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Professor Hindlemann Could Make Mannikins Out of Masters
—and Masters Out of Men!

Experiment With Destiny

By Oscar J. Friend

Author of "Robot A-1," "Of Jovian Build," etc.

CERTAINLY, there was no logical explanation for the catastrophe. It happened in broad daylight on Fifth Avenue, just one block south of St. Patrick's Cathedral.

For several hours blue-coated police had been gathering along both sides of the fashionable thoroughfare, an indication of something official and important afoot. This morning the traffic had already been shut off from the side streets in the vicinity of Radio City. No motor vehicles save the huge green-and-yellow buses were allowed on the avenue in this area, and pedestrians found it inconvenient to get to their jobs.

What was the occasion? General Felipe Moreno, newly successful dictator of the Moorish Peninsula and Greater Spain, was making a semi-official visit to the United States. The exact purpose of the dictator's visit was unknown, even in diplomatic circles.

The only thing of positive fact the newspapers had to go on was that precisely at ten-eight on this sunshiny morning, speeding along a cleared avenue from which even a double-decked bus was absent at the moment, came the glittering black sedan bearing General Moreno. Besides the chauffeur, the general had one aide-de-camp and one Washington official with him. An escort of six motorcycled policemen had already whizzed on ahead, and a couple of following cars contained city officials and governmental dignitaries.

THE car of the Spanish dictator shot along Fifth Avenue at a speed of approximately thirty-five miles per hour. Bluecoats lined the way. Pedestrians stopped to stare. There was no other traffic. The signal lights serenely blinked from green to red and were ignored.

Except by one man. This person, observing the change of lights for cross traffic, having just come out of Radio City, stepped down to the street and calmly started across. Too late a police officer yelled after him. All other eyes were centered upon the approaching sedan.

And then it happened. The siren of the sedan shrilled madly, brakes and tires shrieked protest as the chauffeur attempted to stop, the car lurched sickeningly as he spun the wheel to avoid an accident—and there was the terrific sound of a mighty crash.

Fairly in the middle of the street, yards away from any obstruction, the dictator's sedan came to an abrupt halt. The front end of the car crumpled back as if it were made of cardboard, driving the steering shaft back into the chauffeurs chest, subsequently laying him up in the hospital for six weeks. It looked and sounded as though the machine had run squarely into a steel pillar.

But there was no pillar or obstruction there. There was nothing to have caused such a terrific crash. Not even the mangled form of the unobservant pedestrian. There wasn't a thing in sight save the wrecked sedan.

At first the incredibility of the thing held everybody in a stunned condition. Then a shout from one of the occupants of the dictator's car broke the spell, and the police rushed out to form a cordon about the machine. A uniformed police captain took charge.

The cars behind braked to a stop to the right and left of the wrecked sedan. The motorcycle escort came noisily back. Save for the seriously injured chauffeur it seemed that there had been no casualties. The general's aide and the Washington official were only bruised and shaken up.

The general had fallen forward from the force of the impact, and his head rested against the chromium handrail that ran along the rear of the front seat. It was only when Colonel Delros solicitously pulled the dictator upright that the Washington dignitary shouted.

General Moreno was dead. His forehead had been crushed in by the blow against the chromium rail.

The police now got busy frantically. This was assassination!

But was it? There wasn't a soul to lay the tragedy on; there wasn't even anything to explain the nature of the disaster. It was simply catastrophe of inexplicable nature.

A ghost wreck, the newspaper headlines called it. And that most aptly described it. Homicide got busy. Ambulances took away the wounded chauffeur and the body of the dictator. Experts swarmed around the car, prying into this and that, taking pictures, measuring parts of the debris, making chemical tests for the possible presence of a time bomb or an explosive of any sort which could have been previously planted in the death car.

The net result was nothing. It was precisely as though the sedan had run into an invisible wall at thirty-five miles per hour.

SERGEANT McCARTNEY, the officer who had yelled at the lone pedestrian, offered his testimony.

"I sees this guy all of a sudden, Captain, halfway out in the street and walking straight across in the path of the Moreno car," he explained. "I yells at him, but it's too late. And then I hear the crash. It looks something like a blue flash and, bingo, there ...

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