Murder, My Sweet

Murder, My Sweet

“Anyhow I had fun writing the
story, although it didn’t turn
out quite the way I expected.
I started out to do a burlesque
on the locked room mystery
and somewhere along the line
I lost interest in the burlesque
angle and became preoccupied
with the thought that a miracle
is always a trap. As you know,
good fantastic stories are ex-
tremely rare for a rather obvious
reason, that in them it is almost
impossible to turn the corner.
Once you have exposed the situa-
tion, you have nowhere to go.”
—Selected Letters of Raymond Chandler

Amthor’s office wasn’t small or large—it had a neat professional look. Some glass-door bookcases—full of heavy books inside. Nobody used books anymore—Neo-Kindle tablets with voice recognition and maybe stylus scribblings. The bookcase was just for looks—and interior decorating nostalgia.

There were some microwave sterilizer ovens full of hypodermic needles and syringes inside being cooked. A floating titanium desk—with the usual vidscreen and vidphones. Very little else—except the elbows of Jules Amthor sitting there brooding with his face in his hands.

Amthor was in some kind of trance—with an expression of death painted on his skull. I took a couple of more steps into the office—he was looking beyond the office into some other space. His colorless eyes—and parchment-white face.

I took two more steps—and aimed the raygun at him. He saw me then—and his eyes focused. His index finger was moving towards the edge of the desk. I smashed his finger with the butt of the raygun—his eyes got tired looking.

“You’re a sick man, Flambeaux,” he said. “A very sick man. I can’t recommend your being up and around yet.”

I slid the desk aside—it glided over against the wall. I zapped the vidscreen just in case—it fizzled and then went dead.

“Anybody coming through that door—is walking into a coffin,” I told Amthor.

I found a bottle of whiskey in the medicine cabinet—I poured a couple of drinks—and made him drink one before I touched the stuff. I waited to see if it was okay—and then I gulped down a shot. After awhile I felt the heat getting to my heart. My heart began to pound—but it was back up in my chest again, not hanging on a shoelace.

“I had this nightmare,” I told him. “Silly me. I woke up in a room full of snakes—laying on a cot upstairs. Somebody had shot me full of dope—and locked me in there. I’m still weak—and I got a bruised head where you blackjacked me. I slept. I had no food. I was a sick man. That took a lot of trouble—doing all that to me. I’m not that important—you said so.”

Amthor didn’t say anything. He watched me. He was speculating to himself—how long could I stay awake.

“I woke up in a room full of snakes—it was just a hallucination, a trick of the optic nerves or whatever you call it. Pink snakes—instead of pink elephants. I yelled and a toughie robot in a white coat—showed up with a blackjack. He’s back up there in the room—without a head to cybernate with. I got my Velcro arms and legs back on—somebody took them away from me. So here I am—all cured. What were you saying?”

“I didn’t make any remarks,” he said.

“Remarks want you to make them,” I said. “They got their tongues out—just ready to say something. This thing here—“I waved the raygun, “is my persuader. Now talk.”

“Please give me the raygun at once,” he said with a smile. “You’ve been a very sick man, Mr. Flambeaux. I insist you go back to bed.”

His smile was dead as a frozen fish—his eyes deader than a dead mackerel. His lips fluttered nervously—like dying butterflies.

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