Today’s blog is a section from The Darned Conspiracy, the sequel to my first novel In The Land of the Penny Gnomes
“Well, what did Mr. Nocks have to say?” Sills was seated much as she was when Grimby and Fineflin had left to interview the witness, only she was now sipping a bottle of water instead of coffee. With her caffeine intake shut off, Sills’ eyes had stopped spinning.
“Well, Corporal Nocks,” and here Grimby paused to make sure Sills recognized the emphasis. “…seems to think some folks who paid him to smuggle in some real pennies from the shops are the ones who introduced them into the economy.”
“And what makes Corporal Nocks so sure of that?”
Fineflin leaned back in his chair and, with a stylish flourish, set his feet on the corner of the Director’s desk. “Oh… probably something to do with the eleven thousand real pennies they forced him to drop off.”
Sills set down her water as she took this in. So distracted was she by the prospect that she didn’t even tell her subordinate to remove his boots from the desk. “Eleven… thousand?”
“Yup,” Grimby agreed. “Though that’s only his best guess, he says he didn’t collect all the pennies he was forced to deliver.”
“So they’re using other smugglers to bring them in.”
“The must be,” agreed Grimby once more.
Sills took a sip of her water. “And when you say ‘forced…'”
“They threatened to give his parents some rather nasty information he’d rather keep private.” Fineflin finished the sentence.
“And he has names?”
“Two, actually,” Grimby responded as he pulled out his phone and opened his notes. “A penny mine named ‘Silverhome’ and a mine supervisor named ‘Brill Gnat.'”
Sills nodded. “Good work, the two of you.”
Fineflin smiled. “I got to be the bad cop, Grimby gets punched too often.”
Grimby was about to issue a retort but was halted by Sills outstretched hand.
“Right now, I don’t care. You know I let you two get away with… whatever you two do to make your partnership work. Today is not the day. I’m assuming you’re recommending protective custody for Corporal Nocks?”
Grimby nodded. “Yes, boss. And for his family as well, if word gets out he’s turned Realm’s Evidence they may be at risk.”
“I understand. I’ll have a secure message sent to Great Roll to have them taken into protection. Does he have any specific requests?”
Fineflin lowered his feet and nodded his head as he responded. “Only one, Director. He would like a steady supply of chocolate.”
Sills cocked her head. “Chocolate?”
“Yes,” Fineflin continued. “It’s apparently the only thing he’s been able to taste since the war and he likes to sprinkle it on his food.”
“I…see. I’ll make sure it’s done. Now, I need you…”
“Hold up, boss,” Grimby cut in. “Other than everything, what’s got you so stressed out?”
Sills took a sip from her water and wiped her mouth with her beard. She then set the bottle down and leaned back in her chair. “Well, while you were down having your conversation this happened.” Sills reached up to her the console on her desk and pressed a button, whereupon a Television flickered on. An image of a dwarven reporter, standing outside the Governor’s building, came into focus. There was a title below her which read, “Time for a Change?” The three agents were silent as they listened.
“That’s a good question, Ogg. What we know at this point is that the Classical and Elven delegations have called for emergency hearings on the penny situation. Leaks have revealed that the ultimate goal of the hearings is, if pennies have indeed become unstable, to propose replacing the Penny Standard with The Sock Standard. Naturally, the Gnomish delegation is very upset with this proposal and have submitted a complaint to the Board.”
The image cut to many-warted witch sitting at a news desk. “And, Caraphina, what does Board leadership have to say about the called-for hearings?”
“Well, Ogg, Mr. Purple 1 released a statment a few minutes ago…”
The TV switched off, and the partners shifted their gaze to Sills.
“Word is there’s going to be a push to dump pennies altogether, claiming that socks are a more stable alternative.”
“Well, they are,” Fineflin huffed. “At least when they go bad things don’t explode.”
“No,” Grimby responded. “But the lint fires get pretty bad.”
Fineflin shrugged. “There is that, yes. Clean sock technology has gotten better at capturing the lint, but there’s still a lot that gets out into the air. There’s whole neighborhoods in Darning where every elf has asthema.”
Sills nodded. “And, even if it captured all the lint it doesn’t matter. Socks can’t meet our power requirements.”
“Oh I don’t know about that,” Fineflin replied. “The efficiency of sock power is way up. And distribution is a lot less expensive.”
“Fineflin, you’re house has a lint fire and brown out every day,” Grimby retorted. “The Fashion industry in Darning doesn’t even use it to power their factories.”
Fineflin’s lips tightened. “I…” he began, but then slumped. “I suppose I can’t argue with that.” He offered an apologetic smile toward Sills. “I’m sorry, Director, socks are an emotionally charged issue for elves.”
Sills nodded. “No need to apologize, Fineflin. You feel about socks the way gnomes feel about pennies. But that’s the point. This is an emotionally charged situation, and now the politicians have gotten their mitts on it. We’ve got to figure out what’s going on before the Governors do something stupid.”
“Too late,” Grimby sang.
“I mean about this. I need you two to get to Great Roll and bring in Brill Gnat for questioning. Audit the operation of the entire mine if you have to…”
“We’ll need some warrants for that, boss,” Grimby point out. “And we’re not exactly going to be welcome sights in Great Roll 2 as it is.”
“You let me worry about all that. Just get there. I want you leaving as soon as you can.”
“And what will you do, Director?”
Sills stood up and drained the remainder of her water bottle. “First, I’m going to get some more coffee. And then, I’m heading over to the palace to brief the Sovereign.”
A knock sounded from the door.
“Come,” Sills replied. A skittish goblin, wearing an official IBI uniform entered the office.
“Got a delivery, Ma’am,” squeaked the small creature. They walked up to the desk, giving both Grimby and Fineflin a wide-berth 3.
“Thanks Ga’rynk. Will you have my car prepped, please?”
“Yes, Ma’am,” squeaked the little goblin before she exited the room.
“You’d think she’d calm down around us, already,” Fineflin commented. “We’re in here all the time.”
Sill shrugged. “Yes, well if your ancestors had been hunted by pointy eared bow wielders in impeccable outfits, you might feel a bit ‘off’ too.” The director opened the envelop and frowned. “Oh good grief, now?”
“What is it?” asked Grimby?
Sills tossed the letter down on to her desk. “A summons. It appears the Board Of Governors Finance committee wants me to brief them on the…” she picked up the letter and scanned its contents, “…current uncertainty about the quality and protection of our penny supply.”
Fineflin reach out and snatched the paper, which caused Sills to frown. “That seems… fast.”
“It does at that. Get on this, agents. Something really doesn’t smell good right now.”
Grimby opened his mouth, but Sills cut him off. “And no, I do not mean Ga’rynk!”
- Mr. Purple is one of the senior wizards in The Realm’s Board of Governors. He has a name, but he always annoyed me so I never bothered to commit it to memory. He’s always “Mr. Purple” to me. ↩
- Prior to the end of the war the Fifty Peaks Mountains were a “gnomes only” territory. It’s no longer official policy, but a lot of gnomes haven’t gotten the memo. ↩
- Everyone in The Realm are friends, of course they are. And the IBI is an equal opportunity employer where any being can go far. But the sight of a dwarf and elf sitting together can bring up a lot of cultural baggage for a goblin. ↩