1958 by Robert Sheckley. First published in The Magazine of
Fantasy and Science Fiction, May 1958
lifted his head cautiously above the windowsill. He
saw the fire-escape, and below it a narrow alley.
There was a weather-beaten baby carriage in the alley
and three garbage cans. As he watched, a black-sleeved
arm moved from behind the furthest can, with something
shiny in its fist. Raeder ducked down. A bullet
smashed through the window above his head and
punctured the ceiling, showering him with plaster.
Now he knew about the alley. It was guarded,
just like the door.
He lay at full length on the cracked linoleum,
staring at the bullet hole in the ceiling, listening
to the sounds outside the door. He was a tall man with
bloodshot eyes and a two-day stubble. Grime and
fatigue had etched lines into his face. Fear had
touched his features, tightening a muscle here and
twitching a nerve there. The results were startling.
His face had character now, for it was reshaped by the
expectation of death.
There was a gunman in the alley and two on the
stairs. He was trapped. He was dead.
Sure, Raeder thought, he still moved and
breathed, but that was only because of death's
inefficiency. Death would take care of him in a few
minutes. Death would poke holes in his face and body,
artistically dab his clothes with blood, arrange his
limbs in some grotesque position of the graveyard
Raeder bit his lip sharply. He wanted to live.
There had to be a way.
He rolled onto his stomach and surveyed the
dingy cold-water apartment into which the killers had
driven him. It was a perfect little one-room coffin.
It had a door, which was watched, and a fire escape,
which was watched. And it had a tiny windowless
He crawled to the bathroom and stood up. There
was a ragged hole in the ceiling, almost four inches
wide. If he could enlarge it, crawl through into the
apartment above ...
He heard a muffled thud. The killers were
impatient. They were beginning to break down the door.
He studied the hole in the ceiling. No use even
considering it. He could never enlarge it in time.
They were smashing against the door, grunting
each time they struck. Soon the lock would tear out,
or the hinges would pull out of the rotting wood. The
door would go down, and the two blank-faced men would
enter, dusting off their jackets ...
But surely someone would help him! He took the
tiny television set from his pocket. The picture was
blurred, and he didn't bother to adjust it. The audio
was clear and precise.
He listened to the well-modulated voice of Mike
Terry addressing his vast audience.
"... terrible spot," Terry was saying. "Yes,
folks, Jim Raeder is in a truly terrible predicament.
He had been hiding, you'll remember, in a third-rate
Broadway hotel under an assumed name. It seemed safe
enough. But the bellhop recognized him, and gave that
information to the Thompson gang."
The door creaked under repeated blows. Raeder
clutched the little television set and listened.
"Jim Raeder just managed to escape from the
hotel! Closely pursued, he entered a brownstone at one
fifty-six West End Avenue. His intention was to go
over the roofs. And it might have worked, folks, it
just might have worked. But the roof door was locked.
It looked like the end ... But Raeder found that
apartment seven was unoccupied and unlocked. He
Terry paused for emphasis, then cried -- "and
now he's trapped there, trapped like a rat in a cage!
The Thompson gang is breaking down the door! The fire
escape is guarded! Our camera crew, situated in a
nearby building, is giving you a close-up now. Look,
folks, just look! Is there no hope for Jim Raeder?"
Is there no hope? Raeder silently echoed,
perspiration pouring from him as he stood in the dark,
stifling little bathroom, listening to the steady thud
against the door.
"Wait a minute!" Mike Terry cried. "Hang on,
Jim Raeder, hang on a little longer. Perhaps there is
hope! I have an urgent call from one of our viewers, a
call on the Good Samaritan Line! Here's someone who
thinks he can help you, Jim. Are you listening, Jim
Raeder waited, and heard the hinges tearing out
of rotten wood.
"Go right ahead, sir," said Mike Terry. "What
is your name, sir?"
"Er -- Felix Bartholemow."
"Don't be nervous, Mr. Bartholemow. Go right
"Well, okay. Mr. Raeder," said an old man's
shaking voice, "I used to live at one five six West
End Avenue. Same apartment you're trapped in, Mr.
Raeder -- fact! Look, that bathroom has got a window,
Mr. Raeder. It's been painted over, but it has got a
Raeder pushed the television set into his
pocket. He located the outlines of the window and
kicked. Glass shattered, and daylight poured startling
in. He cleared the jagged sill and quickly peered
Below was a long drop to a concrete courtyard.
The hinges tore free. He heard the door
opening. Quickly Raeder climbed through the window,
hung by his fingertips for a moment, and dropped.
The shock was stunning. Groggily he stood up. A
face appeared at the bathroom window.
"Tough luck," said the man, leaning out and
taking careful aim with a snub-nosed .38.
At that moment a smoke bomb exploded inside the
The killer's shot went wide. He turned,
cursing. More smoke bombs burst in the courtyard,
obscuring Raeder's figure.
He could hear Mike Terry's frenzied voice over
the TV set in his pocket. "Now run for it!" Terry was
screaming. "Run, Jim Raeder, run for your life. Run
now, while the killers' eyes are filled with smoke.
And thank Good Samaritan Sarah Winters, of three four
one two Edgar Street, Brockton, Mass., for donating
five smoke bombs and employing the services of a man
to throw them!" In a quieter voice, Terry continued.
"You've saved a man's life today, Mrs. Winters. Would
you tell our audience how it -- " Raeder wasn't able
to hear any more. He was running through the
smoke-filled courtyard, past clotheslines, into the
* * * * *
He walked down 63rd Street, slouching to
minimize his height, staggering slightly from
exertion, dizzy from lack of food and sleep.
Raeder turned. A middle-aged woman was sitting
on the steps of a brownstone, frowning at him.
"You're Raeder, aren't you? The one they're
trying to kill?"
Raeder started to walk away.
"Come inside here, Raeder," the woman said.
Perhaps it was a trap. But Raeder knew that he
had to depend upon the generosity and good-heartedness
of the people. He was their representative, a
projection of themselves, an average guy in trouble.
Without them, he was lost. With them, nothing could
Trust in the people, Mike Terry had told him.
They'll never let you down.
He followed the woman into her parlor. She told
him to sit down and left the room, returning almost
immediately with a plate of stew. She stood watching
him while he ate, as one would watch an ape in the zoo
Two children came out of the kitchen and stared
at him. Three overalled men came out of the bedroom
and focused a television camera on him. There was a
big television set in the parlor. As he gulped his
food, Raeder watched the image of Mike Terry and
listened to the man's strong, sincere, worried voice.
"There he is, folks," Terry was saying.
"There's Jim Raeder now, eating his first square meal
in two days. Our camera crews have really been working
to cover this for you! Thanks, boys ... Folks, Jim
Raeder has been given a brief sanctuary by Mrs. Velma
O'Dell, of three forty-three Sixty-Third Street. Thank
you, Good Samaritan O'Dell! It's really wonderful how
people from all walks of life have taken Jim Raeder to
"You better hurry," Mrs. O'Dell said.
"Yes, ma'am," Raeder said.
"I don't want no gunplay in my apartment."
"I'm almost finished, ma'am."
One of the children asked. "Aren't they going
to kill him?"
"Shut up," said Mrs. O'Dell.
"Yes, Jim," chanted Mike Terry. "You'd better
hurry. Your killers aren't far behind. They aren't
stupid men, Jim. Vicious, warped, insane -- yes! But
not stupid. They're following a trail of blood --
blood from your torn hand, Jim!"
Raeder hadn't realized until now that he'd cut
his hand on the windowsill.
"Here, I'll bandage that," Mrs. O'Dell said.
Raeder stood up and let her bandage his hand. Then she
gave him a brown jacket and a gray slouch hat.
"My husband's stuff," she said.
"He has a disguise, folks!" Mike Terry cried
delightedly. "This is something new! A disguise! With
seven hours to go until he's safe!"
"Now get out of here," Mrs. O'Dell said.
"I'm going, ma'am," Raeder said. "Thanks."
"I think you're stupid," she said. "I think
you're stupid to be involved in this."
"It just isn't worth it."
Raeder thanked her and left. He walked to
Broadway, caught a subway to 59th Street, then an
uptown local to 86th. There he bought a newspaper and
changed for the Manhasset through-express.
He glanced at his watch. He had six and a half
hours to go.
* * * * *
The subway roared under Manhattan. Raeder
dozed, his bandaged hand concealed under the
newspaper, the hat pulled over his face. Had he been
recognized yet? Had he shaken the Thompson gang? Or
was someone telephoning them now?
Dreamily he wondered if he had escaped death,
or was he still a cleverly animated corpse, moving
around because of death's inefficiency? (My dear,
death is so laggard these days! Jim Raeder walked
about for hours after he died and actually answered
people's questions before he could be decently
Raeder's eyes snapped open. He had dreamed
something ... unpleasant. He couldn't remember what.
He closed his eyes again and remembered, with
mild astonishment, a time when he had been in no
That was two years ago. He had been a big,
pleasant young man working as a truck driver's helper.
He had no talents. He was too modest to have dreams.
The tight-faced little truck driver had the
dreams for him. "Why not try for a television show,
Jim? I would if I had your looks. They like nice,
average guys with nothing much on the ball. As
contestants. Everybody likes guys like that. Why not
look into it?"
So he had looked into it. The owner of the
local television store had explained it further.
"You see, Jim, the public is sick of highly
trained athletes with their trick reflexes and their
professional courage. Who can feel for guys like that?
Who can identify? People want to watch exciting
things, sure, but not when some joker is making it his
business for fifty thousand a year. That's why
organized sports are in a slump. That's why the thrill
shows are booming."
"I see," said Raeder.
"Six years ago, Jim, Congress passed the
Voluntary Suicide Act. Those old senators talked a lot
about free will and self-determinism at the time. But
that's all crap. You know what the Act really means?
It means the amateurs can risk their lives for the big
loot, not just professionals. In the old days you had
to be a professional boxer or footballer or hockey
player if you wanted your brains beaten out legally
for money. But now that opportunity is open to
ordinary people like you, Jim."
"I see," Raeder said again.
"It's a marvelous opportunity. Take you. You're
no better than anyone, Jim. Anything you can do,
anyone can do. You're average. I think the thrill
shows would go for you."
Raeder permitted himself to dream. Television
shows looked like a sure road to riches for a pleasant
young fellow with no particular talent or training. He
wrote a letter to a show called Hazard and enclosed a
photograph of himself.
Hazard was interested in him. The JBC network
investigated, and found that he was average enough to
satisfy the wariest viewer. His parentage and
affiliations were checked. At last he was summoned to
New York and interviewed by Mr. Moulain.
Moulain was dark and intense, and chewed gum as
he talked. "You'll do," he snapped. "But not for
Hazard. You'll appear on Spills. It's a half-hour
daytime show on Channel Three."
"Gee," said Raeder.
"Don't thank me. There's a thousand dollars if
you win or place second, and a consolation prize of a
hundred dollars if you lose. But that's not
"Spills is a little show. The JBC network uses
it as a testing ground. First and second-place winners
on Spills move on to Emergency. The prizes are much
bigger on Emergency."
"I know they are, sir."
"And if you do well on Emergency, there are the
first-class thrill shows, like Hazard and Underwater
Perils, with their nationwide coverage and enormous
prizes. And then comes the really big time. How far
you go is up to you."
"I'll do my best sir," Raeder said.
Moulain stopped chewing gum for a moment and
said, almost reverently, "You can do it, Jim. Just
remember. You're the people, and the people can do
The way he said it made Raeder feel momentarily
sorry for Mr. Moulain, who was dark and frizzy-haired
and pop-eyed, and was obviously not the people.
They shook hands. Then Raeder signed a paper
absolving the JBC of all responsibility should he lose
his life, limbs, or reason during the contest. And he
signed another paper exercising his rights under the
Voluntary Suicide Act. The law required this, and it
was a mere formality.
In three weeks, he appeared on Spills.
The program followed the classic form of the
automobile race. Untrained drivers climbed into
powerful American and European competition cars and
raced over a murderous twenty-mile course. Raeder was
shaking with fear as he slid his big Maserati into the
wrong gear and took off.
The race was a screaming, tire-burning
nightmare. Raeder stayed back, letting the early
leaders smash themselves up on the counterbanked
hairpin turns. He crept into third place when a Jaguar
in front of him swerved against an Alfa-Romeo and the
two cars roared into a plowed field. Raeder gunned for
second place on the last three miles, but couldn't
find passing room. An S-curve almost took him, but he
fought the car back on the road, still holding third.
Then the lead driver broke a crankshaft in the final
fifty yards, and Jim ended in second place.
He was now a thousand dollars ahead. He
received four fan letters, and a lady in Oshkosh sent
him a pair of argyles. He was invited to appear on
Unlike the others, Emergency was not a
competition-type program. It stressed individual
initiative. For the show, Raeder was knocked out with
a nonhabit-forming narcotic. He awoke in the cockpit
of a small airplane, cruising on autopilot at ten
thousand feet. His fuel gauge showed nearly empty. He
had no parachute. He was supposed to land the plane.
Of course, he had never flown before.
He experimented gingerly with the controls,
remembering that last week's participant had recovered
consciousness in a submarine, had opened the wrong
valve, and had drowned.
Thousands of viewers watched spellbound as this
average man, a man just like themselves, struggled
with the situation just as they would do. Jim Raeder
was them. Anything he could do, they could do. He was
representative of the people.
Raeder managed to bring the ship down in some
semblance of a landing. He flipped over a few times,
but his seat belt held. And the engine, contrary to
expectation, did not burst into flames.
He staggered out with two broken ribs, three
thousand dollars, and a chance, when he healed, to
appear on Torero.
At last, a first-class thrill show! Torero paid
ten thousand dollars. All you had to do was kill a
black Miura bull with a sword, just like a real,
The fight was held in Madrid, since
bullfighting was still illegal in the United States.
It was nationally televised.
Raeder had a good cuadrilla. They liked the
big, slow-moving American. The picadors really leaned
into their lances, trying to slow the bull for him.
The banderilleros tried to run the beast off his feet
before driving in their banderillas. And the second
matador, a mournful man from Algiceras, almost broke
the bull's neck with fancy cape-work.
But when all was said and done, it was Jim
Raeder on the sand, a red muleta clumsily gripped in
his left hand, a sword in his right, facing a ton of
black, blood-streaked, wide-horned bull.
Someone was shouting, "Try for the lung,
hombre. Don't be a hero, stick him in the lung." But
Jim only knew what the technical advisor in New York
had told him: Aim with the sword and go in over the
Over he went. The sword bounced off bone, and
the bull tossed him over its back. He stood up,
miraculously ungouged, took another sword and went
over the horns again with his eyes closed. The god who
protects children and fools must have been watching,
for the sword slid in like a needle through butter,
and the bull looked startled, stared at him
unbelievingly, and dropped like a deflated balloon.
They paid him ten thousand dollars, and his
broken collarbone healed in practically no time. He
received twenty-three fan letters, including a
passionate invitation from a girl in Atlantic City,
which he ignored. And they asked him if he wanted to
appear on another show.
He had lost some of his innocence. He was now
fully aware that he had been almost killed for pocket
money. The big loot lay ahead. Now he wanted to be
almost killed for something worthwhile.
So he appeared on Underwater Perils, sponsored
by Fairlady's Soap. In face mask, respirator, weighted
belt, flippers and knife, he slipped into the warm
waters of the Caribbean with four other contestants,
followed by a cage-protected camera crew. The idea was
to locate and bring up a treasure which the sponsor
had hidden there.
Mask diving isn't especially hazardous. But the
sponsor had added some frills for public interest. The
area was sown with giant clams, moray eels, sharks of
several species, giant octopuses, poison coral, and
other dangers of the deep.
It was a stirring contest. A man from Florida
found the treasure in a deep crevice, but a moray eel
found him. Another diver took the treasure, and a
shark took him. The brilliant blue-green water became
cloudy with blood, which photographed well on color
TV. The treasure slipped to the bottom, and Raeder
plunged after it, popping an eardrum in the process.
He plucked it from the coral, jettisoned his weighted
belt and made for the surface. Thirty feet from the
top he had to fight another diver for the treasure.
They feinted back and forth with their knives.
The man struck, slashing Raeder across the chest. But
Raeder, with the self-possession of an old contestant,
dropped his knife and tore the man's respirator out of
That did it. Raeder surfaced and presented the
treasure at the standby boat. It turned out to be a
package of Fairlady's Soap -- "The Greatest Treasure
That netted him twenty-two thousand dollars in
cash and prizes, and three hundred and eight fan
letters, and an interesting proposition from a girl in
Macon, which he seriously considered. He received free
hospitalization for his knife slash and burst eardrum,
and injections for coral infection.
But best of all, he was invited to appear on
the biggest of the thrill shows. The Prize of Peril.
And that was when the real trouble began ...
The subway came to a stop, jolting him out of
his reverie. Raeder pushed back his hat and observed,
across the aisle, a man staring at him and whispering
to a stout woman. Had they recognized him?
He stood up as soon as the doors opened, and
glanced at his watch. He had five hours to go.
* * * * *
At the Manhasset station, he stepped into a
taxi and told the driver to take him to New Salem.
"New Salem?" the driver asked, looking at him
in the rear-vision mirror.
The driver snapped on his radio. "Fare to New
Salem. Yep, that's right. New Salem." They drove off.
Raeder frowned, wondering if it had been a signal. It
was perfectly usual for taxi drivers to report to
their dispatchers, of course. But something about the
man's voice ...
"Let me off here," Raeder said.
He paid the driver and began walking down a
narrow country road that curved through sparse woods.
The trees were too small and too widely separated for
shelter. Raeder walked on, looking for a place to
There was a heavy truck approaching. He kept on
walking, pulling his hat low on his forehead. But as
the truck drew near, he heard a voice from the
television set in his pocket. It cried, "Watch out!"
He flung himself into the ditch. The truck
careened past, narrowly missing him, and screeched to
a stop. The driver was shouting, "There he goes!
Shoot, Harry, shoot!"
Bullets clipped leaves from the trees as Raeder
sprinted into the woods.
"It's happened again!" Mike Terry was saying,
his voice high-pitched with excitement. "I'm afraid
Jim Raeder let himself be lulled into a false sense of
security. You can't do that, Jim! Not with your life
at stake! Not with killers pursuing you! Be careful,
Jim, you still have four and a half hours to go!"
The driver was saying, "Claude, Harry, go
around with the truck. We got him boxed."
"They've got you boxed, Jim Raeder!" Mike Terry
cried. "But they haven't got you yet! And you can
thank Good Samaritan Susy Peters of twelve Elm Street,
South Orange, New Jersey, for that warning shout just
when the truck was bearing down on you. We'll have
little Susy on stage in just a moment ... Look, folks,
our studio helicopter has arrived on the scene. Now
you can see Jim Raeder running, and the killers
pursuing, surrounding him ..."
Raeder ran through a hundred yards of woods and
found himself on a concrete highway, with open woods
beyond. One of the killers was trotting through the
woods behind him. The truck had driven to a connecting
road and was now a mile away, coming toward him.
A car was approaching from the other direction.
Raeder ran into the highway, waving frantically. The
car came to a stop.
"Hurry!" cried the blond young woman driving
Raeder dived in. The woman made a U-turn on the
highway. A bullet smashed through the windshield. She
stamped on the accelerator, almost running down the
lone killer who stood in the way.
The car surged away before the truck was within
Raeder leaned back and shut his eyes tightly.
The woman concentrated on her driving, watching for
the truck in her rear-vision mirror.
"It's happened again!" cried Mike Terry, his
voice ecstatic. "Jim Raeder has been plucked again
from the jaws of death, thanks to Good Samaritan
Janice Morrow of four three three Lexington Avenue,
New York City. Did you ever see anything like it,
folks? The way Miss Morrow drove through a fusillade
of bullets and plucked Jim Raeder from the mouth of
doom! Later we'll interview Miss Morrow and get her
reactions. Now, while Jim Raeder speeds away --
perhaps to safety, perhaps to further peril -- we'll
have a short announcement from our sponsor. Don't go
away! Jim's got four hours and ten minutes until he's
safe: anything can happen!"
"Okay," the girl said. "We're off the air now.
Raeder, what in the hell is the matter with you?"
"Eh?" Raeder asked. The girl was in her early
twenties. She looked efficient, attractive,
untouchable. Raeder noticed that she had good
features, a trim figure. And he noticed that she
"Miss," he said, "I don't know how to thank you
for -- "
"Talk straight," Janice Morrow said. "I'm no
Good Samaritan. I'm employed by the JBC network."
"So the program had me rescued!"
"Cleverly reasoned," she said.
"Look, this is an expensive show, Raeder. We
have to turn in a good performance. If our rating
slips, we'll all be in the street selling candy
apples. And you aren't cooperating."
"Because you're terrible," the girl said
bitterly. "You're a flop, a fiasco. Are you trying to
commit suicide? Haven't you learned anything about
"I'm doing the best I can."
"The Thompsons could have had you a dozen times
by now. We told them to take it easy, stretch it out.
But it's like shooting a clay pigeon six feet tall.
The Thompsons are cooperating, but they can only fake
so far. If I hadn't come along, they'd have had to
kill you -- air-time or not."
Raeder stared at her, wondering how such a
pretty girl could talk that way. She glanced at him,
then quickly looked back to the road.
"Don't give me that look!" she said. "You chose
to risk your life for money, buster. And plenty of
money! You knew the score. Don't act like some
innocent little grocer who finds the nasty hoods are
after him. That's a different plot."
"I know," Raeder said.
"If you can't live well, at least try to die
"You don't mean that," Raeder said.
"Don't be too sure ... You've got three hours
and forty minutes until the end of the show. If you
can stay alive, fine. The boodle's yours. But if you
can't, at least try to give them a run for the money."
Raeder nodded, staring intently at her.
"In a few moments we're back on the air. I
develop engine trouble, let you off. The Thompsons go
all out now. They kill you when and if they can, as
soon as they can. Understand?"
"Yes," Raeder said. "If I make it, can I see
you some time?"
She bit her lip angrily. "Are you trying to kid
"No. I'd like to see you again. May I?"
She looked at him curiously. "I don't know.
Forget it. We're almost on. I think your best bet is
the woods to the right. Ready?"
"Yes. Where can I get in touch with you?
Afterward, I mean."
"Oh, Raeder, you aren't paying attention. Go
through the woods until you find a washed-out ravine.
It isn't much, but it'll give you some cover."
"Where can I get in touch with you?" Raeder
"I'm in the Manhattan telephone book." She
stopped the car. "Okay, Raeder, start running."
He opened the door.
"Wait." She leaned over and kissed him on the
lips. "Good luck, you idiot. Call me if you make it."
And then he was on foot, running into the
* * * * *
He ran through birch and pine, past an
occasional split-level house with staring faces at the
big picture windows. Some occupant of those houses
must have called the gang, for they were close behind
him when he reached the washed-out little ravine.
Those quiet, mannerly, law-abiding people didn't want
him to escape, Raeder thought sadly. They wanted to
see a killing. Or perhaps they wanted to see him
narrowly escape a killing.
It came to the same thing, really.
He entered the ravine, burrowed into the thick
underbrush and lay still. The Thompsons appeared on
both ridges, moving slowly, watching for any movement.
Raeder held his breath as they came parallel to him.
He heard the quick explosion of a revolver. But
the killer had only shot a squirrel. It squirmed for a
moment, then lay still.
Lying in the underbrush, Raeder heard the
studio helicopter overhead. He wondered if any cameras
were focused on him. It was possible. And if someone
were watching, perhaps some Good Samaritan would help.
So looking upward, toward the helicopter,
Raeder arranged his face in a reverent expression,
clasped his hands and prayed. He prayed silently, for
the audience didn't like religious ostentation. But
his lips moved. That was every man's privilege.
And a real prayer was on his lips. Once, a
lipreader in the audience had detected a fugitive
pretending to pray, but actually just reciting
multiplication tables. No help for that man!
Raeder finished his prayer. Glancing at his
watch, he saw that he had nearly two hours to go.
And he didn't want to die. It wasn't worth it,
no matter how much they paid! He must have been crazy,
absolutely insane to agree to such a thing ...
But he knew that wasn't true. And he remembered
just how sane he had been.
* * * * *
One week ago, he had been on the Prize of Peril
stage, blinking in the spotlight, and Mike Terry had
shaken his hand.
"Now, Mr. Raeder," Terry had said solemnly, "do
you understand the rules of the game you are about to
"If you accept, Jim Raeder, you will be a
hunted man for a week. Killers will follow you, Jim.
Trained killers, men wanted by the law for other
crimes, granted immunity for this single killing under
the Voluntary Suicide Act. They will be trying to kill
you, Jim. Do you understand?"
"I understand," Raeder said. He also understood
the two hundred thousand dollars he would receive if
he could live out the week.
"I ask you again, Jim Raeder. We force no man
to play for stakes of death."
"I want to play," Raeder said.
Mike Terry turned to the audience. "Ladies and
gentlemen, I have here a copy of an exhaustive
psychological test which an impartial psychological
testing firm made on Jim Raeder at our request. Copies
will be sent to anyone who desires them for
twenty-five cents to cover the cost of mailing. The
test shows that Jim Raeder is sane, well-balanced and
fully responsible in every way." He turned to Raeder.
"Do you still want to enter the contest, Jim?"
"Yes, I do."
"Very well!" cried Mike Terry. "Jim Raeder,
meet your would-be killers!"
The Thompson gang moved on stage, booed by the
"Look at them, folks," said Mike Terry, with
undisguised contempt. "Just look at them! Antisocial,
thoroughly vicious, completely amoral. These men have
no code but the criminal's warped code, no honor but
the honor of the cowardly hired killer. They are
doomed men, doomed by our society, which will not
sanction their activities for long, fated to an early
and unglamorous death."
The audience shouted enthusiastically.
"What have you to say, Claude Thompson?" Terry
Claude, the spokesman of the Thompsons, stepped
up to the microphone. He was a thin, clean-shaved man,
"I figure," Claude Thompson said hoarsely, "I
figure we're no worse than anybody. I mean, like
soldiers in a war: they kill. And look at the graft in
government, and the unions. Everybody's got their
That was Thompson's tenuous code. But how
quickly, with what precision, Mike Terry destroyed the
killer's rationalizations! Terry's questions pierced
straight to the filthy soul of the man.
At the end of the interview, Claude Thompson
was perspiring, mopping his face with a silk
handkerchief and casting quick glances at his men.
Mike Terry put a hand on Raeder's shoulder.
"Here is the man who has agreed to become your victim
-- if you can catch him."
"We'll catch him," Thompson said, his
"Don't be too sure," said Terry. "Jim Raeder
has fought wild bulls -- now he battles jackals. He's
an average man. He's the people -- who mean ultimate
doom to you and your kind."
"We'll get him," Thompson said.
"And one thing more," Terry said, very softly.
"Jim Raeder does not stand alone. The folks of America
are for him. Good Samaritans from all corners of our
great nation stand ready to assist him. Unarmed,
defenseless, Jim Raeder can count on the aid and
goodheartedness of the people, whose representative he
is. So don't be too sure, Claude Thompson! The average
men are for Jim Raeder -- and there are a lot of
* * * * *
Raeder thought about it, lying motionless in
the underbrush. Yes, the people had helped him. But
they had helped the killers, too.
A tremor ran through him. He had chosen, he
reminded himself. He alone was responsible. The
psychological test had proved that.
And yet, how responsible were the psychologists
who had given him the test? How responsible was Mike
Terry for offering a poor man so much money? Society
had woven the noose and put it around his neck, and he
was hanging himself with it and calling it free will.
"Aha!" someone cried.
Raeder looked up and saw a portly man standing
The man wore a loud tweed jacket. He had
binoculars around his neck and a cane in his hand.
"Mister," Raeder whispered, "please don't
"Hi!" shouted the portly man, pointing at
Raeder with his cane. "Here he is!"
A madman thought Raeder. The damned fool must
think he's playing Hare and Hounds.
"Right over here!" the man screamed.
Cursing, Raeder sprang to his feet and began
running. He came out of the ravine and saw a white
building in the distance. He turned toward it. Behind
him he could still hear the man.
"That way, over there. Look, you fools, can't
you see him yet?"
The killers were shooting again. Raeder ran,
stumbling over uneven ground, past three children
playing in a tree house.
"Here he is!" the children screamed. "Here he
Raeder groaned and ran on. He reached the steps
of the building and saw that it was a church.
As he opened the door, a bullet struck him
behind the right kneecap.
He fell, and crawled inside the church.
The television set in his pocket was saying,
"What a finish, folks, what a finish! Raeder's been
hit! He's been hit, folks, he's crawling now, he's in
pain, but he hasn't given up! NOT Jim Raeder!"
Raeder lay in the aisle near the altar. He
could hear a child's eager voice saying, "He went in
there, Mr. Thompson. Hurry, you can still catch him!"
Wasn't a church considered a sanctuary? Raeder
Then the door was flung open, and Raeder
realized that the custom was no longer observed. He
gathered himself together and crawled past the altar,
out of the back door of the church.
He was in an old graveyard. He crawled past
crosses and stars, past slabs of marble and granite,
past stone tombs and rude wooden markers. A bullet
exploded on a tombstone near his head, showering him
with fragments. He crawled to the edge of an open
They had deceived him, he thought. All of those
nice, average, normal people. Hadn't they said he was
their representative? Hadn't they sworn to protect
their own? But no, they loathed him. Why hadn't he
seen it? Their hero was the cold, blank-eyed gunman,
Thompson, Capone, Billy the Kid, Young Lochinvar, El
Cid, Cuchulain, the man without human hopes or fears.
They worshipped him, that dead, implacable robot
gunman, and lusted to feel his foot in their face.
Raeder tried to move, and slid helplessly into
the open grave.
He lay on his back, looking at the blue sky.
Presently a black silhouette loomed above him,
blotting out the sky. Metal twinkled. The silhouette
slowly took aim.
And Raeder gave up all hope forever.
"Wait, Thompson!" roared the amplified voice of
Mike Terry. The revolver wavered.
"It is one second past five o'clock! The week
is up! JIM RAEDER HAS WON!"
There was pandemonium of cheering from the
The Thompson gang, gathered around the grave,
"He's won, friends, he's won!" Mike Terry
cried. "Look, look on your screen! The police have
arrived, they're taking the Thompsons away from their
victim -- the victim they could not kill. And all this
is thanks to you, Good Samaritans of America. Look
folks, tender hands are lifting Jim Raeder from the
open grave that was his final refuge. Good Samaritan
Janice Morrow is there. Could this be the beginning of
a romance? Jim seems to have fainted, friends; they're
giving him a stimulant. He's won two hundred thousand
dollars! Now we'll have a few words from Jim Raeder!"
There was a short silence.
"That's odd," said Mike Terry. "Folks, I'm
afraid we can't hear from Jim just now. The doctors
are examining him. Just one moment ..."
There was a silence. Mike Terry wiped his
forehead and smiled.
"It's the strain, folks, the terrible strain.
The doctor tells me ... Well, folks, Jim Raeder is
temporarily not himself. But it's only temporary! JBC
is hiring the best psychiatrists and psychoanalysts in
the country. We're going to do everything humanly
possible for this gallant boy. And entirely at our own
Mike Terry glanced at the studio clock. "Well,
it's about time to sign off, folks. Watch for the
announcement of our next great thrill show. And don't
worry, I'm sure that very soon we'll have Jim Raeder
back with us."
Mike Terry smiled, and winked at the audience.
"He's bound to get well, friends. After all, we're all
pulling for him!"
-- End --