It S Damned Expensive, Too, Grunted the Visitor

It S Damned Expensive, Too, Grunted the Visitor



Mr. Billy Bullivant’s baby-blue eyes twinkled ingratiatingly as he set the murderer at ease. ‘You’ll be out of the country by this time tomorrow,’ he promised, ‘with no trouble at all. My system’s foolproof, I assure you.’

‘It’s damned expensive, too,’ grunted the visitor.

An expression of near consternation flitted across Mr Bullivant’s bland, creaseless pink face. ‘Oh dear, don’t tell me you haven’t got enough money. That would be too bad.’

The murderer chuckled without humour, flicking open a cigarette case which had cost more than Mr. Bullivant spent on tobacco in a year. ‘Set your mind at rest, I’m not down to my last thousand yet.’

The heavy furrows running from domineering nose to lantern jaw deepened suddenly. ‘Look here, Bullivant, this swanning off into the blue business just won’t do. I’ve got a definite objective in mind, and since I’m paying this much, I might as well go straight there.’

Mr. Billy Bullivant stared back owlishly for a moment. Then he opened a drawer in his desk and dropped a late city edition of the evening paper on the scarred and tea-ringed wood. ‘The police have a definite objective in mind for you, too,’ he said flatly.

It became evident that he was neither childish nor soft.

‘You might have done me the favour of crediting me with a little intelligence, you know. “Tax troubles,” you reckoned, when you phoned this afternoon. Wife troubles would be nearer the mark—and what a messy solution you found.’

In the silence which followed, they could hear the dreary call of a ship leaving harbour, and the dried-leaf rustling of rats in the factory beneath the stuffy little office.

‘I—I’m sorry,’ said the murderer, stupidly. Then, as he recovered: ‘But where are you sending me?’

‘It depends, ol’ man.’ Mr. Bullivant pursed his lips and squinted judicially. ‘I’ll just scan the orders I get in the morning, you see, and push you off with the next consignment to whatever spot happens to be furthest away.’

The murderer swallowed drily. ‘Sounds . . . uncomfortable,’ he muttered. And lit another cigarette.

‘You won’t feel a thing,’ joked Mr. Bullivant.

Climbing wearily up the stairs to the office in the early hours of the following morning, a ghost of golden stubble sanding his plump chops, he discovered the factory cat stretched on its side, legs stiff and jaws frozen in a maniac grin. The overturned glass opposite Mr. Bullivant’s own on the desk gave a clue to the small tragedy.

His mild eyes misted. But even in his sorrow he reflected on how much the cat resembled the murderer—and vice versa. Not surprising, since they had both sipped the same final drink.

Stopping only to take a fat cigarette from his newly acquired gold case, Mr. Bullivant plodded downstairs with the little corpse wrapped in the previous evening’s paper.

‘Woman found dead in flat. Man sought by police,’ screamed the headlines on the newsprint shroud.

‘Dead as yesterdays news—what an apt phrase,’ muttered Mr. Bullivant as he passed the sizeable pile of dog-food tins which he had filled during the night.

Gaudy labels bore a modest message:

Bullivant’s Mystery Mixture

British and Best

Made By Men Who Love Dogs, To a Centuries-old Recipe

Mr. Bullivant’s habitual good humour came to the surface once more and, shifting the grim parcel to his left hand, he gave the nearest tin an approving pat. In a few days the consignment would be on its way to the United States, a hundred tins among two thousand.

Or had the latest order come from Paris? No matter, thought Mr. Bullivant, with a shrug. One of his aged, not-too-bright work-people would sort it out when they came in.

The important thing was that a contract had been honoured.

Mr. Bullivant’s murderer—his latest murderer—was getting out of the country.