American Crime Stories

american_crime_storiesАМЕРИКАНСКИЕ ДЕТЕКТИВНЫЕ ИСТОРИИ

Преступники в Соединенных Штатах Америки абсолютно такие же как преступники в любом другом месте. Они лгут, хитрят, крадут, носят оружие, врываются в здания — и убивают людей.
Иногда их ловят, иногда нет. И некоторых из них имеют нехорошие желания для остатка своих жизней.
Эти семь историй известных американских писателей показывают нам несколько разных преступлений с разной тяжестью и виной. Убийства из страсти и мести; убийства, похожие на самоубийства или
несчастные случаи. Грабежи и разбой, страх и ненависть, любовь и праздность.

Есть невиновные и виновные — но кто из них кто? И есть детективы: Луиза, которая не признает что причиной смерти ее кузена было самоубийство; и профессиональный, беспристрастный частный детектив, который знает чья рука находится на курке у пулеметов и гранат в бурной ночи Couffignal.

Мы начинаем с истории молодого человека, который стоит перегнувшись через ограждение моста Моррисси поздно вечером с темными мыслями о самоубийстве…

 


alibi the proof that you were elsewhere when a crime happened
ashtray a small metal or glass bowl for the ash from cigarettes
bandit a robber
boiler a big metal container with a fire, used to provide hot water
chauffeur someone employed to look after and drive a person’s car
clerk a person who works in a bank, office, or store
client someone who goes to a professional person for help
cop a policeman
coroner an official responsible for the investigation of violent or sudden deaths
cripple someone who cannot move their body properly because of an injury, illness, or disease
crutch a long stick placed under the arm to help a person who has difficulty in walking
duchess the wife or widow of a duke
executed put to death as a punishment
fiance (fiancee) the man (woman) you are engaged to marry
fingerprint a mark made by a finger showing the lines on the skin
flashlight an electric torch
fool (v) to deceive
gasoline/gas petrol (fuel for cars)
governess a woman employed by a family to educate their children
graze (n) a scratch or slight injury to the skin
gutting robbing, often accompanied by burning and destroying
hairdresser a person who washes and cuts people’s hair
hand grenade a small container filled with explosive and thrown by hand
hypocrite a person who pretends to believe or feel something they do not
inquest the official inquiry to find out the cause of someone’s death
lawn an area of short, regularly cut grass in a garden or park
lipstick something which women put on their lips to color them
liquor store a shop that sells liquor (alcohol)
machine gun a gun which fires bullets quickly and automatically
maid a woman servant
mainland the main part of the land, not an island
make-up things like powder, lipstick, eye-shadow, etc. which women use on their faces
mourning showing great sadness and wearing dark clothes because of someone’s death
movie (the movies) a film (a cinema)
mugging a street robbery
nursery a children’s room
omelet a dish of cooked eggs
package a parcel
parking-lot a car park
pier a platform of wood or metal, built out into the sea
pill a small, round, hard piece of medicine which is swallowed
press to push hard against something
princess the daughter of a king or queen, or the wife of a prince
psychiatrist a doctor for illnesses of the mind
pump (v) to force liquid, air, etc. into or out of something
purse a woman’s handbag
radiator something used to heat a room; part of a heating system
range (n) a place where people can practice shooting guns
reference a letter to an employer describing the character and capabilities of an applicant for a job
rifle a kind of long gun, usually held against the shoulder
ruffle to push a hand quickly and gently through someone’s hair (often to show fondness for that person)
sane not mad
scared very frightened
stern (n) the back of a boat
suicide a person who deliberately kills himself or herself
tank a large metal container
tattoo a picture or design on someone’s skin, made with a needle
trailer a caravan
trigger the part of a gun which you pull to fire it
wig a covering for the head made of false hair

Before Reading

1 Read the introduction on the first page of the book, and the back cover. What can you guess about these stories?

Death Wish

What will the man leaning over Morrissey Bridge do?

  1. a) Kill himself   b) Kill somebody else   c) Pay for a murder

Death on Christmas Eve

Who does the murderer kill on Christmas Eve?

  1. a) A stranger   b) A lover c) A relation

The Heroine

What does ‘the heroine’ of the story want to save people from?

  1. a) A fire b) A gunfight c) A kidnapping

Ride the Lightning

Who goes to the electric chair?

  1. a) Curtis Colt b) Curtis’s girlfriend  c) Somebody else

The Lipstick

What does Louise find on the lipstick?

  1. a) Fingerprints  b) Poison c) The owner’s initials

Lazy Susan

What is the result of Susan’s laziness?

  1. a) Murder  b) Armed robbery  c) Burglary

The Gutting of Couffignal

What is the motive behind the armed attack on Couffignal?

  1. a) Hate b) Revenge  c) Hunger

ACTIVITIES

While Reading

Read Death Wish, and then answer these questions.

Why

1 ….. didn’t the cop run to stop the man from jumping off the bridge?
2 ….. did the man tell the cop his name?
3 ….. did the man tell the psychiatrist about his dream?
4  ….. didn’t Edward Wright’s wife run away with Mark?
5  ….. did Edward Wright kill his wife?
6  ….. did Edward Wright write a suicide note?
7   ….. was Mark sure that Wright’s friends would say he was suicidal?

Read to the bottom of page 17 in Death on Christmas Eve. Can you guess the answer to this question?

Who will be alive in the Boerum House at the end of the story?

  1. a) Only Celia  b) Only Charlie  c) Both of them  d) Nobody

Now read to the end of the story and answer these questions.

1   Why was Celia cleared of Jessie’s murder at the inquest?
2 How was Celia like her mother?
3 Why did the lawyer stay behind Celia until he left the house?
4  Celia ran along as if she was ‘being chased by something’. Who or what do you think that was?
5  Why was Al Sharp expecting the lawyer to come into his bar?
6 Why did the lawyer say, ‘Jessie will always be with them’?

Read The Heroine. This summary is full of mistakes. Rewrite it with the correct information.

Before Lucille bought the Christiansens’ house, she had worked as a teacher in different schools for ten years. Her father had died three weeks earlier, but he had hot been sane for a year. Lucille too had been sent to prison for attacking people, but the Christiansens knew all about her past.

Lucille enjoyed her work and liked the animals, though she wanted to work less hard for more pay. But she felt she wanted to do something foolish to prove how little she cared about the family. So late one morning she used a bomb to blow up the house, hoping that this would give her the chance to save the animals and be a heroine.

Read Ride the Lightning. Who said this, and to whom? Who or what were they talking about?

1 ‘Curtis doesn’t belong in it, and I can prove it.’
2  ‘Why should I worry about it any more?’
3  ‘The jury didn’t believe it. Neither do I.’
4 ‘They don’t want to live knowing they might have made a mistake and killed an innocent man.’
5 ‘Watching her trailer would be a waste of time.’
6 ‘He’s somebody you paid to sit there and lie to me.’
7 ‘Yours will stay with you for years.’

Read to the bottom of page 61 in The Lipstick. Can you guess the answer to this question?

Who killed Elinor and shot Mrs Thompson?

  1. a) Dr Barclay b) Margaret  c) Fred  d) Someone else

Now read to the end of the story. Choose the best question-word for these questions and then answer them.

What/Who/Why

1 ….. kind of person was Elinor?
2  ….. did Louise suspect of killing Elinor, and why?
3 ….. did Doctor Barclay come to see Louise?
4 ….. three things did Fred do in an attempt to prevent discovery?
5 ….. happened in Louise’s garden after Fred left?

Read Lazy Susan. Here are some untrue sentences about the story. Change them into true sentences.

1  Susan had felt frightened because the robber hurt her badly.
2  The typical mugging victim is a man in dark clothes.
3  After three weeks of self-defense training Susan still didn’t feel like going out alone.
4  Susan planned to get another office job with better pay.

Read The Gutting of’ Couffignal. Are these sentences true (T) or false (F)? Rewrite the false ones with the correct information.

1  The first sign that something was wrong was a heavy explosion.
2  The robbers attacked the bank first, then the jeweler’s.
3 One man took the news to the mainland by running across the bridge.
4  The robbers left the island on Hendrixson’s boat.
5  The wedding presents were stolen but nobody was killed.
6  The detective realized that the robbers came from the island.
7  The Russians lacked the right criminal skills for the robbery.
8  The princess’s friends had already escaped from the island when the detective shot her in the back.

ACTIVITIES

After Reading

1 Perhaps this is what some of the characters in the stories were thinking. Which seven characters were they (one from each story), and what was happening in the story at that moment?

1 ‘How easy that was — and how quick! It used to take me ages to get that much, and now it just takes minutes. Well, I know what I’m going to do first thing tomorrow. I’m going to give up my job. Work is for idiots!’

2 ‘Perhaps we should have phoned the Howells, but it didn’t really seem necessary. She’s so young and keen. She does seem a bit nervous, but it’s her first day, so that’s natural. I’m sure the children are going to like her. I’ll leave them to have lunch together now …’

3 ‘That went very well. I was a bit worried about the signature, but he didn’t seem to notice anything. I’ve got everything I need, and I’ve seen everyone I need to see, so now there’s only one more thing for me to do. It’s time to pay a little visit …’

4  ‘She’s so pretty — even when she’s shouting at me or crying! I’m worried about her, though. She won’t stop asking questions. I do hope she takes my advice and stays indoors. Now I’d better get back to the house and see what’s happening there …’

5 ‘This one’s too smart for us, and he’s not interested in money. But there must be something he wants. I’ve got to keep him busy until the others get back here. Well, he’s a handsome man — perhaps he’d be interested in me …’

6 ‘I can hear him coming now. He’s got to listen to me. He’s got to tell me what to do! I can’t bear it any longer. Surely everyone can see that she’s guilty? So why can’t they take her away from here, and do what has to be done? There must be a way …’

7  ‘The car. That’s what’s been bothering me. She went home from the funeral by taxi, and I’ve never seen a car outside the trailer. But she must have one — how does she get to work otherwise? So where is it? I think I’ll get down there and start watching tomorrow morning …’

2 Here are Celia and Charlie, from Death on Christmas Eve, having one of their regular arguments. Complete Charlie’s side of the conversation (use as many words as you like).

CELIA: Christmas always makes me sad, because it makes me think of poor dear Jessie. I loved her so much.

CHARUE: ________
CELIA: No, Charlie, it’s the truth. I did not hate her, and I was very sorry when she died.
CHARLIE: ________
CELIA: Her death was a terrible accident, Charlie. How many times do I have to tell you that?
CHARLIE: ________
CELIA: Jessie and I never argued, and we didn’t argue that day. She just slipped and fell down the stairs.
CHARLIE: ________
CELIA: How could I have done it? I was in my room when she fell.
CHARLIE: ________
CELIA: Yes, she screamed because she was falling down the stairs. But that still doesn’t mean I pushed her.

3 At the end of The Heroine, what do you think happens next? Choose one of these ideas (or think of one of your own) and write a new ending for the story.

As though this was the sign for which she had been waiting, Lucille went confidently forward, ..

  • goes into house / dies with family in flames / ‘terrible tragedy’ / person responsible for fire unknown
  • calls fire brigade / children die, parents rescued / police find evidence / Lucille guilty of murder
  • runs into house / rescues children / parents die in fire / famous heroine / cured of illness

4 The Lipstick could have been a very different story. What might have happened if …? Complete these sentences in your own words.

1 If Elinor hadn’t married Fred,…
2 If Louise hadn’t noticed that the lipstick was missing,…
3 If the office girl hadn’t seen Elinor putting on lipstick,…
4 If Mrs Thompson had died,…
5 If Louise hadn’t telephoned Margaret about Mrs Thompson,…
6 If Margaret hadn’t sent Dr Barclay to warn Louise,…
7 If Fred hadn’t murdered his wife,…

5 What was Holly Ann thinking, at the end of Ride the Lightning} Here are her thoughts after Nudger left. Choose one suitable word to fill each gap.

Nudger’s right. He can’t ____ anything, but he’s right ____ what happened. I was ____ one, God help me, ____ did the shooting. I ____ want to, but I ____ no choice. The old ____ went crazy and ran ____ me, and when I’d ____ him, his wife went ____ too. Every time I ____ my eyes, I see ____ old woman’s face as ____ fell. It should have ____ me in that electric ____. Curtis didn’t deserve to ____, and I’m going to ____ to live, knowing he ____ me, and I killed _____. It doesn’t matter how ____ whisky I drink, I _____ stop thinking about it …

6 Here is the report that the detective in The Gutting of Couffignal wrote for Sergeant Roche. Put the parts of sentences in the right order, and join them with these linking words to make a paragraph of five sentences.

and I and I as I because I before I however I where I while I while I who

1  ____ stole the most valuable wedding presents.
2  ____ they waited for a suitable night to rob the island.
3  The Russians rented a house in Couffignal six months ago
4  ____ I found and shot Princess Zhukovski,
5  On the night of the storm, some of them attacked the bank and the jeweler’s,
6   ____ they killed two servants
7  ____ the police would look for criminals
8  Then the Russians began robbing the houses, including the Hendrixson house,
9 ____ she was trying to escape.
10  ____ began making friends and collecting weapons
11  The Russians thought that they were safe from the police,
12  ____ others created alibis by appearing in different places.
13   ____ came from outside the island.
14  ____, I was able to tell the police what had really happened

7 What were the motives for the different crimes and murders in these stories? Choose a motive (or more than one) to fit each name, and then write a sentence or two for each character, giving the reasons for your choice of motive.

       MOTIVES

fear            madness

revenge      greed

jealousy      laziness

desire for power

       CHARACTERS

Mark     Fred

Celia        Susan

Lucille      the Russians

Holly Ann

8 Here are some different titles for the stories. Which titles suit which stories? Some can go with more than one story. Which are they?

One Brave Act

An Easy Job

Keeping Death Alive

A Better Way to Get Money

Bad Dreams Forever

Not Guilty?

Steps Towards Death

The Rich and The Hungry

Memories Don’t Die

Laying a Trail to Death

Death Waits at the Window

A Death in the Family

9 Discuss your answers to these questions.

  • Very few of the criminals in these stories are brought to justice or punished. Do you prefer crime stories that end like this, or stories with ‘unsolved’ crimes or more open endings? Why?
  • In your opinion, which was the most skilful murder (or crime) or the cleverest murderer (or criminal) in these stories?
  • Did the authors make you feel sympathetic towards any of these criminals? If so, which ones and why?

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