Potts tapped his forehead with a forefinger and asked, "What is a brain? You'll say it's an organ occupying the skull and forming the center of the nervous system, and the seat of intellect, or some such thing. I don't think so. It generates electricity. You know that. A nerve impulse is a wave of electricity started and conducted by a nerve cell. You can test it. You've made brain-wave patterns of some of the boys in the ward.
"The brain transforms energy into thought, or thought into energy. I'm sitting here thinking and not moving my body at all. My brain is transforming electric energy into thought. You're writing, and your thoughts guide the movement of your hand. Thought into energy."
Dr. Bean turned a page and continued to scribble rapidly. Potts heard Joe move and felt the big attendant's presence behind his chair.
Potts said, "The ability to think improves with use, like a muscle growing stronger with use. The first time you memorize a poem, it's a hard job. If you keep on memorizing, it becomes easier, until you read a poem a couple of times and you have it. The same goes for remembering. I'll bet you can't even remember how your breakfast tasted and smelled this morning. Probably not even what you ate.
"I practice remembering with all the senses. How things look and taste and smell. Exact colors, shadows, size, impressions. Think of an airplane, and you probably think of a little silver thing in the sky. Actually, an airplane is much bigger than that, so your mental picture of an airplane is all wrong. An airplane gives me a certain impression. I have it only when looking at one. Maybe it's an unrecognized sense. I have an entirely different impression when I'm looking at a horse."
Dr. Bean threw down his pencil, caught his falling glasses, drew a handkerchief from his breast pocket, and polished them.
"Too deep for you, Doc?" Potts inquired. "Well, just assume that my brain is a more powerful generator and transformer than any you ever saw. I've developed it by memorizing, remembering, visualizing, working problems in my head, and so on. I've been trying to make my brain take complete control of my body. The body is composed of atoms, and the atoms are electrical charges, protons and electrons. Therefore, you're nothing but electricity in the shape of a man.
"By changing myself to pure thought, or pure electricity, I believed that I could escape to the past. Get away from this age where a man is suspected of insanity if he so much as mislays his checkbook or kicks his dog. People didn't used to be crazy unless they went around hacking their relatives with an ax.
"I tried to meet Columbus when he rowed ashore from the Santa Maria. I tried to watch the Battle of Bunker Hill. I tried to lead the Charge of the Light Brigade. I tried to invent an airplane during the Civil War. I always failed, because I didn't have enough sensory knowledge of the period, and I couldn't change the past.
"I succeeded in P. T. because I transported myself through space instead of time. I knew every detail of the day room, so it worked. My brain reduced my body to its elemental charges in the P. T. bath and reassembled it in the dayroom. Something like radio, with the brain acting as sending set and receiver. Maybe we should call it philosophy, Doc. What is reality? If I sit here in your office but imagine I'm sitting in the dayroom, until the chair in the dayroom becomes more real than this, where am I actually sitting?"
Dr. Bean stood up, adjusted his glasses, and said, "Orville, I am going to do as you asked. I am going to tell you exactly what is wrong with you. You are suffering from distorted perception--illusions and hallucinations, disorientation. You are also becoming an exhibitionist and are developing a persecution complex. I thought, when you first came in, that you had improved. But if you don't pull yourself together and try to get well, you'll be in here a long time."
Potts's chair overturned as he thrust himself up. He placed his thin hands on the desk and said, "You psychiatrists can't see an inch in front of your nose! All you can do is quote a textbook. If anybody mentions mental telepathy, or predicting the future, or a sense of perception, you classify them as insane. You think you've reduced the mind to a set of rules, but you're still in kindergarten! I'll prove every word I said! I'll vanish into the future! I can't change the past, but the future hasn't happened yet! I can imagine my own!"
Joe grabbed the fist that Potts shook under the doctor's nose and pinned the patient's arms behind his back.
"Take him upstairs to Ward K, Joe," Dr. Bean said. "To the pack room. That should calm him."
"So long, moron!" Potts called.
"Let's go, Orville Potts," Joe said. "We're going to fix you up just like an ice cream soda."
"You won't pack me in ice," Potts promised. His thin body twisted in pain.
He closed his eyes tight and concentrated.
Joe's great hands clamped into fists when Potts disappeared.
Potts opened his eyes. He lay face down on a padded acceleration couch with broad straps across his brawny back and legs. Before his face, a second hand swept around a clock toward a red zero. Potts twisted his head slightly in the harness and looked at the beautiful young woman strapped to the couch on his right. A shrieking warning siren blared through the spaceship.
The woman smiled.
"Hia, ked," she said in strange new accents. "Secure your dentures. Next stop, Alpha Centaurus!"
By James A. Goldthwaite
IT wasn't death itself that Drill Morgan feared. No one had a better reputation of being able to take care of himself in a jam where automatics cracked spitefully in the dark and streaks of flame leaped swiftly from unexpected places. In the open, hand-to-hand or gun-to-gun, Drill had the savage, icy-nerved scorn of danger of a fighting rat.
It was another sort of death that Drill Morgan feared. A death in a small gray room with its one furnishing a heavy wooden-chair--hung with straps and wires.
And it was this fear that had gripped him and fastened and grown on him till he told the district attorney that he would testify, testify to anything, against anybody, even his own mother, to save his life. So they gave him a nominal sentence of five years and turned him loose on a pardon at the end of the first year. At midnight, on the very day of Morgan's release, Jim Morrison, after twelve months of fruitless appeals and delays, was to go to the chair for the murder of McCracken's butler.
Slumped down in his seat in the train, Drill let his mind run back to the scene in the courtroom when he had given his testimony against Jim.
It was he, Drill, who should have gone to the chair by rights. He had shot the butler, himself, while Jim was outside on the lookout.
But Jim would be the one to pay for the job; there wasn't any doubt about that Drill's evidence had clinched that. He would be led into that room, and when he came out, they would put him into a cart and carry him away like a piece of meat.
Drill Morgan jumped in his chair, and his hands gripped the wooden rail till the knuckles cracked. A voice from over his shoulder had broken into his thoughts. But all it said was: "Dinner is now served in the dining car. Dining car is in the rear."
Drill straightened himself up in his chair. He laughed and cursed himself for a fool. That was all over now, all over and past, he told himself for the hundredth time. The fear of the chair was out of his life, out of it forever. Only, he had stood sweating and trembling under its shadow for so long, it was a habit almost.
In the washroom, Drill brushed his natty gray suit of clothes that he had ordered in prison at his own expense, sleeked back his black hair, polished his neat oxfords with a brush, and came out whistling, his chin up.
He made his way back through the train to the dining car and selected a seat at a vacant table. After consulting the menu and giving his order to a waiter, he leaned back in his chair and let his gaze drift negligently and comfortably around the car.
His ease of mind lasted only a few seconds. Almost the first thing his eyes rested on was a newspaper in the hands of a man at the next table in front. In four-inch headlines slapped clear across the page, the screamer announced that all appeals in behalf of Jim Morrison had failed, and that he must die at midnight. Prominently displayed in the middle of the page was a photograph of the electric chair, bordered in black, with an imaginary drawing of Morrison strapped into it.
Drill Morgan shuddered. Furtively he mopped beads of sweat from his forehead. With the jolting of the train, it seemed to him that the picture of the man on the hot spot looked more like him than it did like Morrison....
He muttered another oath and jerked his eyes off the tabloid. He wasn't afraid. There wasn't a thing in the world to fear now.
All at once, he realized that somebody was standing in the aisle, looking down at him.
This newcomer was an undersized, stoop-shouldered little man, with a thin, wrinkled face, pasty-white from indoor life, and brown eyes, sly and shifty as a pair of glass beads. He was dressed in a suit of sleazy prison clothes and he wore a derby hat at least two sizes too large for him.
Drill recognized the man, now that he came to look at him. Off and on, for months back in stir, he remembered he had been catching glimpses of the comical little figure in the baggy uniform shuffling around in the long, gray queues of prisoners. Moreover, the little fellow had been waiting in the warden's office only a couple of hours before when he, Drill, had passed through on his way to the outside. Waiting for his discharge at the end of his term-- SEEING that Morgan was looking at him, the little man sidled over to the table and slid into the chair opposite Drill. Seated, his head and shoulders hardly came above the table top. But his beady brown eyes gripped Morgan's like a ferret's over the white cloth and silverware.
"Hello. You're Drill Morgan, ain't you?" wheezed the little man.
Morgan stiffened. His big, cruelly handsome lips curled in disdain. He looked around for the waiter to tell him to have the shabby little intruder kicked out, and then thought better of it. He was in no position, even though legally clear of the bulls, to stir up a scene.
"Well, suppose I am. What of it?" he replied curtly. The little man did not answer for a second.
He sat leaning forward toward Drill, mouth half open, and an expression of awed wonder on his face that reminded Drill of a dog watching its master.
"I thought so. I'm Ollie Meekers--Rabbit Meekers, you know," the little man finally wheezed back. "I've seen you around, up--up there--lots of times. I used to watch you. But I don't suppose a big shot like you would even bother to notice a runt like me."
Meekers pulled one hand up from under the tablecloth and pushed it timidly over the cloth toward Drill.
"Maybe I'm all wet to think of it, but I'd like to--do you suppose--would you shake hands, Mr. Morgan?" he blurted out.
Drill Morgan scowled with surprise. He hesitated, started to growl out a refusal, and then stuck out his hand. The people across the aisle, he saw out of the corner of his eyes, were getting interested.
The hand that Rabbit Meekers slid into Drill's big white digits was just what Morgan had expected it would be. Long and slender and thin-fingered, wonderfully flexible and soft. The kind of a hand that can move in and out of a pocket, or back and forth over a deck of cards, faster than the eye can follow it.
The waiter came with the soup, and Morgan started to eat it.
"Now suppose you spill me something," he growled to Meekers after a moment. "What's the big idea? Why all the stuff about who I am and shaking hands. Rabbit? Ain't runnin' for Congress or something, are you, cull?"
Meekers hugged himself with both his skinny, pipestem little arms. He sucked in his flabby blue lips in a chuckling grin.
"You're the man that pulled the McCracken job and got away with it," he breathed. "We knew all about that, up at college. Even the ones that was up there before it happened. I just finished two this time--"
"What's your line, Rabbit?" Morgan interrupted.
Meekers flushed sheepishly and dropped his eyes.
"Me? Oh, I ain't nothing compared to you. Drill," he muttered. "I'm just a pocket-dipper--a gold watch here, a piece of coin somewhere else. I tried to do a couple of box jobs, but I fell down. Someway, I can't seem to get the hang of it. The last time they nabbed me on the way in--that's how good I am." He laughed cacklingly.
"Guess I'm too dumb to be anything but honest. And I don't even know how to be that."
There was a moment of silence, broken only by the rhythmical click of the car wheels "That was why I wanted to speak to you. Drill," the little man went on wistfully, at last. "Me, I ain't never done nothin' all my life but bum around and get pinched. I always wanted to meet up with one reg'lar guy. If I couldn't never pull off a decent job myself, anyhow I wanted to shake hands with a high-toned worker, and see how it felt. Gee, yuh couldn't never guess what a kick I'm gettin' outa this!" Drill Morgan sat staring at the comically earnest, wrinkled little face in front of him for a moment, then burst out laughing. "Say, you're handin' me the first good laugh I've had in a year, no kidding," he guffawed. "I didn't know they let 'em loose with as few brains as what you've got. Have something to eat on me, dumb-bell."
RELAXING from the tension of the last weeks, Morgan amused himself during the next half hour by relating to the little man some of the less serious exploits of his career, and listening with a certain contemptuous amusement to the pickpocket's awed exclamations of wonder. Finishing their meal, the pair left the dining car together and went into the smoker, which happened to be empty except for themselves. There, Morgan went on with his anecdotes.
"Gee, you're wonderful!" Meekers sighed admiringly at last. "What you goin' to do when you get back to the big town, Drill? Got anything lined up to turn over?"
Drill's cigar halted halfway to his lips. He froze motionless as a statue, his blue-ice eyes drilling the Rabbit like a butterfly under a pin.
"You're askin' me?" he said slowly. "I been away more than a year, don't forget. And exactly what difference does it make to you, anyway, punk?"
Rabbit glanced up, flushed and fidgeted in his chair.
"Not a thing in the world, Drill," he stammered hastily. "Only, I was just thinkin'. I suppose you're figgerin' to go up to Rosy the fence's some night pretty soon and pick up the twenty grand that mug owes you on the McCracken emeralds, ain't you? You could live on that dough quite a while without doin' any work. If you could get it--"
Drill Morgan did nothing to attract the attention of the two men who had just paused in the doorway of the smoking car. His big white hand fell on Rabbit's skinny forearm as it rested between them and vised over it with a clutch that brought tears to the little man's eyes.
"What do you know about Rosy and the junk--supposing there ever was any?" he snarled. "What do you mean, 'if I can get it'? What are you trying to do, muscle in on me, you shrimp? Come clean and come fast."
"Cripes, Drill, don't go gettin' me wrong," Rabbit whined. "Leggo my arm. You're killin' me. Me muscle in on you? Say, do I look that goofy--honest, do I, now?"
"I'll find out how goofy you are after you talk," Morgan grunted, a little mollified in spite of himself. "Go ahead, cull. Shoot the works."
"There ain't no use you tryin' to stall me that you didn't knock off old man McCracken's emeralds that night that y-o-u--I mean Jim Morrison--smoked the butler," Meekers said. "And you went and soaked the junk with Rosy--didn't you, Drill?"
Drill Morgan laughed. It was not a pleasant laugh to hear, so smooth, yet withal so rasping. Like the unsheathing of a jagged-edged knife from a satin scabbard.
"Who says so? If you know something, let's hear it. But don't go shoving no cross-examination at me, Rabbit," he purred.
"Who says so?" Meekers leaned closer to Drill, laughing knowingly under his breath. "Spike Haggerty said so. And Spike's in the know, what I mean. He got up here--up there at the house, I mean--about six months after you did. I guess maybe you never happened to pipe off who he was. Somebody must have spilled the works to him--I don't know who. Spike said that you left the stuff with Rosy for safe keeping. He swore to keep dark that he had it. If you got a long stretch up river, he promised to keep it in his safe till you came and got it, if it was ten years. Didn't he?"
Drill Morgan's breath had started to come thickly and fast. His face grew white, hard and cruel as chiseled stone.
"What are you driving at, you boob?" he gritted between his teeth. "Are you trying to tell me that Rosy--"
Rabbit Meekers shrank back from the killing fury in Morgan's face.
"He sold you out, Drill," he muttered. "Old McCracken put up twenty grand reward for the return of the stuff and no questions asked. Rosy packed it up and some wise mouthpiece of his took it back to McCracken and collected the dough. So--"
His face white and twitching. Drill plunged out of his seat and started to pace the floor. "The double-crossing skunk!" he raged, hoarsely. "I'll cut his heart out for this--" He whirled and stood glaring down at the Rabbit. "Curse you, if you're lying to me--if this yarn of yours is some plant--" He stooped and gripped the little man by the shoulder. His fingers burned through the thin cloth of the coat like steel hooks.
"What's your racket, anyhow, you rat?" he hissed. "What's the idea, musclin' into the know with me, and then unloadin' all this? What business is it of yours, anyhow?"
"For the lovamike, Drill, what d'yuh keep gettin' me wrong for?" Meekers whimpered. "Listen, will yuh? Yuh had the rocks once, and when yuh gave 'em to Rosy, yuh was goin' to have the dough instead of 'em. Wasn't yuh? Now you're sore because yuh think you've lost 'em--rocks and kale, both." Meekers dropped his voice. "Well, how'd yuh like it if yuh could get 'em back again? Not just the dough. The dough and the rocks, both?"
Inch by inch it seemed, so slowly did he move, Drill sank back into his chair again.
"What d'yuh mean, cull? What are yuh drivin' at?" he growled.
For reply, the Rabbit reached into his pocket and drew out a newspaper. He folded it to the headlines of an article in the society section and passed it wordlessly to Morgan.
PROMINENT SOCIETY PEOPLE TO ATTEND HOUSEWARMING.
Members of several of New York's most prominent families have accepted invitations to assist at the housewarming festivities to be held tonight by Mr. and Mrs. John Henry McCracken on the occasion of the opening of their new hunting lodge in the Adirondacks. Mr. and Mrs. McCracken left the city yesterday forenoon with a staff of domestics from their New York residence, arriving at Cedarcrest in the late afternoon for the purpose of completing last minute preparations for the reception of several autoloads of friends who followed them early this morning. Mr. and Mrs.
McCracken will remain at their palatial "camp" only two days on this occasion, returning to the city tomorrow for the purpose of attending the international polo matches, in which their son, Mr. Jerrold McCracken, will participate as a member of the American team.
DRILL MORGAN let the paper drop into his lap and sat staring at Meekers.
"The servants have gone with 'em. There won't be a soul in the place," he muttered. "For a show like that, up in the woods, the missis won't lug her big junk. It would be a wide-open lay, only for one thing. It's a cinch McCracken has switched the combination of that wall safe since the job I done on it last year. I knew the combination that time. It took the old lady's French maid six months to pipe it off for me. But now--" Drill Morgan shoved a cigar viciously into his mouth and jabbed a match across the sole of his boot. "Cripes, what a lay! And I got to pass it up!"
"There's another way to g-get into a safe, Drill, without knowing the c-combination." Rabbit's voice was stuttering with excitement. "D-did you ever hear of an acetylene blow pipe? C-cuts through a foot of steel in half an hour--"
"Did I ever hear of my left leg?" Drill grunted disgustedly. "You poor fish, where am I going to grab off a gas gun outfit in three-four hours after I hit town, after bein' away from the mob more than a year. Huh?"
"I can get you a gas outfit in t-two hours, or less, Drill," Meekers chattered. "That is, unless the p-party I'm thinking of has got pinched while I been away. We'll be in and out again at McCracken's by one o'clock, and then we'll go down to Rosy's. You needn't say anything to Rosy that you've got the rocks in your pocket. You can just stick your gun in his stomach and tell him you know how he double-crossed you, and to come across with the twenty grand, or you'll b-blow him to hell. He'll shell out, all right. He's y-yellower than what I am." Rabbit chuckled. "And then we-" Drill Morgan's steel fingers gripped again over the Rabbit's arm. His flat, cruel eyes glowed green as a cat's. "Hold on a minute. Where do you get that 'we' stuff?" he growled. "'We'll' do this--'we'll' do that. When did I ever tell you you was mobbin' in with me on anything, cull?"
Rabbit's little red eyes blinked rapidly. His bony Adam's apple fluttered up and down in his skinny throat.
"I guess I forgot myself, D-Drill," he stuttered. "I was just thinkin'--like as if me and you was together on the job. I kep' thinkin' and thinkin' about it so much back at stir--you know, imaginin' that we was pals--wantin' to work with you so bad--it sorta seemed like it had come true."
He leaned suddenly toward Morgan, his seamed, monkeylike little face fairly twitching with eagerness.