فصل 11

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فصل 11

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  • زمان مطالعه 12 دقیقه
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Chapter eleven

The Smelting Works

Bud Corliss was looking out of one of the windows of Kingship Copper’s small aircraft. He was feeling wonderful. The sun was shining in the clear blue sky. And now the little plane was descending towards the ground. Far ahead, Bud could see the great Kingship smelting works. Huge clouds of smoke were rising from the roofs of the tall buildings. Dark railroad tracks ran across the shining white snow towards the works. It was all so beautiful. Bud felt that this was the best day of his life!

Leo and Marion were in the plane with him, and there was a young man called Dettweiler too. Leo had told Bud that Dettweiler’s father was one of the directors of the company.

Soon, the plane landed in a field near the smelting works. Leo, Marion, Dettweiler and Bud were met by the manager of the works. They all had lunch together in the manager’s office, then the manager took Bud and Marion into a room where there were some large photographs. The photographs showed the different processes which were used to make pure copper. The manager talked about this for over an hour. Bud was very interested. He had never been so interested in anything in all his life.

“Leo isn’t a young man,” he said to himself. “He won’t live for many more years. And tomorrow, I’ll be his daughter’s husband. When Leo dies, all this will be mine!”

At that moment, Leo and Dettweiler came into the room.

“Come up onto one of the catwalks now, Bud,” Leo said. “From the catwalks, you can see all the processes below you. You’ll understand everything better then. Marion will stay here.”

Leo led Bud and Dettweiler into one of the huge buildings where the smelting processes happened. It was very hot inside the building, and there was smoke everywhere. Leo pointed up towards the roof. The catwalk was a long platform which ran almost the whole length of the building, fifty feet above their heads. It had a metal floor and metal rails along its sides. Leo began to climb a ladder which led to the catwalk. Bud and Dettweiler followed him.

When they reached the catwalk, Leo told Bud to walk in front of Dettweiler and himself. As the three men walked along the metal floor, holding the rails, Leo explained the smelting processes again. As he spoke, he pointed to huge vats of hot, liquid metal on the floor far below them. He explained what was in each vat. He explained how the copper was separated from the other metals which were found with it. Bud asked lots of questions and Leo answered them.

“The catwalk ends over the last vat,” Leo said. “The copper in that vat is pure.”

A moment later, they reached the end of the catwalk. Bud looked down. Far below him, he saw the huge vat of pure liquid copper. Terrible heat and green smoke were rising from the liquid metal. There was no rail at the end of the catwalk - only an iron chain.

“Do you have any more questions, Bud?” Leo asked.

Bud turned towards the two other men.

“No,” he replied. Suddenly he wondered why Leo and Dettweiler were looking so cold and angry.

“Then I have a question for you,” said Leo. “How did you make Dorothy write that suicide note?”

For a moment, Bud couldn’t speak. They knew! But what did they know? And how did they know it?

“I don’t understand you, Leo,” he said. “I never knew Dorothy. I never met her. I knew Ellen - you know that. But Dorothy was dead when I met Ellen.”

“We don’t believe you, Corliss,” Gant said. “We know that you were a student at Stoddard. We know that you were in two of Dorothy’s classes. And we know that you killed her!”

“Who are you, Dettweiler?” Bud said. “Why are you here?”

“I’m here because I knew Ellen,” Gant replied. “And my name’s not Dettweiler, it’s Gant-Gordon Gant. I met Ellen the day before you killed her. I liked her very much.”

“Leo, please help me,” said Bud. “What is this man talking about? First he said that I knew Dorothy. Then he said that I killed Ellen. Is he crazy?”

“Listen to him, Bud,” Leo replied.

“I went to Menasset two days ago,” said Gant. “I found your strongbox. I opened it and I found the brochures. And I found the list too, Corliss!”

Bud thought quickly. He turned towards Leo Kingship.

“OK, Leo. OK, OK,” he said. “I did know Dorothy. I knew her, but I didn’t kill her! I’ve never killed anybody. I confess that I wanted your money. That’s why I sent for the brochures. That’s why I moved to Caldwell. That’s why I moved to New York. Marion won’t marry me - I realize that. So I want to leave this place now! I’m going to take my mother back to Menasset tomorrow.”

“Turn round, Corliss,” Leo said. “Put your hand on the chain.”

“Are you crazy too, Leo?” Bud said angrily. But he turned round and put his hand on the iron chain at the end of the catwalk. As he touched it, the chain broke into two pieces. Now there was nothing to stop anyone falling!

“No, I’m not crazy,” Leo said. His voice was cold and hard. “And you aren’t the only person who can plan a murder, Corliss! We cut the chain while you were talking to the manager. I don’t want to kill you. I want to take you to the police. I want you to tell them what you did. But if you don’t confess now that you killed Dorothy and Ellen, we’ll push you into the vat of liquid copper. It’s very, very hot. You won’t live for long, but your last moment will be very painful! Now tell us how you made Dorothy write that note!”

Suddenly, Bud was very afraid. These people really wanted to kill him! He had killed people himself, when he was in the army. And he had killed three people in Blue River. It had been easy to kill them because he hadn’t cared about them. But everybody had always cared about him. Why didn’t these people care about him?

Leo stepped towards him. And at the same moment, Bud saw Marion climbing onto the catwalk too. She started to walk towards her father.

“If I confess,” Bud thought, “they’ll take me to the police. But perhaps I can escape when we’re out of this building. If I don’t confess, they’ll kill me now.”

“OK, I did kill Dorothy,” he said. “The note was a translation from a Spanish book. I asked her to write it. I killed her and I killed Ellen too!”

He was very afraid, and suddenly he could think only of his fear.

“It was Ellen’s fault!” he shouted. “I told her not to go to Blue River. I had to kill her! And I didn’t want Dorothy to get pregnant! Everything was their fault! Women are so stupid!”

At that moment, Marion pushed past her father and moved towards Bud. The frightened young man turned away from her, and his foot slipped on the metal floor. He started to fall from the end of the catwalk. As he fell towards the terrible vat of liquid copper, he heard a scream. It reminded him of Dorothy’s scream as she fell into the air shaft. It reminded him of Ellen’s scream before his third bullet killed her. And he realized that the scream was coming from his own mouth.

The plane was returning to New York. Marion was crying quietly.

“We weren’t really going to kill him, Marion,” Gordon Gant said. “We only wanted to make him confess.”

“I know that,” she said. “I’m not crying for him. But I thought that I was going to be happy at last. You don’t understand. You can’t understand!”

She put her hands over her face.

When the Kingships got back to Leo’s house, they found Mrs Corliss waiting for them. She looked happy and excited. She smiled at Marion.

“Good evening, my dear,” she said. “I’m happy to see you again. Where’s Bud?”

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