It was a dark and stormy night, but not like those puny storms on that planet earth. Oh no! This one was a real ground shaker. Back in the old days, people were afraid of hurricane force winds. Those fragile little babies! They did not have the 600 kph winds of the storms here. Also, there is none of that puny water falling from the sky. "Oh it may be a little acidic," cried the spoiled little children. No sir! We are talking about liquid methane rain here. So it was a balmy 90 K (-297.4 ºF) outside. Those infants would not last two seconds outside -- well neither would I. That is why I am inside.
You would expect a world where rocket fuel rains from the sky to be populated. At least, that is why my grandparents moved here. It was a chance for a better life for them. For me, it is just the place I call home. Most of the people here work in the rocket fuel business. It is a rough life on the fringes of civilization. People come here to refuel, and sometimes they cause trouble. Thus, there are those here to keep the peace, and there are those of us who live in the gaps between chaos and law and order.
My name is Dwayne Thompson. I have lived here all my life. I am a jack of all trades, and yes, master of none. I get by. Like many that live here, I did not choose this as my home. However, it is as good as anywhere, and I make a living as a freelance troubleshooter.
On this particular night, she walked in. She had long legs. They went from the ground all the way up to her chin. That is how these Larsentients are built. Their face is just above their legs with their arms coming out where there should be ears. They have a bit of a body above that with the rest of their anatomy. It is kind of disturbing looking at someones eyes that are where our naughty bits are. Furthermore, if you look at them where our eyes are, you are looking at their naughty bits. They will be all like, "Hey, my eyes are down here!" It is a wonder there has not been a war between our species over this very thing. Oh wait, we have had wars with them. Never mind.
Her name was Qx&M@x%lmmnwz^zppklIN3nnw9RL$#kkngfFF. Those Larsentients have completely unpronounceable names. In fact, it is almost impossible to even spell them. She walked into my office and the first thing she said to me was, "Hey, my eyes are down here!"
"You have recently lost something," I said looking into her baby orange eyes.
"It was very important to you."
"I'm getting an 'M' ... or ... an 'N' perhaps?"
"She's a Maltese Sparrow."
"A Maltese Sparrow? What is that? Is it some sort of jewel encrusted bird coated in an enamel to hide the fact that it is very valuable?"
"No it is my pet."
"You're here to see if the Great Thompsoani can get in touch with it using my incredible psychic powers! Is that it?"
"What? No. I am looking for Dwayne Thompson the Wingtip!"
You see, when they built this world, they did not want to be caught in the epidemic of obesity like earthlings are prone to be. Thus, if you walk out of your front door to visit your neighbor, you will have to walk at least a mile to get there even though the houses share a common wall. Since private detectives visit many places, they hitch rides by grabbing the wings of passing flying machines. Thus, they call those in the private investigation business wingtips.
"Are you sure that you are not looking for a psychic?"
"I am sure."
"My powers are remarkable..."
"I am sure."
"Good! You passed my test," I told her. "I am Dwayne Thompson."
"Test? Were you trying to be Sherlock Holmes or something?"
"Never mind. Will you find my Maltese Sparrow?"
"You mean those huge carnivorous flying monsters that chased humans off the earth? They haven't discovered space travel have they?"
"What? No! You are thinking of the Maltese Great Blue Tit. My Mable is much smaller."
"Are you telling me that the Maltese Sparrow has discovered space travel? Then it is only a matter of time before these huge man-eaters come after us! We must get ready!"
"Calm down! I bought my little sweetheart from a pet trader. He risks life and limb to obtain species from earth for earthlings and others to have as pets. I am sure these birds do not have the ability to leave earth on their own."
"Okay, but if an enormous Maltese blue tit comes to my door and kills me, I'll blame you and never speak to you again."
"Fair enough. So, are you taking my case?"
"I don't know. I never thought of myself as a pet detective."
"I'll make it worth your while Ace," she said with an alluring look in her eye.
"I bet you will!"
"My eyes are down here," she added.
"1000 credits a day plus expenses," I replied.
"12 credits a day plus a 30 credit per diem."
"Done!" a said victoriously.
"Here is a picture of Mable."
"This is a picture of a bird," I announced.
"Mable is my pet bird," she said in a I want you voice. "She is who you'll be looking for."
"Right. Just testing you again. So, when was the last time you saw her?"
"I left her in my hotel room as I went to the store to purchase food for the needy," she said as her eyes shifted right and left. "And, my eyes are down here."
"Go on," I urged, but not believing her story.
"This was Twosday."
"Do you know how the galactic calendar works?"
"Of course!" I insisted.
"Onesday, Twosday, Threesday..."
"Wednesday? Tuesday? Thursday? What are you talking about?"
"It was one day ago."
"All my troubles seemed so far away. Now it looks as though they're here to stay. Oh, I believe in..."
"Why'd she have to go? I don't know,"
"She wouldn't say? You said something wrong and now you long for..."
"Yesterday, after I dropped the food off at the local food shelf. I stopped for a sesame bagel and a schmeer. I saved some of the seeds for Mable, but when I returned to my room..." she said and began to cry.
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."
"Ooooh Daniel Butler!"
"Do you know him?"
"He is the pet broker."
"Ooooh *that* Daniel Butler!"
"So you do know him!"
"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?"
"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."
"Ooooh Daniel Butler!"
"Do you know him?"
"He was the previous companion of Mable."
"Ooooh *that* Daniel Butler!"
"So you do know him!"
"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.
Daniel Butler was a human. He could be described as average in every way. He was of average height and weight. He had the usual pink hair like so many Earthlings. I guess it helped him blend in with the rest. His pale lavender skin also helped him in his business affairs as it was the most common color. He was an average Joe.
When I arrived at Daniel's office, he was busy cleaning it. It looked like two enormous birds had a wrestling match in it. Things were knocked over. There were feathers all over. It was quite a mess. I wonder how it happened.
"What can I do for you wingtip?" asked Mr. Butler
"I've come about -- Mable. Is this a bad time?"
"No it is all right. Someone broke in and ransacked the place. Whoever it was let out some animals to cover their tracks."
"Ummmm -- are all the animals back in place?" I asked with probably a lot of worry on my face.
"Yes. I could have been in big trouble, but the pair of birds ended up fighting over a sandwich."
"Not to bore you with my troubles, but a customer of mine requested a pair of -- er -- rare birds from Earth. These birds were released, and got out of the door some how. However, instead of causing me and others lots of problems, they found a sandwich to fight over. Perhaps one of the perpetrators dropped it on the way out. So, Mable?" Daniel asked to change the subject.
I had trouble bringing my mind back to the task at hand; however, I replied, "Who?"
"You mentioned the name Mable."
"I did? Oh yes, Mable. Where is she?"
"Who is Mable?"
"Mable is a Maltese blue tit -- er -- uh -- Maltese sparrow."
He seemed to not notice my slip and asked, "What?"
"A Maltese sparrow! Yeah, that is what I said -- a Maltese sparrow."
"What do you know about Maltese blue tits?"
"Only that they now rule the earth and make it completely inhabitable by humans and if a breeding pair were released on some planet it could be taken over by them eventually chasing that population away and thus would be a useful item to smuggle...."
He seemed to not notice my rambling and asked, "What?"
"Nothing!" I replied with the most innocent face I could muster. "I don't know anything about them."
"Well played wingtip. What do you want?"
"Information. I want information on Mable."
"A Maltese sparrow named Mable?"
"Yes. She is owned by my client -- she's a Larsentient if that helps."
"We are not talking about some sort of jewel encrusted bird coated in an enamel to hide the fact that it is very valuable are we?"
"No, it is an actual living bird from earth. Here is a picture."
"Oh! it is actually a *living* bird," Daniel stated.
"Yes, Mable is a bird."
"I have not sold any birds recently, but I can check my records."
Mr. Butler looked around the disarray of an office. He looked and looked, but was unable to locate what he was looking for. Eventually he replied, "Well it appears that someone took those records."
"So, you don't have any information about a Larsentient that you sold a Maltese sparrow to, but that you would frequently visit and have free access to her apartment."
"Oh! Maxine," he replied all innocently.
"The identity of my client is confidential," I replied as a stern warning.
"Oh sorry. She named the bird Mable?"
"That is indeed the Maltese sparrow's name."
"While I have no records of the sale of the sparrow in question, if it is the Larsentient that I am thinking of, the sparrow was a gift."
"Do you go around giving away such valuable birds?"
"I do -- to individuals I am involved with."
"I like the cut of her jib."
"What are you talking about?"
"Do I have to spell it out?"
"Ummm -- yeah."
"We have had relations."
"Zounds man! Are you daft?"
"I'm still not getting anything."
"Maxine and I have been known to engage in sexual intercourse."
"Wait, you're having sex with a bird?"
"No! The bird's owner."
"And the bird doesn't mind you cheating on her?"
"Okay wingtip, let me spell it out for you."
"I wish you would."
"I met Maxine about a year ago at Rick's Café Américain. I was meeting some clients there, and she was out with some friends of hers. After I finished my business, I sat at the bar to wet my whistle. She walked up to me and she asked me to dance. I asked her her name and in a dark brown voice she said..."
"Wet your whistle?" I interupted.
"I ordered a drink."
"Oh! You ordered a drink. Why didn't you say so?"
"In any event, we hit it off pretty well. After that meeting, we went on several dates and have been intimate on numerous occasions. Her birthday was a few weeks ago, and for her birthday I gave her the Maltese sparrow in question."
"We had sex."
"You mean you and Maxine were in a relationship?"
"Are! We are in a relationship, and as far as I know it is going pretty well."
"You are in a relationship with a bird?"
"Maxine is the Larsentient, and Mable is the bird."
"And I am in a relationship with the Larsentient. The bird was a gift."
"And the bird is missing?"
"Then perhaps she has other suiters that are jealous of me. Perhaps one of them is involved."
"Birds can get jealous?"
"No! You are exasperating sometimes! Maxine -- the Larsentient -- could have jealous suiters."
"And they could have taken the bird in spite."
"Do you have direct knowledge of this?"
"It is just a theory that you can look into," he replied.
"Are you a private investigator?"
"No, but I..."
"Then leave the theorizing to the professionals. I'll take my leave of you now."
I left his office to allow him to continue to clean up. He seemed awfully confused, so it appeared that my interview with him may have been a waste of time. It was time to get back to my office and think about dinner.
I left Daniel's workplace and grabbed another wingtip to my office's tube. I had a bit to digest. This case started like so many -- lots of unanswered questions and leads that led nowhere. Thus, it was not new territory.
What was new was the shape of my office when I returned. It looked like two enormous birds fought over a sandwich in it. Was this case nothing but a wild sparrow chase to get me out of my office? There was plenty Maxine did not tell me. She never mentioned that her and Daniel Butler were in a relationship. What would she want out of my office?
I began straightening the place up. I had it mostly presentable when I noticed something out of the ordinary. There was a body in my office. I would say it was a dead body, but that seems redundant to me. Nevertheless, it was a body, it was dead, and it was in my office. I guess it is cold to keep referring to the body as it. It was a Larsentient male. His eyes were closed -- wait his eyes were down there -- they were closed now.
I had to decide what to do. I had a pretty good alibi -- if Daniel Butler would back up my story. That could be a big if after I thought about it. Perhaps I should not call the police. What if that is what the perpetrators wanted? Maybe they were counting on me to dispose of the body. There were lots of unanswered questions; such as, who was this guy?
Thus, I called the police. They sent over a detective. Detective Weston D'Cheuer was the type of guy who, in a tough situation, would back you up by running away. You would have to face the bikers by yourself. At least, that was the impression I got.
"How do you know the deceased?" asked Detective D'Cheuer.
"I don't," I replied.
"Do you often let strangers into your office?"
"It is a place of business. Strangers come in all the time."
"Do they come in and die on a regular basis too?"
"It is a rare occasion."
"The place looks awfully tidy for any type of struggle."
"I cleaned up the place before I noticed him."
"For a detective, you're not very observant."
"It is not everyday someone leaves a dead body in my office."
"Let me get this straight. Your statement is that two people entered your office, fought, and the alive one left and the dead one stayed behind. When you returned, you straightened up and eventually noticed the body. At that point you called the police."
"That sums it up nicely."
"It is rather hard to believe."
"So is your ability to rise to the rank of detective."
"Oh! So, you're a smart guy. I should take you in for that."
"But, you do not have any evidence that I committed a crime, so you're kind of stuck."
"Listen, I know how to do my job. I don't need any guff from some wingtip."
"You'll take the guff and like it!"
"Okay, I'll take it, but I won't like it."
"Now, are you going to get this guy out of here?"
"The coroner will be along shortly. Is there anything you would like to add to your fantastic story?"
"I hope I get enough evidence to stick this one on you."
"Good luck with that. Let me know if you find out anything."
"Don't hold your breath."
"You're right! What was I thinking? You couldn't find your own shadow -- let alone a murderer."
"Funny man! I should get your license revoked."
That was the usual type of conversation between private and public detectives. It was just a lot of friendly banter. Now we could both get down to business. I had to go see Maxine to fill in some holes, and the detective had to follow his own leads for his case. Most likely, our paths would intersect again.
However, before I find Maxine, it was time to find another sandwich or some other type of food. Dealing with the police is time consuming work, and it had been hours since I last ate.
Fortunately for me, Manny, a staff member at Maxine's hotel, had not spoken to anyone else. Thus, the kitchen was willing to give me a sandwich before going to Maxine's room. I made my way up to her room and knocked. I waited for several minutes with no answer.
I tried the door and it let me in. Was there no security at all in this place? Did she not even enable her security? It is no wonder that things went missing.
I briefly pondered this when I noticed that her place looked like two enormous birds fought over a sandwich in it. I then remember Manny remarking how sloppy she was. That is when I spotted the enormous Maltese blue tits looking greedily at me.
For being on planet illegally, that pair got around pretty good. Their piercing tweets could only mean one thing. They wanted to eat me -- or my sandwich. I thought for a couple of seconds. I reluctantly threw them my sandwich as I ran from the room. Fortunately for me and everyone else on the planet, I remembered to close the door behind me.
This case was getting stranger by the moment. With enormous blue tits attacking people for sandwiches and missing sentient sparrows, what could happen next? It's time like those that I regret thoughts like that. After all, that is when things go from bad to worse. Worse being, in this case, Detective D'Cheuer walking down the hallway.
"What are you doing here?" I asked nonchalantly.
"What are you doing here?" he replied with a bit more emphasis.
"I asked you first."
"Well if you must know, I'm here on that murder case involving you. I cannot discuss it. Now you."
"Ditto," I replied but tried to side track him. "Would you like to go get a sandwich? I'm so hungry I could eat a 6 foot killer bird."
"Were you not listening? I am on a case."
"I just thought you might want to talk about it."
"With you? Wait. What are you hiding?"
"Hiding? Me? Why would I hide anything?"
"Is there a dead body involved?"
"No! No. Of course not. No. Never."
"Oh, just giant killer birds?"
"Yes -- I mean no -- I mean -- where did the topic of giant birds come from?"
"In Maxine's room?"
"Yes -- I mean no -- I mean -- who is Maxine?"
"I will check it out."
"I don't know where they got that sandwich," I said as he walked down the hall.
The detective opened the door, and the room was empty. It still looked like two enormous birds fought over a sandwich in it, but other than that it was empty.
"Where is Maxine?" asked the police detective.
"Your guess is good as mine. Can we get that sandwich now?"
Detective D'Cheuer was reluctant to discuss the murdered person with me or the case. Thus, he was not going to get a sandwich with me. However, while the identity of the dead Larsentient was unknown to me, I now knew that the poor chap knew Maxine. Thus, I had more to discuss with Maxine, but first some sort of food.
Sadly, Manny had told the kitchen staff about me by the time I returned, and they were unwilling to give me another sandwich. Nevertheless, I went to see Manny. Perhaps he too knew the Larsentient in question. I could possibly get something to follow up with him. He also may know where Maxine was.
I made my way to the staff lounge and waited for Manny. It was not long before he showed up.
"You seem to spend a lot of time in the lounge taking a break," I said.
"I heard you were looking for me," he replied.
"It occurred to me that Maxine might have a jealous suitor."
"I am the one who told you there may be others interested..."
"You were just blindly speculating, I am dealing with facts."
"Yes," I replied. "The fact that there was a dead Larsentient in my office."
"Who was he?"
"What makes you think it was a he?"
"Well, if you were looking for suitors..."
"There you go -- jumping to conclusions again. Leave that to the professionals."
"Only professionals can jump to conclusions?"
"This is not going anywhere. I was hoping you may know a name or two."
"The names I would give you would be speculation -- and I would not want to step on any professional's toes."
"I will handle the sarcasm."
"M111k%3e&@jJnsp^82jioljidf348lll* and 2m@3R&t4jJnsp^82jioljidf348lll were both interested in her."
"Could you write those down for me?"
"They are spelled just like they sound."
He wrote down the names for me and I thanked him for his time. I had a few more leads, but first things were first. It had been too long since I last ate. I made my way to the nearest place where food was served.
There was a nice little bistro across town from the hotel, which meant it was the closest place. It is one of the flukes of making people go long ways for things close by -- the far places are sometimes closer. I was given a seat at a table in the corner.
"My name is 2m@3R&t4jJnsp^82jioljidf348lll, and I'll be your server today."
"Where have I heard that name before?"
"I cannot say that we have ever met, but most Earthers call me Marty."
"Okay Marty, how is the khal-khalash?"
"It is excellent today. Would you like crab juice to go with it?"
"Ew! Who would drink that? I think I'll go with a fermented goose liver smoothie."
"Very good sir."
"Hey -- do you know Maxine?"
"You mean Qx&M@x%lmmnwz^zppklIN3nnw9RL$#kkngfFF? Yes, she is a regular here, and she is sitting right there."
She gave a little wave and it appeared that she winked at me. I went over and sat down at her table.
"My eyes are down here," she said warmly.
"I was just at your place looking for you."
"With this place being so far, I spend a lot of time here. Have you ordered?"
"Yes -- thank you."
"Their crab juice is divine," she added.
"So," I began in an attempt to get on topic. "Why did you not tell me about your relationship with Daniel Butler?"
"Relationship? He's an Earther."
"He is under the impression that there is more between you two."
"What a silly thought."
"He states that it is why he gave you Mable."
"Gave? I paid for my dear bird. I spent weeks with that man."
"Did you give him anything of monetary value?"
"Time is money."
"Fair enough. Why did you not tell me that Mable was sentient?"
"Sentient? Who puts these crazy thoughts into your head?"
"The hotel where you stay has a policy against pets."
"Did Mlm3$63@nN1ekjhggH^ghjknni3 tell you that?"
"He just has to say that so I can keep Mable in my room."
"He claims it talks to him."
"That is just silly. Who can speak sparrow -- with that odd Maltese accent."
"I said -- um -- who could speak sparrow with that series of tweets and chirps," she said with her eyes going back and forth. "I mean the idea is just silly."
"So, you are looking for your pet and not your valuable companion."
"Why -- uh -- yes I guess, and my eyes are down here."
"Have you thought about who may have done this?"
"Yes, but I just cannot think of anyone."
"Perhaps there was someone jealous of you spending all that time with Mr. Butler."
"It was just a business transaction. Why would they be jealous?"
"Do you know a M111k --- er -- uh -- 2m@..."
"Never mind -- it is not important."
"Your food is here. I will let you eat in peace."
"That would be a first."
That was a first, I ate my meal without interruption. Not by a client, the police, or even two giant birds. I wished that type of thing would happen more often.
Nonetheless, I had plenty to think about. I was no closer to discovering the identity of the dead Larsentient in my office or finding the location of the missing Maltese sparrow. Was Maxine telling me the truth. Her mouth was saying one thing, but her eyes were saying something else. At least, I think it was her eyes. She just seemed to be hiding something, but I do not know what.
I would have to do some research on the two Larsentient names Manny gave me. Perhaps there would be something from them. However, I felt that they were just dead ends. This case was getting more and more difficult. On the other hand, I was getting paid by the day. Thus, it could take months and months to solve and I would be happy with that.
I had some leads in which I would need to follow up. I had a few Larsentient names. It should be easy to find out if either name belonged to the dead man in my office. I could do that in the comfort of my office. I paid for my food, and headed across town to my office -- it was a relatively short walk.
When I arrived, I half expected it to look like two giant birds had fought over a sandwich in it. However, it was close to the same state as I had left it. The dead Larsentient was removed, and my office was back to normal. At least, it looked back to normal.
I sat at my desk and put my feet up. It was nice to have some income. I reveled in that fact for a while before getting to work. I turned on my super-video-detecto-set, which most people call a computer.
After a little bit of internet browsing, it was down to business. It was all over the news that a Larsentient male was killed. His name was on my list that Manny had given me. Thus, there may be something behind this suitor business. At the very least, Maxine knew the person who died in my office.
However, then I continued to read. The cause of death was Avian Influenza. He was not murdered at all; the guy died from the flu. How did this happen? How did a Larsentient get an infectious disease that supposedly only infected humans? Oh, and earth birds....
I decided to dig into the man's background some more. After a brief search, I found out that he was an exotic animal handler who specialized in earth birds. With his regular exposure to earth birds, he could theoretically catch this disease. However, he would have to have a great deal of exposure to an infected bird. Perhaps, even exposure to the insides of an infected bird -- the blood.
Would this be an indicator that Mable was dead? If Maltese sparrows were prone to bird flu, then perhaps this would explain how such an infection could spread from a bird to a Larsentient.
Continuing in my research I discovered that this disease was fairly rare. There had not been a reported case since the abandonment of earth. Furthermore, this particular strain could only be found in the large birds of earth. Thus, he would have to have regular exposure to a large bird -- like a Maltese blue tit.
Birds seemed to be the common thread through this entire case. Funny how a missing bird case would end up involving birds. The pair of blue tits were definitely tied up in the Larsentient death somehow, but did this case tie into the missing Maltese sparrow case?
I knew that the dead man may have been involved in the importation of the missing bird, but did it go deeper? What was he doing in my office? Was he left in my office for some purpose? Was he a clue or a distraction? Perhaps it was a threat.
I continued my research on the dead man. He was a Sagittarius. He enjoyed bowling, cycling, and kriffling on the kamblitz. His favorite movie was "Kriffling, I've Never Kriffled." His favorite band was "The Beatles." Oh, and the dead man was survived by a brother. The brother's name was the other name on my list.
The brother was a Libra who enjoyed meeting people, skateboarding, and zamploshuns. He worked at a fancy bistro on the other side of town. A bistro frequented by Maxine. Perhaps the pair had a quarrel over Maxine. However, that would not explain the bird flu. How would someone catch a deadly avian flu? There were lots of questions to be answered.
It seemed best to me that I should revisit Daniel Butler. However, it was late -- really late. Holy cow! look how late it is. It had been quite a day! I should get some sleep, but my living quarters would be quite a hike. I should not have asked to have my living quarters so close to my office.
My place was not much. It was just a comfortable bed crammed into the largest place I could afford. Thus, it was tiny. There was not much room for anything else beside the bed, but I had shelves suspended from the ceiling. It was not much, but I called it home. At least it was away from my office.
I contemplated sleeping on the couch in my office, but a dead man was lying there just a few hours ago. He had deadly bird flu. I felt I had spent too much time in the office anyway. Thus, I would make the long trek home.
There were no wingtips to catch at this time of night. Hence, it was an old fashioned walk. I took about an hour to make it to my place. My eyes could barely stay open when I reached my door.
To my surprise, my door was open. How did that happen? I am sure I closed it. I pushed the door open more. I would say that it looked like two birds had fought in there, but it was pretty much as I left it. There was nothing to throw about and scatter. Thus, if someone broke in, there was nothing to find.
I did find a sticker note on my mirror. I do not know where the note writer learned to write. It looked like a bunch of chicken scratches. With my tiredness, it seemed pointless to attempt to decipher it until morning.
I fell like a heap on the bed and was instantly asleep. I slept soundly for a majority of the night. However, towards the morning, the vivid dreams of giant birds began negatively impacting my sleep.
I dreamt that I was on old earth. I was sleeping in an open field next to a giant tree. In the tree was a sparrow flanked by two enormous birds. They were perched in the tree and were chirping, tweeting, squawking, and making all kinds of racket. How could the inhabitants of earth enjoy the sounds of birds chirping?
I could almost feel their hot breath on my neck. It seemed like they were right on top of me while I relaxed on the grass trying to sleep. Suddenly, one of them began whistling Stars and Striped Forever, and that is when I realized my phone was ringing. It was a new day, and time to get to work.
One of the things about being a private detective is that you seldom get plenty of sleep. You stay up late following leads, and someone calls you early in the morning. It is the nature of the business. Thus, when I answered my phone, I put on my most professional voice despite my grogginess.
"Is dis Dwayne Thompson -- da wingtip?"
"Who wants to know and why?"
"Lets us just say dat I'm a friend lookin' out fa his best interests."
"He doesn't have any friends like that..."
"It sounds ta me like yous is da wingtip all right."
"So what if I am?"
"I haves a message fer ya -- er him -- uh -- whatever."
"Okay pal, spill it."
"Oh right! You should leave off da Maltese Sparrow case."
"Who told you to tell me that?"
"It was a little birdie!"
"In other woids, I ain't tellin'."
"Oh! And, if I don't stop investigating this case, then what?"
"Dare'll be serious consequences."
"Dats what I said."
"Like what what?"
"Like what kind of consequences?"
"Oh! Like -- um -- er -- I don't know! Dat ain't my department."
"That's not your department?"
"No. I'm in da communicatin' department. Someone else handles the serious consequences department."
"But trust me, the consequences will be serious."
"You just deliver the messages."
"Dats right. I'm good at da communicatin' thing."
"And you are?"
"My name is -- hey! My name is not important."
"Okay Mr. Not Important."
"Yous a funny man."
"Thanks I try."
"Anyways, leave off da case or else."
"Okay. Thanks for calling and have a nice day!"
I hung up the phone wondering what that was all about. Surely I could not be getting close. I was nowhere with the case. Why would someone try to chase me away? Was I getting close and not aware?
It was at this point that I remembered the note on my mirror. It was time to decipher the chicken scratching. I looked at it and squinted. I turned the left and right. I tilted my head right and left. I held it in the light. It was possibly the worst writing I had ever seen. However, the best I could tell it read, Stop the investigation. It was either that or Slap me in a vest you gator. It could go either way.
That was potentially two warnings to stop this case. I must be getting close, but how? What was I missing? I had to think on it, but I should not do any thinking on an empty stomach. That could be really dangerous. Thus, I showered and made myself presentable to the public. Then I headed for Rick's Café Amé ricain.
It was a popular place for my client to go, there was a person of interest there, and they served food. It was the perfect combination. It had the added bonus of being across town, so it was quick and easy to get there.
Maxine was not there, so I was given a table for one in the back facing the wall. I turned the table around so I could keep an eye out for Maxine. My server came to my table and said, "My name is 2m@3R&t4jJnsp^82jioljidf348lll, and I'll be your server today."
"Hello Marty, do you have a waiter by this name?" I pointed to the name 2m@3R&t4jJnsp^82jioljidf348lll on my slip of paper.
"That is my name sir. Have we met?"
"My name is Dwayne Thompson, I'm a private investigator. It is my business to know things and ask questions."
"I see. Are you going to order something? I cannot answer any of your questions unless you are a paying customer."
"I'll have scrambled eggs with bacon -- baked beans, sausage and spam -- lobster thermidor aux crevettes with a mornay sauce served in the provencale manner with shallots and aubergines, garnished with truffle pate, brandy and with a fried egg on top and..."
"Sir, you will have to stick to what is on the menu."
"Oh! Sorry. What do you recommend that is breakfast-ish?"
"We have a lovely crab cake and mucilage combo plater."
"Mucilage is a gooey polar glycoprotein, an exopolysaccharide if you will. Thus, the dish is a polymer produced by most plants and some microorganisms served with goat cream and the sap of the humonkulous tree."
"That sounds good. I'll order that with a fermented goose liver smoothie."
"Very good sir."
Marty put my order in with the kitchen and came back to answer my questions.
"Your brother was in my office when he died. Do you have any idea of what he was doing in there?"
The Larsentient stared straight ahead and said, "Sir, my eyes are down here, but I do not know what he had gotten himself into."
I had the feeling he was not exactly honest with me, so I asked him, "What are you afraid of?"
"I am terrified of giant birds -- just like everyone," Marty replied with a cold stare.
"I see. Do you know how Maxine is tied into all of this?"
"Maxine? Oh! You were the guy in here yesterday looking for her."
"That is when we met!"
"That's right. Anyway, Maxine is just a customer."
"So, her and your brother weren't mixed up in any shenanigans."
"You know -- monkey business -- hanky-panky -- frolicsomeness..."
"Were they involved in any type of scheme that would be a danger to one life or the other?"
"Is that what that means?"
"Huh!" he remarked with a blank look on his face and then continued, "My face is down here, but I really did not get involved in my brother's affairs."
"Why does everyone want me off this case?"
"I have no idea about which you are talking."
"I'll pretend that sentence made sense. Do you have any idea who would kill your brother?"
"Do you think it was murder? They said he died of the flu."
"I'm just spit-balling here."
"Never mind. If Maxine shows up, would you bring her here?"
"Certainly sir. Your food should be ready shortly."
Marty left without shedding much light on my case. Hopefully, Maxine would show up so I could ask her a few more questions. Daniel Butler was known to come here as well. If I were lucky, I could get all my work done in one location with the bonus of eating something!
The food arrived just as Daniel Butler did. That is the usual case of things. Most private detectives miss several meals, or in this case, I was forced to share. The nature of the missing bird was unclear.
"What can you tell me about the Larsentient that died of the bird flu?" I asked him as he munched on one of my crab cakes.
"What makes you think I know anything about him?"
"Do we really have to do this the hard way?"
"I am just concerned about your health and well being."
"You are not concerned?"
"Should I be?"
"Large earth birds are carriers."
"Don't you have a couple of Maltese blue tits?"
"I have seen them with my own two eyes."
"Oh! Those birds -- they're gone."
"You are a clever one," Daniel Butler admitted as he started in on the mucilage. "You got me talking again."
"Where are the birds?"
"I do not know. I think your Larsentient friend was attempting to get them off world."
"He was a smuggler?"
"Amateur! He got sloppy -- drat -- you're good!"
"So, it was murder."
"How else? It is a rare disease."
"Who do you suppose did it?"
"I have not one clue -- perhaps his partner."
"Oh no! You cannot get that out of me."
"Because I do not know who it was."
"Were they trying to get anything else out?"
"Like what?" he asked washing down my meal with some of my goose liver smoothie.
"A Maltese sparrow perhaps?"
"Possibly, but a small bird like a sparrow should be easy. Nothing elaborate would be necessary."
"Has anyone contacted you about the birds?"
"Well possibly because you smuggled them onto this world. You certainly would have the capacity to get them off."
"The sparrow would have none of that."
"He will not travel in a confined space."
"So, it there is something special about this bird."
"It is not a jewel encrusted bird covered in enamel to hide its value if that is what you are driving at."
"No. I am talking it about its abilities."
"You have been listening to that hotel man -- Manny -- I can tell."
"Do you actually believe that the bird is self-aware?"
"I cannot say, but there is definitely something special about the bird."
"If not awareness, then what?"
"It is not my job to say, but a man is dead over it."
"It could just be revenge," he stated finishing off my meal.
"You have quite the way of getting people to talk. Perhaps someone wanted him dead for something he did, and used a convenient method to do the job."
"If I knew -- then -- I -- would..." he said turning an interesting shade of blue.
"What is it?" I asked, but I got no answer as he keeled over.
Detective D'Cheuer was there almost before he hit the ground. He was poisoned. So much for the Butler doing it. Since he ate my food, I could only assume that the poison was meant for me. I did ignore the warning to stop investigating the case. I knew I was getting close, but I still did not know how.
On the other hand, the police did not believe that he ate my meal. Thus, they arrested me for the murder of Daniel Butler. Someone said we were arguing and that I threatened to kill him or asked him if he was concerned for his health. Someone definitely wanted me out of the way, but who?
"This could not happen to a nicer guy," stated Detective D'Cheuer.
"Do you think Mr. Butler was so bad?"
"Not him wingtip -- you!"
"I did not kill him."
"The evidenced points to you doing it."
"It is pretty slim evidence."
"It will hold up."
"What was my motive?"
"When you are dealing with a known smuggler, it is easy to invent something."
"Such as?" I asked.
"Perhaps he cheated you on a deal. Perhaps he was extorting money from you for that mail order bride you ordered. With a little investigation, we can build a motive."
"Don't be ridiculous. I'm getting close on my case. You cannot stop me now."
"Oh! I cannot can't I?"
"Don't tell me. You want 24 hours to clear your name."
"Actually, I was hoping for 240."
"Ten days? Are you crazy?"
"Come on detective. Be a stand up guy."
"You know the drill. If you make bail, you can continue your investigation then."
"No buts. You have the right to remain silent. If you give up this right, anything you say can be used against you in your trial. You have the right to attorney. If you cannot afford one, the court will appoint one for you. Do you understand these rights as I have explained them?"
"Ummm -- no."
"Shut up and put your hands behind your back."
I did as he asked, and he attached my hands together. He put me in his vehicle and took me to the police station. With the design of the world, everyone was close to a police station. Thus, it took quite a while to get to the destination.
I was fingerprinted, photographed, and had some DNA taken. It was the normal booking procedure. I was almost an old hand at it. They gave me my one phone call. Since Maxine was the only one I knew with any money, I called her.
My client came down and bailed me out. She did it on the condition that I would continue the case, and any further expenses would be counted against my bail.
I explained that I was getting close to something big.
"I am not interested in your big case," she explained. "I just want my bird back."
"But, nothing! I am paying you to find my bird and return her to me. The rest of your investigation does not appear to be headed in that direction."
"I suppose you are right."
"I am," she said emphatically. "You solve your poisoning case on your own time. My missing Mable comes first."
"Would you like to return to your cell?"
"No," I said as an uncontrollable shiver shook my body.
"Then find my bird!"
I was caught between a rock and a hard place. I needed to find out who killed Daniel Butler -- or who tried to kill me. However, if this did not lead me to the missing bird, then I should not pursue it. If I did not pursue it, I could end up in jail for a very long time. I was getting close to something, but I did not know what. The only thing I could do was carry on.
A great detective (perhaps fictional) once said, "When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."
I would have to take that to heart with this particular case. I had to start eliminating things. I was clearly getting too close for someone's comfort. However, I had not one clue as to how I was getting close. It would take all my brain power to come up with the solution.
That is when I thought of it. Perhaps, there was some sort of earth cat on the planet that had taken the bird. Everyone knows cats and birds are mortal enemies. The cat wanted to conceal his or her crime and was removing all obstacles.
Everyone knows that cats are ruthless killers. They would stop at nothing to get what they wanted. The only problem with this theory was that there were no cats on this world. In fact, cats were thought to have been wiped out by the Maltese blue tits before these birds went after humans.
However, no one could be sure they were extinct. They could be like the ivory billed woodpecker or the coelacanth. They were thought extinct only to kill a human before they finally disappeared for good.
Perhaps that is not the best way to go about solving this case. There were plenty of improbable scenarios to be found. How would I determine which ones were actually impossible?
Naturally, my thoughts returned to the most logical course of action. There was only one thing to do now. My next move was clear. It was time to go to Rick's Café Américain. It was true. I was really hungry.
My last meal there was less than satisfying. This was probably due to the fact that someone else ate it. Since that person was no longer with us, I could potentially eat this one. A thought occurred to me that perhaps someone would attempt to poison me again. Nevertheless, my stomach overruled any objections my brain had.
It did not take me long to arrive at the restaurant. My stomach grumbled and growled the entire way. Perhaps my stomach was responsible for the disappearance of the Maltese Sparrow. It was certainly trying to do me in.
I was seated and a waiter I had never seen before came to my table.
"Hello, my name is Joachim and I'll be your server today," he stated flatly.
"Where is Marty?" I asked.
"Marty, he normally waits on me."
"Oh! You mean 2m@3R&t4jJnsp^82jioljidf348lll."
"Yes -- I guess so."
"If you find him, would you let me know. Apparently he did not show up for work, and I have to cover for him. What can I get you?"
"What do you mean he did not show up for work?"
"Well you see, he has this job waiting tables at this place. It just so happens that when he was scheduled to work, he did not show up!"
"Where is he?"
"If I knew -- he would be here returning your inane questions instead of me."
"Do you mean he just disappeared?"
"That would be a cool trick, but it is just that no one knows where he is. Are you going to order something?"
"I'll have the special with a fermented goose liver smoothie."
"Very good," he said walking quickly from my table.
"Could I get that with extra lima beans?" I yelled after him.
"Certainly" he replied without stopping.
As if it was scheduled, Detective D'Cheuer arrived just as the food did. Perhaps I should stop eating at this café. Rarely do I actually get to eat my food when it is ready.
"May I join you?" asked the detective.
"Why? Am I coming apart?" I laughed because I really love that joke.
"You are awfully jovial for a murder suspect."
"Gallows humor I suppose. What do you want?"
"What can you tell me about 2m@3R&t4jJnsp^82jioljidf348lll?"
"Never heard of him -- or her -- or whatever..."
"He was your waiter here on a couple of occasions."
"Oh, you mean Marty!"
"Yes. Marty. What do you know about him?"
"He was my waiter here on a couple of occasions."
"Still with the jokes. I think you missed your calling. Anyway, he is wanted for questioning in your murder case."
"He was here that night. He could have seen you put the poison in the food."
"He could have poisoned the food himself," I asserted.
"Yes, he could have been an accessory to your crime," Detective D'Cheuer replied.
"He could potentially clear my name!"
"Possibly ... but only if he is around to testify. However, no one knows where he is."
"How could you let a material witness get away?"
"We were tailing him. He just gave our guys the slip."
"How did that happen?"
"Let just say a couple of birds helped him fly the coop."
"What kind of birds?"
"It is just an expression."
"So, you have not seen him."
"Sadly no. Have you seen a Maltese Sparrow around?"
"A Maltese Sparrow? What is that? Is it some sort of jewel encrusted bird coated in enamel to hide the fact that it is very valuable?"
"No it is just a regular earth type bird."
"That type of thing is illegal to have here. If we found such a bird, we would have to take it back to earth. Why are you looking for such a thing?"
"It was a joke -- ha ha," I lied. "I am still cracking the jokes."
"That one -- not so funny. If you see Marty -- and if you are innocent -- it is in your best interest to let me know."
"Whatever," I replied curtly as Detective D'Cheuer left.
As a private investigator, I was not savvy to the ins-and-outs of law. Thus, the illegality of owning a Maltese Sparrow put an entire new spin on the case. I would have to figure out how to spin this in my favor.
Nonetheless, first things first. The interview did not last long, and Detective D'Cheuer did not partake in any of my food. Thus, I could eat in peace. Unless someone else came along. Oh, and that waiter forgot my extra lima beans.
Boy, do I love eating! I guess if you ask anyone that knows me, they will tell you it is true. It is too bad that whenever I am on the job, my eating become erratic. Thus, after Detective D'Cheuer left me, Maxine walked up.
"How is it going wingtip?" she asked.
She had a sorrowful look upon her face, so I told her, "I am getting close."
"My eyes are down here," she replied.
"Please... join me," I insisted.
"Why? Are you coming apart?" she asked but did not laugh.
Unfortunately, I laughed hysterically.
"How can you laugh at a time like this?" she asked.
"I am sorry, but I love that joke!" I laughed.
"Daniel Butler is dead! 2m@3R&t4jJnsp^82jioljidf348lll is missing..."
"Who? Who is missing?" I asked attempting to suppress a chuckle.
"The waiter here."
"Oh! You mean Marty."
"Yes," she sobbed as she sat at my table and began eating my food.
At that point I stopped laughing. "Take it easy," I asserted.
"What is this? It is delicious."
"That is my fermented goose liver smoothie," I replied as I started to sob.
"I wish I had tried it earlier."
"You know -- the last person to eat my food died a short time later because of poisoned food."
"Is that so?" she asked without stopping.
"Yes. Daniel Butler."
"That is a sad thing," she said after she drank more of my smoothie.
"You know it is against the law to have an earth bird here," I stated sternly to change the subject.
"Your human laws do not apply to us," she retorted after more of my food.
"I had not thought of that."
As she finished up she asked, "Did you say you were close to solving my case?"
"Yes, I am close," I sobbed.
Once my plate was clean, she did not fall over or anything. She simply smiled and wiped her mouth off with a napkin. "Thanks for the food and the conversation," she said as she arose. "I do feel better now."
She left me there hungry and with an empty plate. Shortly afterwards, the waiter, who was not Marty, gave me the check. It is times like that where I am in a less than agreeable mood about my career path choice.
I paid the bill and decided to get a sandwich on the run. If I am moving, no one can take my food from me. Unless, of course, I run in to a pair of enormous Maltese blue tits. I would think twice about giving them my food, but I think in that circumstance I would relinquish my sustenance.
I ate my sandwich and went over the facts of this case. First, we had a missing bird -- the Maltese sparrow. It was not a jewel encrusted bird coated in enamel to hide the fact that it is very valuable, but a living bird. Supposedly Manny, part of the hotel staff where the bird lived, could communicate with her. However, the owner was willing to pay large amount of money to get her back.
Second, we had a dead Larsentient who died in my office. He was the brother of the now missing waiter. I had heard he had some sort of relationship with the owner of the missing bird. Also, the dead man may have been involved in the smuggling of illegal birds onto our world.
Third, there was the trafficker Daniel Butler. He gave the bird to my client. He thought he had a relationship with my client, but she denies it. Perhaps he was spurned and took his gift back. However, before I could make the joke that the Butler did it he died. I do not understand that joke, but it is an ancient joke in mystery stories, and when possible it must be used. However, Mr. Butler was poisoned from eating my food, and while not a joke, it served him right.
Finnally, there was the aforementioned missing waiter. While he had a steady job, he may have been involved with his brother's nefarious activities. He knew my client, and by his disappearance, must be involved somehow.
How they all fit together was still a mystery. It was a jumble of incidents that somehow involved a missing bird. I needed to put the puzzle together in order to find said bird and resolve the case. I had just spoken with Maxine, and that left the only other person who knew anything about the bird -- Manny. I should go see him.
I went without a much needed nap to to Maxine's hotel. Since it had worked on several occasions before, I just went into the staff lounge. I waited. I sat there for quite some time. Manny had never left me waiting this long before.
After quite a long wait, a security guard entered and said, "Dis room is for da hotel staff only."
"I am here to see Manny," I replied coolly.
"I don'ts knows any Mannys. Yous'll have ta leave."
"Save it fer da funny papers Mac. Yous is leavin' now."
The huge security guard grabbed me by the collar and lifted me out of my chair. He threw me over his shoulder like I was a rag doll and carried me out of the hotel. He casually chucked me into the tube and said, "Staff only means staff only!"
I got up and walked towards the door, but the mountain of a man would not move. He glared at me with a pair of dark beady eyes. I thought about challenging his authority, but I decided against it. I grabbed a wingtip and headed to the next tube.
I walked into the next facility and asked to use the phone. They looked at me like I was crazy. On this planet, if you wanted to talk to someone you had to walk to where that person was and speak to him or her face to face. They were serious about us not getting fat.
Thus, I grabbed a wingtip and headed back. The behemoth of a guard had left the doorway, so I shyly walked into the building. Carefully looking around for the guard and as casually as I could, I went to the front desk.
"Could I speak to Manny?" I asked the attendant.
"Manny? Oh, he is on vacation. He will not be back for about a week."
Manny was gone too? With the security guard's voice sounding familiar, something happened. That is when all the pieces to the puzzle fell into place. I knew everything about the case. I knew what happened to the bird, and what happened to the now dead people. I just had to gather everyone up, and present my case.
I believed that I knew where the Maltese Sparrow was, but I could use more evidence to persuade others. With two people dieing during this case, I also knew what happened to them. The bird flu death was not just one of those things. Also, the poisoning of Daniel Butler, which was supposed to be me, was clear.
Further, the missing waiter was no mystery to me. I knew he would show up soon. All the pieces fit together. The only problem was that I could only prove bits and pieces of it. Thus, I had a week or so to gather as much evidence to prove what I could.
I began with the threatening note that I received. I had a friend, who was in the forensics business, check the paper for me. She could compare samples and other properties to possibly determine its source. In any event, she confirmed that the paper matched the paper from the hotel where Maxine was staying.
Her friend was a handwriting expert. That expert said the handwriting was from someone unaccustomed to writing. Perhaps the individual was just beginning to learn to write. That is how she explained the illegibility of it. She stated that she believed that it could have been someone writing with their off hand, but she had never seen anything like it. She stated that the strokes were short, unsure, and very off-balance. She would love to meet the individual who wrote the note.
After the note investigation, I turned to another easy aspect of the case. With so few phones on the world, it was easy to determine where the threatening phone call originated. I had a friend at the phone service go over the records for me. It came as no surprise to me that it originated from Rick's Café Américain.
I just had to place the person I believed to have made the call at the location at the time. I asked around, and indeed the hotel security guard was at Rick's at the time. Thus, the who, what, and where of the phone call was solved. I also believed I knew the why of it. I could get that from the guard at the gathering of everyone.
Those things went very quickly and easily. If the rest of the investigation went that smoothly, I would be in good shape.
The next order of business was to get into the dead brothers residence. Like so many places during this case, it looked like two giant birds fought over a sandwich in it. Actually, it looked like they had fought for several sandwiches for several days. I took a few pictures and gathered a few feathers. All of it was going to help me make my case.
That was the kind of thing that I looked into while Manny was away on his little vacation. I attempted to find out where he went, but rather than flying commercial, he had chartered a spaceship. Thus, he could have filed a bogus flight plan. He may not have indeed gone to the Planet Risa, but he could have gone anywhere. To me, the charter, the flight plan, and all could only mean one thing -- smuggling.
With the length of his trip, I calculated where he could have reached in his week. There were plenty of destinations, and a few, I found quite fascinating.
Further, all of the evidence I gathered confirmed my suspicions. The more clues I followed, the more it all made sense. However, I could only prove some things, but it was not enough to prove everything. I would need a few confessions. That is what the meeting was all about. I would confront the ne'er-do-wells with the evidence, and hope they confessed to the crimes.
In any event, it was a great week. I felt like I accomplished a great deal during Manny's time away. Furthermore, most of my meals went uninterrupted. When Manny returned from his trip, I had gathered as much as I could. However, there was the problem with the missing waiter, Marty. He was just as much a part of this case as everyone else.
I did investigate his sudden disappearance, but it seemed he did not tell anyone he was leaving. No one knew where he went or why. To his friends, it was a big mystery. However, just as I calculated, he showed up at about the same time as Manny.
Hence, I had all the pieces gathered, and all of the individuals were available for questioning. Thus, I invited everyone involved to Maxine's room. Perhaps, some of them were lured under false pretenses.
"I know you are probably wondering why I invited you all here this evening," I began.
"I thought Maxine invited me here -- what is all this?" asked Marty.
I ignored him and went on, "The Maltese Sparrow case has been my most difficult case, but now we come to its conclusion."
"You have had other cases?" asked Detective D'Cheuer.
I did not let anyone distract me, so I continued. "From the beginning, there were forces attempting to persuade me from stopping my investigation. However, I persevered."
"Where are da strippers?" asked the security guard.
"I was hired to find a missing sparrow, and this was not some sort of jewel encrusted bird coated in an enamel to hide the fact that it was very valuable. No it was a living animal."
"You know where Mable is?" asked Maxine with hope in her eyes.
"I do, and others in this room know too" I replied.
"My eyes are down here," she responded.
"Before I go into the whereabouts of Mable, I would like to point out some interesting facts about this case. After I began, this case quickly changed from a missing bird case when some people involved began dieing from mysterious circumstances."
"They call it murder where I work," explained Detective D'Cheuer. "When is your trial?"
Again, ignoring the comments from the peanut gallery, I continued, "So what is important about a missing bird? Was it just a pet gone lost? Or, was the bird valuable in other ways?"
"Is this going somewhere?" asked Manny.
"My first clue that there was more to this was when Manny confessed that he conversed with the bird," I stated staring into his fearful, unblinking eyes.
"His eyes are down there," asserted Maxine.
"Maxine hid this fact from me," I stated. "About the relative intelligence of the bird, not the location of Manny's eyes. Why did she not want me to know this? Who else knew?"
"What on Seti-alpha-five are you talking about?" asked Detective D'Cheuer.
"Detective, you are the only one in this room that did not know about the sentience of the sparrow."
"What?" the detective asked.
"So, no strippers den?" asked the security guard.
"Bare with me now," I told everyone gathered in Maxine's room. "It is very important that we accept the idea that Mable was sentient to arrive at the proper solution."
"If we have to accept this," muttered Detective D'Cheuer "then perhaps the solution is wrong."
"I said bare with me, and it will all become clear as to what occurred in the investigation of this case," I repeated.
"Where is my Mable?" asked Maxine.
"I will get to that in time," I assured Maxine. "It is just one piece in this puzzle of a case."
"I'm outta here if'n dare ain't gonna be no strippers!" explained the security guard.
"Currently, they are caught in traffic," I lied. "They'll be along shortly. I hope you like Chippendales..."
"I don't really care for chipmunks," muttered the security guard as he sat back down.
"I do not have to stand for this!" stated Manny boldly.
"Then by all means, sit down," I stated even more boldly with an icy stare to go with it. "You are not going anywhere."
"Let him continue," insisted Detective D'Cheuer.
"Are these disruptions out of your collective systems?" I asked. "Can I continue? To use an old earth phrase, this all began when the Maltese Sparrow flew the coop."
"He means the bird went missing," explained the police detective.
"Right!" I added. "That is when I was hired to find her -- the bird that is. However, this particular world may be small on a grand scheme of things, but it is still a big place. Further, the bird in question is quite small."
"And intelligent," interjected Detective D'Cheuer.
"Can I tell this?" I asked.
"Sorry. Please continue," he said with a flourish of his hands.
"Daniel Butler was going to be my first stop in my investigation, but his place was guarded by a pair of enormous monsters."
"Monsters?" everyone asked in unison.
"Maltese blue tits are a ferocious beasts that rule my home planet of earth," I explained.
"Is'n yous afraid of a little boid?" asked the security guard.
"These are two meter tall feathered fiends with razor sharp beaks that eat anything that they catch," I said defending myself.
"All's yous have ta do is trow dem a samwich," replied the security guard.
"I know that now," I replied. "However, these boids -- I mean -- birds provided a big clue. Daniel Butler was a smuggler. Moreover, he brought illegal birds onto this planet. This included the monsters and Maxine's friend Mable, for whom I was looking."
"And for that you killed him?" asked the police detective.
I just glared at Detective D'Cheuer, and he withdrew his question.
"Anyway... Since I was not going to get anything from Bulter's office, I went to Maxine's hotel to ask Manny here a few questions. He explained to me that the hotel did not allow pets -- only companions. He talked about how smart Mable was and how the two of them used to converse. He also informed me that lots of people came and went into Maxine's room. Thus, anyone could have taken the bird."
"That is not true!" protested Maxine.
"I know," I replied.
"His story was a lie," surmised Detective D'Cheuer. "He was covering something up."
"Exactly," I asserted. "It was quite early on the case, and I was already getting too close to the solution. However, that solution eluded me for quite some time."
"So, the man who died of bird flu in your office was a threat in order to get you off the case," asserted Detective D'Cheuer.
"Yes," I replied. "The Maltese blue tits are carriers of the lethal flu. It could have been easily obtained from these vicious birds and injected, ingested, or inhaled by the victim. However, that was not the only threat I received. There was also this note."
"Let me see that," demanded the policeman.
I passed around the note for everyone to see. Like me, many had difficulty reading it. However, Manny did not even look at it.
"What does it say?" they asked.
"My guess is Stop the Investigation."
"Oh! I thought it said, Slap me in a vest you gator," replied Detective D'Cheuer perhaps with a bit of sarcasm in his voice.
"I also received a call from our security guard here telling me to halt my investigation," I said as I pumped up my chest.
"Is that true?" asked Detective D'Cheuer.
"Who wants to know and why?" replied the security guard standing up.
"He does," I asserted bravely and pointed to the policeman.
"Who told you to make this call?" Detective D'Cheuer said in his best policeman's voice.
"A little birdie told me," replied the guard in his most feminine voice.
"That is what he told me! That could only mean Mable," in a triumphant voice I said to the doubtful detective.
"In other woids, I ain't tellin'," resumed the security guard.
"We have ways of making you talk," returned the policeman.
"I ain't afraid of yous copper!"
"What are you afraid of?" I asked. "Because, that would really help us out a lot."
"It is all right," Detective D'Cheuer said. "If we need that information, we can get it. This has been most enlightening -- please continue."
"In any event," I continued. "I was getting these threats of my life if I did not stop my investigation, but Maxine was pressing me to find her boid -- er -- bird."
"Do you think this explanation will get you out of your murder charge?" asked the detective.
"I am just saying that I was being threatened," I replied. "I assume that the poison in my food was an attempt on my life or simply another threat."
"And you expect me to believe that?" retorted the detective.
"You can ask Marty here," I replied. "He is the one who brought me my food."
"Okay Marty," the detective said as he turned to the waiter. "You have been awfully quiet. What do you have to say about this? Marty? Marty?"
Marty looked like the dead man in my office. After all, they were brothers. However, like his brother, he was also dead. It appeared we had another death from the bird flu. This case was hazardous to people's health.
This case was hard on several people. I know because they are now dead. I, fortunately, have managed to avoid such a fate. However, if I continue with my expounding of the facts of the case, perhaps I would not stay that way for long. Luckily for me, an officer of the law was participating in the review.
Despite Detective D'Cheuer's presents, it did not save the waiter, Marty's life. I half expected him to become a victim. He was now a loose end in this case. His usefulness ended when he returned from his trip.
"Medical personnel and more police are on their way," asserted Detective D'Cheuer.
"I guess I can continue until they arrive," I replied.
"Dis is going to negatively impact da strippin' ain't it?" asked the security guard.
"I am afraid so," I admitted. "However, you cannot leave because the authorities will wish to speak to you."
"Dats just my luck," he muttered.
"Many people may not be aware of this," I began. "Our waiter friend and his brother were very successful smugglers."
"Smugglers?" asked the police detective.
"They were both competent space pilots," I continued. "The brothers had their own space bay, and they could get practically anything on or off world."
"Even rare birds?" asked Detective D'Cheuer.
"Where did they take my Mable?" asked Maxine.
"They had made quite a bit of money with their exotic pet trade," I resumed. "Sadly, with their help, Mable was taken back home. She would be impossible to locate on Earth. Further, it is wrong to keep intelligent creatures captive. She needed to fly free."
"I guess that means that I do not have to pay you then," Maxine replied.
"You hired me to find your bird," I said. "However, you did not mention anything about returning her to you. I have a rough idea where she is."
"Do you have any idea what such a bird is worth?" she asked with a bit of frustration in her voice.
"You would have been better off with some sort of jewel encrusted bird coated in an enamel to hide the fact that it is very valuable, because everyone involved in that particular transaction is now dead," I responded. "Clearly, a bird like that is hazardous to your health."
"I am still here," asserted Maxine.
"Can I finish?" I asked.
"By all means," replied Detective D'Cheuer.
"Where was I?" I muttered. "Oh yes! Our waiter friend was primarily the go between. He would arrange a meeting between the interested party and his brother. To be honest, who knows who was who because the two Larsentient brothers looked quite similar. They could have regularly switched places."
"Did you just say all Larsentient look alike?" asked a miffed Maxine.
"Well no," I replied defending myself. "Just those from the same brood. Are you going to let me finish?"
"Sorry," Maxine replied.
"Daniel Butler regularly used them in his important business transactions. In that way he could avoid import hassles. Further, as was pointed out to me, human laws do not apply to the Larsentients. Thus, if they were caught, there would be little in the form of consequences."
"You are onto something," inserted the policeman.
"Thus, we know how this illegal bird got on world," I declared. "We also know how it got off. We also know how the killer Maltese blue tits got here and where they went. There is only one question left in this case."
"Why?" asked the detective.
"Because then we'll have the case solved," I replied.
"No!" he responded. "Why? is the only question left in the case."
"Oh! Right," I asserted. "From all that has been said about the intelligence of the bird, it is clear that it wanted to go home. It communicated this fact to whoever would listen. Our friend Manny here listened."
"Of course!" exclaimed Detective D'Cheuer.
"That is right," I asserted. "The mastermind of this entire disappearance of Mable and the death of the two -- er -- now three -- people was the Maltese sparrow herself."
"What?" asked the policeman.
"Huh?" asked Maxine.
"Really?" asked Manny.
"Ummm, if'n yous says so," added the security guard as to not be left out.
"Sure!" I continued. "The bird was homesick and communicated this fact to someone who did everything in his or her power to return the bird home. This, as yet unknown person, must have been a real animal lover to go through all of the trouble to free this bird."
"What about Manny here?" asked the detective with a bit of sarcasm in his voice.
"It could have been Manny," I replied with a nod.
"After all, he recently took a trip," continued the policeman. "Further, he would see the bird regularly."
"You might be onto something," I responded.
"While I think your intelligent bird theory is -- um -- for the birds," added the detective. "I do think Manny here is responsible for everything."
"Can you prove it?" I asked.
"Parts of it," he replied. "Our Larsentient friend here, had opportunity, he had access, he got this security guard to threaten you."
"Dat's right!" exclaimed the security guard who quickly realized his mistake when Manny glared at him.
"You will never take me alive police guy!" declared Manny.
However, the authorities that were called to take care of the dead waiter had just arrived and grabbed Manny. They restrained him and took him away at the detectives request.
A doctor briefly examined the dead Larsentient, put him on a stretcher, and took him away also. All the pieces of this case had been wrapped up. While I think it was Mable who initiated the events, Manny was probably responsible for the consequences.
In Detective D'Cheuer's later investigation, Manny had suddenly come into a great deal of money. This was probably how Maxine, the Maltese sparrow, rewarded him for his service. However, Detective D'Cheuer believes it was a particular smuggling ring's reward to him for taking care of their competition. I think that explanation is crazy! In any event, the case of the Maltese Sparrow was concluded to the satisfaction of everyone. Well, except Maxine whose pet was never to be seen again -- oh -- and the dead people.