A Nose for Danger, part 8

“Look Smellephant, tortoise, hare, everybody got the racket, no?”

“No,” I said agreeably. “I mean, um, yes.”

“Today hare beats tortoise. Maybe tomorrow tortoise beats hare. Is good for everyone.” Tommy gestured expansively. “So far is all good. Is big town. Is plenty lettuce to go around.”

I nodded. He was making sense.

“Then one day somebody new comes in, messes with things. Upsets the cart of apples.”

“Sure, the apple cart.”

Tommy looked at me sharply. “You got a problem with cart of apples?”

“The cart of apples,” I said hastily. No point in quibbling.

He sipped his tea, looking reflective for a moment. “Whiskers and me, got long history. Is good history. Sure ok, differences between hare and tortoise. But always we work it out.”

“You guys went way back, huh?”

“Da. This town used to be different. Honor among thieves was more than just nice words.” For a moment I thought Tommy was going to lose it. “OK, what’s past is past. Now hare is dead. But not from Tommy.”

“Yeah, I get it,” I said. Tommy’s old school — if he says he didn’t kill you, you can believe him. “So the hare was iced, and you’re being set up. But why? Who else is in the lettuce racket?”

The tortoise shook his head sadly. “Is different kind of lettuce. Whiskers was, how you say, branching out. Faking the papers.”

“Counterfeiting? That’s a new angle.”

He gave me a long searching look, and I could tell he was deadly serious. “Yes, is new angle. You follow that angle and go straight. Find real killer.”

I suddenly thought of Manny. Maybe this is what the parrot was trying to tip me off about. Maybe I was looking for a single killer. Maybe it was time to get out of Turtle Town and find out who had really iced Whiskers.

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