Forensix



I knew as soon as I entered the art studio why I had been called there. The body lay near the window surrounded by crumpled balls of paper, empty pizza boxes, and bottles of some energy drink. An easel was knocked over, pencils scattered everywhere. The half done drawing was soaking up blood and no longer made sense to me - assuming it ever would have. Artists.  

Looking around the rest of the room, I saw three other easels that were still standing upright. Each work was in a different medium and style. Canvases were leaned haphazardly against the walls and drawings in varying stages of completion were pinned to the walls. I estimated at least six others used this space.  

I turned my attention at last to the one who had summoned me here. "Hello, Lord Neon." He was thin and of average height but he had presence and could fill a space when he so desired. I certainly would get out of his way.

Neon had been staring out the window past the body. I'm sure he had noticed the moment I'd entered; his twin shadows certainly had. They were constantly scanning the area for threats, their dark suits matching the shadows and making them hard to notice unless they wanted to you to see them.  

He turned towards me, his orange hair glimmering in the morning light. "Lady Forensix. Thank you for arriving swiftly. What do you think?" He waived a hand at the body, his electric blue eyes watching me.

I looked at the body again. "I'll need to have my team go over the place thoroughly first, but I think its safe to say that pry bar is the cause of death." The iron bar was lying on the ground near the victim's head, the blood soaked paper partially covering it. "Any ideas about motives, suspects?"

Neon gave a half shrug, his black wool coat rustling with the movement. "Isn't that your job?" His half smile suggested he knew more than he was saying.  

I ran a hand through my short gray hair. "I suppose ... wait. Did you call me Lady? Did I miss a memo?"  

Shaking my head slightly, I opened my trench coat pockets so my team could get to work. The evidence gatherers jumped down and started sifting for clues, bagging anything they thought might be relevant - which meant most things were being stuffed into bags, labeled, and put away for later analysis. The diminutive creatures resembled stick figures made of tweezers and magnifying glasses. My notepad hovered over the scene, ready to write down any observations I might make while it supervised the clue collection and sketching the scene.  

Neon watched the team work. "You have them and you answer to me." He seemed to feel that was explanation enough for my 'promotion'. 

"I see," though I really didn't. I preferred being a minor character in this City; it made my job easier. "And which side am I on?"

Neon chuckled. "I thought you had jurisdiction over both the Uptown and Downtown sides of the City.

I nodded. "So long as you and everyone else understands that.

I knelt down to study the pry bar before it was collected. It seemed to be an ordinary iron bar with only a slight glow of magical residue. It could be contamination from the blood, pixie dust, or remnants of a spell. Straightening, I looked out of the corner of my eye at the room so I could study the Human side of it. There was one in the room now, hunched over her easel and twisting her mouth as she focused on inking a page. She seemed oblivious to the small creatures watching her work, even when one would snatch a pencil or move her ink well slightly. 

"Mark down the Human as a low level suspect. I don't think she even sees us." The words appeared in the notepad. An evidence gatherer handed me up a fingerprint match on the pry bar. I read it then showed it to Neon. 

Neon sighed then put on his sunglasses. "I broke up a fight two nights ago between some Art Fey and the Dumpster Bogey. He claimed he was just defending some Graffiti Gremlins." He started for the door. "Look into it. I don't need any more fuel for the battle between the Uptown and Downtown Fey right now."

I waited for him to leave before I muttered under my breath, "Great. Now he wants me to prevent a war."  

I scowled at Notepad as it scrawled the message, Just the facts.  

"I know, I know. I'll do my job and let Lord Neon do his. Let's see if any of these other Art Fey know anything." 

I decided to start with a vermillion paint pixie that was trying to take a paintbrush from one of the evidence gatherers. This pixie was only slightly larger than the gatherer and one solid color. Like many of the minor fey, she had only the suggestion of a figure and face. I cleared my throat. "Excuse me."

The pixie glared at me. "Tell it to let go! This is my brush!"

I waved the gatherer off. It harrumphed at us then stalked off after a stray leaf. I said, "Sorry about that. They can be a bit enthusiastic at times. Could you answer a few questions about..." I pointed over to the body.

The pixie turned a shade darker. "Tsk. Such a mess. There's a reason why I don't hang out in this art nest. Mine has a better view." She pointed up over the desk of the Human artist. 

"Very nice. What would the reason be?"

She swirled the brush around between her hands. "Have you seen the art they produce over here?"

I closed my eyes for a moment then asked, "So he was killed by an art critic?"

"Could have been. I don't know. We were out at an opening at the time. He didn't go because he thought the art was pretentious and..."

I cut her off, not in the mood for a lecture. "So he was here alone since...?"

She looked at me as if I were a total bore. "Since yesterday afternoon. We found him when we returned and sent for Lord Neon. Perhaps he'll finally do something about that Downtown riff raff."

"Hmmm ... thank you. I may drop by your nest later if I have more questions."

She dove after another paintbrush. "Whatever. We have another opening tonight though."

The story from the other Art Fey was the same. They were more interested in talking about the opening or commenting on the Human artist's work than in their dead companion. Even those from his Nest didn't seem too worried about it. I guess they had short attention spans.

I took a last look around the room then held open my pocket for the evidence gathers to jump back into along with their bags of clues. Hopefully there was something useful in there somewhere. I sealed the nest before leaving. Minor fairies wouldn't be able to get in and I'd know immediately if anyone else entered. The fairies pestering the Human looked up at the wards then moved to other Art Fey Nests stashed here and there around the Human's studio. 

I walked the streets of the city through a cool morning fog. The gray was cut by streams of yellow, red, and green Traffic Light Fairies on a shift change. They flew above the traffic in neat rows of color, some headed to their appointed intersections while others were on their way to the bar. I decided to join them later. But first, I needed to stop by and have a chat with the Dumpster Bogey on my way to the lab.

Notepad brought up a City map with the Dumpster Bogey's usual hangouts marked on it. I had to check a few alleys before I found the right bogey. Most of the dumpsters have gremlins or lesser bogeys in them. They were sleepy, gruff, and of little help. The Dumpster Bogey himself was easy to spot when I finally found the right alley; he had litter fey serving him their findings of the day and arguing over who'd brought the best bit of trash for him. It all looked like garbage to me. I stepped around a gaggle of Graffiti Gremlins stuffing spray paint cans into their pockets as they looked up at me guiltily. They casually leaned against a brick wall while waiting for me leave or at least look away. I pulled a piece of chewing gum off the bottom of my shoe and approached the Dumpster Bogey.

"Hello, D.B. I brought you something."

The bogey started to withdraw his green mass into his dumpster then hesitated when he saw the gum. Cautiously, he reached out and took it. "Thanks." He stuck the gum carefully into his matted dark green hair between a bit of old wrapping paper and a beer bottle cap.  

I proceeded gently, not wanting to spook him. "May I ask you a few questions?"

The litter fey buzzed and mumbled angrily around me, protecting him. The bogey waved a gentle hand. "It's O.K. guys. Let the nice lady ask her questions." The swarm settled down again but they were watching me. Some held broken bottles.

I focused on the bogey. "Thanks, big guy. I heard you got into a bit of a tussle with some Art Fey the other night. Wanna tell me about?"

D.B. twisted his mouth into an embarrassed smile. "They was chasing my little friends over there and wanted to hurt them."

I glanced over at the Graffiti Gremlins who quickly hid spray paint cans behind their backs. The words _Uptown is for losers_ were scrawled on the wall behind them. One whistled in an attempt to be nonchalant while another glanced back at the words in feigned surprise. I turned my attention back to D.B.

"I can see how that might have happened. Did you hurt them?"

D.B. shook his head, bits of food waste slung loose from his hair. "Nah, I just wanted ta scare 'em. Lord Neon came and stopped them before it got ugly."

I nodded. "How many did you hit with your pry bar?"

D.B. looked confused. "I was usin' a chain. I don't got a prybar no more. I lost it ..." his face screwed up in concentration, "...'bout two moons ago."

"Any idea where you lost it? Maybe I can find it for you."

He shook his head sadly. "Nope. I last remember usin' it ta take apart an old car at the junkyard but none of the guys can find it now."

A litter fairy added sadly, "We looked everywhere."

I said, "I'll let you know if I find it. Just one more question. What have you been doing today?"

D.B. lit up. "I was over at da Bar. Miss Brandy always has great trash for me. Today, we gots lots a broken bottles, some snacks, and even one a' these." He drew out his prize - a broken bar stool.

I smiled. "Looks like they had a wild night. When did you head over there?"

D.B. had to concentrate again. "Uhm ... I think it was right before dawn."

"Thanks, big guy. I'll talk to you later."

D.B. surprised me. "Ain't ya gonna ask me about da Art Fey that died this mornin'?"

I raised an eyebrow then took the newspaper one of the litter fey was holding up. There, on the front page of the Urban Fey Times, was the story. "Do you know anything?"

D.B. shook his head vigorously. "Nope. I didn't like 'em, but I wouldn't kill one like that." He looked sad. "Do ya believe me?"

I paused, well aware that I was surrounded by a swarm of armed litter fey. "Of course I believe you. But I had to ask because of the fight the other night." That seemed to appease them. It occurred to me that litter fey wandered the entire City and had access to all sorts of interesting trash. They tended to be ignored so maybe they even overheard conversations. "Thanks again, big guy. Let me know if you find anything."  

After several hours in the lab sifting through evidence and getting nowhere, I decided it was time to head over to the bar. Notepad highlighted a route that took me through the City Park. The evidence ran through my head; the blood-stained drawing had been torn in half. The other half was missing. D.B.'s fingerprints hadn't been found on anything else. He didn't strike me as the careful type. The oak leaf was still green and soft, not something a litter fey was likely to have. It also had traces of glitter in it.

The park was well lit and maintained. I followed the sidewalk that wound through it to the lake. The dryads, a wide variety of flower fairies, garden gnomes, and water sprites noticed me but didn't seem to object to my presence. They didn't seem welcoming either. The park might have been in the heart of the City but it was a fringe area between the Urban Fey and their more traditional Nature Fey relatives. I felt uneasy in this borderland.

I had been careful not to stray from the paved sidewalk and avoided the few cracks here and there. I turned the evidence over in my head again. I wondered where the missing half of the drawing was; it wasn't crumpled up on the floor. The killer must have needed it for something. While the Dumpster Bogey loved trash, I didn't think he was in the business of proactively collecting it during a murder. 

My shoe caught on a tree root and I landed face first in the grass which quickly shot up and around my ankles. Vines snaked out from trees and bound my hands. I looked up to find a gang of dryads surrounding me. The grass loosened just enough for the birch dryad to pull me to my feet with her silvery hands. They were all taller than me by a good two heads. I looked up and around, trying to figure out how to talk my way out of this.

"Nice afternoon for a stroll," I managed as an opener.

The smell of lilacs overwhelmed me as another dryad said, "Your kind don't usually come into our park. What are you doing here?"

"I just wanted some fresh air."

The birch twisted my arm and asked the others, "What do you want with her?"

I winced. "Look, my grandmother was a maple dryad. Really. You would have liked her."

The third dryad snorted. She smelled of pine. "Lies. Your leaves would be quivering if you had any. I say we make her one of us."

The other two seemed to think this was a good plan. I didn't. "Wait, wait. I'm on important business from Lord Neon."

A male voice said, "In that case, girls, I suggest you hear her out."

Birch loosened her grip on me. A satyr stepped between Lilac and Pine. He said, "What is Lord Neon's envoy doing here in the park?" He smiled at me suggestively. Long red curls hung wildly down to his waist. "Do you have a name, pretty thing?"

"Forensix. And you would be?" I was trying to work my wrists free from the vines with little success.

"Ah, Lady Forensix. We're honored to have one so close to Lord Neon visit us. You'll have to excuse the girls; they get so protective of their grove. Is there something you need here?" 

"I was just walking through the park on my way to somewhere else." I tried to pull away from Birch.

He smirked then said lightly, "Ah, well then. I can't blame you for wanting to return to your roots. You did say your grandmother was a dryad." 

The satyr gave a wave of his hand, causing the vines and grass to let go of me. I stepped back onto the pavement. He kissed a dryad on the cheek. "Come along, girls. Let's not interfere further with Lady Forensix's business." As they started to walk away, the satyr stopped and shook a wad of paper off his hoof. It rolled towards the sidewalk. "I do hate litter." He looked back at me once before disappearing into the trees.

Curiosity always gets the best of me. I stretched out on my stomach with my toes still the pavement and barely reached the wad of paper with my fingertips. I quickly got up and back on the sidewalk before the grass got any funny ideas. I smoothed out the paper. It was a sketch of ... something. I couldn't tell what. Frowning, I put it in my pocket. 

Notepad inquired, Another clue?

"I'm not sure." 

I straightened my coat and continued on my way, noting the satyr had neglected to give me his name. I had walked through the park hundreds of times and had never been bothered so long as I stayed to the sidewalks. Such encounters occasionally happened in the wilder, overgrown areas but most Urban Fey knew not to go there. As I exited the park I grabbed a passing Traffic Light Fairy and had it take a note to Neon about the incident.

The party was already in full swing when I arrived at the bar.  I had to dodge a few Traffic Light Fairies as they swarmed drunkenly through the door. I wondered if they were really going to try and work in that condition. I sat down at a corner table as far from the dance floor as I could and took out my notepad to review the case.

 Notepad flipped open to the clues page. 

various art supplies, including pencils, pens, paper, paints, paintbrushes, erasers, ink wells, ...

"Skip the art supply list. Nothing remarkable there."

Notepad turned the page.

 iron prybar, fingerprints match Dumpster Bogey,various bits of garbage including pizza boxes, a fresh leaf, empty ink and beer bottles, crumpled paper, candy wrappers.

I rubbed my eyes.  "Suspects?"

Notepad turned the page again.  

Human who lives in area of the Art Fey nests; motive : stolen art supplies. Dumpster Bogey; fingerprints on pry bar; motive : known to have had a fight with Art Fey recently. Art Critic; description unknown; Motive : hated the victim's art. Unknown suspect; Unknown motive.

I stared at the last one. "Why do you always put that in?"

Notepad ruffled its pages in annoyance then wrote, List all possibilities.

"The art critic thing was a joke."

The Notepad scribbled sulkily, You said it.

I rubbed my eyes and counted to three. "True enough. But you only listed four. What about Lord Neon?"

The Notepad hesitated then started to add him to the list.

I waved a hand dismissively, "Not likely," but the Notepad stubbornly added him anyway. I sighed and leaned back in my chair. Something was missing.

"Tough day at the office?"

I smiled up at the owner of the Urban Sprawl Bar. I had to admit, she was easy on the eyes. Her cognac hair fell in waves to her coffee tinted shoulders. She was named for the color of her eyes. "Hey, Brandi. You could say that. Got a moment?"

She set my favorite beer down in front of me in a graceful sweep of her arm and slipped into the chair next to mine. "Of course."

"Heard you had a wild night." The band started up another techno-industrial beat. The Traffic Light Fairies were trying to form a mosh pit above the other dancers.

"News travels fast." The bartender brought her a glass of red wine.

"I talked with the Dumpster Bogey today. He's very proud of his new barstool."

Brandi chuckled. "One of my bartenders broke it over the head of a lilac dryad."

"I'm surprised one would come in here. No wonder there was trouble."

"Hmmm.. an entire grove of them were here. Two elms, a maple, an oak, three lilacs, and a birch were in from City Park."

 I nodded thoughtfully, wondering if the dryads I'd encountered were part of this group. "New transplants?"

Brandi shook her head. "I've seen them before. They wander in when their sap is up and they're looking for some excitement."

"Which I'm guessing they found."

"They usually just come in, have a drink, complain about the music then leave. Last night, they stepped into the middle of an argument between a downtown tattoo pixie and an uptown art gallery gnome. They were debating the merits of body art. I think the dryads had had too much honey wine. I ..." she looked up sharply at the sound of a glass being hurled against the wall.  

Brandi stood up and shouted, "Enough!" then stalked over to the offending streetlight bogey. Someone was about to get an earful.

I thought over the incident with the dryads. They lived on the fringes of the Urban scene, not quite adapting to City life but not willing to return to the forest. 

Notepad scribbled, Shall I add the dryads to the suspect list?

I shook my head. "There's nothing to tie them to the scene and no motive."

Notepad turned to the evidence page and highlighted the word leaf.

"What type?"

Oak.

I hesitated, "Add them, but we don't have a motive. There was quite a bit of trash in there and litter fey collect leaves. If it weren't for his alibi, I'd say it was an open and shut case on Dumpster Bogey. Brandi wouldn't lie for him though." 

I rubbed my eyes, half watching the argument between Brandi and the street light bogey. A bartender was looming over him, ready to enforce Brandi's decisions. 

I scowled.  This was still wasn't adding up. I drained my beer and was prepared to leave when a litter fairy sidled up to my table. I could barely see his ears over the edge of it. A hand reached up tentatively to take my empty beer bottle.

"Help yourself."

The hand withdrew then an eye appeared, watching me cautiously. The hand came back and slid a piece of paper to me then snatched the bottle. Seeing no more of the litter fairy, I leaned down to look under the table. It was gone. I picked up my payment for the bottle. It was an ad for tree fertilizer. 

"Let's go, Notepad." 

Where to?

I pulled the discarded drawing the satyr had tossed my way out of my pocket. "Let's revisit the crime scene." 

Brandi was just clearing up the fight and the bartender was escorting the offending bogey out as I headed to the door. The streetlight bogey brushed against me, my coat sleeve sticking to him for a second. He glared at me as he pulled away and stormed off. I looked at my sleeve and saw a faint residue. I smelled it - it was familiar and something I'd encountered recently yet I couldn't identify it. 

It nagged at me all the way to the art studio. I found the place undisturbed and mostly empty. Even the Human was out for the evening. I walked around what was left of the scene; the body had evaporated and only glitter was left among the pizza boxes. I nudged a few boxes with my shoe to see if the evidence gatherers had missed anything. Nothing. A dramatic sigh from the nest above the Human's desk broke the silence. I walked over to see who was around.

Vermillion was lying in a dramatic pose on a bed of paintbrushes. She opened one eye when I approached then sat up. "Oh. It's you. I thought the others had returned."

"How was the opening?"

"I didn't go," she said as if it should have been obvious. "I wouldn't be caught dead in their company. Critics."

"Sounds like something your deceased friend might have said."

Vermillion harrumphed. "Not true. He was a gentle spirit, if a bit of a nut job."

I leaned casually against the window, watching the traffic below. "What was he drawing when he died?"

Vermillion said disgustedly, "Trees. Of all the beauty in the City, he liked trees."

I raised an eyebrow and Notepad added this tidbit to our list of clues. "Trees? What about dryads?"

Vermillion flopped back on her bed. "Whatever. I suppose it could have been dryads. Don't tell me you're a nature lover."

I chuckled. "Not much into any kind of art, actually." I gestured vaguely at the canvases around the room. "Which of these are yours?"

I must have touched a nerve. "None of them," she answered dramatically. "I destroyed them all after my so called nest mates insulted them as derivative. They failed to recognize my unique interpretation of the banana peel!" 

"Uhm, ok." I wasn't sure what the insult was in that, but it seemed serious. "Do you always work here in the studio?"

"Still life work doesn't require one to venture from the studio."

"What about the deceased ... what sort of art fey was he?"

Vermillion sat up and shrugged, briefly dropping the drama. "Thalo Green was a paintbrush pixie. He said that true art was made out in the world." She gave a flourish and flopped back down on her bed, as if she'd fainted.

"Interesting. Thank you, Vermillion. Maybe next time you can show me one of your paintings."

She opened one eye. "As if I'd waste the effort on someone as lowbrow as you." She closed her eye again and I felt clearly dismissed.

I stared out the window a bit longer at a street light. Then it clicked. The residue on my sleeve smelled of tree sap.

I took one more look at the crime scene and decided to look through a sketchbook lying on the ground near the upturned easel. I thumbed through the pages of gesture sketches of mailbox gremlins, streetlight bogeys, a few of the Urban Lords and Ladies, some litter fey, a handful of stock gremlins having lunch with some stock pixies, and some house brownies. Near the back, I found sketches of trees, various animals, some dryads, and a lake. Most of them looked like scribbles of color and geometric shapes twisted into strange forms, unidentifiable but for the labels beneath each one. There were no sketches of satyrs. I closed the book and put it in my pocket. Sealing the wards around the crime scene again, I left.

A yellow Traffic Light Fairy landed on my shoulder when I hit the street. It seemed to be waiting expectantly so I said, "I'm going for a walk in the park. I don't know who did it yet." This seemed to satisfy it so it flew off. I asked Notepad, "Which way to the park?"

The Notepad flipped open to a map of the City then highlighted a path. A question scrawled across the top margin of the map. Why the park?

"I need some air and time to think. This case isn't falling into place just yet but I have a hunch." I picked up the pace and sidestepped a pothole gremlin hard at work in the road. He was digging a hole while hopeful orange cones started gathering. 

I followed the sidewalk around the lake then deeper into the park. I noted there were fewer streetlights through here and the undergrowth seemed wilder. Tree roots and stubborn weeds now pushed cracks through the pavement which I carefully avoided.

The sidewalk ended at an old rose bower. I slowed and entered cautiously. I had only the light of the moon to guide me now. The sidewalk ended at the archway and paving stones continued into this forgotten garden. I carefully picked my way along the stone path and wound around past ivy-covered wooden park benches, marble statues, and old gas lamps long fallen into disrepair.

I stopped at the edge of a pool of faint light emanating from the same streetlight bogey from the bar. He was talking with an oak dryad. She was a big girl with powerful arms and a straight back. The bogey may have been taller than her but he was wiry in build. They seemed to be having an intense but brief debate. I worked my way quietly around the edge of the light to try and catch a few words.

"... will object," Oak frowned.

The bogey insisted, "I believe I can prove my loyalty. Come."

The pair walked off deeper into the park. I moved quickly to follow the glow of the bogey. It wasn't easy to avoid the grass growing between the stones, look casual, and keep up with them.

I lost them as they turned behind a hedge. The stones were further apart now, pushed away by tree roots and other forces. I caught sight of them entering a grove of trees, cursing under my breath when they wandered away from the path. I tentatively set one foot on the grass. Nothing happened so I risked following them further. At the edge of the grove I immediately noted the mushrooms growing in a ring around the clearing between the trees. I stepped lightly forward, hoping I wasn't walking into an active ring. I'd have a hard time explaining why I was gate crashing. The lack of guards was a good sign that the party had been sometime in the previous few days. I crept closer to eavesdrop on the conversation. 

"... as fair as you," concluded what must have been a moving poem by the streetlight bogey. I never knew bogeys had poetic hearts. The dryad was even more pleased with the bag of fertilizer he presented to her. 

Another dryad approached the couple. She looked at the bag of fertilizer then said tersely, "Are you so easily bought?"

Oak straightened. She stood a head taller than the Holly that had challenged them. "What do you want?"

Holly backed up a couple of steps and asked the bogey, "Have you done anything to prove your loyalty to the grove?"

The bogey held out half of a piece of paper that had some sort of markings on it. I couldn't see it clearly from where I stood. The torn edge had a familiar shape to it.

Holly said approvingly, "Perhaps you'll do after all. Wait here."

The pieces of the puzzle were falling into place. I stepped back quietly, planning to go find Lord Neon. I was nearly out of the grove when a hand grabbed my arm. I looked around to find the satyr smiling down at me. He released my arm and pressed a finger to his lips. Motioning for me to follow, he continued out of the mushroom ring. 

Once we were nearly back to the path, he said in a whisper, "Let's go sit over there and have a chat, hmm?" 

I followed him, glad to be back on familiar ground. His hooves clicked musically on the stones. He bowed deeply, indicating I should sit on the bench. After a slight hesitation, I did so and he sat down next to me. His green eyes looked deeply into my own. I blushed despite of myself.

Looking away, I said, "You never told me your name."

He stroked his goatee thoughtfully with his slender fingers then he smiled mischievously. "You may call me Deep Hoof for now. So, did you solve the mystery?"

I blinked but was unsurprised that he'd know, given who I suspected him to be. "Yes. It was the streetlight bogey."

Deep Hoof feigned surprise. "Really? And why would he do such a thing?"

"He was upset by Thalo Green's drawings of Oak."

"Hmmm... they were rather abstract, weren't they?"

I narrowed my eyes. "I have to wonder who might have told the bogey about them."

Deep Hoof smiled charmingly at me. "Who do you suppose?"

"Someone who couldn't touch iron, who wanted to spark the flames between the Downtown and Uptown Fey. Someone like you."

Deep Hoof pressed a finger to my lips. "Shhh ... not too loudly; the shadows have ears. There are those among the Fey that see your Urban brethren as an aberration. I myself couldn't care less, of course."

"I know."

I looked up in surprise to see Lord Neon standing there with a green Traffic Light Fairy on one shoulder. 

Neon raised an eyebrow at the satyr. "Deep Hoof?"

The satyr jumped up and bowed slightly to Neon. "Ah, his lordship arrives right on cue. I see you got my message. You really should keep better track of your people; you wouldn't want them getting hurt, would you? I must go now, exit stage left, to meet up with some dryads." He skipped off, the clatter of his hooves dampened by the grass.

Lord Neon said, "Shall we go, Lady Forensix?"

I fell into step with Neon. "How much of that did you hear?"

The glimmer of Neon's hair lit the path with just enough glow to keep us from stepping on a sidewalk crack. "Most of it. I'll have a talk with the streetlight bogey. I trust you'll return the iron bar to its owner."

I scowled. "Just talk to him? Word gets out that murder is punished with a wrist slap like that and I'll have more work than I can handle!"

Neon laughed. "Don't worry. It will be a stern talking to and a relocation. I think this part of the park needs more light, don't you?" He grew serious. "The bogey was just a pawn in a larger game. I'm more interested in preventing a war than in punishing a crime of passion. Consider this park his prison."

I looked around. "True. Most Urban Fey would find this place frightening. So be it. What will you tell the newspaper?"

Neon stopped and looked up at the stars. "Perhaps nothing. I'm sure they'll move on to a new story soon."

We were nearly out of the park now, I heard the hum of the City growing louder. "Just one more question. Who was that satyr?"

Lord Neon replied with a wry smile, "An art critic."