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By VOA SPECIAL ENGLISH
Now the weekly Special English program--American Stories.
Our story today is called "the Killers". It was written by Ernest Hemingway. Here is Lerry West with the story.
The door of George's small restaurant opened, and two men came in. They sat down on at one of the tables. George walked over to them.
"What would you like to eat? " he asked them.
"I don't know. " one of them said, "I don't know what I want to eat. "
Nick Adams, another customer, watched them from across the room. He had been talking to George when they came in.
"I'll take ham and eggs. " The man called Al said. He wore a hat and a black coat that buttoned across his chest. His face was small and white, and he had thin tight lips. He wore a silk scarf around his neck and gloves on his hands.
"What're you having, Max? " Al asked his partner.
"Bring me bacon and eggs. " Max said without looking at George.
Max was the same size as Al. Their faces were different, but they were dressed like twins: both wore heavy winter coats that were too small for them. George waded to the kitchen and came out of a few minutes later carrying two dishes of food.
"Which is yours? " he asked Max.
"You're a really smart boy, aren't you? " Max said.
He leaned forward and took the plate with the bacon and eggs on it. Both men ate with their gloves on. George watched them eat.
Al looked across the room.
"What's the name of that smart boy over there? " He asked George.
"Adams. " Nick said for himself,
"My name is Nick Adams. "
"All right, smart boy, come stand over here near your friend. " Al pointed to George.
"What are you going to do? " George asked.
"That's none of your business. " Al said.
"Who is out in the kitchen, the cook? "
George nodded "yes".
"Tell him to come out here. " Max ordered.
George knocked on the kitchen door.
"Sam, " he called, "come in here a minute. "
The door to the kitchen opened and Sam came out. The two men at the table looked at him. Al got up and pushed Nick and Sam back into the kitchen. The door shut after them. The man called Max didn't look at George, but looked in a mirror that was on the wall near the table.
"Talk to me, smart boy. " Max said.
"What do you think we are going to do? "
George did not say anything.
"I'll tell you. " Max said, "We're going to kill someone. Do you know a big man named Ole Anderson? "
"Yes, " George said at a low voice, "he sometimes comes in here to eat. "
Max looked at George.
"He sometimes comes in here? You mean he comes in here every night at six o'clock, don't you? "
"Why are you going to kill Ole Anderson? " George asked, "What did he ever do to you? "
"He never did anything to us. " Max said, "He's never even seen us. We're going to kill him for a friend, smart boy. "
"Shut up, Max. " Al shouted from the kitchen. "You're talking too much! "
George looked at the clock near the door, it was five minutes to six. Max pushed George to get his attention.
"If anybody comes in, tell them that the cook is gone for the day. You understand that, smart boy? "
"All right. " George said, "but, what are you going to do to us afterwards? "
"We don't know yet. " Max said.
During the next hour, two other people came in to the restaurant, once George went into the kitchen to make a ham-and-egg sandwich for a man who wanted to take it with him. When he was in the kitchen, George saw Al with his hat pushed back on his head. He was sitting on a chair near the door. A small shotgun rested in his arms. Nick and Sam, the cook, were sitting on the floor. Al had tied them up and had stuffed a towel in their mouths. George cooked the ham and eggs, put them on a roll of bread and put the sandwich in a brown paper bag. The man paid for his food and left.
"This smart boy can do everything. " Max said.
"He can even cook. You would make a girl a nice wife, smart boy."
"Your friend Ole Anderson isn't going to come tonight." George said, "it's already a quarter to seven."
"We'll give in ten minutes." Max said.
Max watched the mirror and the clock. The hands of the clock marked seven o'clock, and then five minutes past seven.
"Come on now, Al," said Max, "We'd better go. He's not coming tonight."
Al came out of the kitchen. The small shotgun made a little bump on the inside of his tight winter coat.
"What about the three smart boys?" Al asked.
"They're all right." Max said.
"Goodbye, smart boy." he said to George, "You were all lucky tonight."
The two of them went out of the door.
George watched them through the window. They passed under the streetlight, across the street. George went back through the kitchen door and untied Nick and Sam.
"They were going to shoot Ole Anderson." George said.
"They were going to shoot him when he came in here to eat? Ole Anderson?" Nick asked.
"Listen!" George said to Nick, "You had better go see Ole Anderson."
"I'll go see him." Nick said, "Where does he live?"
"He lives up at Hirsch's hotel." George said.
Outside the streetlights were shining through the branches of the tree. Nick walked up the street to Hirsch's Hotel. He walked in and saw a woman near the main desk.
"Is Ole Anderson here?" he asked.
"Yes, he's in." she said.
Nick followed the woman up a flight of stairs and back to the end of a dark hallway. She knocked on one of the doors.
"Who is it?" a voice asked.
"It's someone to see you, Mr. Anderson."
Nick Adams opened the door and went into the room. Ole Anderson was lying on the bed with all his clothes on. He did not looked at Nick.
"What is it?" he asked.
"I was in George's restaurant tonight." Nick said, "and two fellows came in, tied up me and the cook, an ...and said they were going to kill you."
Ole Anderson looked at the wall.
"There is anything I can do about it." he said finally, "Thanks for coming to tell me, though."
Nick looked at the big man lying on the bed.
"Don't you want me to get the police?" he asked.
"That wouldn't do any good." Ole Anderson said.
"Well," Nick said, "Maybe you could get out of the town."
"No, "Ole Anderson said, "I'm through with all that running away." He looked at the wall.
"No, I made a mistake once." he said in a flat voice, "Now there's nothing I can do about it. After a while I'll go off to walk."
"So long." Nick said.
"Goodbye." said Ole Anderson, "Thanks for coming." he did not looked at Nick.
Nick walked up the dark street to the corner and went back into George's restaurant.
"Did you see Ole?" George asked as soon as he saw Nick.
"Yes." Nick said.
"Well," George asked, "What is he going to do?"
"Nothing!" Nick said.
"But they'll kill him!"
"I guess they will." Nick sighed.
George reached for a towel and began wiping one of the tables.
"I wonder what he did." he said.
"Probably he did one of the gangsters in Chicago." Nick said. He stood up.
"I'm going to get out of this town. I can't stand thinking about him waiting in his room and knowing he's going to be killed. It's too awful!"
"Well," said George, "You'd better not think about it."