“Sit down,” said the man who seemed to be the leader of the small group. “Have some coffee?”

He watched the dark steaming mixture pour into a collapsible tin cup, which was handed him straight off. He sipped it gingerly and felt them looking at him with curiosity. His lips were scalded, but that was good. The faces around him were bearded, but the beards were clean, neat, and their hands were clean. They had stood up as if to welcome a guest, and now they sat down again. Montag sipped.

“Thanks,” he said. “Thanks very much.”

“You’re welcome, Montag. My name’s Granger.” He held out a small bottle of colourless fluid. “Drink this, too. It’ll change the chemical index of your perspiration.

Half an hour from now you’ll smell like two other people. With the Hound after you, the best thing is Bottoms up.”

Montag drank the bitter fluid.

“You’ll stink like a bobcat, but that’s all right,” said Granger.

“You know my name;” said Montag.

Granger nodded to a portable battery TV set by the fire.

“We’ve watched the chase. Figured you’d wind up south along the river. When we heard you plunging around out in the forest like a drunken elk, we didn’t hide as we usually do. We figured you were in the river, when the helicopter cameras swung back in over the city. Something funny there. The chase is still running. The other way, though.”

“The other way?”

“Let’s have a look.”

Granger snapped the portable viewer on. The picture was a nightmare, condensed, easily passed from hand to hand, in the forest, all whirring colour and flight. A voice cried:

“The chase continues north in the city! Police helicopters are converging on Avenue 87 and Elm Grove Park!”

Granger nodded. “They’re faking. You threw them off at the river. They can’t admit it.

They know they can hold their audience only so long. The show’s got to have a snap ending, quick! If they started searching the whole damn river it might take all night.

So they’re sniffing for a scape-goat to end things with a bang. Watch. They’ll catch Montag in the next five minutes! ”

“But how–”


The camera, hovering in the belly of a helicopter, now swung down at an empty street.

“See that?” whispered Granger. “It’ll be you; right up at the end of that street is our victim. See how our camera is coming in? Building the scene. Suspense. Long shot.

Right now, some poor fellow is out for a walk. A rarity. An odd one. Don’t think the police don’t know the habits of queer ducks like that, men who walk mornings for the hell of it, or for reasons of insomnia Anyway, the police have had him charted for months, years. Never know when that sort of information might be handy. And today, it turns out, it’s very usable indeed. It saves face. Oh, God, look there!”

The men at the fire bent forward.

On the screen, a man turned a corner. The Mechanical Hound rushed forward into the viewer, suddenly. The helicopter light shot down a dozen brilliant pillars that built a cage all about the man.

A voice cried, “There’s Montag ! The search is done!”

The innocent man stood bewildered, a cigarette burning in his hand. He stared at the Hound, not knowing what it was. He probably never knew. He glanced up at the sky and the wailing sirens. The cameras rushed down. The Hound leapt up into the air with a rhythm and a sense of timing that was incredibly beautiful. Its needle shot out.

It was suspended for a moment in their gaze, as if to give the vast audience time to appreciate everything, the raw look of the victim’s face, the empty street, the steel animal a bullet nosing the target.

“Montag, don’t move!” said a voice from the sky.

The camera fell upon the victim, even as did the Hound. Both reached him simultaneously. The victim was seized by Hound and camera in a great spidering, clenching grip. He screamed. He screamed. He screamed!




Montag cried out in the silence and turned away.


And then, after a time of the men sitting around the fire, their faces expressionless, an announcer on the dark screen said, “The search is over, Montag is dead; a crime against society has been avenged.”

Page: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63

Categories: Bradbury, Ray