Dilemmas and Deliberation

For Mystery Month. Can you guess why?

Nighttime in the big city. The D-4 Detective Agency is on the case, and we’re pretty sure it’s close to the end. There’s The Dame, on the other side of the table with her piles of folders and that screen she always carries. And Clubs, plastic rattling between his hands. The Counter is sitting at the table shuffling a few sheets of paper. Wits is on her third cup of Dew, looking at the bubbles like the answer’s somewhere between them.

The Dame outlines what we know and what we’ve done so far. It’s funny having her do that when she’s not even really part of the agency, but it works. She knows a lot more than she’s letting on, after all, and every now and then she slips in one of her summaries and gives us something new. Tonight isn’t one of those nights.

The case looks like a long one. We’ve visited all the relevant scenes, questioned or tailed the usual suspects, talked to every witness we could find, and anything we couldn’t do ourselves we’ve contracted somebody else for. Way I see it, this mystery is a five hundred piece puzzle, and we’ve got four hundred ninety of the little rotters on the table and the rest probably in our pockets. All that’s left is putting them together, and that’s what I plan on doing tonight. So we start talking.

The Dame and I are off to a pretty good start; she’s being coy about her answers, but that’s normal, she’ll never give you a straight one without a nat 20. Wits is engaged, too; she doesn’t ask as many questions, but her pen’s going a mile a minute, and what she asks she asks fast. Counter’s sitting back and watching; I’m not sure if he’s in or not. He thinks a lot, then talks a little.

The problem is Clubs. While we work closer and closer to a solution, he gets more and more fidgety; every fifth sentence he breaks in with wanting to go do something or bash someone’s head in until they remember whatever facts they’re holding out. I’m pretty sure we’re close; I can taste it. A couple more hints, and I’ll be there. The Dame sounds like she’s tapped for information, pretty sure we can solve it with this. Wits is on a roll. Even Counter, by the end, is asking questions. We’ve gone from five suspects to two, and I think we’ll be down to one if we can have five more minutes….

“We’re not getting anywhere,” he says, snapping off a Cheeto in his teeth. Counter breaks off and tries to explain why we are. “I didn’t come here to spend the entire night talking.” I shake my head; better that than striking out on our own and risking what we’ve already got.

“You got any better ideas?” Wits asks.

“Something else.” He looks to the Dame. She looks back at him, sifts through her papers behind the screen.

“Not her job,” Counter declares, then returns to diagramming just what it is we know know that we didn’t know when we started talking. “Besides, we’re trying to figure out our next move, weren’t you listening?”

And that’s when Wits gets that look she usually gets when she’s about to propose some sort of left-field logic that’ll get Counter past his last stumbling block. Right as Clubs slams down his Dew and says, “If we aren’t going to do something, I’m outta here.”

The Dame sighs and takes him aside. Wits continues expounding her idea to Counter, but without the Dame to check her suppositions on, it doesn’t mean as much. And I look out the window into the night and wonder: how many people need to think we’re not getting anywhere for us to not be getting anywhere?

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