The World's Finest Crime and Mystery Stories, First Annual Edition finally fills the void for those with a hunger for the best mystery and suspense stories of the past year. Multi-awardwinning editor Ed Gorman has collected stories from the world over, to present more than 200,00 words of superlative fiction. These acclaimed writers, from both the United States and the British Isles, include:
Loren D. Estleman
Donald E. Westlake and many others.
Loren D. Estleman
Donald E. Westlake and many others.
About the Author
Ed Gorman, the Shamus Award winning author of more than a dozen novels and many short stories, has edited a number of anthologies, including The World's Finest Mystery and Crime Stories series. He lives in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Read an Excerpt
The World's Finest Mystery and Crime Stories: 1First Annual Collection
Forge BooksISBN: 9780312874797
The World's Finest Mystery and Crime Stories: 1
Anne PerryHeroesANNE PERRY has made Victorian England so much her own that one hesitates to read anything else on the subject because it might dull or lessen the period to which Perry has given such vivid color. From the start with The Cater Street Hangman, Anne Perry has given us Victorian England with all the real angst and poetry left in. The Thomas Pitt and the William Monk series are alike in their steadfast re-creation of their time. In her more recent novels, Traitor's Gate, Cain His Brother, and Pentecost Alley, Perry has expanded the range of her books so that the portraits of Victoria's time are richer than ever. While her excellent novels have won her all sorts of well-deserved awards, she should also be lauded for her shorter work. She is a first-rate practitioner of the short story, and readers hope that there will soon be a collection of her shorter works to prove it. This story first appeared in Murder and Obsession.HeroesAnne Perry
Nights were always the worst, and in winter they lasted from dusk at about four o'clock until dawn again toward eight the following morning. Sometimes star shells lit the sky, showing the black zigzags of the trenches stretching as far as the eye could see to left and right. Apparently now they went right across France and Belgium all the way from the Alps to the Channel. But Joseph was only concerned with this short stretch of the Ypres Salient.In the gloom near him someone coughed, a deep, hacking sound coming from down in the chest. They were in the support line, farthest from the front, the most complex of the three rows of trenches. Here were the kitchens, the latrines and the stores and mortar positions. Fifteen-foot shafts led to caves about five paces wide and high enough for most men to stand upright. Joseph made his way in the half dark now, the slippery wood under his boots and his hands feeling the mud walls, held up by timber and wire. There was an awful lot of water. One of the sumps must be blocked.There was a glow of light ahead and a moment later he was in the comparative warmth of the dugout. There were two candles burning and the brazier gave off heat and a sharp smell of soot. The air was blue with tobacco smoke, and a pile of boots and greatcoats steamed a little. Two officers sat on canvas chairs talking together. One of them recited a joke--gallows humor, and they both laughed. A gramophone sat silent on a camp table, and a small pile of records of the latest music-hall songs was carefully protected in a tin box."Hello, Chaplain," one of them said cheerfully. "How's God these days?""Gone home on sick leave," the other answered quickly, before Joseph could reply. There was disgust in his voice, but no intended irreverence. Death was too close here for men to mock faith."Have a seat," the first offered, waving toward a third chair. "Morris got it today. Killed outright. That bloody sniper again.""He's somewhere out there, just about opposite us," the second said grimly. "One of those blighters the other day claimed he'd got forty-three for sure.""I can believe it," Joseph answered, accepting the seat. He knew better than most what the casualties were. It was his job to comfort the terrified, the dying, to carry stretchers, often to write letters to the bereaved. Sometimes he thought it was harder than actually fighting, but he refused to stay back in the comparative safety of the field hospitals and depots. This was where he was most needed."Thought about setting up a trench raid," the major said slowly, weighing his words and looking at Joseph. "Good for morale. Make it seem as if we were actually doing something. But our chances of getting the blighter are pretty small. Only lose a lot of men for nothing. Feel even worse afterward."The captain did not add anything. They all knew morale was sinking. Losses were high, the news bad. Word of terrible slaughter seeped through from the Somme and Verdun and all along the line right to the sea. Physical hardship took its toll, the dirt, the cold, and the alternation between boredom and terror. The winter of 1916 lay ahead."Cigarette?" the major held out his pack to Joseph."No thanks," Joseph declined with a smile. "Got any tea going?"They poured him a mugful, strong and bitter, but hot. He drank it, and half an hour later made his way forward to the open air again and the travel trench. A star shell exploded high and bright. Automatically he ducked, keeping his head below the rim. They were about four feet deep, and in order not to provide a target, a man had to move in a half crouch. There was a rattle of machine-gun fire out ahead and, closer to, a thud as a rat was dislodged and fell into the mud beside the duckboards.Other men were moving about close to him. The normal order of things was reversed here. Nothing much happened during the day. Trench repair work was done, munitions shifted, weapons cleaned, a little rest taken. Most of the activity was at night, most of the death."'Lo, Chaplain," a voice whispered in the dark. "Say a prayer we get that bloody sniper, will you?""Maybe God's a Jerry?" someone suggested in the dark."Don't be stupid!" a third retorted derisively. "Everyone knows God's an Englishman! Didn't they teach you nothing at school?"There was a burst of laughter. Joseph joined in. He promised to offer up the appropriate prayers and moved on forward. He had known many of the men all his life. They came from the same Northumbrian town as he did, or the surrounding villages. They had gone to school together, nicked apples from the same trees, fished in the same rivers, and walked the same lanes.It was a little after six when he reached the firing trench beyond whosesandbag parapet lay no-man's-land with its four or five hundred yards of mud, barbed wire, and shell holes. Half a dozen burnt tree stumps looked in the sudden flares like men. Those gray wraiths could be fog, or gas.Funny that in summer this blood- and horror-soaked soil could still bloom with honeysuckle, forget-me-nots, and wild larkspur, and most of all with poppies. You would think nothing would ever grow there again.More star shells went up, lighting the ground, the jagged scars of the trenches black, the men on the fire steps with rifles on their shoulders illuminated for a few, blinding moments. Sniper shots rang out.Joseph stood still. He knew the terror of the night watch out beyond the parapet, crawling around in the mud. Some of them would be at the head of saps out from the trench, most would be in shell holes, surrounded by heavy barricades of wire. Their purpose was to check enemy patrols for unusual movement, any signs of increased activity, as if there might be an attack planned.More star shells lit the sky. It was beginning to rain. A crackle of machine-gun fire, and heavier artillery somewhere over to the left. Then the sharp whine of sniper fire, again and again.Joseph shuddered. He thought of the men out there, beyond his vision, and prayed for strength to endure with them in their pain, not to try to deaden himself to it.There were shouts somewhere ahead, heavy shells now, shrapnel bursting. There was a flurry of movement, flares, and a man came sliding over the parapet, shouting for help.Joseph plunged forward, sliding in the mud, grabbing for the wooden props to hold himself up. Another flare of light. He saw quite clearly Captain Holt lurching toward him, another man over his shoulder, deadweight."He's hurt!" Holt gasped. "Pretty badly. One of the night patrol. Panicked. Just about got us all killed." He eased the man down into Joseph's arms and let his rifle slide forward, bayonet covered in an old sock to hide its gleam. His face was grotesque in the lantern light, smeared with mud and a wide streak of blood over the burnt cork that blackened it, as all night patrol had.Others were coming to help. There was still a terrible noise of fire going on and the occasional flare.The man in Joseph's arms did not stir. His body was limp and it was difficult to support him. Joseph felt the wetness and the smell of blood. Wordlessly others materialized out of the gloom and took the weight."Is he alive?" Holt said urgently. "There was a hell of a lot of shot up there." His voice was shaking, almost on the edge of control."Don't know," Joseph answered. "We'll get him back to the bunker and see. You've done all you can." He knew how desperate men felt when they risked their lives to save another man and did not succeed. A kind of despair set in, a sense of very personal failure, almost a guilt for having survived themselves. "Are you hurt?""Not much," Holt answered. "Couple of grazes.""Better have them dressed, before they get poisoned," Joseph advised, his feet slipping on the wet boards and banging his shoulder against a jutting post. The whole trench wall was crooked, giving way under the weight of mud. The founds had eroded.The man helping him swore.Awkwardly carrying the wounded man, they staggered back through the travel line to the support trench and into the light and shelter of a bunker.Holt looked dreadful. Beneath the cork and blood his face was ashen. He was soaked with rain and mud and there were dark patches of blood across his back and shoulders.Someone gave him a cigarette. Back here it was safe to strike a match. He drew in smoke deeply. "Thanks," he murmured, still staring at the wounded man.Joseph looked down at him now, and it was only too plain where the blood had come from. It was young Ashton. He knew him quite well. He had been at school with his older brother.The soldier who had helped carry him in let out a cry of dismay, strangled in his throat. It was Mordaff, Ashton's closest friend, and he could see what Joseph now could also. Ashton was dead, his chest torn open, the blood no longer pumping, and a bullet hole through his head."I'm sorry," Holt said quietly. "I did what I could. I can't have got to him in time. He panicked."Mordaff jerked his head up. "He never would!" The cry was desperate, a shout of denial against a shame too great to be borne. "Not Will!"Holt stiffened. "I'm sorry," he said hoarsely. "It happens.""Not with Will Ashton, it don't!" Mordaff retorted, his eyes blazing, pupils circled with white in the candlelight, his face gray. He had been in the front line two weeks now, a long stretch without a break from the ceaseless tension, filth, cold, and intermittent silence and noise. He was nineteen."You'd better go and get that arm dressed, and your side," Joseph said to Holt. He made his voice firm, as to a child.Holt glanced again at the body of Ashton, then up at Joseph."Don't stand there bleeding," Joseph ordered. "You did all you could. There's nothing else. I'll look after Mordaff.""I tried!" Holt repeated. "There's nothing but mud and darkness and wire, and bullets coming in all directions." There was a sharp thread of terror under his shell-thin veneer of control. He had seen too many men die. "It's enough to make anyone lose his nerve. You want to be a hero--you mean to be--and then it overwhelms you--""Not Will!" Mordaff said again, his voice choking off in a sob.Holt looked at Joseph again, then staggered out.Joseph turned to Mordaff. He had done this before, too many times, tried to comfort men who had just seen childhood friends blown to pieces, or killed by a sniper's bullet, looking as if they should still be alive, perfect except for the small, blue hole through the brain. There was little to say. Mostmen found talk of God meaningless at that moment. They were shocked, fighting against belief and yet seeing all the terrible waste and loss of the truth in front of them. Usually it was best just to stay with them, let them speak about the past, what the friend had been like, times they had shared, just as if he were only wounded and would be back, at the end of the war, in some world one could only imagine, in England, perhaps on a summer day with sunlight on the grass, birds singing, a quiet riverbank somewhere, the sound of laughter, and women's voices.Mordaff refused to be comforted. He accepted Ashton's death; the physical reality of that was too clear to deny, and he had seen too many other men he knew killed in the year and a half he had been in Belgium. But he could not, would not accept that Ashton had panicked. He knew what panic out there cost, how many other lives it jeopardized. It was the ultimate failure."How am I going to tell his mam?" he begged Joseph. "It'll be all I can do to tell her he's dead! His pa'll never get over it. That proud of him, they were. He's the only boy. Three sisters he had, Mary, Lizzie, and Alice. Thought he was the greatest lad in the world. I can't tell 'em he panicked! He couldn't have, Chaplain! He just wouldn't!"Joseph did not know what to say. How could people at home in England even begin to imagine what it was like in the mud and noise out here? But he knew how deep shame burned. A lifetime could be consumed by it."Maybe he just lost sense of direction," he said gently. "He wouldn't be the first." War changed men. People did panic. Mordaff knew that, and half his horror was because it could be true. But Joseph did not say so. "I'll write to his family," he went on. "There's a lot of good to say about him. I could send pages. I'll not need to tell them much about tonight.""Will you?" Mordaff was eager. "Thanks ... thanks, Chaplain. Can I stay with him ... until they come for him?""Yes, of course," Joseph agreed. "I'm going forward anyway. Get yourself a hot cup of tea. See you in an hour or so."He left Mordaff squatting on the earth floor beside Ashton's body and fumbled his way back over the slimy duckboards toward the travel line, then forward again to the front and the crack of gunfire and the occasional high flare of a star shell.He did not see Mordaff again, but he thought nothing of it. He could have passed twenty men he knew and not recognized them, muffled in greatcoats, heads bent as they moved, rattling along the duckboards, or standing on the fire steps, rifles to shoulder, trying to see in the gloom for something to aim at.Now and again he heard a cough, or the scamper of rats' feet and the splash of rain and mud. He spent a little time with two men swapping jokes, joining in their laughter. It was black humor, self-mocking, but he did not miss the courage in it, or the fellowship, the need to release emotion in some sane and human way.About midnight the rain stopped.A little after five the night patrol came scrambling through the wire, whispered passwords to the sentries, then came tumbling over the parapet of sandbags down into the trench, shivering with cold and relief. One of them had caught a shot in the arm.Joseph went back with them to the support line. In one of the dugouts a gramophone was playing a music-hall song. A couple of men sang along with it; one of them had a beautiful voice, a soft, lyric tenor. It was a silly song, trivial, but it sounded almost like a hymn out here, a praise of life.A couple of hours and the day would begin: endless, methodical duties of housekeeping, mindless routine, but it was better than doing nothing.There was still a sporadic crackle of machine-gun fire and the whine of sniper bullets.An hour till dawn.Joseph was sitting on an upturned ration case when Sergeant Renshaw came into the bunker, pulling the gas curtain aside to peer in."Chaplain?"Joseph looked up. He could see bad news in the man's face."I'm afraid Mordaff got it tonight," he said, coming in and letting the curtain fall again. "Sorry. Don't really know what happened. Ashton's death seems to have ... well, he lost his nerve. More or less went over the top all by himself. Suppose he was determined to go and give Fritz a bloody nose, on Ashton's account. Stupid bastard! Sorry, Chaplain."He did not need to explain himself, or to apologize. Joseph knew exactly the fury and the grief he felt at such a futile waste. To this was added a sense of guilt that he had not stopped it. He should have realized Mordaff was so close to breaking. He should have seen it. That was his job.He stood up slowly. "Thanks for telling me, Sergeant. Where is he?""He's gone, Chaplain." Renshaw remained near the doorway. "You can't help 'im now.""I know that. I just want to ... I don't know ... apologize to him. I let him down. I didn't understand he was ... so ...""You can't be everybody's keeper," Renshaw said gently. "Too many of us. It's not been a bad night otherwise. Got a trench raid coming off soon. Just wish we could get that damn sniper across the way there." He scraped a match and lit his cigarette. "But morale's good. That was a brave thing Captain Holt did out there. He wanted the chance to do something to hearten the men. He saw it and took it. Pity about Ashton, but that doesn't alter Holt's courage. Could see him, you know, by the star shells. Right out there beyond the last wire, bent double, carrying Ashton on his back. Poor devil went crazy. Running around like a fool. Have got the whole patrol killed if Holt hadn't gone after him. Hell of a job getting him back. Fell a couple of times. Reckon that's worth a mention in dispatches, at least. Heartens the men, knowing our officers have got that kind of spirit.""Yes ... I'm sure," Joseph agreed. He could only think of Ashton'swhite face, and Mordaff's desperate denial, and how Ashton's mother would feel, and the rest of his family. "I think I'll go and see Mordaff just the same.""Right you are," Renshaw conceded reluctantly, standing aside for Joseph to pass.
Mordaff lay in the support trench just outside the bunker two hundred yards to the west. He looked even younger than he had in life, as if he were asleep. His face was oddly calm, even though it was smeared with mud. Someone had tried to clean most of it off in a kind of dignity, so that at least he was recognizable. There was a large wound in the left side of his forehead. It was bigger than most sniper wounds. He must have been a lot closer.Joseph stood in the first paling of the darkness and looked at him by candlelight from the open bunker curtain. He had been so alive only a few hours ago, so full of anger and loyalty and dismay. What had made him throw his life away in a useless gesture? Joseph racked his mind for some sign that should have warned him Mordaff was so close to breaking, but he could not see it even now.There was a cough a few feet away, and the tramp of boots on duckboards. The men were stood down, just one sentry per platoon left. They had returned for breakfast. If he thought about it he could smell cooking.Now would be the time to ask around and find out what had happened to Mordaff.He made his way to the field kitchen. It was packed with men, some standing to be close to the stoves and catch a bit of their warmth, others choosing to sit, albeit further away. They had survived the night. They were laughing and telling stories, most of them unfit for delicate ears, but Joseph was too used to it to take any offense. Now and then someone new would apologize for such language in front of a chaplain, but most knew he understood too well."Yeah," one answered his question through a mouthful of bread and jam. "He came and asked me if I saw what happened to Ashton. Very cut up, he was.""And what did you tell him?" Joseph asked.The man swallowed. "Told him Ashton seemed fine to me when he went over. Just like anyone else, nervous ... but, then, only a fool isn't scared to go over the top!"Joseph thanked him and moved on. He needed to know who else was on the patrol."Captain Holt," the next man told him, a ring of pride in his voice. Word had got around about Holt's courage. Everyone stood a little taller because of it, felt a little braver, more confident. "We'll pay Fritz back for that," he added. "Next raid--you'll see."There was a chorus of agreement."Who else?" Joseph pressed."Seagrove, Noakes, Willis," a thin man replied, standing up. "Want some breakfast, Chaplain? Anything you like, on the house--as long as it's bread and jam and half a cup of tea. But you're not particular, are you? Not one of those fussy eaters who'll only take kippers and toast?""What I wouldn't give for a fresh Craster kipper," another sighed, a faraway look in his eyes. "I can smell them in my dreams."Someone told him good-naturedly to shut up."Went over the top beside me," Willis said when Joseph found him quarter of an hour later. "All blacked up like the rest of us. Seemed okay to me then. Lost him in no-man's land. Had a hell of a job with the wire. As bloody usual, it wasn't where we'd been told. Got through all right, then Fritz opened up to us. Star shells all over the sky." He sniffed and then coughed violently. When he had control of himself again, he continued. "Then I saw someone outlined against the flares, arms high, like a wild man, running around. He was going toward the German lines, shouting something. Couldn't hear what in the noise."Joseph did not interrupt. It was now broad daylight and beginning to drizzle again. Around them men were starting the duties of the day: digging, filling sandbags, carrying ammunition, strengthening the wire, resetting duckboards. Men took an hour's work, an hour's sentry duty, and an hour's rest.Near them somebody was expending his entire vocabulary of curses against lice. Two more were planning elaborate schemes to hold the water at bay."Of course that lit us up like a target, didn't it!" Willis went on. "Sniper fire and machine guns all over the place. Even a couple of shells. How none of us got hit I'll never know. Perhaps the row woke God up, and He came back on duty!" He laughed hollowly. "Sorry, Chaplain. Didn't mean it. I'm just so damn sorry poor Ashton got it. Holt just came out of nowhere and ran after him. Obsessed with being a hero, or he'd not even have tried. I can see him in my mind's eye floundering through the mud. If Ashton hadn't got caught in the wire he'd never have got him.""Caught in the wire?" Joseph asked, memory pricking at him."Yeah. Ashton must have run right into the wire, because he stopped sudden--teetering, like--and fell over. A hell of a barrage came over just after that. We all threw ourselves down.""What happened then?" Joseph said urgently, a slow, sick thought taking shape in his mind."When it died down I looked up again, and there was Holt staggering back with poor Ashton across his shoulders. Hell of a job he had carrying him, even though he's bigger than Ashton--well, taller, anyway. Up to his knees in mud, he was, shot and shell all over, sky lit up like a Christmas tree. Of course we gave him what covering fire we could. Maybe it helped." He coughed again. "Reckon he'll be mentioned in dispatches, Chaplain? He deserves it." There was admiration in his voice, a lift of hope.Joseph forced himself to answer. "I should think so." The words were stiff."Well, if he isn't, the men'll want to know why!" Willis said fiercely. "Bloody hero, he is."Joseph thanked him and went to find Seagrove and Noakes. They told him pretty much the same story."You going to have him recommended?" Noakes asked. "He earned it this time. Mordaff came and we said just the same to him. Reckon he wanted the Captain given a medal. He made us say it over and over again, exactly what happened.""That's right," Seagrove nodded, leaning on a sandbag."You told him the same?" Joseph asked. "About the wire, and Ashton getting caught in it?""Yes, of course. If he hadn't got caught by the legs he'd have gone straight on and landed up in Fritz's lap, poor devil.""Thank you.""Welcome, Chaplain. You going to write up Captain Holt?"Joseph did not answer, but turned away, sick at heart.He did not need to look again, but he trudged all the way back to the field hospital anyway. It would be his job to say the services for both Ashton and Mordaff. The graves would be already dug.He looked at Ashton's body again, looked carefully at his trousers. They were stained with mud, but there were no tears in them, no marks of wire. The fabric was perfect.He straightened up."I'm sorry," he said quietly to the dead man. "Rest in peace." And he turned and walked away.He went back to where he had left Mordaff's body, but it had been removed. Half an hour more took him to where it also was laid out. He touched the cold hand and looked at the brow. He would ask. He would be sure. But in his mind he already was. He needed time to know what he must do about it. The men would be going over the top on another trench raid soon. Today morale was high. They had a hero in their number, a man who would risk his own life to bring back a soldier who had lost his nerve and panicked. Led by someone like that, they were equal to Fritz any day. Was one pistol bullet, one family's shame, worth all that?What were they fighting for anyway? The issues were so very big, and at the same time so very small and immediate.
He found Captain Holt alone just after dusk, standing on the duckboards below the parapet, near one of the firing steps."Oh, it's you, Chaplain. Ready for another night?""It'll come, whether I am or not," Joseph replied.Holt gave a short bark of laughter. "That doesn't sound like you. Tiredof the firing line, are you? You've been up here a couple of weeks; you should be in turn for a step back any day. Me too, thank God."Joseph faced forward, peering through the gloom toward no-man's-land and the German lines beyond. He was shaking. He must control himself. This must be done in the silence, before the shooting started up again. Then he might not get away with it."Pity about that sniper over there," he remarked. "He's taken out a lot of our men.""Damnable," Holt agreed. "Can't get a line on him, though. Keeps his own head well down.""Oh, yes," Joseph nodded. "We'd never get him from here. It needs a man to go over in the dark and find him.""Not a good idea, Chaplain. He'd not come back. Not advocating suicide, are you?"Joseph chose his words very carefully and kept his voice as unemotional as he could."I wouldn't have put it like that," he answered. "But he has cost us a lot of men. Mordaff today, you know?""Yes ... I heard. Pity.""Except that wasn't the sniper, of course. But the men think it was, so it comes to the same thing, as far as morale is concerned.""Don't know what you mean, Chaplain." There was a slight hesitation in Holt's voice in the darkness."Wasn't a rifle wound, it was a pistol," Joseph replied. "You can tell the difference, if you're actually looking for it.""Then he was a fool to be that close to German lines," Holt said, facing forward over the parapet and the mud. "Lost his nerve, I'm afraid.""Like Ashton," Joseph said. "Can understand that, up there in no-man's-land, mud everywhere, wire catching hold of you, tearing at you, stopping you from moving. Terrible thing to be caught in the wire with the star shells lighting up the night. Makes you a sitting target. Takes an exceptional man not to panic, in those circumstances ... a hero."Holt did not answer.There was silence ahead of them, only the dull thump of feet and a squelch of duckboards in mud behind, and the trickle of water along the bottom of the trench."I expect you know what it feels like," Joseph went on. "I notice you have some pretty bad tears in your trousers, even one in your blouse. Haven't had time to mend them yet.""I daresay I got caught in a bit of wire out there last night," Holt said stiffly. He shifted his weight from one foot to the other."I'm sure you did," Joseph agreed with him. "Ashton didn't. His clothes were muddy, but no wire tears."There were several minutes of silence. A group of men passed by behind them, muttering words of greeting. When they were gone the darknessclosed in again. Someone threw up a star shell and there was a crackle of machine-gun fire."I wouldn't repeat that, if I were you, Chaplain," Holt said at last. "You might make people think unpleasant things, doubts. And right at the moment morale is high. We need that. We've had a hard time recently. We're going over the top in a trench raid soon. Morale is important ... trust. I'm sure you know that, maybe even better than I do. That's your job, isn't it? Morale, spiritual welfare of the men?""Yes ... spiritual welfare is a good way of putting it. Remember what it is we are fighting for, and that it is worth all that it costs ... even this." Joseph gestured in the dark to all that surrounded them.More star shells went up, illuminating the night for a few garish moments, then a greater darkness closed in."We need our heroes," Holt said very clearly. "You should know that. Any man who would tear them down would be very unpopular, even if he said he was doing it in the name of truth, or justice, or whatever it was he believed in. He would do a lot of harm, Chaplain. I expect you can see that ...""Oh, yes," Joseph agreed. "To have their hero shown to be a coward who laid the blame for his panic on another man, and let him be buried in shame, and then committed murder to hide that, would devastate men who are already wretched and exhausted by war.""You are perfectly right." Holt sounded as if he were smiling. "A very wise man, Chaplain. Good of the regiment first. The right sort of loyalty.""I could prove it," Joseph said very carefully."But you won't. Think what it would do to the men."Joseph turned a little to face the parapet. He stood up onto the fire step and looked forward over the dark expanse of mud and wire."We should take that sniper out. That would be a very heroic thing to do. Good thing to try, even if you didn't succeed. You'd deserve a mention in dispatches for that, possibly a medal.""It would be posthumous!" Holt said bitterly."Possibly. But you might succeed and come back. It would be so daring, Fritz would never expect it," Joseph pointed out."Then you do it, Chaplain!" Holt said sarcastically."It wouldn't help you, Captain. Even if I die, I have written a full account of what I have learned today, to be opened should anything happen to me. On the other hand, if you were to mount such a raid, whether you returned or not, I should destroy it."There was silence again, except for the distant crack of sniper fire a thousand yards away and the drip of mud."Do you understand me, Captain Holt?"Holt turned slowly. A star shell lit his face for an instant. His voice was hoarse."You're sending me to my death!""I'm letting you be the hero you're pretending to be and Ashton really was," Joseph answered. "The hero the men need. Thousands of us have died out here, no one knows how many more there will be. Others will be maimed or blinded. It isn't whether you die or not, it's how well."A shell exploded a dozen yards from them. Both men ducked, crouching automatically.Silence again.Slowly Joseph unbent.Holt lifted his head. "You're a hard man, Chaplain. I misjudged you.""Spiritual care, Captain," Joseph said quietly. "You wanted the men to think you a hero, to admire you. Now you're going to justify that and become one."Holt stood still, looking toward him in the gloom, then slowly he turned and began to walk away, his feet sliding on the wet duckboards. Then he climbed up the next fire step and up over the parapet.Joseph stood still and prayed.Copyright © 2000 by Tekno Books and Ed Gorman.
Excerpted from The World's Finest Mystery and Crime Stories: 1 by Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Rio Grande Gothic,
The Hanged Man,
Show Me the Bones,
A Flash of Chrysanthemum,
The Man in the White Hat,
The Canasta Club,
The Circle of Ink,
The Death Cat of Hester Street,
Those That Trespass,
For Services Rendered,
The Tinder Box,
Symptoms of Loss,
Taking Care of Frank,
Styx and Bones,
Not Long Now,
The Shortest Distance,
I Love Everything About You,
The Case of the Headless Witness,
The Mummy Case: A Midnight Louie Past Life Adventure,
Barking at Butterflies,
The Dark Prince,
The Ice Shelf,
In for a Penny,
A 1999 Yearbook of Mystery and Crime,
The Year in Mystery and Crime Fiction: 1999,
Forge Books by Ed Gorman,
Honorable Mentions: 1999,
About the Editor,