They both stared at the fateful cogs for a time.

“This means the police will be here any minute,” said Pikes. “Our plan will be ruined.”

“I don’t know.” Stendahl glanced in at the whirling yellow and blue and orange people. The music swept through the misting halls. “I should have guessed Garrett wouldn’t be fool enough to come in person. But wait!”

“What’s the matter?”

“Nothing. There’s nothing the matter. Garrett sent a robot to us. Well, we sent one back. Unless he checks closely, he won’t notice the switch.”

“Of course!”

“Next time he’ll come himself. Now that he thinks it’s safe. Why, he might be at the door any minute, in person! More wine, Pikes!”

The great bell rang.

“There he is now, I’ll bet you. Go let Mr. Garrett in.”

Rapunzel let down her golden hair.

“Mr. Stendahl?”

“Mr. Garrett. The real Mr. Garrett?”

“The same.” Garrett eyed the dank walls and the whirling people. “I thought I’d better come see for myself. You can’t depend on robots. Other people’s robots, especially. I also took the precaution of summoning the Dismantlers. They’ll be here in one hour to knock the props out from under this horrible place.”

Stendahl bowed. “Thanks for telling me.” He waved his hand. “In the meantime, you might as well enjoy this. A little wine?”

“No, thank you. What’s going on? How low can a man sink?”

“See for yourself, Mr. Garrett.”

“Murder,” said Garrett.

“Murder most foul,” said Stendahl.

A woman screamed. Miss Pope ran up, her face the color of a cheese. “The most horrid thing just happened! I saw Miss Blunt strangled by an ape and stuffed up a chimney!”

They looked and saw the long yellow hair trailing down from the flue. Garrett cried out.

“Horrid!” sobbed Miss Pope, and then ceased crying. She blinked and turned. “Miss Blunt!”

“Yes,” said Miss Blunt, standing there.

“But I just saw you crammed up the flue!”

“No,” laughed Miss Blunt. “A robot of myself. A clever facsimile!”

“But, but … ”

“Don’t cry darling. I’m quite all right. Let me look at myself. Well, so there I am! Up the chimney. Like you said. Isn’t that funny?”

Miss Blunt walked away, laughing.

“Have a drink, Garrett?”

“I believe I will. That unnerved me. My God, what a place. This does deserve tearing down. For a moment there … ”

Garrett drank.

Another scream. Mr. Steffens, borne upon the shoulders of four white rabbits, was carried down a flight of stairs which magically appeared in the floor. Into a pit went Mr. Steffens, where, bound and tied, he was left to face the advancing razor steel of a great pendulum which now whirled down, down, closer and closer to his outraged body.

“Is that me down there?” said Mr. Steffens, appearing at Garrett’s elbow. He bent over the pit. “How strange, how odd, to see yourself die.”

The pendulum made a final stroke.

“How realistic,” said Mr. Steffens, turning away.

“Another drink, Mr. Garrett?”

“Yes, please.”

“It won’t be long. The Dismantlers will be here.”

“Thank God!”

And for a third time, a scream.

“What now?” said Garrett apprehensively.

“It’s my turn,” said Miss Drummond. “Look.”

And a second Miss Druxnmond, shrieking, was nailed into a coffin and thrust into the raw earth under the floor.

“Why, I remember that,” gasped the Investigator of Moral Climates. “From the old forbidden books. The Premature Burial. And the others. The Pit, the Pendulum, and the ape, the chimney, the Murders in the Rue Morgue. In a book I burned, yes!”

“Another drink, Garrett. Here, hold your glass steady.”

“My lord, you have an imagination, haven’t you?”

They stood and watched five others die, one in the mouth of a dragon, the others thrown off into the black tarn, sinking and vanishing.

“Would you like to see what we have planned for you?” asked Stendahl.

“Certainly,” said Garrett. “What’s the difference? We’ll blow the whole damn thing up, anyway. You’re nasty.”

“Come along then. This way.”

And he led Garrett down into the floor, through numerous passages and down again upon spiral stairs into the earth, into the catacombs.

“What do you want to show me down here?” said Garrett.

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Categories: Bradbury, Ray