Perhaps some of you remember the story in the newspapers earlier this year, about how a collection of hoods assembled one evening in a quiet New York neighborhood and proceeded to have a shoot-out; and how, while there were hundreds of empty shell casings left strewn about the streets, there were no reports of anyone being wounded, and amazingly, there were no witnesses to come forth with an account of what had really happened. It was assumed the residents had scattered in panic as the bullets buzzed through the night air breaking windows in stores and homes. One desperate call was put through to the police by a man who refused to identify himself, saying, "What do you think I am, crazy or something?"
Nevertheless, the police promptly dispatched a radio patrol car which arrived after the participants had fled. All that greeted the patrolmen was acrid gunsmoke-filled air, empty shell cases and splintered-glass-covered sidewalks. More police arrived and confirmed that there had indeed been a gun battle of gigantic proportions; however, their questioning of the residents of the area proved futile. Their queries were met with much shrugging and replies such as, "I didn't hear nothing." "I didn't see anything." "I don't know anything." "I just come back from walking the dog." "What's going on?" "What's with all the cops?"
The police were not given an ounce of cooperation and indeed in some quarters it was felt that this apparent lack of civic responsibility was appalling.
It's appalling, a few politicians said. Yes, and it's also sickening, some other politicians added.
In view of this latest shoot-out and similar incidents in various parts of the country and to allay certain fears of the citizenry that crime is on the rise, I feel bound to disclose what has really occurred and despite what you hear or read, crime is on the decrease. Furthermore, in many cases the gunmen involved are trying to kill each other without justifiable cause, or, it might be said, for the wrong reasons. This will take some explanation, and I am prepared to offer it to you.
My conclusions came about quite by accident. During a recent vacation I spent in Haiti, I drove out into the countryside one afternoon along a picturesque road bordering a rain forest, and to my astonishment I saw a banana tree fly over the road and then heard it crashing into the forest.
Maybe some of you will say that Hitchcock has taken leave of his senses at this point. I assure you that this is not the case. I, like the next man, know a flying banana tree when I see one. There could be no mistake. The bananas were a lovely unripened green color, and to lend credence to what I had just seen, one of the bananas fell from the tree as it went zipping over and hit my windshield with a loud splat, practically destroying all visibility.
With an oath I slammed on the brakes and went at once toward the direction from which the flying banana tree had come, to investigate. My curiosity was aroused. Assuredly this had to be a phenomenon of some kind. Making my way through the thick forest proved a tricky undertaking. Clothes torn from the brush and disheveled, at last I came to a small clearing and an unlikely sight.
To my astonishment I discovered an old friend, whom I shall call Ensley Perrault, since it would be unsafe for him if his true identity were revealed to the world. Perrault is an inventor and a highly successful glue manufacturer. I recalled that he had been expelled from Yale, Verona and Legimibre universities for pranks and practical jokes unbefitting those centers of learning.
As I approached I saw that he was in the process of felling a banana tree with an ax.
"Hello, Ensley," I said. "Are you responsible for a banana hitting the windshield of my car?"
He shook my hand, smiled and countered, "Sorry about that, but you have to admit that it would have been worse if the tree had hit your windshield."
I agreed, and then asked him what he was doing in the middle of a Haitian forest, throwing banana trees through the sky.
He studied me carefully, then said, "I'll need your promise of secrecy."
I nodded, and he then proceeded to give me a detailed explanation of his actions. To begin with, he wasn't throwing banana trees through the sky; instead he had invented a catapult-like affair that did it for him. He was merely in the process of perfecting his invention. He was, he explained, doing it to lower the crime rate in the United States.
"Perhaps you've been working a bit too hard lately, Ensley," I said.
"Nonsense, I never felt better in my life," Ensley replied. "I shall lower the crime rate by catapulting unlikely objects through the windows of all the major crime leaders back home, and knowing their criminal minds, they will assume that it has been done by rival gangs. Naturally they will seek revenge and in the resultant gang wars that follow they will kill themselves off. Without criminals there will be no crime. A simplistic plan, but foolproof."
"Ingenious, Ensley, an excellent plan, but see a doctor during a spare moment," I advised as I left.
Of course you've all read with surprise of the unlikely rain of objects such as automobiles, axles, radiators, typewriters, small dead horses and corpses stolen from morgues that have come crashing through the living room windows of notorious crime kingpins. Every time this has occurred it has precipitated a gangland conflict. And here and there, even a hood is knocked off.
Unfortunately the marksmanship of the hoods has proved extremely poor, but with practice it is hoped that it will improve.
And now that you understand how the crime rate is being lowered, you can read the following stories with complete ease of mind, knowing it is highly unlikely that an unlikely object will come catapulting through your living room window.