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´╗┐Title: Pick a Crime
Author: Smith, Richard Rein
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Pick a Crime" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.

              Going straight meant crooked planning. He'd
              never make it unless he somehow managed to

                             PICK A CRIME

                          By RICHARD R. SMITH

                      Illustrated by DICK FRANCIS

           [Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from
                   Galaxy Science Fiction May 1958.
         Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
         the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]

The girl was tall, wide-eyed and brunette. She had the right curves in
the right places and would have been beautiful if her nose had been
smaller, if her mouth had been larger and if her hair had been wavy
instead of straight.

"Hank said you wanted to see me," she said when she stopped beside
Joe's table.

"Yeah." Joe nodded at the other chair. "Have a seat." He reached into a
pocket, withdrew five ten-dollar bills and handed them to her. "I want
you to do a job for me. It'll only take a few minutes."

The girl counted the money, then placed it in her purse. Joe noticed
a small counterfeit-detector inside the purse before she closed it.
"What's the job?"

"Tell you later." He gulped the remainder of his drink, almost pouring
it down his throat.

"Hey. You trying to make yourself sick?"

"Not sick. Drunk. Been trying to get drunk all afternoon." As the
liquor settled in his stomach, he waited for the warm glow. But the
glow didn't come ... the bartender had watered his drink again.

"Trying to get drunk?" the girl inquired. "Are you crazy?"

"No. It's simple. If I get drunk, I can join the AAA and get free room
and board for a month while they give me a treatment."

It was easy enough to understand, he reflected, but a lot harder to do.
The CPA robot bartenders saw to it that anyone got high if they wanted,
but comparatively few got drunk. Each bartender could not only mix
drinks but could also judge by a man's actions and speech when he was
on the verge of drunkenness. At the proper time--since drunkenness was
illegal--a bartender always watered the drinks.

Joe had tried dozens of times in dozens of bars to outsmart them, but
had always failed. And in all of New York's millions, there had been
only a hundred cases of intoxication during the previous year.

The girl laughed. "If you're that hard up, I don't know if I should
take this fifty or not. Why don't you go out and get a job like
everyone else?"

As an answer, Joe handed her his CPA ID card. She grunted when she
saw the large letters that indicated the owner had Dangerous Criminal

       *       *       *       *       *

When she handed the card back, Joe fought an impulse to tear it to
pieces. He'd done that once and gone through a mountain of red tape to
get another--everyone was required by law to carry a CPA ID card and
show it upon request.

"I'm sorry," the girl said. "I didn't know you were a DCT."

"And who'll hire a guy with criminal tendencies? You know the score.
When you try to get a job, they ask to see your ID before they even
tell you if there's an opening or not. If your CPA ID says you're a
DCT, you're SOL and they tell you there's no openings. Oh, I've had
several jobs ... jobs like all DCTs get. I've been a garbage man,
street-cleaner, ditch-digger--"

On the other side of the room, the jukebox came to life with a roar and
a group of teen-agers scrambled to the dance floor.

Feeling safe from hidden microphones because of the uproar, he leaned
across the table and whispered in the girl's ear, "That's what I
want to hire you for. I want you to help me commit a crime. If I get
convicted of a crime, I'll be able to get a good job!"

The girl's lips formed a bright red circle. "Say! You really got big
plans, don't you?"

He smiled at her admiration. It _was_ something big to plan a crime.
A civilization weary of murder, robbery, kidnapping, counterfeiting,
blackmail, rape, arson, and drunkenness had originated the CPA--Crime
Prevention Association. There were no longer any prisons--CPA officials
had declared loudly and emphatically that their job was to prevent
crime, not punish it. And prevent it they did, with thousands of
ingenious crime-prevention devices and methods. They had made crime
almost impossible, and during the previous year, only a few hundred men
in the whole country had been convicted of criminal acts.

No crime was ever punished. If a man was smart enough to kill
someone, for instance, he wasn't sent to prison to be punished; he
wasn't punished at all. Instead, he was sent to a hospital where all
criminal tendencies were removed from his mind by psychologists, shock
treatments, encephalographic devices, a form of prefrontal lobotomy and
a dozen other methods. An expensive operation, but since there were few
criminals--only ten in New York during the past year--any city could
afford the CPA hospitals.

The CPA system was, actually, cheaper than previous methods because
it did away with the damage caused by countless crimes; did away with
prisons and their guards, large police forces, squad cars and weapons.

And, ironically, a man who _did_ commit a crime was a sort of hero. He
was a hero to the millions of men and women who had suppressed impulses
to kill someone, beat their mates, get drunk, or kick a dog. Not only a
hero, but because of the CPA Treatment, he was--when he left one of the
CPA hospitals--a thoroughly honest and hard-working individual ... a
man who could be trusted with any responsibility, any amount of money.
And therefore, an EX (a convicted criminal who received the treatment
was commonly called an Ex because he was in the strictest sense of the
word an Ex-criminal) ... an Ex was always offered the best jobs.

"Well," the girl said. "I'm honored. Really. But I got a date at ten.
Let's get it over with. You said it'd only take a few minutes."

"Okay. Let's go."

       *       *       *       *       *

The girl followed him across the room, around tables, through a door,
down a hall, through a back door and into the alley.

She followed him up the dark alley until he turned suddenly and ripped
her blouse and skirt.

He surprised her completely, but when she recovered, she backed away,
her body poised like a wrestler's. "What's the big idea?"

"Scream," Joe said. "Scream as loud as you can, and when the cops get
here, tell 'em I tried to rape you."

The plan was perfect, he told himself. Attempted rape was one of the
few things that was a crime merely because a man attempted it. A crime
because it theoretically inflicted psychological injury upon the
intended victim--and because millions of women voters had voted it a
crime. On the other hand, attempted murder, robbery, kidnapping, etc.,
were not crimes. They weren't crimes because the DCT didn't complete
the act, and if he didn't complete the act, that meant simply that the
CPA had once again functioned properly.

The girl shook her head vigorously. "Sorry, buddy. Can't help you that
way. Why didn't you tell me what you wanted?"

"What's the matter?" Joe complained. "I'm not asking you to do anything

"You stupid jerk. What do you think this is--the Middle Ages? Don't you
know almost every woman knows how to defend herself? I'm a sergeant in
the WSDA!"

Joe groaned. The WSDA--Women's Self-Defense Association--a branch of
the CPA. The WSDA gave free instruction in judo and jujitsu, even
developed new techniques of wrestling and instructed only women in
those new techniques.

The girl was still shaking her head. "Can't do it, buddy. I'd lose my
rank if you were convicted of--"

"Do I have to _make_ you scream?" Joe inquired tiredly and advanced
toward the girl.

"--and that rank carries a lot of weight. Hey! _Stop it!_"

Joe discovered to his dismay that the girl was telling the truth when
she said she was a sergeant in the WSDA. He felt her hands on his body,
and in the time it takes to blink twice, he was flying through the air.

The alley's concrete floor was hard--it had always been hard, but he
became acutely aware of its lack of resiliency when his head struck it.
There was a wonderful moment while the world was filled with beautiful
stars and streaks of lightning through which he heard distant police
sirens. But the wonderful moment didn't last long and darkness closed
in on him.

       *       *       *       *       *

When he awoke, a rough voice was saying, "Okay. Snap out of it."

He opened his eyes and recognized the police commissioner's office. It
would be hard not to recognize: the room was large, devoid of furniture
except for a desk and chairs, but the walls were lined with the
controls of television screens, electronic calculators and a hundred
other machines that formed New York's mechanical police force.

Commissioner Hendricks was a remarkable character. There was something
wrong with his glands, and he was a huge, greasy bulk of a man with
bushy eyebrows and a double chin. His steel-gray eyes showed something
of his intelligence and he would have gone far in politics if fate
hadn't made him so ugly, for more than half the voters who elected men
to high political positions were women.

Anyone who knew Hendricks well liked him, for he was a friendly,
likable person. But the millions of women voters who saw his face on
posters and on their TV screens saw only the ugly face and heard only
the harsh voice. The President of the United States was a capable
man, but also a very handsome one, and the fact that a man who looked
something like a bulldog had been elected as New York's police
commissioner was a credit to Hendricks and millions of women voters.

"Where's the girl?" Joe asked.

"I processed her while you were out cold. She left. Joe, you--"

"Okay," Joe said. "I'll save you the trouble. I admit it. Attempted
rape. I confess."

Hendricks smiled. "Sorry, Joe. You missed the boat again." He reached
out and turned a dial on his desk top. "We had a microphone hidden in
that alley. We have a lot of microphones hidden in a lot of alleys.
You'd be surprised at the number of conspiracies that take place in

Joe listened numbly to his voice as it came from one of the hundreds of
machines on the walls, "_Scream. Scream as loud as you can, and when
the cops get here, tell 'em I tried to rape you._" And then the girl's
voice, "_Sorry, buddy. Can't help--_"

He waved his hand. "Okay. Shut it off. I confess to conspiracy."

       *       *       *       *       *

Hendricks rose from behind the desk, walked leisurely to where Joe was
slouched in a chair. "Give me your CPA ID."

Joe handed him the card with trembling fingers. He felt as if the world
had collapsed beneath him. Conspiracy to commit a crime wasn't a crime.
Anyone could conspire. And if the conspirators were prevented from
committing a crime, then that meant the CPA had functioned properly
once again. That meant the CPA had once again _prevented_ crime, and
the CPA didn't punish crimes or attempted crimes, and it didn't attempt
to prevent crimes _by_ punishment. If it did, that would be a violation
of the New Civil Rights.

Hendricks crossed the room, deposited the card in a slot and punched a
button. The machine hummed and a new card appeared.

When Hendricks handed him the new card, Joe saw that the words
DANGEROUS CRIMINAL TENDENCIES were now in red and larger than before.
And, in slightly smaller print, the ID card stated that the owner was a
DCT First Class.

"You've graduated," Hendricks said coldly. "You guys never learn, do
you? Now you're a DCT First Class instead of a Second Class. You know
what that means?"

Hendricks leaned closer until Joe could feel his breath on his face.
"That means your case history will be turned over to the newspapers.
You'll be the hobby of thousands of amateur cops. You know how it
works? It's like this. The Joneses are sitting around tomorrow night
and they're bored. Then Mr. Jones says, 'Let's go watch this Joe
Harper.' So they look up your record--amateur cops always keep records
of First Classes in scrapbooks--and they see that you stop frequently
at Walt's Tavern.

"So they go there and they sit and drink and watch you, trying not
to let you know they're watching you. They watch you all night, just
hoping you'll do something exciting, like trying to kill someone,
so they can be the first ones to yell '_Police!_' They'll watch you
because it's exciting to be an amateur cop, and if they ever _did_
prevent you from committing a crime, they'd get a nice reward and
they'd be famous."

"Lay off," Joe said. "I got a headache. That girl--"

Hendricks leaned even closer and glared. "You listen, Joe. This is
interesting. You see, it doesn't stop with Mr. and Mrs. Jones. There's
thousands of people like them. Years ago, they got their kicks from
reading about guys like you, but these days things are dull because
it's rare when anyone commits a crime. So every time you walk down
the street, there'll be at least a dozen of 'em following you, and no
matter where you go, you can bet there'll be some of 'em sitting next
to you, standing next to you.

"During the day, they'll take your picture with their spy cameras that
look like buttons on their coats. At night, they'll peep at you through
your keyhole. Your neighbors across the street will watch you through
binoculars and--"

"Lay off!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Joe squirmed in the chair. He'd been lectured by Hendricks before and
it was always an unpleasant experience. The huge man was like a talking
machine once he got started, a machine that couldn't be stopped.

"And the kids are the worst," Hendricks continued. "They have Junior
CPA clubs. They keep records of hoodlums like you in little cardboard
boxes. They'll stare at you on the street and stare at you through
restaurant windows while you're eating meals. They'll follow you in
public rest rooms and watch you out of the corners of their eyes
while they wash their little hands, and almost every day when you look
back, you'll see a dozen freckle-faced little boys following you half a
block behind, giggling and gaping at you. They'll follow you until the
day you die, because you're a freak!"

Joe couldn't stand the breath in his face any longer. He rose and paced
the floor.

"And it doesn't end _there_, Joe. It goes on and on. You'll be the
object of every do-gooder and parlor psychologist. Strangers will stop
you on the street and say, 'I'd like to help you, friend.' Then they'll
ask you queer questions like, 'Did your father reject you when you were
a child?' 'Do you like girls?' 'How does it feel to be a DCT First
Class?' And then there'll be the strangers who hate DCTs. They'll stop
you on the street and insult you, call you names, spit on you and--"

"Okay, goddam it! _Stop it!_"

Hendricks stopped, wiped the sweat from his face with a handkerchief
and lit a cigarette.

"I'm doing you a favor, Joe. I'm trying to explain something you're too
dumb to realize by yourself. We've taught everyone to hate crime and
criminals ... to _hate_ them as nothing has ever been hated before.
Today a criminal is a freak, an alien. Your life will be a living hell
if you don't leave New York. You should go to some small town where
there aren't many people, or be a hermit, or go to Iceland or--"

Joe eyed the huge man suspiciously. "_Favor_, did you say? The day you
do _me_ a favor--"

Hendricks shrugged his shoulders negligently. "Not entirely a favor. I
want to get rid of you. Usually I come up here and sit around and read
books. But guys like you are a nuisance and take up my time."

"I couldn't leave if I wanted to," Joe said. "I'm flat broke. Thanks to
your CPA system, a DCT can't get a decent job."

       *       *       *       *       *

Hendricks reached into a pocket, withdrew several bills and extended
them. "I'll loan you some money. You can sign an IOU and pay me back a
little at a time."

Joe waved the money away. "Listen, why don't you do me a favor? Why
don't you frame me? If I'm such a nuisance, pin a crime on me--any

"Can't do it. Convicting a man of a crime he didn't commit is a
violation of Civil Rights and a crime in itself."


"Why don't you take the free psycho treatment? A man doesn't _have_ to
be a DCT. With the free treatment, psychologists can remove all your
criminal tendencies and--"

"Go to those _head-shrinkers_?"

Hendricks shrugged again. "Have it your way."

Joe laughed. "If your damned CPA is so all-powerful, why can't you
_make_ me go?"

"Violation of Civil Rights."

"Damn it, there must be some way you can help me! We both want the same
thing. We both want to see me convicted of a crime."

"How can I help you without committing a crime myself?" Hendricks
walked to his desk, opened a drawer and removed a small black book.
"See this? It contains names and addresses of all the people in New
York who aren't properly protected. Every week we find people who
aren't protected properly--blind spots in our protection devices. As
soon as we find them, we take steps to install anti-robbery devices,
but this is a big city and sometimes it takes days to get the work done.

"In the meantime, any one of these people could be robbed. But what can
I do? I can't hold this book in front of your nose and say, 'Here, Joe,
pick a name and go out and rob him.'" He laughed nervously. "If I did
that, I'd be committing a crime myself!"

He placed the book on the desk top, took a handkerchief from a pocket
again and wiped sweat from his face. "Excuse me a minute. I'm dying of
thirst. There's a water cooler in the next room."

Joe stared at the door to the adjoining office as it closed behind the
big man. Hendricks was--unbelievably--offering him a victim, offering
him a crime!

Almost running to the desk, Joe opened the book, selected a name and
address and memorized it: _John Gralewski, Apt. 204, 2141 Orange St._

When Hendricks came back, Joe said, "Thanks."

"Huh? Thanks for what? I didn't do anything."

       *       *       *       *       *

When Joe reached the street, he hurried toward the nearest subway. As a
child, he had been frightened of the dark. As a man, he wasn't afraid
of the dark itself, but the darkened city always made him feel ill
at ease. The uneasiness was, more than anything else, caused by his
own imagination. He hated the CPA and at night he couldn't shrug the
feeling that the CPA lurked in every shadow, watching him, waiting for
him to make a mistake.

Imagination or not, the CPA was almost everywhere a person went.
Twenty-four hours a day, millions of microphones hidden in taverns,
alleys, restaurants, subways and every other place imaginable waited
for someone to say the wrong thing. Everything the microphones picked
up was routed to the CPA Brain, a monster electronic calculator.

If the words "Let's see a movie" were received in the Brain, they
were discarded. But if the words "Let's roll this guy" were received,
the message was traced and a police helicopter would be at the scene
in two minutes. And scattered all over the city were not only hidden
microphones, but hidden television cameras that relayed visual messages
to the Brain, and hidden machines that could detect a knife or a gun in
someone's pocket at forty yards.

Every place of business from the largest bank to the smallest grocery
store was absolutely impenetrable. No one had even tried to rob a place
of business for years.

Arson was next to impossible because of the heat-detectors--devices
placed in every building that could detect, radarlike, any intensity of
heat above that caused by a cigarette lighter. Chemical research had
made poisoning someone an impossibility. There were no drugs containing
poison, and while an ant-poison might kill ants, no concentrated amount
of it would kill a human.

The FBI had always been a powerful organization, but under the
supervision of the CPA, it was a scientific colossus and to think
of kidnapping someone or to contemplate the use of narcotics was
pointless. A counterfeiter's career was always short-lived: every place
of business and millions of individuals had small counterfeit-detectors
that could spot a fake and report it directly to the Brain.

And the percentage of crimes had dwindled even more with the appearance
of the robot police officers. Many a criminal in the past had gambled
that he could outshoot a pursuing policeman. But the robots were
different: they weren't flesh and blood. Bullets bounced off them and
their aim was infallible.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was like a fantastic dream come true. Only the dream wasn't
fantastic any more. With the huge atomic power plants scattered across
the country and supplying endless electrical power at ridiculously
low prices, no endeavor that required power was fantastic. The power
required to operate the CPA devices cost each taxpayer an average of
four dollars a year, and the invention, development and manufacture of
the devices had cost even less.

And the CPA had attacked crime through society itself, striking at
the individual. In every city there were neon signs that blinked
subliminally with the statement, CRIME IS FILTH. Listening to a radio
or watching television, if a person heard station identification, he
invariably heard or saw just below perception the words CRIME IS FILTH.
If he went for a walk or a ride, he saw the endless subliminal posters
declaring CRIME IS FILTH, and if he read a magazine or newspaper he
always found, in those little dead spaces where an editor couldn't fit
anything else, the below-perception words CRIME IS FILTH.

It was monotonous and, after a while, a person looked at the words and
heard them without thinking about them. And they were imprinted on his
subconscious over and over, year after year, until he knew that crime
was the same as filth and that criminals were filthy things.

Except men like Joe Harper. No system is perfect. Along with thousands
of other DCTs, Joe refused to believe it, and when he reached apartment
204 at 2141 Orange Street, he felt as if he'd inherited a gold mine.

The hall was dimly lit, but when he stood before the door numbered 204,
he could see that the wall on either side of it was _new_. That is,
instead of being covered with dust, dirt and stains as the other walls
were, it was clean. The building was an old one, the hall was wide, and
the owner had obviously constructed a wall across the hall, creating
another room. If the owner had reported the new room as required by
law, it would have been wired with CPA burglarproof devices, but
evidently he didn't want to pay for installation.

When Joe entered the cubbyhole, he had to stand to one side in order to
close the door behind him. The place was barely large enough for the
bed, chair and bureau; it was a place where a man could fall down at
night and sleep, but where no normal man could live day after day.

Fearing that someone might detect him before he actually committed the
crime, Joe hurried to the bureau and searched it.

       *       *       *       *       *

He broke out in a sweat when he found nothing but underwear and old
magazines. If he stole underwear and magazines, it would still be a
crime, but the newspapers would splash satirical headlines. Instead of
being respected as a successful criminal, he would be ridiculed.

He stopped sweating when he found a watch under a pile of underwear.
The crystal was broken, one hand was missing and it wouldn't run,
but--perfection itself--engraved on the back was the inscription, _To
John with Love_. His trial would be a clean-cut one: it would be easy
for the CPA to prove ownership and that a crime had been committed.

Chuckling with joy, he opened the window and shouted, "_Thief! Police!

He waited a few seconds and then ran. When he reached the street, a
police helicopter landed next to him. Strong metal arms seized him;
cameras clicked and recorded the damning evidence.

When Joe was securely handcuffed to a seat inside the helicopter, the
metal police officers rang doorbells. There was a reward for anyone who
reported a crime, but no one admitted shouting the warning.

       *       *       *       *       *

He was having a nightmare when he heard the voice, "Hey. Wake up. Hey!"

He opened his eyes, saw Hendricks' ugly face and thought for a minute
he was still having the nightmare.

"I just saw your doctor," Hendricks said. "He says your treatment is
over. You can go home now. I thought I'd give you a lift."

As Joe dressed, he searched his mind and tried to find some difference.

During the treatment, he had been unconscious or drugged, unable to
think. Now he could think clearly, but he could find no difference in

He felt more relaxed than he'd ever felt before, but that could be an
after-effect of all the sedatives he'd been given. And, he noticed when
he looked in the mirror, he was paler. The treatment had taken months
and he had, between operations, been locked in his room.

Hendricks was standing by the window. Joe stared at the massive back.
Deliberately goading his mind, he discovered the biggest change:
Before, the mere sight of the man had aroused an intense hatred. Now,
even when he tried, he succeeded in arousing only a mild hatred.
They had toned down his capacity to hate, but not done away with it

"Come here and take a look at your public," said Hendricks.

Joe went to the window. Three stories below, a large crowd had gathered
on the hospital steps: a band, photographers, television trucks,
cameramen and autograph hunters. He'd waited a long time for this day.
But now--another change in him--

He put the emotion into words: "I don't feel like a hero. Funny, but I

"Hero!" Hendricks laughed and, with his powerful lungs, it sounded
like a bull snorting. "You think a successful criminal is a hero? You

He laughed again and waved a hand at the crowd below them. "You think
those people are down there because they admire what you did? They're
down there waiting for you because they're curious, because they're
glad the CPA caught you, and because they're glad you're an Ex. You're
an _ex_-criminal now, and because of your treatment, you'll never be
able to commit another crime as long as you live. And that's the kind
of guy they admire, so they want to see you, shake your hand and get
your autograph."

Joe didn't understand Hendricks completely, but the part he did
understand he didn't believe. A crowd was waiting for him. He could see
the people with his own eyes. When he left the hospital, they'd cheer
and shout and ask for his autograph. If he wasn't a hero, _what was

       *       *       *       *       *

It took half an hour to get through the crowd. Cameras clicked all
around him, a hundred kids asked for his autograph, everyone talked at
once and cheered, smiled, laughed, patted him on the back and cheered
some more.

Only one thing confused him during all the excitement: a white-haired
old lady with tears in her eyes said, "Thank heaven it was only a
watch. Thank heaven you didn't kill someone! God bless you, son." And
then the old lady had handed him a box of fudge and left him in total

What she said didn't make sense. If he had killed someone rather
than stealing a watch, he would be even more of a hero and the crowd
would have cheered even louder. He knew: he had stood outside the CPA
hospitals many times and the crowds always cheered louder when an
ex-murderer came out.

In Hendricks' robot-chauffeured car, he ate the fudge and consoled
himself with the thought, _People are funny. Who can understand 'em?_

Feeling happy for one of the few times in his life, he turned toward
Hendricks and said, "Thanks for what you did. It turned out great. I'll
be able to get a good job now."

"That's why I met you at the hospital," Hendricks said. "I want to
explain some things. I've known you for a long time and I know you're
spectacularly dumb. You can't figure out some things for yourself and
I don't want you walking around the rest of your life thinking I did
you a favor."

Joe frowned. Few men had ever done him a favor and he had rarely
thanked anyone for anything. And now ... after thanking the man who'd
done him the biggest favor of all, the man was denying it!

"You robbed Gralewski's apartment," Hendricks said. "Gralewski is a CPA
employee and he doesn't live in the apartment you robbed. The CPA pays
the rent for that one and he lives in another. We have a lot of places
like that. You see, it gives us a way to get rid of saps like you
before they do real damage. We use it as a last resort when a DCT First
Class won't take the free psycho treatment or--"

"Well, it's still a favor."

Hendricks' face hardened. "Favor? You wouldn't know a favor if you
stumbled over one. I did it because it's standard procedure for your
type of case. Anyone can--free of charge--have treatment by the best
psychologists. Any DCT can stop being a DCT by simply asking for the
treatment and taking it. But you wouldn't do that. You wanted to commit
a crime, get caught and be a hero ... an _Ex_."

       *       *       *       *       *

The car passed one of the CPA playgrounds. Boys and girls of all ages
were laughing, squealing with joy as they played games designed by CPA
psychologists to relieve tension. And--despite the treatment, Joe
shuddered when he saw the psychologists standing to one side, quietly
watching the children. The whole world was filled with CPA employees
and volunteer workers. Everywhere you went, it was there, quietly
watching you and analyzing you, and if you showed criminal tendencies,
it watched you even more closely and analyzed you even more deeply
until it took you apart and put you back together again the way it
wanted you to be.

"Being an Ex, you'll get the kind of job you always wanted," Hendricks
continued. "You'll get a good-paying job, but you'll work for it.
You'll work eight hours a day, work harder than you've ever worked
before in your life, because every time you start to loaf, a voice in
your head is going to say, _Work! Work!_ Exes always get good jobs
because employers know they're good workers.

"But during these next few days, you'll discover what being an Ex
is like. You see, Joe, the treatment can't possibly take all the
criminal tendencies out of a man. So the treatment does the next best
thing--you'll find a set of laws written in your mind. You might _want_
to break one now and then, but you won't be able. I'll give you an

Joe's face reddened as Hendricks proceeded to call him a series of
names. He wanted to smash the fat, grinning face, but the muscles in
his arm froze before it moved it an inch.

And worse than that, a brief pain ripped through his skull. A pain so
intense that, had it lasted a second longer, he would have screamed in
agony. And above the pain, a voice whispered in his head, _Unlawful to
strike someone except in self-defense_.

He opened his mouth to tell Hendricks exactly what he thought of him,
the CPA, the whole world. But the words stayed in his throat, the pain
returned, and the mental voice whispered, _Unlawful to curse_.

He had never heard how the treatment prevented an Ex from committing a
crime. And now that he knew, it didn't seem fair. He decided to tell
the whole story to the newspapers as soon as he could. And as soon as
that decision formed in his mind, his body froze, the pain returned and
the voice, _Unlawful to divulge CPA procedure_.

"See what I mean?" Hendricks asked. "A century ago, you would have been
locked in a prison and taxpayers' money would have supported you until
the day you died. With the CPA system, you're returned to society, a
useful citizen, unable to commit the smallest crime. And you've got a
big hand in your dirty little mind that's going to slap it every time
you get the wrong kind of thought. It'll keep slapping you until you
learn. It might take weeks, months or years, but you'll learn sooner
or later to not even think about doing anything wrong."

       *       *       *       *       *

He lit a cigarette and blew a smoke ring at the car's plush ceiling.
"It's a great system, isn't it, Joe? A true democracy. Even a jerk like
you is free to do what he wants, as long as it's legal."

"I think it's a lousy, filthy system." Joe's head was still tingling
with pain and he felt suffocated. The CPA was everywhere, only now it
was also inside his head, telling him he couldn't do this, couldn't do
that. All his life it had been telling him he couldn't do things he
wanted to do and _now_....

Hendricks laughed. "You'll change your opinion. We live in a clean,
wonderful world, Joe. A world of happy, healthy people. Except for
freaks like yourself, criminals are--"

"Let me out!" Joe grabbed at the door and was on the sidewalk, slamming
the door behind him before the car stopped completely.

He stared at the car as it pulled away from the curb and glided into
the stream of traffic again. He realized he was a prisoner ... a
prisoner inside his own body ... made a prisoner by a world that hated
him back.

He wanted to spit his contempt, but the increasingly familiar pain and
voice prevented him.

It was unlawful to spit on a sidewalk.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Pick a Crime" ***

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