The Case of the Art Critic – A Forensix Mystery, Part 6 of 7

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 streetlamps 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 streetlamp 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 streetlamp 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 dryad 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?”

copyright 2014 by Kimberley Long-Ewing, all rights reserved