The Common Man

: The Common Man

It would, of course, take a trio

of Ivory Tower scientists to conceive of

tracking down that statistical entity,

the Common Man, and testing out an idea on him.

And only the Ivory Tower type would predict

that egregiously wrongly!

Frederick Braun, M.D., Ph.D., various other Ds, pushed his slightly

crooked horn-rims back on his nose and looked up
t the two-story wooden

house. There was a small lawn before it, moderately cared for, and one

tree. There was the usual porch furniture, and the house was going to

need painting in another six months or so, but not quite yet. There was

a three-year-old hover car parked at the curb of a make that anywhere

else in the world but America would have been thought ostentatious in

view of the seeming economic status of the householder.

Frederick Braun looked down at the paper in his hand, then up at the

house again. He said to his two companions, "By Caesar, I will admit it

is the most average-looking dwelling I have ever seen."

Patricia O'Gara said impatiently, "Well, do we or don't we?" Her hair

should have been in a pony tail, or bouncing on her shoulders, or at

least in the new Etruscan revival style, not drawn back in its efficient


Ross Wooley was unhappy. He scratched his fingers back through his

reddish crew cut. "This is going to sound silly."

Patricia said testily, "We've been through all that, Rossie, good


"Nothing ventured, nothing ..." Braun let the sentence dribble away as

he stuffed the paper into a coat pocket, which had obviously been used

as a waste receptacle for many a year, and led the way up the cement

walk, his younger companions immediately behind.

He put his finger on the doorbell and cocked his head to one side. There

was no sound from the depths of the house. Dr. Braun muttered, "Bell out

of order."

"It would be," Ross chuckled sourly. "Remember? Average. Here, let me."

He rapped briskly on the wooden door jamb. They stood for a moment then

he knocked again, louder, saying almost as though hopefully, "Maybe

there's nobody home."

"All right, all right, take it easy," a voice growled even as the door


He was somewhere in his thirties, easygoing of face, brownish of hair,

bluish of eye and moderately good-looking. His posture wasn't the best

and he had a slight tummy but he was a goodish masculine specimen by

Mid-Western standards. He stared out at them, defensive now that it was

obvious they were strangers. Were they selling something, or in what

other manner were they attempting to intrude on his well being? His eyes

went from the older man's thin face, to the football hero heft of the

younger, then to Patricia O'Gara. His eyes went up and down her figure

and became approving in spite of the straight business suit she


He said, "What could I do for you?"

"Mr. Crowley?" Ross said.

"That's right."

"I'm Ross Wooley and my friends are Patricia O'Gara and Dr. Frederick

Braun. We'd like to talk to you."

"There's nobody sick here."

Patricia said impatiently, "Of course not. Dr. Braun isn't a practicing

medical doctor. We are research biochemists."

"We're scientists," Ross told him, putting it on what he assumed was the

man's level. "There's something on which you could help us."

Crowley took his eyes from the girl and scowled at Ross. "Me?

Scientists? I'm just a country boy, I don't know anything about

science." There was a grudging self-deprecation in his tone.

Patricia took over, a miracle smile overwhelming her air of briskness.

"We'd appreciate the opportunity to discuss it with you."

Dr. Braun added the clincher. "And it might be remunerative."

Crowley opened the door wider. "Well, just so it don't cost me nothing."

He stepped back for them. "Don't mind the place. Kind of mussed up. Fact

is, the wife left me about a week ago and I haven't got around to

getting somebody to come in and kind of clean things up."

He wasn't exaggerating. Patricia O'Gara had no pretensions to the

housewife's art herself, but she sniffed when she saw the condition of

the living room. There was a dirty shirt drooped over the sofa back and

beside the chair which faced the TV set were half a dozen empty beer

cans. The ashtrays hadn't been emptied for at least days and the floor

had obviously not been swept since the domestic tragedy which had sent

Mrs. Crowley packing.

Now that the three strangers were within his castle, Crowley's instincts

for hospitality asserted themselves. He said, "Make yourself

comfortable. Here, wait'll I get these things out of the way. Anybody

like a drink? I got some beer in the box, or," he smirked at Patricia,

"I got some port wine you might like, not this bellywash you buy by the


They declined the refreshments, it wasn't quite noon.

Crowley wrestled the chair which had been before the TV set around so

that he could sit facing them, and then sat himself down. He didn't get

this and his face showed it.

Frederick Braun came to the point. "Mr. Crowley," he said, "did it ever

occur to you that somewhere amidst our nearly one hundred million

American males there is the average man?"

Crowley looked at him.

Braun cleared his throat and with his thumb and forefinger pushed his

glasses more firmly on the bridge of his nose. "I suppose that isn't

exactly the technical way in which to put it."

Ross Wooley shifted his football shoulders and leaned forward earnestly.

"No, Doctor, that's exactly the way to put it." He said to Crowley, very

seriously, "We've done this most efficiently. We've gone through

absolute piles of statistics. We've...."

"Done what?" Crowley all but wailed. "Take it easy, will you? What are

you all talking about?"

Patricia said impatiently, "Mr. Crowley, you are the average American.

The man on the street. The Common Man."

He frowned at her. "What'd'ya mean, common? I'm as good as anybody


"That's exactly what we mean," Ross said placatingly. "You are exactly

as good as anybody else, Mr. Crowley. You're the average man."

"I don't know what the devil you're talking about. Pardon my language,


"Not at all," Patricia sighed. "Dr. Braun, why don't you take over? We

seem to all be speaking at once."

* * *

The little doctor began to enumerate on his fingers. "The center of

population has shifted to this vicinity, so the average American lives

here in the Middle West. Population is also shifting from rural to

urban, so the average man lives in a city of approximately this size.

Determining average age, height, weight is simple with government data

as complete as they are. Also racial background. You, Mr. Crowley, are

predominately English, German and Irish, but have traces of two or three

other nationalities."

Crowley was staring at him. "How in the devil did you know that?"

Ross said wearily, "We've gone to a lot of trouble."

Dr. Braun hustled on. "You've had the average amount of education,

didn't quite finish high school. You make average wages working in a

factory as a clerk. You spent some time in the army but never saw

combat. You drink moderately, are married and have one child, which is

average for your age. Your I.Q. is exactly average and you vote Democrat

except occasionally when you switch over to Republican."

"Now wait a minute," Crowley protested. "You mean I'm the only man in

this whole country that's like me? I mean, you mean I'm the average guy,

right in the middle?"

Patricia O'Gara said impatiently. "You are the nearest thing to it, Mr.

Crowley. Actually, possibly one of a hundred persons would have served

our purpose."

"O.K.," Crowley interrupted, holding up a hand. "That gets us to the

point. What's this here purpose? What's the big idea prying, like, into

my affairs till you learned all this about me? And what's this stuff

about me getting something out of it? Right now I'm between jobs."

The doctor pushed his battered horn-rims back on his nose with his

forefinger. "Yes, of course," he said reasonably. "Now we get to the

point. Mr. Crowley, how would you like to be invisible?"

The three of them looked at him. It seemed to be his turn.

Crowley got up and walked into the kitchen. He came back in a moment

with an opened can of beer from which he was gulping even as he walked.

He took the can away from his mouth and said carefully, "You mean like a


"No, of course not," Braun said in irritation. "By Caesar, man, have you

no imagination? Can't you see it was only a matter of time before

someone, possibly working away on an entirely different subject of

research, stumbled upon a practical method of achieving invisibility?"

"Now, wait a minute," Crowley said, his voice belligerent. "I'm only a

country boy, maybe, without any egghead background, but I'm just as good

as the next man and just as smart. I don't think I like your altitude."

"Attitude," Ross Wooley muttered unhappily. He shot a glance at Patricia

O'Gara but she ignored him.

Patricia turned on the charm. Her face opened into smile and she said

soothingly, "Don't misunderstand, Mr. Crowley. May I call you Don? I'm

sure we're going to be associates. You see, Don, we need your


This was more like it. Crowley sat down again and finished the can of

beer. "O.K., it won't hurt to listen. What's the pitch?"

The older man cleared his throat. "We'll cover it quickly so that we can

get to the immediate practical aspects. Are you interested in

biodynamics ... umah ... no, of course not. Let me see. Are you at all

familiar with the laws pertaining to refraction of ... umah, no." He

cleared his throat again, unhappily. "Have you ever seen a medusa, Mr.

Crowley? The gelatinous umbrella-shaped free swimming form of marine

invertebrate related to the coral polyp and the sea anemone?"

Ross Wooley scratched his crew cut and grimaced. "Jellyfish, Doctor,

jellyfish. But I think the Portuguese Man-of-War might be a better


"Oh, jellyfish," Crowley said. "Sure, I've seen jellyfish. I got an aunt

lives near Baltimore. We used to go down there and swim in Chesapeake

Bay. Sting the devil out of you. What about it?"

Patricia leaned forward, still smiling graciously. "I really don't see a

great deal of point going into theory, gentlemen." She looked at Ross

and Dr. Braun, then back at Crowley. "Don, I think that what the doctor

was leading up to was an attempt to describe in layman's language the

theory of the process onto which we've stumbled. He was using the

jellyfish as an example of a life form all but invisible. But I'm sure

you aren't interested in technical terminology, are you? A good deal of

gobbledygook, really, don't you think?"

"Yeah, that's what I say. Let's get to the point. You mean you think

it's possible to make a guy invisible. Nobody could see him, eh?"

"It's not a matter of thinking," Ross said sourly. "We've done it."

Crowley stared at him. "Done it? You mean, you, personal? You got


"Yes. All three of us. Once each."

"And you come back all right, eh? So anybody can see you again."

The doctor said reasonably, "Here we are, quite visible. The effect of

the usual dosage lasts for approximately twelve hours."

They let him assimilate it for a few minutes. Some of the ramifications

were coming home to him. Finally he got up and went into the back again

for another can of beer. By this time Ross Wooley was wishing he would

renew his offer, but the other had forgotten his duties as a host.

He took the can away from his mouth and said, "You want to make me

invisible. You want me to, like, kind of experiment on." His eyes

thinned. "Why pick me?"

The doctor said carefully, "Because you're the common man, the average

man, Mr. Crowley. Before we release this development, we would like to

have some idea of the scope of the effects."

The beer went down chuck-a-luck. Crowley put the can aside and licked

his bottom lip, then rubbed it with a fingertip. He said slowly, "Now

take it easy while I think about this." He blinked. "Why you could just

walk into a bank and...."

The three were watching him, empty-faced.

"Exactly," Dr. Braun said.

* * * * *

Frederick Braun stared gloomily from the hotel suite's window at the

street below. He peered absently at his thin wrist, looked blank for a

moment, then realized all over again that his watch was being cleaned.

He stared down at the street once more, his wrinkled face unhappy.

The door opened behind him and Patricia O'Gara came in briskly and said,

"No sign of the guinea pig yet, eh?"


"Where's Rossie?"

The doctor cleared his throat. "There was an item on the newscast. A

humor bit. It seems that the head waiter of the Gourmet.... Have you

ever eaten at the Gourmet, Patricia?"

"Do I look like a millionaire?"

"At any rate, a half pound of the best Caspian caviar disappeared,

spoonful at a time, right before his eyes."

Patricia looked at him. "Good heavens."

"Yes. Well, Ross has gone to pay the tab."

Patricia looked at her watch. "The effects will be wearing off shortly.

Crowley will probably be back at any time. We warned him about returning

to visibility in the middle of some street, completely nude." She sank

into a seat and looked up at the doctor. "I suppose you admit I was

right." Her voice was crisp.

The other turned on her. "And just why do you say that?"

"This caviar bit. Our friend, Donald Crowley, has obviously walked into

the Gourmet restaurant, having heard it was the most expensive in New

York, and ate as much as he could stuff down of the most expensive item

on the menu."

The elderly little doctor pushed his battered horn-rims farther back on

his nose. "Tell me, Patricia, when you made the experiment, did you do

anything ... umah ... anything at all, that saved you some money?"

Uncharacteristically, she suddenly giggled. "I had the time of my life

riding on a bus without paying the fare."

Braun snorted. "Then Donald Crowley, in eating his caviar, did

substantially the same thing. It's probably been a life's ambition of

his to eat in an ultra-swank restaurant and then walk out without

paying. To be frank," the doctor cleared his throat apologetically,

"it's always been one of mine."

Patricia conceded him a chuckle, but then said impatiently, "It's one

thing my saving fifteen cents on a bus ride, and his eating twenty-five

dollars worth of caviar."

"Merely a matter of degree, my dear."

Patricia said in irritation, "Why in the world did we have to bring him

to New York where he could pull such childish tricks? We could have

performed the experiment right there in Far Cry, Nebraska."

Dr. Braun abruptly ceased the pacing he had begun and found a chair. He

absently stuck a hand into a coat pocket, pulled out a crumbled piece of

paper, stared at it for a moment, as though he had never seen it before,

grunted, and returned it to the pocket. He looked at Patricia O'Gara.

"We felt that on completely unknown territory he would feel less

constrained, don't you remember? In his home town, his conscience would

be more apt to restrict him."

Something suddenly came to her. She looked at her older companion

suspiciously. "That newscast. Was there anything else on it? Don't look

innocent, you know what I mean."

"Well, there was one item."

"Out with it," she demanded.

"The Hotel Belefonte threatens to sue that French movie star, Brigette

whatever-her-name is."

"Brigette Loren," Patricia said, staring. "What's that got to do with

Donald Crowley?"

The good doctor was embarrassed. "It seems that she came running out of

her suite, umah, semi-dressed and screaming that the hotel was haunted."

"Good heavens," Patricia said with sudden vision. "That's one aspect I

hadn't thought of."

"Evidently Crowley did."

Patricia O'Gara said definitely, "My point's been proven. Our average

man is a slob. Give him the opportunity to exercise unlimited freedom

without danger of consequence and he becomes an undisciplined and

dangerous lout."

* * *

Ross Wooley had come in, scowling, just in time to catch most of that.

He tossed his hat onto a table and fished in his pockets for pipe and

tobacco. "Nuts, Pat," he said. "In fact, just the opposite's been

proven. Don's just on a fun binge. Like a kid in a candy shop. He hasn't

done anything serious. Went into a fancy restaurant and ate some

expensive food. Sneaked into the hotel room of the world's most famous

sex-symbol and got a close-up look." He grinned suddenly. "I wish I had

thought of that."

"Ha!" Patricia snorted. "Our engagement is off, you Peeping Tom."

"Children, children," Braun chuckled. "I'll admit, though, I think Ross

is correct. Don's done little we three didn't when first given the robe

of invisibility. We experimented, largely playfully, even childishly."

Patricia bit out, "This experiment is ridiculous, anyway, and I don't

know why I ever agreed to it. Scientific? Nonsense. Where are our

controls? For it to make any sense we'd have to work with scores of

subjects. Suppose we do agree that the manner in which Don Crowley has

reacted is quite harmless. Does that mean we can release this discovery

to the world? Certainly not."

Ross said sullenly, "But you agreed that we'd go by the results of


"I agreed to no such thing, Rossie Wooley, you overgrown lug. All I

agreed to do was consider the results. I was, and am, of the opinion

that if the person our politicians so lovingly call the Common Man was

released of the restrictions inhibiting him, he'd go hog wild and

destroy both society and himself. What is to prevent murder, robbery,

rape and a score of other crimes, given invisibility for anyone who has

a couple of dollars with which to go into a drugstore and purchase our


Her fiance sighed deeply, jamming tobacco fiercely into the bowl of his

briar. He growled, "Look, you seem to think that the only thing that

restricts man is the fear of being punished. There are other things, you


"Good heavens," she said sarcastically. "Name one."

"There is the ethical code in which he was raised, based on religion or

otherwise. There is the fact that man is fundamentally good, to use a

trite term, given the opportunity."

"My education has evidently been neglected," Patricia said, still

argumentatively. "I've never seen evidence to support your claim."

"I'm not saying individuals don't react negatively, given opportunity to

be antisocial," he all but snarled. "I'm just saying people in general,

common, little people, trend toward decency, desire the right thing."

"Individuals my ... my neck," Patricia snapped back. "Did you ever hear

of Rome and the games? Here a whole people, millions of them, were given

the opportunity to indulge in sadistic spectacles to their heart's

desire. How many of them stayed home from the games?" She laughed in


Ross flushed. "Some of them did, confound it."

Dr. Braun had been taking in their debate, uncomfortably. As though in

spite of himself, he said now, "Very few, I am afraid."

"Religious ethic," Patricia pursued, relentlessly. "The greatest of the

commandments is Thou Shalt Not Kill, but comes along a war in which

killing becomes not only permissible but an absolute virtue and all our

good Christians, Jews, Mohammedans and even Buddhists, who supposedly

are not even allowed to kill mosquitoes, wade in with sheer happiness."

"War releases abnormal passions," Ross said grudgingly.

"You don't need a war. Look at the Germans, supposedly one of our most

highly civilized people. When the Nazi government released all

restraints on persecution of the Jews, gypsies and others, you know what

happened. This began in peace time, not in war."

Dr. Braun shifted in his chair. He said, his voice low, "We needn't look

beyond our own borders. The manner in which our people conducted

themselves against the Amerinds from the very beginning of the white

occupation of North America was quite shocking."

Ross said to him, "I thought you were on my side. The Indian wars were a

long time ago. We're more advanced now."

Dr. Braun said softly, "My father fought against Geronimo in Arizona. It

wasn't so long ago as all that."

Ross Wooley felt the argument going against him and lashed back. "We've

been over and over this, what's your point?"

Patricia said doggedly, "The same point I tried to make from the

beginning. This discovery must not be generally released. We'll simply

have to suppress it."

* * * * *

The door opened behind them. They turned. Nothing was there. Ross,

scowling, lumbered to his feet to walk over and close it.

"Hey, take it easy," a voice laughed. "Don't walk right into a guy."

Ross stopped, startled.

Dr. Braun and Patricia stood up and stared, too.

Crowley laughed. "You all look like you're seeing a ghost."

Ross rumbled a grudging chuckle. "It'd be all right if we saw the

ghost, it's not seeing you that's disconcerting."

The air began to shimmer, somewhat like heat on the desert's face.

Crowley said, "Hey, the stuff's wearing off. Where're my clothes?"

"Where you left them. There in that bedroom," Ross said. "We'll wait for

you." He went back and rejoined his associates. The door to the bedroom

opened, there was a shimmering, more obvious now, and then the door

closed behind it.

"He rejoined us just in time," Dr. Braun murmured. "Another ten minutes

and he would have ... umah ... materialized down on the street."

Ross hadn't finished the discussion. He said, his face in all but pout,

"What you don't realize, Pat, is the world has gone beyond the point

where scientific discoveries can be suppressed. If we try to keep the

lid on this today, the Russians or Chinese, or somebody, will hit on it


Patricia said impatiently, "Good heavens, let's don't bring the Cold War

into it."

Ross opened his mouth to snap something back at her, closed it again and

shrugged his bulky shoulders angrily.

In a matter of less than ten minutes the bedroom door reopened and this

time a grinning Crowley emerged, fully dressed. He said, "Man, that was

a devil of an experience!"

They saw him to a chair and had him talk it all through. He was candid

enough, bubbling over with it all.

In the some eleven and a half hours he'd been on his own, he had covered

quite an area of Manhattan.

Evidently the first hour had been spent in becoming used to the

startling situation. He couldn't even see himself, which, to his

surprise affected walking and even use of his hands. You had to get used

to it. Then there was the fact that he was nude and felt nude and

hence uncomfortable walking about in mixed pedestrian traffic. But that

phase passed. Early in the game he found that there was small percentage

in getting into crowds. It led to all sorts of complications, including

the starting of minor rows, one person thinking another was pushing when

it was simply a matter of Crowley trying to get out from underfoot.

Then he went through a period of the wonder of it all. Being able to

walk anywhere and observe people who had no suspicion that they were

being observed. It was during that phase that he had sought out the

hotel in which he had read the chesty French movie actress Brigette

Loren was in residence. Evidently, he'd hit the nail right on the head.

Brigette was at her toilette when he arrived on scene. In telling about

this, Crowley leered amusedly at Patricia from the side of his eyes. She

ignored him.

Then he'd gone through a period when the full realization of his

immunity had hit him.

At this point he turned to Braun, "Hey, Doc, you ever eaten any caviar?

You know, that Russian stuff. Supposed to be the most expensive food in

the world."

The doctor cleared his throat. "Small amounts in hors d'oeuvres at

cocktail parties."

"Well, maybe I'm just a country boy but the stuff tastes like fish eggs

to me. Anyway, to get back to the story...."

He'd gone into Tiffany's and into some of the other swank shops. And

then into a bank or two, and stared at the treasures of Manhattan.

At this point he looked at Ross. "You know, just being invisible don't

mean all that. How you going to pick up a wad of thousand dollar bills

and just walk out the front door with them? Everybody'd see the dough

just kind of floating through the air."

"I came to the same conclusion myself, when I experimented," Ross said


He had ridden on the subways ... free. He had eaten various food in

various swank restaurants. He had even had drinks in name bars, sampling

everything from Metaxa to vintage champagne. He was of the opinion that

even though he remained invisible for the rest of his years, he'd still

stick to bourbon and beer.

He had gone down to Wall Street and into the offices of the top

brokerage firms and into the sanctum sanctorums of the wealthiest of

mucky-mucks but had been too impatient to stick around long enough to

possibly hear something that might be profitable. He admitted,

grudgingly, that he wouldn't have known what to listen for anyway.

Frustrated there, he had gone back uptown and finally located the

hangout of one of the more renown sports promoters who was rumored to

have gangster connections and was currently under bail due to a boxing

scandal. He had stayed about that worthy's office for an hour, gleaning

nothing more than several dirty jokes he'd never heard before.

All this activity had wearied him so he went to the Waldorf, located an

empty suite in the tower and climbed into bed for a nap after coolly

phoning room service to give him a call in two hours. That had almost

led to disaster. Evidently, someone on room service had found the suite

to be supposedly empty and had sent a boy up to investigate. However,

when he had heard the door open, Crowley had merely rolled out of the

bed and left, leaving a startled bellhop behind staring at rumpled

bedclothes which had seemed to stir of their own accord.

* * *

The rest of the day was little different from the first hours. He had

gone about gawking in places he couldn't have had he been visible. Into

the dressing room of the Roxie, into the bars of swank private clubs,

into the offices of the F.B.I. He would have liked to have walked in on

a poker game with some real high rollers playing, such as Nick the

Greek, but he didn't have the time nor know-how to go about finding one.

Crowley wound it all up with a gesture of both hands, palms upward. "I

gotta admit, it was fun, but what the devil good is it?"

They looked at him questioningly.

Crowley said, "I mean, how's it practical? How can you make a buck out

of it, if you turn it over to the public, like? Everybody'd go around

robbing everybody else and you'd all wind up equal."

Dr. Braun chuckled in deprecation. "There would be various profitable

uses, Don. One priceless one would be scientific observation of wild

life. For that matter there would be valid usage in everyday life. There

are often personal reasons for not wishing to be observed. Celebrities,

for instance, wishing to avoid crowds."

"Yeah," Crowley laughed, "or a businessman out with his secretary."

Dr. Braun frowned. "Of course, there are many other aspects. It would

mean the end of such things as the Iron Curtain. And also the end of

such things as American immigration control. There are many, many

ramifications, Don, some of which frighten us. The world would be never

quite the same."

Crowley leaned forward confidentially. "Well, I'll tell you. I was

thinking it all out. What we got to do is turn it over to the Army and

soak them plenty for it."

The others ignored his cutting himself a piece of the cake.

Ross Wooley merely grunted bitterly.

Patricia said impatiently, "We've thought most of these things through,

Don. However, Dr. Braun happens to be quite a follower of Lord Russell."

Crowley looked at her blankly.

"He's a pacifist," she explained.

Braun pushed his glasses back more firmly on his nose and said, gently,

"The military already have enough gadgets to destroy quite literally

everything and I trust one set of them no more than the other. If

both sides had our discovery, then, very well, each would go about

attempting to find some manner of penetrating the invisibility, or

taking various measures to protect their top secrets. But to give it to

just one would be such an advantage that the other would have to embark

immediately upon a desperate attack before the advantage could be fully

realized. If we turn this over to the Pentagon, for exclusive use, the

Soviets would have to begin a preventative war as soon as they learned

of its existence."

"You a red?" Crowley said, scowling.

The doctor shrugged hopelessly. "No," he said.

Crowley turned to the other two. "If you think it's the patriotic thing

to do, why don't one of you sell it to the government?"

Patricia said testily, "You don't understand, Don. Even if we were so

thoroughly in disagreement that we would act unilaterally, we couldn't.

You see, this is a three-way discovery. No one of us knows the complete


His face twisted. "Look, maybe some of this egghead stuff doesn't get

through to me but I'm not stupid, see? You got the stuff, haven't you?

You gave me that shot this morning."

Braun took over, saying reasonably, "Don, this discovery was hit upon by

accident. The three of us are employed in the laboratories of a medical

research organization. I am the department head. Patricia and Ross were

doing some routine work on a minor problem when they separately stumbled

upon some rather startling effects, practically at the same time. Each,

separately, brought their discoveries to me, and, working you might say

intuitively, I added some conclusions of my own, and ... well, I repeat,

the discovery was stumbled upon."

Crowley assimilated that. "None of you knows how to do it, make those

injections like, by himself?"

"That is correct. Each knows just one phase of the process. Each must

combine with the other two."

Patricia said impatiently, "And thus far we wish to keep it that way.

Rossie believes the discovery should be simultaneously revealed on a

world-wide basis, and let man adapt to it as best he can. I think it

should be suppressed until man has grown up a little--if he ever does.

The doctor vacillates between the two positions. What he would truly

like to see, is the method kept only for the use of qualified

scientists, but even our good doctor realizes what a dream that is."

Crowley took them all in, one at a time. "Well, what the devil are you

going to do?"

"That's a good question," Ross said unhappily.

"This experiment was a farce," Patricia said irritably. "After all our

trouble locating Don, our Common Man, we have found out nothing that

we didn't know before. His reactions were evidently largely similar to

our own and...." She broke it off and frowned thoughtfully. The other

three looked at her questioningly.

Patricia said, "You know, we simply haven't seen this thing through as


"What do you mean, Pat?" Ross growled.

She turned to him. "We haven't given Don the chance to prove which one

of us is right. One day is insufficient. Half the things he wished to

do, such as sneaking around picking up stock tips in Wall Street and

inside information on sporting events...."

"Hey, take it easy," Crowley protested. "I was just, like, curious."

Ross said heatedly, "That's not fair. I'll admit, I, too, thought of

exactly the same possibilities. But thinking about them and going

through with them are different things. Haven't you ever thought about

what you'd do if given the chance to be world-wide supreme dictator?

But, truly, if the job was offered, would you take it?"

"Good heavens," Patricia said disgustedly, "remind me to break off our

engagement if I haven't already done it. I hate overpowering men. All

I'm saying is that we'll have to give Don at least a week. One day isn't


Dr. Braun cocked his head to one side and said uncomfortably, "I'm not

sure but that in a week's time our friend Don might be able.... See

here, Don, do you mind going on down to the hotel's bar while we three

talk this through?"

Crowley obviously took umbrage at that, but there was nothing to be

done. Frowning peevishly, he left.

The doctor looked from one to the other of his associates. "By Caesar,

do you realize the damage friend Don could accomplish in a week's time?"

Patricia laughed at him. "That's what I keep telling the two of you. Do

you realize the damage any person could do with invisibility? Not to

speak of giving it to every Tom, Dick and Harry in the world."

Ross said, "We've started this, lets go through with it. I back Pat's

suggestion, that we give Don sufficient serum to give him twelve hours

of invisibility a day for a full week. However, we will ration it out to

him day by day, so that if things get out of hand we can cut his


"That's an idea," Patricia said. "And I suspect that within half the

period we'll all be convinced that the process will have to be


Ross leaned forward. "Good. I suggest we three keep this suite and get

Don a room elsewhere, so he won't be inhibited by our continual

presence. Once a day we'll give him enough serum for one shot and he can

take it any time he wishes to." He ran his beefy hand back through his

red crew cut in a gesture of satisfaction. "If he seems to get out of

hand, we'll call it all off."

Dr. Braun cleared his throat unhappily. "I have premonitions of

disaster, but I suppose if we've come this far we should see the

experiment through."

Patricia said ungraciously, "At least the lout will be limited in his

accomplishments by his lack of imagination. Imagine going into that

French girl's dressing room."

"Yeah," Ross said ludicrously trying to make his big open face look


"You wretch," Patricia laughed. "The wedding is off!"

* * * * *

But Crowley was no lout. He was full of the folk wisdom of his people.

God helps those who help themselves.

It's each man for himself and the devil take the hindmost.

Not to speak of.

Never give a sucker an even break.

If I didn't do it, somebody else would.

Had he been somewhat more of a student he might also have run into that

nugget of the ancient Greek. Morals are the invention of the weak to

protect themselves from the strong.

Once convinced that the three eggheads were incapable of realizing the

potentialities of their discovery, he had little difficulty in arguing

himself into the stand that he should. It helped considerably to realize

that in all the world only four persons, including himself, were aware

of the existence of the invisibility serum.

He spent the first day in what Marx called in "Das Kapital" the

"original accumulation of capital," although it would seem unlikely that

even in the wildest accusations of the most confirmed Marxist, no great

fortune was ever before begun in such wise.

It was not necessary, he found, to walk into a large bank and simply

seemingly levitate the money out the front door. In fact, that would

have meant disaster. However, large sums of money are to be found

elsewhere on Manhattan and for eleven hours Crowley used his native

ingenuity and American know-how, most of which had been gleaned from

watching TV crime shows. By the end of the day he had managed to

accumulate in the neighborhood of a hundred thousand dollars and was

reasonably sure that the news would not get back to his sponsors. The

fact was, he had cleaned out the treasuries of several numbers rackets

and those of two bookies.

It was important, he well realized, that he be well under way before the

three eggheads decided to lower the boom.

The second day he spent making his preliminary contacts, an operation

that was helped by his activities of the day before. He was beginning

already to get the feel of the underworld element with which he had

decided he was going to have to work, at least in the early stages of

his operations.

Any leader, be he military, political or financial, knows that true

greatness lies in the ability to choose assistants. Be you a Napoleon

with his marshals, a Roosevelt with his brain trust, a J. P. Morgan with

his partners, the truism applies. No great leader has ever stood alone.

But Crowley also knew instinctively that he was going to have to keep

the number of his immediate associates small. They were going to have to

know his secret, and no man is so naive as not to realize that while one

person can keep a secret, it becomes twice as hard for two and from that

point on the likelihood fades in a geometric progression.

On the fifth day he knocked on the door of the suite occupied by Dr.

Braun and his younger associates and pushed his way in without waiting

for response.

The three were sitting around awaiting his appearance and to issue him

his usual day's supply of serum. They greeted him variously, Patricia

with her usual brisk, almost condescending smile; Dr. Braun with a

gentle nod and a speaking of his first name; Ross Wooley sourly. Ross

obviously had some misgivings, the exact nature of which he couldn't

quite put his finger upon.

Crowley grinned and said, "Hello, everybody."

"Sit down, Don," Braun said gently. "We have been discussing your


While the newcomer was finding his seat, Patricia said testily,

"Actually, we are not quite happy about your reports, Don. We feel an

... if you'll pardon us ... an evasive quality about them. As though you

aren't completely frank."

"In short," Ross snapped, "have you been pulling things you haven't told

us about?"

Crowley grinned at them. "Now you folks are downright suspicious."

Dr. Braun indicated some notes on the coffee table before him. "It seems

hardly possible that your activities would be confined largely to going

to the cinema, to the swankier night clubs and eating in the more famed


Crowley's grin turned into a half embarrassed smirk. Patricia thought of

a small boy who had been caught in a mischief but was still somewhat

proud of himself. He said, "Well, I gotta admit that there's been a few

things. Come on over to my place and I'll show you." He looked at Braun.

"Hey, Doc, about how much is one of them Rembrandt paintings worth?"

Braun rolled his eyes toward the ceiling, "Great Caesar," he murmured.

He came to his feet and looked around at the rest of them. "Let us go

over there and learn the worst," he said.

At the curb, before the hotel, Ross Wooley looked up and down the street

for a cab.

Crowley said, his voice registering self-deprecation, "Over here."

Over here was a several toned, fantastically huge hover-limousine, a

nattily dressed, sharp-looking, expressionless-faced young man behind

the wheel.

The three looked at Crowley.

He opened the door. "Climb in folks. Nothing too good for you

scientists, eh?"

Inside, sitting next to a window with Patricia beside him and Dr. Braun

at the far window, and with Ross in a jump seat, Crowley said

expansively, "This is Larry. Larry, this is Doc Braun and his friends I

was telling you about, Ross Wooley and Pat O'Gara. They're like


Larry said, "Hi," without inflection, and tooled the heavy car out into

the traffic.

Ross spun on Crowley. "Don, where'd you get this car?"

Crowley laughed. "You'll see. Take it easy. You'll see a lot of things."

* * *

They were too caught up in their own thoughts and in the barrage of

demands they were leveling at Crowley to notice direction. It wasn't

until they were already on the George Washington Bridge that Patricia

blurted, "Don, this isn't the way to your hotel!"

Crowley said tolerantly, "Take it easy, Pat. We're taking a short

detour. Something I have to show you in Jersey."

"I don't like this," Ross snapped. The redhead shifted his heavy

shoulders in a reflexive protest against the confining tweed coat he


"Relax," Crowley told him reasonably. "I've been thinking things out

quite a bit and I've got a lot to discuss with you folks."

They were across the bridge now and Larry headed into the maze which

finally unraveled itself to the point that it was obvious they were

heading north. Larry hit the lift lever and they rose ten feet from the


Dr. Braun said evenly, "You had no intention of taking us to your room.

You used that as a ruse to get us out of our hotel and, further, across

the bridge until we are now in a position where it's quite impossible

for us to summon police assistance."

Crowley grinned. "That's right, Doc. Didn't I tell you these three were

real eggheads, Larry? Look how quick he figured that out."

Larry grunted in what might have been amusement.

Ross, growling low in his throat, turned suddenly in his jump seat and

grabbed Crowley by the coat front. "What's going on here?"

Crowley snapped, "Larry!"

From seemingly nowhere, the chauffeur had produced a thin black

automatic and was now lazily pointing it, not so much at Ross Wooley as

at Dr. Braun and Patricia. He said evenly, softly, "Easy, friend."

Ross released his grip, "Put that thing away," he blurted.

"Sure, sure," Larry said, his voice all but disinterested. The gun


Crowley, only slightly ruffled, said now, "Take it easy, Ross. Nothing's

going to happen to you. I'm going to need you folks and I'm going to

treat you right."

"Where are we going?" Ross growled.

"I had the boys rent me a big estate like up in the Catskills. Big

place, nice and quiet. In fact, the last tenants used it for one of

these rest sanitariums. You know, rich people with DTs or trying to get

a monkey off their back."

"The boys?" Patricia said softly.

He looked at her and grinned again. Crowley was obviously enjoying

himself. "I got a few people working for me," he explained.

Dr. Braun blurted, "You fool! You mean you've revealed the existence of

the process Pat, Ross and I worked out to a group of ignoramuses?"

Crowley said angrily, "Now look, Doc, let's don't get on that bit. Maybe

I'm just a country boy but I'm as smart as the next man. Just because

some of you eggheads spend half your life in college don't mean you've

got any monopoly on good common sense. I went to the school of hard

knocks, understand, and I got plenty of diplomas to prove it. Take it

easy on that ignoramus talk."

Patricia said suddenly, "Don's right, Dr. Braun. I think you've badly

underestimated him."

Ross snorted sourly at that remark. "We've all underestimated him. Well,

I think you'll agree that our friend Don will get no more injections of

the invisibility serum."

Crowley chuckled.

They looked at him. Three sinkings of stomach taking place


"Now, you know I thought that might be your altitude...."

"Attitude," Ross muttered.

"... So I went to the trouble of coming up to your suite last night and

sort of confiscating the supply. By the looks of it, I'd say there was

enough for another ten shots or so."

"See," Patricia said to Ross. "You're not as smart as you thought you

were. Don's one up on you."

* * * * *

The estate which the "boys" had secured for Crowley was two or three

miles out of Tannersville on a mountainside and quite remote. He took

considerable pride in showing them about, although it was obvious that

he had been here before only once himself.

He was obviously enjoying the situation thoroughly and had planned it

out in some detail. Besides the empty-faced Larry, who had driven the

car, they were introduced to two more of Crowley's confederates, neither

of whom gave any indication that the three were present under duress.

The first was a heavy-set, moist palmed southerner with a false air of

the jovial. He shook hands heartily, said nothing with a good many words

for a few minutes and then excused himself. The third confidant was an

older man of sad mien who would have passed easily in the swankest of

Washington, New York or London private clubs. He was introduced simply

as Mr. Whitely, greeted them pleasantly as though all were fellow

guests, had a word to say about the weather then and passed on.

Patricia was frowning. "Your southern friend, Paul Teeter, it seems to

me I've heard his name before."

Crowley grinned. "Oh, Paul's been in the news from time to time."

Ross was looking after Mr. Whitely who had disappeared into the main

building. They were standing on the lawn, as part of the guided tour

Crowley was giving them. He growled, "I suppose the two of them are

experienced confidence men, or something."

"Take it easy with those cracks, Ross," Crowley said. "Whitely used to

have a seat on the Stock Exchange. A real big shot. But that was before

they disbarred him, or whatever they call it."

"See here," Dr. Braun said urgently. "We've had enough of all this, Don.

I propose we go somewhere where it will be possible for us to bring you

to your senses, and save you from disaster."

"Kind of a powwow, eh? O.K., Doc, come on in here." He led them to the

entrance, conducted them inside and into a library that led off the main

entrada. He said, "By the way, Larry has a few of his boys up here

just kind of like estate watchmen. Some of them aren't much used to

being out of the city and they get nervous. So...."

Ross growled, "All right, all right, don't try to make like a third-rate

villain in a B-Movie. You have guards about and it would be dangerous to

try to leave without your permission."

"How about that?" Crowley exclaimed as though amazed. "Man, you eggheads

catch on quick. Nothing like a college education." He waved them to

chairs. "I'm going to have to leave for a while. Whitely's got some big

deal brewing and we got to work it out." He grinned suddenly. "And

Larry's got a different kind of deal. One he's been planning for years

but hasn't been able to swing one or two details. It's a caution how

many details a little man who wasn't there can handle in one of these

king-size capers."

He had used the pseudo-criminal term, caper, with considerable

satisfaction. Crowley was obviously having the time of his life.

"Very well," Braun said, "we'll wait." When the other had left the room,

leaving the door open behind him, the doctor turned to his two younger

associates. "What children we've been."

Ross Wooley growled unhappily, "Brother, we couldn't have picked a worse

so-called Common Man, if we'd tried. That character is as nutty as a

stuffed date. Do you realize what he's in a position to do?"

Patricia twisted her mouth thoughtfully. "I wonder if any of us really

realize. I am afraid even with all our speculation, we never truly

thought this out."

Dr. Braun pushed his glasses back on his nose with a forefinger. He

shook his head. "You make a mistake, Ross. We didn't make a bad choice

in our selection of Don Crowley for our typical Common Man."

Ross looked at him and snorted.

Braun said doggedly, "Remember, we attempted to find the average man,

the common man, the little man, the man in the street. Well, it becomes

obvious to me that we did just that."

Patricia said thoughtfully, "I don't know. I'm inclined to think that

from the beginning you two have underestimated Don. He has certainly

shown considerable ingenuity. Do you realize that he's done all this in

a matter of less than a week?"

"Done all what?" Ross said sarcastically.

She gestured. "Look at this establishment. He's obviously acquired

considerable money, and he already has an organization, or at least the

beginnings of one."

"That is beside the point," Braun said ruefully. "I say that he is

reacting as would be expected. As the average man in the street would

react given the opportunity to seize almost unlimited power, and with

small chance of reprisal."

Patricia shrugged as though in disagreement.

Braun looked at Ross Wooley. "Close the door, Ross. Lord knows when

we'll have another chance to confer. Obviously, something must be done."

Ross came quickly to his feet, crossed to the door, looked up and down

the hallway which was empty and then closed the door behind him. He came

back to the others and drew his chair in closer so that they could

communicate in low voices.

Braun said, "One thing is definite. We must not allow him to secure

further serum. For all we know, he might be planning to inject some of

those gangsters he's affiliated himself with."

Patricia shook her head thoughtfully. "I still think you underestimate

Don. He must realize he can't trust them. At this stage, he has had to

confide in at least two or three, fully to utilize his invisibility. But

in the long run it isn't to his advantage to have anybody know about

it. If the authorities, such as the F.B.I., began looking for an

invisible man, sooner or later they would penetrate the field of


"You mean you think Crowley will use these men for a time and then ...

destroy them?"

"He'll have to, or sooner or later the secret will be out."

Braun said in soft logic, "If he can't allow anyone to know about it,

then we, too, must be destroyed."

Ross growled, "Then we've got to finish him first."

Patricia said, "Now, I don't know. Don is showing considerably more

sense than you two evidently give him credit for. I think in many ways

what he's done is quite admirable. He's seen his chance--and has grasped

it. Why, I wouldn't be surprised that Don will be the most powerful man

in the country within months."

The two men were staring at her. Ross sputtered, "Have you gone

completely around the bend? Are you defending this ... this...."

* * *

A voice chuckled, "Mind your language, Buster. Just take it easy or

you'll wind up with some missing teeth."

Ross jumped to his feet as though couched with an electric prod. Dr.

Braun stiffened in his chair and his eyes darted about the room.

Patricia alone seemed collected. "Don Crowley!" she exclaimed. "You

should be ashamed of yourself, listening in on private conversations."

"Yeah," the voice said. "However, it's handy to know what the other side

is dreaming up in the way of a bad time for you. Sit down, Buster. I've

got a few things to say."

Muttering, Ross resumed his place. The doctor sighed deeply and sank

back onto the sofa he had been occupying. The three could see an

indentation magically appear in the upholstery of an easy-chair across

from them.

Crowley's voice said confidently, "You know, from the first, I've kept

telling you eggheads that I'm not stupid, but none of you've bothered to

listen. You think just because you spent six or eight years of your life

in some college that you're automatically smarter than other people. But

I got a theory, like, that it doesn't make any difference if you spent

your whole life going to college, you still wouldn't wind up smart if

you didn't start that way."

Ross began to mutter something, but Crowley snapped, "Shut up for a

minute, I'm talking." He resumed his condescending tone. "Just for

example, take a couple of guys who got to the top. Edison in science and

Khrushchev in politics. For all practical purposes, neither of them went

to school at all. Khrushchev didn't even learn to read until he was

twenty-eight years old.

"Then take Dr. Braun here. He's spent half his life in school, and

where's it got him? He'd make more dough if he owned the local garage

and dealer franchise for one of the automobile companies in some

jerkwater town. And look at Ross. He'd probably make more money playing

pro football than he does messing around with all those test tubes and

Bunsen burners and everything. What good has all the school done


Dr. Braun said gently, "Could we get to the point?"

"Take it easy, Doc. I'm in charge here. You just sit and listen. The

point is, you three with your smart-Aleck egghead education started off

thinking Mr. Common Man, like you call me, is stupid. Well, it just so

happens I'm not. Take Pat there. She's smarter than you two, but she had

the same idea. That this here country boy isn't as smart as she is.

She's going to fox him, see? As soon as she saw the way the cards were

falling, she started buttering up to me. She even figured out that I was

probably right in this room listening to you planning how to trip me up.

So she pretended to take sides against you."

"Why, Don!" Patricia protested.

"Come off it, kid. You probably hate my guts worse than the others. You

were the one who thought this particular average man was a slob. That

all common people were slobs."

Patricia's face went expressionless, but Ross, knowing her well, could

sense her dismay. Crowley was right. She had been trying to play a

careful game but their supposedly average man had seen through her.

Crowley's voice went thoughtful. "I been doing a lot of thinking this

week. A lot of it. And you want to know something? You know what I

decided? I decided that everybody talks a lot about the Common Man but

actually he's never had a chance to, like, express himself. He's never

been able to put over the things he's always wanted."

"Haven't you ever heard of democracy?" Ross said sourly. "Who do you

think elects our officials?"

"Shut up, I told you. I'm talking now. Sure, every four years the lousy

politicians come around and they stick coonskin caps on their heads or

Indian bonnets and start saying ain't when they make their speeches.

Showing they're just folks, see? They go out into the country, and stick

a straw in their mouth and talk about crops to the farmers, all that

sort of thing. But they aren't really common folks. Most of them are

lawyers or bankers or something. They run those political parties and

make all the decisions themselves. The Common Man never really has

anything to say about it."

Braun said reasonably, "You have your choice. If you think one candidate

is opposed to your interests you can elect the other."

Crowley grunted his contempt. "But they're both the same. No, there

hasn't been no common man in Washington since Lincoln, and maybe he

wasn't. Well, I'll tell you something. The kind of talk I hear down in

the corner saloon from just plain people makes a lot more sense to me

than all this stuff the politicians pull."

Dr. Braun cleared his throat and stared at the seemingly empty chair

from whence came the other's belligerent voice. "Are you thinking of

entering politics, Don?"

"Maybe I am."

"Good heavens," Patricia ejaculated.

"Oh, I'm not smart enough, eh? Well, listen baby, the eggheads don't

seem to be so great in there. Maybe it's time the Common Man took over."

Dr. Braun said reasonably, "But see here, Crowley, the ability to

achieve invisibility doesn't give you any advantages in swinging

elections or...." He broke off in mid-sentence and did a mental double


Crowley laughed in contempt. "The biggest thing you need to win

elections, Doc, is plenty of dough. And I'll have that. But I'll also

have the way to do more muck-raking than anybody in history. I'll sit

in on every important private get-together those crook politicians have.

I'll get the details of every scheme they cook up. I'll get into any

safe or safe deposit box. I'll have the common people, you sneer so much

about, screaming for their blood."

Ross rumbled, "What do you expect to accomplish in office, Crowley?"

The voice became expansive. "Lots of things. Take this Cold War. If you

drop into any neighborhood bar, you'll hear what the common man thinks

about it."

The three of them stared at the seemingly empty chair.

"Drop the bomb first!" Crowley snapped. "Finish those reds off before

they start it. In fact, I'm not even sure they've got the bomb. They're

not smart enough to...."

"There was sputnik, you know," Ross interrupted sourly.

"Yeah, but built by those captured German scientists. We're way ahead of

those Russkies in everything. Hit 'em now. Finish 'em off. The eggheads

in Washington are scared of their own shadows. Another thing I'd end is

getting suckered in by those French and English politicians. What does

America need with those countries? They always start up these wars and

get us to bail them out. And I say stop all this foreign aid and keep

the money in our own country.

"And we can do a lot of cleaning up right here, too. We got to kick all

the commies out of the government. Make all the commies and socialists

and these egghead liberals, illegal. In fact, I'm in favor of shooting

them. When you got an enemy, finish him off. And take the Jews. I'm not

anti-Semitic, like, understand. Some of my best friends are Jews. But

you got to realize that wherever they go they cause trouble. They stick

together and take over the best businesses and all. O.K., you know what

I say? I say kick them out of the country. And they all came over here

poor and made their money here. So let them leave the way they came.

We'll, like, confiscate all their property except like personal


Patricia had closed her eyes in pain long before this. She said, softly,

"I imagine somewhere along in here we'll get to the Negroes."

"I'm not against them. Just so they stay in their place. But this

integration stuff is bunk. You got to face facts. Negroes aren't as

smart as white people, neither are Chinks or Mexicans or Puerto Ricans.

So, O.K., give them their own schools, up to high school is all they

need, and let them have jobs like waiters and janitors and like that.

They shouldn't take a white man's job and they shouldn't be allowed to

marry white people. It deteriorates the race, like."

Crowley was really becoming wound up now. Wound up and expansive.

"There's a lot of things I'd change, see. Take freedom of speech and

press and like that. Sure I believe in that, I'm one hundred per cent

American. But you can't allow people to talk against the government.

Freedom of speech is O.K., but you can't let a guy jump up in the middle

of a theater and yell fire."

"Why not?" Ross growled. "Freedom of speech is more important than a few

movie houses full of people. Besides, if one man is allowed to jump up

and yell fire, then somebody else can yell out 'You're a liar, there is

no fire.'"

"You're not funny," Crowley said ominously.

"I wasn't trying to be," Ross muttered, and then blurred into sudden

action. He shot to his feet, and then, arms extended, dashed toward the

source of the voice. He hit the chair without slowing, grappled crazily.

"I've got him!" He wrestled awkwardly, fantastically, seemingly in an

insane tumbling without opponent.

Patricia was on her feet. She grasped an antique bronze candle-holder

and darted toward the now fallen chair and to where Ross was wrestling

desperately on the floor. Crowley was attempting to shout, but was

largely smothered.

Patricia held the candlestick at the ready, trying to find an opening,

trying to locate the invisible Crowley's head.

Frederick Braun staggered to his own feet, bewildered, shaking.

A voice from the door said flatly, "O.K., that's it." Then, sharper, "I

said cut it out. You all right, Mr. Crowley?"

It was Larry. His thin black automatic was held almost negligently in

his right hand. He ran his eyes up and down Patricia, taking in the

candlestick weapon. His ordinarily empty face registered a flicker of

amused approval.

Patricia gasped, "Oh, no," dropped her bludgeon and sank into a chair,

her head in her hands.

Ross, his face in dismay, came slowly to his feet. The redhead stared at

the gunman, momentarily considering further attack. Larry, ignoring

both Braun and Patricia, swung the gun to cover him exclusively. "I

wouldn't," he said emptily.

Of a sudden, Ross' head jerked backward. His nose flattened, crushingly,

and then spurted blood. He reeled back, his head flinging this way and

that, bruises and cuts appeared magically.

Crowley's voice raged, "You asked for it, wise guy. How do you like

these apples?"

The saturnine Larry chuckled sourly. "Hey, take it easy, chief. You'll

kill the guy."

Ross had crumpled to the floor. There were still sounds of blows.

Crowley raged, "You're lucky I'm not wearing shoes, I'd break every rib

in your body!"

Patricia was staring in hopeless horror. She said sharply, "Don,

remember you need Ross! You need all of us! Without all of us there can

be no more serum."

The blows stopped.

"There will be no more serum anyway," Braun said shakily. The thin

little man still stood before his chair having moved not at all since

the action began.

Crowley's heavy breathing could be heard but he managed a snarl. "That's

what you think, Doc."

Braun said, "By Caesar, I absolutely refuse to...."

Crowley interrupted ominously. "You know, Doc, that's where this

particular common man has it all over you eggheads. You spend so much

time reading, you don't take in the action shows on TV. Now what you're

thinking is that even if we were going to twist your arm a little, you'd

stick to your guns. But suppose, like, it was Pat we was working on,

while you had to sit and watch."

The elderly man's brave front collapsed and his thin shoulders slumped.

Crowley barked a laugh.

Patricia by now, was bent over the unconscious Ross crying even as she

tried to help him.

Crowley said to the silent, all but disinterested Larry, "Have these

three put in separate rooms in that section they used for the violent

wing when the place was a nuthouse. Have a good guard and see they don't

talk back and forth."

"You're the boss," Larry said languidly.

* * * * *

Crowley was thorough. For that they had to give him credit. They were

kept divided, each in a different room-cell and with at least two burly,

efficient guards on constant watch. They were fed on army-type trays and

their utensils checked carefully. There was no communication

allowed--even with the guard.

The second day, Crowley took measures to see their disappearance raised

no alarm at either their place of employment or at their residences.

This raised few problems since all were single and all had already

taken off both from the job and from their homes in order to carry out

their experiment. Crowley forced them to write further notes and letters

finding excuses for extending their supposed vacations. He also had

Larry return to the hotel suite, pay their bill, pack their things and

bring them to the Catskill estate which had become their prison.

He had them make up lists of materials and equipment they would need for

further manufacture of the serum upon which they had stumbled, and sent

off men to acquire the things.

And on three occasions during the following weeks he had them brought

from their cells and spent an hour or so with them at lunch or dinner.

Crowley evidently needed an audience beyond that of his henchmen. The

release of his basic character, formerly repressed, was progressing

geometrically and there seemed to be an urgency to crow, to brag, to


On the third of these occasions he was already seated at the table when

they were ushered into the dining room. Crowley dismissed the guards

with a wave of his hand as though they were liveried servants.

All had eaten but there were liqueurs and coffee, cigars and cigarettes

on the broad table.

Ross sank into a chair and growled, "Well, what hath the great man

wrought by now?"

Crowley grinned at him, poured coffee and then a dollop of Napoleon

brandy into it. He gestured with a hand. "Help yourselves, folks. How

you feeling? You been getting all the books you wanted? You look kind of

peaked, Pat."

"Miss O'Gara to you, you ape with delusions of grandeur," she snapped.

"When are you going to let us out of those prison cells?"

Crowley wasn't provoked. The strong can afford to laugh at the

malcontented weak. "That's one of the things you never know," he said

easily. "You sure you want out? Something the Doc said the other day had

a lotta fact in it. The fewer people know about this secret of mine, the

better off I'll be and the better off I am, the better off the whole

country is going to be and I gotta think about that. I got


"A combination of Engine Charley and Louis XIV, eh?" Ross muttered,

running his beefy hand back over his crew cut. It was a relief to get

out of his room and talk with the others, but he didn't want Crowley to

see that.

"What's that?" the o