Ken is dead. Apparently murdered. Possibly caught by the Kredese and killed as a trespasser. But possibly killed by his wife. The incriminating weapon was either Kerdolan-made at Destination. Or the copy Ken himself had made. And with Fliss convinced that Ken and Julia were having an affair . . . of course the police will be interested in her.
Episode 59 PRIORY PROJECT A Sci-fi Fantasy
As Dave had predicted, the police weren’t long in calling on me—even before the day was out (while I was at work). And they didn’t just ask me to call in at the station, but bundled me into a brightly-marked car and ‘escorted’ me. Talk about being treated as a criminal. The only thing missing were the ‘cuffs.
I was shown the dagger. Did I recognise it, had I seen it before? I admitted it could be Ken’s, that he had made a replica of one he’d seen at Destination.
Apparently this was third time they’d heard that term at Destination. “We’re waiting on a chap from Leeds,” the interviewing officer said as an aside to the WPC attending. “An expert in . . . whatever. We’re hoping he’ll understand these technicalities Mrs Friedman spouted about her supposed ‘time-pods’. Now,” he turned back to me. “You’d like to tell us about this Destination?”
Though I couldn’t see the police believing one word of it yet I explained of the culture I’d found. I explained how we had expected it to conform to the known archaeology, and how it had not. I said of Ken’s speculated multi-verse and my preferred ‘divergent worlds’. They asked me for proof. Both Fliss and Dave had mentioned my photos and the tape. Fliss could only have known of the photos from Ken. I hadn’t shown them to her. So the police commandeered my phone (photos still in memory), and accompanied me back to The Lady where I handed over the tape and transcript. And that led to Siobhán being questioned.
I’m absolutely sure if Fliss had been other than a respected scientist, even though her reputation had been gained States-side, they wouldn’t have believed a word we told them, even with my supplied evidence and the expert from Leeds. And even then I could see their immense hesitation.
Next they asked me if I was pregnant. I told them yes, I was less than two months gone. They asked of the father. I told them, Dannyn, a shaman at Destination. That raised a few brows. They asked how that came about. I refused an answer. “It’s my business.”
“No, madam,” said the interviewing officer. “It was ‘your business’ until your chum, Kenneth Freidman, turned up dead in a granite coffin.”
“It’s a time-pod,” I corrected.
“Now if it’s the deceased’s baby,” he continued, “your friend Felicity could be in a whole lot of trouble.”
Forensics had found Fliss’s fingerprints on the dagger—the murder weapon. I could feel my face pale. Though Dave had thought it 99% likely, I still refused to believe her guilty. I mean, how was it possible when she was stuck in that wheelchair? I told the police, if her prints were on it then so would be ours. I explained how Ken had shown his dagger to me and Dave. “We all handled it.”
“Then Mr Freidman must have subsequently wiped it. We found only one set of prints.”
“But . . . “ I didn’t want to believe it. “She must have tried pulling it out. When he arrived back. Was there blood on her?”
They’d already gone over this with Fliss. Apparently, and this came out at the trial, she’d answered, quite reasonably, that if she had plunged that dagger into his heart before sending him for a three day sojourn in the Neolithic, why was there no blood on her?
It was only when they repeated this back to me that I was could see how she’d done it—if she had done it. She had fifteen minutes before his return. That’s ample time to wash away any blood, and to change her clothes. Fliss always wore the same colour; all her clothes were the same ivory-cream. And they all had that same fluid, almost insubstantial quality. Kind of Gothic. Would her cleaner, Mrs Sharmin, notice the change? I wouldn’t have. And who else was there to see? Poor Mrs Sharmin, she was in such a state, she wouldn’t have been taking notice of the finer points of Fliss’s apparel. Yea, fifteen minutes, that was ample—though what had she done with the clothes? Burned them? She couldn’t have just consigned them to the bins. The police would be sure to check out such things. It was as well that the police officer conducting the interview wasn’t equipped with Dannyn’s Brictish abilities, for my thoughts were enough to condemn her.
I wanted to ask about Ken’s camera. That was the reason for his ‘trip. But I wasn’t supposed to know of it. Dave only knew because Mrs Sharmin had told him. Besides, if they’d seen the camera, and seen the photos, then they’d have passed them to someone who’d know what they were. My boss, most likely. The photos would prove him alive at Destination. Those, photos, if they existed, would clear Fliss of the charge. But clearly that wasn’t the case since they still were holding her, and questioning me. Ipso facto, there were no photos.
The police were looking for a motive. Before her accident Fliss had been an outstanding physicist in her field who had made significant advances in the technology that she and Ken had later developed into the Priory Project. Though she’d lost her funding because of the accident—too long away from her project—the accident itself wasn’t as crippling to her career as it would have been fifty years previous. Even so, she was dependent on Ken for his technical skills. So, from the career angle, it would be counter-productive for her to kill him. On a personal level, too, though Fliss was attractive, she was confined to that wheelchair and, according to Ken, sexually unable. Unless the woman was self-destructive, it made no sense for her to kill him. Ken’s possible adultery was taken as insufficient motive (and they only had Mrs Sharmin’s statement for that; apparently Fliss had had the sense to keep quiet). Given Fliss’s situation, they expected she’d tolerate it.
But for her husband to father a child on his lover, when she herself wasn’t able to bear one, that, they judged, would be sufficient to drive her over the edge. So, again it was asked, was Ken the father of my child? When they’d asked Fliss about it she had pooh-poohed it. “Jules, and my Kenneth? No. More likely it’s Dave’s.”
They asked again of my relationship with the shaman, the where and when of intercourse. The way they asked their questions, so matter-of-factly, was embarrassing and emotionally destructive. And it should have been a woman officer asking me this. It was downright intrusive. I felt like they were stripping me naked. But I could see their tack and it wasn’t subtle. They were trying to trip me into revealing a lie. But there was no lie, only a beautiful truth that now would be forever tainted.
The answer, of course, would be a DNA test. There’d be no arguing with that.
I’d no doubt they had already taken DNA from Ken. And I knew they could order the test done on my baby. It might be as well to volunteer it, to show I’d nothing to hide.
But that’s when I suffered a major shock, delivered by a woman police officer specially brought in to deal with it. “We have to bail you over till the baby’s born.”
My mouth dropped. I squealed. “What?”
“You’re a vital witness—or the baby is. We can’t afford to lose you.”
“Yea, but witness, not suspect. This is outrageous!”
“I can see you would think it,” she said, and even nodded. “But we have to conform to the law. Your baby is evidence. And we can’t have you absconding with the evidence now can we. Your friend wouldn’t like that. Not when it’s that and only that that’s going to get her off this charge.”
“But-but . . .” I couldn’t believe it. I hadn’t the choice of volunteering; I was being sequestered. “I’m only five weeks gone. It’s another eight months till its born.”
“Unless you have a termination,” she said. “Your friend might prefer that. Mrs Freidman, is it? You’re objecting to being sworn over, but think of her. She’s already in prison, on remand.”
“But I thought it could be done in uterus. Can’t it be done from the amniotic fluid?”
“So I understand,” she said. “But there’s a one in a hundred chance of miscarriage. And it costs.”
I was about to say to go for it, I’d pay for it, but she wasn’t finished.
“A pointless exercise when the courts won’t accept it anyway. They’ll only accept a buccal swab—for which your baby must be delivered. Even then,” she went on, with all my hopes collapsing around me, “the test mayn’t exclude . . . Kenneth Freidman, is it? . . . as the biological father. It would be better if we could test the other —the claimed father?”
My head was whirling, trying to grasp what she was saying. “So either we wait another eight months till the baby is born, or I have a termination? And even then it won’t prove that Ken isn’t the father?”
“It might prove that he is,” she said and smiled, cold as a fish on a marble slab.
“Well, I can tell you now, there’ll be no termination,” I said.
“Then your friend will stay in prison. And you will report in once a week. You weren’t thinking of taking a holiday? Only you’re not to leave the country.”
“But . . .” I was trapped. Helpless. And I hadn’t done anything; I wasn’t even a witness. Yet the child I was carrying could either clear or convict Fliss of murder.
Danny was born in the early hours of Valentine’s Day. Dave was with me. Dave had been with me since the fourth month of pregnancy—a month after his father died. There wasn’t a day in that month when he hadn’t pleaded with me to go live with him (he couldn’t leave the nursery, not while it was in turmoil). But, stubborn, I stayed on the Lazy Lady. It was only when the Press found my address. Then Dave’s nursery seemed a safer retreat. And now, with everything coming out in court, the Press again will be chasing me.
As I had so fervently hoped (and despite what that WPO had said), the DNA test proved beyond any doubt that Ken was not the father. How could he be, when my child’s DNA was labelled ‘Archaic’. Oh how they buzzed around me. The geneticists first, then other specialists, homing in like I was a mosquito on heat. But at least Siobhán can now go ahead and publish her findings, amended to this new—and proven—development.
But there is concern for my child with his 4,500 years old DNA. They say he could have adverse reactions to our 21st century environment. Yet he has my antibodies, I’ve given him the best of starts. And he’s booked in for three-monthly check-ups. Later, when they’re happy with his progress, they’ll relax that to yearly.
My Neolithic baby has become the star of his own show in other ways, too. His existence demonstrates and verifies Fliss’s ‘pod-technology as a means of trans-world-portation. But now there’s the question of whether those worlds are separated only by time, or whether they exist as discrete (but divergent) worlds in this universe, or in a multi-verse. My evidence—the photos, the tape, my observations—is now being studied. But by my reasoning the answer can only be of past or divergent worlds. How else to explain the DNA?
And I wish even the divergent world weren’t so. When Dannyn said of his longevity and of his cyclic rebirth, he’d thought he’d be due for another rebirth around about now. And if this were the same world as Dannyn’s then there’d be a chance of us meeting again. But I can’t kid myself. And at least I have his child. Little Danny.
Fliss hasn’t been slow to capitalise. She was released from prison the day following the DNA results, though she still had the court appearance to endure. She’s used that time to offer her machines, Ken’s notes, her direction and knowledge, to any university willing to undertake study of how and why this technology works. She has had two takers so far, both in America.
That disappoints me. She’ll be shipping the ‘pods there, and I had hoped for another chance to visit Dannyn. He would have liked to hold his son, and it would have been good for little Danny to meet his real dad—though Dave is doing his best to shape up. We’ve given him Dave’s name, Eastman (Daniel Cannings sounded too much like an illusionist, a stage magician).
And like his father, he is Brictish. How do I know? By the way I’m always there to attend him before he cries. I’m just waiting now for him to tell me what I’m thinking.
But there remains the question of who killed Ken. Dave still is convinced it was Fliss. And though publicly and to the police I repeatedly denied it, yet I can see no other answer. Why then have I gone all out to defend her? Because she’s my cousin and blood is thicker? No, I think not. I did it as penance. In killing her ‘baby’ I’d helped to push her over the edge. So I’m as guilty of Ken’s death as she.