all right

Occasionally adding corroborative details to add verisimilitude to otherwise bald and unconvincing,
but veridicous accounts
with careful attention, indefatigable assiduity, and nice discrimination.

How to Get Away with Murder, by Donald Lam

The Bigger They Fall, by A.A. Fair (a pseudonym of Erle Stanley Gardner), originally published in 1939, was the first in the “Cool and Lam” series.

Note: a major spoiler of the novel follows.

[Donald Lam, short and underfed, finds work with Bertha Cool’s “confidential investigations” agency.] 

“Donald,” [Bertha Cool] said, “I know your real name.  I know all about your trouble.  You were admitted to the bar.  You were disbarred for violating professional ethics.”
“I wasn’t disbarred,” I said, “and I didn’t violate professional ethics.”

“The grievance committee reported that you did.”
“The grievance committee were a lot of stuffed shirts.  I talked too much, that’s all.

“What about Donald?”
“I did some work for a client,” I said.  We got to talking about the law.  I told him that a man could break any law and get away with it if he went at it right.”
“That’s nothing,” she said.  “Anyone knows that.”
“The trouble is I didn’t stop there,” I confessed.  “I told you I like to scheme.  I don’t figure knowledge is any good unless you can apply it.  I’d studied out a lot of legal tricks.  I knew how to apply them.”
“Go on from there,” she said, her eyes showing interest.  “What happened?”
“I told this man it would be possible to commit a murder so there was nothing anyone could do about it.  He said I was wrong.  I got mad and offered to bet him five hundred dollars I was right, and could prove it.  He said he was ready to put up the money any time I put up my five hundred bucks.  I told him to come back the next day.  That night he was arrested.  He turned out to be a small-time gangster.  He babbled everything he knew to the police.  Among other things, he told them that I had agreed to tell him how he could commit a murder and get off scot-free.  That he was to pay me five hundred dollars for the information, and then if it looked good to him, he had planned to to bump off a rival gangster.”
“What happened?” she asked.
“The grievance committee went after me hammer and tongs.  The revoked my licence for a year.  They thought I was some sort of shyster.  I told them it was an argument and a bet.  Under the circumstances, they didn’t believe me.  And, naturally, they took the other side of the question—that a man couldn’t commit deliberate murder and go unpunished.”
“Could he, Donald?” she asked.
“Yes,” I said.
“And you know how?”
“Yes, I told you that was my weakness.  I like to figure things out.”
“And locked inside your head is a plan by which I could kill someone and the law couldn’t do a damn thing about it?”
“You mean if I was smart enough so I didn’t get caught?”
“I don’t mean anything of the sort.  You’d have to put yourself in my hands and do as I told you.”
“You don’t mean that old gag about fixing it so they couldn’t find the body?”
“That,” I said, “is the bunk.  I’m talking about a loophole in the law itself, something a man could take advantage of to commit a murder.”
“Tell me, Donald.”
I laughed and said, “Remember, I’ve been through that once.”  [pp. 57-58, Chapter 5.]

I told a bellboy to get me the bell captain, and took the captain off into executive session.  “A blonde in a blue outfit came in about two minutes ago,” I said.  “I want to know what name she registered under, where she’s registered, and what rooms near her are vacant.  I’d like to get one across the corridor from her if I can.”
“What’s the idea?” he asked.
“I took a five-dollar bill from my pocket, folded it, twisted it around my fingers, and said, “I’m a committee of one, working on behalf of the government, trying to get deserving bellboys into the higher income tax brackets so we can collect more tax.”
“I always co-operate with the government,”  he said, grinning.  “Just a minute.”  [p. 74, Chapter 5.]

[Donald’s client is framed for a murder, and in order to clear her of suspicion, and to bring the real killers to justice, Donald makes some tricky preparations in Arizona, returns to California, is extradited to Arizona from California against his will, and there confesses to the murder.  He opposes extradition to California.]

The judge asked in icy tones, “Have you any more witnesses, Mr. Lam?”
“None, your honour.”
“Very well.  I shall now decide the case.”
“Will I have the opportunity to argue it?”
“I fail to see where you can say anything which will affect the ruling of the court.”
I said, “There is plenty to be said, your honour.  The State of California wants me back.  A few hours ago the State of California didn’t want me within its borders.  The State of California turned me over to the State of Arizona against my will and wish.  I was dragged into the State of Arizona.  There can be no question of that.”
“But what does that have to do with it?” the judge asked.  “You have admitted killing a man in California.”
“Certainly, I killed him.  He deserved to die.  He was a rat and and a double-crosser.  But that isn’t the question before this court.  The question before this court is whether I can be extradited to California.  I can’t be extradited to California.  The only authority which one state has to take prisoners from another state comes from the organic law which provides that fugitives from justice may be extradited from one sovereign state to another.  I am not a fugitive from justice.”
“If you’re not a fugitive from justice, I don’t know what you are,” Judge Oliphant said.
“I don’t need to argue the matter,” I retorted, “for two reasons.  One of them is that your honour’s mind is evidently made up, and the other is that better legal minds than I have already wrestled with the problem.  The fact remains, however, that a man is not a fugitive from a state unless he flees from that state.  He doesn’t flee from that state unless he does so voluntarily and in order to avoid arrest.  I did not flee from California.  I was dragged from California.  I was taken out under legal process to answer for a crime of which I was innocent.  I claimed that I was innocent.  I came to Arizona and established my innocence.  Any time I get good and ready to go back to California, California can arrest me for murder.  Until I get good and ready to go back, I can stay here and no power on earth can make me budge.”
The judge was looking interested now.  “When you mention that more learned minds than yours have considered the question, are you, by any chance, referring to any judicial precedent?”
“I am, your honour.  The case of In re Whittington, 34C. A.344, is a leading case and absolutely in point.  I can also refer you to the case of People vs Jones, S4C.A.423 […].”  [pp. 196-97, Chapter 13.]

The judge sat staring at me incredulously.  The district attorney got to his feet, and said, “Surely, your honour, that cannot be the law.  If it were the law, any man could commit murder, with malice aforethought.  He could coldly, deliberately, and feloniously kill another human being; then, by taking advantage of a legal loophole, avoid any punishment.”
Judge Oliphant said slowly, “And apparently that is exactly what the petitioner has done.  It needs no great imagination to realize that, step by step, he has embarked upon a course of carefully planned murder with diabolical ingenuity.  If this is the law, this man has permitted the perfect crime, not as it is usually planned, with such subtlety that the clues are concealed, but with such ingenuity that he cannot be punished.  It is to be noted that the petitioner has memorized the text of that portion of Californian jurisprudence dealing with the point he is making.  It is, therefore, readily apparent that the full possibilities of the situation have been carefully thought out by him well in advance.  The entire history of this case indicates that the petitioner is possessed of an astute legal mind which, unfortunately, is not balanced by a corresponding sense of legal ethics.  However much the Court may deplore the latter, it cannot ignore the consummate brilliance with which this petitioner, frail in his physical appearance, apparently young, innocent and inexperienced, has jockeyed the authorities of two states into such a position that they are apparently powerless to punish him for a cold-blooded, premeditated, and deliberate murder, his part in which he has brazenly admitted.  [pp. 198-99, Chapter 13.]

“Did you do this because you loved her?” [asked Bertha Cool]
“Partially,” I said, “and partially because I couldn’t resist the temptation to blow up the smug legal theories entertained by a lot of mossback lawyers.  The grievance committee said my idea a bombproof murder could be committed was an indication I didn’t have a very good foundation in my legal education.  They didn’t bother to find out what the scheme was, but, just because they thought a man couldn’t commit a murder and beat the rap legally, they figured I was wrong in saying he could.  I wanted to show ’em.  If they hadn’t suspended me from the bar, I’d have made a name for myself before this.”
“Do you know any more tricks like that?” she asked.
“Lots of them,” I said.  [p. 202, Chapter 14.]
From  The Bigger They Fall, by A.A. Fair (Quill: New York, 1984).

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