Nor Iron Bars a Cage....

       Randall Garrett / Science Fiction
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in the halloutside.

We both turned and ran.

In the hallway, we could hear the footsteps going down the stairwell.The slow elevator was out of the question. We took off down the stairsafter him. He had a head start of about a floor and a half, and keptit all the way down. We saw the door swinging shut as we arrived inthe foyer. Outside, we saw our man running toward the corner. Istarted to reach for my gun, but there were too many people around. Icouldn't risk a shot.

And then that amazing walking stick came into action again. The Duketook a few running steps forward and hurled it like a javelin, theheavy silver head forward. Robin Hood couldn't have done better withan arrow. When the silver knob hit the back of the running man's head,he fell forward to the sidewalk.

He was still struggling to get up when we grabbed him.

* * * * *

The Duke and I were waiting for Dr. Brownlee when he came back fromtalking to Lawrence Nestor in his cell. ”He's one of our zanies, allright,” he said sadly. ”A very sick man.”

”He's lucky he wasn't lynched,” I said. ”Did he tell you whathappened?”

Brownlee nodded. ”Just about the way you had it figured. He had thelittle girl's clothes off when her mother came back. He heard herputting her key in the door, so he grabbed Shirley and dragged herinto the closet with him. The mother didn't search the place at all;she just went through the main rooms, called her daughter's name a fewtimes and then left.”

”That's what threw us off at first,” I said. ”We both accepted Mrs.Ebbermann's word that Shirley wasn't in the apartment. Then I realizedthat she wouldn't have taken time to look in all the closets. Whyshould she? As far as she knew, there wasn't any reason for Shirley tohide from her.”

”It's a good thing Mrs. Ebbermann did come back.” Dr. Brownlee said.”That was the only thing that saved the girl from rape and death.Nestor was so unnerved that he just left her in the closet, stillunconscious from the blow he'd given her.

”Any normal man would have gotten out of there right then. Not Nestor.He went looking for a drink. Fortunately, he found a bottle of whiskyin the kitchen. He was just getting in the mood to go back in afterthe girl when you two came charging in.

”He saw you run to the bedroom, so he knew the girl's mother must havecalled for help. He decided it was time to run. Too late, of course.”

”Too late for a lot of things.” I said. ”Much too late far AngelaDonahue, for instance. And, as a matter of fact, we were so close tobeing too late with Shirley Ebbermann that I don't even want to thinkabout it. I should have let Shultz go ahead and tell the newsmen. Atleast people would have been warned.”

”There's no way of knowing,” said the Duke, ”But I think there's justas good a chance that he'd have gotten his hands on some other littlegirl, even if the warning had gone out. There will always be parentswho don't pay enough attention to what their children are doing. Theymay blame themselves if something happens, but that may be too late.As it happens, we _weren't_ too late. Let's be thankful for that.

”By the way, am I wrong in assuming that Nestor will not get yourpsychotherapy treatment?”

”No, you're right,” I said. ”The warden at Sing Sing will be takingcare of him from now on.” I turned to Brownlee and said: ”Whichreminds me--what's going to be the disposition on the Hammerlock Smithcase?”

”I talked to Judge Whittaker and the D.A. Your recommendation pulled alot of weight with them. They agreed that if Smith will plead guiltyto felonious assault and agree to therapy, he'll get off with eighteenmonths, suspended. When I release him, he'll never bother young boysagain.”

The Duke looked puzzled. ”Hammerlock Smith? Odd Name. What's he upfor?”

I told him about Hammerlock Smith.

He thought it over for a while, then said: ”Just what is it you do tomen like that? How can you be so sure he'll never hurt anyone again?”

Brownlee started to answer him, but a uniformed officer put his headin the door. ”Excuse me, Dr. Brownlee, the District Attorney wouldlike to talk to you.”

Brownlee excused himself and followed the cop out, leaving me toexplain things to His Grace.

”Do you remember that, a couple of centuries ago, the laws of somecountries provided the perfect punishment for pickpockets andpurse-snatchers?”

He gave me a wry grin. ”Certainly. The hands of the felon wereamputated at the wrist. Usually with a headsman's ax, I believe.”

”Exactly. And they never picked another pocket again as long as theylived.” I said. ”Society had denied them the means to pick pockets.”

”Go on.”

* * * * *

”Do you remember Manny the Moog? The little fellow who was brought inyesterday?”

”Distinctly. I thought it was odd at the time that you should releasea man who has a record of such activities as car-stealing and recklessdriving, especially when the witness against him turned out to be aperfectly respectable person. I took it for granted that he was one ofyour ... ah ... 'tame zanies', I think you called them. But I did notand still don't understand how you can be so positive.”

”I let Manny go because he's incapable of driving a car. The verythought of being in control of a machine so much more powerful than heis would give him chills. Did you ever see what happens when you locka claustrophobe up in a dark closet--the mad, unreasoning,uncontrollable panic of absolute terror? That's what would happen toManny if you put him behind the wheel of a running automobile. It'sworse than fear; fear is controllable. Blind terror isn't.

”Manny had one little twist, in his mind. He liked to get into acar--_any_ car, whether it was his or not--and drive. He became kingof the road. He wasn't a little man any more. He was God, and lesserbeings had better look out.

”We got to him before he actually killed anyone, but there is a womanin Queens today who will never walk again because of Manny the Moog.But there won't be any more like her. We took the instrument ofdestruction away from him; we 'cut off his hands'. Now he's leading areasonably useful life. We don't need to sacrifice another's lifebefore we neutralize the danger.”

”What about Joey Partridge?” His Grace asked. ”He's one of yourzanies, too, isn't he?

”That's right. He couldn't keep from using his fists. He liked thefeel of solid flesh and bone giving under the impact of those bigfists of his. Boxing wasn't enough; he had to be able to feelflesh-to-flesh contact, with no padded glove between. He almost killeda couple of men before we got to him.”

”What did you do to his hands?”

”Nothing. Not a thing. There's nothing at all wrong with his hands.But he _thinks_ there is. He's firmly convinced that the bones are asbrittle as chalk, that if he uses those fists, _he_ will be the onewho will break and shatter. It even bothers him to shake hands, as yousaw last night. It took a lot of guts to do what he did lastnight--walk over to those two thugs knowing he couldn't defendhimself. He's no coward. But he's as terrified of having his handshurt as Manny is of driving a car.”

”I see” the Duke said thoughtfully.

* * * * *

”There are other cases, plenty of them,” I went on. ”We havepyromaniacs who are perfectly harmless now because they have a deathlyterror of flame. We have one fellow who used to be very nasty with aknife; he grows a beard now because the very thought of having a sharpedge that close to him is unnerving. The reality would send himscreaming. We have a girl who had the weird idea that it was fun todrop things out of windows or off the tops of high buildings. Asidefrom the chance of people below being hurt, there was another danger.Two cops grabbed her just as she was about to drop her baby brotheroff the roof of her apartment house.

”But we don't worry about her any more. People with acute acrophobiaare in no condition to pull stunts like that.”

”What will you do to this Hammerlock Smith, then?” His Grace asked.

”Actually, he's one of the simpler cases. A large percentage of ourzanies lose control when they're under the influence of alcohol ordrugs. Alcohol is by far the more common. Under the influence, they dothings they would never do when sober.

”As long as they remain sober, they have control. But, give them a fewdrinks and the control slips and then vanishes completely. One of ourothers was a little like Manny the Moog; he drove like a madman--whichhe was when he was drunk. Sober, he was as careful and cautious adriver as you'd want--a perfectly reliable citizen. But, after losinghis license and the right to own a car, he'd still get drunk and stealcars.

”He has his license back now, but we know we
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