The Maltese Sparrow

Chapter Two

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Crying. I had a crying client. I hate that. I pushed over a box of tissues, and she stared at them wondering what they were. I thought it best to continue the interview.

"Did it look like someone broke in?" I asked.

"The room service personnel were there. They were cleaning up, so who could tell?" she said with a sob. She grabbed me and cried on my hip because my shoulder was much higher than her eyes.

"There there," I said while patting her on the back in an attempt to reassure her.

"Where?" she asked with a start.

"It's just and old earth expression."

"Oh," she said dabbing her eyes with a handkerchief.

"So, who knew you had this valuable bird?"

"The hotel staff, of course."

"Of course."

"Daniel Butler."

"Ooooh Daniel Butler!"

"Do you know him?"

"No."

"He is the pet broker."

"Ooooh *that* Daniel Butler!"

"So you do know him!"

"No."

"There are some off-world friends," she continued. "The waitress at the bagel place, my neighbors at the hotel, everyone along the route from Daniel's to my place..."

"Perhaps it would be easier to list the people who didn't know," I replied. "Is there anyone here who would want to harm you?"

"Not that I know of," she replied sobbing some more.

"Okay. I want you to go back to your hotel and think hard about it. Could you do that for me? Then, write down anyone you can think of that you think might do this."

"All right," she said opening her bag. "Here is my card. My earth friends call me Maxine."

"Okay Qx... Qx&M@... Maxine," I replied walking her to the door.

I am sure she could find her way out, but it was the polite thing to do. Besides, I needed a few minutes to decide on my course of action. Would I go interview this Daniel Butler? Should I see the hotel staff? Should I go out for a sandwich or order something in?

I sat in my office mulling over these difficult questions, but decided that I should go ahead and get started. I would go out for that sandwich and make my way over to Daniel Butler's place of business. Despite it being next door, it was going to be quite a hike.

I walked out my building door into the winding habitrail tube that led to the main corridor. When it rains methane on your planet, there is no outside. At least, no one goes outside. We travel in tunnels, and because the planets founders did not want the inhabitants to be out of shape, the tunnels twist and turn. Thus, after I grabbed my sandwich, I grabbed the wingtip of a passing flying car to take me to the tunnel that led to Daniel Butler's place.

I guess flying car is a bit of a misnomer. The freight and other fast transports travel along cables above the pedestrian areas. Thus, you have to go fairly high to grab a wingtip. It takes a bit of practice, but sometimes it sure beats walking. Although, one of the downsides is that it is difficult to eat a sandwich on the way.

I dropped in front of the tunnel that led to the business center where Daniel Butler did business. It was very much like the place where my office resided. Okay, it was exactly like it because they were all built at the same time for the same purpose. I rang the bell and entered.

Immediately, I was met by two enormous Maltese blue tits! Their sharp beaks snapping at me. I turned around and ran out of his office, but they followed. Why did I not close the door behind me? Their loud tweets and their flapping wings were right behind me. Suddenly they stopped, but I did not. Why did they stop? I was not going to turn around and find out. My decision was made and it was final. I would interview the hotel staff first.

I shot out of the tunnel and grabbed the first wingtip I could find that was going my way. I easily made my way to the high-rise hotel building. At the tube running into the hotel, I solved my first mystery of the day. The monsters from Malta stopped to consume my sandwich. That was one less mystery to be solved that day.

I entered the hotel and made my way to the staff lounge. That room was easy to find. I just kept entering the doors labeled Employees Only. I asked around and found out that Mlm3$63 ... Mle3$ ... Manny opened the door to Maxine's room.

"So -- er -- Manny," I began. "Did you notice anything unusual when you opened -- um -- Maxine's room this morning?"

"She is a slob," he replied. "Her room is always a mess!"

"Did you find anything out of the ordinary?"

"Not that I recall..."

"Is there any way you could get me a sandwich?"

"No."

"Fine. What can you tell me about her pet?"

"Pet? There are no pets allowed in the hotel."

"So, you have never noticed a bird in the room?"

"Bird? What is a bird?"

"It's an earth creature. Looks like this," I replied crossing my thumbs and flapping my hands in birdlike fashion.

"What?" he replied.

I then showed him a picture that my client supplied. I said, "Does this help?"

"Oh Miss Mable!" Manny replied. "Do you know where she is? I have not seen her in days."

"I thought you said the hotel does not allow pets..."

"Certainly not, but we do allow sentient companions."

"Wait! What? Sentient?"

"Sure, I have had several conversations with that ... bird you say?"

"You have?" I asked. "What language does it speak?"

"It has a series of tweets and chirps. It is whatever language it speaks."

"And you understand her?"

"Certainly," was the reply. "Say, you do not suppose something has happened to her?"

"That is what I'm trying to find out. That is why I was asking you these questions."

"Oh! That makes sense. Let me think. I did notice that her door was slightly ajar when I entered her room."

"Who has a key to her room?"

"Key? What is a key?"

"How do you control who has access?"

"The computer identifies the person and allows or disallows them to open the door."

"So, who has access to the room?"

"The hotel staff, of course."

"Of course."

"Daniel Butler."

"Ooooh Daniel Butler!"

"Do you know him?"

"No."

"He was the previous companion of Mable."

"Ooooh *that* Daniel Butler!"

"So you do know him!"

"No."

"There may be some various others."

"Why would there be so many allowed entry? Come to think of it, why would Daniel Butler have access?"

"He was an expert on Mable. He needed to make sure she was getting along well. Access is so easy to grant."

I thanked Manny, asked again about sandwiches, and decided to schedule an appointment with Daniel Butler after I got myself another sandwich.

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This page contains a single entry by Douglas Gogerty published on November 16, 2008 7:03 PM.

Oh no! It's all Dwayne's Fault! was the previous entry in this blog.

"Theocratic States of America" - Part Two is the next entry in this blog.

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