Murder in New Eden
by Charles C. Cole
Chapter 33: Conclusion
With misty eyes and faintly trembling hands, the mayor returns home to his elegant abode, to the enormous crystal chandelier in the foyer, to the magnificent Steinway in the rotunda, to the garish programmable pedal harp. Under his breath, he whispers reverently, “We deserve each other. Now the set is complete.”
Brandt sighs, deeply satisfied. He literally, if briefly, applauds his good fortune. With a recent load lifted from his shoulders, he heads to the stairs to change into swim trunks. Then he notices a chair missing from the dining room table. The patio door is wide open. And there’s a small, damp, crumpled white towel lying on a solid oak stair tread. It has blood on it.
“Nicolas? Officer Petrillo?” No answer. “Is anybody here?”
A grizzled oaf on the patio saunters closer, with a smug air of menace. To make a point, he throws a chair out of his way.
His twin steps out of the kitchen, eating an overflowing sandwich in one hand and holding a large butcher knife in the other.
Then Delumbria appears at the balcony above. He holds a scroll and seems to be reading from it, while wearing vaguely threatening blue latex gloves.
“Welcome home, Mr. Mayor, and goodbye. We thank you for your long service and dedication. Blah. Blah. Blah.” He drops the scroll over the railing. It drifts down.
“Am I going somewhere?”
“If I had my way, out an airlock and into space,” answers Delumbria. “But we probably shouldn’t jettison so much potential fertilizer. Waste not, want not.”
“Was Officer Petrillo here?”
“Haven’t seen him. Does he live here now?”
“No. And why the intimidating latex gloves?”
“These?” Delumbria looks at his hands with stage-managed befuddlement, as if he can’t recall putting them on. “I know! I got tired of waiting.” He pulls them off and lets them fall from the balcony. “I scrubbed the toilet and sink in the guest bathroom. You’re welcome. Whoever cleans your home has been shortchanging you, my friend. When I live here, that slapdash stuff stops dead.”
“I didn’t know you were moving in,” says Brandt. “When exactly is this happening?”
Delumbria descends. “Right now. Surprise!”
“I should pack.”
“This is going to be the easiest move of your life: no packing. You won’t need anything where you’re going.”
“Why is it you loathe me so much?” asks Brandt, sensing the man with the knife closing behind him.
“You’re serious? Because I’ve got nothing, and you’re the total opposite.”
“Have you dealt with all of these people, with their demands, their jealousies, their need for personal space that I cannot provide without a bigger satellite, their unfulfilled longings? It’s a balancing act, I’ll tell you. If you can do it better, you deserve the job.”
“I don’t want the job,” Delumbria explains, “I just want the perks.”
“So you don’t want to earn it? Sounds like ‘slapdash stuff’ to me.”
Delumbria is now at the mayor’s level and closing in. “Honestly, I don’t care a whit for the opinion of the former, late mayor of New Eden.” Delumbria turns to his “kitchen aide.” “Knife please, handle first.”
“Before you kill me, satisfy my curiosity. Whose blood is on the towel?”
“That was an accident. Someone,” Delumbria’s clearly scolding the man in the patio doorway, “got a little too rough. He’s been reprimanded. He got carried away by the thrill of the moment. If we ever do this again, I know he’ll be more careful.”
“Whose blood is it?!” snarls Brandt.
“Mr. Mayor, must I remind you where we stand? This is the seat of civility, where every mayor has lived since we launched the grand space experiment. You will watch your tone. When our forefathers planned a peaceful society based on early twentieth-century mores, I don’t think they expected commoners to raise their voices or curse or chase each other with croquet mallets.”
“They didn’t expect the Superintendent of Engineers to sabotage the water treatment plant either.”
“Water and power, you always forget that. I made it better,” lies Delumbria.
“Efficiencies come with a price.”
“That’s not it.”
“All right, I was bored. Then it got pretty interesting there for a while. Bernie Ketchum finding a working antique Thompson submachine gun!” He gasps in awe. “Who could have predicted that? Amazing! And Dr. Valdez feeling more important than he’d ever felt in his life! And rising to the occasion!
“But then the chief ruined everything! The man is a Puritanical killjoy. Has he ever used your pool? Has he ever used your tennis court? No, not Mr. All-work-and-no-play.
“He had a private stash of supersoldiers. That secret had to hurt, Mr. Professional Politician. Imagine how much of a tease that was to me. With our homemade aggression formula pumped into their unsuspecting biomechanics, this place would have been on fire! But, no. Temperance Goodbody decides to respond in moderation. One gun requires one soldier. Boring!
“I wanted to see them all on the streets, armed to the teeth, with bandoliers crisscrossing their chests, swinging shotguns like tennis racquets, scaring the bejesus out of little kids and old ladies. But there’s a problem: there are no guns. And Sergeant Cody is too busy falling in love and teaching yoga to the proud boys in blue.
“So I tell a little fib to Pelkey, who tells it to Schiavelli, who tells it to you. “We’re coming,’ I say. “We’re going to rape your women and eat all your ice cream.’ And, finally, I get a reaction. The overprotective chief loses it. He instructs Wayne to bootstrap my minions with pill power. It’s more than I could have asked for.”
Thick nylon climbing rope drops from the outside of the building, down to the patio, hitting the startled thug on the shoulder. He brushes it off quickly, as if it were a large poisonous snake, not noticing the real threat dropping down on top of him, a soldier in all black, with night-vision goggles, and shoeblack smeared on his face. The thug tries vainly to get back up.
“Stay down!” snarls Boyer, removing his goggles and anchoring the flat of his boot on the man’s chest. Still shocked, the untrained bully does as he’s told, frozen to the spot, and just a little smaller than he was an hour ago. Randall steps up and takes over while Boyer advances into the house.
The kitchen thug starts to retreat, but Abbott and Warden kick in the front door loudly. They are a terrible sight. The henchman instinctively falls to his knees with his hands crossed on top of his head and his eyes staring at the floor.
Delumbria spins behind the mayor and holds the knife tightly against his throat.
Wayne walks in from the patio. She is dressed in black like her fellow soldiers. She is primed to kill. “Sorry, to disappoint you, Dom, but the insurrection’s been postponed. For once in my life, I didn’t listen to the chief. I gave your minions stomach cramps and diarrhea.”
“You didn’t! You did? What a waste of a golden opportunity for all of you! You know how grateful the chief’s going to be, grateful enough to stick you all back in the freezer for another hundred years. You’ll see.”
Schiavelli walks in the front door, Pelkey just a step behind. “They can stay; they’ve earned it. And if you really did ‘upgrade’ the water treatment plant, we could do with their help and expertize, though I expect Wayne will figure it out eventually. But take your time, Officer. Absolutely no rush.”
“Put the knife down!” commands Boyer.
“Or what?” says Delumbria. “You’ll kill me? I’m as good as dead already. I played my hand. I lost.”
Schiavelli tries to reason with him. “Dom, I was serious about looking for a habitable planet. I’ll give you the first slot in the first away mission. You want adventure? Imagine a new world.”
“That’s tempting,” says Delumbria. “I appreciate the offer: letting me save face. But if I’m going to lose, I’m going to lose big.”
Schiavelli scoffs. “By killing Brandt? You don’t get topside very often, do you? The mayor’s nothing but a figurehead. I’m the one who calls the shots.”
Brandt’s not sure where this is going, but clearly doesn’t like the sound of it.
Schiavelli continues. “Pelkey was my mole. These are my soldiers. Wayne works for me. You kill Brandt, and I’ll just replace him with another puppet to do my bidding.”
Delumbria is mildly amused. “Sounds like Chief Leo’s tired of chopping wood and carrying water. Viva la revolución.”
A noose has been descending slowly from the balcony. Delumbria sees its reflection in the glass of the patio door, but not before it drops over his chin and pulls up tight, forcing him up onto his toes, precariously. Facing a very real, impending death, Delumbria drops the knife immediately, apparently ready to deal. Brandt dashes away, out of danger. Delumbria grabs the rope with both hands and begins to make choking sounds.
First things first. “My apologies, Your Honor,” says the chief. “I was just spouting the kind of nonsense that would appeal to him. You’re the boss.”
On the balcony, Maccario has the upper end of the rope wrapped and secured around the handrail. The rail is creaking. “Would ‘the boss’ tell me what I should do? He’s getting heavy.”
“Let him down!” orders Schiavelli and Brandt simultaneously.
“Are you sure?” asks Maccario.
“Do it!” calls Brandt.
Maccario plays out the line, Boyer removes the rope from Delumbria’s neck, while Warden scoops up the knife. Delumbria quickly covers his neck with one hand before they change their minds and steps away from the balcony.
Wayne steps forward, snatches the knife from Warden and holds the point against Delumbria’s chin, just breaking the skin. “Where is she?!” she hisses.
Delumbria looks around the room for someone to call Wayne off of him, but this time nobody moves.
“I’ve got her!” calls Cody from upstairs, escorting the former kidnap victim, with his arm tightly around Nakamura’s waist. “She’s okay.”
Seeing Wayne, Nakamura races to the stair landing. Wayne throws the knife to the floor and races from the other direction, freeing Delumbria. The two best friends hold hands and cry and smile. They have no use for words right now, but then Wayne can’t help herself. She finds herself looking for the injury that led to the bloody towel.
“What? I bit my lip while they were gagging me,” explains Nakamura. “No permanent damage.”
Wayne give her a huge hug and resumes crying.
“So this is it,” says Delumbria. “The pinnacle of my career. I lived in the mayor’s deluxe condo for exactly one day. Allow me to say goodbye to everything I struggled for.” Everyone watches the sad performance. They think, wrongly, that it’s over, a concession speech.
“Goodbye, gaudy chandelier. Farewell, Steinway that probably nobody ever plays. So long, harp. I hope they return you to the angel they stole you from. Maybe I’ll go with you.” He has an idea. “And the pool! I never got to use the pool!”
Delumbria steps outside and quickly ducks behind a massive baroque vase, returning immediately with Bernie Ketchum’s Thompson submachine gun. Everyone freezes. The threat is real. “Anybody ever use one of these? Because I don’t even know if it’s loaded. I’m betting my life on it. How’s this for irony? I’m surrounded by soldiers and I’m the one with military supremacy. You’ve got nothing but your fists and your feet and—”
Cody suddenly hurls a large knife. It catches Delumbria in the center of his chest. Delumbria is in shock. Wayne gasps. The former Superintendent of Engineers pulls on the trigger without lifting the gun and manages a few stray rounds into the concrete floor of the patio. He drops the gun. It’s too heavy for him in his condition. He staggers away. “Never used the pool.” He somehow falls in. Intentionally or accidentally, no one will ever know.
* * *
Copyright © 2018 by Charles C. Cole