Andrea, Attorney at Law

The Mad Dwarf: Part 9

    As we were making our way up the staircase, I began to analyze the situation, very slowly. Not just everything Blackstone had told us, not just everything we had encountered up until now, but I mean really the ENTIRE SITUATION.
    What kind of crazy leaps were we just making? A few oddballs running around this oddball company, and suddenly we were sure that someone was wiping memories, enchanting people with drone-like work obsessions and pushing mentally unstable family members into serious weapon charge scenarios?
    It was on the tip of my tongue, how wrong I felt we were and how much this all seemed hopeless. I wanted to stop Andrea and tell her we failed. How utterly disastrous this had all become; how ridiculous this notion was.
    I turned, opened my mouth and let out a yelp as I was mowed down all at once by what appeared to be a stampede of dwarves.
    I tried to reach out and take hold of the railing, but it happened all too quick. I rolled backward, Andrea was pushed face first onto my chest, and while her body weight steadied me from doing a complete summersault, instead she used me as a sort of toboggan to ride the stairs upon the flood of charging dwarves.
    My head spun, back ached, and the world was highlighted in a dulled flashing of lights.
    Yup. My name. Someone kept saying it over and over. The world shook with each utterance.
    I snapped to. Andrea still sat on me but was slapping and shaking me, all while calling out my name.
    “Travis Dirge, you moron, it wasn’t that bad of a fall!”
    “Speak for yourself,” I said meekly. “You had a cushion.” I tried to push her off me but stopped due to a pain springing up from my lower back and into my arm. 
    Andrea smirked. “Get up!” She hopped off no problem.
    Rubbing my arm, I struggled up and took a look around. Dwarves were fleeing the building in all directions, and more were pouring out from the flights above us on the staircase.
    “What happened?” I asked.
    “I don’t know.” Andrea looked around the building with the same awed expression as myself. “If I had to guess someone is trying to distract us.”
    “It’s working,” I replied, rubbing my head. I felt a lump growing there, along with whatever muscle I pulled in my back. “Distract us from what and who and why are the questions.” I groaned. “As usual.”
    Andrea was eyeing the staircase pretty intently. I could tell she wanted to get up to the floor where Maddox was, but the constant flow of dwarves fighting to get out of the building would be too much to fight against. Even trying to move a single lazy, unhealthy dwarf would be like struggling against a boulder.
    “Do we know what Maddox looks like?” I asked.
    “Human.” Was all Andrea said.
    Since there was a significant lack of them around, I figured he would be easy to spot.
    It had taken a good seven minutes before the entire building cleared out, and the two of us did not see Maddox coming down the stairs. Whether he was ever up there, to begin with, and why the dwarves so unexpectedly evacuated were more questions to add to the pile. Either way, now was the time to explore.
    “Floor by floor, or do we just assume Maddox didn’t use that as a convenient way to hide or escape?” I asked.
    “No idea.” Andrea sniffed the air. “I don’t smell smoke,” she laughed halfheartedly.
    “Yeah, I doubt that was a fire-drill either.” I took a step towards the staircase, now aching and wary of stampeding boulders with legs and beards.
    “Let’s get up to floor three and start there.” Andrea started up the stairs. “He might count on us thinking he used that to hide.”
    We had to start somewhere, and that was a better plan than anything I could come up with, so I followed close behind her. I kept my eyes focused on the steps above, carefully listening for those rushing trunk-like feet.
    None came.
    We reached the third floor with no more cause for alarm, other than the uneasy silence that now filled the building.
    “Room fourteen?” I asked.
    “Yup.” Andrea looked at the room numbers, then pointed to the left, where a hall split off with rooms numbered eight to twenty. “Let’s go.”
    We practically tip-toed the entire way, looking into the open and empty rooms on each side of us. They were mostly conference rooms, with evidence of the recent exodus: scattered papers, knocked over drinks, sideways chairs, and wide open doors. The others were small offices, with the same indication of commotion inside.
    A loud crash echoed from halfway down the hall. Andrea turned to me and smiled. 
    “You’ve got to be kidding,” I said flatly. “He actually stayed up here?”
    “Someone did. And I bet it’s our man.”
    I strutted up to the door, intent on finding anything but a human stupid enough not to use the dwarves fleeing as an excuse to hide and found a tall human, early fifties with a shortly cropped gray hairdo rummaging through files.
    “Where is it, where is it!” He shouted, in a near screech as I looked in, open-mouthed.
    Andrea stepped up behind me, chuckling quietly. “If he is the mastermind behind all of this, I’ll be very impressed.”
    The presumed Maddox tripped over a fallen chair and landed on his face. He let out a wail, then rolled over. He stopped altogether when he saw us standing in the doorway.
    “Ex-FCP Officer Flannery Maddox?” I asked, enunciating each syllable. I used every piece of information I had to address him, hoping to get a more useful reaction than the one he gave.
    Maddox only smoothed his crumpled suit, slicked back his hair and cocked an eyebrow. “Yes?” He said flatly.
    “We’re here to ask you some questions,” Andrea said as she stepped into the room. I followed close behind her, then closed the door.
    “Well,” Maddox said getting to his feet. “You’ll have to come back. I’m extremely busy, and as you can see, very short staffed at the moment.”
    “Yeah,” I said mockingly. “We’ve noticed.”
    “We just want a few minutes of your time. We’re representing Del Blackstone in an undergoing unlawful possession of a magical weapon court case. We’ve found that you were an arresting officer on the scene, and retired soon after. Now,” she waved a hand about her, “you seem to have taken up a position at his family business, one which has an enormous workforce, but for some reason, no one can verify it exists.”
    Maddox turned his back and walked over to a set of file cabinets on the far wall. He was nodding furiously, all while Andrea spoke, and started to dig through the drawers, throwing papers out as he did.
    I couldn’t believe it. He seemed as mad as everyone else related to this case. “You see why we might want to chat?” I asked. “Perhaps you have some more information you can give us?”
    “Oh certainly!” Maddox said, his voice hitting pitches I didn’t know a man could. “Just let me find the file with all the information on it!”
    I tapped Andrea and pointed towards the door. I started to back my way in that direction, dragging her back slightly.
    “Here it is!” Maddox shouted, jumping in the air and holding a long, wooden wand at us.
    “Ah, crap,” I said, just inches from the door. “I knew it.” I elbowed Andrea. “Whenever a crazy person says he has something for you with his back turned, he will never spin back around with candy.”
    “Noted,” Andrea said, her hands slowing going into the air.
    “Don’t move a muscle.” Maddox started to walk towards us. “I’ve got some questions for you, now. And if I don’t like what I hear,” he slid one finger across his throat.
    “I figured that,” I said, now raising my hands slowly as well. “Let’s make it quick. I really can’t wait for this case to be over.”

© 2016-20 Fitts Harper