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´╗┐Title: Les Machines
Author: Love, Joe
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Les Machines" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



                             LES MACHINES

                              BY JOE LOVE

       _There are human beings who function "like machines" and
      there are machines which seem to be "almost human". So--the
       problem in this case was not murder, or who committed it
       but who was the "machine" and who was the "human being"._

           [Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from
             Worlds of If Science Fiction, December 1954.
         Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
         the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]


On January 5, 1997 Isobel Smith became Isobel Smith d'Larte. On
November 13, 1997 Isobel Smith d'Larte gave birth to a boy-child who
died. And on March 20, 1998 Isobel Smith d'Larte was placed on trial
for the willful and premeditated murder of her husband Arnaud d'Larte.

"Not Isobel," said her friends. "Not Isobel. Too mousey. So quiet.
Surely it wasn't Isobel."

"But it's the quiet type you've got to watch out for," said others.
"Probably has a lover somewhere. She was younger than her husband you
know. Much younger. Too much younger."

"Killed him for his money," said the people on the street. "Read where
she likes art and museums, stuff like that. Must be a queer one that
Isobel d'Larte."

The accusations piled high against Isobel, but she said nothing. She
sat in court, a tiny figure in black saying nothing, seemingly not even
listening to the accusations of the Prosecutor.

"We will prove willful and premeditated murder," the Prosecutor
thundered.

"Easily done," an old woman in the audience murmured spitefully. "Young
wife, old husband. Rich husband. Murder! Easily proved."

"First witness," the Prosecutor called. "Sergeant Melot."

Sergeant Melot took the stand. The witness chair creaked under his
weight. He answered a loud, "I do," when the clerk swore him in.

"Tell us about finding the body," the Prosecutor said. "Miss no
details."

"A Mrs. Watson, servant of Arnaud d'Larte, called us at nine five P.M.
on March 15. Her master was dead, she said. When we answered her call
we found Mr. d'Larte's body in his bedroom. He had been dead for about
an hour."

"The cause?"

"Beaten to death. Beaten with an iron statue of Venus. Evidence of a
struggle. Twenty wounds on his head."

"Twenty wounds, Sergeant Melot?"

"Twenty. The first, or second, would have been enough to kill him. But
there were twenty."

The audience gasped and the Prosecutor smiled. "And where was Mrs.
d'Larte?" he asked.

"Locked in her bedroom. Had to break the door down to get to her."

"Did you speak to her?"

"We spoke to her, but she didn't speak to us."

The audience laughed and the judge rapped for silence.

"The iron statue of Venus, the one found near Mr. d'Larte's body, you
found fingerprints on it, did you not?" Sergeant Melot nodded. "Whose
fingerprints were they, Sergeant Melot?"

"Mrs. d'Larte's."

"Your witness," the Prosecutor told the Defense.

"No questions," said the Defense.

"Why ask questions," a spectator commented. "She's guilty."

"Next witness."

"Mrs. Abby Watson to the stand please."

Abby Watson strode to the witness chair. Her shrew-like eyes flicked
sharply towards Isobel d'Larte then away. Her answer to the clerk who
swore her in was sharp and positive.

"How long have you worked for Mr. d'Larte?" the Prosecutor asked.

"Fifteen years."

"In your opinion Mr. d'Larte was a good employer?"

"The best. A wonderful man, but a lonely one. That woman tricked him
into marriage. Played on his loneliness."

"Objection."

"Objection sustained. Confine yourself to the questions please."

"Mr. d'Larte was older than his wife?" the Prosecutor asked.

"Eighteen years older."

"Was it a happy marriage?"

"At first, at least on his part. He was contented, but she seemed
restless. Always wanted to go to museums and see paintings, or playing
her silly antique records all day. Not content with the government
'Do-It-Yourself' kits. Called them mechanical and expressionless. She
insulted Mr. d'Larte's friends time and again. Called them frauds. Said
their paintings, books and plays were terrible. Said that real talent
was dead.

"You said she spent a lot of time in museums?"

"I didn't say it, but she did. Every chance she got. She'd be gone for
hours."

"Which museum? The one commemorating the wars? The Museum of Mechanics?"

"None of those. She'd go to the old one on the hill. That horrible
thing with the relics of the past in it. The one run by the robots. The
one run by the government to remind us of the past when only a few were
allowed talent and not everybody like today. But I think she went to
the museum for another reason. No one could _really_ be interested in
those things they have there."

"What do you think she went for, Mrs. Watson?"

"To meet her lover. Shortly before he was killed Mr. d'Larte confessed
to me that he was of the same opinion."

"See, I told you she had a lover," someone whispered. "Old husband,
young wife. I just knew there was a lover."

"Objection," said the Defense. "There is no proof that Mrs. d'Larte
went to the museum to meet a lover. There are only opinions, guesses."

"If your honor will permit me to call my next witness I think I can
prove that there was a lover," the Prosecutor said.

The judge leaned forward in eager anticipation. "Call your witness."

"Bella Whychek."

A fat, dumpy, flame-haired woman made her way to the witness stand. As
she was sworn in she tugged self-consciously at her too tight girdle.

"Miss Whychek--"

"Mrs. ... I'm a widow."

"Mrs. Whychek, would you tell us where you are employed."

"Timon's and Sons. I'm a secretary there."

"And where is your office located."

"In the building just across the street from the Museum of the
Past--the one you were just talking about to that other woman."

"Mrs. Whychek, do you recognize the woman sitting over there?" the
Prosecutor asked as he pointed to Isobel d'Larte.

"Indeed I do. I saw her most everyday."

"Would you tell us the circumstances."

"Well, from the window in my office I have a very good view of the park
that is next to the museum. About a month ago I began noticing that
woman in the park. I couldn't help but notice her, she came so often."

"Alone, Mrs. Whychek?"

"At first yes. She'd go into the museum, stay about two hours or so,
then come out and sit in the park. She never did anything but sit."

"Was she always alone?"

"I was just coming to that. After about a week I noticed that a man
would come and sit with her in the park."

"Could you describe the man?"

"No, I'm afraid I couldn't. He always wore a long overcoat and a hat
pulled down over his face. Both the overcoat and the hat were very old
though. I did notice that. They looked like they might have dated from
around 1950."

"And what did this man and Mrs. d'Larte do in the park?"

"Just sat. Talked I guess. I never saw them kiss or anything if that's
what you mean. Of course many times they would still be sitting there
when I left work. What they did after that I don't know."

"But Mrs. d'Larte definitely did meet a man in the park."

"Oh, yes. She met him nearly every day for almost a month."

"Thank you. Your witness."

The Defense rose slowly and walked over to where Mrs. Whychek sat.

"Remember you are under oath, Mrs. Whychek," he said. "You say Mrs.
d'Larte and this man merely sat and talked?"

"As far as I could tell that's all they did. Of course I didn't watch
them every minute."

"Then you can say that they never did anything out of the way, that
their meetings, if they were that, were innocent?"

"As far as I could tell they were."

"Could you say whether the meetings were prearranged?"

"I really couldn't, but--"

"That will be all, thank you," the Defense interrupted.

So the first day of the trial went. There seemed no doubt that Isobel
d'Larte was guilty. Her friends admitted loudly that poor Isobel had
scandalized them to the core. The papers labeled Isobel queer and
hinted that her lover, whoever he might be, killed Mr. d'Larte for her.
Old fashioned Isobel, they called her. Some had other names for her.

       *       *       *       *       *

On the second day of the trial the Defense called its witnesses. There
were only three. Two were character witnesses who hesitantly assured
the court that Isobel d'Larte could not have killed her husband. She
really was a good woman.

The third witness was Isobel herself. When she was called she rose very
slowly and walked to the witness stand. She was sworn in and seated
herself in the witness chair. Her face and hands were chalk white
against the blackness of her dress.

"Mrs. d'Larte, did you kill your husband?" the Defense asked.

"No."

"Do you know who did kill your husband?"

"No."

"Why did you lock yourself in your bedroom the night he was killed."

"I wanted to be alone."

The spectators giggled.

"Could you explain how your fingerprints came to be on the iron statue
of Venus? The statue that killed your husband."

"It was my statue. It is quite possible that my fingerprints would be
on it."

"And you heard nothing, no sounds of struggle, the night your husband
was killed?"

"No. I slept awhile that night. I was tired so I locked my door and
slept. I heard nothing."

"Do you know who would want to kill your husband?"

"An enemy I suppose."

"Did your husband have any enemies?"

"Of course, everyone does. Even God has enemies."

That shocked the spectators, but then Isobel had meant it to.
Quite suddenly she found herself hating those in the packed court
room. Hating these upright citizens who had come to delight in her
misfortune. Who sat in smug holier-than-thou attitudes and hoped for
the worst. Not one among them really cared what happened to her--as
long as it entertained them. Isobel shivered.

"Could you be more specific about your husband's enemies?" the Defense
asked.

"No. He never confided in me. He was only interested in his munitions
factories. In machines. He loved machines. He particularly loved
destructive machines. Some hated him for that."

"The man Mrs. Whychek said you met in the park. Was there such a man?"

Isobel twisted her handkerchief. It was a thin, white snake in her
hands.

"Was there a man, Mrs. d'Larte?" the Defense repeated.

"There was a man."

"Could you tell us his name?"

"I do not know his name. He was a man I met in the park. He was a kind
and gentle man. We talked about art, music--the beautiful old art and
music. He was well informed about such things. We talked a lot, but I
don't know his name. We just talked."

"Were you in love with this man, or he with you?"

"No! No!"

"You definitely were not lovers?"

"We were not!"

"Thank you, Mrs. d'Larte. Your witness."

The Prosecutor approached the witness stand. "Mrs. d'Larte, you do not
like the 'Do-It-Yourself' kits the government has put out, do you?"

"I do not."

"You do not approve or recognize the fact that today everyone is
conceded to have talent, do you?"

"I do not."

"Why, Mrs. d'Larte?"

"Anyone can paint, but everyone isn't an artist. Anyone can write, but
everyone isn't an author. Anyone can do anything, but everyone does not
have talent."

"So you spent a great deal of your time in the Museum of the Past
looking at the _so-called_ art treasures there?"

"Yes. They were worth looking at."

"And you did not use that to cover up the fact that you met your lover
at the museum?"

"I do not have a lover."

"The man you met in the park, you just talked to him?"

"We talked about the wonderful, the beautiful things in the museum. He
knew about them and loved them as I did. There was no one else I could
talk to about them."

"Naturally," the Prosecutor sneered. "Everyone else knows what frauds
they are."

The spectators laughed.

"Then I like the frauds," Isobel said quietly.

"You claim you were in your bedroom with the door locked and asleep
when Mr. d'Larte was killed. Is that right?"

"That is right."

"And even though your bedroom is right next to Mr. d'Larte's you heard
nothing. Is _that_ right?"

"Yes."

"Your husband struggled, struggled hard before he died, Mrs. d'Larte.
You'll forgive me if I seem skeptical of the fact that you heard
nothing."

"I was asleep. I heard nothing."

"No cry? No crashes?"

"I heard nothing!"

"And the man in the park--he was not your lover?"

"He was _not_ my lover."

The Prosecutor turned to the judge with a grim smile. "Your honor, I
request a recess so that I may bring in a new witness."

"This witness is not in the court room?"

"No. I myself only learned of him a few minutes ago. It will take about
a half-hour to bring him here."

"And this witness is important?"

"Yes. I believe he can prove that Mrs. d'Larte is lying."

"Then this court is recessed until the prosecution brings in the new
witness."

The spectators buzzed and jibbered excitedly. A new witness. A surprise
witness. The trial was really becoming interesting.

"I hate to leave. I really hate to leave," one said to her companion.
"I'll never get back in if I leave. But one must eat. I hate to leave."

"No need. No need to leave," the companion assured her. "See, I
brought sandwiches. Always bring something to eat to things like this.
People crowd so. It's really terrible. Have an egg?"

"Pretty good trial," an old man with a white beard told the person next
to him. "Not as good as the Bronson trial, but pretty good."

"You've seen a lot of trials?" the figure next to him asked.

"Seen all the good ones," the one with the beard said proudly. "Saw the
Bronson trial in '96, the Treamont trial in '94. Saw a lot of trials.
First time that I've seen one where a wife killed her husband. Most
of the others involved infanticide. Good trials, you understand, but
disappointing. All the verdicts were not guilty."

"Naturally. With over-population infanticide isn't a crime. Rather more
like a good deed these days."

"Understand they are going to legalize the killing of unwanted
children."

"Should have been done long ago."

"People should be more careful. If they don't want children, they
should be more careful."

"If you know you can get rid of them, why be careful?"

A woman fanned herself with her pocketbook and glanced at her
companion. "Have another sandwich, dear?"

"No, on a diet you know." The companion sighed. "It's too bad that they
abolished capital punishment. Believe me, this d'Larte hussy deserves
it."

"But it's so much better the way they do it now, I mean sending the
guilty to the wars to fight in the front lines. Might as well get some
use out of them."

"True. But why bother killing a husband? Divorcing them is so much
easier. Only takes a day and you get half the husband's earnings."

"You should know, dear. You've done it enough."

"Only seven times."

"I thought it was eight?"

"I don't count Rodger. The lout killed himself so he wouldn't have to
pay me a settlement. Ah, here comes the judge."

       *       *       *       *       *

The spectators stood lazily as the judge entered, then reseated
themselves and buzzed in anticipation.

"Your witness has arrived?" the judge asked.

"Yes, Your Honor," the Prosecutor replied.

"Then call him."

The witness was called and sworn in as the spectators gawked at him
eagerly.

"Good looking. Dark. Evil eyes though. Black eyes. I like dark eyes,
don't you?"

"Dark blue coat. Lime green sports shirt. Nice combination. Must have a
suit made with those colors."

"Nasty look about that fellow. Wouldn't trust him."

"Who is he?"

"Shhhhhhhhhh!"

Isobel d'Larte stared at the witness in fear.

"Your name, please," the Prosecutor demanded of the witness.

"Andy Kirk."

"You are Mr. d'Larte's nephew?"

"Yep."

"What do you do for a living, Mr. Kirk?"

"Anything, but basically I'm an artist."

"Is that what you are doing at the present time, Mr. Kirk?"

"No. Everybody's an artist today. No room for a good one, a real one."

"Then what do you do, Mr. Kirk?" the Prosecutor asked in exasperation.

"Don't shout. I didn't ask to come here."

"What do you do for a living?" the Prosecutor asked quietly.

"Arnaud--Mr. d'Larte--paid me to follow his wife. To spy on her. He
paid very well."

The spectators gasped happily. "Now we'll hear something," someone said
in a stage whisper. The judge rapped for silence.

"Why did Mr. d'Larte pay you to follow his wife?"

"He thought she had a lover."

"But you heard Mrs. d'Larte claim that she did not have a lover."

"No, I didn't. How could I? I wasn't here."

Laughter rippled through the crowded room and the judge rapped for
silence.

The Prosecutor frowned angrily. "Mrs. d'Larte said under oath that she
did not have a lover."

"She lied."

"Can you prove that she lied?"

"I suppose so."

"And they were really lovers?"

"Mrs. d'Larte told me that she loved him."

"And he loved her I suppose."

"Mrs. d'Larte loved him."

"How long were they lovers?"

"Nearly a month."

"I repeat, can you prove it?"

"I can tell you who her lover is."

"Then by all means do so."

"No! Please, no," Isobel d'Larte cried. "I killed my husband."

When order had been restored in the court the judge stared down at
Isobel.

"Am I to understand that you confess to the murder of Arnaud d'Larte?"

"Yes," Isobel said softly. "I hated him and I killed him. I killed with
the iron statue of Venus. I hit him with it till he died and I hit him
with it after he was dead. I killed him."

Andy Kirk smiled.

It only took a short time to bring in a verdict of guilty against
Isobel d'Larte. She accepted the verdict silently and without
flinching. In like manner she accepted her sentence. She was to be sent
to fight in the front lines of the war in Asia.

"I declare this court adjourned," the judge said and banged his gavel
down authoritatively.

As Isobel d'Larte was taken from the room she was led passed Andy Kirk.
Seeing him, she stopped and stared at him coldly.

"Why did you do this to me?" she asked.

"To help you. If the trial had continued the way it had you would have
been judged insane and executed here in the States. In Asia you may
have a chance."

"Does it make a difference if I have a chance? No one really cares."

"You may find what you've been looking for over there."

"You think so?"

"I hope so."

"I don't understand you, Andy."

"Sometimes one must do bad to do good."

Isobel stared at him not understanding his words, then the guard led
her away. Isobel d'Larte spent the night in jail, and the next morning,
along with twenty other prisoners, was taken to the rocket-port to be
sent to Asia. At the rocket-port the prisoners were allowed to say
their goodbyes to their families without the benefit of guards. Isobel
stood alone watching the tearful farewells, then walked slowly into the
cafeteria. As she sat alone at the corner table drinking coffee a tall
man dressed in an old fashioned top coat and with an old fashioned hat
pulled down over his face walked up to the table and sat down opposite
her. Isobel looked at the figure happily.

"I knew you would come."

"Why did you confess?"

"I did not want them to know about us. They would have made it all so
ugly sounding. They would have made it sound vile ... and it wasn't."
Isobel reached out a hand towards the figure and a metal hand closed
over hers. "I didn't want them to harm you."

"You did it for me?"

"Yes. I love you."

"I'm a robot. A machine. An unfeeling thing of iron and steel. How can
you love me?"

"My husband was the machine. He ate at the same time everyday, dressed
at the same time, went to work at the same time. He did the same
things, thought the same things everyday of his life."

"But he had emotion."

"Only those he had been taught to feel and those only at the proper
times. He was mad when he should be mad and happy when he should be
happy, nothing more. He was much more of a machine than you."

"But I cannot return your love. I do not know what emotion is."

"I had to have someone," Isobel cried. "I had to have someone who was
kind to me. You liked what I liked. You could talk to me of something
besides machines. Machines do everything now. But you could talk to me
of art, music, beauty."

"My creator taught me those things. Taught me to care for those things
in the museum. I would miss them if they were taken away."

"Yes." Sudden tears stung Isobel's eyes. No one would miss her. No one
would care about her.

"I will miss you too, Isobel. I will miss you very much."

"As much as the things in the museum?"

"As much as those. More."

Isobel stood up, leaned over and kissed the metal cheek of the one
opposite her. "Then it was worth it."

"All prisoners assemble on the runway," a harsh voice boomed over the
loudspeaker.

"Perhaps someday I can learn to return love," the robot said.

"You have done more than that. You have made me happy."

"Come back safely, Isobel."

Isobel d'Larte ran to the runway and joined the other prisoners. They
looked at her strangely not understanding her smile. Isobel barely
noticed them, for she was happy. Someone cared for her. That was the
important thing. _Someone cared._





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