CRIME: George Did It

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It was nearly 11 o'clock, one mild, foggy night last week, when a squad of cops deployed cautiously around an old, grey, lace-curtained house at 17 Fourth Street in the factory district of Waterbury, Conn. After the guards were set, plainclothesmen walked up the steps and pounded loudly on the front door. The downstairs lights winked on, and stocky, smiling, pajama-clad George Metesky, a 54-year-old bachelor, answered the knock. His two elderly spinster sisters watched warily in the background. George never lost his polite grin. "I think.'' he said after a few preliminary questions and answers. "I know why you fellows are here. You think I'm the Mad Bomber."

George was right. The cops flashed a search warrant, carefully wiped the soles of their shoes before entering, and checked around the drab, faded rooms. In George's meticulously kept garage-workshop they found a lathe. Said one cop, patting the machine: "Here we have the whole story." But back in the house, behind washtubs in a closet, they found another chapter: short pieces of pipe, three cheap pocket watches and some flashlight batteries. With hardly more than a nod from the cops, George put on his street clothes with his customary fastidiousness, bade his moaning sisters goodbye, and, beaming through his round, gold-rimmed glasses like a parish clergyman off on his rounds, drove downtown to headquarters.

The Secret Passion. It was the beginning of the end for friendly, lonely George Metesky. For 16 years, on and off, he had labored over his lathe with patient care, creating what he called "units"—short lengths of pipe containing gunpowder, a watch mechanism and a flashlight battery. The units were his single, secret passion, which, he hoped, would call attention to the grave injustices done him since that day in 1931, when, as a generator wiper for metropolitan New York's United Electric Light & Power Co. (which later became part of the Consolidated Edison company), he was felled by a whiff of gas. The way he saw things, Con Edison's refusal to support his claim for compensation, and the "perjury" of fellow employees who abetted the company, had made him forever dependent on the sisters, who worked respectively in a button factory and a brass mill.

At first George had placed his bombs on Con Edison property, but too many of them went unfound and unexploded. So in recent months he took to driving into Manhattan in the sleek, $4,000 imported Daimler thoughtfully provided him by his sisters. He planted the bombs in such public places as Grand Central Station, the Empire State Building and New York Public Library, followed them up with carefully worded, literate letters to the newspapers, cryptically signed "F.P." (for "Fair Play," he explained). George had planted 47 bombs; scores of crackpots sent the cops on fruitless chases for imaginary missiles, and news-hungry New Yorkers tingled to every minute of it.

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