The Girl from Bodies, Inc (2024)


The Girl from Bodies, Inc (1)


It's a darned shame that justwhen we get past the experimentalstage and learn how to have fun,the old body starts wearing out.Now what if there were spare partsfor sale? What if you could getthem installed on demand?A new heart, a new liver, anew—well, just suppose!

[Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from
Fantastic October 1956.
Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]

"The trouble with bodies," said the new rub-down specialist at theGotham Baths, "is that after a while they just wear out."

"Glmph," said Hugh Horner as the skin-sleeking oil was appliedliberally to his face, making a drawn-out reply impossible.

"Ain't it funny, though," the rub-downer said, "how you can buy a newset of piston rings for your car or a mainspring for your wristwatch ora new gizmo for the old lady's mix-master, but you can't even buy a newappendix, if you should need one, for yourself."

The quick hands left Horner's face and began to knead the saggingmuscles in his pectoral region. "If you look at it that way," Hornersaid, "you have a point." He was alone in the massage room with theattendant. He felt worn and drained out, as he always did at the end ofa heavy week's work at the office. A steam bath and a massage helped,but he had to admit it: he wasn't as young as he used to be.

"Of course I have a point, Mr. Horner," said the attendant. "Folksspent all that money on machines, what I mean, and almost nothingon themselves. Tell me what happens when a guy develops a badticker—Wait, I'll tell you what happens. He sits somewhere in a softchair, on a porch maybe, sucking on a dry pipe and waiting for the nextattack, which will probably kill him."

"I've heard pleasanter talk," Hugh Horner said in sudden distaste.

"What's the matter? Afraid of the truth?"

"Now really!" said Horner.

"How old are you, Mr. Horner? Forty-five?"

"I'm forty-seven," Horner admitted. His age, thus objectively statedin his own voice, came as a mild shock. Forty-seven! He was virtuallymiddle-aged.

"Forty-seven! How many years before you change the car's battery?"

"Why, two or three, I guess."

"The tires?"

"Every twenty-five thousand miles. That would be about three years."

The attendant leaned down over him, still kneading the flesh of hischest. "How much you got in the bank, Mr. H.?" he asked in a tightwhisper.

"I don't see where that's any business of yours," Horner replied in ashocked voice.

"You get a car on time, it's the finance company's business, isn't it?You take out a mortgage, it's the bank's business—right?"

"Yes, but—"

"How much, then?"

"Well, er, six thousand dollars."

"Joint account with your wife?"


"Happily married?"

"Now, just a minute!"

"Are you or aren't you?"

"Yes, I suppose so."

"You suppose so!"

"Yes, I'm happily married. Naturally, Jane isn't exactly the same girlshe was twenty years ago, when we were married. She's put on someweight and she's got wrinkles and she's not exactly a sweater girl—"

"I see. Any children?"

"No, we were never blessed—"

"Blessed, is it? Well, that's good. No children. I think you'll do, Mr.Horner."

"Do? Do for what?"

"Congratulations, sir," the rub-down man said, smacking some oil onHorner's abdomen and squashing the flesh around to show Horner how softhe'd become.

Horner said, "Say, what happened to George, anyway." George wasHorner's usual attendant at the Gotham Baths.

"George wised up. He's out getting a body job."

"Oh, something happen to George's car?"

"Not his car."

"I'm afraid I don't understand."

"He's getting a body job," said the attendant. "He's getting a newbody."

The hands went slap-slap against Horner's abdomen. He could hear theattendant's heavy, regular breathing. "Ha-ha," he said. "You're pullingmy leg."

"I just now explained—"

"You said George was out getting a new body. That's a joke, isn't it?"

"It's no joke to George. It's costing him four thousand dollars, allthe money he has. But he thinks it's worth it. Wouldn't you?"

"A new, er, body, you mean?"

"Yes. To start life at age twenty-five again, aware of all yourmistakes, your short-comings, your—"

"All right," Horner said finally, "that's enough. I've been lying hereand listening because I've had no choice, understand? But you've wornthat joke out, fellow. I wish you'd stop."

The masseur mumbled something under his breath, then said, "Well, thatdoes it on the front side. Care to roll over?"

"Yes," said Horner dutifully, and did so. He thought: funny, the waythis bird delivered that new body pitch. Such a straight face. Soutterly serious, almost as if he were interviewing me. The silencestretched. Horner regretted having asked the attendant to stop his yarnabout new bodies. He finally said, in defeat, "Er, about what you weresaying—"

"You want an appointment? That's what I'm here for."

"An appointment? With whom?"

The attendant wiped his hands on a large towel and tossed its twin toHorner. From somewhere, he plucked a neat white business card and gaveit to Horner. The card said:

BODIES, INC. By appointment only.

There was a telephone number and an address out on Long Island. Therewas nothing else.

"Three thousand is what it will cost you," the attendant said. "You'relucky it's a joint account you have."

"Three thousand dollars!" gasped Horner. "For what?"

"For a new body, naturally. Twenty-five years old and in sound health.Fit as a pin, you're guaranteed that. I think it's a bargain."

"But three thousand dollars—"

"What kind of car you drive?"

Horner told him.

"Buy it brand new?"

"I never buy second-hand cars," Horner told him haughtily.

"Then it cost you damn near as much as a new body is going to. What areyou complaining about?"

Horner clucked an answer and then was told he could go to the lockerroom and climb into his clothing. He tipped the usual fifty cents,showered, dressed in his street clothing. He did all this, trying notto think about what he had heard—but the more he tried not to thinkabout it, the more he did think about it.

Calling himself a fool, he returned to the massaging rooms. He pokedhis head inside the room in which the new man had given him a rub-down.

An attendant with a stocky build and shell-rimmed glasses stared out athim, squinted myopically, and smiled. "Evening, Mr. Horner," he said.

It was George, who had given Horner his weekly massage every week forthe past five years—except tonight.

"Why, you're here!" blurted Horner.

"Sure am, sir. Wondered why you were late. Go ahead and undress, now.I'll reserve your usual table...."

"But I just had my massage."

"Oh?" said George, trying to make his voice sound indifferent. "Tryingone of the other masseurs?"

"Not at all," snapped Horner. "You weren't here. Well, were you?"

"Never even stepped out. Been here all night," George said.

"But the other man, the new man—"

"No new man, Mr. Horner, sir. Haven't put on a new man in six-sevenmonths. I'd know, wouldn't I?"

"You'd know," said Horner slowly, after a silence.

"Something the matter, sir?"

"It's nothing. Nothing."

Horner got out of there very quickly. He took a cab home, which wasunusual for him. If George and his nameless friend had been playing anelaborate practical joke, they had also been playing hob with Horner'sdigestion. For now a hot sensation flooded his middle—his damned ulceracting up. Ulcers, he thought with a sudden wry smile, ulcers and whatelse? You're forty-seven, Horner. A mildly successful life, a goodmarriage, a middling business, no children, no outstanding debts—anyregrets?

Yes, Horner thought. Regrets. His ulcer was a regret. He had to becareful what he ate, couldn't drink much. His rising blood pressurewould one day be a regret, even if it wasn't yet. And generally,vaguely, his insignificance was a regret. He was not a meek man, buthe was no Tarzan of the Apes. He was not a small man, but he was noGoliath. He was not a low-brow, but he was no Einstein. He was notwithout an eye and some appeal for women, but he was no Don Juan. Hesighed, knowing you could extend the list indefinitely. Hugh Horner,small businessman. Hugh Horner, small man.

"Here's your address, Mac," the cab driver said.

Horner got up with a start. He realized he had been sitting there forsome time with the cab perfectly still. He somehow sensed that timehad passed, more time than the thirty-odd minutes it would take a cabto deliver him to his home on the other side of the Brooklyn-BatteryTunnel.

"Where—where are we?" he asked the cabbie. For some reason, hefingered the business card in his pocket. The one the new masseur, themasseur who apparently did not exist, had given him.

The cabbie, shrugging, told him an address which was not immediatelyfamiliar. Then, with a sudden quickening of his heart, Horner realizedit was the address on the business card in his pocket.

"You mean," Horner demanded, "we're on Long Island? I don't remembertelling you to take me here."

"Well, I didn't dream it up myself, Mac," the cabbie said. "Look, Idon't care if you get out or you don't get out. The flag is still downand I'm still making money. So, what'll it be?"

"I ought to call my wife," Horner said.

The driver shrugged. "You getting off here?"

Slowly, Horner nodded. He looked outside. He saw night darkness, adimly lit driveway, a hemlock hedge twelve feet high.

"Sign said 'Positively no vehicles,'" the cabbie told him. "So I guessyou walk from here."

"I guess I walk," Horner said. He consulted the taxi meter, took fourdollar bills from his money clip and a half dollar in change from hispocket. Then he got out.

The cab door closed. The driver put the clutch down, then up, andthe cab rolled away into the darkness. Horner lit a cigarette. Ittasted harsh and bitter, stale. The darkness engulfed him and a pulsehammered, of all places, in his right leg. He felt all at once old—orat least aging. He sighed and it was not a sound a young man wouldmake. In the darkness on the unknown road, he longed for his youth, hislost youth. Then he walked resolutely up the dimly lit driveway flankedby the high hemlock hedge.

The door-knocker was brass, and Horner let it fall. It made aresounding noise and the door opened within a second, as if someonewere standing half a foot away on the other side with no job but toadmit Hugh Horner the instant he knocked.

"Come in, Mr. Horner," the girl said. "Naturally, we were expectingyou."

She was tall and she wore a cashmere sweater, loose but not so loosethat it failed to reveal high, maidenly breasts. She wore a skirt notprovocatively tight, but tight enough to suggest the good thighs thatshe had. Her hair fell almost to her shoulders in abundant auburnwaves. She had a lovely face and Horner thought she was about twentyyears old.

"You were expecting me?" Horner said.

"Of course. You see, Bodies, Inc. carefully screens itsapplicants...."

"But I didn't apply!"

"Ah, but we knew you were going to. We have to be sure of our clients.Because if a single client decided to talk, we'd be out of business."

"The authorities?"

"Certainly. But since you're here, we can get down to business at once.You have the three thousand dollars with you?"

"Why, no. No, I don't."


"Yes, I have that."

"It's good enough. Tomorrow we can take your identification papers,driving license and so forth, and get the money ourselves. That is,unless they know you personally at the bank?"

Horner said that he did his banking by mail. He supposed they weregoing to forge his signature, but made no comment because he haddecided, all at once, to call the whole thing off.

"See here," he said. "This is a little awkward. But you can trust menot to talk."

"What's a little awkward?"

"I—I've decided not to go through with it," Horner said lamely. "Mywife, my friends...."

The girl said nothing. She took two steps forward, placed her armsaround Horner, and kissed him. She wore a subtle perfume. She wasbeautiful. Her lips were soft and warm, inviting. Her lips were hot.Her lips burned....

Horner broke away breathlessly. His heart was pounding. He knew hisface was flushed, he could feel it. His legs were unsteady. He wantedto respond, but his energies were dissipating in the hard-pumpingheart, the trembling limbs, the flushed face. It was a middle-agedresponse. It lacked the drive and direction of youth.

"Did you like that?" the girl asked, taking one of Horner's hands andholding it.

"Yes," came his breathless reply. "Oh, yes! I liked it."

"But you didn't...."

"Respond? I have a wife."

"That wasn't the reason."

"We're happily married!"

"And I like this sweater I'm wearing very much, but I have others andwill wear others."

"The mores of our society...."

"Mores baloney! You were just plain scared. Middle-aged scared. Look atyou. You're soft and you're getting wrinkles. Do you think I was reallyattracted to you? Do you think that's why I kissed you? No, you fool.That wasn't the reason."

"Then you...."

"Wanted to make this point. Wanted to show you you're old, too old toenjoy the most obvious pleasures of a younger man's life. Twenty-five,Mr. Horner! That's the age! The age not of boyishness but of matureyouth! Twenty-five! The perfect age for you, and you know it." Shesmiled at him. It was a deliberately sexy smile, a come-on, aninvitation which Horner, under the circ*mstances, had to decline. "Areyou convinced?" she said.

"That I'm not as young as I used to be? Of course."

She gave him a deliberately daughterly kiss, pecking at his temple withher soft warm lips. "Then you're ready to go to the observation room."

The observation room, thought Horner. Did he do the observing, or washe observed? He sighed. It was not a young man's way of expressingwhat Hugh Horner felt. He knew it was not. He said slowly, bleakly,"I'm ready for the observation room."

The girl did not even nod. She had known he would be ready all along.

It was a small, utterly bare room with three walls of dull gray metaland the fourth of dazzling floor-to-ceiling glass. On the other sideof the glass was a similar room—except that it was furnished with asingle bench running across its length.

Men were seated on the bench. Young men, apparently staring at Hornerand his lovely companion.

"They can't see us," the girl explained. "One way glass."

"But do they, er, know why they are here?"

"Naturally. Everything's on the up-and-up with Bodies, Inc., morallyif not legally."

"And they are...."

"Your choice, Mr. Horner. As you can see, there are eight young menin there, each twenty-five years old, each guaranteed in good health,each perfectly willing to switch identities with you. I must tell youin advance, however, that the switch is quite permanent. There is norecourse. You understand?"

"Yes, but...." Horner looked at the eight men who could not see him,and lapsed into silence. The eight all looked like sound specimens,all right. All seemed healthy and alert, even cheerful. Horner said,somewhat suspiciously, "My reason for wanting to switch places isobvious. And theirs?"

The Girl from Bodies, Inc (2)

It was a good body. It looked as though it would last for years.

The girl licked her lips before she spoke. They were very nice lips.They were delicious lips. Horner had tasted them. He was suddenlyreminded of a magician who makes diverting passes with one hand whileperforming his magic with the other. "Money," the girl said laconically.

"Money? But I'm only paying three thousand dollars. Surely a manwouldn't surrender his youth for such a sum!"

"Our regulations call for a man's total savings. In your case, threethousand dollars. But most of our clients are extremely wealthy, Mr.Horner. Now, since half of the fee goes to the youth who will becomeHugh Horner while we keep the other half...."

"But fifteen hundred dollars only!"

"I should have said it goes into a pool. A yearly pool, you see. Theaverage last year was four-hundred sixty-five thousand dollars, Mr.Horner. Don't you think some young men would be willing to surrendertwenty years of their lives for half a million dollars?"

"I wouldn't if I were young," Horner said at once.

"Between you and me, that's because you aren't. But it's their choiceto make, and it's a free choice. Now, have you made a selection?"

Horner looked at the eight men again, and shrugged.

"I see," the girl said. "And I agree. They're all choice specimens,is that what you're thinking? All strong, all healthy, and all willprobably be in better shape than you are, twenty years from now."

"Do I get some kind of a guarantee on their health? I mean, what if ...if I should pick one of them with an incurable disease or something?"Although he asked this very practical question, Horner still hardlyexpected to go through with anything as incredible as switching bodieswith one of the young men on the other side of the glass partition.After all, he told himself for the tenth time, such things just weren'tpossible. This was either an elaborate joke or an elaborate dream.He decided—hopefully—that it was the latter. He recalled that thedoctor had given him reserprine to calm his nerves recently, and thedoctor had told him that one of the side effects of reserprine was anabundance of nightmare.

"That's it," he said. "Reserprine."

"What did you say?" the girl asked him, an amused look on her face.

"Er, I said, that one's fine," Horner blurted, pointing at random atone of the men on the other side of the glass partition.

"Good," the girl said. "Then everything is ready." She touched asection of the wall and the dazzling glass sheet abruptly went opaque.This lasted for some five seconds, then the wall became transparentagain.

All but one of the men had disappeared. Horner assumed it was theindividual he had singled out quite at random.

"Now really ..." he began.

"Look at me," the girl said.

That was easy. She was beautiful.

Her eyes grew very large. Incredibly large. They filled her entirehead. They filled the room. They were two enormous blue pits. Hornerjumped into both of them just before he fell into a deep hypnotic sleep.

His hands were raw and bleeding. His first thought was that the guardswould know something was wrong when they saw his hands. He was down onhis knees in foul-smelling dirt, but his head scraped the low ceiling.He was digging mechanically with his bare hands. He had had a shovel,but it had been lost in a slight cave-in.

"Hey, Lonnie!" a harsh whispering voice called. "Stop dreaming, forcryin' out loud. If we don't do it tonight, we'll never get anotherchance. Forbish is out."

"What do you mean he's out?" called back Horner, whose name now seemedto be Lonnie.

"You know what I mean. Out. Another cell-block. Forbish got a mouthlike the Holland Tunnel. What I mean, if he ain't here to cash in onthe deal, he's gonna spill it. And fast. How you comin'?"

"I'm digging," Horner responded. "I'm digging ... and digging." He wasdoing that, all right. The work should have been tremendously tiring,should have exhausted Hugh Horner in his run-down forty-seven-year-oldbody. But he found it almost exhilarating. He looked at his hands.Dirty hands, and bloody. But large—larger than they should have been.Horner had had small hands, almost delicate hands. He dug and dug,thinking.

Either it was another reserprine dream—or he wasn't Hugh Horner.

Then was he the man whom he'd selected—more or less at random? Butthat wasn't possible, for the man in question had been in the Bodies,Inc. establishment on Long Island—unless, somehow, that had merelybeen a projected image of the man, like three-dimensional television.Then ... where was he?

"Want me to take over, Lonnie?" demanded the harsh whisper. For thefirst time, Horner realized that it was not close by. It was a loudwhisper and it came from a considerable ways off. Wanting time tothink, Horner said, "Yes. All right."

He backed out of the tunnel slowly, awkwardly, his body stiff. Stiff,but not painful. Hugh Horner's limbs would have ached terribly in thiscramped position, but Lonnie's did not. Lonnie scurried more rapidlynow—backwards and not minding it at all—out of the tunnel. The wallsof the tunnel, Horner observed, were of bare soft earth. If his elbowsor knees struck them, some of the earth sifted down, and sometimes arock. He had the sudden impression that the tunnel had been dug over aconsiderable period of time with crude implements or by hand.

Finally, Horner emerged into a small square room. There were two bunks,one over the other, he observed as he stood up. The walls were bareplaster. There was a sink and a lidless toilet. There was a smallmirror. Only three of the walls were plaster. The fourth consisted of agrim row of vertical bars.

He was in a prison cell.

He gazed about wildly. He wanted to scream. He didn't understand howthis could be, but understanding was decidedly secondary. He lookedat his bloody hands. It was his own blood—Lonnie's, that is—but itwas symbolic to him. A man was sitting on the edge of one of thebunks, smoking. He was watching Horner. He was a short man with immenseshoulders. He wore gray denim and Horner did not have to be told it wasa prison uniform or that his clothing was identical.

Somehow, Horner had traded places—identities!—with a convict.

"'Samatter, Lonnie? What you staring at?"

"Nothing. Nothing, I guess." Horner went on staring. The other man'sname was Jake, he knew that all at once. He knew other things. Othermemories came flooding back ... not his memories. Lonnie's. Becausehe was Lonnie now. His mind was numb. Numb. He was Lonnie—LionelOverman—and he was in jail on a twenty-to-life rap. His behavior,the river of memory told him, had not been exemplary. It would not betwenty years. It would be life.

"What—what am I in for?" he demanded in a soft voice, for thatparticular memory would not come.

"You're kidding," the man named Jake said.

Horner went over to him and grabbed his denim shirt withdirt-and-blood-caked hands. "I asked, what am I in for?"

"Hey, take it easy," Jake growled. "Don't get yourself in an uproar. Wegot other things to think about."

"Tell me," Horner said grimly.

Jake looked at him. Jake had the widest shoulders Horner had ever seen.Probably, Jake was incredibly strong. But his shoulders shrugged andhe said, "When you get like that, Lonnie, I guess you got to have yourway." He added one word. He added, "Murder."

"Murder," Horner said slowly.

"Hell, yeah, murder. Now snap out of it, will you?"

"Murder. Why didn't they electrocute me?"

"You was young at the time. Twenty, I think. Hey, what's the matterwith you? Will you leave go the shirt so I can go down there?"

"Yes," Horner said. "Yes, of course." There was more on the river ofmemory now. There was Jake. And Lonnie Overman—Horner. And a man namedForbish, another convict. For eighteen months they had been digging.


The entrance of their tunnel was concealed behind the toilet. Foreighteen months they had kept a model cell and inspections had beenonly cursory. Eighteen long months.

And tonight, according to the missing Forbish's calculations, they wereready to strike paydirt. Which, naturally, would make Forbish verybitter. Because now he wasn't with them. Forbish had been transferredto another cell-block when the three-man cells had been converted totwo-man cells. Forbish was a bitter, brooding fellow to begin with.Forbish might be bitter enough to spill everything.

"... Don't forget," Jake was saying. "We're close enough now. Forbishknew what he was talking about. I hope to hell you can swim, Lonnie."

"I can swim."

"On account of the tunnel lets out near the river, remember? So, don'tforget. The guards come now, it'll probably be on account of Forbishtold them. The guards come now, don't bother giving me the signal. Justcome crawling in and we'll try to bust through. It got to be no morethan inches now. Ain't that right?"

Horner said it was right. Forbish, now departed, had been their tunnelexpert. The whole plan had been Forbish's, and now Forbish was deprivedof it. There was no telling what the bitter Forbish might do.

"Well, wish me luck, kid."

"Good luck," Horner said dutifully. Jake got down on hands and kneesand squirmed down behind the toilet and soon disappeared into thetunnel.

Horner wanted to think. Desperately he wanted to think. But now hisstunned mind was a blank. The thoughts would not come. He sat there,all but mindless.

And heard footsteps.

He shut his eyes. The bunk was hard, but not too hard. If he shut hiseyes and tried to think very hard of Hugh Horner and Hugh Horner'slife, pretty soon he would wake up and the nightmare would be over.

He shuddered. He was only fooling himself, he knew. This was noreserprine dream. This was—incredibly—the real thing.

He heard footsteps.

He stood up, adrenalin coursing through his veins and making him feelvital and alive and ready for anything. Footsteps meant the guard wascoming, but the gray light streaming in through the window told Hornerthat it was barely dawn and there would be no reason for a guard tocome so purposefully in this direction unless Forbish had squealed.So, if the guard came now, which seemed likely, the guard would comeseeking their tunnel.

Lonnie's and Jake's—not Horner's. Horner had had nothing to do withit. No. Certainly not.

But Horner was going to serve Lonnie Overman's life-term in prison—formurder. And Horner would be punished for the attempted escape.Punishment? He was already serving a life-term. Solitary-confinement,probably. He was innocent. He had done nothing, except wish for youth.It wasn't fair, he told himself. It was terribly, tragically unfair. Hewanted his freedom.

"Hey you, Overman," the guard said. He stood outside the cell, holdingthe bars. "I can't see so good in there. Where's Halrohan?"

Halrohan was Jake. "Sleeping," Horner said.

The guard scowled and squinted. "Bunk looks like it's empty," he said.

"The top bunk," said Horner.

"Can't see the top bunk," said the guard. He searched for his keys,inserting the right one, turning the big tumblers.

Horner tensed. He had committed no murder. He had done nothing. He wasno criminal. He wanted his freedom but could not tell them, by theway, I'm not who you think I am, I'm a fellow named Hugh Horner and Inever committed anything worse than a traffic violation in my life, soplease get me the hell out of here and give me back my old body, it'sall right, I don't mind being forty-seven years old. He could tell themnothing like that. He could only do what Lonnie Overman was trying todo, and try to do something later about this unexpected place-changingwith a convicted lifer.

He could only try to escape.

The heavy bars swung in, all but soundless on oiled hinges. The guardswaggered into the cell, expecting nothing. He walked to the bunks,peered at the upper one.

He reached for the whistle, lanyard-dangling from his neck. He got itin his mouth and blew on it. It was the loudest sound Horner had everheard.

A second later, Horner grabbed the guard's shoulder and swung himaround and hit him.

Horner felt the numbness and pain of it to his elbow, but it had beena good blow. Lonnie knew how to use his fists. The guard went down andstayed down and Horner wondered how much time they would have until thewhistle brought help.

He scurried to the toilet and got down on hands and knees behind it,crawling into their tunnel.

"Forbish must have talked already," he called out, making his way onhands and knees through the pitch-dark tunnel. The shaft was barelywide enough to admit him and angled sharply several times whereOverman, Jake Halrohan and Forbish must have encountered large rocks.

Horner estimated the distance at fifty feet or more before he came upagainst Jake's back. He had expected complete darkness here at thenether end of the tunnel, but faint light seeped in from somewhere.

"Made it!" Jake cried hoarsely. "Listen to the river."

Horner heard it, a faint rushing of water. "The guards," he said. "Itook care of one, but not before he blew his whistle. We don't havemuch time."

There was not enough room for both of them to dig. Horner waited onhands and knees while Jake clawed at the earth again with his fingers.Soon Horner heard a pounding sound and realized Jake was using hisfists to enlarge the hole in the soft mucky ground.

"I'm squeezing through!" Jake finally cried, and Horner felt theman's bulk ahead of him shift over to one side and then forward. Amoment later, Horner felt cool fresh air caress his cheek. He had notrealized how close and fetid it was in the tunnel until now. He sobbed,breathing deeply of the night air. A wind stirred, and hard rain peltedhis face. For a few tormenting seconds his shoulders became wedged inthe opening, then he was through. Suddenly there was no footing and herolled over and over down a steep embankment, taking loose earth andstones with him. He came to rest very close to the river. The watersounds were much closer now.

"We made it, bucko," Jake said in a low, jubilant voice. "We made it."

Just then a siren wailed above them and the night gloom was punctuatedby a quick-swinging searchbeam. Horner looked up quickly, knew thelight would never spot them down here because of the hill. But thetunnel was something else again. Armed guards could be expected throughthe tunnel momentarily.

"Do we wait, or beat it?" Jake said hoarsely.

"What do you think?" Horner called over his shoulder as he got upand bounded down to the river. The bank was steep here; he took foursplashing strides and had to swim. The water was icy, the currentswift. Horner took a look over his shoulder, saw Jake wading moregingerly into the water as the mouth of the tunnel suddenly erupted ina bright flash of light that illuminated everything.

"Stop or we'll shoot!" a voice cried, and Horner let the current takehim, his head twisted back so he could see. Jake, the fool, had not yetallowed the water to take him. He was still standing, still flounderinguncertainly in the shallows, when the flashlight beam at the mouth ofthe tunnel caught and held him.

"Stand perfectly still, you!"

Jake shouted a curse and splashed into deeper water.

He did not get far enough to swim. There were three explosive soundsand three flashes of light brighter than the searchlight and Jake threwhis hands into the air, spun completely around and staggered backtoward the embankment. Shuddering in the cold, Horner kicked easilywith his legs. He'd already removed his shoes. He was careful that hiskicking did not break the surface. He changed to a safe underwaterscissor and a breaststroke, swimming silently, unseen. He was aninnocent man in a killer's body, but could never prove that. He had toget away.

"There were two of them," a voice called behind him.

And another, louder: "You out there! Stop or we'll shoot!"

It was meant to scare him: they couldn't possibly see him.Nevertheless, Horner's heart almost stopped when he heard a volley ofshots. Then, in the silence that followed, he felt a momentary sorrowfor Jake Halrohan, who was either dead or a prisoner again. But hiscase and Halrohan's were different—Halrohan had been duly convictedfor some crime; Horner was innocent.

He swam, and grew gradually numb with cold. He became aware of astronger current, surrendered himself to it and was borne along. Thevoices had faded behind him; there had been only the first volleyof fire, then silence. He could not judge how far he had gone, nordid he know the geography in the vicinity of the state prison. Inall probability there would be a three-state alarm out for LionelOverman—which now meant for Horner. He had to hurry.

The first false light of pre-dawn had faded. It was as dark now as themiddle of the night, but in half an hour daylight would come. Rain fellin fitful squalls now; the rain seemed to be stopping. Horner had neverbeen so cold in his life. He thought hours had passed, but knew thatwas impossible because dawn had not yet chased the night. He shiveredand broke for shore in an agonizingly slow crawl. He dragged himselfout of the water and lay there, gasping, panting, still shivering.After a while he got up. The sullen sky seemed brighter across theriver now; dawn was coming. He had to get away. He had to get out ofhis tell-tale prison denims before it was fully light or he would neverget out of them at all.

Very faintly he heard the wail of the prison siren. Slowly he walked upthe muddy embankment, then set out in a southerly direction. The raincame down harder now, as if determined to make things as miserable forHorner as it could. He came to a fence. It was barbed wire and it meantpeople weren't far. He decided to climb the fence, parting the top twostrands and going through. He found himself in a pasture. Somethingbig and blocky loomed ahead—a barn. At least he could sleep there fora few hours. He would be comparatively safe if he could find a placeup in the loft somewhere, but of course that would be delaying theinevitable, for if he waited till night he would still be within sirendistance of the state prison.

He lifted the lock bar cautiously and let the big barn door swing out.There was a faint protest of rusted metal and Horner allowed a full twominutes to pass before he went inside. The cattle smell was strong.A cow lowed uncertainly off to his left, but he could see nothing.He passed a smaller door, not meant for cattle, and the smaller doorwas not locked. He smiled as it swung on its rusty hinges in the rainand the wind. If anyone was about, that would explain the other hingenoise. Meanwhile, Horner was ravenously hungry. He would eat anything,even cattlefeed.... He stumbled suddenly, reaching out awkwardly toright himself. A bucket clanged against wood, and he froze.

Then, not ten feet above Horner's head, a sleepy girl's voice said, "Goback to sleep, will you, Caleb honey? It wasn't nothin'."

"I heard someone down there."

"It wasn't nothin', Caleb honey," the girl repeated. "One of the cowskicked inter somethin', is all. Put your arm back around me Caleb love,there Caleb, ah Caleb."

"I still thought. I—"

"Caleb. I swear, boy, what is the matter with you! My old man will beup an' to the barn a few minutes fum now an' all you can do is talk.Caleb Wilson if you don't ... ah...."

The gloom inside the barn was less complete than it had been outside,only moments ago. Rain drummed on the roof as Horner groped slowlyforward, found the foot of a ladder which probably went up to the loft.The boy named Caleb and the farm girl were up there and, from thetone of their conversation, probably undressed. Horner needed Caleb'sclothing. He wondered for a moment if it would be tell-tale farmclothing, a pair of jeans and a flannel shirt, perhaps. He couldn'tget very far in New York with that, not when an alarm was out for anescaped convict. But if Caleb had come a-courting in his Sunday best....

The sounds above his head made Horner blush furiously as he mounted theladder one slow rung at a time. The wood creaked and Horner froze, butthe sounds of love did not abate. Horner could see blacks and graysnow, charcoals—but no pale grays and whites of day.

Suddenly, he was in the loft. He stood there, wanting to breathehard but barely daring to breathe at all. From the sound of theirbreathing, Caleb and the girl had abandoned themselves completely. Haycrunched underfoot, and Horner froze in his tracks, crouched there.But Caleb and the girl were beyond hearing. He could not see them: hewas very glad that this was so. His sense of privacy had already beenviolated in a shocking fashion, both from their point of view and fromhis.

They made animal sounds. Blood flooded Horner's face again. The hellwith it, he finally decided. They sounded happy enough, at any event.He got down on hands and knees and groped for Caleb's clothing.

With one hand he found the clothing. With the other he struck somethingwarm and slightly yielding. Again, he froze.

"Caleb! How'd you get down there?"

"Down where?"

"My foot."

"I ain't down there."

"Caleb!" The foot explored Horner's arm, his shoulder. The foot drewaway as if Horner were flame. "Caleb," the voice was shocked. "Caleb, Ithink it's somebody."

There was a gasp, a stirring, a creaking of wood and a crunching ofhay. Horner remained in a motionless crouch, one hand still grippingthe pile of clothing. He was aware of a dim shape as Caleb got up. Hewondered if Caleb could see him crouched there and decided that for themoment he could not.

When Caleb was very close, when he would have stepped on Horner hadhe advanced another two strides, Horner flung the pile of clothes inhis face and propelled himself forward head-first. His head struckCaleb's belly as he hoped it would and the air rushed out of Caleb andthe farmboy did a jackknife over Horner's shoulder. Horner backed awayquickly and hit Caleb as he went down. He was not happy about that, buthe had to make sure. He connected twice with Caleb's face.

"Daddy!" the girl demanded in a choking sob. It was half question andhalf frightened guess. She didn't raise her voice, though. And shewould not raise her voice, on the chance that it was not Daddy andDaddy, maybe, would not hear. Because she was as much afraid of Daddyfinding her here with Caleb as she was afraid of Horner.

"Just be quiet and you won't get hurt," Horner whispered.

"Who are you?"

Instead of answering, Horner commenced stripping off his prisondenims. He changed into Caleb's clothing while the girl administeredto her lover, stroking him and cooing at him in the growing light.Horner could see the clothing now: it was shirt and loud tie andfarm-catalogue suit and while Horner never would have picked theseparticular items for himself out of choice, they would get by in NewYork without too many second glances.

"Got a car?" Horner asked.

"Daddy has a—"

"I mean Caleb."

"Y-yes, sir. He come in a pick-up truck."

"Where are the keys?" Horner asked.

"But you ain't a-takin'—"

"Where are the keys?"

"You're wearin' them in your left-hand pocket, I think."

Horner checked the pocket. The keys were there.

"Where's the truck?" he asked.

"Round behind the barn. You take the lane there over to the fence. Ont' other side of the fence, but it's Caleb's uncle's truck, mister. Iswear, he'll tan Caleb's hide if you—"

"Well," said Horner righteously, and then felt foolish, "he ought to."

Then he heard Caleb sighing, knew the boy would be all right. He alsoknew that he would be safe in the pick-up truck for at least an hour orso. For the girl wouldn't dare tell her father, at dawn, coming fromthe barn, that Caleb's pick-up truck had been stolen. And even Calebhad a problem. Apparently it was some distance back to his uncle'sfarm—and there was still the problem of accounting for his absence inthe night.

Horner went down the ladder quickly, and out of the barn. It was stillraining outside, but dawn light had finally come. Abruptly, Hornerflattened himself against the wall of the barn. He'd heard something.Footsteps squelching through the mucky pasture. A big burly man went byand Horner waited ten seconds before he dared to move again. Then hefound the lane behind the barn and marched along through the mud untilhe reached the three strands of the barbed wire fence, parted them andwent through. He had come several hundred yards and now saw the truckahead of him. He wondered if he dared start the engine with the farmerso close. He decided he had to chance it, swinging up into the truckand inserting the key in the ignition.

Moments later, he was driving through the rain. The lane took him toa two-lane blacktop which led to a concrete highway heading south forthe city. Grimly, Horner clung to the wheel. It was still quite earlyand almost no traffic was on the road. Horner expected pursuit almostmomentarily.

Miraculously, he was in Brooklyn. He still couldn't believe it. Hehad driven the pick-up truck down through the rain to the northernoutskirts of the Bronx, where he'd parked it near a subway station. Aseries of subway rides had brought him through the Bronx and Manhattanto Brooklyn, where he lived with Jane. He thought his trail was coveredquite well. There was something hearteningly anonymous about a subwaypassenger.

The rain had stopped. The time, on a bank clock, was quarter pasteleven. The bank was around the corner from where the Hugh Hornerlived. Horner's steps became swifter: he had already decided to seehis wife. Jane must have been frantic, he told himself. Naturally,Horner couldn't just barge in on a wife now apparently twice his ageand announce himself. In the first place, she wouldn't believe him. Inthe second, there would be the element of shock. In the third, he wasstill wanted by the police—as Lonnie Overman.

Horner shrugged. He would have to barge in on her. He had to get offthe streets, or sooner or later he would be spotted as the escapedconvict. Every couple married twenty years, and moderately happy,Horner told himself, had certain shared secrets. Given time and theopportunity, he could prove his identity to Jane beyond the shadow of adoubt, new body or not.

He reached their apartment building and went into the lobby. He stoodthere longer than was necessary, for the self-service elevator hadalready come down. He studied his reflection in the lobby mirror. Theclothing was a pretty good fit, but the suit was a cheap sharkskin ina loud plaid, and the tie was a clashing polka-dotted affair. You lookjust great, Horner told his reflection. But he had to admit he wasnot really sorry. He was young again, strong and healthy, and not badlooking in a dashing, devil-may-care way. Despite Lonnie Overman'stroubles, the face was one used to smiling. Horner could see that. Itwas a strong-looking face and the eyes, which Horner had expected tobe furtive, were frank and bold. The furtive look, then, belonged toOverman's personality and Overman's personality no longer inhabitedOverman's body.

Whatever happened, Horner was suddenly determined to keep this good,sound, healthy body. A lifer in prison, Overman did not need it.Whereas Horner....

He shut the thoughts off. There was no predicting the future, no senseraising his hopes, only to have them dashed, sundered, when the lawovertook him. He entered the elevator, went up to the fourth floor,walked uncertainly along the hallway. Suddenly, he was frightened.Could he explain the situation to Jane? It hardly seemed likely. It wasasking a lot of anyone. How could Jane believe the wild story he wouldtell her? How could he...?

Horner shrugged, and jabbed a finger against the bell-button. Hewaited a few seconds, hearing no response inside the apartment. PerhapsJane was out. Perhaps, even now, she was down at the police station,tearfully describing Horner to the policemen on duty. "But officer,I can't imagine what could have happened to him. He was always sopunctual...." All at once the door opened.

Standing there staring at Horner was—Hugh Horner!

Horner's first impulse was to run. What could he explain to Jane now?Whatever he tried was doomed to failure by the simple presence of theother Hugh Horner—of the convict, Lionel Overman, in Horner's body,he now realized. He should have expected it. Overman and the otherseven men in the observation room, the auburn-haired girl had saidat Bodies, Inc., had approved of the switch. It was a question ofmoney, the girl had said. And now Horner knew that was a lie. It hadto be a lie. It wasn't a question of money at all. Lionel Overman wasa convict. And the others? Convicts too, Horner decided. Glad to tradetwenty years of their lives for freedom.... Apparently they had beenrecruited in prison by hirelings of Bodies, Inc. Apparently theyknew the full score. Lionel Overman—in Horner's body—seemed quitesure of himself.

"Good God!" Horner blurted. "You're me! You have my body—Horner's thatis!"

"Quiet, you fool," the other Hugh Horner told him. "The old lady'llhear you. I'll give you this much of a break: get lost and I won't callthe cops. But beat it—fast!"

"Now listen—" Horner began. His voice trailed off. He had nothing tosay. He understood, but he was stunned. Intellectual understanding andemotional acceptance of a situation, he knew, having learned the hardway, were two different things. But he studied Lionel Overman in HughHorner's body, and was more determined than ever that he would not goback, if going back were possible. The Hugh Horner he looked at was anageing man. Forty-seven? He looked easily that old. He was a dumpy manwith a sagging-jowled face, small, rather close-set eyes and a recedinghair line. The eyes looked crafty, too: Horner had never known his eyesto look crafty before. Probably, that was Overman's personality comingthrough.

"You listen to me," Overman said, "and listen good. Get lost. I meanthat brother. We both know the score, so don't try to pull any ofthis bewilderment crap on me. I heard over the radio how you escaped,but hell, man, they got a seven state alarm out for you. I got enoughtrouble with that bag of an old lady inside—"

"What," said Horner in a shocked voice, "did you say?"

"I got enough trouble with your bag of a wife, I said," Overman toldhim. "Hell, man, maybe my body's older now, but my memory ain't. She'sa bag. A real bag. But what do you care, huh? You ain't saddled withher any more."

"Saddled with her?" Horner mumbled. "Saddled? I—I love my wife.How dare you call her a—a—" Horner went livid with rage, grabbedOverman's arm.

The small dumpy man lurched toward him. "Hey, leggo—" Overman struckout awkwardly, unathletically, in the Hugh Horner body. Horner wardedoff the weak blows easily, and hit Overman once, expertly, on the pointof the jaw just as Jane Horner called from within the apartment:

"Who is it, dear? What's taking so long?"

Horner let the unconscious Overman fall. He was about to flee back tothe elevator because he couldn't face his wife now, not—apparently—asthe man who had just knocked Hugh Horner unconscious. But an apartmentdoor between theirs and the elevator opened and Horner had no choicebut to duck into his own apartment.

Jane appeared from the direction of the kitchen. She was wearing anapron and she was dumpier than Horner remembered. Probably, Hornertold himself, my own dumpiness prevented me from seeing her that way.She wore her hair in a bun and was forty-five and looked it. She washolding a heavy green-glass pitcher in her hand and looked down atwhat was apparently her unconscious husband on the floor and let out ascream—or began to, for Horner ran to her and clasped a hand over hermouth.

"I can explain everything," he said, wondering if, indeed, he could."If you promise not to shout or scream, I'll let go of you."

The trapped face nodded. Horner let go and his wife said, "I know you.I know you now. I recognize you from the television. You're that LionelOverstreet—"

"Overman—but I'm not."

"Who escaped from the prison up state. What—what did you do to myhusband?"

"I," said Horner, "am your husband."

She looked at him. She looked at the Hugh Horner body, unconscious, onthe floor. She sobbed hysterically and Horner said:

"You're both coming with me, in your car."

"A murderer! You'll kill us."

"Janey, listen to me. That time in Jones Beach before we were marriedand the top of your bathing suit came off while we were swimming—"

It was something only she and the real Horner would know, but he hadwaited too long. He had been staring down at the unconscious LionelOverman while he spoke, and when he looked up it was too late to wardoff the green-glass pitcher which Jane was bringing down over his head.It exploded there.

So did the world—for Horner.

There was a buzzing. There was a roaring.

Horner opened his eyes. He was seated on the floor and his arms werebound. So were his legs. He looked across the foyer. Overman-in-Hornerwas similarly seated, similarly bound.

"You're both driving me crazy," Jane Horner said.

"You call the cops," Overman-in-Horner a asked.

"Not yet. I'll give you both a chance. You," she gestured at Overman,"weren't acting yourself since you came home last night. Youacted—well—cruel. That's the only way I can describe it."

"Of course he wasn't acting himself," Horner-in-Overman said. "Becausehe isn't—me."

"That makes sense, don't it?" Overman sneered.

"And you wouldn't say 'don't it,'" Jane told him. "And you," she saidto Horner, "when you let go of me I knew I was going to hit you withthe pitcher and I couldn't stop it, even when I wanted to when you saidthat about Jones Beach. We—we were alone, my husband and me. But howcould you be my husband? You don't look like him. You—you're youngenough to be my—my son."

"Ask him," Horner said, pointing at the bound Overman, "ask himabout Jones Beach." Horner smiled grimly, waiting. His own memory ofOverman's life was only fair, and spotty, and certainly not very goodon particular details. Overman's of his would be the same.

"What happened at Jones Beach before we were married?" Jane askedOverman.

"Twenty years ago? How the hell should I remember?"

"He remembered," said Jane in a bewildered voice, pointing at Horner.

"Ask him about our honeymoon," Horner suggested.

"Where did we go on our honeymoon?"

"Er, Atlantic City," Overman-in-Horner said triumphantly.

"How long did we stay?"

"Two weeks."

"Who," Jane asked, "was in the hotel room next door?"

"Who remembers a thing like that?" Overman said after a while.

Horner grinned. "I do," he said, and named some old friends of theirs.

Jane made no comment, but asked other questions. They becameincreasingly intimate, and Overman could not answer most of them. ButHorner, of course, answered them all.

Finally, Jane said, "I—I don't know how it can be." Her eyes werefilling with tears as she looked down at Overman. "You—you're myhusband. You should be. But you don't know the things he would know.It's impossible, but you're not—not—"

Her voice trailed off. She turned to Horner. "While you—you're justa boy. You don't look anything like my husband, but you know all thethings he knows."

Quickly, Horner told her. Overman tried to confound the incrediblestory with acid comments on its impossibility, but Jane heard Horner'swords and, when he had finished, she went to him slowly and untiedhim. She looked at him and said, also slowly, "You—you're my husband.I know you are. I know it now. But you're young. I can't keep you,saddled—"

"That's just what he said," Horner said.

"But you'll want your freedom, won't you?"

"Hell," said Horner, "no. I have a better idea. Bring the car around,Janey. We have a lot to do."

"But this man who looks like—"

"He comes with us," Horner said. He chafed his wrists and ankles andwent inside quickly and soon returned with a Luger pistol, a mementoof his Army days in Germany during the Second World War. "Get up," hetold Overman, then realized he could not. "Untie him," he told Jane.

She did so. Overman got slowly to his feet. "Try anything and you'llregret it," Horner said. "Don't go for the car, Janey. We'll all threego for it together, Overman in the middle."

Horner rammed the Luger into his jacket pocket and took hold ofOverman's arm, steering him for the door. They went into the halltogether, and into the elevator. Jane flanked Overman nervously on theother side. The elevator was not empty. A couple named Shapiro from thesixth floor was in it and Jane smiled at them. Horner jabbed the Lugeragainst Overman's ribs and Overman gave them a weak smile too. Hornernodded at them in a friendly fashion.

Then they were all outside, and the Shapiros went their way. "The car?"Horner asked his wife. "Where is it?"

"Down the block," she said, and they began walking. Horner's grip onOverman's arm was like iron. He was much stronger than the littlemiddle-aged man, and both of them knew it. But Overman was desperate,and they both knew that too.

They got into the car. "You drive," Horner told his wife. Overman satbetween them and Horner told Jane to head out to Long Island. It wouldbe a long drive and Horner knew he would have to watch Overman everymile of the way.

An hour later Horner said, "Turn there." He was surprised that heremembered the way. It had all seemed dream-like in the taxi.

"What are you gonna do?" Overman asked. "Try and change back, that it?"

Horner shrugged. Actually, he did not know. He was playing the restof it by ear, but if there was an answer anywhere, it would be atBodies, Inc. He did not answer Overman, but told Jane to ignore theno vehicles sign and drive up the lane alongside the high hemlock hedge.

They all got out of the car together. Horner took the Luger from hispocket now. There was no need to hide it, no reason to take chances. Helifted the door-knocker and let it fall and in a moment the beautifulauburn-haired girl opened the door.

"Yes?" she said, then snapped, "You! You had no business coming backhere!"

"It wasn't my idea," Overman said with a bleak grin.

"It was mine," Horner told her. "You didn't say I'd be switching placeswith a convict. How many other poor suckers fell for it?"

"That's no business of yours. We didn't do a thing that wasn't legal."

"There are no statutes in the books to cover what you did, you mean,"Horner accused.

"It's the same thing. Now go away, will you? There's nothing we can dofor you here."

"I guess there is," Horner said wearily. "I'll tell you. I guess I'llhave to ask you to change us back."

He didn't like the idea. He wanted to be young. He thought after whathad happened, and since Overman apparently knew the score, he hadearned his right to keep the strong young body as his own. But thereseemed no other way out and, besides, he knew now that he loved Janedeeply and could not show her the kind of love he wanted to, youngenough to be her son. He would change back with regrets, but change hewould. The dream of youth had ended for him....

The pretty auburn-haired girl was laughing. "But I thought you knew,"she said with finality. "We can't possibly reverse the procedure. Oncemade, the change is irrevocable because the electromagnetic impulseswhich make up a human mind are delicate and could never stand the shocktwice. It looks like you're trapped, Mr. Horner. Or, should I say, Mr.Overman?"

Momentarily, he was stunned. He looked at Jane. Jane's face wascrumpling. She was going to cry. A dumpy, middle-aged woman on thebrink of tears.

He whirled—too late! Overman was in the soft and dumpy Horner body,but Overman's reflexes had apparently crossed over with him. He lungedfor the Luger just as Horner brought himself out of the momentaryfunk which possessed him. The Luger was wrenched from Horner's hand.It seemed to leap into Overman's with a life of its own, then Overmanswung it up and down and Horner felt the searing pain of it againsthis temple. He staggered and would have fallen, but Jane came to him,supported his weight until, slowly, strength flowed back.

"Go inside and call the cops," Overman snapped at the girl. "This guycan't prove nothin'. Let the dame rant if she wants, they'll thinkshe's nuts and I'll wind up with a separation. Snap to it, baby!"

"Don't worry," auburn-hair said, "I will." And she disappeared inside.

"Hugh, oh, Hugh," Jane said. "What will we do?"

"You'll just wait for the cops," Overman told them. He held the Lugeron them steadily, watching them very closely.

Horner said, "I'm sorry, Overman. It isn't loaded."

Overman grinned at him, a wolfish grin. "Sure," he said, "that's whyyou held it on me all the way out here."

"But I knew, and you didn't. That makes a difference, doesn't it? Don'tyou see, it wouldn't be loaded. It's only a war souvenir. You're notsupposed to keep war souvenirs loaded. Well, are you?"

Overman looked uncertainly at the weapon, then at Horner. He got afingernail under the edge of the ammo clip in the butt and was about tospring it when he said, "You're bigger'n me. If it ain't loaded, whydon't you—"

Horner cried, "I'm going to!" and leaped at Overman. The gun buckedbetween them, went off. Horner felt the heat of the slug's passage inthe air, then was grappling with Overman. The smaller man brought hisknee up and a wave of nausea engulfed Horner. He clung to Overman,waiting for it to pass, keeping the Luger out of reach by holdingOverman's wrist up over his head.

Overman's knee blurred up again, but this time Horner pivoted andcaught it on his thigh. He lashed out with his free hand, strikingOverman with all his might across the face, open-handed. Overmanstaggered back, stunned. Horner followed through with a short lefthook, and the fight was over.

"I just phoned the police," auburn-hair said, coming out. "I—wha—"

"Stand still," said Horner. "Better yet, let's go inside." He turned tohis wife. "Listen, Jane. The cops. I'll have to run. There's no way ofproving—well, you know. But I want you to come with me. I love you."

"I couldn't go with you. Like this. Twice your age. I—"

"I don't want you to. You like this girl's looks? She's very pretty—"

"Now wait a minute!" shrieked auburn-hair.

"You wait. I don't know how many suckers you trapped in convict'sbodies. You deserve whatever you get—like, for example, losing twentyyears."

Jane said, "But—but what is wrong with growing older the way we'regrowing older?"

"Nothing," Horner told her quietly, "if we'd allowed ourselves to live.But we didn't. We just existed, always promising to do the thingstomorrow—the things we always wanted to do—which somehow we never gotaround to. If you live, there's nothing wrong with growing old. Butwe haven't lived. And now, now Jane darling, we have a second chance.Jane—will you?"

She looked at him. There were tears in her eyes. "Yes," she saidfinally. "Oh, yes, Hugh!"

Horner gave Jane the Luger. "Take her inside," he said. "I'd better getOverman."

The girl said, "You'll never get away with it," as Horner liftedthe unconscious Overman to his shoulder and entered the house. "I'vealready called the police. They're on their way."

"Then we have nothing to lose," Horner said. "If you don't work fast,I'll kill you. You understand?"

She looked at his face, studying him. She began to tremble. "But Idon't want to be old!" she wailed.

"And I didn't want to be a convict—and neither did all those othermen, whatever prisons they're in now. Get a move on."

There was a room. Two tables and machinery. Jane got on one of thetables, auburn-hair on the other. Auburn-hair was crying softly,bitterly. It was, Horner knew, just retribution. Probably, it was theonly retribution ever meted out to her.

"We'll have to run for it, maybe the rest of our lives," Horner toldJane. "You want to?"

"With you? Yes, yes!"

Crying, auburn-hair told him what to do. Distantly, sirens werewailing. Horner activated the switches....

He looked at auburn-hair. "Jane?" he said. "Are you Jane?"

She smiled at him radiantly. She was beautiful. "Yes," she said. "Yes,darling."

"At Jones Beach—" he began.

"You got the bra of my bathing suit but wouldn't give it back to me,"she said, and flushed.

"O.K., now let's hurry. Outside. The cops are almost here."

"Wait a minute," Jane said. "I have a vague memory. She—she wouldn'ttell you...."

Jane's body—auburn-hair-in-Jane—was crying bitterly. It sounded as ifshe would go on crying forever. Overman was still unconscious.

"It's like fingerprints or retinal prints," the new Jane said.

"What is? Hurry up!"

"An electroencephalogram. An E.E.G. Each person's is different. Therearen't any mistakes, ever."

"I once had one—in the Army!" Horner cried. "I can prove all of this,as fantastic as it sounds. And there's this machinery."

"We won't have to be fugitives, Hugh!"

"Yes, but," he smiled, "I wanted to see the world. I didn't mind."

"We'll see the world," Jane said, and kissed him. "After you clearyourself."

"And after a few new law books to cover this are written,"twenty-five-year-old Hugh Horner said to his beautiful, twenty-year-oldwife. They would have a long session with the police, he knew. Atfirst, the police wouldn't believe them. But ultimately, they wouldhave to. He remembered reading about a case in another state, inWisconsin. Identical twins, never had their fingerprints taken, noidentifying marks. One a criminal, the other not. And an E.E.G. provingtheir identity and accepted in court.

So, eventually, the police would believe them.

And give them a second chance to live their youth the way it shouldhave been lived in the first place.



The Girl from Bodies, Inc (2024)
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