


"I was working at UCLA all afternoon. I work in the Architect's office there, planning new construction, working on remodeling and upkeep co-ordinations on the existing structures. I ran around from Haines to Franz, to Life Sciences, and in my office in the Administration building. It would be rough to say where I was every moment of the afternoon."

"No bother. Mr. Lynn could not have been dead for more than an hour when you called us. I would place the time of death as somewhere between 5:30 and 6:30."

"Well, Goe and I can vouch for each other. She called me around 4:30 to say that the car was acting up on her way back from taking Lysaour daughterover to Goe's parents' for the weekend. When she took it to our Shell station, the attendant told her the transmission has lost its seal and was leaking, and they'd have to keep the car overnight.

"I called Lew, and he said that he would be able to drive us over to SaFFS tonight. Taking the #1 bus from UCLA, I arrived home about 5:40. Goe and I had a quick supper, left the dishes in the sink, then walked over to Lew's apartment. We got there about 6:20 or so. We talked for a while, then left for Ben's about five of or seven."

"This our off-ramp? Good. What time did you arrive at Mr. Lynn's?"

"A quarter after to twenty after, I didn't notice exactly. I didn't notice anything strange as we drove up. Of course, we weren't expecting... I remember wondering why the French doors were open, but it has been a warm October."

"Mmm. And what can you tell me about Mr. Roberts's movements this evening?"

"When Lew answered the door he was drying his hands on a towel. He had just finished running off his Apa-S zinea one-sheet magazine for the SaFFS's weekly amateur press associationand had gotten some ink on his hands. We went back to his mimeo room and talked while he pulled his slipsheets. We chatted about Clyde Frederics's Sociology thesis on fandom, and I told Lew about the new in-group forming in the North Hollywood axis of the club. Lew said something as to how he has sworn off in-group involvements since the Galactic Observers mess back in '66."

"And what was that?"

"Lew Roberts became involved in an in-group that called itself the Galactic Observers. The group would go around and pretend that they were visitors fromif it's okay with you, I'll explain a little later. We're here."

"Here" is a California goth house built in the early twenties by a family with a lot of children. It had fallen into disrepair when bought by the SaFFS in '67 and rebuilt into the first permanent clubhouse of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Society: Freehaven Hall. The club mimeo occupies the laundry room, the club library is housed in the nursery, cards are played in the dining room, and meetings are held every Friday in the living room. Upstairs there are now five bedrooms. The "caretakers," Mr. and Mrs. Broadbent, live in the master bedroom. They are not really fans, but have nice open minds. He is a fair card player, while she is a good cook. The other bedrooms are rented out at minimum rates to fans as an income to help pay expenses and the Broadbents' small salary. Other funds come from auctions and the club treasury.

Lt. Tamatoa receives all this background information as Ron retrieves his briefcase from Lew's car. Ron leads the way up to the porch, Goe fills in Lt. Tamatoa, and Lew Roberts trails behind. I 'slide' past the wall into the meeting room as everybody turns to see who is coming in the door.


I would have expected the moment to hang suspended. Ron would pause a moment. Then he would step aside, allowing Lt. Tamatoa to come forward. The lieutenant would slowly sweep the audience with an authoritative stare until one gaze would falter....

But Ron just turns left across the card room toward the mimeo room at the rear of the house. Goe steers the detective to the right, across the meeting hall to the middle window seat along the right wall. Lew Roberts breaks to the left across the card room to the library.

Ron pulls his Apa-S contribution from his briefcase and slaps it down on the collating table. Ben Lawrence, a squat, bespectacled, 21-year-old fan, scowls up from the table of contents he has half cut. "You're late."

"Car broke down. And another slight problem. Come out to the meeting room in a few minutes and bring your busy little gnomes" Ron gestures at the frantic collators flipping their way down the table "and you'll learn all about it. By the way, I brought a guest tonight. A policeman. Don't talk it around. But do try to catch any of the underage fen before they wander out from the kitchen with a can of beer in their hands.

Ron clicks his briefcase shut as Ben's mouth falls open. But before he can mutter, "A cop?", Ron is halfway back across the card room. Ron pauses a moment to scoop the chip racks off the table and put them back into the lowboy below the front window. Then he hurries in to rejoin his wife and the lieutenant.

Once they see that the figure in the doorway is Ron Fell, most of the SaFFS members turned back to pretend to listen to Hank Webster read the minutes of the October 23, 1969 meeting. They don't even register Lt. Tamatoa.

The collective snub seems not to have bothered the large Hawaiian as he sits down and takes in the room. From the profiles of the members, to the Paul, Emsh, and Freas cover originals above a cabinet of sculptures pushed against the wall opposite him, to the skull and spaceship symbol (de morituri ad astra) above the fireplacehe finally focuses on the three people sitting at the card table in front of the fireplace.

"And the three there are who, Mrs. Fell?"

"The young fellow with his back toward us is Hank Webster, our Secretary. He's one of the comic fans from USC we attracted a year or so ago. Only he stayed and managed to win the post of Secretary in the last election. He's going to run again in December, but I think Clyde Frederics is going to run against him.

"That's Dan Jefferies in the center" a tall, blond, personable man in his late twenties "our current Director. He doesn't really have the force of personality to focus the club. Ron's been helping him on the program schedule, and is thinking of running himself in the next election. "And on the left" a balding man in his middle thirties wearing narrow frame glasses and a large burnt sienna mustache " is the club Treasurer, John Webbert"

"As his hair's gotten thinner," a high whisper breaks in with a childlike gaiety, "his mustache's gotten denser. Some of us have made book on which will occur first: total baldness or death by starvation behind that hair curtain."

Lt. Tamatoa turns to look down through a pair of pale-rimmed glasses into two eyes squinting amid the rosy glow of self-appreciation. "Hello. I'm Dave Koenig. I can tell you about anyone here so you could get to know people, this being your first meeting. Now that short fellow who's reviewing the latest issue of Impulse"

"Good evening, Dave."

"HeHi, Ron."

"I'm sure you introduced yourself. Now, may I introduce Lt. Tamatoa"

Dave sits back, looks at the lieutenant's mufti, then starts in again. "Just out of the Army, or"

The large detective takes a deep breath. Just this is enough to shut Dave up for a moment. Lt. Tamatoa exhales. "Mr. Koenig, I am not a science fiction fan. I am a lieutenant in the Los Angeles Police Department."


"-And I am here on business."

"Look! Keep it down back there. If you want to talk, go into the library."

"Sorry, Dan, we'll keep it down."

"But" Dave starts to say, but Ron scowls at him and mouths the words: "Keep it down." Dave looks from Ron to the detective. Then to Goe. She smiles, looks at her nails, then back at him. He trundles himself back to his seat.

Dave whispers to Jim Sorstman, who whispers to Phil Mahler, one of SaFFS's resident artists, who scratches his black jawline beard only a moment before rising and striding toward the mimeo room.

"Ben, Ron's brought a policeman here tonight!"

"He told me when he came in."

"Did he tell you that said policeman is here on business?"

"What the hell does that mean? I think we'd better go out and find out what is going on."

"The way Dave Koenig's spreading it around, it shouldn't be too long before everybody knows who and what he is. Then he'll have to say what his business here is."

"...Probably just watching the members unobtrusively. But now that his cover's been blown...," Mike Gilbert informs the group chatting in the library. He is sitting on an arm of the brown chair, talking to Janet WebbertMrs. John Webbert. Lew Roberts sits in the other chair. Three others are scattered about the floor. Peter Joslyn and Joanne Jacobs are stretched out together between the two chairs: he wears a man-about-the-world attitude that fits him like his garish beard, and she wears the smug complacency of one who has just discovered that sex transcends mere matters of gender. The third, Bill Glass, squats Indian style in the opposite corner, neither really reading the '43 Astounding or contributing to the conversation.

Jan Webbert is the female counterpoint to Ron within the Society. She isn't as physically imposing as Ron, having lost a little of her figure since getting married and having two children, but this has simply added a veneer of matronly power to her other assets of gender and a forceful personality. Even those who may dislike her will admit that she, like Ron, seems to wear a dark velvet aura of being larger than life.

"But what could someone in SaFFS have done to involve us with the LA Police?" she asks Mike.

"I could tell you what he thinks it is," Lew Roberts says. "But it would be better if you heard it from him. I don't really think you'd believe me."

"Ron," says Dan Jefferies, "am I to understand that your guest is not really a guest?"

"Yes. But perhaps it will be better to get the back room groups outForget it. It seems that the information has filtered to them rapidly enough."

Lt. Tamatoa stands up. He moves around the chairs to the front of the room. Resting his left hand on the card table, he looks at the members. "Ladies and gentlemen, my name Lt. Tamatoa, and I am a detective out of the Homicide Division of the Los Angeles Police Department. Earlier this evening, a crime was committed involving a member of this group. I am not suggesting that anyone here is guilty of this crime, but I would like to question each of you. It will be just routine."

"What happened?" cries a voice from the rear of the room.

"Mr. Frank Lynn has been murdered."

From the rear of the room there comes a loud laugh.

chapter five

"You disappoint me, Ronald Fell," purrs Jane Webbert. "Evan Regan might stage a put-on like this for its shock value. But not you."

During this, Lt. Tamatoa undoes the top button of his white coat, slides those seemingly slender fingers inside, and draws out a leatherette case which he shakes open and hands to Dan Jefferies. Dan looks at the badge, reads the ID card, and hands it back shaking his head.

"No matter what you may think, Madam, I am a policeman, a murder has been committed, and I do intend to conduct some routine questioning this evening."

"No one would really kill Ben!" she protests.

The lieutenant sighs and his shoulder droop. "You are the third person in less than two hours to helpfully advise me that Mr. Lynn would or could not be murdered. The sincerity of these protestations has not yet satisfied my desire to learn why Mr. Lynn is dead. The more people give me this information, the more I feel that one of you fans is the murderer and that you merely do not want to create a bad image for your little in-group.

"The private in-group to which I belongthe Homicide Division of the Los Angeles Police Departmentwould like me to uphold its image by discovering the person or persons who killed a man tonight. In an effort to fulfill their trust" he turns to Dan again, "Mr. Jefferies, do you have a quiet room I could use?"

"The library."

"Fine. Mr. Webster, will you compile a list of the people present, their addresses, and their phone numbers? You will all be held responsible for seeing that no one with some kind of guilty conscience decides it prudent to leave. I might as well begin with you, Mr. Jefferies; then you and Mr. Fell can oversee out here."

"Great," think I, "maybe now I can find out why somebody might want to kill me."

No such luck.

The library is a perfect interrogation room. Lt. Tamatoa places the interogee in the green armchair under the 200 watt floor lamp. He himself sits in the shiny paisley armchair dully illuminated by the 150 watt bulb in the ceiling fixture. The booksboth hard- and soft-coveredthe pulp magazines, even the colloidal motes of book dust in the air absorb exterior sounds while muting the conversations within.

"Good evening Mr. (or Miss or Mrs.)..... How well did you know Mr. Lynn? What were you doing this afternoon? What time (and with whom) did you arrive tonight? Did you see anyone come in late? Can you think of a reason why someone would murder Mr. Lynn?"

The Hawaiian sits there, his body forming itself to the contours of the overstuffed chair, looking the person in his eyes while he answers, or down into his lap, musing and reflecting bursts of light off his flying-fish tie clip. One by one they file in and say their piece. Except for a neofan who suddenly remembers he's sixteen and really shouldn't be smoking in front of a cop, nobody gets nervous.

And nobody says anything significant.

All I really get out of the whole thing is a small observation: It's amazing how many friends you have if you've just been murdered and the police ask people if they had any reasons for disliking you. Especially those who hardly knew you or knew you too well.

What the hell, I think (while wondering about the appropriateness of the expletive in my condition) this isn't getting me anywhere. So I restrict my sensing to the other downstairs rooms. At the card table, Mike Gilbert, thinking he's using the ten of spades, just trumps a diamond trick with the six of diamonds. Nobody notices. Drew Rhodes, MIT '64, pumps Ron on the modus operandi. Gun? Knife? Rope? Something esoteric. Ron growls. The pest buzzes off to needle someone else. John Webbert gets a bright idea. People fold the chairs and collapse the table, and drag them into the closet under the stairs. It's something to do.

I feel like materializing to apologize for spoiling the meeting. But I probably couldn't if I tried.

I feel deathly bored. Just for fun I look at the femmefans, ignoring their clothes. This depresses me more. Most aren't worth the effort. And I feel damnably guilty staring at the rest. So I take in the gestalt of their bodies down to the atomic level. You just can't understand a woman by looking at her constituent parts.

I wish I could sense their thoughts. I've always felt women writers were putting us on when they describe what a woman thinks. Men writers grope in the dark. And I still feel that the result of a wide-open two-way between a man and a woman would be a lot more violent (soft or sharp I never decided) than Doc Smith showed it.

Joanne Jacobs is going to kill a rabbit in a few weeks.

Just because I'm dead is no reason to get morbid all of a sudden, I try to tell myself. I want out of here, but where else can I go? Maybe if I changed my perception of time. The world goes whirr. This frightens me. The world goes click. Good morning.

Everybody's still asleep. Pardon me: everybody's in bed but two aren't sleeping.

Whirr. Click. Crepe paper is growing up the doorways and drooping from the ceiling. Mrs. Broadbent's mixing punch for tonight's party. She doesn't put any liquor in, for everybody now knows Drew Rhodes will slip some vodka in about 8:15, thinking he's putting something over on somebody. Mr. Broadbent's out at the Ralph's. Frank Enright is cutting out paper shapes drawn by Jill Palisair (formerly Joslyn, nee Ingalls) who is now bubbling around adding moral support with a dust cloth.

This looks like loads of laughs so I slide my locus over to see what the Fells are doing. Georgine says good bye to her mother, pushes the button, waits for the dial tone. She hands the receiver to Ron. He dials.

"Los Angeles Police Department? May I be connected with Lt. Tamatoa of the Homicide Division please? Thank you. Lt. Tamatoa? Ron Fell. Any progress?"

"Why, yes. Remember I thought we'd be looking for some vindictive Indian? It was close. We are looking for a heavy-set, dark-complectioned Caucasian with a stripe of white paint down his nose.

chapter six

"A white stripe down his nose?"

"Yes, Mr. Fell. Last night, Sergeant Ripley questioned Paul Starkey, the man living in the other half of the duplex. Starkey, coming east along Wyoming after getting off at the Lancashire bus stop, saw a man turn the corner from Sheffield and walk towards him. He described the man as 'bulky' and as carrying a 'stick'. That could be our blowgun, Mr. Fell. This bulky man was about 5'9" tall and wore a 'shapeless' hat. He did not seem to notice Mr. Starkey, yet, when he was about twenty feet away, he began to try and hide his face. But by then Mr. Starkey could see that the man was Caucasian with no glasses or facial hair, like a beard of mustache, and with a complection like a deep tan and a white stripe'like paint'down his nose. That description wouldn't ring any bells with you, would it, Mr. Fell?"


"Mr. Fell, you are adopting the tone of an amateur detective. Take my advice. Stick to amateur publishing. If you have any suspicions, please tell them to me so that I may have them checked out."

"I will, Lieutenant. And I'll ask around at the Halloween party tonight to see if anyone might know of a mundane acquaintance of Ben's that might fit that description. Thank you for your time. Good bye." Ron hangs up and turns to Goe. "He has a white stripe on his nose. The murderer."

"I heard... But, dear, it's about half past two. The station said the Glue Box would be fixed by now."

Ron seems not to have heard. He remains silent a moment, disrupting his beard with his fingers. Then he looks up. "Yes. I'd better walk down and get it now. I can get ready to go when I get back. And the walk may help me think...."

"Do you really believe that a fan might have murdered Ben?"

"I'll be back in about forty-five minutes."

"Don't tell me then. I won't tell you my new costume idea, either. Maybe we can both surprise each other when you get back."

Goe listens to Ron descending the stairs. Then she hurffs and turns across the living room and down the hall to their bedroom. She rummages through their closets, dragging out one of Ron's dress shirts, a tie, the pants she wore as Ayn Rand to a party the year before, a vest that looks as if it was a gift from a semi-distant relative with no taste, and a hat picked out by that relative's wife. She uses the sewing machine to lightly stitch a fold in the back of the shirt so it will fit her. Done, she looks at it at arm'slength. Then, glancing toward the street, she hruffs again.

Moving over to the vanity table, Goe brings out her make-up materials. After warming some mortician's wax in her hands for a few moments, she rubs it on her cheeks. Slowly her face widens, then her nose and brows thicken. She lays some brown crepe hair in the wax for eyebrows, then dusts her face and neck with a brown base powder.

A dish towel pinned around her chest reapportions her weight, while two bath towels pinned about her waist add twenty pounds to her profile and diminish her hips. She buttons herself into the shirt, tucks it into the pants. She shrugs on the vest. Then her hair disappears under the hat, raising the apparent height of her forehead.

She glances at the alarm clock by the bed. 3:30. She starts to frown, but hears the sound of footsteps returning up the stairs and smiles. Hustling herself quickly from the bedroom, Goe positions herself before the door. Ron opens the door, starts to shout something, then sees his wife.

"You wouldn't, dear. Oh, yes, you would. You're actually going to come tonight as Frank Lynn!?"

Confidentially, Ron, old man, I wish you wouldn't crack up so much. I can appreciate the humor much more than you. Maybe it is funny. But not that funny.

For the next few hours, the Fells get ready for the party. Ron shaves. Goe puts in the final stitching on Ron's costume. Save for the box caps and shovel hat, Ron gets dressed. Goe prepares dinner. I wait for Ron to perhaps call Lt. Tamatoa back for another progress report. Finally deciding that nothing is going to happen at this end, I move my center of perception to Freehaven Hall in hopes the early birds have come.

They have. Mike Gilbert and Jan Webbert are sitting under the spider webs in the window seat. Mike is wearing a dark velveteen-hooded cloak asaccording to his costume tagone of the "Seven Black Priests" from the story of the same name. He has already started his first bottle of plum wine for the evening. Jan is wearing a suggestive black gown, an almost pointed cap, and the most secularly ethereal make-up I've seen as "Mother of the Witch Brood". Her husband, J. W., not in costume, sits in the corner obliviously contemplating the latest Analog.

Jill Palisair is in the card room dancing along the lowboy laying out the chips and nibbles. Frank Enright, squatting on the floor by his ray rifle, is accompanying her with the record player. Mr. Broadbent, watching Jill, plays a red five on a red six in his solitaire game. Mrs. Broadbent's upstairs resting.

6:30. A sloppy paradiddle announces the cloaked, chain-mailed figure of Ross Davidson beating his own drum as a "Middle Earth Drummer Boy". Though in his mid-twenties and wearing a beard, Ross still seems like a precocious kid. Seeing no other card player than Mr. B., Ross chucks his drum on the lowboy and goes out to buy some booze.

Dan and Marian Jefferies pass him on their way in. Neither is in costume. Dan has a bundle of fanzines under his armthe Fantasy Amateur Press Society's deadline is Monday and Jan's the Official Editor. Dan drags Jan over to the stairs to talk FAPS, leaving Marian to sit next to Mike. She says they are just staying long enough to deliver Dan's FAPSzines, then get home to the kids. Mike smiles.

More arrive. Dave Koenig comes in as himself. A weapons-encrusted Drew Rhodes enters as "The Ultimate Nullifier". Ross comes back with his booze. Ben Lawrence walks in with a vest of golden Chap-sticks as "Chap, the Unavoidable." Lew Roberts comes to the door wearing a hat made out of a spastic copper tube having an epileptic fit decorated with flowers. Lew does work at that botanical garden, and he is manually dexterous. If only that deviously inscrutable mind of his would manifest itself more often, he would be more of a personality within the Society.

But this "Dedicated Follower of Fashion2069" doesn't quite make it into Freehaven Hall. He freezes in the doorway as Dan Jefferies glances over toward the window seat and shouts: Get away from my wife, Gilbert!"

Everyone's head whiplashes toward the sound. In the entire house, only two people move. Marian Jeffries pushes Mike against the corner post, then stands and cringes out of the way. Two strides carry Dan Jeffries across the room. One fist lifts the uncomprehending Gilbert to his feet. Two sounds disturb the quiet of the moment: a slap followed by a soft backhanded crunch. Dan Jefferies seems to turn, grab his wife, and brush past Lew in the doorway in one flowing motion. Mike Gilbert makes several small, discrete, uneven movements before he drops to the floor near the fireplace. The sound of his fall is drowned out by the sound of a car door slamming.

Babel. Then motion. Mike Gilbert, being helped back to the window seat by Jan and John Webbert, sums up the general reaction. "What Happened?" John is waved out to the kitchen to get some ice cubes to slow the swelling as it spreads from Mike's lower lip to the rest of his jaw. Lew Roberts moves slowly from the door to look down at Mike's head resting in Jan's lap. "What did you do?"

Mike is still coming out of shock. His jaw doesn't move too well. "Nothing. I didn't do anything. We were just talking. And I was going to put my arm around her shoulders. And she pushed me away and Dan shouted. Then Jan was picking me up from the floor. I don't think that it is broken."

I think that the adrenalin in his blood and the sore jaw are going to keep Mike very sober for the rest of the evening.

Seven more people arrive between seven and seven-thirty. First Gene Taggert comes in with his wife Karen. He's wearing a yachting jacket and cap, but with gold dollar signs instead of the usual insignia, and has green wads of money (Real? No.) drooping from his pockets. Karen is in a meek little dress that has been torn here and there. She is smudged and resembles a rape victim. Their costume titles are "A Captain of Industry" and "The Exploited Masses".

Next to arrive is Larry Greenberg (one of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Society's Resident Pros) wearing a pair of crumpled horns as a "prematurely Aged Satyr", and a sweet young thing in an informally dressy gown on his right arm. A few minutes pass before a cloaked, daggered, helmeted, and sworded Peter Joslyn stamps across the door trim as "A Mercurian Mercenary". He is followed by Joanne Jacobs who is just wearing an empire-style gown.

Then Evan K. Reagan comes in.

Evan has been around the Society for about ten years. He and Jan Webbert used to be friends. But he has been in that floating out-group of enemies (which always seems a little larger than her floating in-group of friends) for about five years now. They now tolerate each other. Although Evan is in real-estate (high rise bordellos and split-level whorehouses, Jan used to say) he has an acting talent and usually shows up to these affairs in a good costume.

This time he is The World's Faggiest Cossack: "Baras Tulba". As usual, the costume is an excuse to shave his head so his bald spot will not be noticed and commented on. He wears a decrepit pair of baggy trousers held up by a sash the color of wet red clay. Brown body makeup reflects highlights from his head, chest, arms, and feet. A beauty mark enhances his left cheek. A floral pattern decorates the scabbard for his sword. He draws the sword. It is made of rubber and droops.

So impressed with himself is Evan, that, when he hears a car draw up outside, he goes out to meet the people on the porch. So they won't have to wait to get inside to see him, I suppose. He stands there, backlit from the doorway, in an almost Doug Fairbanks pose: one hand on his hip, the other waving that sword, his head back and laughing.

Ron Fell looks up from talking to Goe on their way up the walk. He sees the tall, dark-complectioned figure standing on the porch before him. He stops. He stares. He regains his cool. "What are you supposed to be, Mr. Reagan?

"I yam Baras Tulba, byaby. Dot's wot I iz zupposed to pe."


The werewolf, ghoul, secret agent, the two vampires, and the person nobody knows sitting quietly in the corner with a can of stout malt liquor who wander in over the next hour are anti-climactic after the earlier costumes. But the party thickens. Convection currents of people move around the ground floor, flowing around eddies of conversation. Ross Davidson, Joanne Jacobs, Peter Joslyn, Drew Rhodes, Georgine Fell, and Larry Greenberg have begun the first leg of an all-night card game. Of who's left, half are waiting for the costume judging so they can go home, and the other half are waiting for the first half to leave so the party will liven up.

I'm sure some of the latter are sorry they missed the little incident two hours back.

Jan Webbert, Mike Gilbert, and Laren Taggert are sitting around Jan's Ouija board maneuvering the planchette. A few people stand around watching. Fred Garap, the ghoul, asks what they are doing. "We're trying to contact the spirit of Ben Lynn," Mike replies.


"A message from beyond?" Jan asks, "from Frank Lynn?"

Yes, replies the board. Yes, it replies again when she asks if it knows who murdered me. I don't know who she has on the line, but it sure as hell ain't me. This may prove interesting, I think, sliding my locus center inside of her brain. It is dark and warm and blood cells are running down tubes and blindly butting their heads against the wall. Neurons flash. Most interesting.

"Who killed you?" she asks. I don't know, I don't know, I don't know, I reply, trying to get through. But you just can't tell anything to a woman whose mind is made up. Not even from the inside out.

DAMN YOU EVAN REAGEN says the board.

chapter seven

It fits! Oooo, how it fits! The founder and leader of the Galactic Observers. 'Specially if news from ex-roommate Jerry's "bachelor party" filtered over to Evan K. Reagan, he might have been the one to kill me!

"What!" exclaims Ron, who has wandered over by the Ouija group in the corner.

"We've contacted Ben through the board," Jan explains, "and he says Evan Reagan murdered him."

Ron laughs. "Call the police, then, so they can drag him screaming off into custody. You'd really enjoy that, Jan."

Jan starts to protest. Ron's eyes unfocus and his mouth shades through gentle mockery to a serious frown, to a sardonic smile. "Click. Click. Click. Jackpot!"

"What are you mumbling about?" Jan scrambles up from the seat to follow Ron over to the phone. Her comitatus follows. The three watch Ron dial, wondering what he is up to.

"Hello. Yes. Could you put me through to Lt. Tamatoa of the Homicide. At home? Could you give his home phone number, this is important. Thank you."

The fact that Ron is calling the police spurts through the house faster than adrenalin. Even the party crasher seems a little agitated. The party coagulates about the telephone.

"Hello, Lieutenant. You told to call you as an outlet for my frustrated urge to detect. Well, could you come over to Freehaven Hall? I have a murderer here you may want to add to your collection. No. I am not joking." He hangs up.

"This has gone too far" Jan starts before Ron cuts her off.

"It went quite as far as it could last night. Lew, you, Glass, and Gilbert stick Reagan in the corner there and keep your eyes on him, until Lt. Tamatoa arrives."

Evan Reagan is used to bizarre jokes. "I'll play your little game, Fell."

Lew Roberts isn't. "This is ridiculous, Ron. Evan wouldn't"

"If you have your own theory, Lew, say it. Otherwise, keep quiet."

Lew shuts up.

As if placed by a stage director, the people in the meeting room settle to the floor by the window corner facing Ron standing in the middle of the room in his shovel hat, box cape, pince-nez, with his cigar in hand.

"Hrumph. Those of you who realize that I am John Dickson Carr's detective Dr. Gideon Fell this evening may be thinking that my costume is giving me delusions of grandeur. But Ben Lynn's murderer is here tonight, and, if you will allow me to stay in character while waiting for the Lieutenant, I'll hold a Carr-like revelation scene."

"First comes the rough part, the information known to some of the people here, but not to our presumed reader." Ron's gaze falls on the party crasher. "Ah. You are at a loss, sir, at what is going on. It started last Saturday at the duplex where lived the late Frank Lynn. Lew Roberts, Pete Joslyn, Mike Gilbert, Ross Davidson, Ben Lawrence and I were getting drunk in honor of Frank's roommate's, Jerry Mintz's, impending marriage. Jerry, Pete, Ross, and Lew were talking about the good old days of the Galactic Observers.

"The Galactic Observers was an in-group formed for the purposes of fun and ego gratification by one Evan K. Reagan. Its members pretended to be a survey team from the Tri-Galactic Federation, visiting Earth to see if it was ready for membership in said Federation. As pseudo-sociologists they would visit places like the Teen-Age Fair, Disneyland, LA International, and the 83 bus on Wilshire with their dummy letterheaded questionnaires. Of course, they affected accents and carried impressive, half-hidden gadgets that blinked and hummed (made by our handy friend Lew Roberts) to give themselves an other-worldly aura.

"The club disbanded when the police joined one of the outings one night. Official disapproval was expressed. Official censure was uttered against one of Lew's gadgets that looked not unlike a zip-gun. Unofficial warnings (read threats) damped the members ardor, and the group dissolved.

"Jerry, in quite a ha-ha manner, mentioned that the group never did find out that it was Frank who finked to the fuzz. Since all of us at the party were great friends having a great time, we laughed it off and went into juicy details of fan history of that period. Frank appointed himself as the objective historian to bring out 'The Report of the Galactic Survey Team Somethingorother of Planet III of Star Somenumber', to record everything connected with that period for the edification of posterity.

"Had this news reached Evan, he might have found motive to kill Frank out of revenge for Frank's bringing in the police lo these many years ago, and to keep some aspects of the Galactic Observers' activities forever secret.

"So much for motive. The murderer was described by a witness as being tall and dark-complectioned with a white stripe, like paint, on his nose. This Clue of White Nose would just be loved by Carr because it means the opposite of what it seems. The white stripe is not the result of a light substance being applied to a dark skin, but a dark make-up being rubbed off revealing the light skin underneath."

Everyone turns to stare at Evan Reagan's brown make-up covered body. Reagan laughs and raises his hand. "May I pick a few nits, Dr. Fell? First of all, why would I wear make-up like this tonight if I wore it to shoot Frank last night? Second, were I so dumb, why would I wear such cheap make-up that would rub off like that? Third, that motive of yours just won't fly. There isn't anything connected with the Galactic Observers Affair that I would want to hide so much that it would drive me to murder. And fourth (you're going to love this one), if you ask the people at that party you will discover that no one told me anything about that party.

"This is the first time that I even heard that Frank Lynn was the fink, so I wouldn't even have had the slightest reason to kill him. I rest my case."

Instead of looking like he's eating crow, Ron looks like a cat on a canary diet. "Thank you for bringing up all those objections. As we both know that you are not the murderer, the answers to the questions will let me point out the real murderer. It was almost obvious from the very beginning..."

chapter eight

The door to Freehaven Hall, it being a warm All Hallow Eve, has been left open (as the quiet party crasher noticed earlier). "I wish it had been so damn obvious to me, Mr. Fell, as it appears to have been to you," Lt. Tamatoa rumbles, a bit unappreciative of all that Ron has done for him. He stands in the doorway and snarls, "You might as well play out your little farce. I will keep any desperate murderers from fleeing out this door." He leans against the doorframe. "Sergeant Ripley can fill me in on the first two acts later."

The party crasher sobers up. He goes over and wedges himself between a nervous Bill Glass and Mike Gilbert. It really is hard to remember the face of a man in uniform.

This interruption over with, Ron settles back into character as the smug detective. "We might as well take it from the top. I first had an idea that the murderer might be wearing a disguise due to a psychological quirk suggested in your report, Sgt. Ripley. You said that the murderer did not start to act suspicious until he was very close to your witness. This reminded me of a quirk nearsighted people, especially when not wearing their glasses, have of thinking that, since they cannot see others at a distance, that others can't see them well either. So we have a myopic murderer in disguise.

"Aha! I say at this point, solving the Clue of the White Nose. This, of course gives rise to the question raised by Evan a few minutes back: why would this clever murderer use cheap make-up that would rub off so easily. It could be stupidity, but I doubt it. Another line of reasoning seems to be more fruitful. A make-up that would wash off quickly would be of great help in establishing an alibi.

"Let's assume our myopic murderer lives close to 2158 Sheffield and wants to use this to create an alibi. He arrives home from work. He disguises himself, ending up looking a little like Evan Reagan here, though I think that much was unintentional. He drives over and parks a few blocks from Ben's. He walks the rest of the way. There he puts on his glasses, takes out his blowgun"

"Blowgun!?" Evan shouts, "I'd thought he'd been shot."

"A healthy preconception with a marvelous opportunity to trip the murderer. Why a blowgun? For one thing, it is silent and the murderer wanted to make his getaway on foot for a distance. For another, I don't think that the murderer wanted to physically confront Ben, either because he didn't think he could win in a fight, or for some reason he did not want Ben to know who killed him; as if he were afraid that he couldn't go through with it then. He seemed as if he didn't want to hurt Ben as evidenced by the fast-acting poison on the dart.

"But, his deed done, the murderer takes off his glasses and walks back to his car. He meets the neighbor, but hopes he is not recognized. He arrives home about 6:15 and hurries to wash off his makeup because he expects visitors at half-past. They arrive at 6:20, however, while he is still toweling himself off. He chats with his guests a while, then drives them over to Ben's to 'discover' the body.

"A nice, tight little plan, but you didn't realize that your nervous habit had created that one, incongruous clue, did you, Lew?"

Lew Roberts nervously pushes his glasses up along his nose.

I for one am glad that, once Lt. Tamatoa shuts himself in the library with Lew and Ron, the first thing he asks is, "Why?"

"Ron has done all the reconstruction so far. Let him recreate the motive. I really don't want to talk about the whole thing."

"You then do not deny, Mr. Roberts, that you are the murderer?"


"Mr. Fell?"

"Well, Lew, I would have to assume that your motive comes from something in the Galactic Observers Affair. Otherwise the fact that Ben Lynn was going to publish an exposé of that era wouldn't have set you off. Something happened during that time that you desperately wanted to keep forever hidden. The idea that it would come to light frightened you into killing the only person you thought knew about it. Could you tell us what it was, Lew?"

Lew stares at his knees. Every now and then his right hand reaches up as if to scratch his nose, but it is consciously stopped. Motes of bookdust drop heavily to the carpet. "It doesn't matter. If I plead guilty at the trial it won't come out there. And Ron will not tell. I told something to Ben at his going away party when he was called up, back in November '66. We were both drunk. We were both introverted. So I told him. Boasted almost. He was easy to tell because he would understand."

Lew's face looks ruddy and healthy. It's only as I remember his pallor moments before, that I realize he is flushingfrom guilt or shame of remembered pleasures. "I slept with Marian Jefferies."

Lt. Tamatoa can almost understand now. "And..."

Ron understands completely. He seems years older as he explains to the detective. "Lieutenant, you have to understand the context. First, Dan Jefferies is violently possessive when it comes to his wife. Tonight he slapped Mike Gilbert across the room just because he thought Gilbert was making a pass at his wife."

"Second, the Jefferies' second child was born late June, 1967."

That finalizes it. Even if the child was Dan's (and I am positive it is) the doubts and thoughts of Lew being with his wife would make Jefferies a berserker. Both Lew and Marianne could have been hurt or killed. So Lew makes the proper Romantic gesture and kills me.

That fact that, since I was drunk, I had totally forgotten him telling me this information makes no difference at all. It was still a Nice Gesture. The kind people hardly ever make anymore.

And in its own ironic manner, the whole murder is a little funny. Strange, I don't even feel like smiling.


All Hallows Day. I have been dead for less than two days now. Being dead seems rather trite. Not that I don't mind missing the tortures and torment; but paradise I do miss. This floating alone in a four(?) dimensional world is getting dull. I can see that, depending on what preconceptions one might have, this afterlife bit could be either heaven or hellor both.

Which idea makes me wonder if preconceptions do make the afterlife. Billions of beings have died just from Earth alone. Where are they? I haven't met a single soul. Maybe I just haven't been dead long enough. I lived twenty-six years and really only met fewer people than I could count on my fingers.

And now that my primary immediate interest has been satisfied and I know who killed me and why, I ask myself: Now what?

There is a lot of Earth I haven't seen. When I'm glutted with that, there is the whole universe to explore. I could then see if time is finite. Maybe I'll meet others who are dead (and I would like to ask Dickens about Drood) and maybe not. I might even be able to find a way to live again if being dead becomes bad enough.

Now what?

I have eternity. I'll think of something.


It is over. This work in progress is no longer in progress. Now, let it be known to the world at large as "Ghost of a Chance." Let it be also known that this is a work of fiction. It is set in the future and the past. The things within it have very little to do with The World As It Is. It was an exercise built around two premises (a) the dead detctive, and (b) the Clue of the White Nose. I thank Bruce and Dian Pelz for motivations of character. A few people may be combined into bit players that you may know. But all the major characters, save for Ron and Georgine Fell and Frank Lynn, are imaginary. That is what the author says: think what you will.

--Bill Glass

I have been informed by several people that they wish to acquire a copy of ODTAA. My immediate response was to shout: You should have contributed when I cried in the APA-L wilderness. But, being essentially good, I have changed this Original Attitude of Harshness to one of Mild Beneficience. I hereby declare that anyone can get a copy of ODTAA. All you have to do is submit the highest bid by May 26, 1966. Just think of being able to look back at what you paid in ¢old hard ¢a$h for an ODTAA ten years ago and laughing... At how foolish you were in your youth. Isn't a moment like that worth entering the competition to achieve? I thought so.