December 12th, 1948
Sometimes there are events in crime fighting which seem to dispute that crime does not pay. Often this is so because the punishment does not fit the crime or scope of the criminal. In this case, what may seem to be providence for a criminal is the workings of a higher authority. This is beyond mere mortals, unless the opportunity is given to us to see. An opportunity to watch two lives at the same time.
Carboy T. Gretch is in the Central City Jail. When he cries out that he can't stand it, a prison guard hits him on the head with a club. He's gotta get out of this prison.
Cranfranz Qwayle lives in the suburbs of Central City. When he cries out that he can't stand it, his wife hits him on the head with a rolling pin. He's gotta get out of this prison.
For his good behavior, the Warden has got a special task for Carboy T. Gretch. He's to get down the sewer and clean it up.
For his good behavior, his wife has got a special task for Cranfranz Qwayle. He's to get down the sewer and clean it up.
After finding a manhole cover, Carboy T. Gretch finds himself on the other side of the prison wall.
After finding a manhole cover, Cranfranz Qwayle finds himself on the other side of the wall.
Carboy T. Gretch is free, but the guard sees that the prisoner has escaped, and the searchlights are turned on.
Cranfranz Qwayle is free, but his wife sees that her husband has escaped, and the flashlight is turned on.
At the office of Commissioner Dolan, Officer Klink is certain that today is his lucky day. After receiving a phone call from the Warden, Dolan prepares to get a circular out on Gretch. The Spirit knows about Carboy Gretch, the tough guy who gave him a lot of trouble before he finally caught him. The next phone call concerns a missing husband who deserted his wife, and a description is taken.
The Commissioner hands Klink the two circulars. One for an escaped convict and the other for a deserter. In another part of Central City, two lives are about to collide in the snow. When they recover, each man sees that the other looks like him. Both come to the same idea at the same time. Cranfranz Qwayle offers his doppleganger a thousand dollars if he'd change clothes and identification with him. Gretch decides to accept the sap's deal. After exchanging names, both go on their separate ways.
Officer Klink comes across the five foot, five inch man in the brown suit, and recognizes him as the man in the circular. Carboy T. Gretch tries to make a run for it, but is tackled by the Klink. He chides Cranfranz Qwayle for leaving his wife. As he releases his grip on a fire hydrant, a smile is now on Gretch's face, and he agrees to come home to his loving wife. Mrs. Qwayle is grateful that the officer was able to locate her husband, and she can't wait to wrap her arms around him. CRUNCH Officer Klink is touched by the way the poor woman is hugging her husband with the crushing power of love.
The real Cranfranz Qwayle is free and is wearing a prison uniform. He visits a travel agent and wishes to buy a ticket to a place of peace and quiet. As the agent looks over the fliers for Tahiti, the Coral Islands, Iwo Jima, and other places, he notices the face on the wanted poster. It just so happens that the travel agent knows just the place for his customer, and calls to make the proper arrangements. Officer Klink is at police headquarters when the call comes in from the Ajax Travel Agency, and he learns that Carboy Gretch is there. When Klink arrives, the agent informs his customer that a representative will be taking him to his new destination. The man in the prison uniform is grateful for the personal service. When he spots the gates of State Prison, Cranfranz Qwayle is quite taken with being there. He's surprised that he hadn't thought to go there himself. Officer Klink doesn't know what to make of the happy prisoner. An older guard tells him that convicts are unable to cope with life on the outside, and are happy to be back in their cell.
Minutes later, the battered husband has come to give himself up, and reveal his true identity. Before he can do this, Mrs. Qwayle grabs him by the scruff of the neck, and drags him from the relative safety of police headquarters. Klink finds it a shame that such a nice little man must live with such a woman for the rest of his life. Even the worst of criminals shouldn't be sentenced to such a fate.
Who's to say what's a fit punishment?
In the words of Gilbert and Sullivan's Mikado...
My object all sublime
I shall achieve in time
To let the punishment fit the crime
The punishment fit the crime...
This story was reprinted in The Best of The Spirit (2005)