September 11th, 1949
It will take you ten minutes to read this review... A very short time in anyone's life. But these particular ten minutes that you will spend are an eternity for one person. As he goes down the apartment building stairs, kicks the kid reading comics on the stoop, and gets yelled at by the neighbors... Freddy doesn't know that these are the last ten minutes of his life.
The time is now ten thirty-one. TICK TICK TICK TICK TICK TICK TICK TICK At Max's Candy Store, the ball game is over, and he has just lost the pool again. Max knows that Freddy is a smart kid because he doesn't gamble and spends his two bits on the pinball machine. As a kid orders a chocolate sugar cone, the pinball machine goes tilt, and the neon lights in Freddy's own life have gone out. As a teen orders an egg cream for his date, and two kids check out the latest True Horror Romances, Freddy keeps at the pinball machine. They know him as the good boy, a nice boy. He's burnin' up and chokin' from it. He can't take it no more. He doesn't have to and he won't. RING RING Max tells the kids to let Mrs. Schmidt in the next house know that she's got a phone call. Now that he and Max are alone, with five minutes for Mrs. Schmidt to arrive, Freddy gets ready. As the candy store owner tries to sweep, he's ready to make his move.
The time is now ten thirty-three. TICK TICK TICK TICK TICK TICK TICK The heat is like murder for Max. He can't imagine such heat in September. When Freddy calls out to him, the candy store owner turns, and notices the nice gun in his hand. He had a .45 from World War I once. When Freddy tells him to empty out the till, Max thinks that it's a joke. When Freddy decides to help himself, Max decides to stop him from taking the money. BANG Clutching at his own chest, Max stares at the neighborhood kid he knew since he was a little boy. Freddy tries to explain to Max why he did what he did. He needed the money to get out of town. He was sick of living on the block and wanted a fresh start. That's all he wanted. If Max hears what is being said, he keeps it to himself. Freddy tells Max to get up, to stop kidding around. F'heaven's sake, GET UP! The door to the candy store opens, with Mrs. Schimdt asking which booth has her phone call. As she talks to Charlie on the phone, a young couple enter the candy store, and say hello to Freddy.
The time is now ten thirty-five. TICK TICK TICK TICK TICK TICK TICK TICK TICK Where asked where Max is, Freddy tells them that he's out, and that he's helping 'im. Milty knows how Freddy is always helpin' people, then asks for two malteds. His date always said that Freddy's sweet. As she wonders why Milty isn't sweet like Freddy, they fail to notice the beads of sweat on the nice boy behind the counter. Milty admits that he's not a good boy like Freddy. His date tells Freddy to come over, because he's got somethin' on his cheek. It looks like blood and she wants to wipe it off... Now leaning over the counter, the young girl sees where the blood came from. EEEEEEEEK The world is a blur as Freddy runs out of the candy store and tries to put it behind him.
The time is now ten thirty-seven. TICK TICK TICK TICK TICK TICK TICK TICK TICK TICK As he leans against the alley wall, the neighbors have come to see what's happened. They see him and all point at the fleeing murderer in their midst. It's Freddy who is running from them. It's Freddy they've got to stop. The ground trembles as old and young rush past the neighborhood bar. Inside, the patrons are watching the hammerlock that the Tiger has on Lovely Louie. CRUNCH They fail to hear the running footsteps a few feet away. As Looie hit the referee, all listen as the announcer describes the best hold of the night. The bartender notices the one guy not watching the TV and asks him what he'd like. Freddy tells him to forget it, then leaves after making sure that the coast is clear. On the block, the neighbors are talking about a murder. A little girl continues her rhyme and bounces a ball on the concrete. A crazy thing has happened and he walks past them unnoticed.
The time is now ten thirty-nine. TICK TICK TICK TICK TICK TICK TICK TICK TICK Freddy is trying to figure out what happened. He's never done anything like this before. As he spots the police car behind him, Freddy stops, and waits for them to take him. SCREE The window rolls down, with Commissioner Dolan asking him where Max's Candy Store is at. Hiding his face, Freddy points him in the right direction. As Dolan tells the Spirit how the neighborhood has become like a lit firecracker, the young man loosens his collar, and continues on his way. He must be living a charmed life. The cops have had their chance and he's gonna make the most of his. He'll go to Florida as planned. The money from the candy store will keep until he finds work, and he'll be living the good life. The change booth at the subway isn't able to cash a twenty. As he reaches into his pocket for some change, several bills come flying out, and one coin rolls out on the ground. As he stoops to pick up the coin, Freddy sees whose shoe stopped it from rolling. When the Spirit hands him the coin, the sweat reappears on his face.
The time is now ten forty. TICK TICK TICK TICK TICK TICK TICK With the Spirit checking out the subway stations, he's seen Freddy before, and can't possibly suspect him of anything. As Freddy looks at his reflection on the cigarette machine, he sees that the masked man is coming closer. Now leaning against a pillar, one hand goes under his coat, and he waits. The train is coming in, when the Spirit approaches Freddy, and taps him on the shoulder. Freddy gives the Spirit a love tap with his gun, then tries to make his escape through the sliding doors, and gets his fingers caught between them. With Commissioner Dolan rushing to the scene, the Spirit watches as Freddy doesn't let go, and his upper body gets caught between a pillar. Dolan can only stare down at the crumpled figure and the fallen bills behind it. As they walk up out of the subway, the Commissioner notes that this one was only a kid. Denny Colt knows that many of them are kids. They start young in the neighborhood, and he wonders when Freddy started his crime spree. Mrs. Schmidt is upset with her date, who has shown up late. He tries to tell her that it's only ten forty-one. Sure, he's ten minutes late, but what's ten minutes in a man's life?
This story was reprinted in The Best Of The Spirit (2005).
This review is dedicated to Allen Smith