The Robot Brains
- 1 -
"This is an interesting story. Doctor," said the police inspector's politely.
"Interesting?" Doctor Fox jumped from his chair and waved his finger under the inspector nose. "Let me remind you that they are murdering people!"
Fox was very excited. He was walking up and down the room. He was a short man with a plump face and wore spectacles. He had a reputation of having his own opinion on everything under the sun.
"What is your theory, Doctor?" said the inspector. "This organization which you talk about - what motive can they have? If you can tell me something about the weapon with which they kill, I'll be grateful."
Fox shook his head.
"I only know what I've read in the papers. Some kind of energy discharge, that is clear."
The inspector looked at the clock on the wall and knew that tea was waiting. He sighed. Fox suddenly sat down.
"You don't have to accept my theory," he said, "but you have to accept the facts. I checked carefully. Each time one of these murders took place, the Burkholder Fair was nearby. Every time - that can't be coincidence."
The inspector nodded.
"Doctor Fox, the first victim - Professor Leach - was a friend of yours, I believe. Don't you think that fact played on your nerves a little?"
Fox jumped to his feet again. He could not remain still for a moment.
"So you think I'm talking nonsense, Inspector! Well, let me tell you -»
The Inspector pressed a button on his desk, and a sergeant in a uniform opened the door.
"Show Doctor Fox out," said the Inspector.
The doctor left the police station. He walked, talking to himself.
"What the devil can I do? If only Christian were here…"
He stopped in the street. "Why not?" he thought. Why not, indeed! He would send for Christian at once.
He hurried to the post-office to send a telegram.
Meanwhile the inspector was drinking his tea and thinking over what he had just heard. It was absurd, of course. Yet, Fox was a scientist… The inspector saw no connection between the victims, except the manner in which they had died. The whole thing seemed to have no motive. The inspector was puzzled.
- 2 -
A neon sing was flashing:
FAIR FAIR FAIR
There was a lot of noise and movement. The crowds moved between tents and swings; coloured lights blinked on and off, sounds of music mixed with the shrieks of girls
On a wooden platform before a large tent a tall man spoke into a microphone:
"Come, ladies and gentlemen, for the greatest show of all! Burkholder is my name and I personally guarantee that you've never seen or heard anything like this before. Come and see the Brains! They'll answer any question you give them, any question on any subject! I am so sure of it that I offer five pounds to anyone who beats them. Come, ladies and gentlemen. The price is one shilling. One shilling to learn the mysteries of the universe!"
Burkholder took out of his pocket a five-pound note and showed it to everybody.
"Here it is, ladies and gentlemen! Five pounds to the man who asks a question which the Brains cannot answer. Pay your shillings and take your seats."
More and more people entered the tent. Inside there was a raised platform now curtained off. When all the benches were occupied, Burkholder entered the tent and went up to the platform.
"Ladies and gentlemen," he said, "I hope you have prepared your questions. Ask anything you like. Now I give you… the Brains!"
The curtain went up, and the people saw three men who were sitting on the stage.
The Brains looked very much alike. Each was a dwarf, dressed in a suit of grey colour. What attracted everybody's attention at once was their heads. They were very big, quite out of proportion to their little bodies.
The Brains looked down at the people, without smiling.
Burkholder said: "Ask your questions, please. You have only half an hour"
There was a pause. A lady at the back of the tent whispered to her neighbour: "I don't like the look of them at all!"
Indeed, there was something evil in the Brains; it seemed they were devoid of all humanity.
At last a schoolboy asked:
"Is space really empty?"
"No," answered the Brain in the centre. "The space is only relatively empty. There is a lot of dust and gas between the stars. Also many types of radiation."
After that more questions were asked:
"Is a sea-horse a fish?"
"What is the capital of Pakistan?"
"Who wrote 'The Count of Monte Cristo'?"
"Are there such things as ghosts?"
The Brains answered the questions in turn. The half-hour passed quickly, and the curtain fell.
- 3 -
Miller was a big man with short hair and a soft voice. He never hurried. When he reached his office, he was called to the Old Man. He walked along the corridor, knocked at the door and entered.
"Sit down, Miller," said the Old Man.
Miller sat down.
"I want you to make an investigation," said the Old Man. "I have a report from the police. The report concerns these murders. Have you read about them?"
"I've read the newspapers," said Miller.
"All the victims have been beheaded. No heads have been found; the neck of each beheaded body was cauterized. It is supposed that the heads were totally destroyed. Of course, we are interested to know what sort of weapon was used."
"The murders," went on the Old Man, "look like the work of one man or one organization…"
"Now they have a report from a certain Doctor Fox. He thinks that the murderer is connected with the Burkholder Fair. It is now at Reading. I want you to go to Reading and see what you can find."
"Who is this Fox?" asked Miller.
"An unusual person. He is a scientist who has an opinion of his own on everything. He writes a lot for the newspapers on such subjects as flying saucers and teleportation."
"Is that all?" asked Miller.
"I think so," said the Old Man.
Miller stood up.
"I'll send a report as soon as I have something."
"All right," said the Old Man. "And, Miller, - don't lose your head."
- 4 -
The motor yacht Sea Mist lay in a quiet and peaceful part of the Thames. She was a good ship, her paint was spotless and her metal parts well polished. Everything about her pointed to the fact that her owner was a good sailor and proud of his ship.
In the long cabin Captain Christian sat reading the day's newspapers and smoking a thin black cigar. He was a tall man, well-dressed; he had a blond beard and sea-blue eyes. As he turned the pages of the newspaper, the light of the lantern shone on the headline:
GIRL SCIENTIST NEW VICTIM OF STRANGE MURDERER
Lovely Margaret Greenways, research biologist, is a new victim of the killer. Her body was found early this morning, beheaded, as all the victims of this madman.
Miss Greenways has been working on a secret method to improve the quality of potatoes.
As usual, the head was not found - the fifth murder of this kind. When will the police make an arrest? The public have a right to…
Christian remembered the newspaper articles about the other murders of this kind:
A headless body… the neck cauterized.
He put the newspaper aside, stood up, put on a cap and went upstairs. He felt he needed fresh air.