A Private Eye For Magic Folk
Charles C Cole
I’m a detective. Once upon a time, I helped a non-humanoid, and now magic folk line up outside my office like they’re getting free front-row tickets to the elf king’s coronation. Not every customer leaves satisfied, but at least they all learn some humans can be compassionate, non-judgmental, even helpful.
I was leaning out my office window having a smoke between consultations, some of my best thinking time, when a faery flew up from the street below. She wore leather pants over her green skin, with a glittering halter top. She was about the size of my hand.
“Joe Avery, Private Eye?”
“Speaking. Most clients use the front door.”
“I’m not a fan of enclosed spaces with humans; they get handsy when nobody’s looking.”
“I’m flexible. Let me put out the cigarette. How can I help?”
“My backup wings are missing. They could lead to trouble in the wrong hands.”
“Where’d you last see them?”
“Central Park, just before the start of the Annual Kite-Flying Contest.”
“You think someone ‘borrowed’ them for a little extra lift?”
“Sure would beat a lot of the competition, wind or no wind.”
“Not very subtle,” I said.
“Maybe, if hidden inside a box kite.”
“You leave them at an unattended picnic table or something? Why were you in the area?”
“I lent them to a depressed underaged she-sprite, to give her a better understanding of the exciting future awaiting her. But my efforts backfired when a faun-boy she’s been dating, who will never be able to fly, was jealous of her abilities, so he started aggressively flirting with a centaur, right in front of her. She dropped the wings – and the boy – on the spot.”
“Immaturity’s not species specific, in my experience. Let’s get back to the wings, ma’am,” I suggested. “Any standout suspects? I think the winner would get too much scrutiny, too much attention. Let’s focus on the top twenty. Someone with a flashy but primitive design, aerodynamically speaking. I assume there’s footage on the Internet.”
“I don’t use computers; I wouldn’t know. When you’re my size, there’s a fear that something will pull you inside, through the monitor. Irrational, I know. But my mom had it. My dad had it.”
“Hey, for me, it’s always been elevators. People still in the park?”
“A lot of them. Why?”
“Who’d rush home when you have a new toy? Anyone still flying kites?”
“A few. But the contest is over.”
“There are others to impress: a girlfriend, a young son. Besides, your thief might be afraid the batteries’ll die, so it’s now or never. Humans don’t have a good handle on magic.”
“Lucky for us.”
She took me to the scene of the crime while hiding in my fedora and peering out through the weave. She didn’t mind crowds, so long as she was flying high above them. At the park, we decided to keep her hidden, lest her appearance spook our nimble-fingered felon.
There was a group of teen-aged centaurs playing a variation of polo on Corsica Field, minus any human riders. With their fair share of two-legged gawkers. That was as close to “mingling” as you’d see between the two nations: gawking at the others.
“I never asked your name,” I said. “I like to know who I’m working for.”
“Does it matter? I’m not ready to be on a first-name basis with your kind. I don’t want to be the theme of your next TV/radio campaign: ‘When faeries need help fast, they call Joe Avery. Take it from this satisfied customer.’ Etcetera.”
“You guys find me plenty by word of mouth. My business was doing just swell with human-only traffic. The last thing I need is more magic folk flying in my open office window, startling the poor neighborhood pigeons, but I get your point.”
A young romantic human couple were cuddled at the crest of a small bare hill. The air was still. The boy had a box kite tied to his foot, barely paying attention, eyes focused on his companion, while the kite was yanking on the end of its leash like a toddler who’d just seen the ice cream truck.
“There’s your man,” I said. “He didn’t win the contest, but he got the girl, a different kind of victory. My guess: your wings are inside his kite, trying to fly home to you.”
“Humans,” hissed my new faery friend, in a way that sounded very much like cursing.
We approached. The boy noticed first. You could tell he wanted the world to himself and his date, and we’d just broken the illusion.
“He made it from scratch!” said his date, clearly impressed with his structural engineering skills. “It’s amazing!”
“Decent enough design, but the motor belongs to a friend of mine,” I said, removing my hat. The faery swooped close to our dude’s face with a bit of dramatic finger-wagging causing the girl to yelp.
“I was gonna return them,” said the boy. “They’re doing what faery wings are supposed to do: fly. What’s the harm?”
The faery extricated her spare appendage. They burst out, then landed on her open palm and curled up like a caterpillar preparing to jay.
“Brett!” gasped the girl, standing and stomping away.
“You ruined everything!” pouted Brett, looking squarely at me. He stood and chased after the girl.
The faery put her spare wings in a special carrying case.
“Your people are odd,” she said.
“Takes one to know one,” I responded, not unkindly.
“What do I owe you?”
“Nothing today. Maybe a favor one day when I find myself in a bind.”
“Next time, try the door. I know it’s hard to be a conformist, but the troll was steaming mad that you cut him off in line. I can only imagine what he’s done to my office.”
“My name’s Tina,” she said.
“Nice doing business with you, Tina,” I said, then I headed back to the office, to the queue of the supernaturally needy.