This week I shall blog "Toothseeker", a six-chapter short story starring Mischief, one of my daughter's long-ago dolls. (With a couple of cameos by Sogwa, my daughter's long-ago favorite cat doll.) This story is a noir detective tale, revealing the shocking Truth behind the Tooth.
1. Name that Scam
It was a dark and foggy night in Hellen, the sky-city halfway to anywhere. I was hanging out in my office when the door creaked open, and in walked this dame.
Walked? Nah. She glided. She crept in on feet as quiet as fog.
That’s my job. I’m a private ear.
So I said ping. And I said ping ping ping. Then pingpingpingpingping…
By sonar, I watched her glide in. I’d know that prowl anywhere. I stopped pinging and I said, “Hi, Sogwa.”
She looked straight at me and meowed, “Hi, Mischief.” She could see me fine in the pitch black. Her big oval eyes, my big gnarly ears.
I chirped, “It’s good to see you, doll. How you been?”
She purred, “I’m fine, boy-toy.” We kid each other, she and I. She stood up high on her hind legs; I stretched down from the ceiling, where I’d been hanging out. We rubbed noses.
A nose kiss. We’re old friends. We don’t lip-kiss like humans; that’s an oddity in the animal kingdom – and besides, Sogwa and I have fangs.
So we rubbed noses – what a doll! – and we pulled back. She sat on the floor, tail curled around her feet. I clung to the ceiling, wrapped in my wings. She looked up, I looked down. I said, “So what brings you here?”
“Business,” she said. “I have a job for you. Detective work.”
“What do you need a private ear for?”
Sogwa slowly blinked her big oval eyes. “I’m here for… the kid.”
“Hannah? Up in the daytime?”
“How is she?”
Sogwa said, “She’s fine, but stuff happens. She lost a tooth.”
“Don’t worry, a new one will grow in.”
“So what’s the problem?”
“It’s that old tooth,” said Sogwa. “Somebody took it away. It vanished, practically under her nose. She didn’t see who got it, or how.”
“More like trade. The tooth disappeared from under the pillow, and some cash was there in its place.”
“That’s weird,” I said. “A forced trade?”
“The kid’s O.K. about that, but she’s wondering. Just how does this Tooth Fairy character do that trick?”
“‘Tooth Fairy’? Good, at least we have an I.D. So the kid wants the M.O.?”
“Yes, technical details. How the gimmick ticks.”
“Wait a minute. Tooth Fairy. Is this a magic-user?”
Sogwa said, “She’s a magical being.”
I said, “So how does magic work?”
“That’s what the kid wants to know.”
“And you traced this Tooth Fairy here to Hellen, my home town.”
“Like you’ve always said, the sky-city takes all kinds.”
“Is is Heaven or is it Hell?” I asked.
Sogwa answered, “It’s both, it’s neither, it’s halfway to anywhere.”
“It’s Hellen,” I said. “Pantopian cosmopolis. Home of spirits, superheroes, angels, aliens, demons, corporations, gods and ’Toons.”
Sogwa grinned. “So I came here, seeking magic.”
“I don’t know that much about magic,” I said, “But I do know private-ear work, and its first rule is: Follow The Money. You say this Tooth Fairy character leaves cash?”
“That’s right. In exchange for teeth.”
“So where does the money come from? Who pays the Tooth Fairy? And for what? The teeth? But why would anyone pay for old teeth?”
Sogwa nodded. “What does the Tooth Fairy do with all those teeth?”
“‘All’ those teeth? You mean it’s not just our kid, but others?”
“All the others, near as she can tell.”
“This Tooth Fairy sure gets around. Got any witnesses?”
“None. She’s never been seen.”
“That’s typical for a magical being,” I said. “They’re sneaky.”
“So what’s this one up to?” Sogwa puzzled. “What kind of scam is she running? What’s in it for her? The kid wants to know that, too.”
“She wants to know how, and she wants to know why.”
“That’s the assignment.”
“What’s the fee?”
“The Tooth Fairy money, of course. Will you take the case?”
“You bet I will, doll. I’ll report to you just before dawn.”
“See you then, boy-toy,” said Sogwa, and she crept away on feet as quiet as fog. Just short of the door she stopped, turned her head, meowed, slowly winked her big oval eyes, and glided out.
What a doll!