By Ingvar: Trigger Snowflake opened his clear, blue eyes. It smelled like a fine morning, heralding a great day. If nothing else, he would be taking lunch with his betrothed, Miss Coraline Hoyter.
He quickly got dressed and walked to the sheriff office kitchen, grabbed a bowl and poured a healthy serving of Neptune Nut Nuggets and added just a splash of milk, in order to get his breakfast cereal to the perfect balance between crispy nuttiness and slight moistness from the slowly penetrating milk. As he left the bowl to soak, he set his DripMatic 3000 to making his post-cereal coffee.
Quarter of an hour later, having fortified himself with a truly excellent breakfast, it was time to strap his gun belt around his trim waist, then pin the sheriff badge to his vest, then take a quick stroll through Fort Corallium, to ensure that the local businessmen were all happy and the local miners well-behaved. He put his hat on, opened the front door of the sheriff office and headed out, nodding cheerfully to his fellow citizens as he strolled down Main Street.
Trigger pondered the propriety of paying Miss Hoyter an early visit. Fully distracted by the complex problem of figuring this matter of etiquette, he did not notice Mr Lilyberg hurrying the other way, and in one of those moments that happen, they walked into each other, with such force that Sheriff Snowflake was half spun around, and Mr Lilyberg was knocked off balance and fell down.
“Sorry, Mr Lilyberg. Mind completely elsewhere. Everything alright?”
“Just lost my breath, Sheriff, nothing sprained or broken.”
Trigger reached down with his right arm, to help Mr Lilyberg up from the ground.
“Good to hear. Again, terribly sorry.”
“No one hurt, Sheriff, no one hurt. Just on my way to Agape, they called and my new shoes have arrived. Nothing I would recommend for you, having such a stately height, but being a bit on the short side…”
Trigger tipped his hat and continued his morning stroll, taking care to not let his mind stray to the fascinating conundrum that had bothered him.
Having walked entirely to the other side of Fort Corallium, Trigger checked his pocket watch. A brisk, but not over-fast stroll, even taking the Lilyberg incident into account. It would not do to be too fast in these peace-keeping strolls.
Trigger paused and looked around, nothing out of the ordinary. It truly seemed like it would be a perfect day. Now, it had been raining and windy the last few days. Trigger knew that the atmospheric systems did not keep any specific weather setting for longer than three days, in order to ensure that the townsfolk got variety, but never got really bored with the weather.
He started back down Main Street, wondering if he should stop for a cup of coffee on the way, or give the DripMatic 3000 a chance to make a second cup of the morning. He’d not gotten much further than listing the options in his mind, when he heard a loud commotion from the alley on his left.
Undoing the strap retaining his right revolver in the holster, Sheriff Snowflake purposefully strode towards the opening of the alley, certain in his conviction that a crime was in progress and he may have to discharge his firearm. As he stepped off Main Street, he saw, disconcertingly, Miss Hoyter on the ground, in stockinged feet.
“Miss Hoyter! What happened? Can I be of assistance? Where are your shoes?”
“Dear Trigger, please help me up and walk me back to the Emporium. I was viciously knocked down from behind, then a swarthy main, looked like an Earther, stole my new shoes!”
“Stealing shoes? I am continually baffled by how low criminals are willing to stoop. Here, Miss Hoyter take my hand, and I will help you to the Emporium. Will you be able to walk, or should I carry you back?”
“Walking back would not be a problem, darling Trigger. And it would be unseemly, this close to our wedding, for you carry me when I am perfectly capable of walking.”
“No, Trigger, I shall walk, even if it may ruin my silk stockings.”
Sheriff Snowflake held his arm out to at least ensure that Miss Hoyter would have support as and when she needed it. They headed down Main Street to the Emporium.
Once at the Emporium, Trigger pulled his notebook out, as well as a pen, and placed them on the table.
“Well, Miss Hoyter, I should probably take a formal statement, since a crime has been committed.”
“Certainly. Would you like a coffee while we talk?”
“That would be splendid.”
Once two cups were on the table, and they had taken their first sip, he picked up his pen and notebook.
“Miss Hoyter can you describe the sequence of events?”
“Certainly. I was walking from home towards the Emporium, when I heard what sounded like a puppy down Natural Alley. Not wanting to leave any long animal in distress, I headed down, keeping an eye out for the pup. I’d walked fifteen, maybe twenty, yards when someone hit me in the back of the head. I fell to the ground, dazed, and as I was trying to get my bearings, I felt what seemed to be a knife cutting the straps off my new shoes. Then the shoes were taken off my feet. Whoever it was started running away and I shouted out. Then, a few moments later, a host dashing and handsome sheriff arrived.”
“New shoes? Any precious stones, noble metals or similar on them?”
“No, they’re a new model from Mars, picked them up yesterday evening at Agape. They’re honestly jus a new thing I thought I would try. They have, in addition to my customary high heel, that you are familiar with, an extra-thick sole under the ball of the foot. In total, they give me almost a full extra inch. But I don’t think they’re special enough to warrant stealing, they were fairly plain, smooth red leather, with a copper buckle on the ankle strap.”
“Hm. Well, I have written for statement down. Let’s enjoy the rest of the coffee, before I head back to the office.”
They finished the coffee, engaged in the normal smalltalk of a coupe engaged to be married, plans for wallpaper patterns and the like.
Trigger had just finished filing Miss Hoyter’s statement when the front door was flung open. He looked up at an enraged Mr Lilyberg rushing through the door.
“Sheriff! Sheriff! I am the victim of a heinous crime!”
“If you take a seat, Mr Lilyberg, I will take your statement.”
“I was returning from Agape with my new shoes boxed up. When all of a sudden, two armed men stopped me and threatened to run me through with their knives, unless I gave them the shoe box. These were special-order from Mars, Sheriff, quite expensive, and now I need to wait for two weeks, before a new pair can be here. This is an outrage, Sheriff! There must be something you can do!”
“Well, Mr Lilyberg, in confidence I can reveal that you are not the first person today who have lost a pair of shoes. Could you please describe the shoes for me?”
“Now, Sheriff, I am not a vain man, but you may have noticed that I am on the short side. Normally, this does not bother me, but as we are coming up on an election for the town council again, I thought it prudent to, ahem, increase my stature slightly. So I ordered a pair of dress shoes from this new company on Mars. They make a most satisfying design, giving me almost an inch of extra height. Enough to look solid and imposing, not so much that it looks unnatural. My thinking here is that it would make it easier in the store.”
“Curious. From Agape, you said? All the way down south on Main Street?”
“Yes, Sheriff, that’s the store.”
“Well, I have written up your testimony and I will do my best to apprehend the vile criminals. Alas, Mr Lilyberg, I shall have to work. You have a safe day, now.”
“Thank you Sheriff!”
With that, Mr Lilyberg stood up and left the Sheriff’s Office, leaving Trigger to compare the testimonies of the two victims.
Zacharias Bengtsen was fearing for his life. Two armed, masked men had burst into his store, forced him into the store room, then tied him up. Now they were busy ransacking their way through his merchandise, taking some of the stock, but mostly just throwing things on the floor.
If only he had listened to the urging of his brother and installed an alarm system with a hand-held activator. If he had, it would be triggered by now, and hopefully Sheriff Snowflake would be on his way.
Meanwhile, walking south on Main Street, Trigger nodded at his fellow citizens, on his way to Agape Shoes. He was a block away when he noticed something out of place. The front door was not only closed, but had a “CLOSED” sign displayed. This was not at all normal, it being not even mid-day yet, and definitely not Sunday. He loosened both his revolvers, ensuring that he would have a fast draw, if needed.
Trigger considered his options. He could simply kick open the front doors, but that was likely to incur property damage and necessitate leaving a guard on the door overnight, something that the Office budget certainly could stretch to, but definitely an unnecessary expenditure. He thought for a few moments, then remembered that there was a back entrance, straight into the store room. It was normally locked, but the override key would take care of that.
Trigger walked around the building, found the back door and readied himself to open it, when he could hear a faint noise from inside. He took a deep breath, leaned forward and listened. It certainly sounded like multiple people completely wrecking the place. He leaned back and let the held breath out with a sigh, unlocked the door and drew his right revolver. With his left hand, he ripped the door open and scanned the room. There, two masked men. Trigger shot the one on the right, but before he could shoot the second one, the masked man threw himself out of the store room. With a jarring crash of broken glass, the man must have destroyed one of the shop windows.
Trigger saw Mr Bengtsen tied up on the floor. With the hooligan well on his way, it would be better to free the poor man, rather than set chase.
“Mt Bengtsen, if you just relax, I will cut the ropes that hold you.”
He swiftly cut the ropes, and once Mr Bengtsen’s arms were free, the shop-keeper pulled the gag off his mouth.
“Thank you, Sheriff Snowflake. There were two of them, and they were stealing some of my shoes! I have never, in my fourteen years of shop-keeping, seen anything like it. They simply discarded most of the stock, looking at it, some of the more valuable items are here, discarded on the floor!”
“Very good, Mr Bengtsen. If you could make an inventory and forward a note with what has been stolen?”
“Oh, quicker than that. I was watching them, and they were just taking the new elevated shoes from Mars. There’s only the one pair left in stock. Quite annoying, I only had eighteen pairs, and of those only three were not pre-orders. Look, there’s only the one pair left!”
“Hm, this paints a troubling picture, two pairs of shoes like this have already been stolen today, and now they’ve attacked the source of the shoes. Would you mind if I take this pair back to the office, to examine them in more detail?”
“If that is what’s needed to catch the last remaining thief? Certainly!”
“That is it, then. On my way, I will stop by the undertaker and send Dr Cottage down here for the body. Do you need any help cleaning this up?”
“Don’t worry, Sheriff, once the corpse is gone, it’ll be right as rain.”
The bell over the door jangled as Trigger entered the undertaker’s shop.
“Dr Cottage? Customer for you, down at Agape, in the store room. A robber and a thief, caught in the act. You will find that he’s had a clean shot, right to the heart.”
“Very good, Sheriff Snowflake, very good. Are we expecting any other sudden customers in the near future?”
“Well, there were two of them, so it’s not entirely impossible. I would prefer to catch him and have him sent back to Earth, but if they insist on getting killed, I am happy to oblige.”
This sordid business completed, Trigger left the undertaker’s and headed back up Main Street towards his office, when suddenly a masked man wielding a cut-off shotgun jumped out from an alley.
“The shoes! In your hand! Give them to me!”
Trigger lifted his right hand, holding the shoes out in front of him at about shoulder height.
“These? Are you sure?”
“The shoes, or I shoot!”
Trigger quickly considered his options, then threw the pair of shoes towards the evil-doer. As the man tracked the ballistic trajectory of the footwear, Trigger quickly drew his left revolver, shot from the hip and drilled a neat hole in the man’s forehead. He turned around, saw Dr Cottage just leaving his shop.
“Ah, Doctor, seems we have a second customer more quickly than expected.”
“Indeed, Sheriff, I suspected as much when I heard the distinctive bark of your sidearm.”
All criminals duly dispatched, Trigger returned to his office. Once seated, he looked at the shoes, then noticed that there was a slight rattling from the left shoe, as he moved them around. He drew his knife, pried the sole off and saw that hidden inside the thick bottom of the shoe, a memcrystal was hidden. Clearly, the whole shoe-stealing was because of secrets smuggled off Mars in the shipment.
Later in the evening, Trigger went in search of the lair of the evil-doers. As they were not the most intelligent of criminals, as evidenced by then plying their wrong-doing trade in Fort Corallium, it was not very hard.
The following morning, Sheriff Snowflake met up with Miss Hoyter.
“Dear Coraline, I found the lair of the robbers, but I am compelled to inform you that they did, in the most heinous way possible, de-platform you.”