The murderer. ray bradbury. 1953

Music moved with him in the white halls. He passed an office door: “The Merry Widow Waltz.” Another door: “Afternoon of a Faun.” A third: “Kiss Me Again.” He turned into a cross corridor: “The Sword Dance” buried him in cymbals, drums, pots, pans, knives, forks, thunder, and tin lightning. All washed away as he hurried through an anteroom where a secretary sat nicely stunned by Beethoven’s Fifth. He moved himself before her eyes like a hand, she didn’t see him.
His wrist radio buzzed.
“Yes?”
“This is Lee, Dad. Don’t forget about my allowance.”
“Yes, son, yes. I’m busy.”
“Just didn’t want you to forget, Dad,” said the wrist radio. Tchaikovsky’s “Romeo anil Juliet” swarmed about the voice and flushed into the long halls.
The psychiatrist moved in the beehive of offices, in the cross-pollination of themes, Stravinsky mating with Bach, Haydn unsuccessfully repulsing Rachmaninoff, Schubert slain by Duke Ellington. He nodded to the humming secretaries and the whistling doctors, fresh to their morning work. At his office he checked a few papers with his stenographer, who sang under her breath, then phoned the police captain upstairs. A few minutes later a red light hunked, a voice said from the ceiling:
“Prisoner delivered to Interview Chamber Nine.”
He unlocked the chamber door, stepped in, heard the door lock behind him.
“Go away,” said the prisoner, smiling.
The psychiatrist was shocked by that smile. A very sunny, pleasant warm thing, a thing that shed bright light upon the room. Dawn among the dark hills. High noon at midnight, that smile. The blue eyes sparkled serenely above that display of self-assured dentistry.
“I’m here to help you,” said the psychiatrist, frowning. Something was wrong with the room. He had hesitated the moment he entered. He glanced around. The prisoner laughed. “If you’re wondering why it’s so quiet in here, I just kicked the radio to death.”
Violent, thought the doctor.
The prisoner read this thought, smiled, put out a gentle hand. “No, only to machines that yak-yak-yak.”
Bits of the wall radio’s tubes and wires lay on the gray carpeting. Ignoring these, feeling that smile upon him like a heat lamp, the psychiatrist sat across from his patient in the unusual silence which was like the gathering of a storm.
“You’re Mr. Albert Brock, who calls himself The Murderer?”
Brock nodded pleasantly. “Before we start….” He moved quietly and quickly to detach the wrist radio from the doctor’s arm. He tucked it in his teeth like a walnut, gritted and heard it crack, banded it back to the appalled psychiatrist as if he had done them both a favor. “That’s better.”
The psychiatrist stared at the ruined machine. “You’re running up quite a damage bill.”
“I don’t care,” smiled the patient. “As the old song goes: “Don’t Care What Happens to Me!” He hummed it.
The psychiatrist said: “Shall we start?”
“Fine. The first victim, or one of the first, was my telephone. Murder most foul. I shoved it in the kitchen Insinkerator! Stopped the disposal unit in mid-swallow. Poor thing strangled to death. After that I shot the television set!”
The psychiatrist said, “Mmm.”
“Fired six shots right through the cathode. Made a beautiful tinkling crash, like a dropped chandelier.”
“Nice imagery.”
“Thanks, I always dreamt of being a writer.”
“Suppose you tell me when you first began to hate the telephone.”
“It frightened me as a child. Uncle of mine called it the Ghost Machine. Voices without bodies. Scared the living hell out of me. Later in life I was never comfortable. Seemed to me a phone was an impersonal instrument.



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The murderer. ray bradbury. 1953