Disclaimer: The characters of Clover belong to CLAMP and their associates. In this ‘fic, only some of the minor characters with no names are of my creation. This fanfic is posted for non-commercial entertainment purposes only.Notes: This was written for a fanfic challenge on the CLAMP fanfiction mailing list. The challenge: to cross a CLAMP series with a Film Noir/ Hard boiled crime series. The 'Film Noir' influences here come from listening to Garrison Keillor play Guy Noir on the radio, and from watching way too many Leslie Nielsen movies. Therfore this story is technically a parody of other parodies. No spoilers...just lots and lots of bad cliches.
Summary: Chasing down runaway canines while dodging old girlfriends and still managing to keep up with the latest in trench coat fashion--it's all in a day's work for K. F. Ryuu, private eye.
It was a rainy Monday afternoon in a city that knew how to keep its secrets. It kept its secrets so well that nobody even knew what the name of the city was. Cold drizzle fell from a sky the color of waxed paper, and glazed the sidewalks with an oily sheen like the residue left behind by a Super Burger Special Deluxe with a side order of onion rings. The rain was perfectly normal for this time of year. In fact, it was normal for any time of year. It didn't matter what day, or even what month it was, the weather here was always the same. Some people might have been bothered by the rain. But I simply saw it as one more opportunity to show off my trench coat collection. My name is K. F. Ryuu. I'm a private eye.
I had just returned to the office after finishing up an investigation in the Po-fuh district. The case had been a messy one. A man had lost his canine companion on the wrong side of the tracks. It seemed that some splinter branch of the mafia was kidnapping innocent cyber-pets and reprogramming them for evil. Some criminal genius had created a cardsharp virus, using it to infect the metal wired furry friends, and turn them into the bane of gambling halls everywhere.
Dogs playing poker. Go figure.
I propped my feet up on the desk, preparing to unwind with a book I'd picked up at the library. "Manga for Dummies". My interest in manga was relatively new. A client had left the first book of 'CLAMP Campus Detectives' behind in my office a few weeks ago. Later that same week, I ran across the second and third books at a little hole-in-the-wall used bookshop. It had all gone downhill from there. 'X' was starting to make a sizable dent in my spending allowance. I settled back in my chair and propped my feet up on my desk, opening the yellow reference book and flipping through to the chapter on CLAMP.
That was when *she* appeared in the doorway.
I knew from the moment I saw her that this dame was trouble with a capital 'T'. She wore stiletto heels, fishnet stockings, a chic black dress, and a hat with the brim curved down over one eye. She was so hot, you'd need oven mitts to serve her an iced cappuccino.
She blew into my office like a thunderstorm at the end of a long summer day, accompanied by a wave of fashionable perfume and the low notes of a mellow saxophone. I looked around curiously for a moment, but was unable to determine where the music was coming from.
"I'm looking to hire a detective," she said.
I gestured for her to take a chair. "You've come to the right place. Miss...."
"Mrs.," she said.
Then I saw it. A rock the size of a baseball slid onto the finger of her left hand over her black silk glove. Married. Of course. My heart took a big dive off one of the downtown skyscrapers.
She looked down at her own hand, a misty pall of sorrow wafting across her delicate features like smoke from a cheap dime-store cigar. "Well, I guess it's not really Mrs. anymore. You see, I'm in the middle of a divorce."
My heart picked itself up from the pavement and dusted itself off. "I see. How can I help you, Ma'am?"
"Oruha," she supplied. "Just call me Oruha." She lifted one gloved hand, and carefully set a small brown suitcase down on my desk. "I want you to transport something for me."
I looked at the suitcase. Then I looked at her. I said, "I think you're a little confused about what I do for a living. The Fed-Ex office is just down the street."
I should have realized from the beginning that I had no hope. She knew how to play the game, a real pro. Those gorgeous dark eyes filled with tears. "I'm a night club singer," she confessed in a choked-up voice. "My soon-to-be-ex-husband owns the place where I work, a joint called 'The Birdcage', down by the waterfront. Our marriage seemed so perfect in the beginning. I thought I'd found the perfect man and the perfect career all in one. Then suddenly all that changed. I woke up one morning to realize that I never should have married him. I had been young and foolish and full of big city dreams that were nothing more than the fuzzy holograms given off by a train station jukebox. He was only ever interested in me because I could make money fast. Now I've realized that I'm tired of that night club scene. I want more out of life. I want spotlights and record labels and throngs of screaming fans. I want a beach house and a fancy car and an amusement park in my backyard. But all of that amounts to a hill of beans if I can't take care of the things that are most important to me. Please say you'll help me. I don't know who else to turn to."
Casually, I got up and walked around the desk to pass her a handful of tissues. As she daintily dabbed at her makeup, I said, "So where am I supposed to take it?"
Her face lit up like a 100-watt light bulb. "So you'll help me? Oh, thank you, thank you, Mr. Ryuu!" She promptly threw herself into my arms and kissed me...lots. After that, I wouldn't have been able to refuse her if she'd asked me to bring back the moon.
Only one part of this little courier mission had me troubled. She refused to give me a street address. She only said, "You'll know you've reached the right place when you get there." Soon after she left, I took to the streets. I needed more information, and needed it fast...because whatever was in this case, it absolutely, positively had to get there overnight . I decided to take a risk and look for answers in one of the seedier sections of town.
I ducked into an alley at the corner of Nottingham and Sherwood, the brown suitcase tucked under one arm. I knocked twice on a plain metal door hidden towards the back of the alley, a door that was completely unremarkable except for the fact that it had been painted bright pink.
"Who's there?" came a voice from the other side of the door.
"K. F. Ryuu, Private Eye," I answered.
"Oh," the voice said. "I think I've heard this one before." There was silence for a long minute, then, "Nope, I guess I don't remember. K. F. Ryuu, Private Eye who?"
I never got the chance to get to the punch line.
"Reach for the sky," a voice drawled behind me, steel covered in satin and lace. To emphasize the point, I felt the cold muzzle of a .38 kiss the back of my neck.
I held my empty hands out where they could be seen. "Tao-fua, Sweetheart, don't you remember me?"
"Yeah, I remember you. You low-life two-timing double-crossing muck-raking trench coat-wearing crum-bum son of a meter maid!"
Ouch. Most of that was accurate. But the 'crum-bum' stung a bit. Somehow I always managed to run into ex-girlfriends when I was in a hurry. I said defensively, "What's wrong with meter maids?"
"You got lotsa nerve showing your face around here," she said. "The boss ain't gonna like it one bit."
I was shown in to see the Xiaomao boss without delay. The twelve year old kid was perched in a high-chair, smoking a cigar and wearing a fedora cocked jauntily over his goggles. At his right hand was a very unhappy looking cat. The poor feline was coated with so much electronic equipment that its own mother wouldn't have been able to recognize it in a line-up with a toaster and a VCR.
"Whaddaya want, Ryuu?" he said.
I hefted the brown suitcase. "I'm looking for directions."
The Xiaomao leader sneered. "What does this look like, MapQuest? Sorry, but you'll have to ask someone else."
"You know the city like the back of your hand. It wouldn't kill you to help out a guy in need. Besides, if you don't start talking and talking fast, I'll tell the world about your diabolical plot to sneak into rich people's houses and steal the change out of their penny loafers to give to charity."
"We gave up on that racket months ago. It wasn't working out. We had to collect from a lot of shoes to buy even one bowl of rice."
"Well, what about that other diabolical plot to get innocent people to donate the shirts off their backs to Goodwill by brainwashing them with fortune cookie messages."
The kid looked bored. "Old news. The police cracked down on that that one already. Besides, most of the people that were getting the message had terrible fashion sense. Mauve is *so* not in style right now."
I was starting to get desperate. "You still owe me, you know. Don't you remember three years ago, when I saved your cat from getting electrocuted by the rain?"
The kid was not impressed. "Ya got nothin', Gumshoe. Do the world a favor and go take a long walk off a short pier."
At that moment, a black Labrador retriever came frolicking into the room. He bounded over to me and laid a boxed deck of cards down at my feet. I picked them up and looked at the brand. "Bicycles, huh?" I patted him on the head, and he wagged his tail. "Good boy. Fetch!" The pooch barked happily and chased the cards back into the other room.
The Xiaomao leader sweatdropped. "Errr. Maybe we can work something out, after all. You're delivering this suitcase?" At my nod, he gestured for me to step forward. "Did you try opening it?"
"It's locked," I said.
"Hmm. Did you look for an I.D. tag?"
"An I.D. tag?" I echoed.
"Yeah. Like this one." He held the suitcase on its side, showing me the bottom of it. There was a little yellow sticker there, which said, "Property of Fairy Park Amusement Co.".
"Oh," I said, feeling slightly silly. "That's just the kind of thing I was looking for. Thanks a bunch."
I left the Xiaomao hideout and wandered further. But as I went, all I could hear was Oruha's beautiful voice playing over and over in my head like a Weird Al Yankovic song, or the theme from 'Star Wars'. All I could see was that stylish hat brim and a single gorgeous dark eye. It made walking a little awkward, because I kept running into things. I had to pause under the eaves of a news stand to get my bearings.
"Paper, Mister?" piped a voice to my right. I looked over to see a newsie leaning forward with his elbows on the news stand counter. He was a bright-eyed lad of maybe fifteen, dressed in a blue flannel jacket with three-leaf clovers printed on it. A dark blue cap was pulled low over his unruly black hair. He proffered an issue of the morning paper for my inspection.
"Yes," I agreed, "it is." I plucked the paper from his hands, skimming the day's headlines. There wasn't much there. The Wizards of the Parliament had turned down yet another offer to make an appearance in the New Year's Day Parade. The Azurites were stirring up trouble again; playing tiddlywinks and trying to see how many of those little colored disks they could pile up on our side of the country line. The price of milk was up 2%.
"Nice day out, isn't it?" the paperboy said, meaning that it wasn't raining as hard as it could have been. The kid was familiar to me. He was on this street corner every single day. He never seemed to leave no matter what time it was. Despite that, he was "connected". There was no better person to ask about the goings on around town.
"Fair," I replied. I folded the paper and tucked it under my arm, reaching into my pocket for my wallet. "What's the word on the street?"
He looked down. "Take your pick. 'Water' or 'Main'."
I followed his gaze. There in the sidewalk, plain as day, was a manhole cover with exactly those two words marked on the lid.
Smart aleck kid.
"There's a rumor going around," he said, "that green is the up and coming color in the fashion industry this year. As a matter of fact, the company that manufactures most of the dye was just bought out by the Fairy Park Amusement Company."
"You don't say. Wait a minute. Did you say the Fairy Park Amusement Company?"
"That's what I said. The Fairy Park Amusement Company. Nobody knows what they want with all that green dye. Up until now, the corporation has just been involved in the entertainment industry...discos, dinner theater, night clubs, roller rinks...that sort of thing. Cutting-edge fashion is kind of a stretch for them."
"I see. Anything else I should know?"
"Never stick your finger in a light socket."
"I mean about the local gossip."
"There was a fire downtown," the paperboy said. "Also a flood midtown. And the drought is still on uptown."
"Yeah. Lately the rain seems to have been missing that part of the city."
"Hmph." I wondered briefly if I should be worried about the fire...that was my neck of the woods. Then I shrugged it off. I had bigger fish to fry. Besides, a flood in the downtown area would have been worse than a fire. I don't have flood insurance.
I followed a hunch and cut back to the original topic.
"You wouldn't happen to know how to get to this Fairy Park Amusement Company place, would you?"
"I've never been there," he replied. "But I can give you some of their brochures. They have a map printed on the back."
I left him a generous tip, and continued on my way. I'd been walking a while, and was starting to get thirsty, so I decided to stop by a bar for a drink. In the bar, I ran into an old friend. More than an old friend. We'd once been partners, before he sold out to work for the Man. I heard he'd made Lieutenant Colonel. I slid into the seat at the bar next to him and signaled to the bartender. The bartender came over and informed me that they didn't use Morse code in here any more, but he took my drink order anyway.
"How's business nowadays?" I asked the Lieutenant Colonel.
"As usual," Gingetsu replied. He was always a man of few words.
The bartender brought over my drink, and a set of colored flares, in case I needed a refill. "Well, that's just swell."
"I'm thinking of retiring," the Lt. Colonel added.
I nearly choked on the alcohol, feeling as if somebody had just laid me out with half a ton of bricks. "Retiring? You?"
"Yep." He drained his glass and set it solidly on the bar. "To Bermuda."
Bermuda. The place that people went when they wanted to disappear. I started to ask him why, then just shook my head. Whatever he was mixed up with that made him want to go running off to some triangle in the tropics, it was probably better that I didn't know about it.
"What's with the case?" he asked.
I sighed. "I'm transporting something."
"In a poker chip case?"
"This is a poker chip case?" I frowned at him. "Wait a minute, how do you know that's what it is?"
He shrugged. "Supplemental income." He motioned briefly to the shades he always wore. "Nobody ever seems to be able to tell when I'm bluffing."
He glanced away from me, looking out towards the street. "Finding a good poker table had gotten harder lately, though," he added. "Some of those casinos have really gone to the dogs."
We finished our drinks in companionable silence, then I left to follow my collected leads. Somehow the wires had gotten tangled, and it took me a few minutes to get them all sorted out. Once I did, I made my way to the headquarters of the Fairy Park Amusement Company. The secret hideout was cleverly disguised as an amusement park, built on top of an oil-drilling platform somewhere in the middle of the ocean. It seemed deserted at first, (not surprising, considering how difficult it was to get there) but as I stepped up to the open front gate, I realized there was a young girl in white behind the counter in the ticket office. She was wearing a small brass pin with the name 'Suu' etched into it.
"Would you like a day pass, or a ticket book for individual rides?" she asked.
I looked beyond the gates. "Is it free just to take a look around?"
She nodded. "They won't let you into the haunted house or the hall of mirrors, though, unless you have a ticket."
"Oh. Why don't you give me a day pass, then."
She passed her hand over the computer screen beside her, and a little pasteboard square popped up from a slot in the counter. As she marked something on it, I noticed that there was a magazine rack behind her.
"Do you have the latest issue of 'Asuka'?" I asked.
She shook her head. "We're all sold out. But we have a couple of back issues of 'Amie ', from 1998."
"Nah," I waved her off. "They never have anything good in that magazine."
She passed me the ticket. "Here you go, sir."
I pocketed it and started to turn away, then stopped. She looked so lonely there, all by herself, behind the bars of the ticket office. "Do you get bored, working there?" I asked.
She smiled, green eyes dancing. "Not really." She pointed up, to a cluster of mechanical birds clustered on the eaves of the building. "They keep me company. And customers do come in from time to time, to play in the park or to visit the casino. I have fun then. In addition to being the ticket agent, I'm also in charge of operating all the rides."
I entered the main gate of the park and began to look around. One feature of the park immediately caught my attention. It was a huge statue of a woman with wings set up on a tower in the central square. The woman looked oddly familiar to me, but I couldn't quite figure out why. I think she must have been on a Sony commercial or something.
I had barely gotten to the base of the statue when spooky piano music started playing. I didn't know which was spookier, the music itself, or the fact that it seemed to be coming from everywhere and nowhere all at once.
"Set the suitcase down on the ground and walk away," an ominous voice called out. At first I thought it might be the fairy talking, but then a heavyset man stepped out from behind the towering pedestal. He had more fuzz on his face than an orange that had been stored for three months in a wet paper bag.
I didn't like this fellow's tone. His looks weren't all that great, either. "Who are you?" I demanded.
"The owner of this park," he said. "Also the owner of that little brown case you're holding in your hand."
I frowned. "Unless you've gone through some major surgery in the last few hours, I'm pretty sure that this suitcase doesn't belong to you. And if you really *are* the person that this case belongs to, well, I'd advise you to get yourself a new plastic surgeon."
He growled menacingly. "All right, I didn't want to do this, but you leave me no choice." He reached behind the pedestal of the statue, and yanked somebody out into plain view, setting a gun to her head. "Set the box down, or the dame buys it."
"I'm sorry, Mr. Ryuu," Oruha whispered, with tears in her eyes. "My now-ex-husband had me followed to your office. He knew that I gave the case to you all along."
I glanced down at her hand. The baseball ring was gone. "Wait, don't tell me. *That's* your ex-husband."
Stricken, she nodded. "We just finalized the divorce papers. Up until an hour ago, Barus and I were married."
Suddenly I put two and two together. It gave me five, but I went back and counted it out on my fingers and it came out right the second time. Barus. I knew that name. It matched a guy with a criminal record about a mile long. Of course, it could be that this guy was simply his identical twin, separated at birth, but sharing the same name. Unlikely, but I couldn't rule out the possibility.
"Hey," I said to him. "Are you wanted by the police?"
The safety of the gun he was holding clicked off. "If you don't set that case down," he said. "You're going to find out."
"I'm sorry!" Oruha cried out to me, brave in the face of her own personal danger. "I'm sorry for getting you into this. I'm sorry you had to swim all the way out here for nothing! I'm sorry they blew up your office, and put sugar in the gas tank of your car!"
I blinked at her. "They blew up my office?"
Oruha clapped a hand over her mouth. "Oops. You mean you didn't know?"
I couldn't stand it any longer. "You win," I said to Barus. "Let her go. Whatever's in the suitcase, you can have it."
He considered it for a moment. "Actually, I'll cut ya a deal. The dame...for you."
I didn't have much experience in negotiations, but that didn't sound like any kind of deal to me. It didn't take a Wizard to see that this guy was a few olives short of a martini. I took a step forward. "Don't do anything hasty. I'm sure we can work something out."
He sneered. "Idiot. I was kidding. Put the case on the ground and walk away from it, or the lady buys it right now."
There didn't seem to be anything left to do. I set the case down and backed away slowly.
The consequences were completely unexpected. I heard Oruha mutter, "Oh, the hell with it." The next thing I knew, the gun was clattering harmlessly to the ground and Barus was doubled over in severe amounts of pain. Oruha stepped out of her heels and swung one leg out in a vicious arc, her foot connecting solidly with the side of his face. As he reeled, Oruha spun around, the heel of her other foot catching him with deadly precision on the opposite side of his face. As he started to topple over, she brought her knee up under his chin. He collapsed in a whimpering heap on the concrete.
I said the only thing that seemed appropriate. "Wow."
She dimpled. "National kick boxing semi-finalist, three years in a row." She took the case from my hand. "Thank you for watching over the thing that was most important to me."
I had to ask. "What exactly is in this case that's so darn important, anyway?"
"This." Oruha set the case down, then drew a nailfile from the bodice of her dress. That was followed by a handkerchief, a pad of paper, a crowbar, and finally a little black key. I was momentarily distracted, wondering how many other things she kept in there. Then the suitcase popped open and she carefully drew out a small metal statue from amid the rolls of poker chips. It looked exactly like the one looming over us...only souvenir size.
"All of this was because of one little statue?" I asked, incredulous.
"No, silly," she said. "It's a music box." She wound the base, and faint, tinny music started playing. //I want happiness, I seek happiness, to cause your happiness, to be your happiness.//
"I don't get it," I confessed. "All of this was because of one little music box that doesn't even play very well?"
"This is a family heirloom," she said defensively. "But my ex- husband was actually after these." She pulled apart the bottom of the music box. Etched into the base of the metal pedestal were two rectangles that looked suspiciously like oversized rubber stamps. The patterns were an exact match for the two sides of a shiny new greenback. "These are printing plates. For making counterfeit money."
"For foreign money?" I said. "But nobody even uses paper money any more."
Oruha gestured to one of the buildings beside her. The sign read "Little Ceasar's Wild, Wild West Saloon and Taj Mahal". "Some of the theme casinos still do. It's part of setting up the proper atmosphere. If you could counterfeit paper money and smuggle it into rival casinos, you could make a fortune, and cause your competitors to go out of business."
As she was talking, a French poodle trotted over, snatched up one of the rolls of poker chips, and went racing off again.
"Hey!" I called after it, "that doesn't belong to you!"
She turned and set it down again, wagging her tail. "Arf, arf!" she said. Or maybe that was "Ante, ante!" She grabbed up the roll in her mouth again and went scampering off behind the Ferris wheel.
Oruha looked over at me with wide eyes. "What was that all about?"
"Don't worry, Dollface. It's just a harmless running gag."
She pursed her lips. "It looked more like a running poodle to me."
"Yeah, that too." I looked around at the empty amusement park. My day pass was in the pocket of my trench coat, and there was still an hour or two before the sun went down. "So," I asked Orhua casually, "do you like roller coasters?"
And that's the end of the story. Last I heard, Barus was serving 10-15 years in the slammer. The canine gambling ring expanded to include blackjack and high-stakes mahjong. Oruha cut her first album last week, then had to cut a second one when the edges of the first one turned out crooked (it's hard to use scissors on vinyl). The Lieutenant Colonel ran away with the paperboy.
As for me, things have returned to normal. I was able to siphon off the sugar solution in the gas tank of my car before it did any damage. Insurance paid for rebuilding my office, and also paid the salary of the interior designer who made it livable again--the place was decorated in green, of course. Unfortunately, now that the insurance money is gone, my pocket change is in danger again. According to that 'Manga for Dummies' book, there's this whole other series that comes before 'X'.
I'll worry about angsty and tragic manga stories tomorrow, though. Tonight I'm on my way up town, headed over to a new entertainment venue that just opened up on the west side, a quaint little place called the "Happily Ever After". I wouldn't want to be late.
I've got a date with a pretty little bird who's well on her way to becoming a star.
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