Chekhov’s Pun

Posted: September 13, 2012 in Flash

Written for the Aphelion-webzine’s May 2012 Flash Challenge.  The brief was to write a tale about a human detective and the murder of a nefarious bird-like alien, named Skekko.


The uniform logged my badge and lifted the tape for me. Rain was coming down hard, the poor guy was probably drowning under his poncho. He nodded me in the direction of the head of scene. From behind, I could see she was a petite blonde, her hair plastered to her head and hanging in rats’ tails down her back.

“Detective Tervonen?”

She turned from the white tarp that was trying, and failing, to stop the evidence from running down the drain. First impressions; cheekbones, blue eyes as cold as ice, lips in a thin line across her pale face and young. Very young. Too young.

“That’s me.” She eyed me up and down, assessing the threat and then taking me for one of her own. “You must be Chekhov?”

I nodded, “What’ve you got here, kid?”

She smiled at the ‘kid’, didn’t chew me out. It confirmed my suspicion. She was on F, Fountain, the dirty route to youth and immortality. Cheap and safe, as long as you didn’t quit. Quit and it caught up with you quick. Quit and you go down faster than a hundred-dollar hooker on pay day.

“Victim’s known to you, alien, name of Skekko according to ID.” She turned and pulled the sheet up so I could see.

It was a Falconian, that much was sure. A mess of feathers and blood, a yellow, black tipped beak, broken and dripping gore.


“Jumped.” She nodded over her shoulder. I looked at the apartment block, shielding my eyes from the torrent of water. Curtains waved feebly from an open window near the top. I looked back at Tervonen, she caught the question; Falconians don’t fall, they glide. “Check it out,” she said.

I queried cop-space when we got in the elevator; Detective Eleanor Tervonen, forty-eight, homicide, and here she was as perky as a kid just out of high-school. She lead the way from the elevator to an apartment door flanked by another uniform. My link to cop-space dropped out as I walked in the door.

“We’re off the record, I lost my link.”

Tervonen nodded. “There’s a jammer, techs are looking for it. The bedroom’s the primary.”

The bed was a large doughnut affair, favoured by the bird-like extraterrestrials. The open bedroom window was where Skekko had taken her dive. The terminal velocity suddenly made sense; the room was covered with flight feathers, their stems still wet with blood and gore from plucking. And in the doughnut hole, a clutch of broken eggs.

“Looks personal. Someone trying to send a message maybe.”

Tervonen shook her head. “I’m thinking suicide.”

“How come?” I kept it calm, non-committal, just a question.

She pointed to a set of bloody pliers by the bed. “Preliminary path results on the eggs say they’re all duds. No prints, except the vic’s on the pliers. No prints anywhere else in the apartment. She’s broody but the eggs ain’t gonna hatch, she finds out, she takes the dive.”

I shrugged. No prints – someone had wiped the place down and done their job too well. The whole thing screamed hit. She may have looked it but Tervonen was no rookie. She was going to paper over the cracks and make it go away. Was she in it with the perp or was it coming down from higher up?

“Tell me about the vic?” Tervonen asked as she perched on the window sill and went through the motions.

“Skekko was an ET of interest, ran an import export business fronting an offworld smuggling operation. She was always careful to have a cut-out. I never got close to pinning anything on her.”

“What kind of stuff was she moving?”

“Various stuff, black market tech, illegals, but mostly it was just F.”

She was good, not a flicker when I mentioned the drug, and why would she; Fountain was illegal but no-one went after the users when cold turkey meant the fast-track to a zimmer frame. Even the dealers got left alone. The city was happy to leave it to the ‘market forces’ to keep everyone in line. Was happy.

“Well, if I need anything else I’ll get in touch”, Tervonen said.

I moved in close, blocking her there. She was jammed in the window. I kept my voice low but put enough gravel in to show I meant business, “What’s the deal here, Detective?”

“Get back, what do you think you’re doing?” She tried to push me away but her teenage frame didn’t have enough muscle to shift me. Just the opposite, she ended up grabbing my jacket to stop herself going over the edge.

“This was a hit,” I growled. “You know it. I know it. What I don’t know is, were you in on the kill or are you just covering up?”

She got real still, looking up at me with those ice-cold, baby blues, and smiled. “This goes all the way to the top, Chekhov. You think you’ve got the stones for that?.”

She was forty-eight going on seventeen, she didn’t make enough to maintain her kind of habit. I was the wrong side of fifty and going nowhere fast. I stepped back and pulled her to her feet. My cop-space link came back online, the techs had found the jammer. I logged in, every word would be on the record now.

“You got your riot gear in order, Detective?”

She looked at me, uncertain, and shook her head.

“Skekko was the main distributor for Fountain, ran the network. Supplies are going to run out fast now, the price is going to skyrocket. There’s going to be some serious public disorder. People are going to start dying of something unheard of in this century, old age. Are your superiors ready for that? Are you ready for that?”

She started to look scared. It wasn’t a good look on her.

“Don’t frown, Detective.” I said as I turned away. “It’ll give you lines.”

The End

  1. […] for the Aphelion-webzine June 2012 Flash challenge. The challenge was the same as for May; To write the story of a human detective investigating the murder of a nefarious alien named […]


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