Page:Weird Tales volume 30 number 01.djvu/20

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Jail-Break


By PAUL ERNST


Littell wanted to escape from prison, but the aftermath of his escape was far worse than the prison itself


He had to make the break soon. He would die in here if he didn't. He was used to fine food, good clothes, luxuries; used to women in evening gowns, and cigars at fifty cents, and soft beds and softly upholstered cars. He couldn't stand the harsh and terrible life of prison. He had to get out of here soon. Please God it would be now, tonight....

Well, it would be tonight! Wasn't everything all ready for it? Then what was he worrying about?

Alfred Littell stood by the small barred window of his cell. But it wasn't barred any more—at least not as the architect had designed it. The center bar was out, neatly sawed at top and bottom, just now removed. The way was clear from this grim cubicle into the prison yard.

Littell shivered as he looked out. Plenty of reasons to shiver. One was that he was stripped to the skin, and the night was cold. A naked plump form in the dimness, he shrank from the breeze seeping in. Another was the sight of that prison yard; brilliantly lighted, surrounded by a twenty-foot stone wall whose top was set with towers at regular intervals. In the towers were guards with machineguns ready to mow down anyone mad enough to try to cross the yard and scale the walls in the glare of the searchlights. A third reason was—the stuff which was supposed to enable him to cross that yard and scale that wall unharmed.

Fantastic stuff! Incredible! Given to him by Hariey, who hated him as few men have ever learned to hate.

It was because Harley hated him so, that Littell had snatched at the possibilities of truth in the mad business. From no other man would he have accepted such a remedy, nor have dreamed of trying it, no matter how desperate his urge to escape from prison. But Harley's hatred made it plausible.

He had heard of it in a roundabout way, from a cellmate he'd had a short while ago when the prison was overcrowded.

"Old Doc Hariey says he has a sure way of crushing out of here."

"How?"

"He won't tell. But he says it's certain."

That was all. Littell hadn't permitted his interest to show. But he had thought a lot.

Doctor Harley was a brilliant man. Before the judge had sentenced him to twenty years and Littell to life, he had been a famous bacteriologist and biologist, a man of great intellect. The wonder was not that he had discovered a way to break jail, but that he hadn't discovered it sooner.

There was the guarded talk in the prison yard a few weeks later.

"I hear you've hit on a way out of here, Harley."

Harley's eyes were contemptuous gray ice as they rested on Littell's face.

"You slinking rat!"

For his was a hatred almost sublime to
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