A Matter of Time
The sixth book in the Symbiotica Series
2017 Alexander Nassau
Published by Alexander Nassau at Smashwords
All characters and names in this book are fictional and have no
relevance to any real world individuals either living or deceased.
Without you, Verish wouldn't be
quite as barking mad."
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One - Sleepy Town
- Laughing at Astronomers
Two - Filling in the Blanks
Three - Calculating the Odds
- Bad Case of Beans
Four - Rude Awakening
Five - Diversity
- Explosive Staring Competitions
Six - Needles and Haystacks
Seven - Ghosts
- Interdimensional Practical Jokes
Eight - The Impossible Island
Nine - A Matter of Time
Ten - It's Life Jimmy
of Book 7 - Dystopia
the Scene - The City of New Oxford
Return of Symbiotica - Authors Retrospective
Take a quick look at planet
Earth and you will find it quite a beautiful world from space. With
two thirds of it water, only broken by the various land masses, it
shines in as a crystal blue sphere almost peaceful as it orbits the
If you were to examine the
continents though you would quickly realise this world is quite
important in our galaxy in that it not only does it have life, but
intelligent life although perhaps some could argue the intelligent
part. Focus in on the Northern Hemisphere you will find a slab of
land the local intelligent life call the United States of America.
In this United States of
America, it is not hard to see that dotted around this mass of land
are centres of population, sometimes referred to as cities and if you
were to look a little closer you would find these usually centre
around the coast lines of which there is quite a lot and on the left
side of this slab of land is a place called California.
This California, from a
visitor's perspective is a beautiful place with a diverse selection
of life and terrain ranging from mountain to fields of plant life,
deserts to forests and everything in between. It is why many of the
local intelligent life enjoy this place. Looking down though you also
start to realise just how they have managed to change that pristine
natural landscape to their own purposes. Their cities centre around
the coast lines, sprawling out with their geometric shapes and
fascinating structures where they go about their business. Their
influence does not stop there though as you see the tell tale signs
of their feats of engineering, things they call roads that cut
through nature and connect their cities together, place where
machines stalk their way through nature carrying them to where ever
they need to go.
This intelligent life refers to
themselves as 'human' for the most part. Odd fleshy little creatures
with a biped body and a sizeable brain often capable of far more than
Looking down and taking in this
California, you will find these humans give names to the places they
live. If you were to look almost in the middle of the state by the
coast, you would find a city called San Francisco. It is certainly a
very interesting place with so much to see, but not really the focus
of where we want to be. Travelling north on one of their roads you
will soon hit the land locked city of Sacramento, again a nice enough
place but not where we want to be either.
Follow what they called
Interstate Highway Five and keep going north through that blissful
and beautiful countryside for quite some time and you will eventually
see a sign for one of the lesser known Cities in California. A city
called New Oxford.
That city is much like any other
city, with buildings, businesses and a centre for the local human
life to populate as they live their brief and usually uneventful
lives. That city however has a secret.
Not all the intelligent life
there is human or even from this world.
Of course these humans are so
self assured in their superior beliefs that they could not fathom the
fact that aliens were living in their midst. Humans would whole
heartedly believe the moon is made of cheese more than they would the
person who just walked past them on the street is an alien.
See why I said the intelligent
life premise is up for debate?
While these aliens may be of
interest, their exploits have already been fairly well documented.
Refugee's from a long dead world, they have settled in to their lives
on this world quite well and while really they shouldn't be here
anymore having founded a new home world, they now see this strange
world as their home and are most happy here.
They are only part of this story
though and if you were to look down on the city of New Oxford and
move to the north east a little, far beyond the limits of the city
you will find yourself in beautiful open countryside mostly devoted
to producing the human's food. Dotted around these expanses of
agriculture are smaller cities often called towns.
Roughly eighty human miles
outside of New Oxford there is one quite special town called Wyvern.
In the grand human scheme of things it really does not amount to
much. There are shops for the necessities, local amenities and
recreational facilities and on its outskirts some industrial areas.
For humans travelling through to
their destination, this town is unremarkable and easily forgotten,
but it is unique for one reason. One of the human population believes
the moon is not made of cheese and that there are aliens walking
amongst us and to that end is making noises about it, attracting the
As for this moment though, that
is where the story starts, but if you were to head to the outskirts
to an industrial complex near the highway you would find yourself
looking at a quite peaceful scene in the early hours of the morning.
Look closer you would find
fairly generic businesses. Farming equipment suppliers, vehicle
repairs and the a few other fairly faceless business centres. One
such building would be a maker of human food, the Cupcake Emporium.
For all their flaws humans are
quite creative and while cupcakes are nothing more than an indulgence
food, the owner thought that they would embellish their business with
a grand gesture in the shape of a ten feet tall giant pink cupcake on
the roof. It wasn't a real cupcake as that would be silly. No, it was
a fibreglass item designed to visually show what the business did.
And tonight, if you looked
closely enough up to the roof of the building you would see a single
lone figure working away in the dead of night. This is what humans
would call a crime in progress as this figure was unbolting the said
cupcake and preparing to steal it.
If you looked at this from a
human perspective this was again unremarkable. Crime seemed to be
quite prevalent amongst the human population which is why they
employed people to investigate acts like this and bring criminals to
However as this solitary figure
freed the giant emblem from its mooring, disconnecting the light
inside it, something quite unusual happened.
A large door appeared out of
thin air, the room beyond it bathed in a blue glow. It was most
peculiar as if you looked hard enough, you would realise the only
thing you could see was the door, nothing more. It was like this door
magically opened up in thin air.
You would then see this figure
dragging the cupcake towards the door, pulling it a ramp and inside
this phantom room. Then with one last glance, the figure walked over
and pressed something before the door started to close until there
was nothing there but dark sky, no sign of the door or the cupcake.
That would be what had happened,
if anyone had been watching. There would be nothing to see on the
various security cameras and the night watchman across the street was
unable to comment because he was snoring although he would never
admit that to his employers.
Humans would call this a mystery
that defied explanation, but the truth was this was going to be
insignificant in the grand scheme of things.
In less than a week, the town of
Wyvern for most of its population would be pretty much as it had
always been, but for one person, it would never be the same sleepy
That is where this story
Opening the door to the station
house, it was what you would expect on a Friday night. Jeff Towner
was in the cells sleeping his short live drinking session off, there
had been the regular call from Mrs Mullins about seeing bright lights
in the sky which was of course a passing jet on its way to the New
Oxford airport and the usual warning to Kyle Jacobite about taking
photographs from behind the bins on the main street of the local
"Next time you are dealing
with Mrs Mullins," she grumbled resting her hat on the stand
glancing over to Jimmy playing with an elastic band at his desk. She
had inherited Jimmy after Sheriff Lomax had retired and she really
didn't understand how this idiot had been hired in the first place.
If this had been city police he would not have lasted five minutes.
In fact the only thing he was good at was firing a gun, which out
here perhaps occurred twice a year.
As the clock on the wall did its
familiar click on the hour, Jimmy stood up, nodded and grabbed his
coat and left for the night leaving her to enjoy the ambient tones of
Jeff's snoring. At first she had thought Jimmy was disrespectful and
bitter about her getting the Sheriff's position, but the truth was he
was a man of few words. Whether or not this was because he only had a
few words in his head was up for debate, but she had so far had no
cause to question his conduct.
She took out her phone, slipping
in a headphone to one ear as she sat at her desk, the music washing
over her, providing a far better sound track than Jeff' burbling.
Five years with New Oxford
Police Department. Five years of murder, mayhem and the worst of
humanity was enough to tear the heart from a person. The criminals
she could deal with, it was what she had been trained to deal with.
It was the victims that caused her the most pain. People going about
their lawful business who, in a blind moment of someone else's
ignorance ended up scarred for life, or worse. When she had left the
academy she was full of hope and dreams over how exciting her career
was going to be. She had risen through the ranks to the level of
Detective, but as time went on, she had found herself fighting to get
out of bed in a morning. When this vacancy had come up, she had
snapped at the chance to escape and with a few kind words from her
Captain, she had transferred to this sleepy town of Wyvern, eighty
miles outside of New Oxford.
Going from Detective to Sheriff
had been a shock to the system. In New Oxford it was all about
quota's and management, turning people in to numbers and statistics
in the most efficient way possible. She felt like someone in a fast
food restaurant, mindlessly processing the work for the day until she
could go home, the only excitement on offer was bullets whistling by
her. Perhaps she was underselling her contribution. She knew how many
lives she had changed, how many criminals she had put away and how
many senseless crimes she had thwarted, but still as job satisfaction
went, it left a lot to be desired.
Here though, she had a hundred
square miles to cover, mostly farm land. The town had crime but
compared to what she was used to, it seemed trivial. Her role here
was that of authority, a single point for people to come to, be it
lost kittens to stolen cars. It almost felt like a holiday, but as
with any community, it had its flaws. Over the last month she had
only handed out a few fines and the one incident of some criminals
from New Oxford hiding out in a barn from the authorities.
Looking over to the cells as
Jeff seemed to snort a little, she laughed a little to herself before
glancing up at the clock. Another three hours and she could go home
for the night, after dropping Jeff off at his home where she was sure
his wife would be waiting with a rolling pin.
It was a different life, and she
* * *
"Morning," she chirped
waving to old man Dyson across the screen as she carried her coffee.
It was the one thing she missed about the city. Proper coffee.
Jessie's did a fair approximation, but it wasn't fresh roast with
proper foamy milk and cocoa sprinkles.
Looking around the street it all
seemed lively for a Saturday morning. Families with their kids
getting groceries, cars passing through the high street. It was
another beautiful warm day, blue sky above and bird song filling the
Wyvern was not a big town. Two
bars, a supermarket, a bank, hardware shop and a several restaurants.
Just beyond on the periphery of the town were the usual fast food
joints near the main highway, some industrial factories, gas stations
which then led you to more rural scenes with fields of corn and
ranches. Big enough to be interesting, yet small enough to be
Walking over to civic building
it really said a great deal about the town. It served as everything,
from the home for the Mayor's office to her own stationhouse, all
under one roof. It was probably one of the oldest buildings in the
town, quite grand it is appearance with sandstone pillars and ornate
fixtures. Entering the large wooden doors she made her way through.
"Morning Jimmy," she
announced finally entering the stationhouse glancing around.
Jimmy looked up from his work
and did his usual nod. He had taken the morning shift starting at the
crack of dawn.
"Anything new?" she
asked putting her hat down on the stand glancing over to his unusual
She frowned at him as she put
her coffee down on the desk.
He stopped his work looking up
at her with a little confusion.
"Report of stolen property
from the Cupcake Emporium on Cleeves industrial park. You know the
giant cupcake they have on the roof. It got pinched," he
reported to her surprise. That thing must have be ten feet tall. You
could see it from the highway. How anyone had managed to get that
down, let alone escape with it was beyond her.
"Mrs. Mullins called in.
She says an alien ship landed in her back garden during the night and
has laid a giant pink egg," he continued in his monotone voice.
"Funny thing. She says it looks like a cupcake."
She rolled her eyes. Either this
was his way of being funny, or someone was messing around. That said,
Mrs. Mullins house was ten miles outside the town. It seemed a
bizarre practical joke. Either that or the joke was on her.
"Oh. Sudden death too.
Cleaner came in to Doctor Garnier's place this morning and found a
body. Got the County pathologist and scene of crime coming out.
Should be her in half an hour if you want to go meet them," he
continued much to her surprise.
"Scene of crime?" she
asked pensively. "It was either a sudden death or foul play.
Which is it?"
"What do you mean dunno?"
she sighed frowning at him.
"Well," he said
sitting back in his chair looking very thoughtful. "You seen
that film The Mummy? It's kind of like that, but in Doctor Garnier's
living room and none of them black bugs running around. I don't like
* * *
Pulling up the drive way she
knew where she had been here before. Doctor Garnier was a wealthy
scientist that worked in New Oxford most of the time. He had popped
in to the stationhouse as her first customer, her first day on the
job and asked if they could keep an eye on his place as he was going
to be out of town for a month.
Jimmy had shown her round and
she had been true to her word, popping by every other day to just
give the place a once over. He had a maid that looked after the place
and she was the person who had found the body this morning.
What bothered her was as she
left the station last night she swore she had seen Doctor Garnier
driving back in to town and true to form his expensive sports car was
parked up neatly on the driveway.
Trying to get Jimmy to part with
information was like trying to get blood out of a stone, but looking
around she could see that he had been efficient as always. There was
scene of crime tape on the doors and he had looked after the maid and
come back in to town to file the report with the pathologist.
But this whole Mummy thing
seemed rather farfetched. She had seen all sorts of horrors in her
time, but never someone who had been mummified.
She decided to double check the
property though, walking around the perimeter of the house, checking
for anything untoward and finding very little as she rounded back to
the front door. She pushed under the tape, the door opening with a
creak as she walked inside. There was a most odd smell in the air of
this beautifully finished home. On the walls were degrees and awards,
the Doctors keys on the side and a suit case sitting almost out of
place in the hall way.
There were no signs of a
struggle or foot prints in the immaculately set hallway. She walked
in a little deeper checking the luxurious and well set kitchen. There
was a mug next to the kettle, a teabag inside. Obviously refreshments
after his trip that he never got to enjoy.
She glanced over to the living
room and it was then she realised just what Jimmy had meant.
On the floor in the centre of
the room was the body, but nothing like she had ever seen before. The
whole area surrounding the body seemed to be blackened and foul, the
corpus looking like a shrivelled prune, its skins dark and leathery,
its hair almost dusty.
She ignored the body and quickly
checked the room for any signs of evidence before walking in a little
more until she found herself face to face with the deceased. Jimmy
had been right. The remains were desiccated. Whoever this was, a
visual identification was not going to be possible.
"It's the air
conditioning," a quite posh voice said at the hallway door."
Has a nasty habit of removing the moisture from a body, but never
seen anything that advanced before."
She looked up to see a man
standing there in a smart suit, case in hand, already wearing gloves.
"Am I clear to examine the
body?" he asked diligently. "And I don't believe we have
met. I'm Doctor Lassator, County pathologist."
She looked around again just to
make sure. This was perplexing, but she could not see anything of
"Come over," she
replied as more footsteps sounded in the hall way, scene of crime
arriving and setting to work.
"Well, I think I can
confirm he is dead," the doctor quipped somewhat obviously.
"Cursory examination would suggest the body has been here for at
least six months, although that does not explain the desiccation of
the remains. I can tell you this person died in extreme pain though.
Look at the hand position clutching the head and the foetal position.
This was a violent death. Clothing appears to have fused with the
skin although from what I can see we may be able to get finger
prints. The tips seem to be very well preserved however I will run
dental to ensure positive identification."
"That would rule out the
home owner then," she sighed bluntly. "Could the body have
been put here?"
"Not the slightest chance.
This blackening around the corpus is indicative of microbial activity
as the body decayed although the pattern is somewhat unusual. This is
quite the puzzle you have here Sheriff..."
"Lofthouse," she said
realising she hadn't introduced herself. "Sellie Lofthouse."
"Ah, the joys of none
biodegradable materials," he commented pulling a pen out of his
pocket and poking under the bodies posterior. "Credit cards by
the looks. Name on the card look like a Darren... no... Doctor R
"Doctor Richard Garnier,"
she muttered, unable to believe what he was saying. "And I saw
him last night. Or at least I think I did. I saw his car and what
looked like him driving it coming back in to town."
"Looks like we have a
mystery on our hands then," he exclaimed standing up,
straightening his jacket.
She looked at him and raised an
eyebrow before walking back in to the kitchen and over to the two
scene of crime officers setting their gear up.
"Can you do a full run
through on the house. Start in the living room, standard murder scene
procedure," she ordered, her training clicking back in to place.
"When you are happy let the pathologist know they can remove the
body. There is a mug in the kitchen. I want it dusting, as well as
the keys in the hall wall, and door handles and frames. Also I want
Doctor Garnier's car sealing and taking back for forensics to go
over. Check for finger prints and DNA inside and out, trunk as well."
The two officers nodded before
setting to work immediately, most likely wanting to get back to their
weekend as expediently as possible. Walking back down the hall way
she glanced in at the Pathologist looking thoughtfully over the body.
"When do you think you will
be able to give me the results of a post mortem?" she asked
breaking his train of thought.
"Normally I would say
within a day or so, but usually I deal with people who somewhat
fresher than this. I was just thinking I may have to call in a friend
of mine from the University. This is more forensic anthropology than
it is forensic pathology."
"You have my email address.
Keep me apprised, but I am for the moment treating this as
"No arguments from me
* * *
"Doctor Richard Garnier.
Thirty Nine years old, no criminal record, not even a speeding
ticket. Life long bachelor, never married. No debts, no money
troubles. High paid position working on next generation medical
imaging technology. Two Doctorates behind his name in Applied Physics
and Engineering. Employed by a well known and well respected
Biotechnology and research company on the outskirts of New Oxford
called Terok Industries," she mused looking over to her deputy.
"So you think he was
murdered?" he asked bluntly.
"Assuming that was Doctor
Garnier, I am considering that. What is bothering me though is I have
all the fact about his life, but I can't seem to find much out about
the man," she sighed. "I have talked to everyone in town.
Elsa, his maid cleaned his house twice a week. She confirmed she got
a text message yesterday evening asking if she could come and do his
laundry today. Beyond that the best she could say was he was a very
nice man, if quiet. I have checked with everyone around town and all
I seem to get is was that he was really nice."
"Well he was."
"How long did he live here.
Ten years? In that time I thought you and Sheriff Lomax would have
got to know him," she snapped a little angrily.
"We did. He helped out in
the community when he could, gave money to town events and everyone
liked him. He kept himself to himself though," Jimmy replied a
little more talkative.
"I'll think I will head
over to this Terok Industries on Monday morning. It seems the doctor
was married to his work and we really need to find out where he has
been for the last month. If it was his body, there are a lot of
things not adding up," she said backing down, she shoulders
slumping a little.
"Must feel like old times
for you this. Don't get much out here other than natural causes,"
It did feel like old times and
she didn't like it. Barely a month in to the job and she had a
suspicious on her hands.
"Not much more we can do
for the moment. Forensics and pathology should have something by
Monday. I think I will do a patrol," she said standing up.
"Saturday night and we will probably get the usual suspects."
"Okay," Jimmy said
flatly. "Oh. Mrs. Mullins rang in again. Says a strange alien
was mooning at her from the field behind her house."
"Oh come on," she
muttered. "You would think if aliens did exist that the last
thing they would be doing here is pulling childish pranks on some
batty old woman."
* * *
It was a good fifteen minutes
drive out to Mrs. Mullins house and although she didn't really want
to stop off again, this whole cupcake incident had left her partly
She was in her late fifties, not
old by any stretch of the imagination. She was a retired teacher, her
husband having passed away five years before leaving her with a
sizeable insurance payout. The term crazy cat woman had been bandied
about by several of the locals when it came to her and considering
she had fourteen cats, it was perhaps accurate. According to her, one
of the cats was the reincarnation of her husband, Billybob, which was
weird in its own way as most people knew the cat in question was a
At some point though something
must have happened to her and she had become obsessed with UFO's and
aliens. Like all obsessions it had started harmlessly enough,
visiting conventions, going to Area 51 sightseeing and holding
paranormal coffee mornings. That however had now progressed to her
running a website which posted alleged UFO sightings, telescopes in
her back garden and in one case had ended up with Police in New
Oxford arresting her after she went nuts and claimed a random
stranger who was just going about their business was an alien.
Back at the Station, Mrs.
Mullins took up three entire folders of reports, complaints and
accusations and her obsession was becoming the stuff of legends. Her
website was a particular cause for concern as it seemed to bring more
than a few crazies to their quiet town.
Pulling up the driveway she was
greeted by Mrs. Mullins immediately running out of her house shaking
her stick at her angrily.
"God damn Alien!!! Get off
ma land!" she was shouting over and over again as she stopped
the jeep and got out.
"Good evening Mrs.
Mullins," she said at the old woman squinted at her through the
glasses so thick they could have been double glazed. "It's
Sheriff Lofthouse. I have come about this cupcake someone put in your
"Thought you were those
rotten aliens again," she muttered, shuffling back. "Come
on in then."
Entering the house the smell of
cats and their various bodily functions assaulted her senses as
dotted around randomly, high and low cats seemed to stare at her,
following the woman through the hall way to the kitchen, then on to
the rear veranda.
It was just starting to get
dark, and she laughed quietly to herself looking at the ten feet tall
cupcake randomly placed in the back garden. The little white base and
pink swirly top. It was staggering to believe that someone would play
such a daring practical joke on her. It almost felt like a student
prank like the time she had been called to a car theft which turned
out to have been a group of students picking up their lecturers car
and moving it to the opposite side of the car park.
"Well Mrs Mullins. I can
assure you that is not an alien egg. It is a fibreglass cupcake
mascot from the Cupcake Emporium. It was reported stolen sometime
last night," she said reassuringly.
"Well, my eyes are not so
good," she muttered waving her stick around. "I saw that
alien over the other side of my bushes. Pulled its pants down and did
a right dance at me showing me its alien butthocks not two hours
She glanced at the cupcake, then
to the far edge of the garden, nearly twice as far from their
position. If she couldn't see it was a giant cupcake, there was not
chance she could see anything at the bottom of her garden.
"I will let the Cupcake
Emporium know we have found their missing item and they can arrange
to recover it with your permission," she said bringing things
back on track as she took a photo of the cupcake for the record.
"As for your mooning alien,
I can't see anyone down there now Mrs. Mullins. I am guessing they
have gone back to Uranus or where ever they came from. I do have to
be honest here though. You do remember that Judge Hinderson warned
you that if you keep calling the police ever day you will end up
having to be arrested and maybe spend some time in prison. Sheriff
Lomax got rather annoyed with you over it and while I know I am the
new Sheriff, it is called wasting police time," she said trying
to be firm with her.
"No need to be rude about
it Sheriff! I thought you were supposed to protect and serve?"
she muttered glaring at her with those magnified eyes.
"That is my job, but I have
many other people who I need to be there for and having to come out
here four or five times a week is not in the people I serve
interests. We have other more serious incidents that need my
"Yeah, heard about the
Doc," she grumbled walking back in to the house. "Wouldn't
be surprised if that was those rotten aliens."
She ignored her as she made her
way back down the hall to the front door, the old woman standing on
the porch staring at her as she walked back to the jeep.
"I will give you a call on
Monday Mrs. Mullins and let you know when the Cupcake Emporium will
be coming to collect their property," she said trying to be
polite, only be met by muttering.
She got in the driver's seat,
the sky now going a darker shade of red as she started the engine,
turning around back towards the road. She was barking mad, but
fractionally endearing in a deranged way.
As she reached the end of the
road she breathed a sigh of relief before slamming the brakes on, her
heart thumping in her chest like she had just had the fright of her
She looked up over the fields.
It was just the sky looking like it had every single night she had
been here. Sparse clouds catching the red of the setting sun, stars
flecking the sky in the growing darkness. There was something there
though. She could feel it, like a weight pressing down on her.
She stared in to the sky trying
to reason what it was that was unnerving her.
She sighed, looking in her
mirror back to the old house. Mad old woman was starting to make her
wonder now. She shook it off, turned left and headed back to Wyvern.
Memo to Seleke Science
The universe is a vast place. So
vast that if you could imagine just how vast it really was, you would
barely scratch the surface of its true immensity.
Although a matter for some
debate in the scientific community, there is a tentative estimate
that there are two trillion galaxies in the Universe. It's a big
number, and one that is probably wrong. That's the trouble with
Astronomers. They always underestimate things.
Let's just put this in
perspective though. If you were to start counting right now, none
stop, night and day, it would take you over sixty thousand years to
count to two trillion.
Our own galaxy, which is just
one of the two trillion, has one hundred billion stars, but as usual
you get the astronomers arguing the facts on this. Simple fact is
they really don't know but it is a very large number.
I could continue this
assassination of how wrong astronomers are, but the simple fact is,
astronomy is the hope that someone can reason and order what is the
reality of the universe.
This of course would be a good
venture, except for one horrible fact. Astronomers like to see what
they want to see, often not what is there.
Take our world for example.
For over one thousand years, our
greatest minds tried to reason why our star was causing such issues.
For a thousand years, they confidently said to our people that our
star was undergoing an increased cycle of violent activity, most
likely caused by an as yet undiscovered dark gravitation object
passing close to our system. They confirmed that our star would
return to normal, and that this cycle could not last forever.
It was conjecture based on a
flawed premise. They saw what they needed to see.
It took a deranged and
clinically insane woman to see the truth.
Our star was on the brink of
collapse, its hydrogen reserves were reaching a critical tipping
point and from that point, the forces of gravity at work within the
star would overpower the force of the fusion explosion at its core.
Our star will collapse in to a dwarf star, and the resulting
implosion would hurl a plasma storm in to our world and end all life.
Even then they would not believe
it, attempting to debunk the idea until the sheer weight of the facts
forced them to relent even if by that point it was too late.
To this end I would like to make
an official recommendation to the Science Council.
We should designate a specific
day within our yearly calendar to "Hit an Astronomer with a
stick Day". If the Council feels this perhaps too violent, I
would settle for a "Point and laugh at an Astronomer Day."
Of course it could be argued
that I have somewhere down this road lost my mind but time, sweet
time will tell.
Filling in the Blanks
It has been a quiet Sunday
thankfully, a day off for both for herself and her deputy, even if
they were on call. A day where she could indulge in her favourite TV
shows, binge watch box sets and put her feet up. She had even gone in
to the bar for a beer in the evening. The locals were still not sure
on a woman Sheriff who liked to wear a dress when she went out, but
they were small town people with the equivalent mindset. Still nice
to watch the game and knock back a few. Her thoughts though had been
Walking in to this amazing
facility she was about as far as she could get from Wyvern. Polished
metal, glass everywhere and a receptionist who had a perfected smile,
above her head the refined and pristine logo of Terok Industries.
"Doctor Weylan will see you
now," she announced as a door opened to their side. The security
guard stayed with her as they walked down the brightly lit corridors,
the walls festooned with science posters showing the companies many
achievements until eventually she was ushered in to a conference
The guard waited diligently
outside. Biotechnology company perhaps, but the level of security
here screamed far more.
"Apologies for the delay,"
a tall man said looking a little flustered as he bumbled in to the
office extending his hand. "Peter Weylan, managing director."
she replied extending her hand, noting his firm grip before he
motioned her to a seat.
"Not often we get law
enforcement visiting us," he mused sitting down opposite. "I
hope none of our employees are in any trouble."
"Actually I have come to
see you about Doctor Richard Garnier," she said sombrely. "I
am sorry to say we believe that he was found dead in his home on
"Richard? Goodness me,
that's terrible," he exclaimed in shock. "I have had my
secretary calling him all morning. I was a little concerned when he
didn't come in to work. He is always so punctual."
He paused for a moment eyeing
"You said you believe it
"It was very difficult to
identify the body. It had been desiccated. Preliminary evidence
points to the body being that of Doctor Garnier though," she
replied glancing around the office. "If you don't mind I have a
few questions regarding the Doctor and his work for your company."
"Of course. Anything you
need, within security reason."
"I understand he had been
away on a business trip for the last month. I take it that was part
of your work here?"
"Oh, Richard was a great
humanitarian. Our company creates some of the finest drugs and
technology available. We have an outreach program for the developing
world, giving them access to advanced medical technologies that we
take for granted here. He had been out installing imaging
"Considering what happened,
was there any chance he could have contracted something that could
have caused the unusual state we found him in?"
"Highly doubtful. Our staff
all undergo detailed health checks when arriving back in the States,
not to mention we have full series of jabs before going. Richard was
a stickler for this kind of thing."
"In that case could it have
been something he was working on here? I hope you understand we are
simply looking for an explanation for what happened and trying to
rule out foul play."
"Much of our work here is
classified," he stated with a sigh. "Richard has been
involved with several projects although most of his time has been
spent on the Neutrino Imager system. It is a next generation medical
imaging technology that will be widely available in roughly ten
years. Makes MRI's look old hat. However that system would not cause
anything like you have described."
She paused for a moment looking
around the room before glancing back at the security guard in the
"Military projects I take
"Most certainly not!"
he replied sternly. "Terok Industries are a pacifist company.
Our drugs and technology are designed for the betterment of mankind,
not to see its end. I am sure you can appreciate though that we are
asked to produce items that are not suitable for public knowledge
though. Doctor Garnier was not involved with any project that could
have caused this desiccation you have described though. "
"I must apologise however I
have to ask these questions," she said apologetically. "Did
Doctor Garnier have a girlfriend, or anyone you may consider a
competitor or enemy?"
"Richard had one love in
his life, his sports car. As for scientific rivalry or enemies, I
think you could ask anyone here and they would agree that he was
simply one of the nicest, most giving people you could ever wish to
She looked at this man trying to
reason any other questions that could be pertinent to her
investigation, however she was coming up short.
"Well, I think that is all
I need for the moment. I would appreciate it if you did not mention
this until we have formal identification. This is my card," she
said pushing it over the table. "If you can think of anything
that may be pertinent, please do not hesitate to call me."
"I wish I could have been
of more help however I will consult with his team to see if they may
be able to shed some light on this," he said as she stood up.
As the guard escorted out of the
facility she knew Weylan was not telling her the whole truth, but the
fact was she was grasping at straws and as he said, some of the work
they were doing was classified.
Perhaps the Coroner's office
would offer more enlightenment.
* * *
"How are things going
Doctor Lassator?" she asked walking in to the well set if
somewhat macabre office. She had been to the County Coroner's
building many times before when overflow had found its way here from
the city's office. It was a place she never really liked because for
most of the residents, this was their final stop in life. It was in
her eyes a sad place where tears and grief lived.
Lassator looked up from his work
raising an eyebrow as he paused his effort of turned a walking human
being with a life, friends and a family in to nothing more than a
file, a statistic added to the ever growing mountains of data.
"Ah, Miss Lofthouse. Glad
you could pop in. Your Deputy said you were in town," he said
welcomingly, motioning her towards a seat. "I think as I said to
you on Saturday morning, this is quite the perplexing mystery you
have stumbled upon."
She sat down, taking her hat off
as he surprisingly sat motionless at his desk.
"In what way?" she
asked a little off put by his lack of animation.
"Well, I had a friend come
over this morning from the University. The corpus was more akin to
what an anthropologist would work with so I treated it as such. We
did the autopsy as planned. First, the good news. We confirmed it was
Doctor Richard Garnier from his finger prints and dental records. We
also confirmed he died of natural causes, although in this case
perhaps unnatural causes would be a better description. He died of
"Old age? But he was only
in his late thirties."
"Very true, but looking at
his skeleton, the condition of the organs he had the body of a ninety
year old at the time of his death, ergo why I said unnatural. My
colleague also commented that he had never seen anything like this
and if this body had been found under any other circumstances, he
would have estimated it was over four hundred years old, if not
"What could cause a body to
end up in this state after only a matter of hours?"
"Only thing we could come
up with was flash freeze drying, but even then with a human body and
the right equipment, it could take weeks. Sadly I am at a loss from
"You said that was the good
news?" she sighed feeling none the wiser.
"You will probably have
noticed, I have not been referring to my notes," he stated in a
quieter and far more serious tone. "The reason is I don't have
them, nor the body. Two city officers arrived with two individuals in
black suits with a court order only an hour ago. The officers had
been sent by the Commissioner and Judge Rybach had signed the order.
They said that State police were taking over the investigation and
that they required all notes, sample and of course the corpus.
Outside of what 's between my ears, there is nothing more."
* * *
She had phoned back to the
stationhouse as she had driven in to New Oxford. Bad enough that all
evidence had been removed from the Coroners offices, but they had
already turned up at stationhouse and Jimmy had no choice but to give
them all of the files and evidence she had collected for the Garnier
It was not often she found
herself at City Hall, but she needed answers as she stormed in to the
Commissioner's office, his secretary flustered as she ignored her
entering his stately office.
"Could you give me five
minutes," the elderly gentleman said glancing up to her briefly,
his guests shocked at her surprise entrance.
Ushering them out, he closed the
door frowning at her.
"Sit down Sellie," he
ordered, making his way back to his desk, the look on his face
She sat down, looking at him
questioningly as she held herself back.
"The Garnier case is
closed," he stated firmly. "Officially the case has been
recorded as death by misadventure. There are no more details than
that and State has taken over the formal proceedings."
"Due respect sir, but I
think we both know that is a crock," she grumbled. "It
seems odd that this morning I visit Terok Industries to question
their Managing Director about Doctor Garnier and a matter of hours
later the case is swept under the carpet and covered up. I would like
to formally request that I be assigned to the case, if only as
"Denied," he snapped
firmly, staring her down. "This case is out of our hands and you
would do well to forget about it. These are the kind of people you
don't cross Sheriff. I have seen them before and I know well enough
not to interfere."
"So it's an order, sir?"
she questioned, backing down.
"Most certainly," he
replied in a dark tone. "You are a good officer Sellie and you
have a good town under your jurisdiction, the kind of town that is
coveted by many of your fellow officers. A case like this if handled
with disrespect could easily break an officer in the eyes of her
peers, and I have seen your record. Forget the case ever happened, go
back to Wyvern, have a beer and put your feet up."
As he stood up, she knew this
meeting was over as she collected herself and walked towards the
door. She glanced over her shoulder at the Commissioner as he gave
her a stern look that chilled her before turning to his guests,
inviting them back in to continue their meeting.
As the door closed firmly, she
straightened her hat and sighed.
It was a long drive back to
Wyvern and she had some soul searching to do.
* * *
It was now late afternoon, she
was tired, frustrated and seriously considering the Commissioners
suggestion of just having a beer. Getting out in to the humid air she
glanced down main street almost a picture postcard of it usual
everyday view, except for one thing. Sticking out like a sore thumb
was an expensive German luxury SUV parked outside Bessie's
For a moment she considered its
presence before shrugging her shoulders and ignoring it.
On her way back she had
considered ignoring the order to leave this alone. She didn't like
the fact that Doctor Weylan had played her, hiding facts from her and
after protesting that Doctor Garnier had not been involved with any
dangerous research and that he was medically fit and cleared, out of
the blue a wide reaching cover up swept everything away.
However with no evidence, no
scene of crime photographs, no forensic information and no Coroners
report or even a body, there was very little she could do. The only
thing would be to try and find out who these men in black were, but
she had not seen them.
The case was at a dead end, and
perhaps the Commissioner was right. If she continued to poke around
it would draw unwanted attention from darker forces and considering
how easily these individuals had covered up her case, they would have
little trouble making her life miserable.
As the door to the office opened
with a creek, the only possible lead she had would have been Jimmy.
He was here when they collected the case and maybe he had been
diligent enough to get a description or plates from the vehicle they
arrived in. Scanning around the room though, it was silent. She
frowned walking over to her desk, a single note sitting on her
keyboard. She picked it up.
'Gone out to Mrs Mullins. May
want to get here when you are back.'
She sighed and locked her jaw
shut, picking her keys back up.
It had been a rotten day, she
was tired and frustrated and this time, she was going to throw the
book at that mad old woman.
* * *
On the drive over she had
rehearsed exactly what she was going to say to Mrs Mullins before she
threw her in the back of her jeep. She had warned her enough times
about wasting police time but as she stood in the living room, for
once the mad old woman wasn't wasting her time.
Sadly she would never waste
anyone's time ever again.
"Who discovered the body?"
she asked surveying the hauntingly familiar scene as Jimmy stood
stoically by the door.
"Roddy Tomlinson. She was
the organiser of the local paranormal activity society and it was her
turn to host their monthly meeting. He is outside feeling rather
ill," Jimmy stated being surprisingly more articulate than
normal caveman guise he portrayed.
"Guessing you've called the
Coroner and scene of crime?"
He nodded as moved deeper in to
the room examining the scene in more detail.
It was both unexpected and
unwelcome. Lying in the middle of the living room surrounded by
several of her cat was Mrs Mullins, her body looking like it had been
desiccated in almost the same way as Doctor Garnier. It was of course
in much the same state he had been, barely recognisable in its
mummified condition, the cats around her also exhibiting the same
If there had a choice over
dropping the unexplained death of Doctor Garnier, now she couldn't.
Two mysterious deaths in a short space of time where the victims were
mummified had moved from a puzzling mystery to what may be murder.
She looked over the scene trying
to find clues, but it was much as it had been with Doctor Garnier.
There was a tray on the table with a teapot, the television on and
the computer still running. No evidence of a break in, no sign of a
struggle. It was like she just dropped to the floor in agony and died
in a way that defied explanation.
"I'm going to go have a
chat with Mr Tomlinson," she said walking back out in to the
hallway, the remaining cats seemingly terrified as they peeped out of
their hiding places watching her fearfully.
Back in the evening air she took
a deep breath before walking over to the visibly shaken young man.
Roddy was a typical twenty something that never really grew up.
Street wear, his jacket festooned with silly badges relating to alien
hunting, the largest says 'I believe' on it with a cow being
kidnapped by a UFO.
"I understand you found
her," she said as he looked at her, his face sheet white as he
seemed to tremble.
"Came to help her set up
for the meeting. Get the tea and biscuits out," he stammered out
looking like he was about to throw up, obviously in shock.
"When did you last talk to
"Saturday evening. I called
her to check if everything was still on for today," he
stammered, his voice breaking. "It's those aliens. She said she
had found something major when I talked to her that would confirm the
truth. They are walking amongst us!"