The term ‘ Popular Science ‘ and why it will forever be an Oxymoron

by | Apr 10, 2009 | Stories | 0 comments

The candles are lit, the banners hung. The guests are arrived, the presents with them.
But where’s the birthday boy?
Climb the stairs, knock twice.
“Young master?”
Wait two heartbeats.
Wait two more.
“You’re needed.”
Knock again; enter. Avert your eyes.
“Young master?”
Look up.
“Oh no.”

York Pride is the city’s best detective. “Snowdon Caprice is dead.”
Afton Rage is his second-in-command. “The second or third?”
“The SES?”
“Unknown. He was hanged. The rope was tezium; no DNA.”
“With his progenitor? Unlikely.”
“Money doesn’t buy happiness.”
“Power does. As well as enemies.”
“How could they have entered?”
“Idealists can do wonders.” He takes out a file. “Galway Thrift, a.k.a. the good father: suspected head of the SES.”

Galway Thrift is used to interrogation.
“Where were you on 6th June at 4.00 pm?” York begins.
“At home, reading.”
“Can anyone verify that?”
“The entry records?”
“The base was broken.”
“What were you reading? A bible?” inquires Afton.
“Lord Caprice’s latest report on Astrophysics.”
“You’ve been quoted saying you detest his reports.”
“I hoped his latest one might change my opinion.”
“Have you ever been to the Caprice home before?” asks York.
“During protests.”
“Do you know the points of entry?”
“The front door?”
“Flippancy makes you look suspicious.”
“I’m being honest.”
“Had you ever met Snowdon Caprice the third?”
“The second?”
“Once. I spat at him.”
“Doesn’t help your case.”
“I can’t change the past.”
“But you hope to change the future with the SES.”
“I don’t even know what that is.”
“The Secret Ecclesiastical Society.”
“You mean Save Everyone’s Souls?”
“That’s what they call themselves, yes.”
“Well, I have no connections to that organisation.”
“You deny it?”
“My trial did.”
York’s getting angry. “‘The good father’- what does that mean to you?”
“An offensive moniker created by the media.”
“Do you know what a ‘father’ is?”
“An old word for a male ‘progenitor’. It also applied to priests.”
“Don’t leave the city.”

The detectives sit at a café.
Rage slowly stirs his tea. “You think Thrift’s the murderer?”
Pride downs his coffee in one gulp. “He wasn’t co-operative. Call the building’s manager; ask if the base was really broken. I’ll interview the maid who found the victim.”

After the detectives are gone, Galway makes a call:
“Detectives are asking about Caprice. I think you should lay low.”

Odense Chastity is the maid who found Snowdon Caprice III.
“The exact time?”
“3.54 pm.”
“I called help.”
“Didn’t get him down?”
“I was too shocked.”
“How many staff are in the household?”
“18. 10 more were hired for the party.”
“Did Master Caprice appear depressed that day?”
“You saw him?”
“Twice: to wake him up and to bring lunch.”
“You have free access to his room?”
“Hear anything indicative of struggle?”
“When did the guests arrive?”
“Around 3.40.”
“How many?”
“You knew all of them?”
“Any arrive early?”
“Lady Confidence.”
“How early?”
“Half an hour.”
“Anybody late?”
“Anything unusual?”
“Luxembourg Sloth never arrived.”
“He gave an excuse?”
“How long have you worked here?”
“2 months.”
“Where’d you work before?”
“I didn’t.”
“Your qualification?”
“9th degree biology.”
“You’d a good relationship with Master Caprice?”
“Any offspring?”
“Know your progenitors?”
She pauses. “No.”
“There a lot of tezium in this house?”
“Don’t know.”
“Ever met Galway Thrift?”
“Head of the SES.”
“The what?”
“Don’t leave the city.”

The same café, but today, Afton has sugar in his tea. “I spoke to the building manager: the base was fine that day.”
“Thrift lied.”
“He’s also made long calls to a withheld number.”
“A cohort?”
“Perhaps. What about Chastity?”
“Has a very low qualification for such a high job. And Luxembourg Sloth wasn’t at the party.”
“The head of chemistry? Any animosity between him and Caprice?”
“Let’s see.”

York begins. “Why weren’t you at the party?”
“Why not phone and tell them?”
“My maid’s day off; couldn’t get to the phone.”
“You have only one servant?”
“Don’t need more.”
“What qualification does your maid have?”
“5th level chemistry.”
“No offspring?” Afton breaks in.
“Not in the house; some of us obey the rules.”
“You didn’t inherit your title, did you?”
“I earnt it; I discovered tezium.”
“The DNA-resistant material?”
“Very useful for bio-engineering.”
“But you’re a chemist.”
“I think the three subjects can help each other. I seek to build bridges with the biologists.”
“You’d a good relationship with the Caprice’s?” York asks.
“Know the access code?”
“Ever had a confrontation with the SES?”
“They protest here sometimes.”
Afton’s curious. “Was Galway Thrift with them?”
“Has he ever been in this house?” York picks up.
“Once; I invited him in to try and negotiate.”
“Did it work?”
“When was this?”
“Two weeks ago.”

York has a theory. “Thrift could have taken some Tezium from Sloth’s home.”
“How’d he enter Caprice’s room?”
“Posed as a guest- the maid wouldn’t have recognised him.”
“Any one could do that.” Afton stares out a window.
“Only an idealist would have the guts.”
A phone rings, York answers, a brief conversation and then:
“There was blood on the wall of Caprice III’s the room.”
Afton snaps back into it. “Match any on file?”
“They’re still checking. They said there were also traces of poison gas in the air: apparently, the Caprices have defence systems in all the rooms; they press a button under the table and gas shoots out.”
“It means Snowdon saw his attacker and tried to retaliate.”
“Also, a bible on the floor- it had a tezium cover. Hallmark of the SES. I’m going to go and see the ‘good father’.”

“Why lie about the base?”
“Didn’t know they’d fixed it.”
“So you maintain you were here 6th June at 4.00 pm?”
“Of course.”
“Who’ve you been phoning?”
“A friend.”
“Montevideo Wisdom.”
“Why phone him?”
“Why not?”
“You haven’t a job, Mr. Thrift; how do you support yourself?”
“Do you own a bible?”
“Of course not.”
“Know what tezium is?”
“DNA-resistant material, good for bio-engineering.”
“Can I have a blood sample, Mr. Thrift?”
“Whatever you need.”

Later, Afton goes to see Montevideo Wisdom. He knocks on the door.
No answer.
He enters to find a tezium bible on the table.

On his way back to the station, Afton receives a phone call:
“We’ve matched the blood on the wall: it belongs to Andorra Confidence.”

Andorra Confidence is head of biology:
“You arrived early at the party- why?” York enquires.
“I underestimated the time it would take to get there.”
“Despite having visited the household many times before?” She shrugs. “We found your blood on the wall.”
She holds up an arm, revealing a deep cut.
“I injured myself in the lab just before leaving. Didn’t have time to bandage it.”
“But you had time to be early. Why were you in Caprice’s room?”
“I was wishing him happy birthday.”
“What time was this?”
“You own any tezium?”
“Ever met Galway thrift?” Afton asks suddenly.
“He used to work for me; before he became the ‘good father’.”
“Have you seen him recently?”
“Not for two years.”
“You have a son, Cairo.” York breaks back in. “Was he at the party?”
“No; he and young Snowdon didn’t get on.”
“I’d like to speak to Cairo.” Andorra leaves and her son enters. “Why didn’t you get on with Snowdon?”
“He was…weird. And he called me an idiot.”
“Any reason why?”
“Said I never thought for myself.”
“Thank you for your time.”

Today, Afton doesn’t even have a drink- he says he feels unwell.
York’s coffee is gone in an instant. “Confidence is hiding something: her story doesn’t fit and she was in Caprice’s room just quarter of an hour before he died. Her son’s too stupid to have done this, though. Managed to track down Montevideo Wisdom?”
“Witnesses place him at an address downtown.”
“I’ll go.”

“We found a tezium bible in your room.”
“A souvenir from a museum.”
“That’s illegal.”
“So’s murder- maybe you should focus on who did that.”
“Ever visited the Caprice household?”
“Why’d you abandon your house?”
“Needed a change of scene.”
“This property belongs to Vienna Prudence- you know her?”
“My landlady.”
“She’s also suspected to be a member of the SES.”
“Explains why the place is so cheap.”
“Why would Galway Thrift call you?”
“We exchange thoughts on Lord Caprice’s work.”
“Know what tezium is?”
“Expensive book covering.”

Back at the base, Afton picks up the bible, glances around, and then begins to read.

The next day, the detectives receive a phone call:
“Cairo Confidence is dead.”

They find Andorra Confidence being consoled by Luxembourg Sloth.
“What are you doing here?”
“I met Andorra in the street and walked back with her; then we found Cairo…”
Confidence is a wreck: “I only left the house for ten minutes.”
York has no time for sensitivity. “There was no sign of a break in; does any one besides you know the access code?”
“Could they have guessed it? What is it?”
“A birthday?”
She pauses. “Yes.”
A police technician walks over. “The base went into record mode when it didn’t recognise the killer’s DNA on the keypad. We have a sound bite from before Cairo’s death.”
He plays the sound bite, and Cairo’s voice plays: “Who are you? How’d you get in? What do you-” it cuts out.
Snowdon Caprice II enters. “Andorra, I just heard: I’m so sorry.” He turns to the detectives. “Any leads?”
“How did you hear?” Afton asks suspiciously. “We haven’t informed the public yet.”
“I have…contacts in the police department.”
“No leads yet.”

York’s theory is done. “It couldn’t have been Thrift- he’s been in that house before, the key pad would know his DNA. And, that’s not Andorra’s birthday; not Cairo’s either. Can you run up a list of everyone in this city born on that day?” But Afton isn’t listening. “Afton? Afton!”
He clicks in front of his partner’s eyes, and Afton snaps back. “Hmm?”
“Run up a list of everyone in this city born on November 3rd. I’m going to go and see Vienna Prudence.”

“You have a new client: Montevideo Wisdom. How long is he staying for?”
“You know he owns a bible?”
“No. I’ll have to reprimand him.”
“Ever been to the confidence household?”
“Where were you on 6th June at 4.00 pm?”
“Can’t remember.”
“Don’t leave the city.”

While his partner interviews the suspect, Afton enters a derelict church, kneels down, and prays.
He doesn’t know he’s being watched.

As soon as the detective’s gone, Montevideo Wisdom steps out from behind the door and runs to Vienna.
“You think they’ll figure it out?” She asks.
“Not at all, Mrs. Wisdom. Now what’s this about reprimanding?”
They kiss. From outside, a gun fires.

At the café, Afton orders wine, and grips the glass quite hard. He stares ahead at nothing. “I’ve got the list of people born on 3rd November: it includes Odense Chastity.”
“Anyone else remotely related to Confidence?”
He shaes his head and his eye twitches. “No.”
“Let’s go see her.”
But Chastity isn’t home; or at the Caprice’s. The detectives return to the police station, where they find Vienna Prudence, drenched in blood.
“Monty’s dead.”
“Monty? You mean Wisdom?” She nods. Afton realises. “You two were involved. That’s illegal.”
“We’re married.”
“What?” York doesn’t know the word.
Afton does. “It’s an old religious ceremony. It binds two people together in the eyes of god.”
York turns to Vienna. “You are a member of the SES. Did Thrift perform the ceremony?”
“No.” She hands him the marriage certificate; it bears the murderer’s name.
Another detective enters. “Confidence’s house is on fire.”

The detectives break down the door, and run up the stairs.
There stands Odense Chastity, with a noose around Andorra Confidence’s neck.
“Let her go.”
The maid turns, letting Confidence drop to the floor. “I didn’t kill Snowdon.”
“We know, it was-”
“She’s my progenitor!” On the floor, Andorra stirs. “She gave me up when she realised she’d wasted her money! I was a designer baby, but tests indicated I wouldn’t be a genius.”
“Galway Thrift told you,” Afton doesn’t seem to notice the flames around him, “he found out when he worked for Confidence.”
“No, it was Snowdon- he found out about me somehow, and gave me a job- a better one than I could ever have got with my qualification, and then he told me. I tried to contact her, but she didn’t respond so I confronted her at Snowdon’s birthday party, and she attacked me. I managed to fend her off, but she said she’d kill me if I told anyone else.”
“That’s why she arrived early, to attack you, and that’s why her blood was on the wall.”
“I went to her house; the key code was my birthday! She remembered me all her life!”
“But she wasn’t there, so you killed Cairo.”
“He was supposed to recognise me; we’re siblings. And he’s no cleverer than me, why did she keep him?”
Afton walks forward and reaches out a hand, “I understand, but-”
Andorra jumps up suddenly. She grabs the rope around her neck, and throws it around Odense’s own, “Bitch! Murderer!” Then she throws herself back, out the seven story window, dragging Odense with her.

The house is collapsing in on itself as the detectives rush down the stairs. Smoke fills the room, and flames jumps out from nowhere. Afton dives to the left as a rafter smashes down, tripping and tumbling down the stairs.
He lands at the feet of Luxembourg Sloth, who grabs him by the throat. “Where’s Andorra? Who did this?”
“She’s dead; they’re both dead.”
“You killed her! I saw you in that church! You’re part of the SES!”
“Why were you there?”
“I was praying that Andorra would love me!”
“That’s why you have no offspring! You never went to a mating centre.”
“I was keeping myself pure for her. And now you’ve killed her.” He shakes him and tightens his grip. There is a groan and the roof above him gives way, Afton wrenches himself free just before rubble crushes the chemist.

The detectives arrive at the murderer’s house.
“Lord Snowdon Caprice II, you’re under arrest for the murders of Snowdon Caprice III and Montevideo Wisdom.”
The murderer looks York straight in the eye. “My son was a member of the SES.”
“We know, the bible we found on the floor was his” York holds up the marriage certificate, bearing Snowdon Caprice’s signature, “he also performed the marriage of Vienna Prudence and Montevideo Wisdom.”
“He was returning from the ceremony when I caught him, dressed like a…like…”
“A priest? What’s wrong with that?” Afton trembles with ager.
“He was flaunting everything I taught him! And he was going to tell everyone.”
“So you killed him. And then, you moved onto Wisdom.” His hands flex


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