Jim Thompson



Quietly he tested the door of Lila's bedroom and saw that it was locked; and then he went into his own room, leaving the door open to hear any movement of hers, and opened his briefcase. He took the insurance policies from the briefcase, scanned them perfunctorily and slipped them into his inside coat pocket. They would go into the safety deposit box tomorrow.

He dipped into the briefcase again and drew out other papers. He studied them, frowning, with much of the disturbing feeling that he had for the insurance policies. With a grunt of irritation, he shuffled them into a kind of chronological order and began to read:


Luther Psychological Clinic

Capital & Lee Sts.

Capital City


This is a rather unusual application for employment. I hope you will read it to the end, and give it your earnest consideration.

I am thirty-three years old, a high school graduate, and, through reading and study, possess the equivalent of at least two years of college. I weigh one hundred and seventy pounds and am five feet eleven inches tall. Despite serious handicaps, I have kept myself in good physical condition. I am not familiar with your business, and do not know what type of job you might have at your disposal. But I will welcome the chance for any kind of work-within the state-and at whatever wage you care to pay.

For the past fifteen years I have been an inmate of this institution, serving a sentence of ten years to life for bank robbery. The crime was not one to be taken lightly, and! have not. But, in all humility,! cannot see that any good purpose is served in detaining me here longer.

I became eligible for parole approximately five years ago. Unfortunately, my parents had died and my only other relative, a married sister, was not and is not in a position to act in my behalf. I was, of course, too young to have formed business associations at the time of my commitment. As you doubtless know, a prospective parolee must have a job before he can be released; he must establish his ability to support himself. I am asking that you help me to do this.

May I please hear from you? On second thought, will you simply take action on my case with the parole board in the normal way of an interested party for an inmate? You can find out anything you wish to know about me from the board, and this will obviate any misunderstanding that might arise here from my writing you.

Very truly yours,

Patrick M. Cosgrove (No. 11587) Librarian, Sandstone State Reformatory


Luther thought he'd become accustomed to rottenness. Yet Sandstone never failed to outrage him. It wasn't a prison. It was a madhouse in which the keeper, and not the inmates, was mad. There was only one way to survive there: to become tougher and more tortuous-minded than that keeper. If you did that-if you amused the man with the preternaturally brilliant eyes and the unpredictable laughter- -you not only survived, but did so in comparative comfort.

But there could be no letting down. You might tire of the game, but the man never did. And when you tired or became careless…


Office of the Warden

Dr. Roland Luther

Capital & Lee Sts. Capital City

In re, Pat 'Airplane Red' Cosgrove

Dear Doc:

Sure was good to hear from you and wish I was right there in the big town with you. I always say you was one perfect host and know how to entertain a man and that was sure some time the last time me and you and them other fellows got together. Well, I was pretty hot when I got your letter and I was going to go right in and give that sob something to think about. But since you ask otherwise why that's the way it is and hands off, and anyway I could not help laughing when I got to thinking about it. You know the Chief, my secretary. Well I know Chief got that letter and probly a hundred others out for him but just try and make them say so. I bet we could hang them both and they wouldn't. I am a great admirer of loyalty and mind your business and know you are too. So you fix things up anyway you want but let me know how and I will play with you as far as I can. Just give me a ring when you are coming. I will close now as I am writing this myself instead of that sob chief and we will give them both a hell of a surprise.

Yr. obdt. frnd. & servt., Yancey Fish

P.S. Doc you know it is against the rules to bring whiskey into the prison and if I find a case or two on you I will have to confiskate it. Ha ha.


Well, Fish hadn't hanged them, but he had threatened them with everything else; and, while each had faced the harangue in his own way, the results had been identical.

The Chief, a full-blooded Indian serving three life sentences, had merely grinned insolently and made non-committal replies. The red-haired, blue-eyed Cosgrove had talked at length: polite, mildly humorous, insistently grammatical-and without saying anything. He would not turn on the man, the Chief, who had obviously helped him. No threat or bribe could make him.

He, Luther, had been a little troubled by Cosgrove's patent intelligence. But still, he fitted specifications in every other detail, and he would be given nothing for that intelligence to work on.


To Yancey L. Fish

Warden, Sandstone State Reformatory


Whereas it appears you now have in your keeping one Patrick M. Cosgrove, and

Whereas the said Patrick M. Cosgrove has served fifteen years of an indeterminate sentence and has met certain other conditions by which he becomes eligible for parole, and

Whereas one Roland T. Luther, Ph.D., a citizen in good standing, has guaranteed employment for the said Patrick M. Cosgrove during the two years succeeding the date of this instrument, pledging moreover that he will in every way assist the said Cosgrove to a righteous manner of living,

Therefore Let It Be Known that Patrick M. Cosgrove is hereby paroled in the custody of Roland T. Luther for a period of two years, or until and/or unless it should become necessary to remand the said Cosgrove to his present place of incarceration.

Let it further be known that upon satisfactory completion of the aforementioned term of parole, the said Patrick M. Cosgrove is to be restored to full citizenship and all rights and privileges accruing thereto.


Louis Clements Clay Governor, and President (pro tem) Board of Parole

Well, there it was; the beginning and the end of everything. And now that he had examined it item by item, he could not dispel the thought that it was both foolish and dangerous. If Hardesty had not been positive that it would work-but Hardesty had been positive. He was certain that under the circumstances they were creating, the insurance companies would have to pay, and pay promptly. That was Hardesty's best legal advice, and Hardesty had never yet been wrong about a legal matter.

Well-Luther sighed and began to undress-it was done now. He wished that Cosgrove wasn't such a likable person, but that, unfortunately or otherwise, was necessary. There had to be some reason for getting him

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