When the town showed up at the Ferris wheel, they found Jeremiah holding Mayor Brewins hostage on the highest platform. He peered over the edge as the crowd gathered.
He waited until they started getting restless, then shouted, “I’m only here for what you owe me. What he”—here he shook the mayor—“promised me.”
Murmurs broke out among the crowd.
“The majority of you have nothing to fear. The mayor and the town council…well…” he brandished the device high over his head. Even at this distance, the red ball stood out. “Lets just say, one touch of this ball and there won’t be much left of them.”
“What are you doing, Jeremiah?” the sheriff shouted. “You’re better than this.”
“Maybe once I was,” he replied. “Bring me the money due me for the Ferris wheel and I’ll go, but if you don’t, you’ll have to elect a new council.”
“You’ll have to give us some time.”
“Works for me, but the town council and our beloved mayor here won’t last forever.”
“I’ll see what I can do.”
“Time is of the essence.”
The sheriff turned and walked toward the back of the crowd where the full town council circled around him.
“We have to stop this madman,” said one member who happened to own a large stake in the bank.
“We should get Colonel Rotan to shoot him,” said another.
“Now, hold on a minute—we can’t go around shooting people,” said the sheriff. “How do we know that doohickey will do anything?”
“We can’t take that chance,” said a third member.
The sheriff looked around at the fear in the eyes of the men he’d served half his life. “Okay, we play it both ways,” the sheriff said. “Get the money together at the bank. I’ll have my deputy call on Colonel Rotan.”
Just then, Amelia arrived. “Jeremiah?” she called from the outskirts of the crowd. “What are you doing?” She pushed her way through the people until she stood almost underneath him.
“You weren’t supposed to be here,” he said.
“Well, I’m here now. You come down from there, and let the mayor go.”
“No, Amelia, this time I’m going to make them see.”
“See what? I don’t see much but a fool.”
“That’s all you ever saw.”
“That’s not true.”
“Isn’t it? Why wouldn’t you, you of all people, try my automatic conscience? Why wouldn’t you believe in me? If you had believed, I could have taken all their disbelief. I could have stood up to the accusations and recriminations and fear. But you wouldn’t believe. All you saw was a fool.”
“No, Jeremiah, I saw a man who lost his way. A man who tried to make his life, his community, his world better, but wound up forcing that ‘good’ on others.” Her voice quivered as she finished. “I see a man who had a conscience, but lost it.”
“All I ever did I did for you…to try to be worthy of your love.”
“You didn’t need to try.”
Jeremiah, nearly overcome with tears, raised the device in his hand and touched the red ball.
BANG! A shot rang out, Amelia screamed, and Jeremiah fell back dead.
The sheriff turned to see Colonel Rotan standing nearby, holding his rifle. Several town council members stood around the colonel, close enough to whisper in his ear. The sheriff put his hand on Colonel Rotan’s shoulder. He looked hard at the members of the council, then turned and walked toward the Ferris wheel.
Eventually they got the whimpering mayor down off the platform. He remained jumpy and agitated until Mr. Garmen determined that the device in Jeremiah’s hand held no threat. It was a simple wooden block painted black with a common rubber ball glued to one end. A further inspection of the mayor’s head revealed no device or other detectable contraption. Mayor Brewins kept his head shaved from that day forward. Though he served out his term, he did not seek reelection.
The other members of the town council were all voted out too. Between accusations of corruption and a state investigation into Jeremiah’s death, no one in the electorate wanted to support them. None of them ever held another public office.
Francis Garmen went on to have a successful inventing career, always inspired to push harder by Jeremiah’s downfall.
Due to a sudden illness, Amelia took over the Tibbits family farm from her father soon after Jeremiah’s death. She ran it through good times and hard, and hired many of the workers displaced by Jeremiah’s inventions. Her land ownership and investment in the area pushed her into politics, where she worked hard to battle corruption and keep consciences always automatic.