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The Long Arm   By:

The Long Arm by Franz Habl

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The Long Arm


[Transcriber Note: This etext was produced from Weird Tales October 1937. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]

[Sidenote: Creeping, writhing, insidiously crawling and groping, the long arm reached out in its ghastly errand of death ]

I had been out of Germany for thirty five years, drawn hither and thither by various glittering of will of the wisps. When I returned to my native country, I was as poor in pocket as when I left, and much poorer in illusions.

The Berlin insurance company which I had represented with such mediocre success in Switzerland, Austria and Belgium agreed to let me sell for them at home, and by a curious coincidence there was an opening in the quaint old Bavarian city in which I had been born and bred.

I will pass over the strangely mingled feelings with which I rode in a Twentieth Century railroad train past the thousand year old walls of one of the most curious ancient cities in Europe, a town moreover whose every winding narrow street and sharp gabled building had been the companion of my infancy and childhood. No one seemed to know me, and I recognized no one. For several days I made no attempt to sell life insurance, but wandered in a dream, the bewildered ghost of my former self, about the spots which I had known in happier days.

One dull rainy afternoon I took refuge from the weather in a dingy little coffee house in which, at the age of fourteen or fifteen, I along with certain boon companions, had learned the gentle art of billiards. It seemed as if every article of furniture was just as I had walked away from them, well toward half a century before. It was raining outside, and I sat alone in the gloomy, smoky old place, pondering the sweet and bitter mysteries of life.

While I sat thus, staring out with unseeing eyes at the rain which was by this time beating down smartly on the pavement, I became conscious that someone in the room was staring at me. I had not noticed that there was anyone else in the dark, low ceilinged place except the obsequious proprietor who had served me my cigar and coffee. Now I realized that a man who sat in the corner diagonally across from me was studying me curiously from over his newspaper. His face was one that I had seen before. Suddenly, across all the years, I remembered him. And in that same moment he rose and came toward me with his hand held out.

We had been in school together, in the Gymnasium. He had been a strange fellow with few friends, but had enjoyed the reputation of being the best student in his class. But in his last year in the Gymnasium he had, for what reason I never knew, excited the animosity of a cantankerous old professor who had publicly declared that Gustav was not the kind of boy who should have a Gymnasium diploma and that he, the professor, was determined never to give him a passing grade. My father had admired the boy very much, and at one juncture when my marks looked perilously low, he had employed Gustav to tutor me. Gustav had been so successful that Father was delighted and made him a present of a silver cigarette case with Gustav's initials and mine engraved on it. I remembered all this very distinctly as we shook hands, but I was doing fast thinking, because for the life of me I couldn't remember his strange last name. I had a feeling that it was a very foreign name, Polish or Croatian or something of the sort. As he mentioned this and that, I fear I answered him a little absently and incoherently. The name was almost there. The syllables flitted tantalizingly just out of my reach. But I was sure the name began with a B. Wasn't it a Bam or a Ban something? Ah! I had it. Banaotovich!

From that moment the conversation went more easily. I was surprized and pleased when Banaotovich drew his silver cigarette case out of his pocket to prove to me how highly he thought of my poor deceased father... Continue reading book >>

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