By JAMES CAUSEY
Illustrated by VIDMER
Vogel started with crossword puzzles ... and worked his way up to Man's greatest enigma!
hen he was nine, Vogel almost killed another boy who inadvertently scattered his half-completed jigsaw puzzle.
At sixteen, he discovered the mysteries of the Danish Gambit, and cried.
At twenty-two, he crouched in a foxhole on Okinawa, oblivious to the death bursting about him, squinting in a painful ecstasy at the tattered fragment of newspaper on his knee. His sergeant screamed in agony, then died at his elbow. Vogel's face lit up. "Slay," he said happily, scribbling. As crossword puzzles go, it had been a toughie.
At thirty, he was Production Manager of Sachs Fixtures. His men hated him. The General Manager loved him. Tall, gaunt and ruthless, he could glance at any detail print and instantly pinpoint the pattern of final assembly, total man-hour budget and fabrication lead time.
Once, he made a mistake.
On a forty-thousand-dollar job lot he estimated too high on production scrap. When the final assemblies were completed, they had two feet of bulb extension left over. It disturbed him. He spent that evening in his den brooding over chessmen. His wife let him alone.
Next day, he hired Amenth.
ersonnel called that morning and apologized. "No experience, but amazing shop aptitude. He's coming down to you for an interview."
"I want," Vogel said into the phone, "three bench men. By noon. With shop experience."
Personnel was sorry. Vogel snarled and hung up.
"Hello, please, sir," said a voice.
Vogel stared, icily.
Meekness cowered in front of his desk. Meekness in the form of a small birdlike person with beseeching amber eyes.
"I am Amenth," he said, cringing.
Vogel eyed the olive skin, the cheekbones, the blue-black hair. "A wetback," he said. "Three men short and they send me wetbacks. You know sheet metal, buster?"
"I am not of the understanding," Amenth offered. "Experience, no." He beamed. "Aptitude, yes."
Fighting apoplexy, Vogel took him out into the shop. Amenth cringed at the howl of air tools and punch presses. Vogel contemptuously took him by the arm and led him to a workbench where a wizened persimmon of a man performed deft lightnings with rivets and air wrench.
"Benny, this is Amenth. He's new." Vogel pronounced it like a curse. "Get him some goggles from the crib, a rivet gun."
Vogel returned to his office scowling. The phone rang almost instantly.
"Boss," said Benny, "he's from nothing—all thumbs with an air wrench and he don't know alclad from stainless."
"Be right out," Vogel said, hanging up.
Before he had a chance to fire Amenth, the Fabrication Super came in with a production problem. Vogel solved it, but it was almost an hour before he returned to Benny's bench—and stared.
Amenth was a blur of motion. His Keller chattered like a live thing.
A furious sweating Benny snapped at Vogel, "You playing practical jokes? Look, this guy's gone crazy, he's fifty per cent under standard! Tell him to slow down before I file a grievance."
Amenth beamed. "I am of the aptitude," he said.
A queer deep tingle went through Vogel. The crystal delight of challenge he felt when confronted by an apparently impregnable fianchetto.
That was the first day.