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Sport of Kings


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August 30th, 2014

The Fens, Freedom City


The morning was crisp and cool, just enough of a tang in the air to drive one to wear a coat. The battered coup idled outside the building for the Bloodhound Investigative Agency. It was a humble building, for a humble organization, and at the moment that humility wasn’t earning it any brownie points with the car’s driver. Necessity won out over disdain, though, and the car was parked properly. The driver popped out and strode up to the door of the building, stepping neatly aside when a mob of school-age children rushed down the street. They turned and shouted insults at him; he made a rude gesture back and they walked off, hooting and hollering.

He walked up the door and reached over his head for the button marked “BLOODHOUND INVESTIG,†and the rest of the label had flaked off. There was a loud buzzing from the intercom system, and when the door didn’t unlock immediately he stabbed the button several more times. “Hey, wake up,†he shouted into the speaker grill. “Is anyone working in there today?â€

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"Yeah yeah yeah" came the voice back. 


The was a fairly big building, not in the best of repair, but with iron grills over the windows and doors. This was the Fens, after all. 


Harry "the Hound" Hound opened the door with half a peppered sausage in his mouth. His mac, tie, and shirt were as crumpled as ever, and his hair a mop of mess. 


He looked down. 


"What's up, mister? Its a Saturday. A Saturday morning, at that..." he yawned. "We charge double on a Saturday..."


"No we don't!" came the booming voice of the Mess from inside the building. 


"Yeah, well, we do, so there" shouted the Hound back, spitting out his sausage on to the floor. 


"If you need an Investigator, this is the place to be. Great results, great prices, great service..." he said, starting to automatically go in to Sales Pitch. 

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The short man looked past the disheveled PI. "Looks like your maid is the one who should be charging extra." He returned his attention to the Hound, who was still blocking his way into the building. "Listen, I want to hire you, and I promise it isn't following my girlfriend." He waited and when the Hound refused to move he sighed dramatically. "Look, I need you to investigate a murder. I need you to find out who murdered someone." He licked his lips nervously. "I need you to prove that it wasn't me."

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"Hey buster, we can help. That is, as long as you didn't do it. Thing is, we are quite good at getting to the truth. So make sure its the truth you are paying for" replied the Hound with a smile. It didn't happen so often, but every now and again some desperate soul would try his or her luck with them, trying to shake off the truth, trying to escape their guilt. 


A few minutes later he offered the man some instant coffee. And not the expensive stuff either. No expense spared at the Bloodhound Detective Agency. Which meant that No expense was spared from the Hounds cheapness. 


"So, tell us the problem, and we'll get digging" he said. The Mess half slumbered on the beat up leather sofa. It looked like the Hound would do the eyework, the Mess would do any actual physical digging with his spade like hands. 

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The short man took a sip of the coffee and made a spectacular face at it. "I didn't realize they sold paint thinner in styrofoam cups," he grumbled. Still, he composed himself and started talking. "My name is Yuri Wysocki. I'm a jockey for the Olandra Stables." He paused for the Hound to sound impressed, and when he didn't the jockey muttered under his breath and pushed on. "Anyway, a couple months ago I got into an... altercation with another jockey, Tony Ito." His hands bunched into fists as they rested on the couch. "That little rat-b----- stole the BP sponsorship from me. Just because he rode a horse called Green Mile and someone thought Green Mile, company colors are green..."

Edited by Raveled
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"BP? Well, ya can't trust those stuffy nosed toffy Brit's ya know" sighed the Hound, defiantly drinking down two cups of 'coffee' in defiance. 


"Take that guy, what's he called. Lord Steam? Says he is the worlds best detective. Typical pompous artistocrat. Worlds best ar--"


"Yeah, we'll help you out, mister" interrupted the Mess. "We ain't busy, and you got a problem there we can help with"


"And your paying" grinned the Hound, carrying on that train of thought. "So, you accused of murdering this other jockey? Number one suspect and all that?...or who is the victim?"

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Yuri took a deep breath before continuing. "The police think I did it, yeah. A couple days before he died we... kind of had a big screaming argument. I might have had a few too many any showed up at Vendetti Stables, and I might have threatened him with a shovel. Okay? But I was at home when he was killed! I didn't do it!"

Yuri jumped off the couch and started pacing around the office, angry and purposeful. "So the cops arrested me, and now they said they're going to prosecute me! Listen, I'm out on bail now, but in two weeks I go before a judge. I need some evidence that I didn't do it!"

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"Calm down, calm down..." said the Hound, always agitated at other peoples agitation. He flicked off the agencies fire alarm and lit a cigar. 


"Take it easy, man, we gotcha back, 'slong as you didn't do it" smiled the Mess, cracking open a can of Guiness. 


The Hound was already thumbing through the case in his head. 


"OK, OK, so you got into a bit of a fight. Prime suspect, and all that. Well, we gotta find the real killer. So, start with the murder itself. Where, when, how, and can we go to it?" he asked Yuri, throwing the car keys to the Mess, who caught them handily, jumped up, and started the engine of the beat up modified Chevvy they used. 

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Yuri rubbed at his cheeks, at the day-old stubble on them. “Yeah, okay. I can take you to Vendetti’s stables.†He followed the investigators out of the building and climbed into his coupe, idling until the big Caddy was ready to come follow.

The drive took the private detectives way outside of their comfort zone, which is to say outside the dense, urban core. The landscape turned green and pastoral, the trees still alive and glorious. Yuri’s car took an exit marked BUS RD 61 and continued down unmarked turnings, until he pulled up to a white picket fence that seemed to extend into infinity. Behind the fence was a compound of wooden barns with corrugated roofs. Yuri walked up to the fence and leaned on the lower beams, pointing out certain parts of the campus to the detectives. “That’s the barn where they found Ito,†he said.

Before long a young man with dark features and tanned skin approached them, his angry gaze fixed on the jockey. “You’re supposed to be in prison, murderer,†he spat.

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"Hey hey man, take it easy. Man don't go to prison till he found guilty" said the Mess, stepping in, hands up. He may have been only a few inches over five feet, but that applied to his shoulders in both directions. He made a clear point of flexing his muscles whilst he did it. In a tank top and Jeans, scruffy as he looked...well, if you were looking for trouble, you had come to the right place...


The Hound turned off the Car and flicked his cigar out of his hand. "We just coming looking for answers, mister, same as you I guess. you want to find out who killed Ito? Start talking, I am all ears" he said, confident the Hound could handle any fists thrown his way. 


"What makes you so certain your man hear did it?"

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The young man stopped, brought up short by Mess. He scowled past the short PI’s shoulder at the jockey. “Because, I don’t know, the police said he did it? They already investigated and arrested him! He should be in prison right now.â€

Yuri folded his arms and glared right back. “It’s called bail. It means I don’t have to rot before my trial. You remember the whole trial thing, I get one of those before the cops decide what I did.â€

The young man snorted and turned to address the Hound. “My name’s Jerry Vendetti. My dad runs these stables, and I knew Tony Ito. Hell, everyone around here knew Tony, and they all know that about the fight Yuri had with Tony. Let me ask you, if someone threatened your buddy with a shovel and then your buddy shows up dead, beaten with a shovel, who would you think did it?â€

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"Me?" asked the Hound. "I would think he did it!" he smiled, pointing straight at Yuri. 


"Question is, I would I know it? I don't know it right now. Maybe he did do it. My job is to find out if anybody else did it. Hey, you want to be sure, right? you don't want that feeling crawling up and down your spine at night for years...that feeling that maybe, just maybe, you got the wrong guy. Maybe you don't like Yuri. Well, his eyes are too close together, and he smiles funny. Must be him, right? But then...maybe the real murderer got away..."


"So, thinking is one thing. That's where ya look. Knowing is another thing. Thats after you look" he explained. 


"So hows about you show us the scene of the crime?"

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Yuri made a face at the Hound’s broad, square back. “Geez, I’m supposed to be paying for this?â€

Jerry stared at his feet for a long minute, then threw his hands in the air. “Fine. Fine! If you want to look around a barn for awhile, be my guest. We’re not using it for anything,†he added. “The investigation and the blood meant we had to move the horses and everything, and the cops only closed it a couple days ago.â€

Jerry pulled out a smartphone and made a few calls, and opened the gate for Mess and the Hound. Yuri went back to sit in his car, and the two investigators were escorted to one of those long, corrugated metal-roofed buildings. They were met at the doors by a pair of stable hands, who lead them inside. The interior was divided up into a number of cubicles, presumably just large enough for a racing horse. There was an aisle going down the middle that was dusted with straw straw or maybe it was wayward hay. Larger open areas at either end held various tools, and boxes and bags of feed.

It was easy to pick out the last stable Tony Ito ever saw. The concrete floor in front of it was swept clean, and someone had been scrubbing at it; but the floor and the walls of the stall were still spattered with a rusty red.

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"Thats a lot of blood" commented both Harry and Freddy at the same time. 


Indeed it was. 


"How did the stiff...I mean the deceased, die?" said the Hound to Jerry, licking his thumb and bringing out the archetypal low tech information device. A pen and a notepad. 


"I mean, it is a lot of blood, 'scuse me for saying so, sir" he said, all apologies. "But what happened? A bullet? A chainsaw?" he asked, dancing his feet in and out of the pit he was digging himself. 

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"Yuri bashed Tony over the head with a shovel," Jerry said. "At least, that's what the cops said. They found a shovel with dried blood in the tool shed." He pointed out an alcove off one side of the barn. It was separated from the main room by what looked like a heavy plastic drop sheet. "It's not in there anymore, of course, the cops took it."

He crossed his arms and looked at the PIs, a note like honest curiosity entering his voice. "What did you think of the police report, anyway? I read it, and I thought it laid out the whole situation pretty logically. I don't know how anyone can think Wysocki is innocent after reading that."

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"Well, I ain't read it yet" replied the Hound, cautiously. "Thats cos I don't, so to speak, have it. Please feel free to share" he said, open handed. He straightened his tie, which still looked wonky, and combed back his hair, which still looked wild. 


He wondered if his client actually had the reach to use a shovel. Maybe Forensics could work out the angle of the attack or something. 


"Still, got some other avenues to explore. Gotta get the right man, huh? So, murder weapon aside, what makes you think Wysocki did it? Surely the stiff..ah the victim, he had more than one enemy? Or was he as clean as a whistle? Nobody is clean as a whistle, before you answer that..."


As he paced around the crime scene, his extraordinary nose perked into gear. Perhaps somebodies scent...it was full of horse smells, naturally, but still...

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"Tony was a stand-up guy," Jerry said. "And if you haven't read the police report, then you haven't read the sort of stuff Wysocki put on his Facebook wall that night. Some really vile, racist stuff, you know?" He scoffed. "I'm not surprised he didn't mention it when he hired you. It'd be pretty hard to have any sympathy for him once you saw some of that stuff."

The Hound's nose worked through the scents available, methodically sorting through the animal and people smells to find out what was tickling his brain. He finally noticed it where the floor met the outside wall of the pen, a long mark of something yellow-white that smelled of rotten eggs; sulfur, painted onto the ground like chalk. And it had been done recently.

Edited by Raveled
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"Thankyou, you have been very helpful, Sir..." said the Hound, stuffing his hands in his Mac and looking around. 


He started to plod away, before catching himself, and taking his hand out of his pocket. 


"Oh, just one thing, Mr. Jerry" he said, innocently. "What do you do here? I mean, I get its a stables and everything. I do love the horses, the races, you know...that kind of thing. I mean, the excitement, the adrenaline. I guess...is this a racing establishment or something? I would really love to see the horses, you know, up and close, that kind of thing. Being a city guy, I mean, I don't really get the chance, and seeing as I am here..."

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Jerry frowned. “We don’t exactly do tours,†he said slowly, “but I guess I can at least show you around while you’re here.â€

He led the investigators out of the barn, leading them away from the road and deeper into the campus. There were a couple other barns like the one where the murder happened; unlike the barn they had just left, those barns were boiling with activity. “We don’t race the horses here,†he told them. “Not exactly. We like to take them out to the pasture and run them, of course, we have to exercise them, and we have to give the jockeys time to get to know the horses. It’s not like race car driving,†he continued, pride beaming through his voice. “You can’t tune up a horse and expect to act the same way for every rider. Each jockey has to get to know his horse, and the horse needs to get to know the jockey, you know?â€

As they walked across the campus, they could see a large, Gothic-style farmhouse sitting in the middle of the grounds. A heavyset man with a florid face stepped out and caught sight of Jerry and the two detectives. He hurried across the fields towards them, a slight frown across his face. “Gentlemen,†he shouted as soon as he was close. “My name’s Tony Vendetti, these are my stables. I understand you’re looking into Tony Ito’s murder?â€

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  • 2 weeks later...

"That's right Mister" said the Hound, politely. A slight tingle went up his spine at the name. It sounded just like the name of a Mafia Boss. And, being a paranoid fearful fellow, he couldn't help but imagine that the reason it sounded just like the name of a Mafia Boss, was because it was the name of a Mafia Boss. 


"It sure is a swell place you got here Mister Vendetti. Really classy. I always loved horses, and the races" he lied. "Jerry here, well, he was kind enough to give us a tour of the place. Very impressive, Mister Vendetti, real impressive" he said, adjusting his tie to no avail. 


"Sorry about Mister Tony. He sounded like a stand up guy. Real sad what happened" he said, shaking his head. 

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  • 3 weeks later...

Tony wiped a hand across his face. “Yeah, everyone was really affected by Tony’s death. It’s hard to believe that Yuri would have done something like that, but there you go. You’re, uh, looking into for Yuri, then?†he added. “The police sounded pretty certain that they had the right guy. You usually work in the other direction from the cops?â€

As they were talking, a jockey stepped out of the farmhouse and jogged over. He sported a large, bulky gauze wrapping around one hand, and as he got closer Mess couldn’t help but smell fresh blood. The wound couldn’t be more than a couple of days old. “Tony, we’re not done talking about this. If you think I’m getting on Green Mile, you’re out of your skull. That monster almost took off three fingers last time I tried to touch him!â€

Tony turned back to the jockey. “Leroy, just go back in the house, okay? We’ll finish this in a little bit. I’m just want to talk to these gentlemen for a moment,†he said, jerking a thumb at Mess and the Hound.

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"Yeah, horses, eh? Sounds like Green Mile is slightly incredibly psychotic" he said, stuffing his hands in his pockets and eyeing the whole place. Decades of Paranoia had honed his hound-sense (a completely human sense of judging other people) into a pretty reliable tool. In other words, he got the sense that Big Tony was trying to wave him off the jockey too quickly. 


"Leroy, is it?" he asked, shuffling towards the jockey. "You know the deceased? I gotsta investigating this ya see, even if it is in the opposite direction  to the cops. Good guys our boys in blue, ya know, I used to be one of them. Times a changed of course, more professional nowadays, back in my day Seargant 'Toad' Tompson, he spend all day drunk on the vodka he hid in his desk hehe..."


He gave an apologetic look to Big Tony. "Not like todays, of course. I'm sure the cops got it right. They got all that fancy Crime Scene Investigation these days, ya know, just like on the TV! You guys musta seen em combin' the place for hair and all that Dee - Enn - Ay, yeah?"

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