A Case from the GGPD Files
- Back Door Area
The Greater Garden jurisdiction can count on a dependable police force to fight crime. But Officer Gowoon’s uncanny talent for crime-solving has provoked resentment from her peers.
To defuse the tension, the GGPD chief sends the headstrong snail on a dangerous patrol, leading a bunch of unruly police candidates. This could easily sink Gowoon's career, when their band of sloggers must glide through Back Door Area, the most dangerous place in the Garden.
Deadly traps, drama, disputes, nothing will stop Gowoon from protecting her recruits and her career.
Corruption and back-stabbing, danger and sexual tension... your backyard has never been so interesting! If you like a quirky story-telling style close to Watership Down, but with garden snails, venture into Back Door Area with the Greater Garden Police Department...
A short 9000-word story by Michèle Laframboise, a multiple award-winning author of SF novels, who doesn't hesitate to dirty her hands... in the garden soil!
Late spring had blossomed with vivid flowers exploding everywhere in Garden before seamlessly oozing into early summer, with a white-hot sun that made any mineral slab a torture to glide over.
Only the sturdiest officers would dare to slime over a flat stone, spending precious moisture along the way.
Given the pounding heat, it was an unusual occurrence to meet the GGPD Chief above ground level. His scarred shell brushed against the cabbage leaves as he chatted with his high-ranking officers, discussing the new recruits that were tested today.
The orange and violet patterns of the seven-cycle-old veteran snail had faded under hundreds of scars. It was said the Chief had always been large for his age group, and that even death claws avoided his shell.
Lots of conjectures circulated about the Chief, most false, all equally terrifying. Some thought he had unholy alliances with earthworms, others said he counted the current wasp nest’s queen among his informers.
(I doubted the last one was true: the queen never left the papery globe-shaped nest hanging under the gables over Back Door Area.)
The Chief wisely let the rumors float, strengthening up the ones encouraging loyalty.
Usually, he had his meals carried down his burrow where he could munch at it leisurely while conferring with his subordinates or listening to his informants. (The latter used a root-infested tunnel winding far away from the busy cabbage area.)
At midday, most sloggers kept to the shade, some retiring inside their spiraled shell to wait for sunset. Accordingly, crime was low.
It was a good time to gobble some lettuce without competition, even if evaporation gave their leaves a fibrous taste. I kept an eyestalk directed toward the knot of officers.
The Chief had planted himself under a leave, watching the ongoing action on the race track. Someone had pushed a tiny, pit-encrusted raspberry under his wide foot.
Of course, the Chief ignored the gift, his short stalks waving and sniffing the air, emitting a joke to the officers around him. But the way his mottled foot was oozing around the delicacy told me he had appreciated the present.
The yummy tiny strawberries so abundant in spring were getting scarce. It had become a competition between GGPD officers to get one of those delicacies to the Chief.
If you wanted him to forget minor mistakes or a low rate of crime-solving, strawberry-chasing was the way to go.
Not for me.
Despite being only three-cycle-old, my sense of smell was the most refined in all divisions, giving me the best crime-solving rate of the GGPD, a feat I did not mind sharing with my talented patrol partner.
I was too far to sniff what the Chief was talking about, probably some reminiscences of the famed Cabbage Wars that most of us hadn’t lived through. New territories had been gained or bargained, and Garden had expanded into the Greater Garden jurisdiction.
The laugh emissions that followed were stained with an acid tang. Most officers hadn’t caught the gist of the joke, but they were emulating (badly) an enthusiastic response.
An acrid signal drifted from the officers stationed at the perimeter of the race track. All stalks turned toward the flat stone rising from the granular soil of our vegetable patch.
The slab's height reached two slogger lengths up from the moist soil where we congregated. Forming a stark contrast to the hazy sky, the shells of police candidates were heaving up and down, hurrying after a bigger one along the edge.
Scents acrid, acid or sweet wafted from the crowd to encourage the racers. I smiled inwardly.
The green candidate officers had no hope to catch up to the leading racer, his scarred shell with the GGPD mark advancing at an astonishing rate. Zgouish was my partner, a four-cycle-old slogger who used his muscular body as a screen to hide his astuteness. He could have risen in the ranks of officers, but he preferred the physical exertions of field patrols to the humdrum of a plush underground office.
The first story in the Greater Garden Snail Police series, Slime & Crime, has been originally published in Fiction River 22, 2017, edited by WMG Publishing inc. under the direction of John Helfers.