The Illustrated Man. Ray Bradbury

“Nevertheless,” Simms pointed out, “the inhabitants of the Future resent you two hiding on a tropical isle, as it were, while they drop off the cliff into hell. Death loves death, not life. Dying people love to know that others die with them. It is a comfort to learn you are not alone in the kiln, in the grave. I am the guardian of their collective resentment against you two.”

“Look at the guardian of resentments!” said Mr. Melton to his companions.

“The longer you keep me waiting, the harder it will go for you. We need you on the bomb project, Mr. Travis. Return now—no torture. Later, we’ll force you to work, and after you’ve finished the bomb, we’ll try a number of complicated new devices on you, sir.”

“I’ve a proposition,” said William. “I’ll come back with you if my wife stays here alive, safe, away from that war.”

Mr. Simms considered it. “All right. Meet me in the plaza in ten minutes. Pick me up in your car. Drive me to a deserted country spot. I’ll have the Travel Machine pick us up there.”

“Bill!” Susan held his arm tightly.

“Don’t argue.” He looked over at her. “It’s settled.” To Simms: “One thing. Last night you could have gotten in our room and kidnaped us. Why didn’t you?”

“Shall we say that I was enjoying myself?” replied Mr. Simms languidly, sucking his new cigar. “I hate giving up this wonderful atmosphere, this sun, this vacation. I regret leaving behind the wine and the cigarettes. Oh, how I regret it. The plaza then, in ten minutes. Your wife will be protected and may stay here as long as she wishes. Say your good-bys.”

Mr. Simms arose and walked out.

“There goes Mr. Big Talk!” yelled Mr. Melton at the departing gentleman. He turned and looked at Susan. “Hey. Someone’s crying. Breakfast’s no time for people to cry. Nowis it?”

At nine-fifteen Susan stood on the balcony of their room, gazing down at the plaza. Mr. Simms was seated there, his neat legs crossed, on a delicate bronze bench. Biting the tip from a cigar, he lit it tenderly.

Susan heard the throb of a motor, and far up the street, out of a garage and down the cobbled hill, slowly, came William in his car.

The car picked up speed. Thirty, now forty, now fifty miles an hour. Chickens scattered before it.

Mr. Simms took off his white panama hat and mopped his pink forehead, put his hat back on, and then saw the car.

It was rushing sixty miles an hour, straight on for the plaza.

“William!” screamed Susan.

The car hit the low plaza curb, thundering; it jumped up, sped across the tiles toward the green bench where Mr. Simms now dropped his cigar, shrieked, flailed his hands, and was hit by the car. His body flew up and up in the air, and down and down, crazily, into the street.

On the far side of the plaza, one front wheel broken, the car stopped. People were running.

Susan went in and closed the balcony doors.

They came down the Official Palace steps together, arm in arm, their faces pale, at twelve noon.

“Adiós, señor,”said the mayor behind them.“Señora.”

They stood in the plaza where the crowd was pointing at the blood.

“Will they want to see you again?” asked Susan.

“No, we went over and over it. It was an accident. I lost control of the car. I wept for them. God knows I had to get my relief out somewhere. Ifelt like weeping. I hated to kill him. I’ve never wanted to do anything like that in my life.”

“They won’t prosecute you?”

“They talked about it, but no. I talked faster. They believe me. It was an accident. It’s over.”

“Where will we go? Mexico City? Uruapan?”

“The car’s in the repair shop. It’ll be ready at four this afternoon. Then we’ll get the hell out.”

“Will we be followed? Was Simms working alone?”

“I don’t know. We’ll have a little head start on them, I think.”

The film people were coming out of the hotel as they approached. Mr. Melton hurried up, scowling. “Hey I heard what happened. Too bad. Everything okay now? Want to get your minds off it? We’re doing some preliminary shots up the street. You want to watch, you’re welcome. Come on, do you good.”

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