Today’s blog is a section from The Darned Conspiracy, the sequel to my first novel In The Land of the Penny Gnomes
After settling into their office and getting some information on the RPM, Grimby and Fineflin headed out to investigate Regal Imports. The partners drove back into the more touristy part of town and were forced to park about a half mile away from their destination because the road was closed to vehicular traffic. From that point the agents made their way along the ocean-side boardwalk. This was lined with shops much as the busier downtown area they’d driven through earlier. They paused in their search for Regal Imports only long enough for Fineflin to pick up a pair of flip-flops.
“They just feel right, somehow,” he said in his defense.
Three blocks later Grimby stopped and pointed down a pier which jetted out into the surf.
“According to their corporate filings, Regal Import’s offices should be in the building at the end of this pier,” he said. The dwarf had his hand up to his forehead, squinting against the bright sunlight. One one side of the pier were several office buildings 1, and on the other were a number of docked fishing vessels of various sizes.
Fineflin smiled. “Let’s go pay Regal a visit then, shall we?”
The partners made their way down the pier as they attempted to move with the tourist traffic 2. They were about to climb the steps toward Regal Import’s office when Grimby nudged his partner and pointed toward one of the fishing vessels.
“Are you seeing what I’m seeing?”
Annoyed, Fineflin spun around and glanced around. “Grimby, I’m not interested in scoffing at another Dwarf wearing a floral print shirt. Their fashion sense is terrible, I agree, but they are on vacation and… oh.” Fineflin shook his head. “I don’t believe it.”
There, on one of the larger boats, was a man helping to organize some fishing nets. And, while it did appear to be a shadow of it’s former tailored splendor, the agents couldn’t believe what he was wearing–a camouflage suit jacket.
“I thought they were all deported,” Grimby snarled.
“They were.” Fineflin replied.
“And we’re sure he’s not just with The Bar, doing some cultural work exchange thing or something?”
The elf shook his head, “No. No one from The Bar dresses like that. That was always something unique to the Hoard 3.”
Grimby sighed. “Well, I suppose we better go talk to him.”
“That’s not our assignment right now, Grimby.”
Grimby huffed. “Yah, well, we’re investigating a conspiracy against the very foundation of The Realm’s power and economy and there,” the dwarf pointed. “…is a person who’s dressed like the last group who conspired against the well-being of The Realm. I’m not a believer in coincidences, Fineflin.”
The elf cocked his head in thought. “Good point.”
The partners made their way to the boat’s gangplank, but were prevented from boarding by a man dressed in full pirate regalia.
“Halt der maities! Dahr is no coomin’ abard dis vessel withart deh express purrmission of der captain.”
Grimby’s head bobbed as his brain translated pirate speak. When the translation matrix had completed he smiled and pulled out his badge, urging Fineflin to do likewise.
“Ah, I’m agent Headsmelter, IBI. This here is agent Overshoot. We need to talk to one of your crew on a matter of some urgency.”
The pirate’s shoulders slumped. “Oh, you mean Matthew? I suppose it was only a matter of time. How’d you find him?”
Grimby shrugged. “We have our methods.”
The pirate slumped. “Ah. Well I hope he’s not in too much trouble, Matthew’s a big help around here.” The pirate turned an called up the gangplank, “Hey, Felix!”
Someone leaned over the railing and called back, “Arr, that’s being mah name. Who goes, dahr?”
“It’s OK, they aren’t tourists.”
Felix’s shoulders slumped in relief. “Thank Narrative. I’ve got a sore throat. What do you need, Jack?”
“These two nice IBI agents want to talk to Matthew,” Jack called back.
“Ohhh.” Felix turned his gaze toward the two agents. “You go easy on him. Matthew’s good people.” He then cupped his hands to his mouth and shouted, “Hey, Matt! You’ve got visitors on the dock.”
Jack turned back to Grimby and Fineflin and smiled. “He’ll be right down.”
Grimby’s mouth had dropped open as the two shipmates had conversed, and Fineflin’s brow had wrinkled in confusion. It was the latter who gained his voice back first, “You know what he is?”
Jack smirked, “Sure. He’s a good deckhand, and a big help getting in our haul. He does some consulting work for the local fishing boats too, he’s great at cutting through red tape.”
“I’ll be he is,” Grimby muttered.
Jack raised held out his hand in caution. “Hey, now. The war’s over. Matthew’s just trying to make his way through life, same as the rest of us.”
Grimby’s face was becoming flushed with anger. “Yah, well he’s welcome to make his way through life somewhere else. He’s not supposed to be here.”
“Ah. The agent is right, Jack. I’ve been living here on borrowed time and we both know it.” The agents shifted their attention toward the deck and saw a stocky, blonde haired man at the top of the gangplank. He was wearing a linen shirt under his camouflage suit coat and a pair of jeans. The look was disarming, but the two agents tensed up at his appearance a reaction which Matthew noticed.
“No need to be alarmed agents, I have no intention of harming you.” As he came down the gangplank he held out his and and introduced himself, “Matthew Rédink, formerly esquire.” When neither agent took he hand, the former lawyer lowered it and asked, “How may I help you?”
“Well, for starters you can tell me what you’re doing here,” Grimy snapped.
Matthew shrugged. “At present, I’m cleaning nets. But in a more general sense, I guess I would say I was stranded after the conclusion of the war and had to make a life for myself as best I could.”
Fineflin’s head tilted to one side. “What do you mean, ‘stranded.’ The Hoard was permitted to leave The Realm with the signing of the armistice.”
“Ahh, yes. Well, I suppose if I’d been with the main body of the Coalition I would have taken you up on that generous offer. I, on the other hand, had been sent on a deep scouting expedition with several other people from my platoon. It had taken months to get down to the RPM, and as it is I didn’t get the news of the armistice until after the grace period for withdraw had ended.”
Grimby frowned. “Don’t you mean ‘we?’”
Matthew sighed. “Sadly, no. By the time the war ended I was on my own. Everyone else was killed or captured.”
Fineflin shook his head. “So you just thought you’d get a job?”
“And what were you scouting, exactly?” Grimby added.
Matthew pointed toward Fineflin and said, “Well, agent. I was stranded, hungry, and found out my side lost the war. A war which, by the way, I felt was unjustified the deeper I scouted into The Realm. Not that that matters much, I did take part in the invasion. So, yes, I got a job. This fine crew was good enough to see past my uniform and take me in.”
“And we’re glad we did, too,” Jack blurted out. “Matthew’s really helped a lot of folks around here!”
The former lawyer nodded in appreciation. “Thank you, Jack.” He then pointed toward Grimby and continued, “And as for your question, Master Dwarf, my team was to scout out sites for a possible naval invasion so we could by-pass your firewall.”
Grimby’s eyes widened. “A naval invasion? You had ships?”
“Not that I know of, no. From what little I was able to gather we were in negotiations with a militant faction of revenue cutters, but I have no idea if those negotiations ever really happened. I was only a corporal, so it’s not like I was privy to our strategic initiatives.”
“Well, that’s all very interesting,” Fineflin responded. “I would very much like to hear more about this in a more intimate setting. Would you please come with us?”
Jack shouted, “Hey, what gives!” But Matthew placed a hand on his shoulder to calm him.
“No, Jack, these agents are right. At the very least I should have applied for asylum or turned Throne’s evidence if I really wanted to stay here. I didn’t.” He turned to the agents and asked, “Will I be deported, then?”
In spite of himself, Grimby felt a brief flash of empathy for the former lawyer turned deckhand. “I honestly don’t know. But coming with us can’t hurt your chances.”
“And would my chances be helped any more if I told you I’ve been keeping an eye on Regal Imports for the last several months?”
- Decked out in RMP gaudiness. ↩
- This is impossible. The combination of volume and a complete unawareness on the part of tourists that they are, indeed, in a crowd of other people makes tourist foot traffic the most chaotic force in the universe. Mathematicians have given up and become accountants after spending years trying to make sense of it. ↩
- The Copyright War was fought against a renegade hoard of lawyers and their patent troll allies. The front line troops of the Copyright Hoard wore camouflage three piece suits in combat. ↩