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Delayed Action   By: (1911-1997)

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Transcriber's Note:

This etext was produced from the September 1953 issue of Galaxy Science Fiction. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.

This planet gave him the perfect chance to commit the perfect crime only he couldn't remember just what it was he had committed.




Illustrated by DICK FRANCIS

It was just a hunch. Johnson knew that, but his hunches had often paid off in the past, and now he waited with a big man's patience. For five hours he sat in the wooden stands, under the rumpled canvas the concessionaires had put up to protect the tourists from Marlock's yellow sun.

The sun was hot and soon Johnson's clothing was marked with large soiled patches of sweat. Now and then a light breeze blew across the stands from the native section and at each breath his nostrils crinkled in protest at the acrid smell.

Marlock wasn't much of a planet. Its one claim to fame was its widely advertised Nature's Moebius Strip. For eighteen months of the year nine months of sub zero cold, and nine months of sultry, sand driven summer the only outsiders to visit the planet came to buy its one export, the fur of the desert ox. But during the two months of fall and two months of spring the tourists poured in to gape at the Strip.

Idly, for the hundredth time, Johnson let his gaze run over the tourists lining up for their "thrill" journey out onto the Strip. Most of them wouldn't go far; they only wanted to be able to say they'd been on it. They would build up some pretty exciting stories about it by the time they returned home.

There was no sign of Johnson's man.

The party started out onto the Strip. At the first sensation of giddiness women squealed and most of them turned back. Their men came with them, secretly relieved at the excuse.

Johnson watched disinterestedly until only two remained: the young couple he had designated in his mind as honeymooners. The girl had grit. Perhaps more than the young fellow with her. He was affecting bored bravado, laughing loudly as the girl hesitated, but white streaks had appeared along his jawline and across his temples as he waited his turn.

The young couple had gone far enough out now so that they were in the first bend of the Strip's twisting dip. Already their bodies were leaning sharply, as the mysterious gravity of the Strip held them perpendicular with their pathway. From where he sat Johnson could read nausea on their faces.

When they had followed the Strip around until they were leaning at a 35 degree angle, the girl seemed to lose her nerve. She stopped and stood gripping the guide rope with both hands. The boy said something to her, but she shook her head. He'd have to show his superiority now by going on, but it wouldn't be for much farther, Johnson was willing to wager.

The boy took three more steps and paused. Then his body bent in the middle and he was sick. He'd had enough.

Both turned and hurried back. The crowd of tourists, watching or waiting their turn, cheered. In a few minutes, Johnson knew, the kid would be thinking of himself as a hero.

Suddenly Johnson straightened up, having spotted a new arrival, who gripped a tan brief case tightly under one arm, buying a ticket. He had bulky shoulders and a black beard. Johnson's man had come.

When he saw the bearded man go out with the next bunch to brave the Strip, Johnson rose and walked rapidly to the entrance. Elbowing his way through, with a murmured apology, he joined the waiting group.

A thin faced odd job man opened the rope gate and they shuffled through. The group must have walked fifty paces, with the bearded man well up in front and Johnson somewhere in the middle, before Johnson's stomach sent him its first warning of unrest... Continue reading book >>

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