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Out of Nowhere by Patrick LeClerc.
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Jack Did It


Jeromy Henry

Inspector Petrard of the Elvish Homicide Squad paced the narrow lane.  Dust puffed up around his pointed green boots with every step.  In front of him, five humans in homespun tunics and rough brown breeches shuffled their feet and tried not to trip over deep ruts left by cart wheels.  Whitewashed cottages with thatched roofs lined the street.  The sound of a blacksmith's hammer rang in the distance.  Except for a few white and purple flowers in a window box, the town looked grubby and without color.

Petrard sighed and wheeled to face the humans.  At three feet high, he had to crane his neck up to see the lanky people in front of him.

"Alright, now you all say your name is Jack?"

"Yessir," said the tallest human, a gangly boy of perhaps sixteen.  A shock of roughly cut brown hair partially hid his gray eyes.  Zits covered his face.

The other four nodded.  They ranged in height from five foot five to six feet tall.  All had rough, longish brown hair cut in country style (that is, in the space of one minute, with a dull knife.)  All had gray eyes.  All were thin.  The elf had great difficulty telling them apart.  All humans looked alike to him.

"Now, where were you all on last Tuesday?  As I'm sure you're aware, someone killed an ogre off to the west of the town and stole his treasures, using the ogre's own magic sword!  All the sprites say the poor wight had just hired a helper boy named 'Jack', and it was this Jack that did him in."

"I was in the fields," chorused two Jacks, "Bringin' in the cows."

"I was with my master John all day, runnin' errands," said another.

"I was with me sick ma," said a fourth.

"Well, I was in the town stocks fer bein' a fool," said the last Jack, as he scratched his head nervously.  "I'm in there a lot."

The elf stared in silence for a while.  "All right," he said at last, "I'll need witnesses to verify your stories.  You all come back here tomorrow at the same time.  If your stories are true, you should have no trouble proving your innocence."

"Well sir, if'n yer lookin' fer Jack from The Village, well, there's another town called 'The Village' about a mile thataway," said another Jack, pointing west.  "It's in the kingdom of Goventree."  This Jack had a slight squint, and hunched over.  He looked perhaps eighteen, the oldest of the cohort of Jacks.

"An' there's another place called 'The Village' about three miles North," offered the shortest Jack, a wispy fifteen year old with protruding yellow teeth.  "It's in the Kingdom of Avalard.  Of course, it aint a real village, just a couple o' huts, but I know of a Jack or two there."

Petrard growled, "What is it with you humans and the name 'Jack'?"

The Jacks shrugged and looked at each other.  The oldest Jack answered, "Well sir, it's jus' that all the heroes in fairy stories are always named 'Jack'.  I guess our mums liked the name."

Petrard sighed.  "Thank you for the information.  Well, I'm done with my questions.  I will see you all tomorrow, with your witnesses."  He impatiently waved away the youths.

A faint string of fairy dust streamed from his hand.  The golden stuff tinkled and giggled in the bright sunlight, and then separated into five balls.  One ball attached itself to each Jack's back.  Petrard nodded in satisfaction.  If one of the Jacks ran, he'd have his culprit.  Though a search of the five Jacks' houses had yielded no trove of gold or a magic sword, one of the humans could have hidden the loot, and he'd surely run right to it.

But the Jacks didn't run.  Their stories panned out.  And thirty other Jacks from five other places nearby called 'The Village' told airtight stories too.  Three days later, as Petrard slowly padded down a muddy lane in the fading light, he reflected that all these cases turned out the same.

"Jack did it!"  He laughed bitterly to himself.  "Jack always does it, whether it's an ogre or a giant or a troll or an elf, it's always some human named Jack.  And we never catch the blighter!"  He stuffed tobacco in a long, curved wooden pipe, adjusted his green felt cap with its gay yellow feather, and sat down on a rock to watch the sunset.  He pulled a roll of parchment out of a brown leather bag by his side, and fumbled with an ink bottle.  He dipped an eagle feather in the bottle as he puffed fragrant smoke into the air.

"Case Closed: No Suspect Found" he wrote at the bottom of the sheet.  He took his pipe out of his mouth and blew to dry the ink.  The parchment crackled as he rolled the document up and stuck it back in the pouch.

Orange and red and purple tinged the sky, above the leafy green of the forest.

"At this rate," he murmured to himself in the twilight, "There aren't going to be any of us left."

And twenty miles away, a man named Paul patted a large sack of gold by his head and grinned.  Straw rustled as he shifted and yawned in a farmer's hayloft.  Paul had brown, country-cut hair and stood five-foot eight.  He wore homespun breeches and a tunic.  His gray eyes blinked sleepily.  He planned to set off at dawn and go far enough away that no one would guess where he obtained his riches.

"It's easy," he murmured to himself.  "Just tell everyone your name is Jack, an' they'll never catch you!  Now, I hear there's a troll with a fine castle, a hundred miles off to the west..."   

Read more stories by this author

2010-05-23 18:23:03
Clever and complete, a fresh point of view. It's funny and we enjoyed it. S4

2010-05-15 16:20:29
great job... from one of many jacks

2010-05-09 21:31:27
Well done!

2010-05-04 07:31:03
Good Yarn! I liked the realistic treatment of the environment balancing the faery element, liked the elf detective, felt the clever villain getting away with his loot with the ogre cast as the innocent victim was certainly a new twist. Will be looking forward to your next tale...

2010-05-02 12:38:04
I thought the story was inventive in as such sa how the culprit got away with his loot. I loved the story line, and the plot was great. A lot of Jacks in that part of the country. thanks for the read, I enjoyed it

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Books by Quantum Muse contributors and friends.
Piņatas From Space!: Crazy Games With Cards And Dice

by Jeromy Henry
Stormcastle: And Other Fun Games With Cards And Dice

by Jeromy Henry
The Tooth Fairy War and Other Tales

by Jeromy Henry
The Wizard's House

by Jeromy Henry
The Dreaming Fire

by Jeromy Henry

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