فصل 08

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فصل 08

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Chapter EIGHT

On the Roof

The next afternoon, Ellen went to the Blue River Municipal Library. She stayed there for several hours. She read all the reports of Dorothy’s death that had been printed in the Iowa newspapers. If Dwight Powell told her anything about Dorothy’s death that hadn’t been printed in the papers, she would know. She would know that he was the killer.

That evening, Ellen was again waiting in the lobby of the hotel when Dwight Powell arrived.

“I’m sorry, Dwight,” she said to him. “I can’t go to a dance this evening. I have to visit an attorney in the Municipal Building. He might have a job for me. He told me that he’d be there until half past eight. Will you come with me, please? I won’t have to talk to the man for long. After I’ve seen him, we can come back here and have a few drinks together.”

“OK, Evelyn,” Powell said. “I’ll go.” He didn’t look happy.

Ellen and Powell got out of the elevator at the fourteenth story of the Municipal Building.

“The attorney’s office is Room 1405,” Ellen said. “It must be around the corner.” She started to walk along the corridor and Powell followed her. She had phoned the office that afternoon. The attorney’s secretary had told her that the office closed at five o’clock. She hoped desperately that nobody would be there now.

They soon found Room 1405. A sign on the door said FREDERICK CLAUSEN - ATTORNEY. But the office was closed, and there were no lights on inside it.

Ellen looked at her watch angrily.

“It’s only eight o’clock,” she said. “When I spoke to Mr Clausen on the phone this afternoon, he told me that that he would be here until half past eight! I’ll have to come back tomorrow.”

They walked back along the corridor. Then suddenly, Ellen pointed to an iron door, opposite to the elevator.

“That must be the way to the roof,” she said. “Let’s go up there, Dwight. The view will be wonderful at night. I want to look at the stars.”

“Why don’t we go to the dance, Evelyn?” Powell said nervously. “We still have the time to do that.”

“No, I want to go to the roof!” Ellen said. She opened the door and she started to run up the iron stairs. Powell followed her slowly.

A minute later, they were on the roof. Ellen was looking up at the night sky.

“Isn’t it a beautiful night?” she said to Powell. “The moon is so big! There are so many stars! Don’t you love it up here, Dwight?”

“I don’t like high places, Evelyn,” Powell replied miserably. “I don’t feel safe up here.”

Ellen walked to the outside edge of the roof and looked over the wall.

“Are you afraid of falling, Dwight?” Ellen said. “I heard that one of the Stoddard students was killed here last year. I read that she fell from the top of this building. Did she only fall two stories onto that roof? Did that little fall kill her?”

“She didn’t fall,” Powell said quietly. “She jumped. And she didn’t jump there. She jumped into the air shaft.”

Ellen’s skin felt cold. “He knows something about Dorothy’s death,” she thought. “But he could have read that in the newspapers.”

“Did you know the girl who died, Dwight?” she said aloud.

“Please, Evelyn, I don’t want to talk about it,” Powell replied.

“But did you know her?” Ellen asked again.

Powell waited a moment before he spoke.

“Yes,” he said sadly. “I knew her. She was the girl that I was telling you about yesterday. She’d been my girlfriend. I’ve always thought that Dorothy’s death was my fault. I broke up with her because she was getting too serious. Then a few months later, she killed herself.”

Suddenly, Ellen was very angry. She wasn’t afraid of this man.

“You’re lying!” she shouted. “Dorothy didn’t kill herself! You murdered her. You made her pregnant and then you killed her! You pushed her into that air shaft!”

Powell was frightened now, Ellen could see that. But he was puzzled too.

“Pregnant?” he said. “Was Dorothy pregnant? I didn’t know that. The newspapers didn’t say that she was pregnant. Is that why she killed herself? Oh God, that’s terrible!”

“She didn’t kill herself!” Ellen screamed. “You killed her. You killed my sister!”

“Your sister?” Powell said. “Who are you? Why have you brought me here?”

“My name is Ellen Kingship,” Ellen said. “And I brought you here because I want to know the truth. Don’t try to kill me too! Somebody knows that I’m here with you. If we don’t go down to the street in the next five minutes, he’ll phone the police.”

“I won’t try to kill you, Miss Kingship,” Powell said sadly. “I’ve never killed anybody. Please tell me something. How long had Dorothy been pregnant?”

“You know how long she’d been pregnant!” Ellen shouted. “She was two months pregnant when she died. That’s why you killed her.”

“Two months,” Powell said quickly. “Oh - then the baby wasn’t mine, Miss Kingship. I broke up with Dorothy before Christmas, 1949. In January, 1950, I went to college in New York City for a year. I wanted to get away from Blue River. I didn’t want to see Dorothy again. I was in New York when she died. I can prove that! Someone else made Dorothy pregnant that winter.”

Suddenly, all Ellen’s anger disappeared. She believed him.

“I - I’m sorry, Dwight,” she said.

“I’ll take you back to your hotel,” Powell said quietly.

Half an hour later, Ellen and Powell were sitting in a quiet corner of the hotel lobby.

There were screens around their little table. They didn’t see the man who was sitting at a table on the other side of one of the screens - the tall man in a dark coat and a hat who was listening to their conversation. They were still talking about Dorothy, but now Ellen was sure that Powell wasn’t her sister’s killer.

“A few days after I broke up with Dorothy, I saw her with another student,” Powell said. “He was tall and handsome - he looked a little like me. Somebody told me that Dorothy had been to the movies with him a few times. We had broken up, and Dorothy wanted someone to love her. She wanted that very much. I wasn’t surprised that she found someone else so quickly.”

“Who was he, Dwight?” Ellen asked. “Perhaps he was the father of the baby. Perhaps he was Dorothy’s killer!”

“I don’t remember his name,” Powell said. “He wasn’t in our English class. I didn’t know him. Someone told me that he was in the same Economics class as Dorothy. And someone did tell me his name once. I wrote it in a notebook. I can’t remember it now. But if we go to the house where my room is, I’ll find the notebook for you.”

“OK, let’s go now,” Ellen said. “I’m sorry that I made you go up on the roof tonight, Dwight. Dorothy’s death wasn’t your fault.”

The two young people got up to leave the hotel. They passed the table on the other side of the screen, but it was empty. The tall man in the dark coat had already left.

Dorothy went to a phone booth. She called the Blue River radio station. She wanted to talk to Gordon Gant. But the woman who answered the phone told her that Gant was busy.

“Can I give him a message for you?” the woman asked.

“Yes,” Ellen replied. “Please tell him that Ellen Kingship called. Tell him, ‘Dwight Powell isn’t the man.’ Tell him, ‘Powell knows about another student who might have been my sister’s boyfriend - a student who wasn’t in her English class.’ Tell him that I’m going to Mr Powell’s room now to find the name of this student. And please tell Mr Gant that I’ll call him later.”

The house where Dwight Powell lived was empty when he arrived with Ellen. He made them both some coffee and he took Ellen into the living room.

“Wait here,” he said. “I’ll go up to my bedroom. The name that you want is in one of my old college notebooks. I won’t be long.”

Powell ran up the stairs and into his clean, tidy bedroom. He opened a drawer in his desk and he took out a pile of notebooks. He started to look through them.

“The name’s in one of these,” he said to himself.

There was a tall closet in one corner of the room. Powell didn’t see its door opening slowly. He didn’t see Dorothy Kingship’s killer inside the closet. He didn’t see the man who was aiming a gun at him.

Ellen heard a loud noise in the room above her. She ran out of the living room and towards the stairs. At the top of the stairs she saw a tall, handsome man. She didn’t see the gun in his hand. She didn’t see it because she was looking at his smiling face.

“Darling, what are you doing here?” she asked him. “What’s happened to Dwight?”

“I asked you not to come to Blue River, Ellen,” Bud Corliss said. “You should have listened to me!”

Then he shot her three times. The third shot ended her scream of terror.

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