Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
Go to Home Page
This work is in the Australian public domain.
If it is under copyright in your country of residence,
do not download or redistribute this file.
Original content added by RGL (e.g., introductions, notes,
RGL covers) is proprietary and protected by copyright.

DAVID WRIGHT O'BRIEN

TEN SECONDS FROM NOWHERE

Cover Image

RGL e-Book Cover 2018©


First published in Amazing Stories, July 1941

This e-book edition: Roy Glashan's Library, 2018
Version Date: 2018-03-11
Produced by Paul Sandery and Roy Glashan

The text of this book is in the public domain in Australia.
All original content added by RGL is protected by copyright.

Click here for more books by this author



Cover Image

Amazing Stories, July 1941, with "Ten Seconds from Nowhere"



Illustration

Morelli stepped over the old guy's body to the machine.



IT was a little after midnight.

Glancing at his wrist watch, Morelli noticed this. Then, looking across the street once more, he saw that the light in the window of the Vardon Laboratories' fourth floor was the only one still burning.

Morelli grunted in satisfaction. So far so good. It was just like Benny had tipped him off. The old guy worked alone into the early morning hours. The old guy up there in the room with the lighted window. The old guy with the dough.

Morelli smiled inside, an ugly smile, and patted the bulging right hand pocket of his coat. He saw the flickering lantern of the watchman at the gate of the Vardon Laboratories. Then saw it move away. The watchman was starting his rounds. He'd be out of the way for two solid hours, enough to clean out a bank.

It was easy for Morelli to flip the fence, and a moment later he was inside the building. Standing there on the stairs in the darkness, he had to smile. This was easy. Just like Benny had told him it would be.

Benny was Morelli's kid brother, and he worked in the Vardon Laboratories as an office boy during the day.

Benny had cased the job neat for Morelli.

By the time he had climbed to the fourth floor, Morelli was breathing easy, but his heart hammered a little faster in excitement. This was a big job with maybe three, four hundred bucks in it. Benny had said that the old guy always kept that much cash around.

Down the corridor, from an open door, Morelli saw light flooding the room where the old guy worked. Benny called it a lag... laz... lamutory, or something. Morelli started down the long corridor toward the open door.

His right hand pocket didn't bulge any more, for he held an automatic pistol in his big paw.

Morelli had moved stealthily, and now he paused at the door, peeking carefully around the corner of it into the room. You couldn't be too careful. Maybe the old guy carried a gat or something.

For a moment Morelli didn't see anything, because of the light. Then his eyes focused, and he was looking into a big, white room. A big white room with benches and tables and thing-a- ma-jigs in it. The old guy was over in the corner, sitting on a bench before a table. Behind him was a big machine of some kind.

Morelli wanted to laugh out loud. The old guy was so small, and white-haired, and skinny. The old guy was writing something on papers. Morelli stepped into the room.

"Hey," Morelli hissed. "Hey, you!"

The old guy looked up. Then he looked toward Morelli, his thin mouth splitting into a vague smile.

"Oh," he said. "Oh, hello. What can I do for you? Are you from the supply company?" And he stood up, pushing his papers back.

Morelli laughed quietly, harshly, and moved across the room. He saw, from the sudden expression that crossed the old guy's face, that he had just noticed the gun in Morelli's paw.

"No," Morelli husked. "I ain't from no supply company, old guy. I'm here to get the dough you keep around."

The old guy's voice was still thin. But it was suddenly sharp, keen.

"How did you get in here?" he demanded.

"I walked," smirked Morelli. Then: "Where have yuh got the dough hid, old guy?"

"I haven't any money," the old guy answered. "Anything in this room belongs to the company. I haven't any money."

The muscles around Morelli's jaw tightened.

"Cut it," he snarled. "There's dough in here. A lot of it. I don't give no damn who it belongs to. I want it! Understand?" He waved his gun to emphasize his impatience.

"I see," said the old guy. "Someone has told you that I keep a supply of cash on hand to purchase equipment I might need suddenly when I'm working alone."

Morelli's eyes narrowed.

"Good guess," he rasped. "And I suppose yuh think I'm gonna tell yuh Benn—" he stopped abruptly, realizing what he had almost said.

But the old guy's eyes flashed funny, and he almost smiled. He'd caught on, and even as he spoke, Morelli cursed himself.

"Benny?" finished the old guy. "Benny Morelli? The office boy on this floor?" He smiled. "I should have noticed the family likeness between you and Benny. You're his brother, I imagine. I've heard about Benny's hoodlum relatives."

"Shuddup!" Morelli snapped, and realized that he was almost yelling. He softened his tone. "Okay, wise guy. Maybe I tipped my lid, huh? Maybe I did. But I want that dough. And I want it right now!" He waved his gun at the old guy. Hot rage was flooding up to Morelli's brain. Rage at the boner he'd made, and at the old guy for catching it.

"I won't tell you where it is," said the old guy.

"Like hell you won't!" Morelli had advanced toward him, until he stood less than two yards away. "Come on, spill!"

And then the old guy made his mistake. His eyes flicked, for the briefest of instants, toward a cabinet on the other side of the table in front of him.

Morelli's eyes followed. Followed and saw, beneath a mound of papers, green sheafs of bills stacked carelessly. The thug snarled, and the old guy stepped back, right up against the machine behind him.

In an instant, Morelli had grabbed the old man by the collar, pushing him hard against the big machine, shaking him.

"Smart, huh?" Morelli hissed.

With sudden strength, the old man managed to writhe partly free from Morelli's big left paw.

"Look out, you fool!" the old guy was bleating. "Do you want to smash the indicator board?"

Morelli paused, still holding the old guy by the collar, surprise filling his pig eyes. The old guy had shown alarm for the first time. But not alarm at the gun, or at his threats. Alarm at the idea of that damned machine being monkeyed with.

Looking at the machine, with its glass board of gadgets, and its tiny battery of lights trained at eye level, he frowned. It was a mystery to him why the old guy should suddenly get so het up over a damned machine. A machine that probably didn't even belong to him.

Morelli shoved the old guy back against the table, then cuffed him hard across the face. The old man's thin body was trembling, but in rage. Rage and apprehension, as Morelli's thick paw went toward the dials on the machine.

"Don't!" the old guy squealed. "You fool! Keep your bungling paws off that machine!"

Morelli had half-turned, and now he wheeled back to face the old guy full. His none-too-quick brain had been jolted. Jolted by the word "fool." And he suddenly remembered the tip-off he had given on Benny.

Maybe the old guy was right. But he wasn't going to be aroused to squeal on Benny, come morning. Morelli felt no loyalty to his kid brother. But if Benny were caught, he'd give him away.

"Okay, old guy!" Morelli snarled. "Yuh asked fer it!" And his automatic blasted lead into the old guy's body from a distance of four feet. Blasted, while the old man sprawled backward over the table, chest blotched with rapidly spreading crimson, face taut in death.

Morelli stood there in the after-silence of the shots, looking at the dead body of the old guy sprawled back across the table. The acrid scent of powder was strong in his thick nostrils. Then he shrugged his bulky shoulders. What had to be done had to be done. The old guy had it coming to him.

But he'd bumped him off!

Sweat broke out on Morelli's brow.

He hadn't intended to kill the old guy. The old guy made him do it. The so-and-so had made him a murderer.

He suddenly felt a vast, unreasoning rage against the man he'd killed.

Then his eyes caught the money concealed carelessly in the cabinet on the other side of the table.

"Damn yuh!" Morelli rasped. "I'll get the dough, anyway!"

He stepped around the table, around the body of the man he'd murdered, and up to the cabinet.

"Damn yuh!" he said again, and quickly leafed through the papers, removing the sheafs of currency.

Morelli had stuffed the money in his pocket, and still stood beside the cabinet. His rage against the dead old man was swelling.

Then suddenly he smiled grimly. He'd have a last gesture against the old coot. He'd smash the machine the old guy cared so much about. This in mind, Morelli stepped around the table, around the dead man, and back in front of the machine.

He looked at its glass board of gadgets. Its tiny battery of lights trained at eye level seemed to shine knowingly, although they weren't on. Morelli raised his gun to smash it against the glass, then stopped. Curious.

With one paw he flicked the button nearest him. A buzzing started immediately, and the battery of lights flashed into his eyes. Then, quite suddenly, an odd expression crossed Morelli's face as the buzzing machine's volume grew.

"Damn yuh!" Morelli rasped, "I'll get the dough, anyway!"

He stepped around the table, around the body of the man he'd murdered, and up to the cabinet. "Damn yuh!" he said again, and quickly leafed through the papers, removing the sheafs of currency.

Morelli had stuffed the money in his pocket, and still stood beside the cabinet. His rage against the dead old man was swelling.

Then suddenly he smiled grimly. He'd have a last gesture against the old coot. He'd smash the machine the old guy cared so much about. This in mind, Morelli stepped around the table, around the dead man, and back in front of the machine.

He looked at its glass board of gadgets. Its tiny battery of lights trained at eye level seemed to shine knowingly, although they weren't on. Morelli raised his gun to smash it against the glass, then stopped. Curious.

With one paw he flicked the button nearest him. A buzzing started immediately, and the battery of lights flashed into his eyes. Then, quite suddenly, an odd expression crossed Morelli's face as the buzzing machine's volume grew.

"Damn yuh!" Morelli rasped, "I'll get the dough, anyway!"

He stepped around the table, around the body of the man he'd murdered, and ...


THE police caught Morelli in the old man's laboratory on the fourth floor, shortly before eight o'clock that morning. They found him, on the hysterical summons of a girl who'd arrived there early, performing an utterly incredible cycle. He was moving from a machine, to a cabinet, to the machine.

Again and again, moving around the quite dead body of the old scientist.

Morelli was dazed when they jerked him away from the scene. Dazed and stupidly uncomprehending. The coroner's pronouncement over the body revealed that the old guy had been dead since shortly after midnight. Why Morelli should have lingered at the scene of his crime for almost eight hours was beyond the Police Inspector's comprehension.

Morelli, too, when they had dragged him from his weird cycle, had broken free and smashed the curious machine. Then they took him away.

They took the old guy out shortly after that. Beneath his body, on the table, there were found blood-stained papers. On one of them was written, in the old guy's hand...

"...and tonight I have made another step in my experiments. I have increased the Time Machine's ability to enter the past... to a total of ten seconds. A sort of looping of Time on itself for an instant. I am now certain that soon it can be greater. But even ten seconds (although the machine affects Time only in relation to the one person upon whom it is directed) can mean a great deal..."


THE END