The following story is from the GNOMAGEDDON series, featuring Thimblecock Dickerstock, the roguish gnome.
Hunt For A Scavenger
The pearl rested in the center of the room,
under a glass display case designed to allow for maximum exposure with minimum
interference. Torches specially designed to highlight the pearl’s opalescence
lined the walls, lighting the damned thing like an Olenstach holiday tree. It
was a lawman’s nightmare, all that well placed light and wide open casing. No
wonder it was a target. I had gotten word that afternoon that a well known
thief was planning on stealing the pearl. It was going to be difficult to keep
the thing out of the scoundrel’s hands.
Earlier that night I begged the Duchess
to hide the real pearl and set out a fake one in its place, but the woman was
intractable on the matter. She claimed the pearl belonged to the people, and as
such the people deserved to have access to it at all hours. I tried to assure
her that, if given a chance, these same people would sell the thing out from
under her and split the profits. She merely scoffed at the idea, and I was left
to guard a priceless object kept in what might as well have been a glass bucket
with a sign that said free, take one,
only because we don’t have two.
“Everyone is in place, ma’am,” Jackson
said from beside of me.
“Thank you, Constable Jackson,” I said.
“Three on the roof as you requested. A
pair of guards focused on each of the four doors. And including us, two more
men to fill the corners of this room.” He narrowed his eyes at me. “Are you
certain you don’t want a pair of men posted at the display case?”
“No. And make sure all of the men keep
to the shadows. Let him come on in and try his best. I want to take this
bastard by surprise.”
“Aye, ma’am. Understood.” Jackson stepped
closer to the casing and glanced down, staring in confusion at the huge pink
pearl laying just underneath the glass. “What I don’t understand is why would
anyone want to steal that? It’s hideous.”
“I couldn’t agree more. But we aren’t
here to judge the thing, just protect it. Besides, our thief isn’t exactly
discerning in his tastes.”
“Try as he might, he won’t get his hands
on the Duchess’s Pink Lady Pearl tonight. Or any other night, for that matter.”
“Pink Lady Pearl. That’s an odd name.”
“I’ve heard odder.”
“You know, one of the locals toasted it
as the Almighty Squeal.”
I snorted at the idea. “I can see why. I
wonder where the damn thing came from.”
“What do you mean, ma’am? It’s a pearl.
Surely it came from an oyster?”
“So I hear, but have you ever seen an
oyster capable of producing a pearl roughly the shape and size of a five pound
Jackson grinned. “Consider the source,
“Exactly.” I nodded to the far corners
of the room. “Go on then. It’s getting late. Our guest should be arriving any
“Aye, ma’am,” Jackson said, and scurried
off to do as asked.
Constable Jackson was a good officer. Respectable,
honorable, and loyal to a fault, I found him indispensable when it came to
getting things done. As a result, I placed the bulk of this sting on his broad
shoulders. I only hoped he could handle the responsibility. After all, it
wasn’t every day an officer of the law got a chance to capture a thief of this
Tonight, at long last, Thimblecock
Dickerstock would be mine.
Well, not mine per say. Once we capture
him, he would become a ward of the state and then hopefully after a short trial
he would lose either his head or his freedom. Preferably his head. My only
regret is that he didn’t have two heads, so I could watch both of them get
As I contemplated the lovely image of
the gnome losing his head, a soft shifting noise came from the far corner of
the room. I took the cue from my men and slid back toward my own hiding spot in
the opposite corner. There I waited. Another soft sound came from the corner to
my right. I assumed this was the sound of my men settling into place, until I
heard the same exact sound come from the corner on my left. It was too
With a sputtering gulp, all six torches
went out at the same time, leaving us in total darkness. I rubbed the coin in
my pocket; a talisman for a light spell. I was hoping I wouldn’t need it. It
looked like I would after all.
Someone grunted near me.
“Jackson?” I whispered.
“Try again,” came a familiar, grating
voice, followed by a familiar, grating giggle.
“Dickerstock,” I growled.
“Got it on the second try,” he said.
“Good on you, lass.”
“As if anyone else in the world sounds
as irritating as you.” I pushed the coin back into my pocket, determined to
sneak up on him in the dark. “You’re very easy to distinguish. Like a pig in a
pen full of swans.” I raised my eyes to the ceiling, certain his voice was coming
from above me.
“It’s nice to know you think of me as
“That’s not what I said.”
“No it wasn’t. It was the complete
opposite of what I said. I also called you a pig.” I hated lowering myself to arguing
with him, but it was the best way to pinpoint his location. If the gnome
possessed a single fault, it was his love of the sound of his own voice.
Luckily for me, the gnome possessed a great many faults, and I intended to
exploit all of them. “You won’t get the
“Oh I reckon I’ll get it. Question is,
what will ya do after I get out of here with it?”
I glared at the ceiling, wondering if he
was in the rafters or further up. “You’re not going to get out of here with
Great. Just what I needed. If I turned him
down, he would see it as a weakness on my part, but if I took him up on it and
failed… no. I wouldn’t fail. He wasn’t getting his grubby little hands on that
“I’ll take your bet,” I said to the
ceiling as I unsheathed my blade. “You’re not going to get out of here tonight
with that pearl. I stake my reputation on it.”
“Good,” Dickerstock said. “Because your
reputation is exactly what I am interested in.”
This took me by surprise. “What?”
“If I manage to wiggle my tiny—and not
to mention incredibly toned—derriere out of this hall with that pearl in tow,
you have to give me your badge.”
I snorted a laugh, unable to hide my
humor at his ridiculous notion. “Give you my badge? I’d rather fall on my own
“That can be arranged.” As he spoke
again, the location of his voice shifted from the ceiling down the eastern wall,
trailing toward the floor. “I’m sure tha Duke would love ta execute you for
losing his woman’s precious pearl.”
Working my way across the northern wall,
I nearly tripped when I came upon the slumped body of Constable Jackson in the
northwestern corner. I lowered myself to his face, both pleased and disgusted
to hear him lightly snoring. At least he wasn’t dead, but I would kill him as
soon as he woke.
“How did you get to my men?” I said.
“Easy enough,” Dickerstock said. “Everyone
gets thirsty. And free drink is everyone’s price.”
I groaned when I remembered what Jackson
had said only minutes before.
of the locals toasted it as the Almighty Squeal.”
“Idiots,” I whispered.
“Yes,” Dickerstock said from very near
to my right. “Good help is so hard to find these days. Unlike a good gnome. A
good, hard gnome. Which is me, if you don’t get my meaning.”
“I got your meaning!” I snapped. I
rubbed at my weary eyes, already aching from straining in the dark. “This is
“You never answered my question,” Dickerstock
said, his voice turning and traveling along the eastern wall, away from me.
I continued my path in the opposite
direction, taking tentative steps in the total darkness, intent on meeting him
head on. I contemplated pitching the coin into the air, and as a result
lighting the entire place, exposing Dickerstock in all of his gnomish glory.
Yet no, I withheld, waiting for just the right moment to shine the light of
justice on that squirming little turd.
“Well?” he said. “Will you give me your
badge if I get my ham hocks on that hammy little pearl?”
“You won’t get the pearl,” I said.
“Oh, confidence. I like that in a lass.
If you’re so certain I won’t get the prize, then what have ya got ta lose?” His
voice had paused again, stopping in the southeastern corner. Exactly where one
of my now sleeping men lay slumped.
“Okay,” I said.
“I’ll give you my badge if you can steal
“Then hand it over.”
“Why would I just do that?”
“Because tha pearl is already gone.”
My eyes went wide. He had to be joking.
Panicking, I yanked the coin from my pocket and tossed it into the air with a
flick. It rolled about in a lazy arc, flashing in heartbeat like pulses that
grew faster with each rotation, until at last the enchanted coin hung, midair,
spinning and shining and lighting the entire room to a brilliant degree. I
winced, shielding my eyes at the intrusion of light. When I was able to see
again, I glanced to the center of the room. My mouth fell open at what I found
The pearl was still in the display case.
And so was Dickerstock. A rope hung from
the ceiling into the now opened casing, providing my nemesis with an easy
escape. I gawked at him in complete shock. In that moment of hesitation, Dickerstock
grinned at me through the glass like an over excited ape, tucked the pearl into
his backpack, then scrambled up the rope.
I lunged for him, but it was too late. Quick
as a greased pig, the gnome shot up the rope and out onto the roof before I
could even make it to the display case. It was almost pointless to follow him. He
had a fantastic lead on me. The gnome would be off the roof, through the
compound and into the surrounding woods before a single alarm could be raised. I
punched the wooden base of the display and cursed aloud in frustration.
“Now, now,” Dickerstock said from the
far corner. “Such language isn’t ladylike.”
I whipped about, wondering what sorcery
this was, when I saw exactly what sorcery it was. A rat sat in the corner,
perched atop one of my sleeping men, staring at me with beady little red eyes.
The beast grinned in an all too familiar manner.
“That’s right, luv,” Dickerstock said
through the rat. “Ya aren’t the only one with a wee bit of magic in their
pocket. Though, I suppose technically I’ve always got a wee bit of magic in my
pocket. And by pocket, I mean my trousers, and by a wee bit I mean a great, big
“Telepathic conveyance,” I said over his
filthy joke. “Nice. Expensive, but nice. How much did that little spell cost
“Enough. I consider it an investment.
And it’s rude ta interrupt a man’s metaphor. Just so ya know.”
Ignoring the rat, I quietly stepped to
the edge of the hall, and peered outside. All was not lost. Not yet. “I don’t
know if the wizard who cast that spell for you explained how it worked, but
there’s something you should know about telepathic conveyance.”
I stepped outside and scanned the roof
for him. “We use it all of the time for stakeouts. It only works within a one
hundred foot radius of the control subject. Which means if you’re still talking
to me, you’re still nearby.”
“True.” The gnome seemed unperturbed by
I ducked back into the hall and made
sure the rat was still where I left it. “I have men stationed all across this
property. The moment that rat goes back to normal I know exactly how far you
are from me. Extrapolating your movements after that will be easy.” It was a
longshot and a bluff of the grandest kind, but I was desperate for anything to
make the gnome as nervous as me.
“I dare to say they will be far simpler
than even you suspect.”
The rat trembled a moment before its
eyes faded from that enchanted red back to natural black. The animal sniffed
the air as its nose twitched. It squeaked. I couldn’t be sure, but I thought
the rat looked utterly confused to find itself in the display hall. I heard a
noise rise from behind me, and I turned on my heel to find Dickerstock standing
in the doorway, smiling up at me, his eyes twinkling in the moon light.
“I won’t leave until I get what you
promised me,” he said.
“Gotcha!” I snatched him up by a handful
of his flaming red hair and dragged him into the hall. “You little snot! I
finally have you! You could’ve ran off into the night like the little rat you
are, but no, you had to gloat.” I relished the feel of his greasy hair in my
hot hands, as well as the satisfaction of yanking it out by the roots. “You had
to stay behind to gloat and now I have you!”
Dickerstock shrieked in agony as I
pulled him across the floor by his hair. This caterwauling woke Jackson from
his drug induced sleep. The officer groaned as he sat up and rubbed at his
“Constable Jackson,” I said. “Go and
fetch her Ladyship. Tell her I have the thief and her pearl, safe and sound.”
Jackson scrambled to his feet. “Yes,
ma’am!” He ran off to retrieve the lady of the house.
“The rest of you wake up and get these
Various groans and cries of ‘aye’ came
from the men. Most avoided meeting my gaze, scrambling around me with sheepish
grins and hanging heads. I would discipline the entire troop later, after I
dealt with Dickerstock. For now, I stripped the gnome of his backpack, clamped
a pair of cuffs onto his wrists and pushed him against the wall, face first.
“Careful there,” the gnome said. “I like
it rough, but you almost bruised my ego.”
“I’m going to bruise a hell of a lot
more than that before we are done here.”
“You’ll bruise your reputation too,
unless you give me what is rightfully mine.”
I sneered at his back. “I am not giving
“Renege. Go on. Break your word. Make a
liar out of yourself.”
“You’d know all about that, wouldn’t
“I know a lot of things … wait, are ye
callin’ me a liar?”
I spun the gnome about and dragged him
up the wall until we were eye to eye. “I’m calling you a thief. Soon I’ll call
you a prisoner. And after your trial is done, I will call you a memory, because
you’ll be dead.”
Dickerstock grinned ever wider and
lifted his bound wrists to me. “If its memories you want, hon, unlock these
shackles and I’ll give you a night you’ll never forget.”
I released my grip on him, allowing him
to slide to the floor and land on his rump.
“What’s all this fuss about?” said a
I cringed at the sound of the Duke. I
was hoping Jackson would return with just the Ladyship, but no. The Duke
himself decided to join us as well. In my dealings with her, I found the
Duchess to be a respectable, gentle soul. The Duke was quite the opposite. In
fact, he was closer to the rogue at my feet than the respectable royal at his
“I was just telling this copper,”
Dickerstock said, “that she was a bald faced liar of the highest degree. A
deceiver. A fibber. A prevaricator!”
The Duke’s eyes went wide. It was a
well-known fact that the Duke of Orrington hated to be accused of lying, only
because he did so every chance he got.
“Sir,” I said, “allow me to explain what
is going on here-”
“A liar?” the Duke said, his chubby
cheeks wobbling in his imaginary righteous indignation. “I can’t abide by a
liar in my house.”
“I am not a liar,” I said.
“Then why are your pants on fire?” the
“Fire?” the Duchess said, her voice
trembling and flutelike in its fright.
The gnome played that flute for all it
was worth. “Step back, my Lady, or your pants might catch fire too.”
The Duchess stepped back to avoid the
hypothetical fire of my flaming liar pants.
I groaned and rubbed my temples in
frustration. Was everyone in this hall aside from me a complete idiot? “Ma’am, I
caught this gnome in the act of stealing your Pink Lady Pearl. He is the thief
I warned you about.”
“Nonsense,” Dickerstock said. “I was
merely out for a stroll when this young lady made me an offer I couldn’t
“Really?” the Duke said. He licked his
lips. “What kind of offer?”
“This little filly said she would give
up her most precious possession if I could prove my valor.”
I had to hand it to the gnome, that
wasn’t far from the truth.
“And did he?” the Duke said, rubbing his
hands together in eager anticipation.
“Of course he did!” the gnome shouted.
“I always keep my end of things.” Dickerstock winked at me. “Now it’s time ya
keep yours, sweet cheeks.”
“Yes,” the Duke said. “You should pay
the gnome. And I should watch.” The man grinned at me.
No, he leered.
And in that leer I could see exactly
what he thought I had promised the rouge.
“That sounds fair,” the Duchess said.
“Does it?” Dickerstock said, surprised
by the Duchess’s sudden support.
“Certainly. If she made a promise, and
you proved your valor, than she is honor bound to see to the agreement.”
“And I should watch,” the Duke repeated.
He wrapped an arm around his wife. “But perhaps you should go back to the
house, honey. This might get a bit … messy.”
“You want to see his idea of valor?” I
said. I turned the gnome’s backpack over, dumping the contents onto the floor. A
small collection of garbage fell out of the thing, topped by the pearl in
“My pearl!” the Duchess said. She
reached out and grabbed up her pearl, hugging the horrid thing to her.
“There you go,” I said. “There’s your
precious valor.” I toed the strange assortment of bits and bobs piled on the
floor; a single blue feather, a ball of twine, a half-eaten apple, a four
leafed clover, as well as other various oddities. “What is this crap and where
did you steal it from?”
“I didn’t steal it,” Dickerstock said. He lifted his chin in defiance as he said, “I’ll
have you know I came by all of that honestly.”
I couldn’t help but snort a laugh. “As
if you know what honesty means.”
“Sure I do. Honesty is the opposite of
lucky. When ya can’t get somethin’ by luck, you have ta hope ya can get it
honestly. If ya can’no get it honestly, then ya have ta steal it. Which I
didn’t. Just like I’m not gonna steal what ya owe me, fair and square.”
“What do you think, Duke?” I said,
raising my face to the Lord once more. “Do you still think I should I give him
my …” I paused as I caught sight of the man. “Sir? Are you all right?”
The Duke stood staring down at the pile
of useless junk, mouth agape, eyes bulging.
“That’s right,” Dickerstock said. “Drink
it all in. Quite a collection isn’t it? And when I get this lassie’s precious
prize, my collection will be complete. How ya like dem apples, Dukey?”
The Duke’s jowls flapped as he huffed
and puffed. “Enough of this nonsense. Arrest that gnome and take him away.”
I was intrigued by his sudden change of
heart. One moment he was eager to see me relinquish my so called prize to the
gnome, the next he was fervent to see Dickerstock behind bars.
“But what about their agreement?” the
“Obviously this has all been a trick,”
the Duke said. “Everyone knows you can’t trust a gnome.” He grabbed his wife by
the arm and tried to drag her from the hall.
The Duchess wasn’t having any of that.
She jerked her arm out of the Duke’s grip and held her ground. “No. His idea of
valor might be a bit skewed, but that young lady owes him for his actions.”
I balled my fists. “I most certainly do.
And I will only be too glad to pay him, in full.”
“Then hand it over, cupcake,”
Dickerstock said. He smiled.
I looked to the Duke again, to that
dumbfounded face, curious as to why he was so keen to get the hell out of here.
The Duke shot a quick, worried glance to the pile of seemingly useless things,
then back to me. If he hadn’t done that, I might have followed through with my
original plan and took the gnome to the stockyard. But something in that glance
told me the man was far more guilty here than the gnome. And considering the
gnome’s lousy reputation, that was saying an awful lot.
It took every ounce of strength I
possessed, yet I managed to grip the edge of my badge, slid it free from my
shirt pocket, and lowered it toward Dickerstock. I kept my gaze on the Duke,
watching as his eyes went saucer wide the closer my badge got to the gnome.
“No!” the Duke said. He held his hands
out, pleading with me not to let the gnome have my badge. “Please, don’t give
it to him. You don’t understand what you’re doing.”
Dickerstock held his bound hands up and
motioned for me to hand it to him. “Gimme, gimme!”
I shoved it at him keeping a tight grip
on my end. The moment the gnome grabbed the thing, I looked down and growled,
“You may borrow it. I want it right back.”
“Of course, luv,” the gnome said. “I
only need it for tha briefest of moments.”
“Please don’t!” the Duke pleaded again.
“Marcus?” the Duchess said. “What is all of
“Nothing?” he half asked, half said.
The Duchess pursed her thin lips. “I
see. Then if it’s nothing, you won’t care if she gives him her badge. Will
“No?” Again it was more of a question
and less of a statement.
The Duchess nodded to me.
I released my badge.
The gnome snatched it from me and squealed
in delight. He stepped forward and tossed my badge on top of his belongings, then
proceeded to poke his finger at the Duke. “I told ya I could do it! I told ya I
was the best at scavenger hunts. Now pay up, Marcus.” Dickerstock broke into a
little jig, dancing in circles around the pile of junk.
“Scavenger hunt?” I said, more confused
“I knew it,” the Duchess said. She
stamped her foot. “You’ve been playing that awful game again.”
“That’s right,” Dickerstock said. “He
bet me I couldn’t fill his list before sunrise tomorrow. Ha! I showed him.”
“Why?” the Duchess said, hurt touching
I felt sort of sorry for her.
The Duke sighed and pressed the heels of
his hands to his eyes. “Because I didn’t think he would actually do it. Until I
saw all of that.” He waved at the junk on the floor. “I tried to make it really
hard this time. Who thought he would get his hands on a copper’s badge without
“Without stealing it,” Dickerstock
echoed as he nodded to me.
“You promised me you would stop,” the
“I will,” the Duke said. “I swear,
honey. This is the last time.”
“You said that last time. I lost my best
necklace in that stupid game. I lost all of my porcelain dolls the time before
that. What am I going to lose now? Because I know you weren’t selfless enough
to offer one of your lousy possessions as a prize.”
The Duke peeked over his hands at her,
and mumbled something unintelligible.
“What was that?” she said.
“Your Pink Lady Pearl,” he said.
The Duchess hugged the pearl to her
tighter. “No! I won’t give up my pearl to that, that, that little monster!”
Dickerstock stalled in his dance and
looked up to the Lady. “Monster? I’m not the one that promised your precious
pearl as a prize in a silly game. That would be your chubby hubby.”
The Duke sighed again. “Just give it to
him so we can go back to bed.”
“What?” Dickerstock said. “She’s gonna
give it ta me right here in front of the gods and everyone?”
“Bed?” the Duchess said, ignoring the
gnome. “You mean you will go back to the couch. I won’t have you in our bed
“He can join us,” Dickerstock said. “I
don’t mind an audience.”
“Fine,” the Duke growled, also ignoring
the gnome. “Just give him your effing pearl so we can get some sleep.”
“I won’t sleep a wink tonight after
this,” the Duchess said.
“Trust me,” Dickerstock said, wiggling
his fingers at her. “Once I’m done wit ya, you will sleep like tha dead.”
“For Pete’s sake,” the Duke said, “just
hand it over so he will leave!”
The Duchess stamped her foot once more.
The Duke glared at her until she held the majestic Pink Lady Pearl out to the
Dickerstock, who stood a clear two feet
shorter than the Lady, stared up at the pearl with disgust. “What do you expect
me to do with that?”
“Take it and leave,” the Duchess said.
The gnome narrowed his eyes as he
grabbed the pearl from the woman’s shaking hands. He looked down at the thing a
moment, then raised his eyes to the ceiling as he slapped his forehead with his
empty hand. “That’s what he meant by pink lady pearl. Wow. I totally misread that
one. I thought he meant I was going to get to my hands on your-”
“Looks like you win,” I said over him.
The Duchess whipped about and stalked
away from the hall, with her husband trailing behind, begging for her
“Honey?” the Duke said. “Bunny fluff? Sweetie
pie? Please don’t do this to me. You know I can’t help myself. I’m a sick man.”
“You most certainly are!” she shouted.
Their voices faded as they disappeared
“Huh,” the gnome said. “Who knew he
meant a real pearl?”
“Everyone else in the world but you,” I
Dickerstock lowered the pearl to the
floor, then raised his still bound hands as he looked back up to me. “What now,
officer? As you can see, I’m at your complete mercy.”
As much as I wanted to run him in, I
knew he would just be back out on the street in less than an hour. I pulled the
idiot gnome toward me and uncuffed him.
He rubbed at his wrists. “Does this mean
I shook my head at him. “It means you
should leave. Now. Before I change my mind.”
“Aww. We aren’t friends?”
He raised an eyebrow. “Lovers?”
Dickerstock winked at me “I already do,
I cut my eyes at him, wondering what in
the hell that meant.
“Sir?” Jackson said. “Aren’t we going to
take him in?”
“No,” I said.
“Why not?” another of my men asked.
“Because,” Dickerstock said. “Ye can’t
arrest me for stealin’ something that belongs to me, laddie. Every officer
knows that.” He grabbed the pearl and stuffed it into his knapsack. Dickerstock
shoveled the other scavenger hunt items into his back before tossing my badge
back to me. “Here ya go, as promised.”
“Man of your word,” I said with laugh.
“When it suits me.” He slung the bag
over his shoulder and gave me a little salute. The gnome whistled as he slowly
made his way out of the hall and into the cool night air, not a care in the
I envied him, not because of his talent,
but because he really didn’t have a care in the world.
“Ma’am?” Jackson said beside of me.
“What?” I said.
“He’s getting away.”
“Yes. Yes he is.”
Part of me wanted to go after him, yet
the rest of me had to admire his gall. Moreover, it served the Duke right for
making deals with such a little devil. I clipped my badge back onto my pocket
and buffed it with the edge of my sleeve. Unlike the gnome, not all of us had
the luxury of living without regret.