Where no story has gone before
by Robert Lee Beers
A Private eye and his pop culturist sidekick are pulled across time and space and forced to hitchhike alongside a wizard from another world.
Contact info for Robert Beers
* Website – http://asmbeers.wixsite.com/robertleebeers
* Amazon – https://www.amazon.com/Robert-Lee-Beers/e/B00JCRVS3U/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1505455713&sr=8-1
* Audiobook – http://www.graphicaudio.net/a-tony-mandolin-mystery-1-a-slight-case-of-death.html
“I don‘t think we’re in Kansas anymore.”
I turned to say to Frankie, “Big guy, I don’t think we’re in our world anymore.”
We were standing on the side of a mountain and it had to be pretty high since there was still patches of snow in places with semi-permanent shade. I was probably exaggerating where us not being in our world was concerned because the trees and the sky sure seemed earth-like. No, what was concerning me was that I had a three-sixty view and none of it included ocean. And then there was the old man with the walking stick dressed like he stepped out of that fantasy series about thrones and dragons. And he was looking at the big guy and me as if we’d done something we shouldn’t have.
“Who are you?” He barked striding toward us as he slapped the end of that stick into the ground with each step. “What place is this?”
I answered with a shrug, “Man,” I said, “Hell if I know.”
He stopped and tilted his head back and forth as if examining us. “You’re strangely dressed. What sort of a greatcoat is that? And what an odd looking hat.” He reached out as if to touch my fedora.
“This ensomm,” Frankie said, holding open the flap of his coat as if he was on the runway of a fashion show, “Is called noir chic, it is a way of honoring the legacy of the great one, Sam Spade himself.”
The old man looked at Frankie as if one of the exhibits in a museum had suddenly come to life. “What nonsense are you spouting? And why are you so huge? Did your parents not know when to stop feeding you?”
Frankie looked at me and pleaded, “Tony…”
I was getting a bit peeved with the guy’s rudeness, especially since it felt like we were being treated unfairly.
I said, “Back off, old man. I don’t know who the hell you are, but where I come from you don’t blame the victim. As for our clothes, I could ask you the same thing. Is there a RenFaire around here somewhere?”
The old man shook his head, “My apologies. I had no idea you had been magiked as well. May I ask, what is a RenFaire?”
Frankie said again, “Tony… what in the world is going on?”
The big guy had me there. One instant we were stepping onto my front porch after finishing up that insane business with the crazy fashion student and the next, wham we’re standing somewhere in the mountains. As far as I could tell we were smack dab in the middle of Godforsakenstan without a passport.
“I don’t know, Frankie,” I said, rubbing the back of my head. “Man, this is one time I sure wish Bain was around, drunk or not.”
“Who is this Bain, you refer to?” The old man asked. He seemed to be more at ease now with us being in the same boat… as it were.
“A colleague,” I said, thinking, “No… I really couldn’t call the alcoholic wizard a friend. Friends don’t have you hovering somewhere between Thank God you’re here, and oh God, he’s here, more often than not.”
“Ah,” The old man replied, nodding, “A wise man, is he?”
“Well… yes and no,” Frankie said, “Mostly it’s because he’s a wizard.”
The old man’s head snapped up to stare at Frankie. “Wizard? Where is he? Can you summon him?”
“Whoa, slow down there, Pops,” I said holding out a hand. “It’s easier to answer questions if they came at you one at a time. First, how about answering one for me, okay?”
The old man nodded, “Agreed, what is the question?”
It was then I noticed his accent. It was British, and yet not. There was bits and pieces of just about everything in there. He used the soft ah rather than the hard a as used in the US, but there were differences as if a scot had married a Russian, lived in London for a time and then moved to Idaho. The man wasn’t from around here, or was it me?
“How about an easy one, what’s your name. I’m Tony Mandolin and the big guy there is Frankie,” I said, using my hand to indicate who’s who.
“If you knew anything about wizards, Tony Mandolin,” the old man murmured, “You’d not be so hasty in the namings. But never mind that, I am known as Milward, and even though this Bain is not about, you do have a wizard present,” He thumped his chest with his free hand, “Me.”
Frankie stared at the old man and the chuckled, “You looked just like Obi-Wan for a second there.”
“Obi… who?” Milward asked, looking confused.
Frankie looked at me and said, “That confirms it, Tony, we’re not home anymore.”
I said to Milward, “You asked us where this place was so I’ll assume you’re a stranger like us. You say you’re a wizard. Can you use your power to find out where we are or see if there’s anything like a town close by?”
He grunted, nodding. “A scry might do it.”
Whatever that was. I didn’t care as long as it did the job.
“Umm,” Frankie stepped forward, “Don’t you need a mirror or a still pool for that?”
“Ah,” Milward said, smiling slightly, “Are you an apprentice or an adept?”
“Naw,” Frankie shook his head, “I just read a lot.”
“A man of letters then,” Milward replied, “Nothing to be ashamed of. I wish more of the peasantry bothered to learn that art.”
Frankie swelled slightly, “Peasantry…?”
“Not now big guy,” I said, “Is he right?” I asked Milward, “Do you need some like a mirror for this… scry?”
I got another nod for an answer, “Yes. A mirror is best, but I was magiked away. I did not have my pack with me. I think if we gather some of that snow, and collect it into a shallow depression in the sun, that should work.”
“Or we can use mine,” Frankie said, holding up a hand mirror by the handle.
Milward took the offered mirror as he asked, “Are you sure you’re not an adept?”
”No…” Frankie replied, “But I did sleep in a Holiday Inn Express last night.”
As Milward looked even more confused the big guy barked out a huge laugh and exclaimed, “I’ve always wanted to use that line.”
“Yeah,” I muttered, “And it fits our situation so well.”
Milward looked at the mirror, turning it in his hand. “Curious substance,” he muttered. “Not wood… not metal…”
Not wanting to get into an explanation of what plastic was, I asked, “Will it do the job?”
“Oh yes, yes,” Milward said, still studying the mirror. “I’ve never seen one with such a perfect surface. This must have been crafted by a supreme master silversmith.”
Frankie leaned into me, “Walmart, dollar bin,” he whispered.
Milward didn’t notice, being completely occupied with placing the mirror just so onto the ground before him. We were on a pretty steep grade, so he had to position a few stones to level the thing. He cursed, “Frog droppings! Is there no level ground in this land?”
“That’s an interesting phrase,” Frankie murmured.
I asked, “So, Milward, where are you from?”
He glanced up at me and then shrugged, “I suppose it no harm to tell you. I’m from the lands just east of the Wool Coast, about a league from the southwestern flanks of Cloudhook. I was journeying to the village of Access to visit my old apprentice, Adam and his consort, Thaylli. She had a baby last year, you know.”
“Access,” Frankie mused, “Is that anywhere near the east bay?”
“East Bay?” Milward asked, “There are no bays, East or otherwise around or even near the mountain. Where have you been that you know nothing of Access and the tale of the lost Emperor, Adam?”
“No,” I said, shaking my head, “None of that rings a bell. Let me ask this, have you ever heard of San Francisco, California?”
Milward shook his head.
“How about America, the USA, land of the free, home of the brave?”
I got another no shake.
“Maybe you should do that scry,” I suggested, that far too familiar icy trickle of uh-oh traveling down my spine.
Milward nodded, “Perhaps a search of the surroundings may be in order. I will begin at a dozen furlongs out and work my way in.”
I did a rapid search of my school days and replied, “That’s not much, just a mile and a half. I think we can see that far from here. Is there any way of doing it so you take in what we can’t see, like the other side of that peak over there?” I pointed to a large mountain off to the east.
Milward sniffed, “Picky sort, aren’t you? Oh, very well, I’ll make the shaping so I am looking down from a great height, say cloud level. Will that suit?”
“Maybe its wizards,” I thought. Bain showed the same prickly temperament.
“Yeah,” I said, “That should do it. If there’s any towns they should show.” What in the hell was a shaping?
Bent over the mirror, Milward hid it from my sight. When he sat back it was as if I was looking at a small tv set showing one of those travelogues and the camera was mounted on the nose of the plane.
The ground was rushing by so quickly I couldn’t tell what I was looking at.
I asked, “Is there any way of pulling back, bringing more of the land to the image?”
Milward nodded and suddenly we were in low orbit.
“Woah!” Frankie murmured, “It’s just like Google Earth!”
“There’s a town,” I said. “Can we zoom in to see if anything looks familiar?”
Milward looked at me, “Zoom in?”
“It means to get a lot closer,” Frankie offered.
Milward nodded, “Ah, you people have a very odd tongue. Yes, I can get much closer. Observe.”
The ground rushed towards us to the point where I felt a bit of vertigo. And then we were at street level. Cars rolled by and people were walking the sidewalk, wearing what seemed to be your normal high elevation western wear. Something caught my eye and I asked, “Pull back just a bit, please. I think I saw something.”
“Yeah,” Frankie said, “It looked like a sign.”
“A sign?” Milward exclaimed, “Inns have signs, and where there is an inn there is food and drink.”
I nodded, “Yep. It usually works that way. Let’s see if we can read that thing.”
Frankie was the first to make out the words, white lettering on a green background, “Aspen Outfitters? Tony, what are we doing in the wilds of Colorado?”
Milward asked, “Aspen? What do you mean, Aspen? That’s a tree, not a town.”
“Oh, it’s a town all right,” Frankie pouted, “And it’s about fifteen hundred miles from my home. Is there any way of showing where we are in relation to that sign?”
I didn’t like what I was seeing either. If we were at the elevations I thought we were, night time would bring with it artic level temperatures, even if it was summer. Not a pleasant prospect at all.
Milward did something with his hands and the mirror expanded to where it was about the size of a dining room table. He said, his voice showing some strain, “A point of light should appear. That will be us against the map of the landscape.”
We waited, and then the light sparkled.
Frankie groaned, “Oh God, we’re smack dab in the middle of Rocky Mountain National Park! And about a hundred miles from the closest toilet.”