Alf Malcolm was a well-regarded lawyer. He charged reasonable fees, he didn’t spread gossip like that sorry excuse for a district attorney Duncan Haversham, and he prided himself on being as staid and predictable as white bread.

“White bread’s just fine for most people,” he was fond of saying, “It may not be as exciting as chocolate cake but it also won’t get you sick if you eat it every day.” He hadn’t had many people to say that to since his wife Mary had left, but it was enough to think it strongly, to hold that idea to his starched shirt and grey tie like a warm blanket.

Alf had a habit of walking from his practice to his home a few blocks away, a stately old place build by a lumber baron before the county had been denuded. He cut through the park, a few back alleys, and through the vacant lot that had once been the Amoco, even on pitch-black new-moon nights.

Five people saw Alf leave his practice the night of July 15: his law clerk, his secretary, the stockboy at the IGA, a salesman spending the night in his car, and a delivery boy. None of them noticed anything unusual, though none of them saw him after he cut across the old Amoco lot and then she, presumably, through Linus Park.

The only unusual thing anyone noticed was his failure to report to work the next day. Alf Malclom’s 8:15 AM arrival was the sort of thing a local could set their watch to, and he’d only ever taken a day for his mother’s funeral in Twin Forks. The law clerk at Harris, Malcolm, and Petty called the police around 9:45, asking for a welfare check.

A rookie beat officer was sent over to the Malcolm house alone, on foot. That was a mistake. By the tie the ordeal was over, the officer had lost a finger, 50% of the sight in his right eye, and was concussed. Half the police in town were swarming the Malcolm house, and the old white-bread lawyer himself was dead of an overdose of .38 Special, with the rookie cop’s blood still on his lips.

“He was hopped up on something,” was the only statement a shocked chief of police could make the next day. “Whatever happened, that wasn’t the Alf Malcolm anybody knew in there.”

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