A Clever Season (A Fairy Tale Romance)
by Linsey Lanier
And now for something entirely different…
“Seashells, huh?” I hooked my thumbs in the pockets of my jeans and rocked back on the heels of my boots as I stared down at the body lying before me on the beach.
Long wavy blond hair spread out on the sand like ocean waves. It was attached to a pretty face, a tanned shapely torso garbed in a bikini top with yellow polka dots and a long, scaly body that ended in a pair of large ocean blue fins.
Two perfect clamshells had been placed over the eyes.
“She worked over there, right?” I pointed toward a little wooden stand along the shore with a sign reading “Sally’s Shells.”
“Yeah, man. Like I said, you know. Sally sells seashells by the seashore. Or she sold them.”
“That’s ‘Detective’ to you.” I peered hard at the young man with the long sun-bleached hair.
He had a skinny, tanned chest and the body of…now that wasn’t a horse. No, I was pretty sure it was a donkey. He was holding a surfboard. Well, I was back in Hollow Tree Land, so I shouldn’t have been surprised.
My name is Stacey Alexander. I’m a private investigator in a small town outside Boston, but of late my clientele has been, let’s say…expanding. I’m always grieved to see a murder victim, the end of a life. And I’m always glad when the killer is caught, especially by me. This case was no exception, even if it was a…seashell seller.
I scanned the vast ocean then turned to Prince Chad, the hunky guy next to me clad in doublet and tights, who was my on-again, off-again fiancé. We’d hooked up some months ago when I tumbled down the afore-mentioned Hollow Tree and I ended up rescuing his cute little tush and saving his kingdom. “I didn’t know your realm had a coast.”
“Oh, yes. An East Coast and a West Coast.”
“Hmm.” I squatted down and studied the corpse. No bruising or signs of struggle. I pointed at the tail. “What’s with the fins?”
The surfer-donkey guy wrinkled his nose and followed my gesture. “Dude, Sally was a mermaid.”
I rose. “Mermaid?”
Chad leaned over and whispered to me. “This is the West Coast. People are a little eccentric out here.”
“I see.” I scanned the beach, the waves crashing against the shore, footprints from visitors in the sand, bathers stretched out on beach towels here and there. “Do you know anyone who would want Sally dead?”
The surfer-donkey scratched his head. “I can’t think of anyone.”
Just then a seal waddled up to the scene. “Is that Sally? What happened to her, Skeg?”
The surfer-donkey dude turned to the seal. “I like, just found her here this morning, Ziggy. She wasn’t moving, so I called 911.” Chad and I had just told his mother we’d called off our wedding when we’d gotten the call. We’d been on our way back to my world when the news came via carrier seagull. As much as I loved a new case, the interruption had made me a little cranky. I tapped my foot while Skeg and Ziggy conversed.
The seal’s eyes teared up. “That’s just awful. She was my friend. And besides, she was going to sell me some special seasoning for my salmon.”
“You can’t get salmon in this ocean,” Skeg told him.
The seal lifted a flipper. “I order it from Alaska.”
I eyed the pair. Even together they didn’t seem capable of this crime. Besides, the shells over the eyes seemed like some sort of message.
“I’m sorry for your loss,” I said. “What’s this about seasonings?”
The seal sniffed. “Sally’s Seasonings for Every Season of Your Life.”
Skeg pawed the sand with one of his hooves. “Aw, man. They’re the best. Did you ever taste her garlic sea salt?”
I held up a hand. “I thought Sally sold sea shells.”
“She diversified,” Ziggy explained. “The seasoning sales were really taking off. She was even starting to sell them on Ebay.”
“Hmm,” I said again. She was just getting started and someone had ended it all for her. “Did Sally have any competition? Someone who might have been jealous of her success?”
The seal scratched his chin. “Someone jealous of Sally’s successful seasoning and seashell sales?”
I resisted the urge to roll my eyes. “Something like that.”
The surfer dude’s lips went back and forth. “There is…Sinbad.”
The seal nodded. “Oh, yes. That’s right.”
“Sinbad the Sailor. Sally’s suitor.”
“She had a boyfriend? And he didn’t care for her business ventures?”
“They’ve been dating about six months now. He didn’t like that she was spending so much time in her stand.”
I gazed over at my own silent paramour. We’d had our tussles over my career, but it had never gotten that far. Of course, I carried a .22 in my boot.
“So where can I find this Sinbad the Sailor?”
Slowly Ziggy turned his head toward the vast ocean waves. “Somewhere out there.”
“Where are we going, Stacey?”
I hobbled along the shoreline, scanning the ocean until my eyes hurt. Overhead, seagulls squawked. I stopped. “I think I’ve got sand in my boot.” I pulled one off and dumped out its contents. “How are we going to find this Sinbad guy?”
Chad’s face went hard. “Sinbad the Sailor, indeed.”
“You’ve heard of him?”
He nodded. “And he’s no mere sailor. He’s a pirate. One of those blackguards my father banished.” Chad’s dad was King Thrugood and he ruled over the kingdom.
“Pirates are not allowed to set foot on our land, though we have no jurisdiction over the high seas.”
“You think he broke the law by coming on land?”
“He had to if he’s been dating Sally.”
I thought about that. “I didn’t think mermaids were supposed to be able to go on land either.”
Chad looked at me quizzically. “Why not?”
“Never mind,” I sighed. Things worked differently in Chad’s world. I stared out into the blue sea. It seemed to go on forever. “Where would this Sinbad be?”
Chad scratched his chin.
Farther down along the shore was a spot where the coast curved around a rock that was as high as a small mountain. I decided to head for it.
“Be careful Stacey,” Chad warned when he realized where I was marching. “There could be pirates around that bend.”
“I think you’ve got pirates on the brain.” I marched on. When I rounded the edge of the rock, I heard shouts. The rock opened up into a cove with a long dock. Anchored to the dock was a large ship. Several creatures were traveling to and from the ship along a gangplank, hoisting crates that were piled in a stack on the dock and loading them onto the ship.
A lone figure stood on the bow. “Put yer backs into it, ye scurvy dogs.”
I approached. “Hello there,” I called.
The figure turned and sneered down at me.
As I got closer, I saw he was a round little man with a scruffy beard. He was dressed in a coat in the style of the eighteenth century with boots and baggy pants to match. He had a gold ring in one ear, a fancy hat with braiding and what looked like and ostrich plume, a patch over one eye and a leg made of wood. He also had a saber tucked into the sash around his waist.
Either this guy was a pirate or he was ready for Halloween way too early. If this was Sinbad, it was no wonder Sally wanted to end it.
He was butt ugly.
“Ahoy. Who goes there?” he snarled in a voice that had the accent of Mr. Doolittle in Pygmalion and the grit of Ernest Borgnine.
Beside me, Chad bristled. “Ahoy thyself, blackguard. “Firstly, you can acknowledge your sovereign.”
I rolled my eyes in exasperation. How was I going to get any information out of this dude if Chad was going to go all regal on me?
“Sovereign?” The little man made a grand gesture over the waters as he descended the gangplank, limping on his wooden leg. “The sea be our sovereign.”
“Not if you’re doing business on dry land. I’m Prince Chad, heir apparent to the throne of this kingdom.”
“Never heard of ye.”
“I think you have.”
I cleared my throat and stuck my hand out as he approached. “Good day, sir. I’m Detective Stacey Alexander and I’m investigating a murder that occurred on the beach down the ways.” I nodded in the direction we’d come. “And you are?”
He curled a lip at my hand and folded his arms. “Who wants to know?”
“Well, I do.” I shielded my eyes and gazed at the skull and crossbones flying from the mast. “What’s that flag mean?”
He followed my gaze. “Oh, that’s Barbarossa’s underwear. He’s just drying out his drawers. He likes to think he’s a tough guy. Right, Barbarossa?”
A large walrus was waddling up the gangplank with a heavy crate on his back. He had a colorful scarf tied around his head and sported another eye patch. He gave a cocky nod. “Whatever ye say, Captain.”
“Captain?” I said, trying to sound respectful. “You wouldn’t be Captain Sinbad, would you?”
He laughed and gave a scornful shake of his head. “Haaardly. I hear he’s a pirate and as you can see, I’m nothin’ of the sort.”
I glanced down at his good leg. Underneath his cuffed boot was a sock with a red-and-black diamond pattern. “Say, what kind of sock is that?”
He looked down. “Why, aaargyle, of course.”
I smiled politely. “Of course, uh…what was that name again?”
He grunted. “If you must know, I’m Captain Short John Copper.” He made a sweeping gesture toward the ship. “I be captain of Fortune’s Lady, the finest seafaring vessel on the high seas.”
“Uh huh. Would you happen to know Sally? The mermaid who sells seashells and seasoning on this shore?”
“No. I make it a policy not to deal with mermaids.”
“I see.” This guy was a pirate all right, but I didn’t think he was Sinbad.
Chad turned and scrutinized the crew.
Along with the walrus were a sea otter, two seals and assorted starfish. They wore a variety of tattered rags on their heads and around their necks, some wore earrings, one had fake teeth that stuck out. They were all grunting and tugging and hoisting away, lugging the crates one by one up the gangplank. I scanned the crates for anything labeled “Sally’s Seasonings for Every Season of Your Life,” but I didn’t see any lettering.
Chad folded his arms and turned back to Copper. “And what are your men doing here with these crates?”
Copper put his hands on his hips and puffed out his chubby cheeks. “Taking on supplies. As is our right.”
“Not if you are who I think. Are you sure those supplies aren’t stolen booty you’ve just unburied?”
Copper’s cheeks and nose turned red. “Of course not. I’m an honest businessman.”
“Then you won’t mind if we inspect your cargo.” Chad took a step toward the crew.
Copper held out an arm to stop him. “By what right?”
“By the right of the crown.” Chad put his hand on the hilt of his sword, Attila, which he’d strapped on just before we left the castle. “How would you like to spend a night or two in my father’s dungeon?”
Copper reached for the saber tucked in his sash. “I think not.”
Oh, brother. This was getting out of control. I held up a hand. “Wait a minute. All we’re interested in is someone named Sinbad the Sailor.” I gave Chad a warning look and watched his gorgeous blue eyes flare. I didn’t care. I was a detective, not the pirate police. “Captain Copper, can you tell us where we could find him?”
Copper looked from me to Chad, then to me again. “Now there’s a right savvy wench.”
The sexual slur gave me an urge to punch the little guy in his round nose, but I forced another smile.
He put a hand to the side of his mouth and whispered. “I didn’t like to mention it in front of me men, but we don’t have no doings with the likes of Sinbad, Detective.”
So he did know Sinbad. Amazing what a little charm could do. “Why not?”
“Why, he’s not what you’d call ethical if you catch my drift.” He poked my ribs with his elbow. “I’ve heard he’s a pirate.”
I gave Copper a wink. “That’s what we’ve heard. We’ve also heard he’s been dating the mermaid named Sally.”
“Don’t know anything about any Sally. Like I said, we mind our own business.”
Chad cleared his throat. “You may not know where Sinbad the Sailor is, Copper. But methinks you know exactly where Sinbad the Pirate is.”
“Methinks you’re off yer rocker, sire.” He said “sire” with a whole lot of sarcasm.
“Enough, thou blighter.” Now Chad did pull out Attila. “The crown hereby commandeers your vessel. You are commanded to take us to Sinbad’s whereabouts.”
Huh? My heart jumped into my throat. Didn’t Chad tell me he didn’t have jurisdiction over the high seas? These pirates didn’t like being ordered around. There was no telling what they might do if we got onboard with them.
“Are you sure you don’t want to rethink that, honey?” I tried to whisper in his ear.
But he was already forcing Copper up the gangplank with the point of his sword. I had no choice but to follow.
Men and their egos.
Read the rest of the story on my blog.
Linsey Lanier is the author of a dozen novels and several short stories, including the Miranda’s Right Mystery series. She writes emotional romantic mystery-suspense books, humorous romantic fantasy, and romance—with a dash of sass. She has lived all over the country but currently resides in Georgia with her loving husband and several dozen yard squirrels. You can find out more about Linsey on her website.
You can find links to the previous Clever Detective stories on LinseyLight.com.
Tune in again tomorrow for Pam Asberry’s wonderful story Last First Date. We can all relate to that, can’t we?
And don’t forget to comment for a chance to win one of our most excellent prizes!
- A $5 Starbucks gift card
- A PFHT cookbook
- A lovely pair of sterling silver seashell earrings from Nature’s Jewelry.
In addition, TODAY I’m giving away a $5 Amazon gift card to one lucky reader who leaves a comment.