The Third Pig Detective Agency Part 4

Web Novel The Third Pig Detective Agency Part 4. If you are looking for The Third Pig Detective Agency Part 4 you are coming to the right place.
The Third Pig Detective Agency is a Webnovel created by Bob Burke.
This lightnovel is currently completed.

There was a sudden screech of metal as the object I was investigating came off in my hand. With a loud shout, I fell back off the branch and plummeted to the ground. Fortunately for Jack I missed him when I landed. Unfortunately for me I also managed to miss anything remotely resembling a soft landing and hit the ground with a very unsatisfactory (from my viewpoint, at any rate) thud. As I groaned in pain and checked all extremities for damage for the second time in a day, I swore I could hear the ash tree sn.i.g.g.e.ring in tones so low I could feel my fillings vibrate. He was obviously enjoying a minor victory at my expense. As I’m not a petty pigbut more because there was a small boy in the vicinityI refrained from making an obscene gesture at him, although someone had once pointed out to me that it was very hard to make obscene gestures when you didn’t have any fingers.

I was, by now, mastering the art of getting gingerly to my trotters so I managed it much better this time. Once I had dusted off the leaves and other debris, I examined the object, the removal of which had caused me to fall in the first place.

‘What is it, Harry?’ asked Jack.

‘Exactly what I’d expected,’ I replied. ‘It’s a very small but very powerful camera.’

‘What was it doing on the front of the car?’

‘Well, think of it like this, if you were really small and had to drive a car, how would you be able to see where you were going if you couldn’t see over the front dash?’

I had now dismissed the idea of being beaten up by an invisible superhero. All the evidence I’d gathered during the course of the day had led me to a different, less super and far more irritating solution. The camera had now confirmed my suspicions. I now needed to pay a visit to someone very annoying. This someone would not appreciate me visiting him, so, in order to prevent a recurrence of the previous night’s unfortunate incident, I needed some additional protection.

‘OK Jack, let’s head back to the ranch. There’s nothing more to see here.’

As we walked back to the car, being very careful to avoid any aggressive branches, I reached for my shiny new phone and made a quick call. For my next trick I would definitely require a very specific type of a.s.sistance, and I knew exactly who could provide it.

6.

The Gift of the Gab.

It was early evening when we got back into town. After dropping Jack at home with a promise I’d call him again if I needed him, I drove back to the office, parked the car and headed back towards the main street. After the previous night’s experience I kept a regular look over both shoulders and avoided any dark, or even not that brightly lit, alleyways. If there weren’t at least twenty people in the same street as me then it wasn’t going to be one I was going to walk down, across or through. Once bittenor once punched, threatened and deposited in garbagehad made me very careful and I was also concerned about the impact that constantly being decorated with rotten vegetables was having on my laundry billnot to mention my personal grooming.

After navigating the side streets of Grimmtown without attracting any undue attention, I turned onto Hans Christian Andersen Street. Dusk had made way for night and the city’s bright young things were all out in their vampire-look finery again. On every corner a girl from Little Matchgirls Inc. was hawking hot dogs, burgers and fried chickenthe company had diversified over the years, especially after smoking fell out of favour. The sound of people having a good time (at least, everyone except me) could be heard through the doors as I pa.s.sed the mult.i.tude of bars and restaurants that proliferated both sides of the street. Much as I enjoyed a quiet drink and some intellectual conversation in my local, the bar I was heading to was one where I didn’t expect the conversation to be particularly stimulating. It was located about halfway up the street and had a particularly distinctive frontageit was bright green. Outside the Blarney Tone, Grimmtown’s only Irish bar (‘Come for the Music, You’ll Stay for the Craic’), a very small man in a very shiny bright green and white costume was exhorting pa.s.sers-by to come in and enjoy the fun inside. Benny was a gnome and Grimmtown’s worst leprechaun impersonator. I stopped behind him to listen to his patter. He had the worst Irish accent I’d ever heard; yes, even worse than Tom Cruise’s in Far and Awayand I should know, my grandfather was prime Irish bacon.

‘Ah sure now, will ye not come in and try a Guinness. ‘Tis only the best in the town, brought in specially, direct from the brewery in Dublin. There’s a free plate of crubeens thrown in for good measure. You won’t see the like anywhere else.’ As he spoke he did a little jig that caused the rather large silver buckles on his black shoes to clang like a set of enormous bells.

The rest of his outfit was just as subtle as his shoes. Bright white socks stretched up to just below the knees, where they were met by bright green plus fours that were kept up by a large black belt. White frills that seemed to explode from a shirt so white it hurt to look at it fronted an equally lurid green jacket. An obviously fake ginger beard and curly wig covered most of his grey-skinned face like a bright orange fungus. On his head he wore a long black hat with yet another shiny buckle. It looked like someone had rammed a bucket upside-down on his head.

He was possibly the least convincing leprechaun in history but he was also just the man I needed to talk to. Despite the ludicrous outfit he was very st.u.r.dily built. In fact, he was the type of guy who could deliver a hefty punch to your midriff while, owing to his size, every attempt you made to hit him back just went over his head.

He still hadn’t noticed me as I approached him carefully and tapped him on the shoulder.

‘Evening Benny,’ I said cheerfully.

He spun around and for a split second his face dropped as he recognised me. Like the true pro he vainly aspired to be, he immediately recovered and began his Irish shtick again but his first reaction had given him away.

‘Begorrah Mr Pigg, is it yourself that’s in it. And out on a fine night like this too. Sure why not drop in and try a pint of the black stuff. ‘Tis the best in town.’ As he spoke he made to move towards me. This time I was somewhat better prepared and, as I quickly stepped back, I nodded to two large shapes that had just as quickly, but a lot more silently, moved up behind him. As he tried to land a punch on me a large hand grabbed his neck from behind and suddenly jerked him backwards and upwards. He dangled in midair, legs kicking so fast he looked like he was pedalling an invisible bicycle. The hand held his head level with my eyes and squeezed ever so slightly. Benny’s face began to turn an interesting shade of bright red as his neck began to constrict under the pressure.

‘Now, Benny,’ I said cheerfully, ‘perhaps we can discuss your recent forays into robbery and GBH.’

‘I…don’t…know…what…you…mean,’ he managed to choke out. By now his face was turning from red to purple and I watched with fascination (and no small degree of pleasure I must shamefully admit).

‘Ah, but how remiss of me,’ I said. ‘I’m forgetting my manners. Before we start, allow me to introduce my colleagues, Mr Lewis and Mr Carroll. They’re ogres.’ Considering their size, strength and skin colour it was probably stating the obvious, but I wanted to see Benny sweat and show him that I meant business. My ‘colleagues’ were each over eight feet tall with skin that almost matched Benny’s jacket in hue. Their impressively muscular frames were barely contained by the immaculate evening suits they had squeezed into. They were definitely the type of guys (or creatures) that you needed when there was a possibility of any unpleasantness, as they tended to be a very effective deterrentas they were now proving.

‘Now that the introductions are over, perhaps we can get down to business,’ I said to Benny. ‘Let me put some perspective on this for you, Justin case you’re confused.’

As Benny wasn’t the sharpest tack in the box I figured I’d better spell it out for him. Before I could start, however, I noticed that his face was now bright blue. Perhaps the ogres were being a trifle too eager.

‘Mr Lewis, perhaps a little less pressure.’

Lewis grunted and relaxed his hand slightly. Benny’s face returned to its previous shade of purple.

‘OK, Benny,’ I said, ‘let’s begin. Once upon a time there was a gnome named Benny. Not too bright but always on the lookout for an opportunity, he made a living as a dodgy leprechaun impersonator trying to get gullible customers into the local Irish bar. And, by the way, you need to work on that accent. Are you with me so far?’

He nodded, his head barely moving.

‘Good. Now, our friend Benny probably got an offer from someone to help him acquire a valuable antique from a local businessman. It certainly wasn’t Benny’s idea, what with him not being too bright and all, but the offer was impressive enough to encourage him. How am I doing so far?’

Benny gave another little nod.

‘This is called detecting, Benny. It’s what I do. I examine the clues and determine what’s going on. This then allows me to follow a specific line of inquiry. This specific line of inquiry has, most fortuitously, brought me to you.

‘In this instance, your mysterious client clearly needed someone with some subterranean delving skills and who would also do what he was told, no questions asked, as long as the price was right.

‘Unfortunately he picked you,’ I continued. ‘You may be a great digger, which of course pointed me in the right direction, but you were a trifle careless at the scene of the crime.’ I reached into my pocket and removed a small envelope. Inside was the green thread I’d found on the tree outside Aladdin’s. ‘You appear to have picked up a minor tear on your sleeve and, look, the thread I happen to have here matches almost perfectly. What a coincidence, eh?’

There was another gurgle that could have meant anything from ‘What great detective work. You’ve certainly rumbled me. I confess’ to ‘I’m slowly choking to death here, could you ask your moron to reduce the pressure on my neck somewhat.’

I chose to interpret it as the latter, although I certainly wouldn’t describe Lewis as a moronat least not to his face. Another nod and Lewis eased his grip slightly more.

‘Now I know that you aren’t working alone, not only because you haven’t got the smarts to pull this off on your own, but even you couldn’t drive a car into the enchanted forest, crash it rather spectacularly and then get back here to play little green man with the tourists so quickly. Nice trick by the way, getting one of your idiot cronies to use the camera to see where he was going because he was too small to look over the wheel. I take it you didn’t come up with that idea either?’ The response was another faint shake of the head.

‘Now I know that, as a rule, when goblins get together, rather than the total being greater than the sum of the parts, the collective IQ tends drop to well below that of the dumbest membera kind of anti-synergy. I suspect, therefore, that you were the mere executors of this cunning plan that, in all likelihood, was probably written out in very small words and very short sentences so you and your cronies could follow it without s.c.r.e.w.i.n.g upwhich you failed miserably to do. So here’s what I’m going to do.’ I looked Benny straight in the eye to let him know that I still meant business. ‘I’m going to instruct Mr Lewis here to let you go. When he does so you will make no attempt to do anything other than answer whatever questions I may put to you. Should you attempt to a.s.sault either of the ogres (which would be rather foolish) or me or even try to make a break for it, the only break you will experience will be a random a.s.sortment of your limbs. Understood?’

Benny nodded ever so slightly. I looked at Lewis and he dropped the goblin with such force that he lay on the ground groaning pitifully. I nudged him with my shoe.

‘C’mon Benny, up you get. If you need some help you only have to ask. Either Mr Lewis or Mr Carroll will be only too delighted to a.s.sist you.’

This suggestion seemed to give Benny some incentive as he struggled to his feet slowly and, I have to add, with a lot less style than I had shown previously. Maybe he just didn’t have as much practice at getting up as me.

‘OK, Benny, your starter for ten: where’s the lamp?’

Benny looked up at me with an expression that would have made his mother clutch him to her chest and console him with lots of ‘there, theres’. Fortunately for both of us I wasn’t his mother so he didn’t get the sympathy vote from me. He also spared me the ‘what lamp?’ routine, presumably as even he could figure out exactly how much I already knew and that I wasn’t prepared to tolerate being messed around any moreor maybe it was just the large and very obvious presence of my two companions. Despite this, however, his reply was only marginally more helpful (which wasn’t saying a lot).

‘I don’t have it,’ he gasped.

‘Not a good answer, Benny,’ I said. ‘I’d have thought that by now you’d realise there is no point in playing dumbor, in your case, even more dumb than usualwith us. We’re really not in the mood.’

‘No, really, I don’t have it. Honest.’ From the fearful look on his face I suspected that he was finally telling the truth. Now all I had to do was find out what he had done with the lamp, get it back to Aladdin, pocket a large pay packet and wallow in the satisfaction of a job well done. Smiling with antic.i.p.ation, I asked the obvious question again and received a not-so-obvious answer that wiped the smirk off my face and plummeted me even deeper into the murk that was Grimmtown’s underworld.

‘One last time, where’s the lamp, Benny?’

‘Edna has it,’ he answered.

I looked at him, dumbfounded. ‘Edna?’ I repeated.

He nodded his head gingerly. ‘Edna,’ he said with more conviction.

‘Edna, as in Edna?’

He nodded again. ‘Yep, that’s her.’

‘Please tell me you’re joking and this is just another idiotic attempt to throw me off the track,’ I begged, but I knew Benny was telling the truth, I just didn’t want to believe it. I just wanted him to suddenly spring to his feet and yell, ‘Gotcha! I had it in me rucksack all the time.’ I knew this wouldn’t happen. Quite apart from the fact that he could barely stand anyway, his entire demeanour suggested he was being truthfuland without being coerced any further, either.

If Edna was involved, I needed to tread very carefully indeed. In actual fact I needed to run very quickly in the opposite direction if I wished to retain the use of all my limbs. This was more like a Harry Pigg case: lots of different people vying to be the next to hurt me in new and interesting ways while I manfully (or pigfully) tried to represent my client to the best of my ability (and he was one of those people threatening to hurt me). I figured I’d get whatever information Benny hadn’t yet imparted and then decide whether it would be more advisable to get the next bus out of town or stay and get beaten up at least one more time.

‘OK Benny, let’s take it from the topand don’t leave anything out.’

7.

In the White Room.

‘Emerald Isle of Adventure? Are you serious?’ Benny nodded glumly. ‘Emerald Isle of Adventure,’ he repeated. Repet.i.tion tended to happen a lot when you talked to Benny. It helped him focus.

‘You really were going to call the theme park that?’ This beggared belief. I knew Benny was as dumb as a bucket of shrimp, I just didn’t realise the extent of his stupidity. This master plan of his plumbed new depths of imbecility.

Benny and his ‘Brains’ Trust’ of gnomish friends had decided that, with the proliferation of successful and highly profitable theme parks based on our ill.u.s.trious history that had sprung up all around Grimmtown, it might be a rather splendid idea to develop one based around Ireland and its past, him and his buddies being leprechaun impersonators and all. ‘A sure fire hit’ was how he’d described it. So far I had been regaled with how it would include Finn McCool’s Rollercoaster of Terror, the Lucky Leprechaun Log Flume and the Find the Crock o’ Gold Hall of Mirrors. When you eventually grew tired of all the excitement you could then relax in Mother Ireland’s Bacon and Cabbage Emporium with a nice Guinness.

Now I like my thrills as much as the next manexcept in this case seeing as the next man was Bennybut I just didn’t think this particular wonderland had the necessary pizzazz. In fact, if it managed to draw more than twenty gullible tourists on the day it opened (if it ever did), I’d eat my own head.

To cut a long, very rambling and disjointed story short (and to spare you many tedious digressions, pauses and nonsensical musings, because I know even your patience would wear very thin), Benny had put an ad in the local press describing the concept and seeking investors for this surefire hit. To hisand no one else’ssurprise, the take-up on the proposal was less than stellar but, just as he was about to abandon his plan, he received an email (and yes the address was ) promising him a very large investment in the scheme in return for a very small favour. This favour (and I’m sure you can see what’s coming, even if Benny couldn’t) involved Benny and the boys using their burrowing skills to recover an artifact that had allegedly been stolen from this mysterious benefactor many years previously. The story was embellished by references to family heirlooms, dastardly thieves, a poor granny pining for her long lost lamp and, of course, the dangling of the incentive of part of the investment up front with the rest to follow upon successful delivery of the lamp. Benny had swallowed it hook, line, sinker, fishing rod and angler.

The down payment had arrived and Benny had acquired the lampwhich considering his track record had to qualify as a spectacular success. All he then had to do was deliver it and the Emerald Isle of Adventure would be a reality. As you can imagine, the delivery hadn’t gone according to planhardly surprising when you consider who the delivery boys were.

Benny and his band of idiots had begun making their way to the drop-off point. If the sight of a band of gnomes trying to look furtive while walking through the busiest part of town dressed in lurid green outfits didn’t grab attention, the same group babbling on loudly about how they were going to spend their newly-acquired fortune surely would. Unfortunately for them, it grabbed the attention of two of Edna’s henchmen.

Now I need to digress slightly here, as I’m sure you’re asking, ‘Who is Edna?’ and ‘Why does she want to divest those poor unfortunate gnomes of their one chance of a happy ending?’ The answer to the second question is easy once you understand the first. Edna is one of a group of four witches who basically run all of Grimmtown’s organised crimea kind of Mezzo-sopranos or Contraltos, if you will. They’ve unofficially divided the town up into four districts and Edna runs the West Sidehence her t.i.tle: the Wicked Witch of the West Side. Their control of all criminal activity is total. Nothing illegal moves without them knowing about it or profiting from it to some extent. They are a family I had kept well clear of over the years and I had no wish to alter that status any time soon. If, however, Edna did have the lamp, then that was a wish that was evidently about to come true, despite my best efforts to the contrary.

‘So,’ I said to Benny, ‘to summarise the plan: there you were, a band of gnomes heading to a drop-off point in the middle of town, babbling on heedlessly about how you were going to be fabulously rich once you pa.s.sed the lamp over to your mysterious benefactor, a lamp, incidentally, which one of you was actually carrying in a bright red shopping bag. Where in this cunning strategy do you think the obvious flaw was?’

Benny dropped his head in a semblance of shame and chose not to answer.

‘So. On your way to the drop-off pointah, where was this place, anyway?’ I asked.

‘Litter bin on the south corner of Wilde Park,’ mumbled Benny.

‘Of course it was. Instead of somewhere quiet and secluded, you picked one of the busiest intersections in the city. Could you have been any more obvious?’ I laughed. Benny’s story was becoming more nonsensical by the minute.

‘So, as I say, you were on your way to the drop-off point when someone from Edna’s gang grabbed the bag. Now, what I can’t figure out is this: you guys are thick but can certainly pack a punch.’ I rubbed my stomach at the memory of just how packed the punch was. ‘How come they got the lamp so easily?’

Benny mumbled again.

‘Speak up, Benny,’ I asked. ‘I can’t make out a word you’re saying.’

‘Otto took it,’ said Benny, a little more articulate this time. ‘He just flew down out of nowhere, grabbed the bag in his claws and scrammed again.’

Otto the Owl was one of Edna’s henchbirds and I suppose that a bright red bag wasn’t too hard to miss if you had spent your formative years flying around a forest hunting tiny rodents in total darkness.

To put it mildly, this new development presented me with a problem: my client’s lamp was now in the possession of one of Grimmtown’s most ruthless criminal families; a family who would have no compunction about rearranging my anatomy should I even hint that it might be a good idea for them to return it. My client would also, in all likelihood, rearrange my anatomy if I failed to return his lampand probably evict me to boot. Either way it seemed that anatomy rearranging was about to become my newest pastime and one I didn’t particularly feel like taking up, especially as we were talking about my anatomy and its capacity to be rearranged. In the faint hope that I might get something else out of him, I turned back to Benny.

‘Apart from emails,’ I asked, ‘I don’t suppose you ever got to meet this investor of yours?’

‘Not as such, no,’ Benny said. ‘But I came close one night or, at least, I think I did.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘Well, the night we were due to receive our down payment my instructions were to go into the men’s rest room in the Blarney Tone, make sure I was alone, send a text message to a particular number that I was ready, and wait for further instructions. When I got in there, I waited until it was empty, did as I was asked and stood there. Suddenly there was a loud bang, everything went white and next thing I knew I was in a room with funny walls, lots of rugs and carpets and stuff like that. I couldn’t see anyone in the room but a voice told me to pick up a bag that was on a table beside me. As soon as I did, I was suddenly back in the rest room again with my down payment.’ He looked at me. ‘I know how it sounds, but it’s the truth, Mr Pigg. Honest.’

I was just about to tell him how ludicrous his story was and did he really expect me to swallow something so ridiculous when there was a loud bang, everything went white and I was suddenly in a room with funny walls, lots of rugs and carpets and stuff like that.

As you can imagine, it took a few seconds to get my bearings seeing as I had suddenly been transported from Point A to Point B without any knowledge of where Point B actually was, how far it was from Point A, or exactly how precarious my situation now was as a result. At first glance, fortunately, precarious didn’t seem to figure high on the agenda. I was in a long oval-shaped room with no windows or obvious doors. Bright white walls curved inwards from an equally white floor to an oval ceiling. Lamps ran along the walls illuminating the room with a soothing white light. It was, in fact, a very white room.

The only sop to an alternative colour scheme were the very expensive-looking rugs (expensive to my unsophisticated eyes at any rate) that were casually flung on the floor in a feng-shui kind of way and the colourful tapestries that hung from the walls. The decor suggested the Orient, which, considering my current a.s.signment, hardly seemed like a coincidence. Whoever had summoned me here was clearly connected to Aladdin in some wayif only by culture. My suspicion, however, based on Benny’s tale was that I was in the presence of his mysterious stranger, although the room was currently devoid of any presence other than me. As most of the people I’d encountered in this case so far seemed intent on doing me harm, this was a small mercy for which I was incredibly thankful.

As I stood there I became aware of a faint whirring behind me. I turned aroundever so slowlyto see if some strange mechanical torture device was about to dismember me. To my relief, I found myself gazing at a not-so-sinister, large and very hi-tech-looking computer. There were so many wires, cables and other devices hanging from it, it looked like it was in an intensive care unit. With all the printers, modems, scanners, microphones and a.s.sorted paraphernaliathat even I couldn’t figure out the use ofthere seemed to be enough hardware to run a small country and still have enough processing power for a quick game of Half-Life while affairs of state were being mulled over.

It also occurred to me that the computer might shed some light on the ident.i.ty of the thief and maybe even some clue as to their motive. As I surrept.i.tiously reached for the keyboard a voice erupted from the walls around the room.

‘Naughty, naughty, Mr Pigg,’ it boomed. ‘Please step away from my machine.’

I raised my trotters over my head and took three steps back from the hardware. Looking around, I tried to see where the voice was coming from. Best I could figure was that there were speakers hidden behind the wall hangings and, from the quality of the sound, they were clearly very expensive.

‘Please forgive both my brusque manner and the somewhat unorthodox kidnapping,’ the voice continued. ‘I hadn’t meant for us to meet in quite these circ.u.mstances. In fact, I hadn’t intended for us to meet at all but I suspect that my original choice of miners left much to be desired when it came to not leaving obvious, or indeed any, clues behind. Clearly I should have been more discriminating in my selection.’

‘If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys,’ I said. I enjoy a cliche every now and again and it was the only thing I could come up with while I tried to figure out what to do next. I’m not always witty and quick with the rapier-like reparteehard, as I’m sure it is, for you to believe.

‘Indeed,’ said the voice. ‘And while you’re trying, no doubt, to figure out where you are, who I am and what you should do next, allow me to recommend that you make yourself comfortable while I make some suggestions.’

I slowly sank onto a very ornate and very comfortable ottoman and waited.

As you have probably already deduced, the gnomes were clearly not a good investment. In less than twenty-four hours they stole the lamp but left clues so blatant that a corpse could have followed them. They then managed, with an incredible lack of subtlety, to make Grimmtown’s organised crime fraternity aware that they had an object of immense value and then, while bringing it to me, succeeded in handing it over to one of our more ill.u.s.trious criminal masterminds in the process. Do I summarise the situation accurately?’

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