With the grudging permission of the author, the mysterious “earthspot”, we commence serialising his prizewinning satire: Who Knackered Aragorn’s Catamite? (…just google it!)
My name’s Goss. I’m a cop.
Short for Goswedriol son of Gandalf. Yes—I thought that would prick your ears up. I don’t brag about my father’s name. Nor do I try to conceal it. It’s mother who’s the big secret. Though most people eventually guess.
My father once said I had about as much magic in me as a horse’s hindquarters. But he was no airy-fairy caller-in of the winds. He was a meticulous researcher, and that’s where I follow in his footsteps. I love truth. I have a passion for facts. For concealed facts. Facts which people don’t want generally noised abroad. In the course of my business I rake up a helluva lot of muck.
I don’t love muck. Alas, it loves me. Everywhere I go it sticks to me. It comes in on the heels of my knee-high boots when I enter someone’s beautifully carpeted home. It drops on me from the balconies as I pace the mean streets. It rings my doorbell in the dead of night, and as I take my ear from the judas window it dribbles down my neck.
Muck and I are constant companions, perennial partners, but we aren’t lovers. We aren’t even particularly good friends.
Just now I said I was a cop. But I belong to no regular force of law and order. Not the Rangers of the North, nor the agents of the Tower of Guard, nor am I one the fleet minions of the White Council. And I’m certainly not one of the shadowy agents of GUB, the secret police of the Royal Mandate of East Ithilien—the former Mordor. Though at one time or another I have done work for all these agencies.
I’m a freelancer. A bounty hunter.
In these dismal days I’m not short of work. Often I turn work away. I won’t work for elves, for instance—their family affairs are incredibly messy. My father used to say they paired-off at random on Midsummer’s Eve. And as for dwarves… I wouldn’t work for dwarves if they offered me all the dragon-gold under the Lonely Mountain! Their only use for the law is to litigate the crap out of each other. But I suppose that’s better than axing each others’ heads off, over a string of grievances, real or imagined.
But there is some work I can’t turn away. Particularly when it breaks down my door in the middle of the night, sips my wine while it waits for me to dress, and then spirits me off, to arrive at our destination ere break of day.
Dawn was glimmering on the face of Mount Mindolluin as we rode through the Great Gate of Minas Tirith. In his office in the guardhouse of the Citadel, Bergil son of Beregond, Captain of the Tower of Guard, rose to his feet and strode towards me, hand outstretched. The last time I remembered him doing that, he had brought his mailéd gage smartly across my cheek, hurling me to the floor. But this time he was all smiles. He embraced me like a brother.
“Goswedriol son of Gandalf! How kind of you to come so promptly!”
Turning to glance at my forced companions, fell-faced men in heavy grey cloaks clasped with the Star of Elbereth, I murmured “I didn’t have a lot of choice…”
“Necessity constrains us all,” replied Bergil. “But it doesn’t excuse discourtesy—that I know full well.”
He lowered his wrinkled forehead and shook it. “I crave your forgiveness, Master Goswedriol. Dread happenings darken the counsels of men, but sharpen their mind to the exclusion of everyday courtesies.”
Waving towards a high-backed chair strewn with ermine skins he bade me be seated. Without a word the fell Rangers of the North turned as one man and filed out of the room, leaving me alone with Bergil.
Speaking into the voice tube Bergil sent for wine and little white cakes for two. I leaned back in the elaborately carved chair and took out my pouch of pipe-weed. I lit my old clay pipe. Beneath my eyebrows, grown bushy like my father’s, I noted with sly satisfaction the look of distaste on Bergil’s face. I had not asked his permission. Had I done, he would have refused it. Such was his abhorrence of weed of any sort.
“What a grave matter it must be to compel you to call on me,” I said in the high tongue of Gondor. “What has come to pass?”
Bergil looked down at the blotter on his desk. “Death,” he murmured.
“Who’s to die?”
“Who has died?—that should have been your question. And as for who is to die—for the deed—that is something you yourself must discover.”
“I should have thought you had scores of men under your command who were capable of that,” I observed. “It is getting on for fifty years since the downfall of the Lord of the Rings, yet death still stalks the land. In a city the size of Minas Tirith I wouldn’t be surprised if you didn’t have a murder a week to deal with. Particularly in the seedy purlieus of the First Circle…”
“It was the King himself who proposed you for the task.”
I raised my chin and blew a smoke ring. “I’m flattered, of course,” I said. “But why didn’t you prevail upon your Lord to assure him you were well capable of handling the matter all by yourself?”
“The identity of the person killed, and the circumstances of his death, call for absolute discretion. The affairs of the victim are shrouded in darkness…”
“Muck, you mean? And who’s the great expert on muck in Middle Earth? Why me, of course. There’s nobody else who would handle half the jobs I get called upon to do. So I suppose I’m being expected to pull your mucky chestnuts out the fire?”
…to be continued.