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
"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.
"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
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
"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?"
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
"Brigette Loren," Patricia said, staring. "What's that got to do with
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
* * *
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
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
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 doctor cleared his throat. "Small amounts in hors d'oeuvres at
"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
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
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
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
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 three looked at Crowley.
He opened the door. "Climb in folks. Nothing too good for you
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
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
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."
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
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 ...
"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
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
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
"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
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
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
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
"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
"What's that?" the o