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A Deadly Proposition
By Joe DiMino who retains all rights....

    My idea was simply this: using man’s own definitions of evil, in my opinion, to an objective observer—perhaps a being from another planet—all so-called good men would appear to be evil. On the other hand, Dr. Langly was of the opinion, that some men, regardless of the degree of scrutiny, would retain halos.
    I’ll explain further: During the summer vacation, Professor Langly, who holds a PHD in Criminal Psychology, and myself, a noted criminologist, decided to settle a scholastic battle that had been raging between us for some years. But I must confess the contest agreed upon also gave us perfect excuse to escape the classroom, and get far away from the constrictions of academia as was practical to do.
For some time Langly has owned a rustic cottage North of Phoenix deep in the White Mountains. Accompanied by the Reverend Roberts, who was unknowingly to play a starring role in an intricately contrived drama, we arrived just at dusk
    I remember how particularly beautiful the evening--the sky, afire! Ribbons of light blazing between the trees sparking foliage on the distant mountain peaks made it appear as though the entire world around us was an infernal of fantastical illumination; and our too perfect hideaway, this small, secluded hillside of forest, a sanctuary of holiness. From the Reverend Roberts point of reference I imagine he felt compelled to emphasize: “God’s perfect little Eden!”
    But to get back to Langly’s and my own plan—what we hoped to accomplish was this. We intended to disclose, after a well-staged hoax, the answer to the question: ‘Will all men under certain kinds of stress react in a very basic and primitive way?’ My contention was that we do. In fact, I suggested on many earlier occasions to Langly that even the most primitive form of outbreak, cold-blooded murder, was vented by all of us on a daily basis in one sly representative form or another. Take for instance the automobile, the noxious, deadly fumes we consciously spew-out knowing it will lead to the deaths or disfigurement of untold millions; yet we persist, ignoring the consequences for convenience. While on the other hand, Langly was certain that some men, forgiving them their fondness for gas guzzlers, on close inspection would be able to rise above all base animal instincts; and express their lives entirely on idealistic plains—where murder was not only unacceptable but unthinkable, regardless of circumstance.
   To prove one or the other right, we had hired two actors to help us with an elaborate hoax.
Both actors were youthful-the female especially frail and helpless looking; innocent in the purest sense—child-like in effect. We contracted her having a dependent type in mind; one who if injured would evoke a maximum of sympathy. While in the case of the male actor, he was chosen for exactly the opposite reasons. The male had to be large—brutish in appearance…with predominant characteristics of the carnivore as opposed to human; a Neanderthal-type capable of the most aggressive and savage behavior. However, the weight of our experiment depended on the female’s ability to be convincing.
    The idea was for Langly and I to make an excuse—something that wouldn’t arouse the Reverend’s suspicions—for going off into the woods. Langly commented that he needed help carrying some canned goods stored in a shed not far away. While we saw to this chore the Reverend agreed that he would stay behind and tidy up the Cabin, seeing how it hadn’t been used since last summer.
    Shortly after our departure, in badly abused condition the female actress came stumbling to the door. Naturally the Reverend promptly took the poor, shaking child in as Langly and I had anticipated. So far things were going just as we had planned.
    Once inside, she proceeded to tell a tale about being abducted from the roadside by a deranged man; who dragged her deep into the woods where she was assaulted repetitively. He seemed a crazed maniac, capable of the foulest and most grotesque acts of violence.
    A microphone was hidden in the cottage. While concealed behind a cluster of bushes not far from the scene Langly and I listened intently. In fact, so convincing was the girl’s acting, as the magnificent tale of horror unfolded we could swear the gruesome details were gospel.
    To be certain, as we had foreseen the Reverend did everything in his power to comfort the trembling victim. He explained that there was no telephone, but as soon as Langly and I returned we would drive her into town. There, at the local hospital she would be treated, and the authorities would take charge of matters.
Langly scratched his head in a meditative manner as he listened. I had the habit of toying with a pen top during times of deep contemplation.
     She went on to explain how she had gotten away from her abductor: At length, he wearied—and as he slept, after untying the bloodied ropes she was bound by she slipped from the make-shift shelter where she had been held captive. The story continued: She ran through the woods, tears flooding from her eyes. She feared her abductor had awakened and was close behind, tracking her as a hunter would pursue his helpless prey. She feared he was in possession of the machete he had threatened her with during her entire ordeal, swearing that if she ran away eventually he would catch-up and then proceed to slash her frail body to shreds.
    Now we grew nearer to knowing whether our little experiment would be a success or not.
Before Langly and I had gone off into the woods we intentionally left a loaded rifle—loaded with blanks of course—aside the table. At which time we told the Reverend that there was no need for alarm but on occasion moocher bears came nosing around the cottage looking for a handout. Most of the time they could be startled off with a good shout. Never-the-less, it was wise to have a weapon on hand just in case. No matter how truthful this may seem on the surface, it was far from the real reason for having the weapon on hand. To the contrary, when the Reverend was sufficiently baited by the gruesome details of the girl’s hideous experience—gorged to the point where we felt certain that any so-called ‘Good Man’ would want the fiend responsible, at the least, put behind bars where he could not commit future crimes--at this point, through a series of carefully staged events the Reverend would be prompted to take up the weapon; and then the climax—the answer to our question would in short time be established.
    There next came a rustling…just outside the cottage door. Instantly the Reverend and the Girl grew silent…thus setting up a mood of nervous anticipation. “Langly! Cummings! Is that you gentlemen?”
The rustling was then followed by a gruff voice-demanding that the girl come out or it would go worse for her.
Pretending to be enraged by the silence coming from inside the cottage, after a series of vulgar threats, using the machete the actor began to slash his way through the flimsy cottage door. Soon after Langly and I hoped to have a definitive answer for our ancient rivalry.
    Our criterion for coming to a conclusion was simply this: While the actor playing the part of the savage is standing in the doorway, after having broken fiercely in, he makes no immediate motion toward the Reverend of the girl. Remains at a distance although flashing the weapon in a threatening manner. Now this was the crucial point in our experiment: If the Reverend warns the intruder not to move or he will be forced to shoot—then Langly wins. But on the other hand, if the Reverend fires the weapon without first issuing the warning, then I win. Though legally within his rights to protect himself and the girl from what he may think an inevitable attack, morally he would be wrong. For at that precise moment the villain poses no definite threat; and the first impulse of a man of God, even at the risk of his own life, should be compelled by Divine-love to issue a warning. And the Reverend’s only reason, if first firing the weapon, would be because due to the prior horrific events had manifested in him a primitive rage toward the perpetrator. Proving myself right—that in final analysis, any individual, having been sufficiently infuriated, will always revert back to man’s instinctive pacifier, the needless letting of blood. Therefore, if the Reverend pulled the trigger, it was solely because he had been so sickened by the atrocity, that man’s primitive impulse had again won-out over Gods teachings of Compassion, which should have been even more dominant in a minister. All appeared proceeding according to plan; right up to the man’s slashing through the cottage door; at which time, to our amazement, the girl began screaming incessantly. That was not as we had strictly instructed her prior. Above all else, she had to remain silent if we were to clearly hear the Reverend’s warning.
     Instead there continued a horrible succession of fearful cries…and the shouting of a wild man; followed by a barrage of riffle blasts. With the shouting and shooting echoed and sounded the chopping or grating of a machete against furniture, or perhaps—the thought sickened me—human bone.
    When Langly and I finally overcame our confusion, and then having been paralyzed by intense fear, we summoned up enough courage to hurry toward the cottage. We approached just in time to catch glimpse of a man carrying a machete dash from the splintered doorway and off into the woods.
    Let it suffice to say, when we entered the cottage…the slaughter…the scene of dismemberment was one to surpass all descriptions of the grotesque. And when we later learned the truth that our actors had met with auto trouble and were forced to remain in Phoenix and miss their engagement. Let me now say, the shock of that discovery, combined with the nightmare of the incident, is something Langly and I will take to our graves—and to our ever mounting fear—beyond!