Friday, June 08, 2012
The Doomsday Symphony: Chapter 37
In the previous installment of The Doomsday Symphony, Richard Wagner meets with several of his colleagues as they plan their escape from Dresden which has fallen in the revolution. While a local philosopher is telling Wagner about his apocalyptic views, a beautiful woman is introduced to Wagner (Klavdia Klangfarben in disguise) and all thoughts of escape (and his wife) immediately leave him. Discovered by Royalist troops, Wagner is shot dead.
*** ***** ******** ***** ***
*** ***** ******** ***** ***
"It's true, I was there," the well-fed man with the flowing gray beard said, "but I didn't see anything. I mean, actually 'see' anything." He flicked off some ash from his cigar and looked longingly at his beer.
Otherwise, the tavern was pretty quiet. Stravinsky had been complaining how at first business was "going gang-busting" after the Trespasser's murder but with all these rumor going around how more Trespassers were at large and were planning the destruction of Harmonia-IV by killing off the great composers, now he's complaining that business "has fallen under the cliff."
"And, of course," the usually jolly-looking man said, his blue eyes twinkling less than usual, "as one of the Three B's, I think I would need – how is it you law-enforcement types put it – 'extra protection'?"
"Great," Detective Smighley thought to himself, "I'm in the midst of an intergalactic security crisis and all these guys want 'extra protection,' 24/7."
There weren't enough men on the police force to handle all these demands but that didn't mean he knew what he was going to tell these guys. Yes, he knew they were the most famous citizens of Harmonia-IV and, yes, he knew one of the primary responsibilities of the police force was to protect its citizens, but come on...
"What makes you feel you need this protection, Herr Brahms?" Smighley took a swig of his beer. Technically he was "on the clock," but what good are regulations if you can't bend them once in a while?
Realizing the detective was drinking, Brahms figured it was okay to start drinking, too. After all, Stravinsky had plopped down two beers without their even asking him (a good bar-tender always knew what his customers wanted.)
Brahms leaned forward as if he felt the need to whisper.
"You've heard the rumors, Detective, probably worse ones than those we've heard."
"There have been rumors, Maestro – there always are, you know that." Smighley figured Brahms probably started many of the wildest himself, just another example of his typical sense of humor, not realizing what trouble he'd caused.
"But what is it you can do about them? I have heard you've arrested seven Trespassers, each with magical powers, and yet they have already escaped from your custody, hmm?" Brahms took a long slow swig.
"And if I didn't have to sit here, interviewing this old wind-bag on his request, I'd be out chasing them, too," he thought.
Passing over this last bit of mis-information, Smighley decided not to comment on an on-going investigation. It wasn't true, exactly – there were only four of them, conspiring with a Harmonian resident, but he hadn't thought about the "magic powers" angle. That could explain it, especially the smoke outside the interrogation room. Best not to mention anything about that, anyway.
He couldn't believe it when the sergeant at the desk told him what had happened. He was just sitting there, processing the paperwork for their arrest when a noise in the hallway made him look up.
There they were, just standing there, when the little one – the one that looked like a kid – swept his arm up into the air and then the hall was full of foul-smelling smoke. "They just vanished!"
It would take weeks to get that stench out of the woodwork. Then too, they all had to go change into fresh uniforms.
Losing valuable time was one thing but it was bad enough every time he coughed, he could still taste that horrendous odor at the back of his mouth. Even the beer wasn't helping. What kind of crap was that, anyway? Maybe they did have "magical powers" and if the kid could do that, what were the adults capable of?
And it's not like he could tell anybody about that, especially someone like Brahms. This garrulous old bucket would be out there telling everybody about it, laughing over their beers. He was having enough trouble already.
"I hear," Brahms said in his best conspiratorial tone, "they're intent on 'killing off' the great composers, Detective Smighley. ‘The Great Composers' – why, that would be me!" Uncomfortable thinking he was the target of terrorists, he ran his hand over his beard as if smoothing down ruffled feathers, then corrected himself. "I mean, I would be one of them."
"That is something I've heard but it is only a rumor – I can't say it's anything specifically associated with these alleged Trespassers. Who knows where that one came from," the detective said, waving his hand dismissively.
"Bah! You say 'can't say it's anything specific' and 'alleged Trespassers,' but tell me, Detective, are they Trespassers or not? The dead one was – is there a tie-in?" Brahms sat back, staring him in the eye.
"It's assumed they are, yes, and the dead one is allegedly related to some of them, yes – but beyond that, it's all speculation."
"But you must understand, as long as rumors fly about like autumn leaves you have to be careful not to step on them, I cannot feel comfortable knowing somebody out there is trying to kill me."
Smighley didn't think it was stopping him from going out in public. Brahms was the one suggesting they should meet at the tavern.
"Tell me, Maestro," Smighley asked, leaning forward himself, "how is it, exactly, you think someone is going to kill you? Stab you, maybe, or shoot you through the heart? Poison your beer?"
Brahms eyed his beer suspiciously.
"You know, you're not making me feel any more secure, Herr Detective..." Brahms frowned but Smighley saw there was a playful grin dancing almost imperceptibly around the edges of his mouth, hidden by one of the greatest beards in music history. Perhaps that was another reason he had grown it, not just to avoid the daily ritual of shaving.
"What I mean is, with all due respect – you're already dead: what could they do to you?"
"Why, they could torture me! We can still feel pain, can't we?!"
"But really, what's the point in that?"
"Have you never had people boo your music? Have you never had critics who said concert halls should have signs reading 'Exit in case of Brahms'?"
"Until there's any proof of a credible threat, Maestro, these are just rumors."
"By the time you discover that, I could be dead," he said with the old twinkle back in his eyes.
Milo Smighley managed to quell another unhappy customer, he thought with mock triumph as he paid Stravinsky for the beers, nodding back to the table where Brahms still sat. The maestro was regaling his friend Dvořák, just joining him, with the latest news about the Trespassers' Plot which, Smighley figured, judging by the laughter, wasn't being transmitted entirely factually.
Really, instead of being a detective, he felt too much of his valuable time was spent doing Customer Service. He usually found that quite boring, considering, but then it was all part of "keeping-the-peace," wasn't it?
He heard the all too familiar ring of his cell-phone. He'd never been able to get used to this new technology – the telephone had taken him long enough – but when the name popping up on the screen was one of his best officers, he clicked on it eagerly.
"You found them, yes? You caught them, right?"
"Not exactly, no."
It was difficult keeping the frustration out of his voice after chasing down herrings with Brahms, a guy claiming he was a witness but didn't "see" anything (all just a ruse to ask about the rumors).
"Well, what have you got?"
"One of them was spotted at the West End of town, near the Coalton Gate. Good news, right?"
Smighley perked up at this. They could be trying to escape but he wasn't sure that was good news or not: he needed to arrest them and bring them to trial, so no, that's not good news.
"Get some men over there and keep an eye on the gate. If any of them try to escape, cut them off and arrest them before they make it through. Don't let them return, got it? There's a lot more going on here than just simple trespassing, I'm afraid. We can't let them get back to the Other Side."
The officer called in for back-up.
"Which one did you find, the little one?"
"No, the other young one, the dark-haired guy."
"Well, he could be just as difficult. No sign of the others?"
He said they're all to be considered armed with some form of advanced technology and therefor dangerous. They'd already proven quite elusive.
He wondered where his informer had gotten to, that smarmy lawyer, Abner Kedaver. There was something fishy about his calling in their original whereabouts. How did he know where they were – and in the Time-Device Room, too?
Detective Ste.-Croix drove back to the police station outside Collierville wondering exactly what was going on, here. A well-respected local man disappeared from his own home in the midst of a musical soirée, surrounded by friends and family, including a bunch of musicians, and no one heard anything and the police couldn't find anything. Consequently, was there a case?
If it hadn't been for the ding-bat medium mentioning "New Coalton" – a message from that dead composer whose music they were playing – there wouldn't be anything to go on. And what was that all about, anyway?
So how much of a coincidence was it, running into that weird conductor, Rogers Kent-Clarke, down at the biker dive? It's not like he'd be the kind of guy you'd expect to find there, was he? He was pretty curious about the location of New Coalton, too, all those questions he was asking. That was definitely points for weirdness.
Officer Tennant's call was kind of unnerving, too, coincidentally just at that moment, about the old lady's twitch. A "riff in the time-continuum somewhere," was it? No, she reconsidered, perhaps it was "a shift," but still... what can you possibly make of all that?
"Yeah, there must be a whole lot of time-continuum riffs going on tonight," she thought.
Pulling into the station's parking lot, she reconsidered and, not wanting to tell anyone, especially Officer Tennant ("outside our jurisdiction," he'd remind her), decided she'd go drop by New Coalton and... well, see what she could see.
= = = = = = =
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.