Today’s blog is a section from The Darned Conspiracy, the sequel to my first novel In The Land of the Penny Gnomes
Sibil lead Grimby, Fineflin, and Nobody around the corner and down two blocks, where they came to a First Gnomish Bank of The Realm 1.
“There. That PAC was where I got my pennies. Can I go now?”
“Not just yet, miss, sorry,” Grimby said with a shake of his head. “We just need to confirm you did get your Pennies from here.”
“And how are you planning on doing that?”
“Oh ho! I could alter the sensitivity of my real penny detector to sniff traces of your DNA!” Nobody held up the artificial nose as though it were a trophy. “It shouldn’t take more than a few hours,” the gnome added as he knelt down and began to pull tools from this various pockets. “Er,” he flashed an nervous grin. “You did eat someting for breakfast, yes? It’s the most important meal of the day and I’m sure Fineflin would run and get you something if you haven’t.”
Sibil stared down at Nobody with incredulous fury, but before she could comment on the gnome’s “a few hours” estimate the Professor was saved by Fineflin. “Professor?”
“Hmmm, oh yes. Did you get the lady’s order, Fineflin? Between you and me this may take a while, and there is a chance I’ll need some toy cars from my lab in Great Roll, but I should be able to make this work.”
“There’s no need for that, Professor.”
“Oh? Why not? It is the most elegant way to ascertain if Sibil was, indeed, a customer of this PAC!”
“Or we could go into the bank and watch their security footage,” Grimby growled.
“Oh. Well that would take less time,” Nobody agreed. “But not as much fun,” he added with a knowing smile toward Sibil, who stepped back a few feet.
With a roll of his eyes, Fineflin proceeded to the front door, only to find it locked. He banged on it with his fist until a green robed wizard strode over to the door. He stood in the locked foyer and shook his head.
“I’m sorry, sir, but the bank isn’t open right now due to the brown outs. You can access our PAC Machine if you need cash or to make a small deposit.
Fineflin held out his badge, “I’m not here for banking, thank you. Agent Fineflin Overshoot, IBI. We’re here investigating a possible problem with you PAC Machine and need to see your security footage.” The elf looked as the wizard’s outfit and scowled, “Also, you need a fashion intervention. That color green does not go with your complexion, and you don’t really have the shoulders for flowy robes. You may want to consider a business cut.”
The bank employee shrugged, “I thought so too, but my dad’s a traditionalist. He used to make me wear the hat too.”
“Did he realize you’d look like a deranged clown doll 2.”
“He said the ridicule would build character.”
The banker shrugged. “I think Narrative has a plan for me, so sure 3.”
Fineflin smirked, “Well, as long as you’re secure.” The elf pulled out business card from his jacket and handed it to the wizard. “But if you would like a little more style, please give me a call.” He looked the wizard over. “I think you’d qualify for special assistance.”
“Really?” the Banker grinned. “Thanks!”
“Great,” grunted Grimby 4. “The horribly dressed wizard has a new lease on fashion. Can we please go inside and check the security footage now?”
“Uh, I suppose? Are you an agent as well?”
Grimby flashed his credentials and nodded. “Agent Grimby Headsmelter, IBI.”
“OK agents, come in and let me see how we may assist you. But,” the banker motioned to Nobody and Sibil. “Who are they?”
“Oh!” Nobody squeaked with excitement as he reached into his pockets. After several moments of shuffling, during which Grimby though he heard several ducks quacking, the gnome pulled out an IBI ID card. “I’ve been given temporary status as an agent! Isn’t that wonderful?”
The Banker’s eyes narrowed as he examined the old gnome, who held his ID in one hand and held on to an artificial nose in the other, and his posture indicated he did not think Nobody being given a position of authority was a very good idea. Then, however, he read the name on the ID card and his eyes widened.
“You’re Cooly Nobody!”
Nobody beamed with delight as he pulled out a pen from his shirt pocket. “Indeed I am. I suppose you’d like an autograph?”
“Would I? You are the snack chip maker! Your Turnip, Ghost Pepper, and Frog Leg poppers changed my life!”
“Oh, I’m so pleased! That was a particularly tricky recipe, I needed to spend a lot of pennies to figure out the right amount of plastic utensils to add to the mix.”
“I’ll bet!” The wizard motioned everyone into the building, pointing Sibil out to Fineflin after she had passed. “Is she an agent as well?”
“No,” the Elf replied. “She is helping us with our inquiries.”
“And what’s with the nose?”
Fineflin threw a hand over Nobody’s mouth before the gnome could respond. “That’s official business, I’m afraid we can’t discuss it, other than to say it clashes with Nobody’s shoes.”
“Oh, OK. I was just making conversation. The security office is this way, and we’re on a backup generator so you won’t be hindered by brown outs.” The banker led the four beings down a hallfway and knocked the door marked “Security.”
“What?” Growled a voice from inside.
“Uh,” the Banker began. “There are four people from the IBI here to review our security footage for…?” A question hung in the air.
Picking up on the meaning Grimby turned toward Sibil, “When did say you were here? And you may want to not guess, because this is your alibi.”
Sibil glanced at her watch, “Not more than 45 minutes ago! I got my pennies and went right to get my coffee!”
Grimby nodded. “For the last two hours,” the Dwarf told the Banker.
“Uhhh, for the last two hours!” the Banker shouted at the door.
“That’s it?” The voice growled again, even as they could hear latches being undone on the door. “Why don’t you ever ask me for something difficult?” The door swung open and revealed a scruffy gnome holding a bag of Snack Like Nobody’s Business chips in his hand. He surveyed the mob who had offended his peace, and eyes grew wide as he took notice of The Professor.
Fineflin and Grimby groaned in their souls. Finding themselves in a den of Cooly Nobody fans was not on there “to do” list for the day.
“Oh yes! And I see you’re eating my relish and chestnut chips! How marvelous.” He elbowed his way past the gnome and entered the small security office. “Do you mind if I look at your footage? I see you have a ZX-800 system, so the digital footage should be able to scan easily. Did you get the facial recognition upgrade?”
The gnome wiped the chip dust off his beard and stared as Nobody proceeded to sit down and access the system without so much of a pause. “Uh… yes?”
“Oh good! Sibil would you be so kind as to stand in front of the camera here?” Nobody pointed to a camera which was pointed toward the opposite wall. Once she had taken position he beamed, “Wonderful! Now please don’t blink.” A flash lit up the room and left stars in everyone’s eyes.
“Can you warn us please, professor?” Grimby complained as he rubbed his eyes. “I was looking right at the flash!”
“Hmm, happily I wasn’t taking a photo of you so your blink will not be detrimental. Thank you for letting me know, however. I have always told Sindy how conscientious you are.” The gnome twisted some dials and pulled a keyboard toward himself. “This shouldn’t take a moment.” And, true to his word, after no more than five seconds the system produced a “ding!” and displayed an image of Sibil accessing the PAC machine with a time stamp around the time she had indicated.
“Well, miss,” Grimby offered. “I thank you for your patience with us. You’re free to go.”
“Not so fast,” Sibil complained. I want to deal with my penny issue!
“Penny issue?” the Banker inquired.
“Oh ho! Certainly you do!” Nobody quipped. He lifted up the nose attached to his detecting device and said, “If you don’t mind I’d like to sniff your pennies.”
“Uhh,” replied the Banker, lost in maelstrom of thought that is Cooly Nobody.
Before the conversation could continue, however, Grimby’s phone rang.
“Grimby, here. What’s up? Huh…OK. We’ll be there as soon as we can.”
“What was that,” asked Fineflin.
“That was Sills, she wants us back in the office as soon as we’ve finished up there. This isn’t the only PAC that’s been affected.”
- It was referred to by customers as FiGBoTheR. The capitals were very important to get the proper inflection. ↩
- “Deranged” is unneeded, as all clown dolls look deranged, but Fineflin wasn’t quite familiar with the horor that are clown dolls. ↩
- He was correct. Though the plan was to give the Banker one scene which had a direct connection to a larger narrative. The rest of his days the Banker would live a quiet life, take up painting, and be remembered with fondness by his children and grandchildren. Sometimes ordinary life is better than the plan. ↩
- Look at the alliteration. Look at it! ↩