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Friday, October 28, 2022

F³ Dark Business 01

            The days were getting shorter, but for my money, the shortest day of the year was not the winter solstice, it was Halloween. Most people would call it an overactive imagination, but I knew that shadows were longer, light didn’t reach as far, and the things that went bump in the night did so with more gusto on this night, which was why I typically closed the office early on Halloween.

            I had just made it down the elevator when my phone rang, the distinctive bass chords of “Fever” instantly recognizable. “Hey, Nikki, not really feeling up for a costume ball, tonight. Just want to pass out candy to trick or treaters.”

            “As much as I would love to kidnap you to a costume ball, Matthew, that is not the purpose of my call.”

            “Well, good. Pick up some Kit Kats and you can join me in handing out candy. We can watch an awful horror movie, too.” I waved to the building’s front desk people on the way out, who waved back. Typically, only one person watched the building at night, but a string of vandalisms in the area leading up to Halloween put them on edge.

            Nikki sighed, audibly, almost melodramatically. “Sadly, I will need a raincheck. And I would ask that you take one as well. I have need of you, tonight.”

            “What’s shaking?” I asked, stepping through the door. I turned to find my car when I spotted a familiar Mercedes with blackout windows in back. The sky was still light out, though the sun had disappeared behind the buildings.

            The back window closest to me rolled down a couple of inches. I couldn’t see anything inside, but I already knew.

            “Dark business is afoot,” she said. “I need a detective. More importantly, I need a friend.”

            I clicked off my phone and went to the car. Inside, a light clicked on. I saw an immaculately made-up Nikki wearing an elegant ball gown in black.

“Hey, baby, you looking for a good time, tonight?”

Usually, innuendo like that made her smile. The corner of her mouth quirked up, but no smile. “I would like nothing better, but there will be little pleasure, tonight.”

Serious business on Halloween. Yeah, this is going to turn out great.

I got in the car.

Nikki pressed the intercom button to the driver, whom I couldn’t even see. “The Fairhaven Club.”

“Oh, hell,” I said.

Friday, October 21, 2022

F³ A first Test 03

           “Now what, Shamus, do you use this powder for? Know that, I may be able to help your cause.”

            I lifted up my thumb for him to look at. “The marks on our fingers are distinct. Whenever we touch an object, something is left behind.”

            He shook his head. “Not unless something already stained our fingers. Why, if you touch my counter, now, with clean hands such as yours, not a mark would be left.”

            I sighed. “Do you have chalk?”

            He shrugged and went to his cabinets, opening a small drawer and produced a whitish, lumpy rock.

            “And one of those poundy things with the bowl?”

            “The mortar and pestle,” he said, patiently.

            I used the poundy thing—I didn’t know which was the mortar and which the pestle—to break off a chunk and then proceeded to grind it to a fine powder. I had been careful to keep one hand out of the chalk, so I used that clean thumb to press down firmly on the wooden counter. The apothecary had kept a very clean shop, so I was sure the counter would take the print okay.

            I hefted up the wooden bowl, and very carefully tapped out a tiny amount of powder. When I had gotten a light dusting on top, I bent down and lightly puffed away the loose chalk, hoping this worked.

            It did. It was faint, but the whitish powder stood out against the dark wood of the counter, revealing the fingerprint.

Friday, October 14, 2022

F³ The Apothecary's Apprentice 02

           It took longer to figure out the name of what I wanted through asking awkward questions about powders and medicines—an apothecary—than it did to actually locate one in the town around Roderick’s castle.

            Of course, I was greeted by a stereotypical fairy tale character of a wizened old man with tufts of wild hair surrounding a bald pate. Thick, wire-rimmed glasses magnified his eyes until he took them off, letting them dangle to his chest by a string attached to the earpieces.

            “Good day to you, Shamus. What can I do for you? Perhaps some toilet water to give to a fair maiden, hmm?”

            My mouth was already open to ask him what I wanted, but then I closed it, quickly.

            What maiden? Who am I supposedly wooing?

            I shook my head, and then asked what I wanted. “I need a concoction of powders.”

            “Oh, I have many fine powders. Some relieve pain, others aid in sleep, some make a man stand tall,” he chuckled after that last.

            Okay, something’s going on that I don’t know about. Some kind of gossip, about me and a woman, I guess.

            “No, not like that, this is a tool from my homeland. My, er, apothecaries new the secret of it and made it for me, but I’m afraid I don’t know all the details. I was wondering if I could look through your ingredients and we could attempt to come up with the . . . substance, together?”

            “Oh, my, well, of course, Shamus. I would be honored to aid you in such an endeavor.”

            Score one more for Rule 16: Fairy tale folk are friendly and helpful.

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