The car threatened to skid off the road and the tires catapulted
the dry street dust into the air. The brakes squealed and the
driver managed to stop his car just before the zebra crossing.
"Damn!" he cussed, "this guy sure is in a hurry.
Doesn't even pay attention to traffic!" The careless pedestrian
escaped to the safe sidewalk and nodded an apology to the driver.
The pedestrian was in a big hurry and had walked out on the street
without looking. The unknown driver shook his head, accelerated
again and drove off as careless as the pedestrian hurried on with
his head bowed down. The pedestrian at least took the time to
look at his watch: six to seven! He walked even faster; just two
more blocks! He could still make it!
He opened - it was four to seven - the glass door of the modern
building and rushed to the first floor. Relieved he saw that the
library, "Johnson's Book Lending", was still open. From
behind a table that was crowded with piles of books, an older,
correct lady peered and cleared her throat because someone again
did not wipe his feet when entering. With a bunch of books in
her arm she came out of her hiding place and started putting them
in the shelves. "Good evening, Mister Finch", she remarked
and he could tell by the tone of her voice that he was supposed
to hurry. He looked over the shelves with the novels and paused
at the one with the crime stories. He was attracted by the bright
red spines of the paperbacks. He chose two of those. He put them
aside and after further search he noticed a book by an author
he had never heard of. The book had a yellow cover and that told
him that he also was unfamiliar with the series and the publisher.
He was tempted by something like that, especially because the
book was wrinkled and looked used but yet must have been in the
collection untouched for some time. With great excitement he put
the three books on his pocket and went over to the desk that had
pretty much been cleaned off by now. The librarian reappeared
soon and Arthur Finch handed her his library card. She put three
stamps in it and gave it back with a look that clearly expressed
her displeasure with the dirty and wrinkled car. "Have a
pleasant evening and come back soon," he said sarcastically
and winked at the old lady who was visibly disgusted. Then he
quickly left to be out of reach of her wrath. He was relaxed and
crossed the streets carefully and didn't start reading on his
way home as usual. Without further incident he reached his apartment
on the seventh floor of a medium-sized skyscraper on 17th Avenue.
After a cold meal he sank into his soft leather armchair in front
of the fireplace, enjoyed a quick view of the city lights outside
the window and directed his attention to his pocket. After he
had browsed through all three books and had read the descriptions
on the back, he decided to read one of the books in the bright
read covers first but wasn't quite sure after the first pages
of each and began reading the third book. That was some sort of
a strategy he had acquired over the years to get himself to start
reading a book. He examined the front cover and everything else
and started reading impatiently. He was so concentrated that he
did not hear anything around him and also didn't notice how the
darkness outside slowly crept into his apartment. As the fire
in the fireplace had also died down and only the shimmer of the
red ashes glowed in a ghostly light, he could hardly see the lines
anymore and he put the book down and turned on the light. He had
lost the motivation to read for the moment. He was used to read
totally concentrated, sometimes he even read a paragraph or a
whole page two or three times when it seemed to be important for
the context. Therefore he hadn't gotten very far into the book.
The reading had made him tired, even though it wasn't boring at
all, and he went to bed not without reading a few more pages after
The strong rays of the sun already pushed in through the gaps
in the shades and as Arthur Finch opened he sleepy eyes he immediately
was wide awake: He had missed the ringing of the alarm clock!
The alarm clock sat still and innocently on the nightstand and
told him good-natured that he was only a little late. He would
make it to work on time with a little luck. On the way to the
bathroom he exclaimed in a state of agitation: "I didn't
even lock the apartment door!" Mercilessly and loud the alarm
clock went off after all and Arthur jumped; he was so overstrained
from reading that he had woken up early. This had never happened
to him before. All day long he was nervous and confused.
In the evening he continued reading with tension and excitement
until he was almost done with the book. He was glad that he'd
have the day off tomorrow but to maintain the suspense he went
to bed anyway instead of finishing the book tonight. He threw
it on the nightstand next to the bright red crime novels. In doing
so, a page fell out and he picked it up and slid it back into
the beat-up book. It wasn't one of the last pages, as he noticed.
He turned out the light.
He woke up shortly before noon, had breakfast anyway and went
shopping. He bought food that wouldn't take long to prepare and
had a leisurely lunch. After doing the dishes, he made himself
comfortable in the living room and went about the final pages
of his book. The suspense had almost reached the climax and the
murderer was about to be revealed. Who would it be? His guess
was the waiter because his brother was employed by the murder
victim and therefore could gather enough knowledge about the victim
through him. The murder victim again had relations with... Anyway,
it got Arthur's fancy going and he loved such moments of suspense
at the end of a book before the final sentence would shut him
out from the people in the story and there would be no chance
to get to know more about their world. But he was very displeased,
in fact he totally hated it, when that all important last page
had been maliciously ripped out of a book. Exactly that was the
case with this book and he hated it even more when the name of
the murderer was supposed to be revealed on that last page. He
was very upset over this and search for the missing page. He wouldn't
rest until he knew the conclusion of the crime novel. After an
unfruitful search of the whole apartment he thought about who
might have the last page. Immediately he thought of the librarian
who did her job with a passion. He also smiled at the thought
of bugging her with this. He decided to go ask her because that
seemed like the only chance to ever find the conclusion. If she
didn't know, she would probably know someone who had read the
He left for the library right away. In spite of it all, he still
enjoyed the high of the tension the story created and he was as
happy as a child that the conclusion was still ahead. How nice
that he wasn't done reading it yet.
He ignored the evil eye she gave him and boldly asked the question:
"Excuse me, ma'am, I..." "Yes, please, Mister Finch?"
"Yes, remember how I borrowed the book with the title 'The
Third Glass' on Monday? Unfortunately it turned out that the last
page is missing, the page where the mystery unfolds and the murderer
is revealed. Maybe, I thought, you would be able to tell me who
the murderer was." "You mean the murderer in 'The Third
Glass'? I'm sorry, I can't help you with that but I can find out
who else has been borrowing that particular book. Just a second
- only two people did recently - they were - moment - oh, yes
here..." She gave him the addresses of two men. He wrote
them down. "I am almost certain," she said, "that
the page has been missing ever since we got the book in. Have
a good day now, Mister Finch."
"Oh, see you and thanks a lot," he said clearly. "Bye,
you old hag and keep your ears stiff," he whispered to himself.
He didn't hear her clearing her throat because he already was
on his way to the first address, on 19th Avenue, because that
was the closer one. He afforded himself the unusual treat of a
taxi even. He was in a great mood.
It was a beige house with brown shades. After walking up sixteen
floors he had found the right apartment. A young man with glasses
and crazy hair opened. He wore a woolen sweater and loose jeans.
Arthur Finch explained the reason for his visit. After thinking
hard for a while the man's face brightened. He remembered the
book. He confirmed, however, that the page was already missing
when he had the book. Unfortunately he wouldn't know the name
of the murderer either and he was sorry that he was of no help
in the matter. "Oh, well then, thanks and have a good day."
"My pleasure," the man said, "and good luck on
your search! If I were you though, I would give up. You know,
it didn't bother me not knowing the end. You know..." But
Mr. Finch was already gone. He concluded that the other man must
have read the book before this one and since the librarian didn't
give him any other addresses, the book must not have been lent
out for a long time.
The second address lead him to a busy area of town. In addition,
rush hour started and everybody was too busy getting home to worry
about the unknown name of a fictional murderer.
He climbed the stairs of the dirty, old building and arrived at
the apartment whose address the librarian had given him. He knocked
- there was a bell with a name tag but the bell didn't work and
the name tag was too faded to read - and nothing happened for
quite a while. As he was just about to leave this place in disappointment
and be content with never knowing the murderer's name, a heavy
man with a mustache and a nice suit opened. The two looked at
"My name is Arthur Finch and I borrowed a book from the municipal
library and it turns out that the last page with the name of the
murderer has been removed. The librarian told me that you have
read the book too. Maybe you'd be able to tell me who the murderer
The man nodded affirmatively and asked him to come inside. "You
mean the book 'The Third Glass'?" "Yes, that's the one,"
Mr. Finch replied.
"Well, you're in luck, as I believe to know the conclusion
of it." They sat down in the living room. Mr. Finch stared
at the man in anticipation. He began: "You're in luck, because,
and you might be startled about such coincidence, I happen to
be the author of the book. After anonymously submitting the book
to a publisher, I unfortunately was forced to remove the last
page from the only existing copy. You'd never guess it but in
a way I was already close to you when you borrowed the book."
Arthur frowned confused. His host produced a frayed piece of paper
from his pocket and displayed it from a distance so that Arthur
was unable to read the print. "Do you understand now? I am
holding the last page with the name on it in my hands here."
He took out a match and burned the last page in the fireplace.
"I'm just making sure. Nobody knows the name of the murderer
or will ever find it out. No one will ever figure it out."
The man stirred the burning page with the poker while Arthur had
his doubts about the sanity of this individual. Then, when he
didn't pay attention, the man raised the poker over Arthur's head
and smashed his skull.
The last page burned down entirely and mixed with the other ashes
into a pale, innocent pile.
May the reader have an understanding for this mishap. It can happen
in the best of libraries. Should the reader have no understanding
though, the librarian herself, should you choose this book, can
warn you with vigorous emphasis that the last page is missing.
Copyright © July 1981, Wasty, The Last Page
German title: Auf der Suche nach dem Mörder
Reading time: approx. 12 minutes
P.S. To the reader! I think I can tell you, who it is. It's a
bit clumsy if an important page of a book is missing. Well, the
Last updated February 12, 2001 by Martin Mathis, e-mail lastbandit.com