Saturday, August 13, 2016

"The Only Sign of Its Presence Was a Trail of Theft and Murder"

"What Happened to Professor Stockley?"
By E. M. Scott (?-?).
First appearance: Amazing Stories, December 1931.
Short short story (9 pages).
Online at SFF Audio HERE (PDF).
"IN its very simplification, life is becoming ever more complex. There was a time when a robber could, by just running out of some ambush, stage a hold-up and get away with it by sheer force of arms. Now, however, one is not safe any-where, even armed. There might be any number of inventive geniuses in the midst of vast criminal organizations—therein lies the danger. What the bitter scientist in this story concocted was said by everybody to be absolutely impos-sible—yet read what really happened."
Pittsburgh is under siege, suffering through a crime wave that has all the authorities from the mayor down to the cop on the beat flummoxed; someone, or some agency, is running wild stealing and murdering at will undetected and undeterred, but selectively, plundering only the wealthy.

As if that weren't bad enough, an important individual vanishes:
Professor Lee Stockley, world famous inventor, scientist, philosopher and meta-physician had mysteriously disappeared. What had happened to him? Was he a victim of foul play or had he wandered off under a spell of mental aberration?
Since enquiring minds want to know, when the criminal rampage suddenly goes away, "the newspapers," in looking about "for other circulation boosting material" in place of the crime wave, find it in the Professor's disappearance.

Could Stockley's mysterious vanishment have anything at all to do with the series of crimes Pittsburghers have had to endure? Does a bear go in the woods?
This is the city, Pittsburgh, PA.
Typos: "The mayor, a puritanical nonenity"; "at least not in Pittsburg."

- Whoever "E. M. Scott" was, he didn't write much (under this name, anyway); see the ISFDb (HERE).

The bottom line: "The possession of wealth leads almost inevitably to its abuse. It is the chief, if not the only, cause of evils which desolate this world below. The thirst for gold is responsible for the most regrettable lapses into sin."
Jules Verne

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