Cool Customer [Flash Fiction]
Themes: Detective, Crime, Parody, Pirates
The docks smelt bad even at the best of times, but as she tottered down the wooden pier on her stupidly high heels, Detective Kitty Salva tried not to pull her face at the foul miasma of rotting fish and blooming algae wafting up from the water below. There were only two ways to smuggle dragons into Yew Nork City, and if they weren’t coming by land, they had to be coming by sea.
The things I do for my job!
“Mind yer footing here, Miss,” said Unscrupulous Jack. The smuggler offered his hand, assisting her over a loose plank. “Are you sure you wanna see this? My word’s gold. Just ask anyone.”
Kitty simpered at him. “My client insists I view the holding area. He wants to be certain that his phoenix will be travelling in excellent conditions.”
Jack sighed, but continued up the steps to his ship. Several of his crew watched from above, making Kitty doubly glad she’d opted to go undercover. One of her junior investigators had already checked out the place and briefed her on how well guarded the ship was. The guys in the Serious Organised Crime department of Yew Nork’s City Guard had gloated that Kitty wouldn’t be able to get within a hundred feet of The Lucky Lady. They knew, because they tried to get aboard every time the ship came to dock. Search warrants were hard come by these days, but then, Kitty was the only female detective in the Homicide department. The only female detective in the whole precinct, in fact. And she’d learnt a few tricks from her Aunt Maude.
She managed to get up the steps without falling over, but crossing the deck on her heels was a whole other challenge. She held on to Unscrupulous Jack’s arm, and cursed herself for not learning how to walk in heels before now.
They were only on deck for a couple of minutes. Jack led her down another set of stairs into the belly of the ship, and from there, along several corridors. Kitty’s blistered feet began complaining.
“Is it much further?” she asked.
“No, we’re nearly there.” Jack smiled at her from beneath his greying, well-groomed beard.
“How do you avoid being caught by the authorities?”
He chuckled, low and throaty. “Smoke and mirrors!”
She didn’t have to ask what he meant. He stopped her in front of a random wall panel, and rapped eleven times in a particular rhythm. Kitty tried not to fidget, but her hands instinctively lifted to her hip, where she normally wore her old Filly revolver holstered at her waist. Leaving the gun behind had seemed like common sense at the time. After all, how many ladies of the night-cum-exotic animal brokers packed a weapon for meetings like these? Without it, she felt naked. More naked than she did in the low-cut, revealing red dress she’d opted to wear.
The panel slid silently aside, revealing another crewman in a dark alcove. He squinted out into the brightly lit corridor, and scratched at the stubble adorning his chin.
“This is Miss Scarlet,” said Jack. “She’s come on behalf of a wealthy client who’s interested in procuring a phoenix.”
“Well, bugger me! Pardon, Miss.” The man doffed his cap and wrung it in his hands. “A phoenix, Cap’n? That sounds dangerous. Remember what happened to The Blue Oyster?”
Jack hand-waved his crewman’s concern away. “We can take extra precautions. Now, Miss Scarlet would like to see the pens.”
The crewman led them down a staircase Kitty hadn’t noticed before, into the very bowels of the ship. If there was any doubt in her mind that the dragon sent to kill the Mayor had been smuggled into the city by Jack, that doubt fled the moment she saw the holding pens. Twelve in total, each easily capable of holding a dragon. Each one now empty.
Jack talked her through the setup. How the animals were fed and exercised. How he had five crewmen on hand at all times, ready to douse any inadvertent fire. How the animals were loaded and unloaded without drawing the attention of local law enforcement. It was all very professional. Kitty was impressed. If only her colleagues in the SOC department were this organised!
“So,” she said, gesturing at the pens, “you carry twelve phoenix—” Crap, what was the plural of phoenix? Phoenixes? Phoenixi? “—at a time?”
Unscrupulous Jack’s hearty belly-laugh echoed around the pens. “Lord, no! These pens are for dragons. We can adapt one for a phoenix easy enough, but we’d never take more than one. They’re far too volatile. No, dragons are much safer. Shove a mirror in there and he’ll sit preening all day. They can get a bit rambunctious in stormy weather, but all in all, they’re pretty good guests.”
“But these pens are empty. Is the dragon trade slow, or have you sold them all already?”
“Sold?” Jack’s smile morphed into a quizzical frown. “We don’t sell ’em till we reach our destination. I knows a guy in Constantipople who deals in the rarer creatures—your phoenixes, your griffons, your sphinxes, which is where we’ll stop to pick up yours—but we only ever take dragons to Fingland.”
Kitty froze right down to her bone marrow. If Yew Nork wasn’t their destination, that meant it was the source. Somebody was breeding dragons here in the city and exporting them to the rest of the world! This was far, far worse than she could’ve imagined. If dragons were being bred in Yew Nork, SOC should’ve known about it.
Or… maybe they did. Maybe it wasn’t incompetence that’d preventing them searching The Lucky Lady. But if SOC knew about the dragons, had they also known about the Mayor? In attempting to solve a murder, had she accidentally uncovered a conspiracy?
You can read Part 1 of this story (Heated Affair) here.
I’ve been a little busy this past week, so today’s flash fic hits two prompts. The first is Blog Battle, with a Genre of Crime/Detective/Mystery and a Theme Word of Pirate, and the second is an Absolute Write 90-minute flash prompt of going too far. Detective Salva will do just about anything to solve a crime.