Thursday, May 31, 2012
The Doomsday Symphony: Chapter 30
In the previous installment of The Doomsday Symphony, we find out more about Harmonia-IV's chief detective, Milo Smighley who, after arresting Dr. Kerr and his fellow trespassers, continues his investigation by interviewing witnesses - like Hector Berlioz who didn't see anything but has some fantastic ideas.
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"But why couldn't you have just made us invisible, again? It would've been so much easier!"
It hadn't made much sense to me in the first place but it sure would've come in handy in the second place. I was positive Sebastian had a logical explanation, not that it mattered, now that we were all waiting in the interrogation room of Harmonia-IV's Central Jail.
"I wish it were that easy," Sebastian sighed, "but I have a confession to make. You see, I couldn't actually do that, myself. Telling you was like a joke – I'm sorry..."
"But..." Zoe stammered, looking at him in open-mouthed disbelief.
"But we couldn't see anyone else," Cameron pointed out, "so, as far as we were concerned, they were invisible, too."
"Oh, you were invisible alright, and later you weren't, but I had nothing to do with it." Sebastian fidgeted in his chair as my learning curve got steeper and steeper.
"Okay, so, like, now I don't understand any of this." Xaq leaned heavily against the mirrored wall with a great sigh of disappointment.
I was pretty sure someone was standing on the other side of that mirror, watching and listening to us, probably that detective who arrested us at the library. We had to be careful what we said.
"Xaq, there's a lot we're not understanding," Zoe said, "not just what's going on here or how we even got here, but how we're going to get out of here."
The only logical response was thoughtful silence.
The room was not very large, just a low-ceilinged rectangular box, that large mirror at one end and a door at the other with a small window. There was a long table and a few basic chairs in the center and nothing else. The walls were a dull brownish-gray, the lights glaring, reflecting back at us in the glass.
"When you first arrive here, it's like walking into – oh, a cooler room, I guess. Eventually your body begins to adapt to it and you don't feel it's so chilly any more."
That did make sense…
"Basically, your senses became more receptive as your bodies warm up to the atmosphere, here – it is subtly different from what you're used to back home."
"On the 'Other Side,' as you call it," I said.
"Correct, and as you warm up, so to speak, you become visible and then you can also begin perceiving other people around you."
Cameron asked if this had anything to do with what he'd mentioned earlier, something he referred to as "plasma-source."
He described it as blood-like but it wasn't, technically, blood. Scientifically, it was called "plasma-source" because it had the same function as blood but it was made up of different components, things needed to keep a dead body... well, alive. They still ate and drank and did all those things they'd done before when they were living, but it's only possible because of this amazing fluid which keeps everything functioning so they can continue to exist.
"It does cause a bit of comic relief once in a while. For instance, when Shylock asks 'If you prick us, do we not bleed,' it tickles us and the audience finds itself chuckling a bit. You see, when we bleed, it's our plasma-source which, rather than being red, is a rather unfortunate dull green."
Xaq found this gross.
"But there was no blood of any color on Dad when we found him," Zoe said, "and yet here we are, sitting in jail, arrested for Dad's murder. Murder! He must have died of natural causes – a heart attack, maybe?"
Regardless, her father was dead. But then, so was her grandfather, and he's been talking to her all evening.
And of course, Sebastian cautiously mentioned, now Klangfarben and her companion had a green light to carry out the rest of their plan. As long as we were stuck here, it was clear sailing for Klangfarben.
It felt like an hour since Detective Milo Smighley deposited us in this room and then abandoned us. What was going on, I wondered; more importantly, how were we going to get out of this? Sitting here after being arrested for murder, we had no idea where Klangfarben was going next or who her target was going to be.
A moment later, the door opened and Smighley came in carrying a tray with several cups of coffee and two cans of soda. Silently, he put these on the table, motioning to us to help ourselves.
Zoe and I reached for the coffee while Xaq eyed the soda cautiously. He was pretty picky about things that didn't look reassuringly familiar. Fortunately, it didn't taste bad and he was, after all, very thirsty.
The coffee was pretty weak but then perhaps dead people didn't need that caffeine jolt any more. (Why'd they even bother making it?)
Smighley motioned for us to be seated, so we carefully distributed ourselves around the sides of the table. Sebastian, like a patriarch, sat down at one end and then the detective sat down at the other.
He dropped a folder on the table, clearing his throat. When he spoke, he sounded distant but focused, detached but clearly in control.
"So we might as well start with why you killed this man in Stravinsky's Tavern. I believe his name is Victor Creeve-crow and he is," nodding toward Sebastian, "your son and," then nodding toward Zoe, "your father."
Zoe spoke first. "We didn't kill him. We arrived at the tavern and found him there, slumped over in the one booth. He was already dead – judging from the lack of physical evidence, presumably of natural causes."
"How did he end up on the floor? When the police arrived," he said, glancing at Zoe, "he was on the floor."
"I started to move him there, thinking it would be better, trying to revive him, if possible, but we were too late."
Smighley slid the photographs out and placed them in the middle of the table.
The top photograph was a long shot taken from the front door. Curiously, the only one visible beside Victor's body was Sebastian. The rest of us weren't there even though I remembered being there, kneeling beside him, when the police arrived.
"On what basis," I asked, "are you charging us with murder? As you can see, we weren't there."
Smighley pulled the photos back toward him before the rest of us had a chance to look at them carefully. Shuffling them around, he quickly placed them back in the folder without ever changing his expression. Again, he cleared his throat and took a sip of coffee which didn't seem as distasteful to him as it did to me.
"We also have reason to believe that you are here with quite another purpose in mind." Smighley looked around us, focusing more on me, this time, than Zoe. His insinuating tone of voice was creepy enough.
"Look," Xaq blurted out, "all I did was go over to take a piss and – ZAP! – we got sucked through this weird portal or something and that's how we ended up here."
Smighley turned toward him.
"That may be how you got here but that doesn't explain what you're doing here, young man, but thank you all the same."
With that, the detective picked up the folder and excused himself without explanation. Was that it or was he coming back? Would we be released if we weren't being charged or was he going to detain us just because we're Trespassers? It wasn't like he was going to apologize and give us the keys to the city or anything.
Sebastian held a finger up to his lips, nodding slightly toward the mirror.
Right, I thought, they were now going to watch everything we said or did, hoping to see if we'd give anything away.
I thought I'd mention how much I’d been enjoying the Piano Quintet, what we heard of it, but Sebastian shook his head and looked down. This also was not an acceptable topic of conversation. Then I remembered, posthumous works like that weren't allowed on the Other Side. In fact, his having "crossed over" probably put him in legal jeopardy.
Since we weren't on American soil, wherever we were, and the residents of Harmonia-IV were a polyglot of different cultures and even centuries, what kind of legal system did they have here, if they had any?
Then Zoe remembered her grandfather had started to explain what he meant by "as long as he's here, your father is dead," just as the police arrived at the Tavern.
It meant we'd need to get his body – him, in other words – back to the Time-Gate somehow and cross the barrier to New Coalton.
"Then, quite possibly, he'd revive."
Xaq fidgeted through the stuff in his pockets as he wandered over toward the door which, it turns out, Smighley had left unlatched. They weren't locked in. How lax was their security, here? They hadn't gone through his pockets and found his cool stink bomb and... Wait! That gave him an idea.
He peeked out into the hallway.
Zoe wondered how much time they'd have, if there were any limits how long Victor might survive in this suspended state.
"Maybe 24 hours, not much longer."
"The Time-Device would have recharged by now," I added.
Xaq saw there was an officer at the far end of the hall, off to the left, but down toward the right, it was clear, and a doorway was lit faintly with an exit sign.
"So we could still foil Klangfarben, get Dad to New Coalton in time...?"
"Assuming we could escape from here to do 'all-of-the-above,' yeah."
"Hey, Mom," Xaq said, "I need to go to the Little Boy's Room." nodding out into the hall.
"Wait. Let me see if there's an officer out there who can take you..."
"No – I have a better idea," and he held up the stink bomb he'd had hidden in his pocket.
"I'd told you to get rid of that!"
"I will, in just a minute."
We followed him out as he pulled the tab, then threw it toward the officer's desk.
And in a puff of rather obnoxious smoke, we disappeared in the opposite direction.
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To be continued…
- Dick Strawser
The novel, "The Doomsday Symphony," a music appreciation thriller written between 2010 and 2011, is the sole supposedly intellectual property of its author, Richard Alan Strawser.