By Malcolm Jameson (1891-1945).
Illustration by [A.] Leydenfrost (1888-1961; HERE).
First appearance: Planet Stories, Fall 1942.
Short story (20 pages).
Online at Project Gutenberg (HERE).
"A drama more fantastic than any the stage had ever produced
was being plotted behind the curtains of the Showboat of Space.
And between its presentation and inter-world disaster, waiting for
his cue, stood only the lone figure of Investigator Neville."
There's a white collar crime wave sweeping through the outer Solar System; it's up to an undercover cop equipped with some fancy technology to put an end to what he calls "the Callisto-Trojan extortion racket"—provided he puts in enough rehearsal time . . .
~ Colonel Frawley, Chief Inspector of the A.C. division of the I.P.:
"'You say that there has been a growing wave of blackmail and extortion all over the System, coupled with a dozen or so instances of well-to-do, respectable persons disappearing without a trace. And you say that that has been going on for a couple of years and several hundred of our crack operatives have been working on it, directed by the best brains of the force, and yet haven't got anywhere. And that up to now there have been no such cases develop in the asteroids. Well, what do you want me for? What's the emergency?' The colonel laughed and dropped the ash from his cigar . . ."
~ Special Investigator Billy Neville:
". . . grimaced. He was not fond of plainclothes work."
". . . seems unhappy. He made two calls on a high officer of the Radiation Corporation and after the second one he came very angry and ruffled looking."
~ Milo Lunko:
"He was so clever, in fact, that we were never able to make an arrest stick, let alone bring him to trial. That accounts for the absence of his picture from the gallery. He was also clever enough to fake his own death. The evidence we have as to that was so convincing we closed the file on him."
~ Simeon Carstairs:
". . . was of fair height, stockily built, and had remarkably frank and friendly eyes for a self-made man of the asteroids. Not that there was not a certain hardness about him and a considerable degree of shrewdness, but he lacked the cynical cunning so often displayed
by the pioneers of the outer system. Neville noted other details as well—the beginning of
a set of triple chins, a little brown mole with three hairs on it alongside his nose, and the
way a stray lock of hair kept falling over his left eye."
~ Mariquita Carstairs:
"Her Spanish blood heritage was evident in her warm dark eyes and proud carriage.
Equally evident, were the lines of past suffering in her face. It did not take a detective
to see that here was a pair who had at last found mutual consolation."
~ The captain of the Fanfare:
"But my dear sir, as much as I would like to cooperate, I cannot do that."
~ The steward of the Fanfare:
". . . lapsed into complete speechlessness."
~ Colonel-General O'Hara, Head of the Bureau of Identification:
". . . was a gnome, scarcely five feet tall, with bulging eyes and wild hair that stood
helter-skelter above his wrinkled face. He was staring at his desk blotter with a
venomous expression, and his lower lip hung out a full half-inch."
~ The showboat:
"I forget that your work has been mostly on the heavy planets where they have plenty of good playhouses in the cities. Out here [the asteroid belt] among these little rocks the diversions are brought around periodically and peddled for the night. The showboat, my
boy, is a floating theater—a space ship with a stage and an auditorium in it, a troupe of
good actors and a cracking fine chorus. This one has been making the rounds quite a
while, though it never stopped here before until last year. They say the show this year
is even better. It is the 'Lunar Follies of 2326,' featuring a chorus of two hundred androids
and with Lilly Fitzpatrick and Lionel Dustan in the lead. Tonight, for a change, you can
relax and enjoy yourself."
"Greatest Show of the Void—Come One, Come All—Your Money Back if Not Absolutely Satisfied"
Typo: "the smaller doomed [domed] settlements".
Let's admit it: Space probes have rendered the pulpsters' imaginations obsolete—but their productions are still a lot of fun.
- "little Pallas, capital of the Asteroid Confederation": "Pallas (minor-planet designation: 2 Pallas) is the second asteroid to have been discovered, after 1 Ceres. It is one of the largest asteroids in the Solar System, and is a likely remnant protoplanet. With an estimated 7% of the mass of the asteroid belt, it is the third-most-massive (and third-largest) asteroid, being three quarters the mass of 4 Vesta and one quarter the mass of Ceres. It is about 510 kilometers (320 mi) in diameter, slightly smaller than Vesta." (Wikipedia HERE and HERE).
wood movie (Wikipedia HERE, HERE, and HERE). "Despite its size and early discovery,
[Callisto] has not been featured in fiction as much as the other Galilean satellites."
(Wikipedia HERE and HERE).
- "soured Ganymede and Europa": "Ganymede's size made it a popular location for early science fiction authors looking for locations beyond Mars that might be inhabitable by humans. In reality, Ganymede is a cold, icy, cratered world with a vanishingly thin atmo-
sphere." (Wikipedia HERE and HERE). "Europa is the smallest of the four Galilean sat-
ellites and the second closest to Jupiter. It is theorized to have an ocean of liquid water underneath its icy surface; the thickness of the ice is much debated. The probable
presence of the water ocean has made it a favored location for modern fictional specu-
lation about extraterrestrial life in the Solar System." (Wikipedia HERE, HERE, and SPOILERS: HERE).
and HERE). "Juno is one of the larger asteroids, perhaps tenth by size and containing approximately 1% the mass of the entire asteroid belt." (Wikipedia HERE and HERE).
HERE; SPOILERS: Wikipedia HERE; and SPOILERS: Memory Alpha HERE).
HERE). As for Mars's atmosphere: "Dust devils and dust storms are prevalent on Mars, which are sometimes observable by telescopes from Earth. Planet-encircling dust storms (global dust storms) occur on average every 5.5 earth years on Mars and can threaten the operation of Mars rovers." (Wikipedia HERE).
HERE), the SFE (HERE), and the ISFDb (HERE). His story "Blind Alley" (1943) was adapted as a Twilight Zone episode in 1963: (IMDb HERE) and (SPOILERS: Wikipedia HERE).
- By now we're quite familiar with Jameson's work: "Prospectors of Space" (HERE) and "Murder in the Time World" (HERE).