I’ve decided to share an excerpt from one of the stories that can be found in my Chronicles of Riss story collection (available as e-book from Amazon and other sites). Hope you enjoy it. I had fun writing it and have been playing around with the idea of doing something similar some time (a fantasy Nancy Drew-ish series of stories or novels).
I was sitting at a back table in Eli’s Tavern in Westover, eating a delicious bowl of lamb stew, when they walked in. I spotted them out of the corner of my eye as I was taking a bite of stew. Two people stood in the tavern’s doorway, looking around the room. One of them was a tall, skinny young man about my age of sixteen years. He had a pock-marked face framed by greasy black hair and wore the plain clothes of a houseboy. He also seemed to me to be rather nervous, like he really didn’t want to be there. The other person was a plump, middle-aged brunette woman richly dressed in a red silk dress and fur-trimmed traveling cloak. Instead of nervousness, I picked up a sense of anxiousness from her, as if she was desperate for something. The duo spotted me, and made their way toward my table. I continued to eat as I watched them approach. I knew what they wanted. They wanted what everyone who comes to me while I’m eating wants – my help as a problem-solving sorceress-for-hire.
“I’m terribly sorry to bother you while you’re at lunch, Miss Marissa,” said the woman as she and the young man sat down across from me. The young man kept his head down, not bothering to look at me or his companion. “However, I am in desperate need of your help.”
See? I told you.
“Naturally,” I said as I set my spoon aside and brushed cobalt blue hair out of my eyes. “So, what can I do for you?”
“My baby is missing and I want you to find her and bring her back.”
“Your baby? Well, sure, I could find her for you. But isn’t this a situation more appropriate for the city constables to handle?”
The lady shook her head emphatically. “No, no, no. I can’t get them involved. The letter expressly said not to.”
My brow wrinkled slightly in suspicion. “Letter? What are you talking about? I thought you said she was missing.”
“She is. She’s been stolen.” The lady reached into a pocket of her cloak and pulled out a folded slip of parchment, which she held out to me. “Here. This should explain things somewhat. I received it this morning.”
Curious, I took the note and read it. Here is what it said:
If you want your precious Princess back, deliver 1,500 gold pieces at noon tomorrow to the
abandoned warehouse down by the docks. I will return Princess to you then. Do not go to the
authorities. If you do, Princess will die.
Sounds like a fairly standard ransom letter, I thought, so I doubt we’re dealing with a criminal mastermind here. There was one thing in the letter that stood out to me, though. “Princess?” I asked.
“Yes,” the lady answered. “That is her call name. Her full registered name for showing is Lysa’s Little Snow Princess.”
“Call name?” I repeated in confusion. “Registered name? Showing?” Then I realized what she was saying. “Wait a minute. Are we talking about a dog?!”
“Yes. My baby, Princess, is a champion show dog. She has won multiple Best In Show awards. She’s entered in the annual Westover Dog Show that is scheduled for tomorrow night. Please, Miss Marissa, get my Princess back!”
“I don’t know. I’ve never looked for missing pets before.”
“Please? I need my Princess back. I don’t want to pay the ransom, but I will if I have to. But if I have to pay to get my baby back, I’d rather pay you, Miss Marissa, than the villain who took my Princess. I’m even willing to pay you the ransom price.”
My eyes lit up at the though of 1,500 gold pieces, but I kept my voice neutral as I answered. “Well, I do like animals, so I guess I can find her for you, ma’am. So, could you tell me everything that’s happened so far? But would you mind starting with why you felt it was alright to come to me if the ransom note didn’t want you to go to the authorities?”
“My husband suggested I go to you, after I showed him the letter. He said that you had just returned last night from a mission for the Lords of Westover, and that he doubted anyone else in the city knew you were back yet, not even the ransomer.”
“True. I was on a job for them, and I did get back very late last night. But how did your husband know that?”
“My husband is one of the Lords, of course. Lord Abarond.”
My eyes widened a little in shock. What?! I thought. That rotund, bald, mustachioed annoyance is actually married?!
“I’m sorry for neglecting to introduce myself earlier, Miss Marissa,” she continued. “My name is Lysa, and I’m the wife of Lord Abarond. The young man with me is our houseboy, Dirk. He also helps me take care of Princess.”
Dirk continued to look at the table, not even bothering to acknowledge Lysa’s introduction.
“All right,” I said. “So, what exactly happened to Princess?”
“Well, Dirk had taken Princess out for a walk late yesterday afternoon. When he returned, it was well into the evening. Princess was not with him, and he seemed a little upset. When I asked him what was wrong and where Princess was, he said she’d been taken.” Lysa paused to see if Dirk would say anything, but he just continued to stare at the table, so she continued the story. “According to Dirk, someone came up behind him and hit him in the back of the head, knocking him to the ground. He was only dazed for a couple of moments, but by the time he came to and got up, he saw Princess being carried by a someone running down the street in a hooded black cloak. They turned down a street, and Dirk gave chase, but by the time he got there, they had disappeared. Dirk searched until it got dark, but he wasn’t able to find them or anyone who had seen them. So he came back to tell me what had happened. By then it was too late to keep searching, so we decided to look again in the morning, in the meantime hoping that Princess might find a way to escape and come home on her own. But this morning, I found that ransom note waiting for me instead of Princess. I showed it to my husband, who suggested I come to you for help. And so here I am, Miss Marissa, asking for your help.”
I thought over her story for a couple of minutes while I ate. “Do you have any idea who might have taken her?” I finally asked.
“No,” Lysa answered. “No idea.”
“How about any dog show rivals? You said Princess is a multiple champion, and she’s entered in the show here tomorrow. Maybe a competitor took her to get her out of their way.”
“But the note said that if I pay them at noon, I’d get her back. And the show isn’t until six in the evening…”
“It’s very possible that whoever took her only said that to get your money, and they actually have no intention of returning Princess to you, even if you pay.”
“It is? Then you have to find her, Miss Marissa! Please!”
“Don’t worry. I’ll find her. I promise. Now, what about any dog show rivals? Given the timing of the incident, it’s highly possible one of them took her, and I’d like to start by investigating them.”
Lysa thought for a minute, then hesitantly answered, “I hate to think that someone could hold a grudge against me and Princess enough to do something like this. But if you think it might be someone in the dog show, well, there are two people who come to mind, whom I’ve had arguments with at the last couple of shows. I suppose it’s possible one of them might have been more angry with me than I thought.”
“Who are they, and do you happen to know where I can find them?”
“Alfred Jemmson, who is staying at an inn on the east side of the city, I believe, and Myra Alistar, wife of Noel Alistar, the prominent merchant.”
I nodded. “I know of him. So his wife shows dogs, huh? All right. I’ll begin investigating after I finish eating, and will let you know what I find out as soon as possible.”
Lysa nodded. “Thank you, Miss Marissa. I really appreciate your helping me.”
“Oh, one other thing. What does Princess look like?”
“She is a small dog, about the size of a house cat, with long white fur, black eyes and nose, and a pink collar studded with diamonds.”
“Okay. Thank you. I’ll let you know something soon.”
Lysa stood up, and Dirk followed suit. I’d almost forgotten he was there, he’d been so quiet. “Thank you, again, Miss Marissa,” Lysa said. “I look forward to hearing what you find out.”
And with that, she and Dirk left. I finished my bowl of stew, which had grown cool by then but which still tasted good, and then left as well to start looking for the purloined pooch, Princess.