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What did it mean? How had it happened? What escape was there? Why, WHY had destiny chained him to Willie Thompson? There was no use babbling "coincidence." The word had become empty as a broken shell. He had to face the facts–and the facts were that he and Thompson shared one life, as irrevocably as if they were one person. The thought pounded in his throbbing brain.

If only there were someone to whom he could talk! But … who? How could a mature, responsible man confess to a blind superstition that any fool would laugh at? No, the answer, if there were an answer, lay between himself and Willie Thompson.

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But he never learned it. Three days later, armed with a pair of scissors picked up in the infirmary, Willie Thompson escaped.

Within minutes, a special meeting was called. Jeans sat at his desk; with him were the guards, two Washington detectives, and the lieutenant-governor.

"A deadly killer is loose!" the lieutenant-governor was saying, "and we must get him back."

Jeans nodded. And then a detective spoke. "Dead or alive!"

DEAD! The word crashed in Jeans' brain like the crack of a gun. Not dead, he wanted to scream! Because if Thompson died–his mind couldn't finish the thought.

But Thompson would not die. He, Jeans, would make sure of that. Slowly, he turned to the group. "I'd like to go after Thmpson myself!"

And Jeans picked up the killer's trail. A second-hand clothes-dealer supplied the first tip; a waitress near the railroad yards, the second. And just before dawn, two days after Thompson had escaped, Jeans caught up with him … heading for the 5:18 fast freight.

Fortunately, he saw Thompson first. Crouching, he dashed across the yard to the train embankment, 100 feet away.

Then, with his revolver lifted, he turned upon Willie: "Stop!"

The convict only ran faster. The 5:18 was due in another minute.

"Stop, Thompson! You're throwing away your life. You haven't a chance!"

No answer.

"Thompson! I'll–shoot!"

But the fleeing man didn't even falter. In the distance, Jeans heard the roar of the 5:18. Slowly, he aimed the gun.

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But his arm froze in mid-air. What if he was crazy, superstitious? It would be suicide to kill Thompson! He couldn't do it! He'd miss–claim it was an accident! …

Still it was no use. Warden Jeans, in pursuit of a killer who had to be stopped at all costs, couldn't hesitate now. Even if it meant one extra life.

Deliberately, gritting his teeth, he took aim and fired.

He caught one glimpse of Thompson, staggering and then crashing to the ground–

And then it happened. The recoil of Jeans' gun caught him off guard. He swerved, tried to balance–and toppled off the embankment. Too late for the 5:18 to stop.

The papers called Jeans' death a dreadful accident. Maybe it was. Or was it destiny … tying him to Willie Thompson in death, as it had in life.

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Neural Network Novellas series cover
Destiny Takes The Long Road #3 episode cover
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Neural Network Novellas

AI generated art using text prompts are a new, controversial means of creating visual art. The cowboy and the shepherd have working dogs to assist them. The spaceman relies on his blaster and android assistant to complete his mission. The writer can now use an AI artist to create art for his written creations. Join us as we explore this new creative process by taking classic prose stories, feeding them to our supportive silicon sketcher, and share the results with you.
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