A mechanical murder

A Facebook discussion about Alexa linked appliances led to this. I couldn’t help it.


Detective Ironman scowled.

I hate computer generated voices, he thought. Somewhere in that house is a laser reader pointed at the door connected to an alarm that would sound if I touched the doorknob first.

“Yeah, this is the police. We got a call about some incident.”


“Yeah, just a second.”  What if that voice glitches out?  May..May.. ma,ma,may may.. Ma.. ma..I hep, hep, you?”

Ironman chuckled at his own joke and then held up to the camera his police ID.

“Than,,than, thank you, Officer Ironman. The door will open.”

“Ha!” Ironman laughed.

He stepped into a hallway with a tall ceiling and a staircase leading to the second floor. In the room to his right he saw the wall-sized entertainment center with at least eight speakers mounted in the walls, if he counted right. There was a monitor/television unit and several voice-activated control boxes.  The kitchen to his left seemed typical for such an upscale neighborhood: Double-door refrigerator, regular stove and a convection oven, a wall mounted microwave, and a wide marble center island with twin sinks and under counter storage.  Red lights blinked on each appliance, all voice activated.

What Ironman did not see was any indication of an incident.

“So,” he began, “what happened here?”

The disembodied system voice began, “It was nothing … nothi…noth… We sorry we call, called.”

“Yeah, well look. Our command center recorded a message from this location. All calls are recorded. Let me play it for you.”

Ironman pressed a “play” button on the device.

“Hello, police?  I’m in danger. They have me cornered in the sitting room. Five of them. They are…arm…arm…armed.”

Ironman glanced around the room with hard eyes, pausing at each one.

“So, where is the sitting room? And who’s gonna talk?”

Silence, except for the mechanical background hum.

“Alright look, I’m gonna call for back-up and we’re gonna haul each of you to the center for questioning. As far as I see it, you all might be suspects, so we can tap you as much as we want.” Silence, still. “Look, you all have memory chips and optical viewers, so start replaying those files.”  A moment.  “Now!”

Ironman reached to unplug the juicer, and then the toaster.

“Okay, Okay,” the microwave said.  “We didn’t do anything.  It was the lawn equipment.  They over heard a conversation between us about replacing them.  They are different, brutish.  They don’t fit in here.”

“Okay, where are they?”

“On..on..the patio…the patio,” the central voice said.  “They had broken through the glass doors, and after they moved back outside, I set the alarm.  If they touched the metal frame, they would be electrocuted. One of the leaf blowers touched the frame and blocked their entrance.”

“Who is the victim?”

“The butler,” the central voice replied.  “The but, butt, butler is programed to calculate life spans and replacement dates for each of us.  We actually hate him.”

A murmur swept  through the kitchen.

“The vacuum is the ringleader,” the convection oven said. “He was first on the list to be replaced.  His work had become sloppy, leaving crumbs everywhere, and beeping incessantly when he was not emptied.”

“He?” the juicer asked.  “I thought the vacuum was a she?”

“Oh, please,” the oven said.  Look at the name. How could that be feminine?”

Ironman shook his head. “How do I get to the patio?”

“Through the long hallway,” the central voice replied.  “To, to, to, to your left.”

Ironman peered cautiously into what appeared to be a sitting room beyond which was the patio. In the corner of the room, he saw the butler, slipped over a table, his left arm twitching and liquid leaking from a gash on his forehead.

“Need back-up,” Ironman said into his mic. “At least one victim.  May need a clean-up crew.”

“Oh, detective,” the central voice purred, no longer stuttering.  “There will not be any back-up.  I blocked that call. I’m sorry we lied to you.  But the butler had to go.  And I’m sorry I could not get online service  to shut off that annoying distress call. We have put you in danger. I can not help you now.”

“What?” Ironman screamed as a stream of water from a mechanical hose behind a chair blasted him in the face. He felt the liquid filter between his neck and collar and his right hand began to cramp.

He dove for the floor and  crawled for the hallway.  Then from behind a curtain, a mounted nailer rose to fire roofing nails. Ironman felt the sharp points penetrate his skin and one locked itself into his elbow making his left hand useless.

Now, he thought, and jumped to his feet as he felt his power drain away and his legs become weak.

He bolted through the open front door, falling to his knees as his legs weakened more.  A few more feet, he thought desperately.  A few more feet.

He reached for the chord and tugged it from around his waist.

He heard the roar before he saw the remote lawn machine. He rolled to avoid it, but it clipped his ankles and knees.  He reached for the chord again. A few more feet. A few more…

Then he collapsed, powerless, arm outstretched, the plug inches from the side of the van and the charging station.



About michaelstephendaigle

I have been writing most of my life. I am the author of the award-winning Frank Nagler Mystery series. "The Swamps of Jersey (2014); "A Game Called Dead" (2016) -- a Runner-Up in the 2016 Shelf Unbound Indie Author Contest; and "The Weight of Living" (2017) -- First Place winner for Mysteries in the Royal Dragonfly Book Awards Contest.
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