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Tinker's Dam   By:

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There is something very fundamental indeed about the ancient showman's trick divert their attention from the thing you're really doing ...

Illustrated by Schoenherr

The call on the TV phone came right in the middle of my shaving. They have orders not to call me before breakfast for anything less than a national calamity. I pressed "Accept," too startled to take the lather from my face.

"Hi, Gyp," George Kelly said to me from the screen. "Hurry it up, boy." He made no reference to my appearance on his screen. "Quit draggin' your feet!"

This I take from George Kelly. First of all, he's Director of the F.B.I. Even more important, he's my boss. "Hey, George," I protested, knowing he would not have called on a routine matter. "I got up before breakfast as it is. What's up?" I hardly needed to ask. When they call me, it's always the same sickening kind of trouble.

"Fred Plaice and his gang got their hands on a telepath in the District last night," George told me. "It's been on the newscast already. There'll be a damned ugly mob at the office a lynch mob. Listen, Gyp, I want you to go through the main entrance this morning."

I nodded my willingness to fight my way through the crowd that would be gathering at the office. Usually I have my taxi drop me on the roof of the building. Call it a petty vanity if you want. It's one of the perquisites of being Washington brass.

"Swell, Gyp," George Kelly said, as if there had been any question about whether I'd come in through the main entrance. "The public has a world of confidence in you. Now, damn it, Gyp, if they want to make a fuss over you this morning, let them. We've got to get that snake out of the building alive!"

"Oh, no," I protested. "You don't mean Fred took a telepath to the office?"

"I'm afraid so," George said, his tone so neutral that I couldn't take it as personal criticism. "See you down there." His rugged features faded from the screen as he cut the image.

I had my driver drop the skim copter to the street when we got to Pennsylvania Avenue within a block of the building, and he skimmed to the outskirts of the crowd that was pressing around the entrance. There were four or five hundred people there, milling around like a herd of restless cattle. Tighter knots of humanity were pressed around the usual four or five firebrands who were ranting and yelling for blood telepathic blood.

The guards around the entrance, apparently tipped by George Kelly, started yelling, "Let him through!" They charged the mob to open a lane for me. The crowd drew back sullenly. As I pressed toward the guards, I could see the fear and panic on the faces around me.

Then a man recognized me. "God bless Gyp Tinker!" he bellowed in a voice loud enough to conjure an echo out of a prairie. People started jumping like so many animated pogo sticks, trying to get a sight of me over the heads of others. By the time I reached the steps, the whole mob was cheering and yelling, "Gyp!"

As George Kelly had asked, I paused on the steps and held up my hands for a chance to speak. It's flattering when they give you silence. In the space of two breaths it was like the inside of a morgue.

"Thanks, friends," I called out to them. "George Kelly and I have already gotten the facts on the telepath who was captured here in Washington last night. There is absolutely no cause for alarm. I hope you'll go to your homes and offices promptly. Let's not give the Russians any more satisfaction than we have to. And rest easy, friends. We'll use the full summary powers conferred by Congress."

They gave me a terrific cheer. You'd think I had said something. At least they were reminded of the summary powers granted the F.B.I. to deal with telepaths, because of the gruesome danger they are to all of us.

Anita Hadley, my secretary, was waiting for me in the outer office, although it was a good hour before we were supposed to open... Continue reading book >>

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