Prose Header

Murder in New Eden

by Charles C. Cole

Table of Contents

Murder in New Eden: synopsis

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 12: A Woman’s Ambition

Dressed to the nines, Brandt sweeps into City Operations, seemingly mid-conversation. “Nakamura, sorry for the lack of notice, but I—”

Though the ceiling lights are off, the many monitors are glowing eerily. The world of New Eden is very much on display. He notices the “converted” workout area in the back of the room, with equipment stacked to eke out space. Incongruously, a sweatshirt and a damp towel hang casually over a chair. While he tries to make sense of the changes, like a moth to a flame, his attention is pulled inexorably to the mundane human activity on the screens. Eventually, mesmerized, he pulls up a seat to watch the best “show” in town. On the wall behind him, a phone begins to ring shrilly. He ignores it.

* * *

The chief is on his phone at his desk. The line rings and rings, but nobody is answering. He gives up. There’s a quick knock on the closed door to his office. Lois enters, not waiting for an acknowledgment, with a fresh cup of steaming coffee. Schiavelli stands and brushes his pants instinctively, as if she were an important guest.

“No need to stand on ceremony,” she jokes. “Nobody important.” She hands him the coffee, which he immediately, absentmindedly, places on his desk, without any awareness of his actions.

“Lois, did Wayne say when she and Officer Petrillo would be getting back?”

“She may have, but not to me.”

Is that criticism? “Any word from the mayor or Director Pelkey?”

“Not lately.”

Next subject. “Any word from Dr. Valdez?”

“About what?”

He snaps at her. “I don’t know. A hospital status report maybe. Any indication if anyone else is acting odd.”

“Would you like me to call him?”

“No, I’d like him to read my mind and call me.”

“I’ll get right on it.” She doesn’t move. Lois stares directly into his eyes, unflinching, searching for a glimpse of the calm man regularly in charge.

He notices and responds. “Lois?”

“Yes, Chief?”

“How’s Tabitha?”

“She’s fine. She has complete faith in the healing powers of Dr. Valdez.”

“That’s good. Me, too. He’s pain in the ass, but he’s our pain in the ass.”

“Anything else?” Lois asks.

“Do you want to go home? I’d understand completely.”

“Tabitha’s with friends. My place is here. Anything else?”

“How about a fresh refill of your healing coffee? That’s just what I need.”

Lois, indicating: “It’s on the desk.”

The chief notices for the first time. “Who the hell put that there?”

“You did, after I handed it to you a minute ago.” She’s staring deeply into his eyes, concerned.

The chief blurts, “Lois, do you want to know a secret?”

“Not really. I think what people do in the privacy of their own lives is their business.”

Amused by her candor. “So you’re not a fan of City Operations?”

“I know what it does. I have no reason to think it has anything to do with me or my loved ones.”

“Doesn’t it bother you that Sergeant Cody shows up out of nowhere? You’ve lived here all your life, has that ever happened before?”

“If I had a need to know, you would tell me.”

“What if you don’t have a need to know, but I want to tell you anyway?”

“That’s your prerogative; you’re the chief.”

“What are you doing right now?”


“Come with me.”

“What about Dr. Valdez?”

“He can wait. Oh, and Lois, you’re going to want to watch your step. And I apologize in advance for all of the dust. This place doesn’t get many visitors.”

“Where are we going?”

“Not far.”

Considering, but hesitant to ask. “I don’t suppose you’d mind being blindfolded.”

“I most certainly would.”

“Then we’ll skip that part. If I can’t trust you, Lois, who can I trust?”

“I can’t imagine.”

* * *

Petrillo unlocks the tenth-floor apartment door while, behind him, Wayne puts on her latex gloves and a surgical mask. “You’re telling me nobody in the building has noticed the complete absence of Mr. Edgar Dumont from the all-you-can-eat buffet tables and the conga lines?”

“I guess he kept to himself.”

Petrillo glances back at Wayne. It doesn’t take much for him to become defensive and sarcastic. “I suppose you only brought protective gear for yourself.”

Wayne, ever prepared, hands him a small white bag with another set for him. “Even when you’re wearing it, I’m kind of still protecting me.”

“Is that a joke?”

“No. And use it this time.”

They enter the apartment and close the door behind them.

“What are we looking for?”

“A murder weapon.”

“That would be — What did Director Pelkey say? — artificial gravity. How am I going to bring that back to the chief in an evidence bag?”

“Yes, Officer Petrillo,” says Wayne, like a first-grade teacher five years past retirement, “it was the leap that killed him, but what made him take the leap?”

“He lost his wife.”

“Did he think he was going to join her?”

“I don’t know. Maybe he got tired of doing the dishes and vacuuming.”

“I get tired of doing the dishes and vacuuming.”

“Yeah, but you’re a—”

“Careful: medical examiners often carry sharp metal implements.”

“I meant: you’re a single person who’s used to picking up after herself. On the other hand, Mr. Dumont had a wife to pick up after him.”

“The tools of my trade fit neatly in my hand and are frequently used for cutting open human flesh.”

“Tell you what, I’ll look around the balcony.” He has a brief, vivid image of the last man who looked around this particular balcony. “Better yet, let’s make that the kitchen. And you can go look around the bedroom and the bathroom. We’ll get this over faster that way.”

“Did you know there are more ways to severely injure yourself in the kitchen than any other room in a typical domestic household?”

“I’ll keep that in mind.”

Wayne waves her fingers at the back of his head. She skips to the master bedroom. The bed is made but it appears as if the victim slept on top of the blankets, rather than under them, after his wife died. There is a collection of old love letters beside the pillow. Wayne grabs a couple and places them in another bag. She tweezes some loose strands from a hairbrush. Then she sees a nearly-full familiar bottle of anti-anxiety pills on the bureau: Dr. Valdez’s standard prescription for everything that ails a broken heart.

Petrillo pokes his head in the bedroom door. “Anything?”

“No smoking gun, as they used to say. Did you look at the balcony?”

“I thought I’d give you the honor.”


“I don’t like to be that close to the hull of the station. I like to forget that we’re in space.”

“You and most of the people in this town.”

* * *

Nakamura, in khaki overalls, stands perilously atop an extension ladder, leaning against a lamppost. She is removing what looks like a compressed wad of pink cotton candy from the lens of a surveillance camera in the park. Cody is supposed to be stabilizing the ladder but he keeps getting distracted by all of the boisterous activity around them. The ladder trembles as Nakamura shifts her weight.

“Ops to Soldier Boy! Ops to Soldier Boy! If I fall and break something, you’re going to be the next thing I break.”

Cody catches sight of a toddler, a shaggy-blond boy in a yellow jumper, unsuccessfully chasing a ball because he’s accidentally kicking it farther away with his own feet the moment he can finally reach down to grab it. Though hesitant, Cody feels compelled to assist and takes some mincing steps away from the ladder.

“Sergeant Cody! Focus on the mission, if you don’t mind!”

“Sorry.” He grabs the sides of the ladder firmly with both hands. “How do you deal with all these people?”

“I don’t; I sit in my isolated watchtower and let them deal with each other.”

He looks up at her with a disapproving scowl.

She feels the nonverbal scolding, without ever making eye contact. “Don’t give me that death-stare. Most of them don’t hurt each other. They just go about their chaotic lives bouncing off the furniture while I record each of their special moments — first step, first kiss, first ‘wee’ in the bushes — for the law offices of Pelkey, Brandt and Posterity.”

“These are your people. You would risk your life to save theirs.”

“Somebody’s got to. I want Eartha’s kittens to be proud of their ol’ Aunt Lucy.”

“Shouldn’t you be watching the cameras?”

“If something happens, by the time I get up here, it will all be over. Whereas right now, if I see Stephen shove Barbara-Anne to the ground because she won’t give him an unearned peck on the cheek, I can give Stephen a smack on his self-deluded fanny before his mom can say anything about it. Besides, I’ve got you, hero.”

“I thought more people would stare at me. I’m a stranger.”

“You still have a head and two arms and two legs. You’re not an alien come to eat their babies.”

“But you all know each other, right?”

“They’re staring when you aren’t looking, but most of them are too polite or too confused or too scared to confront you.”

“I scare them?”

“Not too much. The littlest ones keep looking around for your ice cream truck. The moms are wondering how you keep your uniform so bright and clean. While their teen-aged daughters are wising up to the fact that there just might be more opportunities in this town than they’ve so far been led to believe.”

“But do they know I’m a good guy?”

“Of course, they do.”

“Because I’m wearing all-white?”

“Because you’re with me, big fella, and they all know I wouldn’t trust just any man to hold my ladder or stand this close to me.”

“I feel like we should be helping.”

“We are. We’re making sure more cameras are working and we’re showing the civilians that the cavalry has arrived. And nobody’s panicking: just another day in paradise.”

Turning even more serious. “If we don’t solve this case, do you think the mayor will blame me?”

“Blame you? Right now, you’re the only chance we have.”

“I could do more with the rest of my team.”

“What could you do? There’s no enemy blockade for you to storm. We don’t know who the bad guy is. We don’t even know if there is a bad guy. I suppose where you come from, all the bad guys wear the same universal bad-guy uniform, because that would make law enforcement so much easier.”

“No, of course not.”

“In your world, do neighbors shoot neighbors because they have a cold and they’re cranky?”


“There you go.”

“Sometimes it’s over a parking spot or because someone was rude in a restaurant or someone cut them off in traffic.”

“They kill people over that?!”

“Or maybe because their parents won’t let them go out on a date or someone flirted with their boyfriend.”

“I don’t like the sound of that. Where are you from, the old Wild West?”

“How many murders have you had, if I may ask?”

“Are you counting victims or incidents?”

“Victims. No, incidents.”



“But that’s one too many. Believe it or not, this is new for us. This is one craze we don’t want catching on. We don’t want people to see how easy it is to dispatch one another.”

“And you think there’s a mad scientist behind this?”

“It made sense at the time, to some of us. What do you think?”

“Your people are acting like my people. They’re cooped up, and when they’re unhappy they act out.”

“I don’t accept that. Unlike you, I live here. This is not normal.”

“Your world is modeled after a way of life that disappeared over two hundred years ago. I’m sorry, but that’s not normal.”

“You may not know this, but there’s a government-mandated chemical pacifier in the station’s water treatment plant. The kind of aggression you describe should not, cannot, happen here.”

“Until now?”


Cody walks over to the maintenance truck, opens the door, and sits on the passenger side of the front seat.

“Where are you going? Are you pouting?”

“Don’t you think we should test the water? Rule it out?”

“That underground science project is a festering boys club. It’s not safe for a woman. I will get eaten alive by all of those horny nerds in their white lab coats.”

“Not if you’re with me, you won’t.”

Though she should be grateful for Cody’s offer, Nakamura is still hurt by his blunt criticism of the only place she’s ever called home — and her sarcasm shows it. “You’re just dying to beat somebody up, aren’t you? Well, fine. Wouldn’t want you to get rusty. But for the record, Eartha Wayne is the scientist. I’m just the computer geek. So we’ll look around, we’ll grab some water samples, and we’ll bring them back to the lab.”

“That sounds too easy. Will it work?”

“No chance in hell.”

“Why not?”

“Because those sanctimonious hydro engineers aren’t going to help us. If you’re right and it’s not some tragic coincidence, if their water factory is truly broken, they already know and they’re scrambling to repair it. The only way we’re going to get a tour is if we take the mayor with us. They wouldn’t dare say no to him.”

“He doesn’t like me.”

“He doesn’t like anybody, but he loves his job and all of the perks that come with it: all those little people who come looking for little favors make Mayor Brandt a very big boy. Let’s talk him into going tonight. Maybe we’ll get lucky and it’ll be empty.”

“But then who would show us around?”

“The mayor himself!”

“I have to train the blue boys.”

“The boys in blue. We’ll go after, which reminds me: I think Eartha and I are due for some additional training as well. Let’s stop by Ops, squeeze in a workout. I’m suddenly feeling reinvigorated.”

“You really want to be the one who takes the next guy down.”

“I really do. If you can’t tell, soldier boy, I’ve been looking for a little ‘gender equality’ since puberty. If I get to throw the first surprise punch for all womankind, even if I’m subsequently trounced and beaten to a less-than-ladylike pulp, I’ve won. Girls everywhere will know, at the risk of getting their Mary Janes scuffed, they can stand up and defend themselves.”

Proceed to Chapter 13...

Copyright © 2018 by Charles C. Cole

Home Page