“RAST UTH DE RONDA.”
It was the dream again. This time I had been tied to an ancient set of rust-coated box springs. They had been stood up on their short end and propped back against a graffiti-covered wall. I was in a wide room with high ceilings, like an abandoned ballroom in a forgotten hotel.
The air was damp and water trickled from the ceiling. The two blood-splattered doctors in gas masks from my previous dreams stood over me. They each clutched a gleaming scalpel.
“Alto con vite ban stiltomen,” one was saying in a language I’d only heard before in another dream.
“Kalt,” said the other. “Bar salto con falegrutten.”
I woke before they could start cutting, which happens once in a while.
I was back in the same jail cell, alone again on the cell block. But I wasn’t being held, not this time. This time I was here of my own free will.
After loading the three ogre corpses into the back of the patrol car — no easy feat for just two people, and one with broken ribs — we were, frankly, at a loss of what to do next.
The tunnel idea had been a total bust and it was, to be honest, my only real lead. Knowing, however, that the psychotropic spray that Maggie’s fiancé had been soaked in would wear off by this afternoon, I figured our best bet was to go back to the station and wait.
Besides, I still had three or four broken ribs to mend, and I heal faster when I’m still and calm. So, while Diana went off to do some paperwork and figure out what to do with the ogre corpses, I came down to the cell block for a bit of a rest.
I yawned and sat up. That’s when I discovered that I was not, in fact, alone in the cell block.
A little girl of about nine or ten stood on the other side of the bars looking in at me.
“Are you a criminal?” she asked.
“I am not,” I said.
“Good,” she replied. “Because your door is open. If you were a criminal you could get out.”
“Well, I’m not a criminal.” I yawned again. “What time is it?”
“I don’t know,” she said. “Before school but after breakfast.”
I wasn’t sure what to say to that, so I chose to say nothing, hoping that the girl would get bored and move on. But after a moment or two I realized that she wasn’t going anywhere.
So I stood and then groaned a bit as I stretched. No pain. My ribs appeared to be fully healed.
My gun belt, coat, and hat sat atop one another on the cot on the other side of the cell. I began to put them on.
“Your clothes are all dirty,” the girl said.
I ignored her and belted on my guns. I was still covered in mud from earlier, though it had all, by now, dried.
“Why are they so dirty?”
I continued to ignore her, pulling on my coat and placing my hat on my head.
“I would change my clothes if I were that dirty,” she said. “Or take a bath or something.”
“Look,” I said. “Who are you?”
“What are you doing down here?” said a voice from the door at the front of the cell block. It was Pat.
“What did I tell you about wandering off?” Pat said.
“You said to stay close and to not go wandering off,” the girl said.
“And this is close?” Pat said, walking into the room.
“No,” the girl said, her lower lip sticking out in a pout.
“Okay then. So what do you have to say to me?” Pat said, walking up to the girl and looking down at her.
The girl, her eyes glued to the floor, mumbled something unintelligible.
Pat reached down and placed a gentle hand under the girl’s chin, lifting it so that the girl was looking up at Pat.
“What was that?” Pat said.
“I’m sorry, Grandma,” the girl said.
“Grandma!?” I said.
“That’s right, Norman. I’d like you to meet my granddaughter, Susie.”
My surprise left me momentarily speechless.
“Susie,” Pat turned to the girl. “This is Norman Oklahoma; he’s an old friend of mine.”
The girl giggled. “That’s a funny sounding name,” she said. “Oklahoma is a state. We learned that from our geography book.”
“That’s all you have to say to Mr. Oklahoma?” Pat said. “That his name sounds funny?”
The girl looked up at me, another giggle hiding behind her eyes.
“Hello, Mr. Oklahoma,” she said. “It is a pleasure to meet you.”
I tipped my hat and said simply, “Ma’am.”
Susie giggled again.
“Okay, why don’t you go get your bag and wait for me in my office. I’ll be up in a bit to take you to school.”
“Okay, Grandma,” Susie said. “Goodbye, Mr. Oklahoma.”
Again, I tipped my hat and said, “Ma’am.”
Susie giggled as she ran up the stairs.
“A grandmother, Pat?” I said. “Since when?”
“Oh, about nine years now, Norman,” she said. “You know, for a detective you sure don’t pay a lot of attention to things.”
“Well,” I felt shame creep into my face. “I’ve been busy. Has Maggie’s fiancé said anything useful yet?”
“His name is Anthony, and he’s originally from New York City. Beyond that it’s been much of the same.”
“Has he opened his hand yet?”
“Nope. If he’s holding on to something, he’s keeping it clutched tight.”
“Well, there ain’t much I can do from here,” I said. “Maybe I’ll go to the office, have a shower, then stop over at the Pub.”
“It’s a little early for a drink.”
“Is it?” I said. “What time is it?”
She consulted her watch. “Almost eight.”
“Regardless, whoever or whatever took Maggie has both goblins and ogres working for them, or it... That’s going to get annoying.”
“It is,” Pat agreed.
“Anyway, that’s not an easy thing to make happen. Now, I ain’t saying that Abner’s involved, but if anyone in this town is gonna know anything it’s gonna be him.”
Pat sighed. “Just be careful, Norman. Keep your head clear. It was only yesterday that you shot up the place.”
“My life is rather exiting, ain’t it.” I smiled.
My ride was still at the office, left there yesterday when the Walrus stuffed me in the trunk of his car so that he could kill me in the privacy of my own home. From there I went straight to jail in the back of a patrol car.
This only meant that I was forced to walk.
Luckily it was only three blocks from the Police Station to my office. And to tell the truth, I needed the air.
I passed by the Pub on the way. It’s located just down the street and across from my office. Though it was early, I could hear rock music coming from the building, so I knew that Abner would be there. But first, a shower and a change of clothes.
I arrived to find a woman sitting in a utility truck at the curb on the Seventh Street side.
“You Norman Oklahoma?” She said through the open truck window as I approached the building.
“Jacqueline Murphy,” she said. “Murphy’s Glass.” She got out of the truck. “You can call me Jack.”
Jack Murphy was a big woman. And I mean like akin to a giant. She wasn’t overweight or one of them thick-headed body building types. She was just, well, she was big. She had at least eighteen inches on me. And she was wide too, like a linebacker in full pads. Standing before her I understood how those barbarian raiders must have felt when they encountered the Great Wall of China for the first time.
“What can I do for you, Jacqueline Murphy, Murphy’s Glass?” I said as the big woman approached. I had to fight the urge not to open my coat and put a hand on one of my revolvers.
“I’m here to fix your window,” she said. “And call me Jack.”
Yesterday I was thrown out of my office window by a walrus.
We talked about that already.
It was a mutant walrus-man, created in a lab by a group of scientists for pure whimsy, was sent to kill me.
“Yes, it’s true that I got a busted window up there,” I said, pointing up to my office. “But I don’t recall calling anyone about it.”
“Well, I got a call,” she said and then starting fishing around in a pocket of her coveralls. She pulled free a sheet of paper and studied it for a moment. “I got the work order right here. Says to bill Pat McCrea.”
Once I thought about it I did recall Pat saying last night that she’d called someone about the window.
“I suppose if Patsy’s paying then I’ll show you the way.”
Jacqueline “Jack” Murphy grabbed a tool box from her truck and I led her into the building and up the steps.
“You one of those impersonators?” she asked as we reached top of the steps and the door to my office on the second floor.
I turned to her. “What?”
“The way you dress,” she said. “You look like Elliot Ness or something. I thought maybe you were one of those celebrity impersonators.”
“Is there a lot of call for an Elliot Ness impersonator?”
“I don’t think so,” she said.
“I’m a private investigator,” I said and pointed at the door. Painted on the glass of the door where the words:
We stood that way for a moment in the stairwell before I realized that she wasn’t going to say anymore, so I let the two of us into the office.
Bob wasn’t at the reception desk. Instead there was a note on the door to my office. It read:
FINISHED MY BOOK AND NOW I’M BORED. I’VE GONE TO THE LIBRARY.
I MAY BE BACK TODAY. I MAY NOT.
DON’T HOLD YOUR BREATH.
That was just like Bob. If I was actually paying the man I’d be upset. But, since I wasn’t, I had no room to judge.
I pocketed the note and let Jack into my office.
“It’s a bit sparse,” Jack said, filling the room.
“I like sparse,” I said.
“I’ll assume the window I’m here to fix is the one with the blue plastic tarp taped over it?”
“That’d be the one.”
She moved to the window and began peeling back the plastic.
“The frame is intact, so that’s good,” she said.
“Sure is. Means we just need to put in some new glass and not a whole new window.”
“When can that happen?”
“Today, most likely,” she said.
“Yeah, I just need to take some measurements and we’ll get you all hooked up.”
I hung my coat on the coat tree just inside and door.
“If you don’t mind, I’ll just step out and freshen up a bit,” I said. “You just do what you need to do.”
I had my own private bathroom with a small shower attached to the office. I also had a spare suit in my bottom desk drawer. It would be wrinkled, but better wrinkled then covered in mud.
After the shower I dressed in the bathroom and found Jack still in the office. She had removed the blue plastic from the window and was standing and looking out onto the street when I entered.
“So, what exactly happened to the window?” She asked.
I sat at the desk and pulled on my shoes.
“Oh, well,” I said. “I was thrown through it … by a walrus.”
“Ah,” she said. “Okay. I suppose that’s the sort of thing you run into a lot in your line of work?”
“Surprisingly, yes,” I said.
“Well, this all seems fairly standard. I have most of what I need here to get started. I should have it all completed by this evening.”
“Do I need to be here?” I asked as I tied my shoes.
“Not unless you want to be.”
“Okay, good. I have a man to see about a goblin.”
“That some sort of euphemism?” She asked, still looking out the window.
“Surprisingly,” I said. “No.”
And with that, I left.
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