Small Town Investigation

This story is inspired by this week's Fiction Friday prompt: Use a McGuffin in your story. McGuffin: An object or person in a movie that has no use other than to drive the narrative forward. (originally coined by Alfred Hitchcock)

It wasn't much of a case. And the paycheck promised to be even smaller. But everyone has to begin somewhere. One day I'd be as famous as Philip Marlowe and Sam Spade, or maybe even all those aristocratic English detectives put together. When that day comes I'll be able to take on whateverc cases I chose. But for now, I take whatever comes my way. Not that this case actually came my way. It would be closer to the truth if I said, I went riding into it. But since I've always been somewhat econimical with truth, then we'll stick by that expression.

I first went riding into Sdoowkcab because one of my old school sweets had sent out what you might call an SOS. Seemed like Annie moved out there soon after she left Homeville and married a local dignitary with a lot of money. He died about a year back leaving her a very rich lady. Well, now she was convinced that someone was after her and she wanted me to come down and protect her. She said, she'd make it worth my while. And when I remembered the good times we'd had together, I figured I knew what she meant by that. But nothing ever came of it. By the time I rode into Sdoowkcab - and yes it was as hard to find as it is to say - Annie was one stone dead woman, and I had myself a case to solve.

I reckoned the best place to start was with the mayor out there. My problem was that I didn't know him nor his office and there was no one about to ask. At this hour, even the saloon had not yet opened up for business. But perched on a pole right in front was one of the strangest looking parrots, you ever did see. He gave a mighty screech when he saw me, but he let me approach no problem.

"Well now, you the only thing round here, huh? ... So, you ain't talking huh. Now if you were a human, I'd consider that somewhat suspicious, but I guess, you're just not a talking parrot. Wonder if you could show me where I can get to see the mayor."

Behind me a door opened and a bucket sloshed it's way onto the hardened earth. Whoever it was threw it had retreated but the door stayed open. I wondered over and just as I did so the parrot gave a sqauwk and flew off above my head. At the open door I called out and a lady appeared.

"Well Maam, sorry for disturbing you like this, but I was just wondering where I could get hold of the mayor of this here town?"

In reply, she signalled with her head above and behind me and I turned to see the parrot sitting on a balcony rail. So the damn thing had understood me after all. As well as that my luck was in because the mayor was in his office and received me at once.

"Well, what can I be doing for you, Mr...?"

"Braak, Sir. John Braak."

I showed him the letter. His eyebrows pulled together as he read.

"I was wondering if you could shed any light..."

"Yes, I can Mr. Whateveryousayyournameis. I can tell you that there's nothing suspicious here and if I were you I'd get out of town as soon as possible. Folks round here don't like people prying into their comings and goings, especially outsiders like you. Miss Annie's death was just an unfortunate accident. We looked into it thoroughly what with her husband having met such an unfortunate death and all that. But we found nothing. Besides, there was no motive. No one here wanted her dead. Why should they?"

Just then, the parrot gave another squawk and planted itself right in front of us on the mayor's desk, flapping its wings.

"Pretty fine fine bird you've got there. I guess a parrot like that could reveal a lot if it could say anything; kinda like a dumb witness."

"Dumb's the word, Mr. It's not uttered a word since I've been here. And it's certainly not mine. Just hangs around town. And now Mr. Ahhh, if you don't mind, I've got..."

But the parrot didn't give him a chance to finish whatever he had to say. With a whoosh and squawk, he went sailing away. It was waiting for me when I got out onto the street and immediately started fluttering away. This time I followed it through the streets and out onto one of the many prairies surrounding the town. He stopped at a small outhouse about a mile out of town. I hadn't a clue why it had brought me here but I figured it wasn't as dumb as people were saying. It had a flair for detective work, so if it brought me here, there must be some reason for it. I went inside and looked around. The place was empty but underneath one of the windows there was a dark blot that looked like it was blood.

"So that's why you brought me here. Is this where Annie died."

The parrot was on the sill and it looked me direct in the eyes. It didn't say a word. It didn't have to. I knew I was on the right track. Together we started to nosing around, digging up a few bits and pieces when the parrot gave another screech and I saw it was picking away at something shiney. I prised it from the ground and saw it was a gold ring. I cleaned it up a bit and examined it carefully. The name Joel was inscribed inside.

Another look at the parrot. "Do you know this guy, Joel?" I put the ring flat on my hand and he took it in its beak before flying back off to town without stopping. But I wasn't worried. We too had developped a rapport. That's the only way you can do detective work. Find yourself a helper and build up a rapport. The parrot was waiting for right in front of the saloon, the ring sitting on the top step. I picked it up and put it quickly in my pocket before anyone could see. I must be getting pretty close to my prey now, so I didn't want to give anything away. I went in, the parrot on my shoulder. All eyes turned on me as I shimmied up to the bar.

"Scotch. Make it a double. On the rocks."

"You, a stranger round here."

"Yeh, just passing through from the east."

"So you won't be staying long then?"

It sounded more like a threat than a question. I obviously must be on the right track. I took my scotch.

"Your health... and mine."

There was a screech from my shoulder and the parrot started hopping round on top of the bar and just as suddenly took off through the open window and out into the street. The barman gave a smile.

"Looks like your partner's cut and run."

But I didn't pay any attention. I was way too occupied trying to figure out what I should do now to hear the shot. And I hadn't a clue where it came from. Not that that really matters now. The shot certainly proved beyond doubt that I was on the right track. It was just a bit too late to do anything about it now.


Dang! I like how the parrot led him to his own death. Awesome.

16 July 2010 at 15:39  

I really enjoyed your story. The parrot was an inventive device to move the story along. Too bad the hero caught on just a little too late.

16 July 2010 at 16:31  

So very clever. Loved the story. So very well told, too.
Adam B

17 July 2010 at 01:23  

Now, if only that parrot had been telepathic, like an earlier prompt, you might have had a different ending. Love your McGuffin. Nicely done.

17 July 2010 at 01:26  

I really enjoyed the voice of your detective. If that parrot hadn't been a turncoat I could have seen a buddy-movie in the offing.

17 July 2010 at 09:52  

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