Count Weirdly Gets Let Off More Often Than Not, I Guess.
It was one of those days. Where the streetlights get outlined by the rain, where the clouds glow amber from the reflected neon signs, and the only thing you can hear out the window is car horns echoing down the empty streets and a distant siren. I had my feet up on my desk, a bourbon by my hand, and a game of solitaire half finished. I couldn’t find the ace of spades.
It just struck me that it’d be the perfect setting for a tall, curvaceous, untrustworthy, Hitchcock-blond female to insinuate in with a case, when in she came.
Well, she was female. I got one right, at least.
Apparently her flower bed now looks like a half-finished septic tank, and she lives next door to Count Stupidly. So it wasn’t exactly hard to figure out my next move.
She starts squawking accusations the moment we’re in the door. That’s him! I know it! He trashed my flower bed! It was him! That one! Right there! She’s pointing helpfully, in case I was confused as to which green man in a top hat and a nightgown she was talking about. Arrest him, officer!
“I already know you think he did it, on account of you came to my office and told me he did it.”
Why, I never-
“Then don’t start now. Here, why don’t you show my assistant the scene of the crime?”
She flounces off in a huff. Max gives me a dirty look. At least gimme da umbrella.
“Don’t let her eat it,” I call after him, and turn my attention to the nearest thing there is to a suspect. He’s wearing that uneasy ‘hey-guys-whats-goin-on’ grin he always wears, and doesn’t seem to notice that he’s soaking wet. It’s so hard to keep from talking to him like he’s a misbehaving preschooler. “Alright, what did you do this time?” I almost managed it, too.
N-n-n-nothing, I w-was j-j-just talking my p-pet for a w-w-walk.
And w-when we g-g-got back, I put up m-my umbrella to keep off the CIA m-mind s-s-scanning rays! He looks pleased with himself, and I look confused. He just explained away his own alibi. Why would he do that, unless he doesn’t know-
“Your neighbor says you blasted her flower bed with your laser cannon.”
I haven’t g-got a laser cannon!
“Uh huh, and I’m an intergalactic mercenary out to avenge my father’s death. What’s that thing by the window?”
Th-that is my f-fiendish weather device, that I used to c-c-create this storm! It works b-b-beautifully! Not even you will b-be able to stop me n-now!
“Hmm.” I check out the whatsit, not expecting to see much of anything. It looks like something you’d order out of the back of a comic book, and that’s just all kinds of wrong. Never ever ever in the history of anything has this guy made a device that works, yet this thing went Hiroshima on the garden next door. So what’s going on here?
I’m still musing when Max gets back. Her garden’s definately asploded. Dunno if lasers coulda done it. Those’re those things that go ‘pew pew’ in da movies, right?
“Usually, yeah. Did you see anything about the homeowners association?”
He gives me the sort of look the Children of Israel musta given Moses when he came down the mountain and called them on their calf-worshiping. Dunno how you knew, but yeah. She was on the phone wit somebody called ‘Bev’ about how dey’re gonna force him out for deed restriction stuff. Sounded really excited.
“I bet she did.” I glare at the door, where she’s just swept in again like a hurricane deliberately going where it wasn’t predicted. “Call for backup, Max, I’ve got a feeling this is gonna get ugly.”
Since when do we need backup to bring in this nut? He asks, but I don’t answer.
If there’s one thing I hate, it’s people making me party to their petty deceptions. But if there’s one thing I love, it’s bursting their bubbles.
“So tell me, ma’am,” I start, “Did you use a lot of fertilizer in this flower bed?”
She blinks. Well, no more than usual, of course. Those chemicals can be dangerous, and I wouldn’t want to violate the association rules about dangerous substances. Unlike SOME.
“How right you are. Why, if you used enough fertilizer, you could make a crude bomb. With the judicious application of some other household chemicals. And if you buried one in our flower bed, it’d blow it to kingdom come. Unlike a laser cannon, which would just set it on fire.”
Are you accusing me of planting evidence, officer? She means to sound indignant, but I can hear the fear underneath.
“Catch on quick, don’t you?” The distant sirens get closer. “Here’s a tip for next time. You want to frame somebody, choose a patsy who could have pulled it off. Not one that’d has trouble putting on his shoes in the morning.”
You can’t prove anything! You have no evidence! Beverly will vouch for me! That diesel fuel is for my husband’s truck!
That’s when I let myself have a small, slow smirk. I love this. “Who said anything about diesel fuel?” That feels good. Like chocolate cake or a massage. “And how would a classy lady like yourself know that diesel fuel is an ingredient in fertilizer bombs?”
The car pulls up outside. It’s Lupo. Good, let him deal with this piece of fertilizer.
Aren’t you g-g-going to ch-chase me? stammers the count.
“Nah. Farmers needed the rain. You go ahead and fiddle with your, ahem, storm device or whatever. Just don’t flood the city.”
He’s taken aback. Uh… ok-kay.
Fox. Lupo nods to me on the way out.
“Lupo. How is she shaping up?”
She’s admitted one or two things. Keeps trying to pin everything on someone called ‘Bev.’ Any idea who that is?
“Check the Homeowners Association. Oh, and check if her husband’s truck uses diesel fuel.”
He raises an eyebrow at me. Is that likely to be important? Pompous ass.
“It’s your investigation now, Lupo,” I grin. “You tell me.”
And I vanish into the rain.