Friday, June 15, 2012
The Doomsday Symphony: Chapter 43
In the previous installment of The Doomsday Symphony, Rogers Kent-Clarke met Gustav Mahler and saw the score of his new symphony which the apocalyptic-minded Siegfried Schweinwerfer has already dubbed the "Doomsday." Schweinwerfer realizes that Kent-Clarke is so hungry for fame, it was only a matter of time before he'd steal the score, take it back to Earth and premiere, thus bringing about his vision on December 21st, 2012.
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Detective Milo Smighley swaggered into our cell with several of his men who started hand-cuffing us and telling us to pull on these baggy jump-suits of an atrocious hot-pink color, labeled "PRISONER OF HARMONIA-IV PENAL SYSTEM" in big purple letters across the front and back. After a bit of a struggle, the men realized we couldn't put the jump-suits on as we were already hand-cuffed, so they un-cuffed us and started over again. The pants' cuffs had heavy loops in them convenient for additional handcuffs that would keep us from walking, much less running away.
Smighley explained our trial would be starting within a half hour and that we were being transported to the main court house momentarily. Finally, I thought, there would be some sanity in all this: a judge would hear the case, and then a jury would decide the case even though the jurors, being dead, were not exactly our peers.
While it may not be the same as a court of law back in the United States, it was, at least, a court of some fashion of law, therefore not subject to the whims of the police with an innate prejudice against someone who was still alive. The question remained how impartial the judge and jury might be, likewise. It was unsettling, when I asked how much time we would have to discuss the different details of our defense with a court-appointed lawyer, that Smighley only laughed. Apparently, he didn't have much faith in the system.
We were led under heavy guard to the parking lot behind the jail and crammed into a cramped-looking van that, once inside, turned out to be deceptively spacious with side benches and still plenty of room for the guards. While the van had no windows, in itself not unusual, I had also noticed there were no wheels, which was.
A trial in the middle of the night, one with a jury, struck me as odd, also. "Night Court" was usually intended for drunks, petty theft or morals charges but this seemed more serious than that.
It was, Smighley assured us, as he locked up the van. This was more than mere trespassing, itself not a very serious crime. That could wait for a few days, if need be. But this was far more urgent and required immediate attention, he explained, since we were being charged with something that was a matter of universal security.
What risk we might possibly be to Harmonia's universal security was beyond me. We needed to prove our innocence – since we were, clearly, innocent: any moron would see that – and get on with our counter-plan to stop Klangfarben before she struck again. Meanwhile, I wondered what Sebastian was up to: was he going to be able to rescue us?
One of the guards began singing a charming little ditty – some Harmonian pop song, perhaps – including the words "All in a summer's day," which made me think of Shakespeare's “Midsummer's Night,” more suitable to our situation.
In a matter of minutes (though Zoe thought it was taking forever), we arrived at the Court House. There wasn't much to say about it, seeing it from the back alleyway. I was sure it would be much more impressive when viewed from the main entrance. It was certainly large enough, like many public buildings here, resembling a fortress.
Taking a quick look around, I could see the familiar dome of the Central Library close by on our left which, I felt, was good news: always better to have ones bearings in a strange place and, no doubt, this place was definitely strange. We were within running distance of the Time-Device Room if we managed to escape.
Once the guards put the leg-cuffs on, however, the growing concern was more how far we'd get stumbling and crawling.
By this time, the guard's humming was getting on my nerves. Then they led us inside.
We were immediately led into the court room, surprisingly already quite full. The natural hubbub of people whispering to each other subsided instantly as everybody turned to stare at us.
"They're the Trespassers?" someone said, pointing at us.
"They don't look particularly evil," another mentioned.
"But they're supposed to be terrorists," a third one warned, far too loud for my liking.
This was met by a good deal of subdued commotion and pointing, people glancing around to make sure there were enough guards to protect them should we lob another stink bomb into their midst.
There were several composers in the room – Mozart looked like he was enjoying all this; so was Brahms, turning to a young woman with comments that made her chuckle. Was that Puccini in the back corner? Robert and Clara Schumann sat on the aisle in the middle. But I couldn't see Bach or Wagner and that was a concern.
Once seated, we could see the jury box on the opposite side of the room. There were several composers there I recognized which I felt was comforting. The one I assumed to be the jury foreman was Ludwig Spohr. Cesar Franck sat glumly behind him. Rimsky-Korsakov was looking rather severe, probably not inclined to being awake at this hour.
We'd been huddled around a table, an empty seat left at the head. An unsettling discovery, not only had we not had any time to discuss the case with our lawyer, he had not even arrived, yet.
"All rise," a voice cried from the back. We did so with some difficulty and a great deal of clanking.
Anticipation flickered across the packed courtroom as a door behind the judge's bench opened with considerable ceremony. A frail old woman doddered in, dressed in a black robe, over-sized and considerably stained, wearing a wig that was particularly moth-eaten.
Someone we couldn't see announced, "This court is now in session, the honorable Judge Willa Fortune – presiding."
She pored over her notes, glanced around absent-mindedly, then conferred briefly with the bailiff who poured her some tea.
Apparently, the only empty seat available in the room was our lawyer's. I tried reaching over to see if he were, perhaps, invisible, that I just couldn't see him, but, no – the seat was indeed unoccupied.
After taking a long sip of tea, the judge said in what was probably once a stentorian but now sadly ravaged voice, "Commence."
The prosecutor, introducing himself as Walter von der Schadenfreude, rose to begin.
"Your honor – and a considerable honor it is for me to be appearing in your illustrious courtroom, might I add – these defendants stand accused of pernicious crimes against Harmonia-IV that threaten our universal security."
There was a gasp that rippled through the crowd while others started hissing.
I looked around in utter amazement. "What? Your honor..."
Un-freaking-believable! Was she shushing me or the crowd?
"These individuals are part of a plot – that some have labeled a 'terrorist' plot – which I will describe."
"Continue," she said, without silencing the muttering in the courtroom.
"The plot is a plot against some of our finest citizens here in Harmonia-IV, a plot to kill the Great Composers of Classical Music!" He turned to us and pointed accusingly.
Outrage erupted from the crowd. Brahms rose and began shaking his fist, shouting "Hang them! Hang them high!"
I was shocked – shocked, I tell you – by the accusation. I rose to explain that, yes, we were "involved" in it, but it was only insofar as we were trying to foil it...
The judge turned to the jury which was in considerable turmoil and waited for them to calm down.
"You've heard the accusation – consider your verdict!"
"Wait! You can't... I object!" I shouted.
"You can't object, you're not a lawyer."
"But we don't even have representative counsel!"
"Then you can't object!" she shouted back at us, rapping her gavel repeatedly across her desk.
"Call your first witness," she ordered after she'd caught her breath from all the gavel-banging.
"The court calls Roger Babbitt."
A meek, rather pale young man rose, stepped forward cautiously and was sworn in peremptorily by the bailiff.
I looked at Zoe: that was the man in the field at New Coalton, the one who went through the gate.
"I apologize," Babbitt said, "I'm a little nervous."
"There's no reason to be nervous," confided the judge in a helpful voice. "If you are, I'll just have you executed on the spot."
Will wonders never cease?!
Babbitt explained he worked as an agent for BHUIA.
"Boo-yah?" I asked, "What does 'Boo-yah' mean?"
"It means 'shut up' – your lawyer asks the questions!"
"But we have no lawyer!"
"Then you can't ask any questions! Capeche?"
Babbitt continued how he'd found information about a plot where someone would come to Harmonia-IV tonight to start killing the Great Composers.
"We were out standing in this field," I said, "when this gentleman appeared and showed us how to enter through the gate – so we ended up here, completely by accident! That's not a question, your honor."
"I'm sure you are outstanding in your field, sir, by accident or design, but in my court, you speak only through your lawyer!"
Roger Babbitt nervously stepped down and returned just as nervously to his seat.
"The court calls Rondo Sharrif."
A young man of Middle-Eastern descent walked confidently to the witness box and was sworn in.
Just as Sharrif, who also worked for BHUIA, began explaining how he'd discovered the information about the plot, he was interrupted by the arrival of a tall man in a black suit and a black cravat who swept in announcing himself as the lawyer Abner Kedaver, apologizing he had only a few minutes as his services were required elsewhere.
"Oh, please, God," I prayed, "don't let this be our lawyer..."
He wanted to remind the court the defendants were arrested in the library's Time-Device Room.
"Why? Because they were ready to initiate their nefarious plot – through time travel!"
As Kedaver left, Sharrif noticed a piece of paper on the floor that must have been stuck to Kedaver's shoe.
Schadenfreude, picking it up, announced, "It's a limerick – unsigned. The defendant must have written it because he didn't sign it. Or he tried to disguise his handwriting!"
"Sounds guilty to me," the judge snapped, banging her gavel.
= = = = = = =
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.