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Chronicle of the NonPop Revolution


 
The Essay
Show #537
Whodunnit
David Gunn

It was mid-September in southwesternmost Lincolnshire, and a late summer heat wave was making life at the air-conditionless University of Hummock-on-Smythe a tribulation surpassed only by fifth year orals. But if the classrooms were merely hot, the condition inside the school's Information Retrieval Centre's lounge was sweltering. The room was packed with perspiring persons, each one a bit odder than the last. There was Beano Bengaze and Weasel Slayer, Jerome and Ruby Primavera, Zenon A. Bagbee and Trowler the Trencherman, Ood-nan-tunk and Shishka Bob, Lark A. Clobberworm and Carlo Bramblework, Professor Warbler Hadley Blackmoor and Ministry of Historical Revisions Special Agent Shundar Fez, Clementania Habb and Juan Trouserini, Punjab Prahesh Yogi Patel and Merle Hackaway, Johnny and Mother Bumpkins, Bengazagath and his daughters Zeeno, Burdach and Vulcanola. Among others. The names read like a cast of characters from a cheesy novel, one over ten years in the making. They were gathered there not of their own choosing, but rather at the insistence of Chief Inspector Borraka B. Cromwell, who was conducting a murder investigation and who considered each one a prime suspect. There was only one flaw in his assertion: the murder hadn't yet been committed.

"Details," he had muttered, when informed that the corpus delicti was, in fact, still alive and kicky. "Mark my words, it'll be stone cold dead before the day's out!"

It?

"Yes," replied the Inspector irritably. "You know, that bizarre thing, that, what's its name?, Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar!"

What?!

"I have it on good authority," the Inspector continued, sucking on a krill pop, "that the program--for that's what it is, a silly radio program--will be killed off later this afternoon." Cromwell stared balefully at the crowd in the lounge, only a few of whom were paying him any heed. "And each one of you had--or will have had--the motive to do it in!"

The word "in" sparked a dematerialization reaction in Weasel Slayer, who re-materialized in Cognito, a village in southeasternmost Lincolnshire, where a nonplussed dog barked. The bark struck a plaintive chord that hung in the air long enough to awaken the Algonquin Hole that had long lain dormant above the Cognito Quadrant.

Warbler Hadley Blackmoor, Professor of Calamitology, felt it, and sensed the mother-in-law of all catastrophological events in the making. He hadn't been involved in a good disaster for years now, and he quivered with anticipation like a jackhammer at a dentist's convention. He caught the eye of Carlo Bramblework, who had been juggling it along with a column of depreciation figures in a tatty old ledger. Blackmoor idly tickled the eye until he extracted a chuckle from its vitreous humor. Bramblework, who had lately assumed the guise of a potato--and, today, an especially hot potato--had eyes aplenty all over his body, and didn't miss the one in Blackmoor's grasp.

When Mother Bumpkins was called to appear before the Chief Inspector, she was flambéing a haggis in her kitchen thirty-four hundred as-the-crow-flies miles from southwesternmost Lincolnshire. It took her a whole day to extinguish the haggis, and another two to find a crow willing to fly her to Hummock-on-Smythe. Johnny Bumpkins was in his bedroom directly above Mother Bumpkins' kitchen but, thanks to a misprint on his world atlas, the lounge was only fifteen miles away.

Bengazagath regarded the Chief Inspector with a mixture of curio and sity, for he had never before seen anyone wear an adobe hat in public. For this he can be forgiven, for he lived in ancient times in the land of Kültepe when adobe hats were strictly the province of voles. Besides, he'd had to bypass the time dilation section of Einstein's Theory of Relativity to get here, and in the process, some of his short-term memory had gone on holiday.

Glancing at his wristwatch, Chief Inspector Cromwell pulled a transistor radio from a pouch in his adobe hat and switched it on. A cacophony of static and white noise erupted from the tiny tinny speaker. "Won't be long now," he said, turning it back off.

Prescience had never before been a forte of Cromwell, but this time his intuition was dead on. A tendril of cause-and-effect ray from the Algonquin Hole fell on the Information Retrieval Centre's electrical system and shorted it, plunging the lounge into darkness. Simultaneously, a shot rang out. Confusion reigned--as much in the story line as in the lounge. Zenon A. Bagbee, who shared prognosticatory traits with his cousin, Beano Bengaze, began to speak in tongues, then in noses, then through the nose of Betty, the alpha female wolverine who had abandoned the Yukon for Miami. The nasaline sound chased away the cause-and-effect ray from the electrical system and, shortly thereafter, the lights came back on.

The Chief Inspector lay on the carpet in a pool of red herrings and defective dénouements. Merle Hackaway checked for a pulse. Nothing. However, he wasn't dead exactly. Rather he faded into and out of focus, like so many of the characters present had done over the course of so many years.

In fact, some of his fellow suspects were fading now. First to disappear was Punjab Prahesh Yogi Patel. Well, he'd been a quintessentially minor character, appearing only once as Supreme Guru of the Dew Drop In Ashram. Next to go was Ministry of Historical Revisions Special Agent Shundar Fez, whose title was considerably longer than his bazaar tenure. In short order there followed Moses Lutoslawski, Wampum Joe, Rando Quartermass, ten anonymous envoys to the All-Mesoamerican Hunter-Gatherer Conference of 14 BC, Valentine, Nebraska's first and only avant-garde cosmetician, Beanolette Bengaze, and a comprehensive set of rules to the endlessly mystifying Whiskers Six-Draw. Among others.

Eventually, the room was bereft of characters save for the Chief Inspector, who continued to fade into and out of focus, a fitting analogy to this 537th and final episode of Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar, which is commencing its own final focus fade--but not before Cromwell fades back into focus, leans weakly towards you, our listening audients, and croaks, "I know who dunnit. It's ..."

And in the Timing Is Everything Department, the Chief Inspector promptly topples over and vanishes. And, no surprise here, so do, in just under two hours, Damian and Kalvos.