Dark Confidant in ‘The Case of the Missing Minus, Part One’

Posted on Monday, August 12th, 2013 by KingRamz
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Dark Confidant  

The Case of the Missing Minus, Part One

I came to on the floor of my office with a crushing headache and a few empty bottles of Blessed Wine scattered around me. I grunted. Guess I’d had a good night.

I hoisted myself up off the floor and surveyed the damage. Black leather couch, frumpled exactly as it had been when I knocked off early yesterday afternoon. Only three empty bottles, and I can put two and a half away by myself, no problem. Desk was in order, other than an empty, crumpled-up Baloth Burger bag. The glamorous life of a private eye.

I mentally revised my assessment of the previous evening. Didn’t want to admit it, but the evidence was clear: I’d spent another night alone, drinking with my cat. For his part, Hans was curled up, asleep on the windowsill, providing the best kind of companionship you can ask for when you’ve got a hangover – the quiet kind.

I picked up the bottles and threw them into the bin, and I was heading into the back to get some coffee brewing when I heard the click of heels outside my door. Damnation. I doubted I was in any shape to be meeting with prospective clients. Which was a problem, because money was starting to get tight. I’d done pretty well for myself with my last case, but the cash from the Modern Masters was drying up, and I needed some work. I wouldn’t say I was desperate, but that’s only because “desperate” doesn’t sound so hot, does it?

I spun around and hastily smoothed my robes as I headed back into my office to do my best to pretend that two minutes ago I hadn’t been drooling on the floor. It was a dame, and she was red. Could tell from the heels, and from the wisps of smoke and the singed area spreading over the top of my door frame. Always gives it away.

She rapped impatiently on the door as I sat down at my desk. That might sound strange, but you have to remember: red dames do everything impatiently. I tossed the Baloth Burger bag in the bin with the bottles, and caught a whiff of something funky. Guess I hadn’t finished dinner. Hopefully she wouldn’t notice. I sat back in my chair and steepled my fingers. I might be hung over, but at least I could look the part of “dark wizard.” Planeswalkers tended to appreciate theatrics. Not content to knock a second time, she jerked the door open and barged right in.

She was a vision, the kind of dame you knew would use you up and throw you away without a second thought and still leave you happy to have had the privilege. She wore red leather thigh-high boots, a flowing skirt with a split down the front that I very much appreciated for the view it allowed, tight leather armor covering her torso, and goggles as an accessory on the top of her head. And her hair was fire. Not on fire, mind you. Actual fire. Yeah, she was trouble, just the kind of trouble I liked. And she was no stranger to me, either.

“Chandra Nalaar. Last time I saw you, my employer took a Lava Axe to the face.” She smirked, then plopped down on my couch and crossed her legs. Ever the professional, I remained very attentive.

“You have to be careful when you play with fire, or you’ll get burned.” Of course she’d say that. Red dames always say that. “You look like hell, Bob. Rough night?” Her eyes told me she’d already guessed how my night had gone.

“Something like that.” I pulled a pack of Psychic Strikes out of my desk drawer, took one out, lit it with a spell, and took a drag. Ahhh. People are surprised to discover the Dimir know good tobacco. They shouldn’t be; the Dimir know everything else. I offered the pack to Chandra.

“I’d love to smoke,” she said. Red dames always say that, too. I tossed her the pack and she took the last cig, put it between her lips, hesitated.

“Need a light?” Her mouth quirked, and she took a drag on the unlit cigarette. A third of it turned immediately to ash, and the smoke she exhaled came out in the form of a dragon. One of a red dame’s top five favorite things is to be asked that question. Another is showing off. I’d probably made her morning.

She tossed the empty pack into the bin with the burger bag and bottles, and I grimaced as I caught another whiff of that smell. Was it getting stronger? Wish I’d had more time to clean up. Chandra hadn’t seemed to notice, though. I leaned back in my chair. “So, what can I do for you? Don’t figure you came all the way out here to bum a smoke and make the place hotter.”

“Are you familiar with M-Fourteen?” I was. It was a new marketing initiative from the Wizards of the Coast. They’d hired her to be the face of the product. I’d seen her on posters all over the place. I told her as much. I didn’t mention that the general consensus was that “Chandra, the Pyromaster” hadn’t lived up to all the hype. I’m fond of my face, and I’d rather keep it. Plus, she probably already knew anyway.

“Don’t play dumb with me, Bob. I’m sure you know about the… critical reception.”

I nodded. “I’m not one to judge,” I said.

“That’s healthy,” she said. “But it shouldn’t have happened this way. I was supposed to be the best thing since Jace, the Mind Sculptor.” With the face she made when she said his name, you’d have thought the cigarette in her mouth was Golgari zombie fungus. And to be fair, his name does taste pretty bad.

“Mmm. What’s that got to do with me?” I asked.

“I was supposed to have a fourth ability. A minus ability. It was there when I signed off on everything. But when I went back later to look over the files, it was gone. Someone STOLE it.” Her hair flared white-hot, charring a picture frame I had hanging on the wall above her. I’d never liked that one anyway.

“So you want me to find it for you?” I asked.

“No, I want you to find out who took it. I’ll deal with them myself.” No doubt, if it indeed had been stolen, whoever had taken it would meet a fiery conclusion.

“Do you have any leads?” I asked.

“As far as I know, the only people who should have had access were the Wizards of the Coast. I wouldn’t put it past Jace to find a way to meddle, either, but I can’t prove it.” She was clearly getting more irritated, so I decided to quit before I lost a piece of office furniture I actually cared about.

“All right. Just remember, when I work for you, sometimes I turn up more than you bargained for. When that happens, things can get dicey.” A smile played across her lips, and she recrossed her legs. “A little danger just makes it more exciting; don’t you think, Bob?” I wasn’t actually thinking right at that moment.

“You… know my rate?” I asked. She pointed at the plaque I keep on the wall behind my desk. Greatness. At any cost. I grinned at her. “That’s just my motto. My rate is one card per turn, plus expenses.”

She stood up, and held out her hand. “Deal. I think I’ll enjoy working with you, Bob.” I took her hand, and we shook. At that moment I was very glad I’d had that blessed wine, because I’d forgotten my pants. Without pants, I’m pretty sure I needed the wine to resist that searing touch of hers.

After she left, I made some coffee and sat down on the couch to think. Hans decided he’d had enough sun and came to join me, so I stroked him idly as I mused. The million-mana question was, who had something to gain from Chandra’s loss? Surely the Wizards of the Coast would’ve wanted her to live up to all the hype. It was easy to write off Chandra’s suspicion of Jace as groundless paranoia based in her intense hatred of him, but then again, the man was an arrogant prick. Maybe he hadn’t wanted to risk losing his spot as king of the roost, and had used illusions or mind control to turn one of the Wizards? Regardless, it was clear I needed to pay those Wizards a visit.

I stood up, took the singed frame off the wall and tossed it into the bin with the bottles, the burger bag and the empty pack of cigarettes. The smell got even worse. I realized my mistake a split second before I saw the slavering tarmogoyf at the window, its beady eyes trained on me.

“Ach,” I said. “Hans? Run!” I turned on my heel and headed for the door, but the tarmogoyf was on me before I’d made it more than four steps. It smashed through the window, caught me by the shoulder, spun me around, and slammed me to the floor. It closed its meaty hands around my windpipe, keeping me from speaking the words to a spell. The last thing I saw was a glob of spit falling toward my face. Everything went black.

Will Bob survive his date with a ‘Goyf? What was Chandra’s missing ability? Did Hans escape to safety? Find out in Part 2 of Dark Confidant in the Case of the Missing Minus, coming next week!