In the previous installment of The Doomsday Symphony, Sebastian Crevecoeur and his friend Johann Nepomuck Sauerbraten decide to test-drive Sauerbraten's home-made version of the Time-Travel Device as we return to Judge Willa Fortune's courtroom where things are rapidly spiraling out of what passes for control.
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It would be the first real chance I'd had to talk that Detective Smighley might actually listen to me.
The judge's voice sounded particularly annoyed. "Detective Smighley, will you kindly get your prisoner to understand he cannot keep interrupting the court except through his lawyer?"
Smighley rose from his seat behind me. "With all due respect, your honor, ma'am, since he has no lawyer, there is no one for him to interrupt through... or is that 'with'...? whatever..."
"Then you will have to represent him in lieu of anyone having been retained for the defense."
"Your honor," he blustered, "I can hardly defend the criminal of whom I am responsible for arresting!"
"So you're responsible for this? I thought so... Well, in that case," Judge Fortune reconsidered, turning to me, "are you capable of mounting – the adage 'a man who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client' aside – your own defense?"
After assessing my colleagues' collective shrug as reasonable approval except for Detective Ste.-Croix's dubious expression (whether regarding my abilities or the likelihood of having any impact on this court, I couldn't say), I nodded to the judge and said "Not that we have any other choice, but yes."
"This oughta be good," she said, not quite under her breath.
"I will attempt to show there are more Trespassers in Harmonia-IV tonight than we five, and that four of us have been trying to defeat another one before she carries out this plot of which you speak."
Once the murmurs of disbelief had spent themselves across the court, I addressed the witness.
"Mr. Sharrif, this plot you'd uncovered, did it indicate how many would be involved in it?"
"No, sir, it did not."
"Did it mention anybody by name who would be directing this plot?"
"The only name we found was someone or something called SHMRG."
"Hmmm. May I read aloud this limerick you've found?"
"Immaterial," Schadenfreude blurted out.
"Why," the judge asked, "waste our time with limericks, Mr. Smartass-Who-Thinks-He-Can-Be-His-Own-Defense-Lawyer?"
"I suspect it could be valuable evidence, ma'am."
"Highly suspect, but proceed."
"Klangfarben's next victim,” I shouted, “is Mozart!”
"I protest," a voice squeaked amidst the pandemonium filling the courtroom.
It was Mozart himself.
"I demand special protection. Arrest this man, immediately!"
"Did you say Klangfarben, sir?"
"I did," I said, turning back to the witness box. "Ring a bell?"
"Well, that word figured three times in the report I'd found but I assumed it had something to do with their orchestrating the plot."
"Though I ask this reluctantly," the judge said, "who is this Klangfarben to whom you allude, sir?"
I explained that Klavdia Klangfarben was a... a "hit-person" planning on killing off the Great Composers through time-travel, meddling with their pasts to eliminate their future influence, how she'd already attempted this with Bach and Wagner...
"Bach and Wagner aren't here," Mozart shouted, "He's right – they’re dead! I'm going to be next! Oh, wait..."
"Klangfarben is dressed in black, has tons of platinum blond hair and that lawyer Kedaver is her side-kick!"
"Did you say platinum blond hair? My god," Smighley said, rising quickly, "that's who told us where to find two of your cohorts!"
All Judge Fortune's gavel banging to the contrary, the courtroom would not come to order. People jumped up and down, shouting and pointing, demanding Smighley do something. Mozart fainted and had to be carried out.
Just then, there was additional commotion at the door as the gaunt figure of Gustav Mahler, wild-eyed and out-of-breath, barged half-crazed into the room.
"Someone has stolen it," Mahler was shouting. "Someone has stolen my new symphony! I didn't even have a chance to get it registered at the Ark of the Manuscripts yet! It was my only complete copy!"
The courtroom, which was rarely quiet so far during this trial, now took in one great collective gasp and fell stone silent.
It was supposed to be just a simple reception on the edge of the woods north of town, he explained, meant to celebrate the completion of his new symphony. This was a place he always liked to go hiking, lacking anything close to the mountains he was used to in Austria, and he did a lot of his thinking and planning, sorting out issues and expanding on possibilities while out on those walks.
In addition to communing with nature, there were several guests who stopped by even briefly, ranging from Alexander Skryabin who was too pre-occupied with his own thoughts to bother with him to a strange man named Siegfried Schweinwerfer who was quite intrigued – in fact, even suggested his calling it the "Doomsday Symphony."
I shot Zoe a quick, confirming glance.
"He was the one – this Schweinwerfer – who was convinced my dramatic sequence of chords that evolve throughout the symphony from beginning to end would eventually bring about some cosmic instability in the time-space continuum if it were ever performed back on Earth," explaining how Schweinwerfer was confident this final chord would initiate nothing less than the End of Time.
"Causing cosmic ripples, these frequencies would activate the dark matter of a black hole – Sagittarius-B at the center of our Milky Way – which would envelope Earth on the Winter Solstice of 2012 and bring about its destruction!"
There was another gasp but lesser in degree and clearly more mystified.
"Why this concern, Herr Mahler?" It was Schadenfreude, the prosecutor. "Assuming we are all already dead, what possible impact could it have on Harmonia-IV?"
"That's not the point: if Earth is destroyed, where will future residents come from? It will be the end: Harmonia-IV will become... stagnant!"
"Is that such a bad idea? All this garbage coming in with our more recent arrivals – new technology and," he paused and shuddered, "new-fangled aesthetic attitudes about art..."
Many people in the courtroom agreed with Schadenfreude.
"But anything that affects the Earth," one of the guards said, "will reach us through the Time-Tunnels and we also will be destroyed."
Another gasp ignited pandemonium.
"Officer Polletto," Detective Smighley demanded, "are you sure of this?"
He thought it stood to reason: if people travel back and forth to Earth through the gates, why not a destructive force?
Several people started yelling, "Close the Time-Gates!" and "Shut down the tunnels!" when Mahler suddenly pointed at me and shouted, "That's one of them! He was there and saw my score. Did you steal it?"
"Herr Mahler," I protested, "I did not, but who else was there? A woman with platinum blond hair wearing spiked heels?"
"Yes, yes, she was! And that shyster Abner Kedaver was with her!"
"That," I turned to the judge who sat there open-mouthed at the lack of control she had over her courtroom, "that was Klavdia Klangfarben, your real villain!"
"But there was another one who came along just then, said he was an internationally renowned conductor – English name..." Mahler could not remember more about him.
Detective Ste.-Croix spoke up. "That was probably Rogers Kent-Clarke. He was asking a lot of questions about New Coalton that made me suspicious. I was following him when I, errrmm... ended up here."
"Internationally renowned?" I tried not to scoff. "But a conductor from the Other Side would certainly be tempted by an opportunity to take a new Mahler symphony back to Earth. What a prize that would be!"
For that matter, so would a has-been musicologist like myself, but I let that pass.
"Perhaps," Mahler said, "but we must stop him!"
Detective Smighley looked over at me, eying me suspiciously. Did he think I had stolen the score? But I smiled back at him because I had the perfect alibi: we were in his custody at the time.
Turning back to Mahler, Smighley asked him when he noticed the score was missing, who else might have seen anything.
Mahler thought a moment. "Well, there was some commotion further down the path" – that, I nodded at Smighley, was most likely him arresting us – “but it was still there after Schweinwerfer left, which wasn't long after that conductor did."
"Do you remember which way the conductor went when he left?"
"No – he said he'd just continue his walk in the woods."
"And no one else was there when you noticed it missing."
"No," Mahler sighed.
Judge Fortune banged her gavel again, trying to regain control.
"This sounds like a separate case," she yelled at Smighley. "Can we please get back to..."
Immediately, people started yelling again.
Composers like Brahms and Schumann rose to demand protection.
"Smighley, arrest the evil-doers!"
"You must stop them!"
"Shut down the gates so they can't escape!"
"Kill the Trespassers!"
Once the crowd started chanting "Kill, baby, kill!" Smighley knew he had to take action right now. Clearly, Mahler's score was a major security threat requiring him to at least act like he was doing something.
He shuffled us out the side door and down into the basement after managing to unlock our leg-cuffs and chains, leaving them behind.
"So, if what you say is true," he said in short, breathless bursts as we hurried down the hall, "then we need to stop Klangfarben and Kedaver as well as track down whoever stole Mahler's score."
We heard footsteps behind us which turned out to be those of the young man in the witness box.
"I'm a BHUIA agent," Sharrif explained. "Let me come with you."
Once he explained to me what BHUIA meant, I said "Sure, but we need to figure out what we're doing and how we're going to handle two separate missions."
Smighley agreed he should go after the Mahler score with Sharrif and Detective Ste.-Croix while I should continue after Klangfarben with Zoe and Cameron. There was a question about Xaq, though, since it was too dangerous to take him along considering we didn't know if we could manage four people on one time-device (Smighley didn't think it was wise).
Leaving the prison jump-suits in another pile beside the handcuffs and chains, Smighley pointed us to the library across the square while he called in back-up to the Coalton Gate.
Once again, we were on our way!
= = = = = = =
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.