This is for the Fairy Tale Blogfest, and represents my attempt to approach Rapunzel (with occasional bits of the Humpty Dumpty nursery rhyme sneaking in for no good reason) from the point of view of hard-boiled detective fiction. Come to think of it, the hard boiled part may be where the stuff with the egg came from. Also the falling off things angle, obviously. But mostly the egg.
I drew my greatcoat tighter and looked at the shape huddled in the paramedics’ blanket, the patches over his eyes clear signs of what had happened. I winced. Even as a hardened PI, there are still things that get to you. Sergeant Yates strode across, looking through that battered notebook of his like it held some great secret. Though with his handwriting, you never knew.
‘Another one,’ I said.
Yates shrugged. ‘We don’t know that for certain, Frankie. I mean… Charming over there is still breathing, right?’
‘Only because those thorn bushes at the base of the tower block broke his fall. This is the same as Dumpty, and you know it.’
The problem with coppers is that they never seem to know the same things I do. ‘If you say so. As a civilian, you get the luxury of being completely obsessed. Me, I’m supposed to keep an open mind.’
I guess that’s just what I should have been doing. At least if I wanted to keep this regular gig with the police. It was hard though, when I’d found a regular informant pushed off a wall, and nobody seemed to want to pick up the pieces. When it came to people taking dives off buildings for no reason, I guess I wanted to see connections.
Still, in this city, you’ve got to do things right occasionally, if only for the novelty value. ‘I’ll bite. How do you see things?’
Sergeant Yates shook his head. ‘Not how this works, Frank. You tell me stuff.’
That was indeed the deal, since I was supposed to be the one with the powers of deduction, so I took another look at the tower block, then at the bushes below. They grew tight to the base. Too tight for Charming to have done anything other than splat. ‘He was climbing. If he’d jumped or been thrown, he would have landed further out.’
‘A failed break in?’
I shook my head. ‘No. Unless our boy is a human spider, he didn’t climb that wall without a rope and maybe a grapnel, so he shouldn’t have fallen.’ That got a smirk from the sergeant. ‘But then, you knew that. You found the rope?’
‘Come and look.’ He led me over to a long coil that was curiously yellowish. It took me a moment to understand.
‘In one.’ He nodded to where two junior officers were taking statements from a pair of women. One was older, wore almost total black and had iron-grey hair. The other was younger, and a looker with it. She was still in her dressing-gown, with short-ish hair of a very familiar shade.
‘Ms. Green, and her grandmother. They live on the fifth floor.’
I couldn’t help noticing that both women kept glancing over to the man in the ambulance. And their expressions as they did it. ‘What are they saying?’
‘Not much. The old woman is giving us the break-in line. Says the perp was climbing up her grand-daughter’s hair as she hung it out to dry. She’s claiming self defence.’
‘Seems more scared than anything.’
That made me smile grimly. ‘I bet she does.’
‘You got something, Frankie?’
‘Let’s talk to them.’ I hurried forward before he could intervene. Yates would give me some leeway. Unlike most King’s Men, he actually cared about getting things right, rather than just wrapping up and going off to play with the horses. ‘Hello ma’am, miss.’ I really ought to get a hat at some point, if only for something to tip. ‘I was hoping you could answer some questions for me.’
That made the grandmother look nervous. Of course it did.
‘What sort of questions?’ the younger woman asked. ‘My grandmother is very frail, you know.’
‘Is she?’ I said. ‘And what about this lady?’
Blondie was on her feet in a flash, but I’d taken the precaution of stepping on the hem of her dressing gown, so she only got a step or two before tripping. You learn these things, wearing a floor length greatcoat. Yates helped her up in a way that made it clear he wouldn’t be letting go of her arm, and the broad glared at me.
‘How did you know?’
‘Your hair,’ I said. ‘You claim it’s just been cut? By a stylist, maybe. Not by a grandmother in a hurry. That hair rope was never attached to you. You got a real name?’
She shrugged. ‘Call me Rapunzel. Everyone else does.’
‘What’s going on?’ Yates demanded.
I smiled again. ‘One great thing about being “completely obsessed” Yates. You do your research. After Humpty bought it, I looked into every wall fall, jumper, and supposed climbing accident there was. One set that stuck in the memory was a collection of “accidents” involving hair. Some idiot would try and climb where he wasn’t wanted, and a grandmother would be around to cut it just in time.’ I snorted. ‘Rapunzel here has been pulling hits for the Fairy Godfather, Yates. At least half a dozen.’ I turned back to the broad in question. ‘How does it work? You take the real grand-daughter to make the old dears cooperate?’
‘Something like that.’ There wasn’t a hint of pity.
‘And the mark? How do you get him climbing?’
‘How do you think?’ Rapunzel rearranged her clothing just so. ‘A few hints that my wicked grandmother is holding me hostage and they’re all too eager. Men.’
There was just one thing I wanted to know. ‘What about Humpty? You do him?’
She smirked, and had the sense to go with one of the uniforms before I could do anything. The worst part was that she would probably get a deal. There was the location of the granddaughter at stake, and besides, she could roll over on a lot of bigger fish. I dug out the quarter-bottle of whiskey I kept in my pockets for times like these, and found that it was empty.
I hate this city sometimes.