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CRIME LESSON

by ARNOLD ENGLISH

That kid needed instruction,
and got it from his victim!

NORTON was standing near the Central Park Mall. He held his jacket over an arm. Every so often he would tap his right hand pants pocket to feel the shape of a wallet, then swear at himself for having done it. Just the same, that wallet held all the money he had in the world, 48 dollars.

He was fingering the back of a cracked wooden bench shaved white by the moon, when he heard, "This is a stick-up."

Norton held his breath only briefly, then turned. He saw a youngster whose buck teeth shone faintly in the light from nearby lamps. His hair had been clumsily cut, leaving white patches above the small ears. He wore a white shirt and gray pants.

"You're kidding, aren't you?" Norton asked, hollow-voiced.

"Try me, mister," the kid whispered. "Don't hand over the money, and you'll see."

"Suppose I told you that the money I'm carrying is all I've got in the world."

"I'd say you're lying." The kid's eyes raked him up and down. "And it don't make no difference, anyhow. Hand over the money."

A gun glinted in a shaky hand. It was possible that the kid didn't have a hell of a lot of control.

As Norton paused, music tingled in the warm air. An outdoor band concert had begun on the Mall. Listeners old and young lined the wooden seats. Uniformed cops watched, walking back and forth or stopping to talk to each other.

The band was playing something of Schubert's, when the kid said, "Hand over that wallet, mister, or I'll let you have it."

"You can't afford to shoot," Norton answered quickly. "You'd never get out of the park in one piece."

The kid pulled air with his free palm. "Are you going to hand it over? If not, I can knock you out and then take it. The cops are out there. They can't see what we're doing."

Norton looked at the glare of a faraway lamplight, flies bussing around it, and that turned benches ghost-white. The band played Chopin.

"All right, suppose you knock ...

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