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Authors: Richard Matheson

Fury on Sunday

BOOK: Fury on Sunday
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Fury on Sunday

Richard Matheson

Copyright

Fury on Sunday
Copyright © 1953, 2014 by Richard Matheson
Cover art, special contents, and Electronic Edition © 2014 by RosettaBooks LLC

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review.

Cover jacket design by Brad Albright
ISBN e-Pub edition: 9780795336058

Contents

1:00 AM

1:15 AM

1:50 AM

2:30 AM

3:15 AM

3:20 AM

3:40 AM

4:00 AM

4:15 AM

4:35 AM

4:40 AM

5:00 AM

1:00 AM

There was moonlight on his face and he was playing a funeral march. But there wasn’t any piano. There was just the cot he was lying on, low and narrow, without any bedding except a coarse brown blanket wrapped tightly around the mattress. He lay on the blanket, fully clothed, his head resting on a thin pillow. The wide shaft of moonlight flooding across his body lit up the whiteness of his lean hands while they played Chopin on his legs. There was silence in the ward but he heard the music in his head.

He was a young man, about 26 years old, with tangled black hair and dark eyes. His face was the work of a sculptor who had forgotten to stop at the right place; who had, in attempting perfection, overdone the job, cutting everything to paper thinness—ears and nostrils that seemed liable to tear, and lips and chin like brittle glass that might shatter at the slightest blow. And all white—alabaster, ivory white.

He lay straight on the mattress, the gray-flannel trousered legs stretched out so taut that the heels of his ankle-high shoes pressed against the railing at the foot of the bed. His chest, covered by a shirt of grey flannel, rose and fell slowly and evenly.

Breathe correctly, Vincent. You must have the breath control of a distance runner.

The eyes that had been staring at the high ceiling now closed tightly. The hands were transformed to white spiders that jumped on his legs, gouging and scraping out music.

Not triple f, Vincent, double f, for the love of God!

The dirge crashed in his ears and the chords echoed down the endless passage of clouded darkness that was his brain.

Now the slow reflective passage came to life beneath his fingers, consoling. He opened his eyes again to stare at the ceiling.

He was waiting for Harry. Harry was the male nurse who handled the ward, an ape of a man with plastered-down hair and fat hands with black hair on their backs. Lying there, Vince thought about those hands while his own rippled gently over the keyboard that wasn’t.

Harry’s hands weren’t piano hands, Vince knew. Harry had ape hands that were coming soon to pluck him from the darkness. He could almost see Harry moving down the outside hall for the door that led to the ward. He could almost see the door opening and Harry standing there, waiting for him.

His hands punched down and a crescendo of despair mounted in his brain. He didn’t want to think of Harry so he pushed aside the thought of his moist searching hands, the vacuous smile. He jammed his eyes shut and propelled himself back to Town Hall. The audience was rapt. They held their breaths while he ended the funeral march, paused dramatically, then drove himself into the incredible fury of the last sonata movement.

Now he was really there. He had driven away all memories. There was no Ruth in his life. No Bob. No Stan or Jane. No Saul. He was alone with his music; the music that had always been his only comfort. He was bent over the keyboard, brow glistening with sweat, hands a blur of white movement on the keys, drawing out crystal sound from the stillness. Faster and faster. The sound of the music welled up in his brain.

Then the little man who had stabbed his wife sixteen times with a carving knife began to cough.

Vince’s hands snapped into fists that trembled in the moonlight. His teeth clicked together and his body shuddered on the bed. The need for violence pushed out from his insides until he felt as if it would force out the walls of his body. It came on him like this, his temper. It came pounding up from his guts, eager for destruction.

Vince rolled onto his stomach and clamped his teeth on the pillow.

Vincent, you simply must control your temper!

A hissing breath escaped his lips. The memory of forgotten words only made it worse. He tossed onto his back and pushed up to a tense position, eyes wide open, planning to rush down to the little man’s bed and squeeze the coughing from his lungs.

Then the man stopped coughing and went back to sleep. Vince caught himself, waited a moment, then fell back on the pillow. After a moment, he smiled in the moonlight.

Not now. Not when his chance was here at last. He’d waited too long to throw it away on a moment’s vengeance. His breathing slowed down and he cleared his throat softly. I can control myself.
I’m sane. That’s the difference between a sane man and an insane man. When you’re sane you have control. He smiled again.

Then he rolled on his side and looked toward the door that Harry would open soon. The door that led out to freedom. To revenge.

Madhouse, he thought, and his fingers tinkled a witty improvisation on his legs. They thought him mad. That was their mistake. Did the truly mad plot escape the way he did, with detail and care? No, not the mad. They gibbered and beat fists on the plaster walls and kicked at the door until Harry came. But they never planned like this. He kept his eyes on the door, his hands drawing at each other as he waited. In his mind he went over the plan again. It was very simple. Once he had escaped he would leave the building and take the subway down to 18th Street. Walk a few short blocks in the early morning when the streets were deserted. Ring the bell, go upstairs and wait outside the door. Then when Bob came to the door…

His knuckles cracked as he drew his hands into fists.

But what if Ruth came to the door first? His brow knitted at the sudden problem. Then he nodded curtly to himself. Never mind that. She’d understand why he was there. She wouldn’t stop him. After all, wasn’t she as much a prisoner as he was? Maybe she wasn’t behind locked doors but she was a prisoner anyway. Held in a more vicious kind of chains, the chains of emotional terror.

Poor Ruth. She’d suffered long enough. Well, he’d take care of her. After Bob was dead they could go away somewhere together. He could get a job doing something. He had strong hands. Maybe he could play the piano in a bar at night when no one could see his face. But that didn’t matter. It wasn’t important that he played the piano anymore. He made a soft, scoffing sound. What was piano music to compare with his love for Ruth?

Yes, that was the plan. The long wait was ended. Escape, revenge, escape, revenge, es…

He was up like a hungry cat at the slight clicking in the door lock. He crouched in the shadows by the bedside, licking the sweat drops from his upper lip.

The door opened.

Harry stood there, square and white. Vince remained motionless, hearing in his brain thumping piano music beneath the liquid voice of the male nurse. The voice that always made Vince feel as if hands were massaging syrup into his brain.
You like Harry, don’t you Vincie
boy? Harry likes you. You’re a nice little boy and Harry will take care of you.

Vince took a deep breath and stood up. He started to walk down the aisle between the beds. Harry stood motionless, waiting. Vince’s stomach muscles were tense at the sight of him. His fingers bent over into tight arcs at his sides. He moved stealthily through the ward of the sleeping mad. He didn’t want any of them to wake up and start a disturbance. Everything had to go right.

He walked by the next window and the moonlight bathed him in its whiteness.

Then he started violently as a low chuckle sounded in the darkness at his left. His black eyes darted over and he saw Kramer sitting up in bed, watching him. Vince stiffened, but he kept walking. He wouldn’t stop now. If Kramer tried to stop him, then Kramer would die. He kept on walking and Kramer only chuckled again as if he knew something.

Vince smiled to himself. Well, let the fool chuckle. If he only knew that Vince would be out of the place soon, he’d stop chuckling soon enough.

He looked at Harry. Harry wouldn’t stop him from escaping either. No matter how strong he was. Vince thought of raking out those watching eyes and stamping on them. He’d scrape them out the way he’d scraped Jane’s face that night when she tried to seduce him. The way he’d tried to do with Saul that day before the maid had come in and found them.

Harry stepped back and Vince stood nervously in the hallway. He heard the door shut behind him and the sound of it shutting away his prison was like a chord of triumph.

He padded along quietly beside Harry, controlling his urge to twist away from the moist hand that lay on his shoulder, the heavy arm pressing across his back. At his sides, his hands still ran over his legs with menacing glissandos. They hovered and waited.

Build to the climax, Vincent! Build to it!

“Did you wait long for Harry, Vincie boy?”

Vince made a sound of assent. Be quiet, he told himself. Harry mustn’t suspect anything about the escape.

“That’s good, boy. I like your spirit. I told you I’d take care of you. Didn’t I?”

Another sound of assent.

“Speak up, Vincie boy, speak up. Nothing to be scared of. We’re gonna have a nice time, you and me. A few smokes, a couple shots of whiskey and—who knows?” He jabbed his elbow into Vince’s side. “Eh, Vincie, boy?”

Vince nodded. He didn’t hear what Harry was saying. His eyes kept moving down to the end of the hall. There was an office there. Vince remembered when they brought him there he had sat in the office and been finger-printed. There was a guard there, too, and the guard would have a pistol.

“Whoa, there. Where you goin’, Vincie boy? This is Harry’s room right here. You think you’re out for a stroll, boy?”

The voice was slightly menacing. Vince smiled as if he didn’t hear the menace. He waited quietly while Harry pushed open the door and gestured for him to go in. He entered the small room and heard the big male nurse follow him in. He saw the dim bulb burning overhead. Then the door shut, the lock clicked and Vince’s throat moved. He pressed his thin lips together. If he failed, he’d kill himself.

“Sit down, Vincie boy. Take a load off your feet.”

Vince turned and looked at Harry’s face, the pink, smooth skin, the fat sweat drops under his nose.

“I said, sit down, Vincie boy,” the voice warned gently.

Vince sank down on the bed that had its covers thrown back. His hands flinched on the cool sheet. His eyes moved to the bedside table; to the half empty whiskey bottle on top of it, its cap off and lying beside it; to the open pack of Chesterfields. They didn’t get cigarettes in the ward. Vince licked his lips.

“You want a butt, Vincie boy? You want one?

Vince swallowed. He nodded once.

“Well go ahead, boy. Have a butt on Harry. That’s all right.”

Vince reached for the pack. Harry’s hand closed over his.

“You remember favors, don’t you boy?” Harry said. “When a pal does you a favor you remember it, don’t you?”

Vince looked blank. Harry patted his cheek and nodded, chuckling.

“Sure you do, Vincie boy. When a pal does you a favor, you remember it. Take one, Vincie boy. Light up. Enjoy yourself.”

The fumes tickled deliciously in his throat and nostrils.
Time
, he heard a voice,
you need time
. Over the glowing tip of the cigarette,
he looked around the room at the closet, the bureau, the throw rug on the floor.

Then there was a rustling sound and Vince, looking up suddenly, saw that Harry had pulled off his white, short-sleeved shirt. His face tightened.

“What’s the matter, Vincie boy? Take it easy. Harry won’t bite your head off. Harry is your pal, remember?”

Vince looked bleakly at the dark swirls of hair that covered Harry’s chest, the fat ridges that pushed over the belt line.

“Relax, Vincie boy. You’re on a picnic, a regular picnic.”

Harry’s voice dripped like honey. But Vince had heard the same tone in his voice the time Harry had crushed in an old Italian’s nose with one blow. Vince remembered the scream. He remembered the writhing body on the floor. A shiver passed over his body. He’d have to wait. He sat there smoking and his right hand played Scriabine and didn’t know.

“How about a little pick-me-up, Vincie boy? You drink, don’t you? Sure you do. There’s nothing like a nice little pick-me-up to get us girls acquainted.”

The amber liquid gurgled into the two glasses as Harry poured. Vince watched the hands. He was thinking of how Harry had watched him for a long time. When the men took their showers and Harry stood in the doorway to see there was no trouble, Vince had seen the male nurse watching him, running his eyes over the smooth leanness of Vince’s body, the small, hard muscles, the firm stomach.

BOOK: Fury on Sunday
6.71Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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