The Case of the Wolf and the Three Pigs
As an in-demand private detective, I rarely get weekends or holidays or evenings off. Neither do my clients. “No rest for the weary,” my mother used to say. I live in a world where supernatural entities walk among us, feared and often hated by the mundane masses. Humans outnumber faery folk by a least a hundredfold. Few of my peeps have special powers; they’re just different – which is enough to make them casual targets.
I was working on a case for the three little pigs. Something wasn’t adding up. Someone had vandalized two homes, and I was supposed to think it was a familiar wolf, but there’d been no witnesses. And wolves tend to brag about their bullying; they have reputations to maintain. In this case, Wolfy insisted, confidentially, that he’d been out of town visiting Red Riding Hood’s dementia-riddled grandmother in her long-term care facility. Sitting across from me in my cluttered office, Wolfy appeared vulnerable and sentimental, outraged that his best days were behind him.
“It wasn’t me,” he said. “And that’s not good. But if you tell anyone it wasn’t me, that’s not good either. Let them all think it was me, but my advice is to keep looking for the real criminal. Now, if you’ll excuse me…”
He stood and walked to my closed office door, the weight of the world on his shoulders. He sighed.
“You think of something?” I asked.
“For this.” With a dramatic snarl, he spun around and upended my coffee table, spilling my full ashtray, a couple of dirty mugs, a jar of penny candy and lots of loose notes. “The pressures of a reputation. For the gaggle of onlookers in the waiting room: word of mouth is the best publicity I’ve ever had.”
He yanked open the door like he was going to rip it off its hinges and throw it out my window, causing the papers to flutter about like pigeons at the approach of a daycare posse.
“You didn’t have to do that.”
“I did, though.”
His awaiting audience, backs pressed deeply into the furniture, was all big-eyed and mouths agape. Those who weren’t already on their cell phones, grabbed them to film his dramatic exit. It was a good act – and dependable. I closed the door and went to the window to watch the startled humans scramble across the street, rather than walk on the same sidewalk as a lumbering attitude with claws and fangs.
The door to my building opened as someone in a crimson hoodie followed. A fan? Protection? Someone to videotape the reactions of passersby for Wolfy’s home movies?
I decided to invite Red in for some needed background. She was more than willing.
“He’s a beast!” she said. “Everything he does comes from primal instinct.”
I tried a different tact. “How’s Granny?”
“I heard she was failing, mentally.”
“She has been for a while. That’s what I mean by the same: no change.”
“Does she remember you?”
“Sometimes. Not often. She thinks she’s a child.”
“Did she give you the hood? Wasn’t it hers originally?”
“Her mother, my great-grandmother, made it for her. It’s held up well, don’t you think?”
“A pretty bold statement for a walk in the woods.”
“Gram had asked for a buckskin jacket, like the local frontiersmen wore. She fancied herself one with nature, but her mom thought it wouldn’t look ladylike and, besides, she’d be easier to find in red, if she ever got lost.”
“But, here in the city, I bet you blend in. Buckskin might just stand out among the rainbow-colored pedestrians. You’d be a novelty.”
“A girl would have to start a fire at a police station to get anyone’s attention here.”
“Unless you were a faery tale creature.”
“That’s not me. I saw plenty, lived among them, but I was always the human interloper.”
“I’m not so sure, Red. Their stories were your stories. What I mean is: You can take the girl out of the forest, but you can’t take the forest out of the girl.”
“I’m not like them.”
“The denizens of the urban street or the animals that walk upright and talk like us.”
“What’s that leave you? Maybe you’re more like the animals than you care to admit, but you look like an everyday taxpayer. Even with your hoodie, you don’t stand out.”
“That can be an advantage, like camouflage. I’m invisible.”
“But not your actions, right?”
“I don’t understand.”
“Why trash the pigs’ homes? I’m not a cop; you can tell me. Were you bored? Missing the old days? Mad at Wolfy for ignoring you?”
“A little bit of everything, I suppose. Maybe I wanted to help him stand out.”
“He doesn’t need the help.”
“Maybe I’m jealous that Gram remembers her childhood wolf pal more than she remembers me.”
“The old Red would never have stooped to vandalism.”
“The old Red is long gone, detective. And the new Red is still finding her way in the concrete-and-steel wilderness.”
“A couple of pigs are homeless because of you. They lost irreplaceable momentos of their lives before the big reveal. Pigs aren’t very pretty to begin with. Watching one ‘ugly cry’ is not a sight you can unsee.”
“I’m sorry. It was like stealing candy from a baby; too easy not to do it. It wasn’t about them.”
“Help them rebuild. Get the other faery folk to chip in. I think it would be good for the community. You’re all so busy being different that you forget how much you have in common.”
“I’ll think about it.”
“From what you tell me, Grammie was a bit of a trail blazer. You’ve got a unique chance to be a real leader among your kind: a human who understands the tough life of an animal. Go out there and make Grammie proud.”
That was one of the few days humans got to watch the folklore folk working together. If only more days were like that.