“Thanks for meeting with me Salmmy I really need your help.”
“It’s Sammy” he growled, without looking up from his desk “The L is silent.”
Raising his eyes slowly and looking under the wide brim of his hat he noticed her legs first. It was fairly easy given that she had eight of them.
“Sammy,” she was on the verge of tears and spoke in very short rapid bursts. “M...my children have been stolen.”
Salmmy thought it was an odd choice of words and got distracted for a moment.
‘Stolen, not kidnapped. Or would it be egg-napped...?’
Hoping she hadn’t noticed that he had stopped listening, Salmmy replied absently,
“How many children?”
“A...All of them... they took the whole sac when I was building us a new web.”
Tears welled up in her multiple eyes and she began to speak again. Whatever she said made absolutely no sense, it was just a confused mess of tears and babbling. She thrust a small piece of paper towards him. Not taking the note or giving it so much as a glance Salmmy replied firmly.
“Look, anyone brave or stupid enough to steal a sac full of a few thousand hungry baby spiders isn’t someone I want to tangle with.”
She rose to her feet, tears streaming down her face, the note still on his desk.
“B... but the note is addressed to you.”
He glanced at the note on his desk then spoke quickly. “Follow me.”
Salmmy led her through his small office and into the shabby little lobby.
The floor was almost completely covered by a thin grey carpet and completely covered in dust. Peeling paint with delusions of being modern art flaked from the wall and fell onto the cracked, dusty, and uncomfortable couch.
The words ‘I QUIT!’ were carved on the surface of the desk in the lobby. Its dark brown surface was covered in other smaller scratches that didn’t appear to spell anything.
“Wait here,” he said, gesturing towards the paint chip covered couch and grabbing his long duster off the coat rack by the door.
Salmmy was nine inches tall, jet black, and covered in yellow spots. His skin was a slightly duller black than it had been before he moved to Ghara, mostly due to the salty, itchy air. He took an antique flintlock pistol from the holster at his side and checked the powder, before gracefully spinning it around and dropping it effortlessly back into its home.
Salamanders were virtually non-existent in Ghara because of the salt that blew in with the ocean winds. Being at the center of the crescent made it an essential port for trade, being a salty windswept place made Salmmy itchy. The air made him itchy and swimming in the ocean made it worse. Salmmy loudly and repeatedly informed anyone who would listen that the only thing that made his life bearable was coffee.
“I’ll deal with you later” he growled in the direction of a large metal cylinder with all sorts of dials and knobs. It sat menacingly on a table against the wall. At its top was a large golden bird of some kind with a bullet hole in it’s chest.
“What the hell is that thing?” The spider asked, but Salmmy was already gone.
The note was simple and direct; there would be no ransom, no price. It appeared to be written in haste, but the spelling mistake was intentional, every word was carefully chosen, it had the information he needed and nothing more. Worse still it was in his own handwriting.
Salmmy, their tail and yours end at the same place. Hurry!
It might seem odd that hurrying for Salmmy involved simply walking instead of trying to start his car. Odd that is until one sees his car. A few sharp metal spikes were all that was left where the canopy had been torn off when he attempted to put the roof down while driving on the highway. Both doors were different colours, neither of which matched the rest of the car. There was also the fact that it hated him and refused to start whenever he intended to go somewhere. Somehow it would start perfectly whenever he was trying to figure out what was wrong with it. Salmmy hated it fiercely and vowed he would never get a used car from a badger again.
On windless days when the sun was high overhead the city of Ghara seemed to shine like a new penny. Today was not one of those days. Salmmy hated his wildly unreliable car a little more as he shielded himself from the skin searing salt with his collar and trudged toward the docks. His thoughts began to wander away from complaining about his car. Ordinarily this meant that he was thinking about coffee - his standard topic of thought. However, recently thinking about coffee had meant plotting his revenge on the coffee machine in the lobby of his office. In this rarest of moments, he was actually thinking about the case.
‘How was the note in my handwriting?’
‘Who wrote it, and why?’
‘Who even knows about my tail?’
’Why would anyone steal a sac full of spider eggs?
Salmmy didn’t like coincidences.
The fact that his secretary had quit on the same day that a client had actually come by could, in theory, be dumb luck, but he doubted it. He doubted it for a couple of reasons, first among them being that his office was unmarked and buried behind a network of alleys that were usually full of impromptu and mysterious shops with wheels on them. As a result, his office was impossible to find without a lot of asking around. No one who asked around ever called him Salmmy.
As he got closer to the docks the reeking funk of fish clawed its way into his skull through his snout. He tried breathing through his mouth, but soon discovered that the air tasted like sand, salt, and fish which was somehow worse. The docks were a terrible place.
He knew exactly which warehouse he needed to go to, but he simply didn’t want to. Weighing his desire to delay visiting the warehouse against the smell he would have to endure if he kept walking around. He headed straight for the warehouse where he had almost died years ago. It wasn’t the first time he had almost died, hell it wasn’t even the first time he had actually died, but he still didn’t like it.
He had been young and cocky; a long string of luck had convinced him that he was invincible. He’d been working for Felipe ‘The Columbian’ Mustela for as long as he could remember. At the time that was about a year. It wasn’t really Felipe’s fault that Salmmy had almost been killed. Accidents happen. From what he’d been told that sort of thing happened to him a lot.
Salmmy could think of much better things to blame Felipe for anyway.
Being completely full of himself he had just walked in the front door of the rat infested warehouse certain that he wouldn’t be challenged. He was equally certain that if he was, it would end very badly for whomever tried.
Before his eyes could adjust to the darkness he was cracked across the face with what he later claimed had been a lead pipe.
The ‘alleged’ lead pipe clattered to the ground. The rat holding it had expected that Salmmy would be knocked backward, or at least fall down, but things, for example salamanders, that can walk up walls tend to be a little hard to knock off their feet. The flash of a pistol in the darkness put an end to any regrets he might have had about his choice of weapons.
The six rats hidden in the darkness rushed forward. They knew that Salmmy’s gun only had one bullet and that he had no time to reload. His weird, archaic obsession with a wildly impractical old gun was actually the subject of quite a few debates among the rats.
Since they had him outnumbered and he was smaller than they were they decided to go with their instincts and rushed madly forward biting anything and everything that got within biting range. The first rat to emerge into the light dropped to the ground with a thud. Blood streamed from the large dent in the side of his head.
Rats are known for being vicious, not for being clever. The sad fact, sad for Salmmy anyway, is that rats are far from stupid. The remaining five paused for a moment to coordinate their attack into a single group lunge. They were a snarling wall of fur, teeth, and claws. Salmmy, holding his pistol as a club, was clearly outmatched.
Rats dropped into disorganized piles before him as he bit, clawed, and smacked his way forward. The other thing Salmmy didn’t know about rats, the most important thing really, is that there are always more rats.
It wasn’t quick, and it wasn’t easy, but eventually the swell of rats brought Salmmy to the ground. Struggling against the impossible mass Salmmy felt claws and teeth tearing away chunks of his flesh. The pain and blood loss were driving him from his body into a pressing darkness. He heard himself screaming with pain and rage. It sounded terribly far away, then it stopped.
Salmmy sat up in disbelief that he was somehow still alive and saw rats chasing his tail across the floor. It danced around and seemed to be provoking them. He was dazed, but he still had enough sense to scramble away as fast as he could.
It had taken a few months. but his tail had grown back. He decided it was better to simply not tell people it had ever happened. Felipe had agreed by saying that no one would believe him anyway, not because tails don’t do that but because no one would ever believe that something like that could happen to Sam Black.
It was the first time Salmmy could remember hearing the name. He still wishes he never had.
Fast approaching the warehouse, he noted the thick layer of dust and sand in front of the door; evidently no one had used it in a long time. That meant that whoever was inside had used the grimy tunnels underneath the port. That meant rats. He shuddered involuntarily at the thought, his tail wrapped itself around his leg.
His hands were shaking. He paused for a moment in front of the warehouse, his grip tightened on the handle of his pistol and the shaking stopped. He smiled, adjusted his hat, and walked through the door.
Looking around the long disused warehouse he noticed a few beams of light entering through the worn and broken roof. It was a small bonus that it wasn’t entirely dark, he could see in mostly dark fairly well but there had to be at least some light.
Noting that anyone standing in the shadows could see him clearly while they themselves remained entirely hidden did not make him feel overly safe, so he decided not to think about it. Puddles of rain shimmered on the floor as he walked confidently forward into the darkness. He certainly hoped he looked confident anyway, since he was actually terrified.
The stale air had no trace of a scent, which was odd as sewer rats tend to carry around a lot more than a trace of a scent. The silence within the empty warehouse was thick and imposing. Salmmy wrestled with the urge to shout ‘echo’ into the darkness. He was saved from his own lack of restraint by a deep and unfamiliar voice from a darkened corner of the warehouse.
“Oy lizard, glad you finally ’effin showed up. Just fought I should give ya fair warning that I’ze gonna kill ya.”
‘I hate rats,’ Salmmy thought angrily. ‘Sounding like a moron isn’t intimidating.’
He didn’t like having his afternoon wasted. It was one thing to kill him, it was quite another to make him walk clear across town when they could have sent him a note. Hell, they had sent a note. The entire afternoon was wasted.
“You might be surprised to learn that I hear that quite often” Salmmy answered disinterestedly.
There was an unnaturally long pause before the voice replied hesitantly, “I intend for you to suffer first, and for a very, very long time.”
‘Does he even realize that he just dropped the accent? This guy is the worst actor I have ever heard.’
“I suppose that’s good news. Listen, while you seem to have quite a bit of time on your hands, I have a grieving mother in my office who is no doubt ruining my carpet by pacing around with all those damn feet, so if you don’t mind I’ll be off.”
Salmmy turned his back on the rat and walked through the doorway. The sound of hundreds of claws in the darkness made him want to run, or throw up, but to his credit, he walked slowly and calmly until he was outside the door.
Then he ran.
He was forced to stop a few streets later by the fact that he wasn’t nearly in the kind of shape he thought he was. Leaning against a wall for a moment, he struggled to avoid throwing up.
A few minutes later he was walking back to his office and thinking about the case, if he could even call it that. The only really interesting thing was the note. He still couldn’t figure out how it was in his handwriting, and why did they want him out of his office all day?
Just outside his building Salmmy stopped and picked up a feather off the ground.
‘That’s odd, not many owls in town...’
When Salmmy returned to his office he carefully checked for bugs, but the spider was gone.