Damn, thought Janny, it’s another code blue. She sighed. That meant it would be all down to her again. She hated this with a vengeance.

‘Captain Mystwood ma’am?’ Oh no, she had to answer this call. She pressed the blue com button whilst gliding the flyer into the hangar.

‘Received, I’ll be in the office in five, out.’ Grimly she sat there clutching the joystick, fingers going white. This would mean another trip home. The Deneb System, just great.

Back in the office she slung her flying jacket over the chair, but before her bum could hit the seat, the Super was storming over to her. ‘Get to conference room five. McKenly is there waiting for you. Bloody gypos, you’re all the same,’ he snapped.

‘I, sir, am first and foremost an officer of the law, so do not try that on me.’ Anger ran red hot in her veins but she buried it.

She opened the door to the conference room, took a deep breath and entered. ‘Oh High King of the Gypsy Province, descendent of the first Star Gypsy that led us to the new sun, how may I, Princess Janny, be of service?’ She heard the sniggering of her colleagues. Her blood boiled. The weight of her heritage demanded she punch their lights out, but she was a cop, and that ran deeper.

The King’s amber eyes rested on her, ‘The Cheenrows have stolen from the Leekway; the Leekway bay for blood. The Taro shows death.’ She sighed, it was always like this. Most officers didn’t understand their social system so couldn’t even begin to sort clan feuds out.

‘What’s been taken?’

‘The Galloway Crown.’


‘The Crown worn by the first king to be hung by your so-called law,’ he said coldly.

‘Anything else?’

‘The Arrow of Elsmith that brought down the first Groundbuck of New Sun.’

‘Two of the Trinity? The gold and the bronze; what of the silver?’

‘The silver?’

‘Call yourself the High King? The Snake of Ameridia, without which, your family can no longer rule.’ He paled.

‘But the Cheenrows are art dealers, they wouldn’t just start a civil war like that,’ he gasped. ‘I think you’re failing to see that something from each of the three Tribes has been taken. But you are right, if it’s not sorted we’ll have a blood bath.’

‘Not three, two,’ he said. He looked worried.

‘So the silver has not been taken. Where is it?’ A shadow passed across his face. Oh no, she thought, he’s already given it to Elma.

‘Where is she?’ she demanded. She knew by his look that she had guessed right. She lost patience. ‘Come on man, we need to get to her as soon as poss!’

For once he didn’t argue, for once he wasn’t ranting about the police invading his home.

Back in the glider, this time with the High King behind her, she whizzed through all the space traffic to get to the emergency dock at the travel centre. They were on board a deep cruiser within the hour. She knew in her bones that when they got there the girl would be gone, but hopefully the trail would be fresh enough to follow. This stank; was it art theft? No, too simple, too much of a coincidence that the things being stolen were likely to cause a civil war. She really didn’t think that many of the major families would be rooting for war, so was it some idiot angling for power? Was it an attempt from outside to undermine the gypsy community because they were getting powerful in galactic commerce? Or some stupid conspiracy to unit them?

Her brain was rapidly looking at all the combinations; all of the options. No, this was deep, she’d bet on it. The trouble was, if it was too deep, she wouldn’t be able to do anything about it.

‘Do you think Elma’s really in danger?’ he asked her quietly. She turned to look at him: there was deep pain in his eyes. She sighed.

‘I hope not,’ she said. She remembered Elma as a small toddler and she wondered what the thirteen year old looked like now. Was she still as sweet or had she picked up the diamond coating all gypsy women had?

‘Jan,’ he said, startling her. He hadn’t called her by her name for a long time. ‘Thank you for doing this, I…’ he looked away.

‘I would rescue any child, but Elma…’ she said, not quite sure how to say what she was thinking. ‘Well she is my niece; she’s all we have left of Teel.’ They sat and brooded, she knew the child would be gone but couldn’t afford to think of her sister. If she did that, she wouldn’t be acting like a police officer and then they would never find the girl.

They radioed in to the port to organise transport, but there was already a message awaiting the High King. He nearly collapsed at the news of a ransacked home and missing daughter. He turned to her, ‘Jan, this is your speciality, what should we do?’ There was a dark pleading in his eyes.

She took the speaking unit, ‘Close off the area, do not, I repeat, do not let anyone into the scene.’ She closed her eyes in semi-physical pain as they told her that dogs and supposedly concerned family members had been in there all afternoon. The scene would be a mess – what could she hope to find from that?

‘Ok keep everybody there, I don’t want anyone, and I mean anyone, to wander off, is that clear?’

She turned to see a grey-faced King, his mouth grimly set. She sighed and then put a consoling hand on his shoulder, ‘I will do my best, believe me,’ she said gently. They bowed their heads to each other, a sign of grieving kinship, and then set off to the flyer deck.

Once on the ground she made all the ‘visitors’ turn out all their pockets, their mouths and, in some cases, other bodily cavities. Surprise, surprise, a good number of them was trying to wander off with things. That sorted, she went to the girl’s bedroom. There had been obvious signs of a struggle downstairs but it had been much too obvious. She knew that most of the time obvious clues were just that, obvious clues, most of the time.

Mmm, this room had not been riffled, but it was too tidy. There was a picture of the girl in a party outfit on the mirror; she was surprised at just how mature she looked. So the Trinity had been stolen, but why? Was someone trying to start a civil war? Why? Were they insiders or outsiders, or one being manipulated by another?

Ah, the girl’s diary was tucked behind the headboard of the bed. She was obviously hiding it, but then that was nothing unusual. But… why hide a diary when all she appeared to have written was what she’d eaten for dinner each day? Where was the stuff about how horrible the world was, or music and boys? This was not a normal teenage diary. It wasn’t a normal diary at all.

She smiled grimly, the girl had made a hashed, no, several hashed attempts at secret codes. She flicked through, the last half of the book was blank but the pages looked like they had been wetted. She sat down to attempt the decoding. Oh dear, did the girl realise that eating fifteen apples in two days was a little strange? Probably not. Would she have realised that herself, if she hadn’t done a stint in the cryptography department? Damn, she was seeing a low clan boy – was she even old enough to have a boyfriend? The High King couldn’t have known about this!

But was this helping? Was she faffing with dreams when the girl was in danger? If she was seeing a low clan then it wasn’t surprising she was over cautious with her diary. To her frustration the code changed, and she could not work out what the new one was, if there was one! This was all sensible if boring stuff, and the handwriting was much neater, so perhaps the stress had reduced? No, wait, the handwriting was stupidly neat, and the change was sudden. Interesting, surely the girl had better things to do than steganography? She got out her decryption scan-pen. Nope, obviously not!

The gaps between the words! Oh dear, how had she had the patience to write her feelings this way? Shame the relationship was doomed. This really was pointless; it wasn’t helping her find the girl at all, but the investigator in her was intrigued. The entries stopped suddenly, just when the girl was talking about running away! Ah hang on, she thought, and rushed out the door.

She was relieved to see the house had been cleared. She found the High King sitting, dejected, in the kitchen, and he jumped to his feet when she came back. She told him what was written in the diary. Rage momentarily flashed across his face, replaced by relief, ‘So she’s safe?’ he asked.

‘Only if she ran off with this boy before they came to kidnap her’ she said. She bit her lower lip, ‘The last diary entry was quiet a while ago though, I find that surprising.’ She ran her fingers over the slightly crinkly blank pages. Perhaps it had got wet and she’d been waiting for it to dry?

She tapped the book absent-mindedly to her chin, and one of the pages grazed her lips. A sweet taste caught her attention. Sugar? Had she dropped it in something sugary or…no, surely she wouldn’t have used sugar solution as an invisible ink, how would she have found out about it?

Well there was only one way to find out; she strode over to hotplate in the kitchen and switched it on – heat was an activator. If she had used it as an invisible ink then she hadn’t known to heavily dilute it. Ah yes, words had appeared on the pages where she’d applied heat. The girl had become frustrated with writing in code and had written in sugar solution instead, as she’d just had to write her feelings down. However, she hadn’t realised that it could be developed and read.

She laughed at the cleverness of her niece, ah, they had stolen the artefacts as they and a friend had access to them all! How the young had been underestimated yet again.

The reason? A naive and lovely one, to show how stupid some of the traditions were in hope that their relationship would in the long term become acceptable. If they caught the kids before they got off the planet then all would be well. She grabbed the High King by the hand and, like all good officers, went after her quarry.

Posted: Tuesday, March 27th, 2012 @ 10:36 am
Categories: Short Stories.
Subscribe to the comments feed if you like. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Leave a Reply