Phyllis Esposito: Interdimensional Private-Eye #3

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“I hate to break it to you,” I said, “but if this is what they gave you, then you and your brother got taken like a real couple of rubes.”

“What do you mean?” The she-elf’s tone was more irritated than disappointed, though heaven forbid she so much as furrow that delicate brow. “It is clearly otherworldly.”

So the tears were reserved for worry about her brother’s fate. The thought of being tricked made her angry, rather than sad. She thought she knew what she was doing, making that deal.

I turned the “amulet” over in my hands, giving it a closer look.

I’m no enchanter, but as far as I could tell, it was an ordinary thumb-drive, made of unfeatured red plastic and a standard USB port on the end. Someone had drilled a hole through the plastic and run a bit of twine through, to let it be worn as a necklace, but otherwise, you could probably buy one at the local gas station.

“It is otherworldly… to you,” I said. “Here, they give these things away for free at trade shows. I betcha that goblin has a whole crate of these things back in his cave.”

“He did not live in a cave. He had a storefront in town where he sold scavenged items. It was a proper business. Though, to be sure, he had illicit activities on the side.”

I raised an eyebrow at that. It was unusual, but hey, it’s a big multiverse. Room enough for goblin entrepreneurs, I suppose.

“In any case,” I continued. “I would bet that he has a bunch of them and gives them out regular to people he’s transporting. Which means that scrying’s probably not going to help us. Too much interference.”

“It is useless then?”

“Well, I wouldn’t say that,” I leaned around the side of my computer, looking for a free port. “It’s just not magical. Here, they’re used for storing information. It’s probably blank, but who knows, maybe it wasn’t a scam after all and he put his contact instructions on it.”

I finally found an open port, and after flipping it over three or four times, it finally slid into place. “Bobby, take a look and see what’s on this drive.”

“Sure thing, boss! Booting it up right nnnnnnn…” His voice trailed off, taking on a more-electronic tone, and on the display, his face froze.

“Bobby?”

Nothing.

I frowned and reached for the mouse. The cursor moved, but clicking did nothing.

Then the screen went blank, and the thumb-drive exploded.

It made a pop, like a firecracker, and I felt the vibration through the desk as a spray of green sparks erupted from the side of my computer.

Ms. Moon yelped and leaped out of her seat, turning a back-flip and landing in the far corner of the room.

Less graceful, I fell over backwards in my chair.

Once I righted myself, I saw that the sparks had ceased, but that my carpet was now on fire. I climbed to my feet and began stomping out the flames.

It didn’t take long to extinguish the smoldering fabric, but I was not looking forward to having this conversation with my landlord. Maybe I could move my desk on top of the burnt patch.

“Boss?”

The computer had rebooted. Bobby’s face, returned to normal, hovered anxiously above the desktop.

“Bobby, what the hell was on that drive?”

“It was a virus like I’ve never seen, boss. I barely had time to get into safe mode.”

Ms. Moon made her way back to the desk. “Ms. Esposito, I am beginning to suspect that you do not know what you are doing.”

I took a deep breath, and adjusted my fedora. “I may not know what I’m doing, ma’am. But now I’m interested.”

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