Murder in New Eden
by Charles C. Cole
Welcome to New Eden, an isolated city floating in space, whose founders believed the start of the 20th century was as good as it would ever get. Gun-free police supervise from atop their penny-farthings, carrying only batons. Aggression has been chemically suppressed for years. But then violence erupts. In response, the chief of police weighs the prospect of thawing secret soldiers. In the middle of it all, two bright young women push for equality and recognition.
Chapter 1: An Exciting Incident
A “bubbled” city floats in space, very much alone. Around it, existence is defined by distant stars huddled in a vast void. “The Beautiful Blue Danube” by Johann Strauss II, can be heard humming faintly, as the shadow of the “moon” transits the face of its neighboring sun.
The satellite is illuminated with thousands of lights; it is an artificial planetoid, 30 miles in diameter, completely enclosed to preserve its manufactured atmosphere. On closer inspection, a “light” reveals itself to actually be a porthole, lit up by the daylight within.
Inside the great biosphere, below a man-made sky, a quaint suburban landscape of perfect green lawns and summery sunshine is revealed. In the expansive city park, surrounded by three-story brownstone apartment buildings, cheerful children squeal with delight as they race each other to the arriving ice cream truck and the familiar salesman dressed entirely in white.
The music from the live orchestra swells as if exuding the day’s optimism. Women in cream-colored afternoon dresses and men in lightweight seersucker suits lounge closely together, smiling and laughing before a soothing orchestra playing within a new Victorian bandstand.
Nicolas Petrillo, a police officer dressed appropriate to early twentieth century, cycles slowly by on a “penny-farthing”, or high-wheeler, a common sight to late 1800s America. An unaccompanied semi-reclining woman, Agatha Devonne, sips from her long-stemmed crystal with one hand while waving warmly as he approaches. Petrillo never stops pedaling during their conversation.
“Afternoon, Officer Petrillo.”
“Afternoon, Mrs. Devonne.”
“Lovely day for a concert.”
“Yes, ma’am. Never can get enough of them.”
“Lovely days or concerts?”
“They say music soothes the savage beast.”
“So I’ve heard, ma’am. Would that apply to lovely ladies who drink alone in public?”
“Shame on you, sir. It’s for my nerves. My husband’s in the orchestra, you know.”
“Is he, Mrs. D.? I had no idea.” Petrillo is teasing, because everyone knows everything about everyone here. “Well, that’s perfectly understandable then. With moderation.” He continues on his way.
Just in front of Agatha, an ill man, Bernie Ketchum, wearing a black trench coat, sneezes and wipes his nose with a monographed linen handkerchief. His face is uncharacteristically pale and his brow is sweaty.
“Bernie,” says Agatha, “you should be home resting. You’re going to melt in that coat. Good thing you’re not made of wax.”
“Mind your own beeswax, Mrs. Devonne!”
She is not easily offended. “Bernie? Look at yourself! You shouldn’t be out here! Think of the children! We should get you to the infirmary. Would you like me to call for Officer Petrillo?
“I’m as fine as I’ll ever be. There’s nothing in this rusty terrarium that’s going to bring my Muriel back.”
Bernie stands, apparently planning to somehow walk away from his unexpected troubles, swoons, catching himself.
Agatha tries joking, to defuse the tension. “Down in front, please; the next soloist is Mr. Devonne.”
“I’m so sorry, Aggie. You mean well,” says Bernie. “You don’t deserve my darkness in your life. You should have stayed away today.”
“Dizzy, Bernie? Sometimes you have to stand and stretch; I’ve been there. My husband thinks the artificial gravity is acting up again. No harm done.”
“I’ll have to disagree with you there,” says Bernie. He pulls out a tommy gun hanging under his coat and sprays those nearest him as he grunts. Victims, and loved ones of victims, scream. Agatha is frozen in place, shocked by the unexpected ultra-realistic violence, not quite comprehending what she’s witnessing for the first time in her sheltered life.
Shrill police whistles sound nearby. Two officers, crowd-control batons at the ready, sprint to the scene as Bernie pauses to catch his breath and wipe his nose with the back of his hand.
Officer Petrillo calls into a microphone on his handlebar. “Medic needed on the promenade. Medic needed on the promenade. Ops, you copy?” He circles back. Even pedaling faster, he remains in virtual slow motion.
City Operations is an empty room with banks of monitors and computer towers, most of which appear to be off. Ensign Lucy Nakamura, a finger’s width above five-foot tall with large blue eyes and full cheeks, backs her way through the door carrying a full lunch tray. She is in her early twenties, and this is her domain, such as it is.
A speaker crackles to life. “This is Officer Petrillo. Ops, are you getting this?”
Nakamura puts the tray down and grabs the nearest microphone. “Ops, here. What’s up, Officer Petrillo? Somebody twist an ankle in a volleyball game again? Over.”
“Shots fired! Repeat, shots fired! Multiple victims. Send medic, stat. Over.”
“Very funny, Nico. Did Tooher put you up to this?”
“Send help. Find Valdez. It’s chaos up here! Over. This is not a drill. I repeat, this is not a drill!” Two uniformed officers approach Bernie, with a look of grave concern. Their weapons are not drawn because they have no weapons. The only reason they don’t expect to be shot in the line of duty is because no officer has ever been shot in the line of duty.
“Easy, Bernie. You don’t know what you’re doing. Let us help you.”
“Put the tool down, sir, before anyone else gets hurt.”
“I think it’s a gun. I’m pretty sure.”
“Really? That’s a gun?”
“Put down the gun, sir.”
“I didn’t mean to do this” says Bernie. “You know me, Aggie. You all know me. Tell them I didn’t want to do this. God help us all!” Bernie shoots the police and then himself, blood spattering on poor Agatha.
Copyright © 2018 by Charles C. Cole