Day 3 of National Novel Writing Month! I do so love a good police procedural, and wanted to try one of my own. Let’s see what life is like for a Private on a sting for the local law enforcement known as the Green Trenches.
Day 3, Story 2: Never Say Your Name
Half past eleven, and the troll still hadn’t showed. Private Miks Tavus rubbed his left temple and glared at the snow clinging to the diner’s window. If those plaid Gaptooth hicks at the counter hee-haw about the spotty cornstalk and diary girl one more time, I will blow my cover just to shut them up, he thought.
Which would be a pity, because Tavus had worked pretty damn hard on it. Picked up a clawed leather coat and bloodstained pants from the morgue. Used his day off to forge a new ID at the Records Office (probably shouldn’t have done that, but if he makes this collar, it won’t matter). Even gave himself a black eye and bloody lip to complete the look of a Trade Courier down on his luck. Just another loner on the roads, hunkering down in this random farming town until the snow blows over…
…when in reality he’s on his first undercover assignment for the Pips Row Green Trenches.
“And then the girrrl told the wife, ‘those ain’t his moles, lady, them’s—”
“Ack, Farmboy, you’re gonna make me gag,” the waitress groaned as she smacked one of the farmers with her notepad. Her curves looked none too comfortable in the drab grey dress most hospitality folks where in these parts, but she glided easily enough among the smoke and dimly lit tables. Only a few others sat in the diner besides Tavus and the Gaptooths: a couple legit Trade Couriers with their sacks tucked under the table, some old sequined hag with a turban and her servant, and another loner.
That one…something off about him. He sat in the far corner with his back to the wall. He never took his bushy scarf or hat off, even to slurp his broth. Squat and wide, like many trolls, and he could be keeping his hat on to hide the giveaway plants that grow atop troll heads instead of hair.
But why hide it? Pips Row sees its share of trolls and elves and goblins and were-folk like any other town. Maybe less, because of the Gaptooth hicks, but still.
Trolls aren’t for trapping themselves, either. If they can get at the dirt, they will escape you no matter what power your badge wields. And that was the last thing Private Miks Tavus wanted. If he was to catch the Dragon-Egg Smuggler, he needed his suspect to reveal the route before another piece of the downtown caught fire.
If he only knew what his suspect looked like.
“Waiting for someone?”
Miks Tavus’ eyes shifted from the window to the waitress. Not a young thing, but still looked good in those heeled boots of hers. One strand of her green hair peeked out from her white snood.
“You been sitting here a solid two hours drinking Merl knows how much coffee. How about a little beef stew? Farmboy over there brought the meat in fresh this morning.”
Dammit, I’m obvious. “Sure.” Tavus leaned back, scratched his chest. “Snow’ll freeze me up fast enough once I’m back on the road…” Double-dammit, don’t look at her chest for a nametag. “…Waitress.”
Names. People protected them in Pips Row like they were gold. For some reason, the moment any kid around here got their apprenticeship, you stopped using their names and went by profession instead. Old Corporal down at Headquarters once said it had to do with a sorceress gathering names up, doing some sort of Tampering with them years back.
Just one more thing Miks Tavus had to learn for himself after being assigned to this weird intersection of the country.
Waitress gave him the once-over and saw the blood on his pants. Good. “Not easy out there.”
“Where ya headed?”
The hee-hawing stopped. Both Gaptooth Farmboys peered over at Tavus from the counter. “Them’s the wilds, Courier. Geese territory.”
Just stare at your coffee, Miks. Don’t give’em the fightin’ eye. “Yup.”
Tavus could hear the groan of the bench as one Farmboy straddled over. The smell of manure and magic churned Tavus’ stomach, but he remained still, even when Farmboy leaned over to growl in his ear: “You rile up another Gaggle, I swear to Merl I’ll get my hounds and—”
“Good Farmer, if you please.”
What’s the hag with the turban want?
What DOES she want? Will we find the troll or the smuggler?
Read on, share on, and write on, my friends!