By Richard Casey (house pseudonym, possibly Leroy Yerxa, 1915-46).
First appearance: Fantastic Adventures, October 1945.
Short short story (7 pages).
Parental caution: Graphic violence and strong language.
"It seemed a good way to collect insurance. Death by fire was a horrible death, to be sure, but it was hard to prove such a death was murder."When you're dead, you're dead, right? Warren Serge and Peter Larrs believe that, so murdering their partner for the love of money holds no terrors for them—but their
victim has other ideas:
. . . He felt sick. Sick all the way through. He looked back at the faint light on the street he had left. An unreasonable horror crept over him. He could smell gasoline. The odor stung his nostrils. He imagined he could smell the odor of burning flesh.
It wasn't cold, but he drew up his coat collar and walked faster. The horror followed him. Death smells like that, he thought, and stopped short by the gate that opened on the alley. His hand was on the gate when two steel hands closed about his throat. His mouth opened and he tried to shout. Smoke, choking black smoke shot into his mouth and seared his throat. He struggled, and was lifted from the ground, those hands holding firmly, refusing to give an inch under his clawing, desperate fingers. . . .Comments: A short, violent, and unpleasant little story of betrayal and retribution that,
like so many fantasy horror tales, manufactures its own theology for the sake of narrative effect.
- If this "Richard Casey" really was Leroy Yerxa, then what's at the ISFDb HERE and the SFE HERE will have some relevance.
The bottom line: "It was a pleasure to burn."
— Ray Bradbury