Perfect Pieman and the Case of the Incomplete Invoice

By Jane Schell Waite

Winner third prize in the Eastern Writers Group Biggest Little short story competition for 2002

“Yeah, yeah,”l said as the last tungsten-floored, titanium-hinged, aluminium-shielded carry-box was unloaded from my spacevan. Thirteen psychotic, red-eyed razor-wire-yielding Cleaner Rodents glared at me from behind their mini-electrified doors.

“Thank you for travelling Galaxies and Everything Between.”

I could have been imagining it but what they squeaked in Mars Code wasn’t flattering.

I checked the invoice. Number of mice: thirteen. Condition on arrival: lovely.

Then something didn’t add up. The head-honcho dude told me that I would need to see Mr Neutro, the avid rodent collector, and he was disappearing around the corner.

I missed catching up with Mr Neutro by that much as he flowed into a minicab.

Two solutions: either follow Mr Neutro, or go to Mr Neutro’s home.

If he had had a disagreement with the little lady, it could be ages before he slunk home. And if he wasn’t an exotic mice species collector, he could have planned to bump off the little lady when the rodents “accidentally” escaped. Following Mr Neutro was best, never get mixed up with family feuding or killings.

As I followed the evil Mr Neutro, I thought about how suspicious Neptunians are. Perhaps being ninety-nine percent water has their brain cells doing the double-dealing can-can. When you evaporate if you don’t wear a sunblock with a sealingfactor of parched plus, you would want to corner the hair-drier market too. Suspicious folk are funny critters, always looking over their shoulders and seeing a death trap.

Mr Neutro was taken to The Slime Pit. He wouldn’t be hard to find.

Neptunians never sit in the first ten rows, the slime thrown by the wrestlers tends to dry their skins .Now I couldn’t just blurt out his name, that would be viewed as very poor strategic behaviour towards an Official Suspicious Species. Shouting or whispering “Mr Neutro” would either land me in prison or have me lasered down bythe several dozen Neptunians whom were present – all in a row, wearing identical clothing.

After some thought and two matches, I collected my winnings and left. I would wait at Mr Neutro’s and hopefully get back to my spacevan in one piece.

I chuckled to myself as I left the orbit of the planet supporting the home of the nice Mr Neutro. How could I have been so suspicious?

And what a lovely water-spouse. She noticed me lurking outside and invited

me in for a cuppa.

Mr Neutro arrived and I showed him the problem with the invoice. “These are Type T mice,” he explained. “They don’t have a weapons pouch.”

He apologised for any inconvenience. I have never met such obliging Neptunians.

I have never met such obliging Neptunians. Mmm.

I looked over my shoulder.

Yep. One small psychotic, red-eyed, razor-wire-yielding Cleaner Rodent.

They say, in space no one can hear you scream.That’s because a mouse facing a Triple-O Replica laser can sure squeak.