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This short story was in a Sci-Fi or Fantasy anthology I read in the late 1960s. It involves a scientist who invents a small device with a circular cable loop that is capable of slowing time almost to a standstill for anyone inside the cable loop. The scientist's bad-guy lab assistant steals the device as well as the scientist's daughter and disappears. Using a second time device, a detective, hired by the scientist, pursues the bad guy into the time-stopped, motionless world to which he ran. Ultimately the detective reclaims the device and rescues the girl. They become very close during their time together and ultimately are shifted back to normal time with a humorous result.

Additional note based on comments: a small portable box (machine) is attached to a cable (think bicycle lock cable) that can be wrapped around a person (or two) and activated. Whoever is within the cable experiences normal time-flow but sees the outside world as stopped. In the story, several days are spent in this "frozen" world by the detective and the girl. The author's great descriptions of the time-frozen world are what I remember best. Finally, using the bad guy's stolen "cable" the girl returns to her father's lab and is reunited with her father. The detective arrives shortly after and the scientist offers to introduce his daughter to him but instead he walks directly to her, takes her in his arms and kisses her.

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  • Hi, welcome to SF&F! The question looks pretty good, but you should still look at the suggestions in case they help trigger some more memories.
    – DavidW
    Apr 12, 2019 at 0:54
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    This is just different enough from Larry Niven's story "ARM" that I don't think it's the same one. In that one, a scientist had developed a way to speed up time inside a spherical field. About 600:1, I think. Then the guy was killed, and the detective had to figure out who had done it and how he had gotten away (while leaving the corpse inside the 600:1 field which it was dangerous for anyone to move into or out of). The scientist had a niece who was a minor character, but she was not a daughter, and the detective did not get romantically involved with her.
    – Lorendiac
    Apr 12, 2019 at 1:07
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    @user14111 It looked to me as if Sierra Pete's wording in a couple of places in that post clearly meant: "Whenever you step into the affected area, the rate of the passage of time in there drops to almost nothing (in comparison to what you were previously experiencing in the outside world).'"
    – Lorendiac
    Apr 12, 2019 at 3:12
  • What is the humorous result? Don't worry about spoilers. Give us all the details you can remember. Any tiny detail may be the thing that jogs someone's memory. Apr 12, 2019 at 10:56
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    @SierraPete This feels familiar. Like Lorenidac said, this has a lot of similarities to ARM, but I think I may have read something like this as well. Just to make sure you're not referencing ARM, though, you don't happen to recall anything like a flashlight being used as a weapon, or someone half-stuck out the field violently flopping around, do you? (Incidentally, there was also a "Batman: The Animated Series" episode, "Time Out of Joint", that shared some elements.)
    – Jacob C.
    Apr 12, 2019 at 18:37

1 Answer 1

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This is "The Eternal Now" (1944) by Murray Leinster.

Dr. Harry Brett is meeting with a man named Hunt who introduces Brett to his niece Laura Hunt. At that moment they are suddenly transferred into frozen time, awakening elsewhere to an oddly-lit grayness.

It turns out that Brett had invented a mass-nullifier that, as a side-effect, almost infinitely speeds up time. His assistant, Dr. Cable, has stolen the idea and had been using it to steal things only to discover he couldn't return himself to normal time. Cable thus kidnaps Brett to fix his nullifier so he can return to normal time.

Cable's device was merely a small brass case with a control-switch on it — Brett's models had had the switch at the end of a small flexible cord — and a length of flexible field-cable.

The ending of the story:

They stood as they had been. Days and weeks ago — or maybe it was the thousandth of the thousandth of a second — Laura's uncle had said, "And Mr. Brett, this is my niece, Miss Hunt." And they'd shaken hands, and as their hands were clasped, everything began.

Now they clasped hands again, smiling at each other.

"Contact!" said Harry.

They threw over the switches of the two irreversible nullifiers at the same instant.

There was sunlight. There were colors. There were noises. There were smells in the air. The world was alive around them. They stood in a perfectly normal office, on a perfectly normal afternoon, in a perfectly normal world. A typist was at work in an adjoining office. An elevator-door clicked. There was a deep humming noise in the air, which was the city itself, vividly alive and in motion.

"— My niece, Miss Hunt,” said Laura's uncle, comfortably. "I think she'll be inter —"

He stopped and gasped. Because his niece — a very well-behaved young woman — walked straight into the arms of the young man to whom she had just been introduced — whom she had first laid eyes on not more than a minute before. She clung to him, and put up her face to be kissed, and caught her breath in something suspiciously like a sob of joy.

The story was first published in Thrilling Wonder Stories Fall 1942, and can be read at the Internet Archive.

If you read this in an anthology in the 1960s it was possibly The Shape of Things (1965), ed. Damon Knight.

Cover of "The Shape of Things"

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  • Thank you soooo much David! I have been trying to track this story down since I first read it in back in the 60s. And, it was in a paperback which most likely was "The Shape of Things". Now I can finally find the story and read it again thanks to you! Very best regards, Pete
    – user133321
    Oct 15, 2020 at 17:36
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    @user133321 Please request an account merge so you can accept this answer.
    – Null
    Oct 15, 2020 at 18:03

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