I left the Northstar home with more questions than answers. Brand Northstar had been very open and honest with me, but on the condition that I keep as much of what he had said confidential as I could.
“This will give the entire operation a black eye,” he had told me sadly.
There was a dark underbelly in the racing world. Drugs, money, organized cheating. Very powerful people who stayed in the shadows, running things from those shadows, and staying out of the limelight.
Racing was a spectacular sport. Drivers, and to a lesser intent, team owners, were celebrities. They garnered a lot of attention, and most of them enjoyed it. Their public appearances were as much a public relations matter as they were an ego trip.
Northstar hadn’t been immune to all of that, but his father told me that the younger Northstar was a racer first and foremost. He hadn’t become a driver for the fame or notoriety, but because he loved racing. He wasn’t quite an adrenaline junkie, but he did enjoy the thrill that was just a natural part of racing.
But Airdancer had slowly convinced Northstar to participate in the underbelly of the sport. It had been gradual, and always for ‘the good of the team’, the one thing that Northstar wouldn’t say no to. He wanted the team to succeed, and he was willing to go along with Airdancer in order to make that happen. It was a slow transformation, but before Northstar realized it, he was caught in the web.
When he realized that Airdancer wasn’t as concerned with the team’s advancement as he was his own, Northstar had started objecting. Airdancer was able to deflect the objections for a while, convincing Northstar that everything they were doing would make their team more attractive to sponsors, and make the contacts they needed inthe racing world to advance to the upper levels of competition.
Brand told me his son had expressed serious doubts about Airdancer to him in private.
And that he was very quietly looking for a new team.
It appeared that someone had discovered that Northstar’s search for a new gig hadn’t been as quiet as he thought. And someone hadn’t wanted to lose a driver of his caliber to another team.
Airdancer had been hooked deep into debt, according to Brand Northstar. Airdancer wanted more than his father had been willing to pay for. Competing at the upper levels cost money, and Airdancer’s father wouldn’t provide it. That left the younger elf looking to other sources, and one of those sources had been the Du Vla, the elvish mafia.
I know. I know what you’re thinking. Elvish mafia? Seriously? Well, yes. Seriously. You think the mafia in the regular world is bad? Try a ‘familia’ who’s ‘board’ consists of three and four hundred year old elves with a taste for power. And absolutely no respect for any authority other than their own. Now there’s a mafia for ya, huh?
Moe had been right after all. This was deep. Very deep, and much bigger than a privileged elf getting himself hacked up into little pieces of elf sushi. Or two elves, for that matter. The two murders, the racing team, all of it tied into the Du Vla? Now what the hell do I do?
The Du Vla was comprised of two kinds of people. Privileged elves, and disgraced elves. Either were dangerous, and both were almost un-approachable. Hard to talk to. Almost impossible to get a prosecutor to agree to prefer charges, or to find other cops willing to tackle the problem. It was that bad.
And, if I was honest, I didn’t want to wind up being run though a deer food plant myself, and ground into nutritious nuggets for rein deer consumption. My life might suck more than I wanted to admit, but I liked it, just the same. I rubbed my temples as I drove away, feeling another headache coming.
I got to the office, only to find a madhouse. I looked at the staff running about, wondering what had happened.
“Bonespear!” Kringle’s voice boomed across the confusion. “Get your ass in here!”
“Coming, sir,” I sighed heavily. What was I going to be blamed for now? I made my way carefully through the scramble and into his office. The door slammed with a bit more force than I thought was strictly necessary, but it wasn’t my door.
“You want to tell me what the hell is going on?” Kringle demanded.
“Uh, I’d have to know that myself, sir, to tell you,” I replied, confused. “I only just got here. I was. . . .”
“Why are you just getting here?” Kringle demanded.
“I was at the Northstar home, speaking with the victim’s father, sir,” I answered calmly. Kringle lost some of his bluster at that.
“What did he have to say?” he asked.
“He painted a somewhat different picture of Jason Airdancer than what we’ve gotten elsewhere,” I admitted. “Apparently Airdancer got financing for his sleigh team from the Du Vla,” I lowered the boom carefully.
“That’s just the worst,” I explained. “Airdancer was deep in debt. Very deep, sir. And apparently he was playing the book to try and make it up. Betting on his own team, possible through a third party. But betting to place, rather than to win.”
“And Northstar was making sure that the team placed where Airdancer wanted it to,” Kringle sighed, guessing the rest.
“Yes, sir,” I agreed. “Northstar was just buying time, though,” I added. “He was actively seeking a new gig, and someone probably didn’t like that. I’m fairly certain that his driving was making the Du Vla a lot of money on the bookings. A lot of money,” I added. “His looking for a new team would probably have. . .irritated the backers.”
“To say the least,” Kringle sighed, sitting heavily in his chair. “So now what?”
“I was about to ask you that, sir,” I admitted. “I really don’t know what to do at this point. The likelihood that we can get anything on the Du Vla is nil. I can pursue it, of course, and I will if you want me to, but I honestly don’t know where to go with it.”
“Nor do I,” he admitted. “Anyway, we have another. . .issue.” His voice was grim. “A somewhat larger issue at the moment.”
“Larger than the Du Vla?” I asked, incredulous.
“Much,” Kringle nodded. “My cousin want’s to see you.” He said it calmly, almost matter of factly.
“Your. . .you mean. . . .?”
“In the flesh,” he nodded. “Sooner than later. Two members of his security staff are waiting downstairs to take you to him.”
“I. . .sir, I don’t. . . .” I was stunned. The Fat Man wanted to see me? Why?
“I don’t know, either,” Kringle admitted. “And I’ll admit, privately, that I’m afraid to ask too many questions. It’s almost certainly about Airdancer, and maybe even more about Northstar. Other than that, I haven’t a clue. His Immenseness doesn’t tell me much,” he added, a bit bitterly.
“Sir, what do I do?” I asked.
“What can you do?” he asked in reply. “I don’t have any advice for you, Kalef, except don’t lie. He’ll know. Don’t ask me how, because I can’t tell you. No one I know can, or will, at least. My Father never spoke of it, and nor did his. It’s just. . .one of those things that. . .is. Understand?”
I nodded. Pole was a strange place. Despite the similarities with the ‘normal’ world, the differences were far more numerous. Things were just. . .different, here.
“You best get going,” Kringle told me. “His Royal Blubberyness doesn’t like to be kept waiting.”
“Yes, sir,” I nodded, standing. “What. . .what do you want me to do about the case, Chief?” I asked formally. “I don’t think we’ll be able to get the DA to work this one.”
“I doubt it,” my boss agreed. “I’ll talk to the pompous ass while you’re gone. I should have an answer for you by the time you get back.”
“Well, I guess I’ll. . .I’ll just. . .go,” I said, not really wanting to.
I made my way downstairs to see two elves in the security garb of the Kringle family waiting in the reception area. I walked over to them. As I approached, both stood.
“I’m Kalef Bonespear,” I said simply.
“You’re late,” the taller one said at once.
“Yeah, I get that a lot,” I replied. He stiffened slightly, and I edged my hand toward my gun.
“We are to escort you to see His Majesty,” the other elf cut in. “I must ask for you firearm.”
“No,” I shook my head.
“I’m afraid I must insist,” he. . .insisted.
“No,” I repeated. “I’m a police officer, and I’m in the middle of a very dangerous investigation. My life is already in danger. I won’t be deprived of a way to defend myself.”
“I assure you, there is no need to worry,” he said smoothly, though nodding in understanding. “There will be no attack on your person while under our protection. From anyone,” he added. His emphasis on the ‘anyone’ part led me to believe that he knew who I was up against.
I considered that for a moment, and decided it was probably okay. Even the Du Vla would at least hesitate before taking on Fatboy. Or his private army.
“All right,” I removed my weapon from it’s holster, cleared it, and handed it over.
“This way, please,” he smiled politely, and led me to the side door. Outside sat an extended, six door Humvee, already running. The older elf opened the door, and I got in. It was nice, but utilitarian. I took a seat, as did the two elves, and the car left the station.
“I appreciate you coming with us,” the older elf spoke. “I am Commander Telfin, commander of the Home Guard. This is my subordinate, Lieutenant Wingel.”
“I didn’t really think I had a choice,” I told him drily. “Not to mention, I don’t know anyone who would refuse a meeting with Sir Kringle.”
“Few do,” Telfin nodded. “I need to brief you on your visit. You will address him as Sir Kringle at all times. You will not speak unless bidden. You will answer. . . .”
“Let me stop you right there,” I interrupted. “I speak when I feel like it. I’m not a stooge, Commander. I’m a police detective. A free citizen. Do we understand each other?” Wingel stirred in his seat, but Telfin stopped him with a hand.
“Detective, I think you have a misconception of what’s happening here,” he smiled coldly. “You’ve been summoned to see Sir Kringle to account for your actions. I suggest that your attitude reflect the situation you find yourself in.”
“Excuse me? Account for my actions? Just what actions am I being called into account for?”
“Surely you didn’t think you could simply accost Privileged Elves without consequences?” Telfin smiled again.
“Who have I accosted?” I asked.
“Playing this game will do you no good, Detective,” Telfin stopped smiling.
“I’ve spoken to two elves I know to be Privies,” I told him, deliberately using the slang term. “Both are fathers of slain elves. Standard procedure. I asked them standard questions, designed to assist me in finding those responsible for their deaths. Nothing more.”
“You shouldn’t have spoken to them at all,” Wingel growled.
“Who pulled your string?” I asked him. “Just sit quietly while the adults talk, Wingy.” The elf growled and leaned forward, only to be stopped, again, by Telfin.
“Detective, your attempts to provoke my comrade are childish, and doomed to fail,” he said to me.
“Yeah, I can see that,” I chuckled. “Look, what say we just stop talking. I’ll hear what Sir Kringle has to say when I get there. You make my teeth hurt.”
Telfin’s face reddened, but he nodded, and fell silent.
Inwardly, I was kicking myself. Why was I trying to provoke this arrogant asshole? There was nothing to gain by it. True, he had hit a sore spot with me, giving me orders, but my profession required that I be thick skinned. It was a sign of weakness that I had allowed him to ruffle me. And a further weakness to let him know it.
Settling into my seat, I endured the rest of the trip in silence.
If Northstar’s estate was grand, Fat Boy’s was incredible. I’d seen pictures of it, and the House, as it was called, but they did it no justice. None.
The whole place seemed to be made of crystal and cedar, awash in a gentle light that was bright, and yet soft at the same time.
It had to be Pixie Light, I thought to myself at the time. Nothing else would provide this kind of scene.
Mutt and Jeff, my new nicknames for my ‘escorts’, took me through the servant entrance, of course. Wouldn’t do for a mere human to be seen entering the home of his Royal Fatness. I thought about demanding to be taken through the front door like a proper guest, but decided against it. There was nothing to gain by it, and I had let my professional bearing slip enough for one day.
An older elf dressed in their version of a butler outfit led us through the hallways of the giant mansion to a double door room on the ground floor. The two doors were massive oaken slabs, their deep color awe inspiring. Elegant scroll work adorned the entire structure. I admired the handiwork as only the son of a master wood worker could. The butler saw me, and smiled.
“They are single pieces, carved by hand,” he commented.
“They’re beautiful,” I almost whispered. “I can’t imagine how long it took to do the scroll work.”
“You’re familiar with it?” he asked, interested.
“My father was a master craftsman,” I nodded. “He would have shed tears of joy to look upon these.” The butler seemed inordinately pleased by that statement.
“Please wait here,” he asked, and entered the room after knocking once. The massive right side door slide open smoothly, which wasn’t surprising. It was a work of art, and functional at the same time. A true master piece of the trade.
I stood there with Frick and Frack, ( I was running through names pretty fast with these two, ) waiting patiently. There was no sense in doing otherwise. Finally, after about five minutes I guessed, the butler returned.
“He will see you now,” he told me. Glancing at the two Elf Guards, he added; “Alone.” I felt them both stiffen, but neither argued. The butler opened the door for me, and indicated I should enter. I took a deep breath, and then stepped forward.
Here, there be monsters, I thought. I was definitely off the map.