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 27: Keeping Things in Hand
The medical examiner’s suite, for the first time ever, looks like the cluttered garage of a hot-rod-racing teen-aged motorhead. There are long pieces of metal in loose stacks, grouped by size. Wayne, in glowing headlamp, has a wide sheet of blueprints stretched across her counter. Some ideas have been started, but there’s a lot of blank space yet. A black pencil has settled in the lower corner of her mouth, between her teeth, like her father’s cigar.
Though she hates to admit it, Wayne is overwhelmed: by the debris; the hard-driving, perky assistant; the imposingly ambitious goal. Nakamura arrives, from an even more cluttered back room that was probably locked and overlooked until today, arms loaded with jagged possibilities. Right now, though not on the formal cross-training agenda, the two partners are creating upgraded cryogenics tubes, roomier and more versatile and more elegant.
“Enough!” cries out Wayne. “Drop everything!”
“Okay.” Nakamura does as she’s told, right where she’s standing. It is meant as humor. The resurrected oddments crash to the concrete floor with the strident effect of plate glass shattering in a monastery. Nakamura covers both ears, after the fact. “Ouch!” she says.
“You mean you’ve figured it out? Already? I told you you’re amazing!” gushes Nakamura.
“I mean I give up, Lucy. No more walking on water for this girl. No more getting anywhere near water.”
“What are you saying?” Nakamura can’t quite process the sudden change of course.
“I have no idea what I’m doing.”
“Isn’t there any documentation?”
“Not for this,” confesses Wayne.
Nakamura envisions an “easy” solution: “Field trip!” She grabs Wayne playfully by the hand and tugs.
“Field trip! We’re going to crash the boys’ dorm. They’ll never know we were there.”
“What do you mean?”
“We’re going to go visit Cody’s boys and their cool toys.”
“You don’t mean—”
“Yep. I mean Boyer and Abbott and Warden and Randall and Maccario. All of them. The whole set. I’ve got first dibs on Cody. We might as well check out his teammates for you before any sultry competition figures out where we’ve shelved them.”
“We can’t do this!”
“Never say no to a girl with a dream.”
“What are we going to do?”
“You are going to bring paper and pencil, and we are going to carefully disassemble the only pod not currently occupied.”
“You know where they are?”
“No, but you do. The chief can’t keep a secret from you to save his life.”
“They’re where they always were. We just blocked the front door. And lied to anyone who asked.”
* * *
Pelkey is taking a shortcut down an empty alley when he first realizes he’s being followed. Not by Lois. His pursuer is making no effort to be subtle and, in fact, is closing fast. There’s a black delivery van blocking the other end of the alley. Coincidence? He could climb over it in a pinch, but Pelkey decides to stop and wait for the inevitable, when Petrillo catches up with him. Petrillo is back in his police blues, and he’s holding a riot baton.
“Former Director of Communications Pelkey, what are you doing aboveground?” The acting Director of Communications sounds like an angry drunk.
Pelkey cannot possibly answer the rhetorical question to Petrillo’s satisfaction. “Making myself useful. How about you?”
“Funny you should ask. I wasn’t sure how I could help at first, being the newest member of the A-team. You’re the wordsmith. Cody’s the muscle. Wayne’s the brains. Nakamura’s the all-seeing eye. The chief, we know, is the puppet master. And I’m a simple beat patrolman.”
“What about Mayor Brandt? Your boss,” asks Pelkey pointedly.
“That one? He’s the comic relief. Harmless, as long as the chief is calling the shots.”
“What can I do for you, Nicolas? You didn’t chase me down to be sociable.”
“I need you to come with me.” Petrillo has both hands on his baton and his knuckles are white.
“What for?” asks Pelkey, watching the baton carefully.
“I think you know.” Petrillo has a new tic at the lower corner of his right eye, as if he’s overstraining it from bully-posturing.
“Dom’s going to miss me pretty soon, Officer. Or is it ‘Director’? In any case, it wouldn’t be good to change my routines, this close to the revolution.”
“Maybe not. But I can’t turn my back on a golden opportunity like this.”
“Like what? Is this about getting information? I’ve told everyone that I don’t know details. Dom keeps things to himself until he’s ready to share them. He’s a lot like Brandt that way.”
Petrillo flares his nostrils. It would be funny if it were a conscious act of intimidation, but he seems to be running on offensive autopilot. “I’ll bet you know more than you think you know. I’m going to help you remember.”
“Do you mind taking a step back?” asks Pelkey, trying the mayor’s professional voice of authority. “Don’t be offended; I’m just feeling a little crowded.”
“Okay, no harm in humoring you,” says Petrillo. “I give you what you want now, and you give me what I want later.”
“Can I ask a question?” prods Pelkey.
Petrillo is getting impatient. “I ask the questions!”
“I know. Just one or two. Three at most.”
“Do it, and let’s get on with what we have to do.”
“I’m thinking you’ve been pretty depressed, working for the mayor. He doesn’t give a lot of atta-boys. And you probably found some of the pills that Dr. Feelgood had been giving out like candy to all of the widowers in New Eden. Maybe at Bernie’s or Edgar’s. And you thought they would make your promotion more tolerable. But they didn’t, at first, so you tried some more.”
“Toby, you’ve been busy! You’ve clearly been visiting City Ops, keeping an eye on my whereabouts. However did you manage it? I’m touched. Or were you just afraid I was going to do a better job than you as Director of Communications?”
“Just lucky guesses, really. Nakamura always hated my visiting City Ops. I tend to stay away from where I’m not wanted. I wasn’t very nice to her at times.”
“Because I’m a boy. Because I could. And I hear she’s pretty bad-ass now, if I may say so. Private lessons with the weaponized ice cream man will do that.”
“What are you suggesting?” asks Petrillo.
“That I don’t like to get hurt.”
“Then you’re not going to like what’s coming next.”
“You said I had three questions,” says Pelkey.
“That’s right, so ask them.”
“Did you know that the so-called medicine Dr. Valdez whipped together was actually formulated to amp up the aggression of the already emotionally ragged, to destabilize the peace and prosperity of New Eden?”
“That’s one. I did not know that. For a bad guy, he was pretty smart. Of course, it didn’t help him in the long run. Well, it’s working: I feel like I could break you in two right across my knee. I wonder if that’s even possible. Shall we find out?”
“I have two more questions,” says Pelkey, stalling.
“You are such a stickler. How did you ever manage working for the mayor, who bends rules here and shims them to fit there?”
“I was able to sleep at night,” responds Pelkey, “feeling that, while he’s the boss, I was morally superior, if only by contrast.”
“That’s clever. Just doing as you’re told, right? That’s good. Maybe I’ll use that. Of course, after today, I may not feel so morally superior. We should go.”
“Two more questions, you said.”
“How’d I let you talk me into this? Spit them out while you can still talk, before you start spitting out your teeth and spilling out your guts.” Petrillo slaps the baton against his open palm. He’s become cartoonishly villainous.
“Could you take another step back?”
“You’re kidding me. You hoping for a running start? Sure, but then I’m just going to take one giant leap forward when it’s my turn.” Petrillo steps back. “What a waste of a question! Where are we with this juvenile game? Can we leave? Or do you have one more question?”
“I do, but it’s not for you.”
“Who’s it for?” asks Petrillo.
“The chief? I don’t think he’s going to hear you.”
“I think he will.”
Schiavelli, unnoticed and breathing heavily, is now standing behind Petrillo. He’s been directed down the alley by Lois, who’s watched the events get to this point.
To the chief, while looking into Petrillo’s eyes: “Can you push really hard when I open the door?”
“What?!” asks Petrillo.
Pelkey opens the back door of the van blocking his way and quickly climbs inside, sliding across the seat to the far door. With two hands, Schiavelli scoops up Petrillo under the shoulders and throws him in behind Pelkey, wrenching away the crowd-control baton as he does so.
Pelkey jumps out the opposite side and slams the door behind him. Petrillo is not happy. He turns around to see Schiavelli shutting the door behind him, wiggling his fingers in a patronizing wave. Petrillo tries to open the door, but the chief prevents him.
“What’s going on?!” growls Petrillo. “I had him.”
“I was going to ask you the same thing,” Schiavelli says, “after you’ve detoxed.”
“Sir, he’s one of the bad guys!”
“That’s right, but he’s our bad guy.”
“We can get information from him.”
“He’s given us what he knows. Right now, he’s on a mission for me. Let him go.”
“But, sir, I’m sure I can get more. Just give me a few minutes.”
“Stand down, Officer!”
“I’ll take it from here. Do I make myself clear? Officer Petrillo?”
“Clear, sir,” says Petrillo. The words are right but the attitude hasn’t caught up yet.
To Pelkey: “You’ve got somewhere to be. I suggest you get there. I can take of Petrillo.”
“I owe you, Chief.”
“Keep that in mind when the mob violence starts. Now go.”
Pelkey nods and rushes off. Petrillo slides toward the opposite door as if giving chase.
The chief snaps, “Don’t even think about it, Officer! I will have Sgt. Cody kick your ass from here to outer space. Do I make myself clear?”
“And no more pills for you! If you don’t like working for the mayor, quit! We’ve got plenty of work back at the station.”
“I just don’t know what he wants from me,” says Petrillo.
“He wants you to agree with him, admire him and, right now, keep him safe. So put some gravity in your shoes and make sure Delumbria’s people leave him alone.”
“Yes, sir!” Petrillo grabs for the door handle.
“Not yet, son. Let’s get your toxic testosterone back down first. I don’t want you beating up on some little old lady. Speaking of which.”
With the excitement over, Lois joins Schiavelli in the alley. His shirt’s untucked from running, a “sacrifice” he wouldn’t normally make in public. She smiles. “Well, that went better than expected,” she says, quoting the chief.
“Let’s hope you can say the same thing about Delumbria’s revolution.”
“We need reinforcements,” says Lois, suddenly serious. “We’re running out of time.”
“I don’t think you should ask Brandt’s permission,” Lois offers.
“What about Cody’s permission?” It’s meant rhetorically.
“They don’t belong to him.”
“It’s a big decision. I think I’m ‘there’, but he should be front-and-center when they wake up,” says Schiavelli. “Where is he? Did you see him at the park?”
“I was distracted. He might have been there. How would I know? Right, he’d be the good-looking man in the Good Humor suit surrounded by disappointed kids.”
“Not anymore. I got him a truck of his own, with ice cream, and a bell. He wanted to meet the masses, be less of a stranger. What better way? He already had the uniform. It was his idea.”
Copyright © 2018 by Charles C. Cole