Wasty Presents: Choice Of Your Pain

The Last Page

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 all.
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 book before.
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 each other.
"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 was?"
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
189 lines
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 murderer is


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Last updated February 12, 2001 by Martin Mathis, e-mail lastbandit.com