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Chronicle of the NonPop Revolution


 
The Essay
Show #405
le Fromage
David Gunn

(continued from last week)

Something gnawed at Detective Inspector Rounders, something besides the vile little polyester ticks that had awakened under the hot lights of the police investigation squad and had begun to forage for synthetic food. She brushed aside one that had burrowed into her caftan as she reflected on the newspaper clipping that Sergeant Constable Schmendrick had handed to her. It wasn't the television drama review that sparked her interest, though. No, the tyres in Rounders' mind had begun to turn for another reason. Schmendrick's mention of that fifteen-year-old case had dredged up a horrid memory that she had long suppressed. She was living in Paris at the time with her husband, a criminologist with la Sûreté. The city had been rocked by a series of gruesome murders that coincidentally involved decapitations and short, gray aliens. Eventually, her husband had detected a pattern in the crimes, and clues subsequently unearthed led the police to a red-handed psychopathic pizzarian named Charles Edward le Fromage. He was tried, convicted, and sentenced to life imprisonment. When asked if he understood his punishment, he shouted, "J'aurai ma vengeance, vous des imbéciles de pizza!" as he was led away in shackles. And revenge he did have. Due to an administrative error, le Fromage was released on his own recognizance a day later. He immediately sought out and decapitated the criminologist who had fingered him, Detective Inspector Rounders' husband. And then he disappeared.

Her husband's murder had had a profound effect on Rounders. She gave up a promising career as choreographer for an underwater ballet troupe to join la Sûreté. Starting as a humble stenographer, within a year she had worked her way up to first female director of a SWAT team. She freely admitted to wanting to lead the next raid on that bastard, le Fromage. But over the course of the next ten years, there was no sign of him, and gradually she began to miss her native English countryside and the intoxicating aromas of fresh baked sweetbread blancmange. So, four years ago, she applied for and was granted a transfer to Scotland Yard, where she soon gained credentials as an ingenious investigator and expert marksman. The cases she encountered there were often appalling, sometimes brutal, but never especially gruesome.

Until today, until Sergeant Constable Schmendrick waved that newspaper clipping in front of her and those wretched fifteen-year-old memories came flooding back. But the article he showed her was of a review for a television drama. What had set her off? "Might I see that article again, Sergeant Constable?" she asked. Schmendrick glowered but withdrew it from his wallet and handed it to her. "Mon dieu!," she gasped, for directly above the article was an advert for a pizzeria called Chuck E. Cheese. Of course, she had heard of it. It was a pizza franchise geared towards children. The eateries featured arcade games, animatronic puppets and deafeningly loud music. The tomato pies and ancillary comestibles seemed an afterthought. Most of them called the States home, but recently a few had popped up in the UK. Why, she had even taken her niece to a sensory-overload birthday party at the one here in Hindscricket. However, it wasn’t until that moment that she made the connection: Chuck E. Cheese--Charles Edward le Fromage! Even the Chuck E. Cheese mouse caricature in the advert bore a striking resemblance to that bastard psychopathic pizzarian.

How clever of the fiend to hide in plain sight, she thought. But now she would set her own mousetrap. First, assuming that le Fromage was connected to the Hindscricket pizzeria, Rounders placed it under surveillance. Then she, Schmendrick and a couple of armed undercover agents disguised as children entered the facility.

It was near bedlam. Flashing video projections and clamorous audio tracks assaulted their senses; untethered children, some wielding buckets of paint, crashed into them; the very floor beneath them buckled slightly from the tumult. But Rounders would have no trouble ferreting out their quarry. For there in the middle of the room, standing on a dais and shimmying ridiculously to the beat from an animatronic rat band, was the big cheese himself, Charles le Fromage. Schmendrick had to restrain Rounders from taking him down right then with her poison-tipped stiletto heel. Instead, they agreed to wait till he wasn't in the company of so many children.

It wasn't easy. For half an hour, Rounders seethed as her husband's murderer cavorted not fifteen feet away, seemingly taunting her. But at last the two undercover agents, who had been dancing around him, apparently won his confidence and persuaded him to meet their parents.

Schmendrick stood up as the pizzerian was led to their table; Rounders concealed herself lest he recognize her. But it was the sergeant constable's body language that alerted le Fromage. Typical parents would be half-dazed from overstimulated senses, but Schmendrick was much too alert. Then he spotted Rounders, and he instantly remembered his days in the French dock. He pulled a shiv, hacked at one of the agents, pushing her into Rounders' path, and bolted. Schmendrick blew his whistle, but it could barely be heard above the din. Rounders shouted orders into her cell phone, and a dozen policemen stormed through the front door. Le Fromage bulldozed his way through the crowd of screaming people to a ladder on the far wall and began to climb it. Rounders ran after him. He had nearly reached a catwalk high overhead when she pulled off her shoe, took aim, and threw it. It merely grazed his cheek, but the poison was nothing if not deadly. He placed one foot on the catwalk, lost his balance, and pitched headlong into a giant pot of wriggling ratatouille beneath him, landing smack-dab on its doornail, dead.

This 405th episode of Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar is anything but dead, as today we feature alive and kicking music from the libraries of yet another underappreciated record label, whose name will be revealed in due course by the equally not-dead Kalvos.