Friday, November 18, 2016

"Murder Was Not Popular, These Days"

By A. A. Walde (?-?).
First appearance: Worlds of IF, July 1966.
Reprinted several times (HERE).
Novelette (30 pages).
Online at (HERE).
"The police methods of tomorrow always work — except this time, when the victim did not exist!"
In a world not far removed from the one anticipated by Orwell, where everyone's activities are monitored infinitely more closely than they are today, how do you commit a murder and hope to get away with it? The answer, obviously, is you don't . . . but, as if in defiance of such a tightly regulated society, a confused robot finds a corpse lying in an alley, fresh as 
a daisy . . .
Principal characters:
~ The police commissioner (our unnamed narrator):
   "There were very few of us, at least those of us who had jobs worth having, who went to their work instead of having it come to them. I had to put up with it, though. A policeman's lot was not a happy one."
~ Betty, the commissioner's secretary:
   "She was smart, reliable, flexible and even quite attractive. Luckily, she never found out how to make the most of her good points. Homicide department was no place for happily married people. Homicide department was no place for happy people. At least, we never 
had any."
~ The victim:
   ". . . was male, I guessed his age at seventeen, possibly nineteen. He was either nude or naked, depending on whether he wanted to be that way. One of his arms was under him, the other thrown back with the elbow bent in a way unbroken bones could not manage. He was heavily bruised, and his face was bloody."
~ M'Pher, the former police commissioner:
   "He recoiled slightly, then examined it closely, but without touching it. He was mesmer-ized, like the mythical bird hypnotized by a serpent."
~ O'Moore, the high mayor:
   "The mayor spoke again. 'But there are still stilyegi?' He was shocked just as I had been."
Typos: "when he shaw the body"; "didn't realize than anyone"; sloppy punctuation.

The bottom line: "If once a man indulges himself in murder, very soon he comes to think little of robbing; and from robbing he comes next to drinking and Sabbath-breaking, and from that to incivility and procrastination."
Thomas de Quincey

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