Short Story: Knocks the P.I.: The Case of the Golden Engine (Part 2)

Knocks sauntered his way through the stacks in the Canopy City Public Library. It was late at night by now and he had been looking up various combustion engines for hours. His fedora was wet with his perspiration and his arms tired from carrying various tomes. All of which led him nowhere. Reinventing the wheel was easier than reinventing the engine.

After checking a nearby computer for any online resources the library could provide to help in his search, Knocks was ready to call it quits. This case was a fool’s errand and he feared that any conclusions he would arrive at would merely be theoretical. Which is great for the field, but not for his bottom line. He needed practical results.

As Knocks turned towards the exit, its sign illuminated in orange neon, there was a rustling from a nearby stack aisle. “Hello?” No answer. Despite what his gut was telling him, Knocks decided to walk away from the exit and towards the darkened aisle. He had just walked past the texts on orbital mechanics when he heard a familiar click.

Damn, Knocks thought, and here I was just ready to walk away, literally. A single fluorescent light illuminated the gyroscope revolver pointing at his chest. Knocks’s own revolver felt heavy against his thigh inside his trenchcoat, as if to mock him for not being more careful. Knocks sighed as he raised his hands above his head. “And what do I owe the pleasure of being threatened for my life too?”

A dark voice from the darkness answers. “You are looking for a new engine design. Don’t. This goes way over you head.”

“Let me guess: you are employed by independent contractors? A stakeholder? They never want to upset the status quo. And why should they? If the golden goose keeps on laying those eggs there is no need to evolve. Y’know, stagnation in research will only lead to bankruptcy, intellectually and monetarily.”

The heavy leaned forward, revealing his scarred face. “While I do not disagree with your philosophy, I does what my bosses tells me to does. And they told me that a little birdie with big ears visited you today and that she wanted you to help her. And my bosses don’t want no help to be coming to this project. At least, no outside help.”

“Because then Westview Aero would have to turn to your bosses and a bidding war will erupt, driving profits up and innovation down. I get it.” Knocks looked around. “Say, Stakeholder, mind if I grab a smoke before I die? It’s a vice of mine.” Knocks pulled a cigarette out of his jacket, slowly, and flicked on his lighter.

The stakeholder jumped from the darkness, grabbing for the lighter. “You can’t smoke in here, this is a library! Do you want the books to catch on fire?” As the stakeholder struggled with Knocks for the lighter, Knocks struggled with the stakeholder for his gun. A whirling noise indicated that the weapon struggle ended with a discharge of the gun. The sound of metal hitting metal indicated that the lighter struggled ended with the flame being put out. The two Dirigibles parted, each with the other’s item.

As the heavy stood up with the lighter triumphantly, Knocks said “Hey, can I get that lighter back?” The heavy lifted his face up to speak with Knocks, but his face was met with Knocks’s fist. Then his face met with the carpeted floor of the library, as he was knocked cold. Knocks bent over the unconscious body and picked up his lighter.

“Oh, by the way, I don’t smoke. I just carry a lighter around to check to see if the local airflow is in a closed loop or not, indicating if I am in an enclosed room. If I am, the air can’t feed the flame for too long. Helps calm my claustrophobia.”

Knocks stepped over the body of the heavy. Just as he is about to leave the circle of light provided by the fluorescent lightbulb, he noticed the edge of book knocked off the shelf by the kafuffle. The single bullet had penetrated its hard front cover, but not its back cover. Knocks opened the book to the page where the bullet was stopped and smiled to himself.

“Out of all the places to find the answer!”

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