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Old August 18th, 2011, 03:25 AM
Cutlerine
Gone. May or may not return.
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
Age: 20
Gender:
Nature: Impish
As one story ends, so another begins. Hot on the heels of The Thinking Man's Guide to Destroying the World, here's the fourth of my adaptations of the main-series games. As ever, I'll rate it 15, since I know I'm liable to get dark and violent at some point. Also, there is swearing; as ever, though, most of it's in Nadsat, because I'm hopelessly weird. Also (oh God, I hate starting two sentences in a row with 'also') there are some drug references. The drugs in question don't exist and never will, but they're there.

Disclaimer: This won't be a straight-up comedy like my last story. This is because I've now written hundreds and hundreds of pages of comedy and am having difficulty writing anything else; I'm trying to train myself out of it and get back to something slightly more serious.

So, without further ado, here it is.

Chapter One: In Which We Meet a Student, a Professor and a Mysterious Stranger

'Skulduggery is a difficult thing to combat, if done right. After all, a competent criminal will have made an elaborate plan that pins the blame squarely on someone else, usually the butler. The good detective will be observant, think laterally, and, most importantly, not be afraid to consider the seemingly impossible...'
—Canola Grimes, The Art of Detectivery


I was walking through the back streets when I first met him – travelling between the bus stop and my apartment. It must have been close to one in the morning then; I’d meant to come straight home, but one thing had led to another and I’d ended up dividing the night pretty equally between drinking and dancing, with a touch of lecherousness. Actually, I was fairly unsteady on my feet right then, which made me move slowly – and that was probably the reason why we met.

I was leaning heavily against a wall and stumbling down one street when I caught a glimpse of something white down another; if I’d been walking normally I’m pretty sure I’d have missed it. I stopped, and because I was drunk, I dismissed the (high) probability of it being a mugging and had a look.

It was a mugging: a guy with turquoise bowl-cut hair and a silver space suit was menacing an old man in a three-piece suit. I blinked; I wasn't entirely sure this wasn't some sort of alcoholic hallucination. Then a woman dressed in the same way as the spaceman appeared, and I became fairly certain that this was reality. My imagination isn't usually so concerned with continuity.

“All right, Professor,” said the guy in the silver outfit. “You hand over your research now, and no one gets— ow!

The old guy – the Professor – had struck him a blow on the head with the stout stick he held in one hand.

“Dear God!” he cried. “Can the elderly not enjoy a walk through the streets of a large city in the middle of the night without being assaulted?”

“We haven't assaulted you,” the woman said. “At least, not— ow!”

He'd hit her too.

“Look at yourselves,” the Professor went on. “You're a disgrace to the population of Jubilife.”

“Professor, give us your briefcase and we won't have to— would you please stop that, Professor!”

“Don't interrupt others when they are attempting to converse!”

“We're the people you're conversing with— ouch!”

“All right,” said the man, rubbing his temple and gesturing to his companion, who pulled a very large gun from her pocket. “Just give us the briefcase— and stop hitting me!

“Don't think you've grown strong just because you're in a group— aaauuughh!

The gunshot was deafening. I would have run – I was terrified – but not even adrenaline could sober me enough; I tripped over one heel and fell heavily against a wall.

“Someone's here!” cried the woman.

“Oh, dash it all,” grumbled the man. “OK, get the case and run!”

I heard their footsteps retreating down the alley; I hauled myself up, hoping they wouldn't return to the scene of the crime, and with my heart throbbing high in my throat I stumbled over to the Professor.

He was sprawled against a wall, head lolling back on his shoulders; I listened, and felt a wave of relief rush through me: he was still breathing. There was a horrible splash of red along his shirt, but he was alive.

I pulled my mobile out of my bag and started dialling: 4-4-4, the number for Sinnoh emergency services.

“Hello?” I said. My voice was shaking. “Yeah, a-ambulance, please... there's a guy here who's been shot.”

I gave the address and hung up, then stood up, not really knowing what to do. I was unpleasantly sober now.

“I thought as much,” said a voice from somewhere behind me. I started and turned, and saw that a stranger was standing there.

He was tall and lithe, and his face was composed of delicate features that argued for ill health, or effeminacy. Perched on his nose were rounded, rimless spectacles, and there was a mop of longish chocolate-coloured hair all tumbled about his face. He might have been fifteen, or twenty-eight, or anything in between; I found it impossible to tell.

Now, at one in the morning, he was wrapped up in a long black coat, the twin of the Professor's, and looking at me as if I were a curious butterfly specimen. He opened his mouth to speak – and then stepped right past me.

“They already got him,” he said, looking down at the Professor. “I can't say I wasn't expecting this...” He sighed. “All right.”

With that, he turned and ran off, in the direction the two muggers had taken.

I didn't think he was anything much at the time, of course. I thought he was pretty, in a pale sort of way, but other than that, he'd come across as a fairly cold-hearted kind of person. He had looked right at a man with a bullet in his chest, and passed on as if he were nothing.

The ambulance arrived a few minutes later, and after that I don't remember anything much: it was all a wild blur of lights and sirens and doctors, and a jumble of confused words piling one atop the other, high into the night like a mountain of postmodernist poetry. I was in the alley, and then I was in the hospital – and then I was at home, staring up at the ceiling from my bed, fully clothed, wondering if I was still drunk or if I was just dizzy from the shock of it all.

---

“Pearl?”

“No, Pearl's not here. I’m... someone else.”

I turned over and pressed my head further into the pillow.

“Pearl, I can hear your voice.”

“No you can't,” I reasoned. “Pearl is out. I’m asleep.”

“I'm coming in.”

I heard the sound of a key turning in the lock, groaned and sat up. Seconds later, a young woman with dyed-blonde hair and an annoyingly bright smile bounced in. This was Stephanie, and she was way too much to deal with early in the morning, especially when you had a hangover.

“Christ, Pearl, haven't you got changed from last night yet?”

“How can you be so awake at nine o'clock?” I asked, holding my head and wondering if it was going to explode. “I...”

I stopped. I’d just remembered what had happened after I’d left the club.

“Oh, God,” I said, my hangover suddenly seeming very far away. “He got shot...”

“What?” asked Stephanie. “What are you talking about?”

“On the way home,” I explained. “I was going home, I saw this old guy getting mugged. He got shot.”

“What? That's terrible!” Stephanie sat down next to me on the bed. “Are you OK?”

“Yeah... I’m fine.” I sat there for a moment, putting my thoughts in order. “Damn. I think I was going to give – did I say it was nine o'clock?”

“Yeah, why?”

“See you later!” I cried, leaping up and scrabbling around to find my bag. “I have to be at the police station!”

“What? When?”

“Fifteen minutes ago!”

With that, I swung my bag onto my shoulder and burst out the door.

“Lock up behind you!” I yelled back into the apartment, and ran off down the hall.

Ten minutes later, I was running through the Waverley Avenue subway station; ten minutes after that, I was rushing up the steps of the Hinah District Police Station. I flung open the door, ran over to the policeman behind the desk and said, breathlessly:

“Hi, my name's Pearl Gideon, I was meant to be here about forty minutes ago to see...” I wracked my brains. “Er... well, it's about the professor who was shot last night?”

The officer on duty stared at me. I smiled as broadly as I could, and tried hard to look less terrible: my hair was a mess, the remnants of last night's make-up was spread fairly evenly over my face, and it was obvious that I’d slept in my clothes. I looked like a vagrant hooker.

“Let me just check for you,” he said, and tapped at the keyboard of his computer. “OK,” he said at length, “it seems that someone is expecting you.” He sounded surprised; perhaps he'd just thought I was crazy before. “Detective Inspector Rennet. Third room on the left.”

He pointed me down the corridor.

“Thanks,” I replied, hideously embarrassed, and left. In my haste to get away, I forgot to ask if there was a bathroom anywhere that I could clean myself up in, and consequently probably scared the life out of D.I. Rennet as I burst into his office.

He was sitting behind a desk looking pensive, and looked up sharply at my entrance.

“Eh!” he cried. “Oh. Are you Miss Gideon?”

“Yeah,” I replied, closing the door. “I'm really, really sorry I’m late—”

“Well, the important thing is that you got here in the end,” replied Rennet, with only a hint of unpleasantness in his voice. “Please, have a seat.”

I sat down opposite him, and looked him in the eye; he was in his late thirties, the first streaks of grey beginning to appear at his temples, and he looked, like me, as if he'd been sleeping in his clothes, or maybe not even sleeping at all. He regarded me with tired blue eyes, and said:

“OK, Miss Gideon. If you would, describe for me exactly what happened last night, from the beginning...”

There was a click as a tape recorder started, and I began to speak; I hadn't got more than a couple of sentences in when the door swung open and the man in the overcoat from last night walked in.

“I've got it back for you,” he said, dumping a briefcase on the desk between me and Rennet. “Don't thank me, they were morons.” With that, he turned to go, and then saw me, staring at him in amazement. Was this normal police procedure? Did people walk into their interviews all the time? “You were there last night,” he stated unnecessarily. “It's good to know your friend dropped by. You could probably use the support after watching someone get shot.”

And without another word, he walked out again.

“Who was that?” I asked Rennet. “What's this about?”

“This is the briefcase Professor Rowan was carrying,” said Rennet, tapping it. “And that was, er, no one of significance. Now, Miss Gideon, if you wouldn't mind starting again...?”

---

When I finally left the police station at around noon, my head was full of the mysterious stranger. He didn't seem to be a member of the police force, but he was definitely affiliated with them – so who was he? What did he have to do with this Professor Rowan guy? And, most importantly to me, how on earth had he known that Stephanie had visited me?

These thoughts were going round and round in my head as I headed back to my apartment; in fact, so distracted was I that I completely forgot I’d missed another lecture, something that was forcibly brought home to me when I checked my phone and found a message from Stephanie telling me that she had notes I could copy if I so desired.

I did so desire, but even more, I wanted to wash and change, and then have lunch (it was now too late for breakfast, I noticed with regret.) I did that, and immediately afterwards headed out to Stephanie's place.

She lived a couple of blocks away, in the heart of Bantam District; it was about a thirty-minute walk, during which I had plenty of time to consider the mystery of the stranger and of the mugging. It was clear to me that the latter hadn't been an ordinary mugging; that briefcase had been important somehow. But that still didn't solve the mystery of who the man in the black coat was.

When I arrived at Stephanie's, the first thing I asked her about wasn't the notes (which were important) but what she thought about the weird stranger (which wasn't). I gave her all the facts, and she listened very intently; once I’d finished, I could tell that she was on the verge of delivering an earth-shattering revelation.

“The lecture was on Nietzsche,” she said, holding out a notebook. “Here are my notes. Oh, and please don't miss another lecture, Pearl. I can't keep doing this.”

I stared from her to the book and back again. “Stephanie, this is important!”

“Hardly as important as your dissertation,” she countered.

“You are not my mother!”

Stephanie rolled her eyes.

“I might as well be,” she pointed out – which was, I had to admit, true. There was no way I would ever have succeeded at university without Stephanie. “Look, I’ll make you a deal: copy out the notes, and I’ll tell you what I think your mysterious stranger is.”

“Done.” I snatched the book off her. “I'll do it at home. Now, Stephanie...”

“Fine,” she sighed. “He's a detective, isn't he?”

I felt very stupid then. It was either because I was very stupid, or because I’d failed to see the obvious. Of course the mystery man was a detective; who else wore a long coat and chased criminals in the middle of the night? It also explained how he knew Stephanie had visited me: he'd doubtless used his formidable powers of observation to deduce it, probably from the shape of my earrings or the clasp of my bag.

“Oh yeah,” I said. “That makes sense.” I felt oddly cheated. My mystery had been solved. “Well... I guess I’ll go home and write this up, then.”

Stephanie raised an eyebrow.

“I'd like the notes back by five,” she said, “so I can get on with my essay.”

My blood froze.

“Essay?” I asked, as casually as I could.

Stephanie sighed.

“I've written the title, due date and a list of the books you'll need on the third page,” she told me wearily, tapping the notebook.

“Steph, you've saved my life,” I said fervently, which got a small smile.

“I know,” she said without conceit, “and you're a lost cause. Now go home and write!”

“OK, OK!”

And once again, I was rushing through the streets, only this time I was heading back to my apartment – which, as it turned out, had been broken into while I was out. I knew it had been, because the person who'd done it was still there.

It was my mysterious detective.

---

“Who are you?” I said suspiciously. Because yes, I’m the sort of person who treats people who break into my home with belligerence rather than caution. This sort of person is also known as an idiot, Stephanie likes to say, but I prefer to think of myself as merely action-oriented.

“The question is, who are you?” returned the detective. “And I can answer that quite easily now. You're Pearl Gideon, twenty years of age, and a student of philosophy and German at the University of Jubilife. You were also,” he went on, “present at the unfortunate incident last night when Professor Rowan was shot.”

“Yes,” I answered, not really knowing what else to say. “But... my question still stands. Who are you?”

“My name is Ashley Lacrimére,” he replied, sounding bored. “I'm an amateur detective, but the police use me a lot because the police in Jubilife are about as effective as damp tissue paper.”

“Ashley's a girl's name,” I pointed out, and a trace of irritation passed across his brow.

“It was originally a male name,” he said sharply. “Now it can be used for children of either sex. Look, this is beside the point. I want to ask you what you know about last night.”

“I already spoke to the police.”

“And I have already told you that the police in Jubilife are useless,” Ashley said. “Do you think D.I. Rennet actually remembered to put tape in that recorder?”

“They're not that bad, surely?”

“No,” replied Ashley. “They're worse. Sit down, let's talk like civilised people.”

It was very strange, being invited to sit down in my own apartment, but I did anyway; I wasn't really afraid, since Ashley looked like a fairly weedy guy, and if I had to I could easily have overpowered him. (I was remembering the fact that he had broken and entered; for all I knew he was going to try and kill me.)

Ashley sat opposite me and looked at me for a moment. Then he spoke.

“Have you ever seen anyone like those people in silver suits before?”

“No,” I replied firmly.

“Are you sure?”

“I'm pretty sure I’d remember if I did. They were quite distinctive.”

“I see.” Ashley paused again. “Do you know who Professor Rowan is?”

I didn't, and said so.

“So it really was an accident that you were there,” he mused. “But that can't be...”

“What? Why can't that be?”

Ashley pulled a piece of paper out of his pocket.

“Because according to this,” he told me, “you are a target of the organisation the thieves work for, and have been for the last five days.”

I took the paper from him and had a look. There was a photograph of me – one I’d never seen before – and my name, age, occupation, place of residence...

And some big red type that said 'KILL ON SIGHT'.

---

“So you see my concern,” Ashley said. “If you were there by accident, and have never encountered any of those goons before, then it's something of a mystery why you would be on their hit list.”

“They're going to kill me,” I said.

Ashley frowned.

“Miss Gideon, are you listening?”

“They're going to kill me.”

“Evidently not. They're not going to kill you,” Ashley said wearily. “Rest assured, I would consider it a grave error if I allowed that to happen.”

“A grave error? Are you stupid or something? This is a notice that they're going to have me killed!”

“Calm down—”

“Not really the ideal circumstances for calming down, are they?” I snapped. “Some mysterious criminal organisation wants me dead!”

“But they're not going to,” replied Ashley, “because this is the order to have you killed, and we've got it.”

I stopped mid-rant.

“Oh yes,” I said. “That makes sense.”

“Now sit down, give me back the paper and put down that lamp.”

I did all three and asked:

“So... what do you know about these people? What happens now?”

“This organisation is new; I’ve never encountered it before,” he said. “This is the only thing those thieves had on them, and the main thing it offers me to go on is this logo in the bottom right corner.”

He indicated it, and I looked; it was a stylised letter G, curled into a tight oval with projecting corners.

“Do you recognise that logo?” I asked.

“No,” Ashley replied, as if talking to a small child, “I don't, or I would have already solved the mystery. But rest assured, I will solve it. That was why I told you about the logo; I thought it might reassure you.”

“You're leaving?” I asked as he stood up. “Wait! You can't tell me all this and leave!”

He looked puzzled.

“Why not?”

“Because – because – well, this isn't how things are done,” I protested. “I'm supposed to join you on some sort of cross-city adventure, solving the mystery.”

Ashley blinked.

“That,” he said slowly, “never, ever happens. Ever. Now goodbye, Miss Gideon.”

“Wait!”

He paused with one hand on the door handle.

“Yes?”

“Why did you break in here instead of waiting outside?”

He shrugged.

“I like to keep my hand in,” he replied. “Is there anything else?”

“Yeah. Why didn't you stop and help the Professor last night?”

“You were already doing it,” he said simply. “If I’d stayed as well, the thieves would have got away. Presumably, they'd have come to your house next and had you killed. And if that's all, I’ll leave now, and keep you informed of any further developments that might be related to you.”

With that, he walked out, and I was left alone in my apartment with a spiral-bound notebook and a head full of thoughts.

I weighed the options in my mind. Which was more important: this shadowy organisation that had tried to steal the Professor's briefcase and have me killed, or notes on Nietzsche and an essay to match?

Five seconds later, I’d put my coat back on and was out the door again.

Well, it's not like I had any choice. No one else was going to go and demand answers for me.

---

If you were of an unusually inquisitive disposition, and perhaps if you knew something of the amusing nature of the hijinks that pairs of criminals invariably get up to, you might well be wondering if the antics of the pair of space-suited goons who had shot the Professor would be chronicled here.

And of course, they will be.

Right now, these two crooks were lying low, which for them meant hiding behind a dumpster and hoping that the people who'd come after them for the briefcase had gone away.

“Do you think they've gone yet?” whispered the female of the pair. Her name, for those who don't know (and that will be all of you) was Liza.

“I don't know,” replied the man, whose name was, if you are still interested, Tristan. “I think we should wait an hour or two more, just to be safe.”

They had been waiting for several hours already; since four past one in the morning, in fact. It was now past noon.

From this, we might deduce (as Ashley would have done) that Tristan was not the brightest of people. But then, there were few intelligent people who would have freely done what he did for the wage he did it for. Popular opinion says that Liza was the brains of the pair, but if that was so, we must ask why she acquiesced just then to Tristan, despite the fact that his idea was positively moronic.

This is one of those things that we may never know the answer to, like the meaning of life and why we always get the shopping trolley with the wonky wheel.

“Gurrrp,” said the small blue Pokémon that sat between them. This may or may not have been an expression of its contempt for his owners; taking into account that he was a Croagunk, it is perhaps more likely that he was just croaking for no real reason. He was, after all, only a frog.

“Ssh,” hissed Tristan. “We could still be in danger.”

“I'm quite hungry,” said Liza thoughtfully.

“Oh, actually, so am I,” agreed Tristan. “Shall we make a break for it?”

“All right,” said Liza. She and Tristan moved into crouching positions, ready to run. “Count of three?”

“Count of three. One...”

Tristan recalled the Croagunk to its ball, so they wouldn't have to wait for him.

“Two...”

Liza checked that her gun was properly concealed. It would be very inconvenient to be arrested and have to explain it, much like that time she had had to explain to the Mossad what she was doing with fifty pounds of Semtex in the Israeli Ministry of Defence.

“Three!”

And the two criminals took off and ran for the nearest café as if the hounds of hell were snapping at their heels.

In actual fact, this wasn't an unfair estimation. Something was following them.

And, having observed where they had gone, it slunk away into the shadows like a phantom into the night.
__________________

For information about A Grand Day Out, a bizarre short story in video game form, click here.

Last edited by Cutlerine; June 10th, 2012 at 01:20 AM.