Broghman stood on the corner of that dusty little town, watching grasshoppers sweeping over the hot blue sky in a curtain.

The bank was across the street. A stolen automobile, its motor still running warm, was parked in front of it. He’d parked it there with his own hands and then strode across the searing hot asphalt to stand here on this corner, sweating, thinking, knowing that there was something ahead of him that he wanted.

He wasn’t certain what it was. Maybe it was in the bank. Maybe it had to do with guns, power, danger and—something else.

The gun was heavy in its leather nest under his arm.

Something he wanted for a long time. What? Something he wanted.

A woman walked along with a slow, thoughtful walk. Her eyes went through him, away, and then slid back again to make a man of him, up and down, and her red lips parted as if she knew his mind. Broghman swallowed thickly, trying to look away.

She stood there, eyes narrowing. Then, she revolved slowly, put one foot after the other with a sort of measured rhythm, and went away with her hair like long fire on her neck, and her eyes like amber metal that could catch emotion and keep it there.

Broghman’s stomach muscles lay down like crouching animals. He began to walk. Across the streaming street, up the high curb. His big ears pricked, alert. There—the car motor, still muttering inside its casing. Now into the cool cavern of the bank. Cool expanse of marble. Shining cages that kept domesticated animals inside them with cool green money at their pale, domesticated fingertips.

Broghman lifted the dead weight of the gun, fitted into his calloused hand.

From there on, things resolved into slow, sludgy, underwater gestures of people suspended in a slow motion film. Lazily, his face slowly shading white under the regular pallor of his skin, the little teller shifted a slow hand to money stacked in green stratas, extracted it sluggishly, shoved it gradually forward until it sank with agonizing lack of gravity into Broghman’s palm. He pocketed the money. It took what seemed like three minutes to do it.

Then things speeded up to triple action. An alarm gong was like a kick of adrenalin setting things into blurred quickness. Echoes of the gong jumped back from marble cliffs, warning.

Broghman ran across smooth stone acres. People shouted. Everything whirled hotly in his eyes when the sun struck him as he entered the daylight.

He didn’t know if it was the sun or not, but when he twisted the car door open, he pulled back and gasped.

She waited for him in the car.

That woman with the hair like long fire and the eyes like yellow metal, who’d walked by him a few minutes ago, looking into him and knowing him and walking on. Her hard fingers gripped the steering wheel, so that the knuckles stood out whitely.

Recovering, he swung sideways into the seat, poking the gun. "Get out!"

"No," she said it simply, and meant it.

He pushed the gun further, against her white blouse.

"I said get out!"

Her answer was to engage the gears, jump the accelerator, thrusting the car away from the curb, shrieking rubber. She flushed the car to seventy miles an hour before he knew what she was doing. He had glimpses of darting trees, spinning signs, buildings, with her voice biting through it all:

"I’m driving! Wherever you want to go, I’m driving!"

Sitting there, the color rose in his protruding cheekbones. He glanced back at the vanishing main street. "Move fast, that’s all. Take Highway 43."

"Don’t be dumb," she snapped it back at him. "That’s a graveyard road. We’ll go my way. I know this damned burg inside and out, like a book."

He realized he was shuddering, and had to clasp his knees, bending to ease the sick pain in his belly, as if he’d been shot.

"What’s wrong?" she said. "They get you?"

"No." He made himself straight. "I’m all right. I imagine things...."

From KILLER, COME BACK TO ME, copyright © 2020 by Ray Bradbury Literary Works, LLC

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