Tuesday, July 10, 2012
The Doomsday Symphony: Chapter 64
Many things happened in the previous installment of The Doomsday Symphony, Dr. Kerr and Sebastian return to Harmonia-IV, joining the hunt to capture Rogers Kent-Clarke and rescue both Xaq and Mahler's new score; commotion at Stravinsky's Tavern leads to the formation of an all-composer posse; Klavdia Klangfarben has, instead, returned to her hometown in New Jersey; and it seems Kent-Clarke and Schweinwerfer are being led into a very dangerous part of the mine as they attempt to escape from Harmonia-IV.
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Officer Tennant, rudely awakened out of a deep nap at his police headquarters desk, had initially been annoyed when the phone’s persistent ringing turned out to be Mary Rowberson, the flaky medium from the Crevecoeur Farm.
“What could be so important that she calls in the middle of the night?” He tried to hide his grogginess and his irritation.
“Night desk,” he announced officially once he’d answered, but anyone listening would have heard only, “Yes?... yes… uh-huh… no… sure… hmmm… okay.”
Was this a bad dream? He wondered what was it with this crazy woman?
Rowberson told him she saw a field with several cars, including a police car – was Detective Ste.-Croix okay? Was she there, then? She kept getting a vision of this field where people arrived and people disappeared. There had been that conductor and before that, that professor with Victor Crevecoeur’s daughter. Getting out of their cars, then – poof – they’re gone!
The last one was a few minutes ago, more like a cry for help. She saw Det. Ste.-Croix get out of the car, look around in the darkness, then slip and fall, disappearing into the earth.
“And I distinctly heard Ste.-Croix saying, ‘something weird is goin’ down in New Coalton.’ That’s the second time I’ve heard that mentioned tonight.”
But New Coalton’s just an old ghost town. Plus, it’s in the next county. He would have to call the township police there. How’s he going to explain calling them about this at 3 in the morning?
He decided to call Det. Ste.-Croix but got no response – her pager, her cell phone and finally her land-line. Nothing. Now what?
So he called Mattanikum Township to ask if their guys would check it out.
There was no point bringing in the State Police just because some perp had crossed the county line by a mile or two.
“Yeah, I’ve, uh… gotten a report about some suspicious activity over at the old New Coalton site and Det. Ste.-Croix isn’t responding. She’s been following up on a potential missing person’s case and she may have…”
The dispatcher mentioned she had someone in the area: she’d have him drive by. Tennant heard her call through the squawk box and the officer rogered that, apparently glad for anything that could prove a diversion.
Minutes later, the officer reported three abandoned cars, including a Maskehannek Township police car. No signs of trouble but he had “bad vibes.”
The decision to bring Mrs. Rowberson along made sense but how would he explain all this to the guys from Mattanikum Township? They were always bragging about advanced technology and he was bringing along a clairvoyant?
“Sure,” he said, practicing it in his mind, driving back toCrevecoeur Farm to pick her up, “don’t you watch the TV shows?”
Trying to keep her quiet on the trip was proving difficult enough, he thought. What would she be like at the site? She would make the others think they’re both crazy. Then he’d lose his job.
She looked like one of those self-styled sleuths caught up in some real-life case, that wide-eyed delight always giving Tennant the creeps, someone who’d think her input will be truly invaluable, but just another over-zealous aficionado.
The others greeted her with mildly subdued skepticism, pretending to take Officer Tennant seriously. Rowberson followed him closely, checking out the abandoned cars.
While they showed Tennant the odd set of tracks coming in from the woods, Rowberson walked to the center of the field. All the tracks came together in this one spot, something clearly strange about that.
Standing where they just stopped, she felt an icy chill and began to shiver. As the air turned blue and shimmery, she shrieked.
“Damn,” Tennant gasped, turning around too late to see what happened. “Will you look at that!”
“What,” the one officer said, looking up. “I don’t see anything.”
“Hey, where’d the old bat go?”
“Yep – exactly…”
Glancing from one tunnel entrance to the other, which one – he saw four – was going to be the right one, Sebastian wondered. He had no idea which one these dastardly villains might have taken Xaq through.
“Eenie meenie, mynie moe, catch a Zoombie by the toe. Oh, sorry,” Sauerbraten interrupted himself, looking over at Zoe and me, “no offence.”
Cameron peered around in front of each opening, looking for any sign of tracks, but it was too dark to see anything. It wasn’t any lighter inside: how were they going to be able to see?
“Hang on,” Nepomuk said, holding a hand up to make us wait. “Here’s something.” And he disappeared into one of the tunnels, returning moments later holding two faintly glowing rocks, neither much bigger than a grapefruit.
“Wow, what is that? It’s not radioactive, is it?” If her son was in there, Zoe didn’t want him in any more danger.
Cameron, leaning forward to get a better look, asked, “Is that really raw photonmium?”
Sauerbraten nodded, holding it higher for our inspection.
“That’s what they’re mining here! For some reason, I thought they’d be mining coal!”
“That’s what you’d expect, Cameron, because, in New Coalton, that would have made sense.” When I reached for it, Nepomuk pulled it back.
“It’s not safe for Trespassers to hold, I’m afraid.” Handing one of the rocks to Sebastian, Nepomuk explained it could damage our skin.
“It won’t hurt me, don’t worry,” Sebastian told Zoe. “You, on the other hand…”
Nepomuk, dipping into his academic voice, said there wasn’t any real research on it, but it’s long been assumed to possess certain properties which might prove harmful to mortals in the long-range, for some unknown reason.
“Oh, it’ll be okay just being around it,” he added, catching Zoe’s uncomfortable expression. “Well, I think so – again, there are no studies…”
We’ve been walking around buildings and streets lit by the stuff and her son is deep in a mine full of it.
“See?” Sebastian held the rock up to his face. “It makes a great lantern!”
“All we know,” Nepomuk said, “is when several miners from the Other Side stumbled into Harmonia-IV, they worked in the mines, here, but after a few weeks began to get sick, went back home and died.”
“Ah, it’s this one,” Sebastian pointed. He’d just gotten a clearer message from Xaq.
Zoe almost beat Sebastian, diving headlong into the mineshaft.
Smighley looked at his counterpart from the Other Side in a suddenly different light, not that it could develop into anything, considering the differences in what some might call their lifestyles, her not being dead yet. A new arrival, it was brilliant she realized there could be an underground access to the Time-Gate. He liked how her mind worked.
They had looked at each other only a brief moment, that deep eye-contact that should be accompanied with a soundtrack by Tchaikovsky, when they discovered something was happening at the Gate, a new and awkward development.
An old woman dressed largely in white and hugging a plaid shawl up to her neck was prancing back and forth in the middle of the field, shrieking like she was surrounded by a thousand mice.
“Jesus God,” Ste.-Croix blurted out, slapping her forehead, much to Smighley’s surprise and delight. “What the fuck is she doing here? Holy crap…”
By the time she and Smighley got there, the old woman had already fainted, several of the policemen carefully attending to her.
“Looks like we got us another live one, sir,” Officer Schleppenfuss brusquely told him.
“Trust me, you have no idea.” Ste.-Croix bent over her, slapping the woman’s cheeks. She quickly came to with a fluster of emotions.
“Oh… oh! Dear God in heaven, where am I?” She looked quizzically back and forth between Ste.-Croix and the unknown Detective Milo Smighley.
She explained she’d just been talking to Officer Tennant who was looking for Ste.-Croix.
Ste.-Croix, thinking back to that scene in the Crevecoeur’s farmhouse, remarked it was surprising she’d been talking to anybody who was alive.
“And you – are you alive?” Rowberson looked tentatively around. “Or are we both dead?”
Ste.-Croix, after making the necessary introductions, continued asking their latest arrival about Officer Tennant and why they were at the New Coalton site.
“Well, you see, dear,” she began in that reassuring way old people used when explaining the inexplicable to children, “it’s like this. I had visions of all these people coming to this field and then disappearing.”
Smighley interrupted her. “You mean to tell me that field is crawling with cops?”
“Why yes, dear, as I was just saying...”
“That does it – before there’s any more trespassers here, I’m shutting down the gate.”
Smighley called the police chief, getting him out of bed, and explained the situation. The chief said he’ll call the governor right away.
It may have seemed like he was wimping out, going back to get reinforcements, but Sauerbraten knew how much he hated confined spaces and, frankly, being in a mineshaft might be more than he could handle. And Sebastian didn’t look too keen on getting stuck holding both rocks, but they couldn’t risk having any of the others carry it.
Besides, if he brought back some more policemen, should they try catching up to them or heading them off from another direction? At least he knew which mine they were going into – the old K.620 Mine.
It had been a shock, arriving at Stravinsky’s Tavern and finding it nearly empty.
“Everybody just took off, mad as hell,” Stravinsky exclaimed, “headed over to the library. Something about traveling back and changing the past…?”
That couldn’t be a very good thing, he worried, a bunch of drunken composers breaking into the time-travel room, bent on vigilante justice.
When he got there, everything was in shambles. They’d already tied Kedaver’s hands while others smashed the computer and the device console. With everything broken, if Klangfarben hadn’t made it back already, she never would, now.
It took a while, getting their attention, but finally he broke through the noise and explained that everything was okay, everybody was safe.
A great cheer went up. Sauerbraten explained they now had to get Mahler’s score back before it was too late.
“Who’s with me?”
Rushing into the square, they tied Kedaver to the flagpole, then charged after Sauerbraten.
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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.