Today’s blog is a section from The Darned Conspiracy, the sequel to my first novel In The Land of the Penny Gnomes
After hanging up with Sills, Bug led Fineflin and Grimby into a small conference room.
“So what are we going to do?” Bug asked.
Fineflin’s eyebrow arched, “We?”
“Yes, Fineflin. ‘We.’ Sills wanted me with you two to smooth out any difficulties you might have. And an Elf investigating a penny mining company is probably going to cause some difficulties. I can already tell the gnomes here at the field office aren’t too pleased you’re around. So I may be the best support you’ve got.”
Grimby shook his head. “Point taken, though if I catch any of these agents giving Fineflin a hard time I may introduce them to my hat.”
Bug huffed. “I may help hold them still if it comes to that. Or threaten to take their names and ID numbers back to Sindy, anyway.”
Fineflin rolled his eyes. “Fine, Bug. You can come along.”
“Good, because I was coming at any rate.”
The elf rubbed his temples, “Sometimes, Bug, you are aggravating.”
The gnome grinned, “You do know ‘Bug’ is just a nickname. Right?”
Grimby smiled. “I’ve always been meaning to ask you. What is your real name?”
Bug’s lips pursed in concentration. “You know what? I can’t remember. I’ve been ‘Bug’ so long my given name’s completely slipped my mind 1.”
Grimby rolled his eyes. “Well isn’t that interesting? Anyway, do you think you can get us to this Silverhome Mining Company?”
“You’re in my home town, and if people at the field office don’t get you what you want Sills will drop them down an elevator shaft 2. I can get you there.”
“Good,” Grimby stated. “Now let’s get us a car and get out and do our jobs.”
Requisitioning a vehicle was more difficult than Grimby had anticipated, on account of “the tall one” not being able to fit well into gnomish cruisers. In the end they were able to procure a transport van which had enough room for Fineflin to sit on the floor in the back 3.
“When I get back to Great Roll, I’m going to insist on standardized vehicle sizes so any agent can use them,” Fineflin complained.
Bug glanced over his shoulder from the driver’s seat, “Hey, I’d be up for that. As long as their adjustable. Just be glad they didn’t force us to use the freezer truck, it’s the only other vehicle that could accomodate you.”
“Well at least we’d have ice cream then.”
Bug shook his head, “That’s not what it’s for.”
“I don’t know what he’s complaining about!” Grimby complained. “I’d rather be on the floor. These seats are terrible.”
“Yah, well, gnomes didn’t design them to accomodate Dwarvish… musculature.”
“Did you just say I was fat?”
Bug grinned, “Nah, you’re big boned!”
Grimby settled back into his chair as best he could. “Well OK then. Let’s get to Silverhome as fast as we can, I’m gonna need to stretch.”
It took about forty-five minutes to drive from the Great Roll field office to the entrance of Silverhome Mining Company. Traffic was snarled on the highway, making the short jaunt more difficult.
“Wow,” said Bug as they inched down the road. “During the war we never had traffic like this.”
“Price of progress, I suppose,” Grimby replied.
Bug pulled up to the security gate and rolled down his window. A security gnome sidled up to the van and peered inside, eyes resting a bit on Grimby and then fixing on Fineflin with some shock.
“Can I help you?” He said at last.
Bug cleared his throat, “Yah. I’m here with Agents Headsmelter and Overshoot from the IBI. They want to speak to your supervisor.”
“And you are?” replied the gnome.
“Bug Moume, I’m just the driver.”
The guard’s eyes widened. “I’m sorry Mr. Moume, I didn’t know it was you. I can let you and the dwarf in to see the supervisor on duty but…” his eyes drifted back to Fineflin.
“…I’m an elf?” he finished.
The guard blushed a bit. “Well, yes.”
Grimby had taken his cap off and had begun rapping it on the dashboard with gentle determination.
“Yes. My partner is, in fact, and elf. And I am a dwarf, and Bug is a gnome. But the two of us are IBI agents investigating a crime, and refusing access to an agent based on their species seems a bit like obstruction to me. Doesn’t it to you, Fineflin?”
“I can’t do my job if I’m barred from seeing persons of interest.”
The guard’s eyes widened. “A person of interest? Here?”
Bug shrugged, “That’s what they tell me. I’m just the driver. But they’re kinda in a bad mood to tell you the truth, so why don’t you buzz us in and tell us where we can find your supervisor?”
“Uh, sure. Supervisor’s name is Brill Gnat. You can find him at the admin building. I’ll call ahead and let them know you’re coming.”
“Fine,” Bug nodded. “You do that.”
He rolled up his window as the guard waved them in and headed toward the mine’s administration building, which would be better described as a shed. As they pulled up the trio spied an older gnome standing on the steps. He waved as they existed the van.
“So, I suppose you’re here to arrest me, then? I can’t say I don’t have it coming after what happened in The Throne.”
Fineflin cocked his head, “You’re just turning yourself in for something. Before we ask you any questions?”
“Yup. I was told it was all about raising the value of ore ’round these parts. Pennies might be essential products but they don’t make a lot of folks well-off, if you know what I mean. If folks raised the price a bit, well, that would go along way ’round here.”
“So why turn yourself in?” Grimby asked.
“When these real pennies started showing up at Apolo’s all over The Throne I knew I’d gotten in over my head. And that explosion,” Brill shivered. “Any worse and half the city would be gone. I can’t have that on my conscience. I was gonna go myself after my shift ended, to tell you the truth.”
Bug raised his hand “So you’re telling us you participated in a scheme to create uncertainty around pennies for altruistic reasons?”
“Not, entirely. You see, I’ve got a bit of a chewing gum problem and the smugglers have been having a difficult time getting it for me. What with all the new regulations and whatnot.”
Grimby stared at the gnome. “You got sucked into a conspiracy to commit financial fraud on The Realm, to support your bubble gum habit?”
Brill stood up straight and replied, “Chewing gum, agent. I’m not a monster.”
- Don’t look at me, I don’t know either. “Bug” is even on his driver’s license. ↩
- Bug found out later this statment was a bit tastless, given what happened to Sills very near to the time this conversation was happening. He never stopped using the phrase, though. Bug’s stubborn like that. ↩
- Believe me, they aren’t comfortable. ↩