Alrighty, the long-awaited (by me, at any rate) mystery story! This is going to be vastly different from my usual subject matter, tone and style so, hopefully I pull it off. I've made reference to about a dozen different mystery authors and stories, including "Mairelon the Magician" by Patricia C. Wrede, whose plot I more or less cribbed for this story. I actually, rather accidentally, ended up borrowing more of it than I thought I would... Anyway, there's also allusions to Eoin Colfer, to the original poem "The Desiderata", and to at least one, maybe two, pieces of fanfiction. Imitation is, after all, the most sincere form of flattery. Ie. please don't hate me.
Words can't express how AWESOME my tireless beta is - the one and only ilex-ferox - whose brilliance now extends all the way to plot devices and moral support. I don't think I've ever need so much cajoling to finish a story.
And, lastly, this will probably be the last thing you see from me for at least a few months as I am heading out to the backwaters of Laos (a country which is a backwater even in its forewaters, but which I love all the same) and where internet is a definite luxury item. So, I will expect great things from all of you when I finally get back to a computer and I'm sorry if my reviews come late.
Artemis Fowl: The Desiderata
Desiderata (plural): Latin for "things most needed or to be desired".
For all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. - The Desiderata
January 2nd, 2011, Immingham, South Humberside, England
Standing in front of a red pillar-box, Mulch tapped a small, white envelope against his lips. This momentary hesitation didn't last long. With a toothy grin and a decisive nod, he shoved the letter into the slot.
In a few days, someone would be getting the surprise of their life.
January 3rd, 2011, Police Plaza, Haven City, The Lower Elements
LEP Commander Julius Root stared at the memo on his desk. An unlit fungus cigar dangled precariously in the corner of his mouth as it hung open in disbelief. This was really not how he'd wanted to start his Monday morning.
'They're not serious?' He looked up at Major Kelp.
Trouble fidgeted with his cuffs. 'It looks bad, sir. She – there's no way to prove it wasn't her. There's even DNA evidence at the scene that - '
'What are you talking about? That proves it wasn't her. I don't hire idiots. No officer of mine would leave behind evidence at the scene of a crime.'
'With all due respect, sir, I don't think that the jury will see it quite that way.'
'And, with all due respect, Major, I don't really give a flying dryad's ass how a jury will see it. She isn't guilty.' Root glared at his subordinate. 'I know she isn't.'
Trouble cleared his throat uncomfortably, 'Believe me, sir, we'd all like to believe that she is innocent – '
'Well, someone sure as d'Arvit doesn't, or they wouldn't have gone to such lengths to frame her.'
'- but the evidence against her is rather overwhelming,' Trouble continued doggedly. 'Besides, she has no known alibi for her whereabouts during the time in question – '
'No known alibi!' Root stood, slamming his hands onto his desk, making his ashtray – and Trouble Kelp – jump a few centimetres. 'Has anyone even asked her?'
'Well, no,' Trouble admitted, 'but it's commonly known that during the time of the theft she is usually on her way home from the gym.'
'Too commonly known,' Root grumbled. 'I want her brought in immediately. Do you understand me, Major? Now. Before those idiot Inspectors get at her. Now!' He glared at the elf before him. 'Well? Why are you still here?'
'Of course, sir. Sorry, sir.' Trouble turned, hurrying from the room.
January 3rd, 2011, 01-09 Wexford Crescent, Haven City, The Lower Elements
Holly Short groaned as the sound of her doorbell echoed through her tiny flat. Catching sight of her bedside clock, she groaned again. 'Who in Frond's name...?' she muttered around a yawn.
Rolling off of her futon, she rummaged through yesterday's socks and trousers until she found something to put on under her over-large T-shirt.
'Yes, yes, I'm coming,' she griped at her insistent doorbell.
'What?' Holly yanked the door open, more forcibly that was really necessary. 'Do you know what time-? Trouble?' She blinked. 'What are you doing here? Oh, for Frond's sake, don't tell me I need to come in, it's my day off. My first one since ... since I can't even remember when.'
That was a lie: she could remember her last day off perfectly well. She had been called in to work that time too. But it involved memories she didn't want to remember. More specifically, it involved people she didn't want to remember. Or wished she didn't want to remember. Or ... Well, it was complicated.
'You've got to come in,' Trouble gave her a lopsided grin. Behind his smile he seemed nervous, however, and Holly frowned.
'Sure. Do I get a minute to change, or is this a national crisis?'
'You'd better come as is. I'll treat you to a nettle smoothie on the way.'
Holly rolled her eyes as she stuffed her feet into her LEP boots. 'Boy, you sure know how to tempt a girl, Trubs. A nettle smoothie? Don't overdo it.'
Trouble tried to laugh, but all that came out was an odd strangled sound.
Holly eyed him quizzically. 'You okay, Trouble? You seem a bit out of sorts.'
'What? No. No, I'm fine. But we've got to hurry.'
'Okay, alright, I'm coming,' Holly shrugged into her jacket, 'let's go then.'
January 3rd, 2011, Police Plaza, Haven City, The Lower Elements
The LEP headquarters seemed unnaturally quiet as Holly and Trouble headed down the main corridor towards Root's door.
'Is it just me, or is everyone staring at me like I have a particularly nasty fungus growing out of my eyeballs?' Holly whispered to her companion.
'Well, you aren't exactly up to the dress code,' Trouble shrugged. Holly raised an eyebrow, but didn't said nothing.
As Trouble reached out to knock on the door of the Commander's office, Root pulled it open.
'Short!' he roared. 'IN!'
Holly sucked in air through her nose, her face automatically becoming pinched and closed, as her brain supplied her with arguments as to just why this wasn't her fault. Whatever 'this' was.
Root slammed the door in Trouble's face before rounding on Holly.
'Sir–' she began.
'Stow it, Short, we have to move fast. I don't have time for your feminist malarkey.'
Root took advantage of her momentary silence to wave his memo in her face. 'Do you know what this is, Short?'
'A memo, sir.'
'Oh, well done, Short. Yes, it's a memo.' Root smacked it down onto his desk, 'From the head of the LEP Investigations branch! And do you know what it says?'
'It says, that at nine this morning, Brísingamen was stolen from its case in Haven's Modern History museum. But wait, it gets better,' Root chewed his unlit cigar viciously as he circled Holly, hands clasped behind his back. 'A hair was found on the floor near the case. And a piece of cloth with a few flakes of skin was found snagged on a replica of the spear of Lug. And do you, Captain Short, know whose skin it was? Whose DNA those clever little Inspectors found?'
Holly had a sinking feeling in her stomach. 'Sir, you can't possibly mean ... that's ridiculous, you know–'
'Yes, I know. I know, that by the luckiest possible chance, I ran into you outside the gym at quarter to eight in the morning and that we were eating take-away until ten. But nobody else knows that. So do you realise what all those bright little buggers down in Investigations are thinking?'
'That I stole Freya's necklace?' Holly hazarded.
'I knew there was a reason I kept you on,' Root replied, scathingly. 'Now, the question is, how are we going to go about proving that it wasn't you? My testimony's all very well, but there's DNA evidence involved and everyone knows I've got a soft spot for you. Besides, it would hardly do your reputation any good: eating take-away with your commanding officer late into the evening? It won't do, Short, it won't do. '
Holly checked a bitter laugh. Touched as she was that Root was worried about her reputation, she wondered if there was enough left of it totarnish.
'Besides which,' Holly pointed out, 'if you back up my alibi, whoever actually did steal the necklace will dive for cover and we won't see hide nor hair of them this side of the century. If I go down for it, they'll feel like they've got away with the crime and, most likely, get careless.'
'Will they?' Root asked neutrally.
'Everyone always does, in the end. And when they do, I'll be there to catch them.'
'Not if you're rotting away in some cell, you won't be. But I take your point. Better if they feel safe.'
'Am I going to prison then, sir?'
'Obviously not, Short.'
'Then what'll we do?'
Root sighed and rubbed his temples. 'I don't know, Short. It pains me more than you'll ever know to say this but, right now, we could do with a brain like Fowl's.'
Holly said nothing. Root hadn't expected her to.
Holly went back out into the corridor, pleading the call of nature. Instead of turning right towards the washrooms, however, she went left, towards the Ops booth.
Foaly buzzed her in without a second thought. The two friends stared at each other for a moment before Holly spoke.
'It wasn't me, Foaly.'
'Duh,' the centaur replied, flicking the butt of his carrot into the compost disposal unit under his desk. 'What do I look like to you? A goblin? I'm not dumb, Holly.'
'Root doesn't know what to do.'
'That,' Foaly replied haughtily, 'is because he very nearly is a goblin.'
Holly narrowed her eyes. 'What aren't you telling me, Foaly? Do you know who set me up?'
'Not yet, but I can get you out of the line of fire.'
Holly blinked again. '... how?' she asked cautiously.
'We're going to smuggle you topside.'
Holly sat down rather suddenly on a nearby chair. 'Pardon me?'
'I've been thinking about this ever since Investigations' picked up your DNA. Don't look so surprised, did you really think I wouldn't keep tabs on all open investigations? You never know who could be planning a – '
'Yes, Foaly, alright, I got it,' Holly interrupted before she was treated to a lecture on exactly how many creatures were after Foaly and his magnificent brain.
'What? Oh, of course, so I've been thinking about this for a couple hours now, and I've come up with a fool-proof plan.'
'Oh yes?' Holly asked sceptically. She'd had dealings with fool-proof plans before. Somehow they always ended up a little less watertight than expected.
'Follow me.' Foaly gestured to the door, a decidedly Fowl-esque smile on his face.
January 7th, 2011, Greensgate Lane, South Killingholme, England
Mulch Diggums was enjoying an exfoliating mud-scrub when his doorbell rang.
'Classic,' he muttered. He didn't, however, get out of the tub. No one came to visit him here. Therefore, it was either a door-to-door salesman, a Jehovah's Witness, or Julius had finally tracked him down.
As it happens, it was none of the above.
The knocking came again. 'Package for Mr. Digence. Is anyone home?'
His mother always used to say, curiosity killed the LEP recruit. It was, thought Mulch as he shrugged into a dressing-gown and headed for the door, a good thing he wasn't an LEP recruit. His curiosity was definitely peaked - it was way too soon for a response to his letter. Apparently he should have made more attention to his horoscope: clearly this was a good week for correspondence.
The Fedex delivery man on the front stoop held out a clipboard. 'Mr. Digence? Please sign.' At his feet there was a large parcel roughly the size and shape of a laundry hamper. 'FRAGILE – DO NOT CRUSH' was pasted over it in six different languages.
Mulch signed the receipt.
January 1st – 2nd, 2011, Munich, Germany
Artemis Fowl II's weekends were not spent in the usual way. After all, most seventeen-year-old boys who have spending money equal to a small country's GDP don't tend to spend their weekends drinking tea with their mothers Friday night and then quietly retiring to spend Saturday and Sunday breaking into a high security vault at the International Bank in Munich, Germany. But then Artemis had never been a usual boy.
Now thievery, like any other profession, has its legends. From Robin Hood to Arsène Lupin, there are stories aplenty to satisfy any and every heist enthusiast. However, underneath these there are other stories, less well known, but far more interesting to those actually involved in the profession.
One such story involved a French Impressionist painter called Pascal Hervé and his, until recently, missing sixteenth painting: The Fairy Thief. Artemis believed it may have been the recovery of The Fairy Thief, and its subsequent installation to the Louvre, which sparked his interest in another missing piece of artwork.
The Stolen Kiss was an oil painting done by the Pre-Raphaelite painter Max Erhmann in 1888. The British painter was now known for his folkloric and Classically-inspired works, which were currently selling for upwards of 50 million euro apiece. Depicting a fairy stealing a kiss from a sleeping shepherd, the painting was, according to legend, stolen by the woman who modeled for the fairy, one Mary Crawford; who then, along with the painting, disappeared.
The painting eventually resurfaced in the early twentieth century, only to set off a string of burglaries that had it changing hands every three to five years, if the stories are to be believed. What all this meant - however - was that to steal the Stolen Kiss was to be the best burglar of your generation. Not a challenge Artemis Fowl II was going to turn down.
So when, after three years of intermittent planning and six months of intensive research, espionage and blackmail, he discovered the painting's whereabouts in a safe-deposit box in Munich, it was more than he could possibly resist. After a long and arduous process, involving Butler's favourite alias, Colonel Xavier Lee; his supposed teenage lay-about son Alfonse; an extraordinarily uncomfortable pair of braces which where everything but braces; and a lot of extremely precise timing, Artemis and Butler found themselves back at their hotel room with what they presumed to be the Stolen Kiss tucked safely away in Butler's briefcase.
When Artemis opened the Perspex tube and unfurled the painting, the Stolen Kiss stared back at him, beautifully preserved. However, Artemis soon realised that there was more than just canvas inside the tube. Wrapped in tissue and stuffed inside the roll of the painting, he discovered something entirely unexpected.
'Butler, old friend, look at what we've found.' Artemis held up what appeared to be part of a necklace. Butler's eyes widened. Attached to a short, broken gold chain, were two free-hanging opals set in rings of ornately worked gold.
'I've never heard of the painting coming with jewellery before,' said Butler, with remarkable calm.
'That makes two of us.' Artemis frowned at the enormous jewels. 'Well, I'm not about to look a gift horse in the mouth, if you'll pardon the vulgar expression.'
And with that, Artemis wrapped the bit of necklace back up and returned to his original prize. The opals could wait, the art was what mattered.