Murder in the Gunroom HTML version

Chapter 8
Pre-dinner cocktails in the library seemed to be a sort of household rite—a self-imposed
Truce of Bacchus before the resumption of hostilities in the dining-room. It lasted from
six forty-five to seven; everybody sipped Manhattans and kept quiet and listened to the
radio newscast. The only new face, to Rand, was Fred Dunmore's.
It was a smooth, pinkly-shaven face, decorated with octagonal rimless glasses; an entirely
unremarkable face; the face of the type that used to be labeled "Babbitt." The corner of
Rand's mind that handled such data subconsciously filed his description: forty-five to
fifty, one-eighty, five feet eight, hair brown and thinning, eyes blue. To this he added the
Rotarian button on the lapel, and the small gold globule on the watch chain that testified
that, when his age and weight had been considerably less, Dunmore had played on
somebody's basketball team. At that time he had probably belonged to the Y.M.C.A., and
had thought that Mussolini was doing a splendid job in Italy, that H. L. Mencken ought to
be deported to Russia, and that Prohibition was here to stay. At company sales meetings,
he probably radiated an aura of synthetic good-fellowship.
As Rand followed Walters down the spiral from the gunroom, the radio commercial was
just starting, and Geraldine was asking Dunmore where Anton was.
"Oh, you know," Dunmore told her, impatiently. "He had to go to Louisburg, to that
Medical Association meeting; he's reading a paper about the new diabetic ration."
He broke off as Rand approached and was introduced by Gladys, who handed both men
their cocktails. Then the news commentator greeted them out of the radio, and everybody
absorbed the day's news along with their Manhattans. After the broadcast, they all
crossed the hall to the dining-room, where hostilities began almost before the soup was
cool enough to taste.
"I don't see why you women had to do this," Dunmore huffed. "Rivers has made us a fair
offer. Bringing in an outsider will only give him the impression that we lack confidence
in him."
"Well, won't that be just too, too bad!" Geraldine slashed at him. "We mustn't ever hurt
dear Mr. Rivers's feelings like that. Let him have the collection for half what it's worth,
but never, never let him think we know what a God-damned crook he is!"
Dunmore evidently didn't think that worth dignifying with an answer. Doubtless he
expected Nelda to launch a counter-offensive, as a matter of principle. If he did, he was
"Well?" Nelda demanded. "What did you want us to do; give the collection away?"