Today’s blog is a section from The Darned Conspiracy, the sequel to my first novel In The Land of the Penny Gnomes
“When was the last time a real penny ened up in circulation outside Great Roll?” asked Fineflin as he pulled the passenger door shut.
Grimby pulled out of their parking spot, almost colliding with a delivery truck 1, he didn’t reply until he put the car in gear and shot out of the parking lot. “One hasn’t been discovered for twenty years or so. The Great Roll office really frowns on Gnomes bringing back real pennies from their shopping trips 2. They don’t do anything when they pop up in gnomish territory, but anyone attempting to smuggle one out of No Entry can face some stiff penalties. There’s a registry for all known real pennies in The Realm, and the gnomes who collect them have annual interviews.”
Fineflin yawned. “Yes, I know all that. I took that training too 3. So which of the collectors let this one slip away?”
“That’s just it, none of them. The uniforms on the scene said this real penny is new.”
Fineflins’ eyes widened. “So the morning after we had real penny blow a reactor another real penny shows up in a coffee shop… and we don’t know where it’s from?”
Grimby nodded, “That seems to be the case.”
Fineflin frowned and, catching a glimpse of himself in the side view mirror, smoothed his hair before he spoke. “This isn’t good, Grimby.”
“No it isn’t. Oh look, we’re here. This’ll be fun. Maybe someone will try to punch my helmet again.”
“There are other ways to get out your aggression, Grimby.”
“Agression?” Grimby blurted out as he pulled their car into a spot and shut off the engine. “I wasn’t the one trying to punch out an IBI agent for busting up their broomstick smuggling operation!”
“Yes, but you enjoyed it when that pirate broke his hand.”
The dwarf kicked open the driver’s side door and stepped out of the vehicle. “I don’t see why that’s a problem. Besides, his hand got better and he didn’t try to run away then.”
Fineflin sighed, “I suppose. But can we keep the rehab assignments down on this one, please? It’s just a few anxious customers.
Grimby offered a noncommittal shrug but, recognizing his knack for aggravating people who annoyed him, motioned for his partner to to take the lead. Fineflin nodded as he passed the dwarf and said, “Thank you.”
“There’s paint on the back of your sports coat. You shouldn’t have leaned against the wall at the delivery place like that.”
“Ha ha,” the elf replied and continued toward the assembled crowd. Though Grimby was pleased to see his partner take a brief glance over his shoulder to see if he’d been telling the truth.
The partners approached the assemblage of beings who’d been present at the time the offending coin had appeared. Centaurs, Dwarves, Gnomes, and even a couple of goblins were standing outside the facade. Six uniformed officers from The Throne’s department were trying to prevent two of the persons, a dwarf and a older gnome 4 from attacking one another.
“Folks,” an officer appeared before the two agents. “This establishment is closed for the moment. Why don’t you get your fix somewhere else before I have to arrest you for interfering with police business.?”
The partners glanced at one another and then flipped out their IBI ID’s in unison. “I’m Fineflin. That’s Grimby, we’re now in charge here.”
The officer grinned. “Sure agents, no problem. I’m only too happy to toss this to your capable hands. Maybe you can get our two combatants to stop trying to kill each other long enough to ask questions. I’m sure they’d stop just as soon as they saw your ID’s. Us local folks are surely not up to that.
Grimby was, all the sudden, itching to provoke officer to take a swing at his hat. Instead he chose a time honored tradition of ignoring a resentful and small being who probably had too much authority for their own good. He shoved his way into the cordon the officers had set up and shouted, “What are these people doing out on the street?”
A younger officer, a wizard by the way he wore robes as his uniform 5, hurried over to the dwarf and saluted. “Sorry, sir! The fight had spilled out on the street and folks had left as it did. We’re just trying to round everyone up.”
Grimby nodded, while Fineflin smiled and waved at the officer who’d been rude to them. “OK, then, officer…”
“Patrol Wizard Stims, sir.”
“OK, PW Stims. I understand. Let’s keep most of the patrons out here for now, then. Make sure they do not leave. Let them know they aren’t under arrest, but they are being detained as we make our inquiries. Then I want you to bring the two hot heads into the shop so my partner and I can interview them. Understood.”
Stims’ brow wrinkled. “You want to bring them in together, sir?”
“Is there a problem with that, PW Stims?”
“Not from me, sir. But those two have been trying to beat each other senseless ever since I got here.”
Fineflin smiled his most elf-like smile, “Oh I’m sure we’ll be fine.” As the officer broke away to pass his instructions on, the elf leaned over to his partner, “Do you really want to get hit that bad?”
Grimby shook his head, “Nah. But those two are acting like idiots and separating them will only help them justify the way they’re acting.”
“If you say so.”
As they turned to follow the struggling combatants back into the shop they were run into by a gnome carrying what looked to be a large box connected to, via a hose, a plastic nose.
“Get back here!” growled a voice behind the newcomer.
“Oh ho! My friends! I’ve got the detector. It’s a prototype right now but it should do the …errp!”
Nobody was pulled up off his feet by a centaur, the same officer who’d been rude to the agents earlier 6. “I said move along before I arrested you. But you little gnomes don’t like to listen, do you?”
“I say!” Nobody exclaimed. “This is rather anti-social.”
“Put him down, officer,” Grimby commanded. “He’s with us.”
The centaur wasn’t yielding, “He didn’t show any ID.”
“Nevertheless…” Finefline started
“ID!” Nobody shouted. “Oh yes! I knew there was something I’d forgotten. I was just so excited to try out my detector, you know. It’s a first of its kind and I had to add just the right amount of relish to the formula to get it to yield accurate results.” The old gnome dropped the nose hose, which bounced on the ground, and reached into his pockets to fish out his wallet.
“Hmmm, I know it’s in here. This would be a bit easier if you’d put me down, don’t you think?” When he remained suspended in the air he continued, “No? Well, ok then. I believe it was in here.” The gnome pulled out several chip bags from pockets that should have been two small to fit them. “No, those are my new flavors of snack chips! Honey chalk dust and Year old spices. You can try them if you’d like!”
Even the centaur was take a bit aback by Nobody’s cheerful demeanor. “Why would I want chalk dust chips?”
“I’ve been told to fortify my varieties with more minerals. Ah, yes, here we are! Professor Cooly Nobody, provisional IBI agent. I’m even wearing the uniform!”
The other agents hadn’t noticed it before their friend had been lifted off the ground but Nobody was, indeed, wearing a standard IBI uniform. The Centaur officer’s face seemed to be processing new information, and what he was processing didn’t make his future career prospects look very promising.
“You’re Professor Cooly Nobody?” he said, lowering the gnome to the ground.
“Why yes, I am! How did you know?”
“The Sovereign’s father?”
The gnome beamed. “Fame is ever with me, I’m afraid. I suppose you would like my autograph?”
Grimby and Fineflin each grabbed an arm and drug the professor into the building. The fake nose was bouncing along the pavement after them.
“Let me know how you enjoyed the chips!” The gnome called out as he was dragged away. The centaur already stooped down and picked up the bags he’d dropped.
- This always happens in stories when law enforcement is in a hurry. It’s one of the rules which govern reality. ↩
- Penny Gnomes like to go on “shopping excursions” in the real world. They pick up things which catch their fancy–like keys, action figures, and television remotes–and they leave a mined penny in their place as payment. If you’ve ever looked for an object you knew had been on the floor, but found a penny where you think it should have been, chances are a Penny Gnome has been around. ↩
- Have you ever wondered why characters in books talk about information the other people around them must already know? It’s because they are being observed by a narrator, and that observation causes the observed to forget certain details. Like the fact that Fineflin was sitting next to Grimby at the “Real Penny Awareness” training. ↩
- All dwarves are born looking like they’re fifty. It’s just one of those things. ↩
- There were a lot of beings in The Realm who looked and dressed like wizards, but weren’t. When asked why they bothered wearing robes the typical response was, “I like fresh air. Thank you very much.” ↩
- I had mentioned that it was a centaur, right? Oh well, it doesn’t matter. You know now. ↩