Shamrock Ferret set a cup of Mandalay blackberry tea on the side table, tilted a tiny pitcher to add a dash of honey (poured, not stirred) and curled herself in the comfort of her Cases Unsolved chair. The antique she had bought at a used-thing sale, whirl-dots for pattern, soft as woven sunlight.
As the fire warmed the hearth and her own sable-chocolate fur, the detective set a small disk of black felt upon the chair and reviewed the facts.
The patterns of cornstalks fallen in the fields were always finished and complete; they were ever the same, almost an insignia: two stars, one large, one small, joined by a sweeping curved pathway.
The patterns had always been discovered in the morning, having appeared sometime between dusk and dawn, under a full moon. There were no marks of tools or machinery of any kind. There was no reason for the designs, nor meaning in them.
Here she reached a paw to stroke her whiskers as she stared into the light of the fire, and corrected herself.
No apparent reason, she thought. Every mystery cloaks an inner reason, each one gives its meaning only when we have allowed ourselves a new point of view. There are no secrets, she had learned. Through observation, inquiry, through the kaleidoscope of intuition, we detect what has been facing us all along.
She sipped her tea in the office of her flat, watching the fire.
About her in the modest dark-paneled room stood her desk with notepads and pens, the old clock which had ticked in her home since she was a kit, her microscope, brass polished, focus knob worn from use. Here were her shelves of books: Analysis from Zero, Principles of Deduction and thirty volumes of The Paws of Knowledge, a set much lined and dog-eared. From a peg on the wall hung her crimson tam-o'-shanter and snow-color scarf of many pockets. By the door a letter-drop and a whimsical bell made from an old ship's telegraph, the pointer at Engines Standby. All peaceful stillness.
Within her was no such quiet. She watched the fire, yet behind her eyes flashed scene after instant scene -- the patterns, the clues, connections between the known and the possible.
Miss Shamrock Ferret earned her living by imagining possibilities, and now the images tumbled like a runaway slide show. Scene after scene rose and fell, possibilities slanting at the wrong angle, near misses, pictures out of match with the portrait of a mystery.
Now she lifted the disk of felt, and holding it gently between her paws, she closed her eyes, opened a door of imagination.
How I love this job, she thought, breathing the scent of Mandalay. How I love finding out!
Copyright © 2003 by Saunders-Vixen Aircraft Company, Inc.