by Amanda Rohrssen

Author's Note: This story will be told from three points of view, all changing intermittently throughout. To keep them all straight, here are the guidelines:

Jacob Mallard, P.I. is normal font.
Negaduck is in bold font.
Jake Mallard is in italics.

Chapter One

The incessant ticking was driving me insane.

The crossword puzzle before me had proven to be a worthy foe, and for what had to be the hundredth time that morning I found my mind wandering. There had been no work for two weeks straight now, and my office was looking more and more like a disaster area the more I tried to keep myself occupied. Though they were glazed, my eyes traveled over every square inch of my miserable little niche, searching once again for something – anything – to make the hours pass a little faster.

Amid the piles of hastily thrown documents and haphazardly stacked files, patches of dark carpet peeked through, and if one looked hard enough through the mass of hastily scrawled notes on top of my desk, one could find a framed photograph or two of friends and family long since departed from my life.

The insufferable ticking would not end.

I glared at the clock on the wall, hoping that my fervent stare would make its hands whirl by in a vain attempt at time warp. No such luck. My gaze seemed only to turn its slowness into an agonizing crawl.

Sighing, I folded my hands behind my head and propped my feet up on the rosewood desk, eyeing the ornately chiseled border work with disinterest. Just as I actually began toying with the idea of cleaning up the place, there was a knock at the door. It was so soft that at first I wasn’t sure if it really was a knock or the old office settling, but the silhouette shadowing the frosted window of the doorway told me that, as usual, my first instinct had been correct.

“Door’s open!” I shouted, too lazy to move from my position.

It cracked open hesitantly. There behind the threshold stood what had to be one of the most beautiful women I had ever seen in my fifty-five years on this earth. The dim light of the hallway poured down over the cascading locks of her golden hair, and her slender, hourglass figure was accentuated perfectly in the square frame of the doorway.

“Mr. Mallard?” she said in a wavering voice.

I bolted out of my chair, banging my knee against the desk in the process, and hobbled toward her, managing to maintain at least a little dignity by motioning her inside with a courteous sweep of my hand.

“Well, you can read. That’s a plus,” I joked lightly as I shut the door behind her.

She regarded me tearfully. Her eyes were two gleaming pools of precious silver, and there was such sadness in them I could scarcely escape them tugging at my heartstrings. I cleared my throat and broke eye contact, making my way round the piles of junk back behind my desk.

“Well, little lady, what brings you here?”

When things got uncomfortable, I liked to get straight to the point.

“It’s my…my sister,” she replied, unable to hold back the tears any longer. I offered her a handkerchief as they spilled down her face in clear twin streams. Strangely enough, they only made her seem more beautiful.

“Your, your sister…?” I prompted her.

“She’s missing!”

“…is missing,” I repeated.

“For a few days now. I’ve looked everywhere!” She dabbed at her eyes with a small sniffle.

I frowned. There were more important things I could be doing than spending my valuable time and energy on a missing person. Missing persons came a dime a dozen. Finding them was the job of rookie flatfoots, not a master sleuth. I was more worthy of a national conspiracy, murder, intrigue, terrorism…

“Have you tried the local department store?” I asked her snidely. My sarcasm only seemed to upset her more, and I felt a dull twinge of guilt in the pit of my stomach, which only made me more agitated. “Look, the police handle things like that. I, on the other hand, am a professional.”

“I think she was kidnapped,” the young woman continued as if I’d said nothing at all.

“And you know this because…?”

“A few things are missing from her house…but nothing was ransacked. They were just…gone, like her.”

“What if she went on vacation, did you ever think of that?”

Her blonde head shook miserably from side to side.

“No…she would have said something. She’s just…gone.”

“No ransom note, no eerie phone calls?”

Again her bent head indicated no.

This was turning out to be a bigger and bigger waste of my time. If there were no clues on which to build, there was no case.

“Look, she’s probably just gone to a local resort or something. She’ll turn up in a few days,” I said, ushering the young beauty back toward the door. “Good day, Miss…?”

“McCawber,” she said solemnly, as if all the hope had been sucked out of her. At the moment, I didn’t really care. I’d just suddenly come up with a four letter word for “fall guy.”

“Good day, Miss McCawber.”

The door shut somberly behind her and I returned to my crossword with a vengeance.


It didn’t take long to get past the guards. Like most of the so-called authority figures in Saint Canard, they were incompetent and easily bribed. I stuck mostly to the shadows once I gained access to the SHUSH laboratory, not because I feared getting caught – oh no – it was because I enjoyed the fear on the faces of my victims as I attacked from the darkness. Maneuvering through the facility was easy enough, and it wasn’t long before I found what I was looking for. A devious grin snaked across my bill. It was like taking candy from a baby, another one of my favorite pastimes. There was only one part remaining to my perfectly executed plan.


“Double bourbon, on the rocks,” I mumbled to the barkeep.

“Right away, boss,” he replied in his ever-cheerful voice. Sometimes the man made me sick. He cocked his head to the side as he poured the liquor. “You feelin’ all right?”

I eyed the beverage hungrily. “Not particularly.”

“Everythin’ goin’ okay?”

“Not particularly.”

“Any reason for that, boss?”

“Just gimme the drink, Charlie,” I sighed. It went down cold and smooth against the back of my throat, and I licked my lips for any remnants lest they escape me.

I’d received another notice that morning. Rent was past due.

I ran my fingers through the slicked back feathers on my head, as I was prone to do when I felt anxious, and let my gaze wander over the faces of the less-than-respectable patrons of the Old Haunt. I’d been coming to this place for the better part of thirty-three years. It had been like my second home after the deaths of my wife and daughter, and now with my business being threatened by bankruptcy, it was quickly turning into my safe haven yet again.

“Anything goin’ on I should know about?” I asked offhandedly.

“Nothin’ that I’ve heard, but that don’t mean nothin’s happenin’.” He filled up my glass again.

Charlie oftentimes made a good informant, being the bartender of the local backstreet pub. In exchange for tips on the crime circuit, I’d make sure certain activities in the bar were kept on the down-low as far as the authorities were concerned. Having been an officer of the law myself at one time, I had no problem turning the skills I’d learned in training against the force, although it didn’t take a genius to fool the cops in this town.

The second glass of bourbon went down faster than the first, and though my gut yearned for more of the stuff, I waved away the refill the barkeep tried to offer me.

“I’m done for tonight, Charlie,” I said, lugging myself off of the stool. “I think I’ll take a walk around the city before I head home.”

“Okay, boss, you take it easy now.”

I turned to make my leave, but as I slid my black fedora over my head, something crumpled on the ground caught my eye. I snatched it up, my eyes darting to those surrounding me, and unwrinkled the small piece of paper. Written in jagged, yet elegant, script was an address. I pocketed it with the intention of checking it out later in case it was a lead.



The newspaper dissolved into a crinkled mass between my hands, and I threw it angrily in the trash bin beside my desk.

Damn headlines.

The boy was growing more and more bold, I had to give him that. But it was becoming necessary to put him in his place. The past few months he and his gang had been steadily chipping away at my empire. Well, this time they were biting off more than they could chew. Something had to be done to ensure that the Fearsome Five and the citizens of Saint Canard remembered who was in charge of this city. And to do that, I would need some inside information, the kind that couldn’t be bought or beaten out of worthless civil servants. It was time to call in a favor.


I double and triple checked the address in my hand, then squinted across the street to make sure for the thousandth time that I was on the right corner. I was in the correct place all right, but what exactly I was looking for escaped me. What the hell did a pastry shop have to do with anything? Was it one of the places on a shakedown list? Was it the favorite pit stop of an undercover cop? I’d already interviewed the owner with absolutely nothing to show for it. At least I knew he wasn’t being harassed for “insurance” payments like a few other places in town had been.

I tucked the little piece of paper in my pocket, turned up my collar, and headed home. I had so hoped that this would lead me to a case. If nothing came up soon, I’d be sleeping in a cardboard box. So much for the great Jacob Mallard.


The portal gave off a ghostly green glow as it opened a gateway to the Negaverse. I grinned as it bathed my malevolent face in the sickly, pale color. It had been a long time since I’d seen anyone from my hometown, and I was anxiously anticipating the arrival of the person traveling through. A devious plan was formulating in my mind, and she would be a crucial part of it. I knew that despite everything that had happened between us in the past, I could count on her. She was the best the Negaverse had to offer – aside from myself.

A cold wind blasted through the small backroom, chilling my feathers like a sigh of Death, but it didn’t faze me. All of my attention was on the ghoulish dimensional hole.

It wasn’t long before I could make out the top of an ebony head rising out of the frothy green swirls. My grin broadened as my eyes traveled over her sleek, feminine figure as she emerged bit by bit. It had been some time since my green eyes had pierced her irises.

“I have a job for you, my dear,” I crooned darkly.

She returned my stare balefully. “It had better be worth my time.”

A twisted smile crossed my beak. “It will be worth more than your time, I assure you…”


“…and in other news, Chief Agent Gryzlikoff of SHUSH was murdered last night in his single-bedroom apartment in the Northern Shoveller Complex, just hours after he returned home from work.”

Though normally the voice of Tom Lockjaw grated on my nerves, there were a few times when he actually caught my attention rather than repelled it. This was such a time.

I’d known Agent Gryzlikoff. Not very well, but I’d still known him. Always did things by the book, extremely wrapped up in his work, no personal life of which to speak. I had always had a sneaking, underlying suspicion that it was for those reasons that my longtime friend J. Gander Hooter had made old Gryz the Chief Agent in the first place. They could identify with one another.

“Police have no suspects thus far in the killing, but rumors have been flying around the city linking the SHUSH agent to public enemy and malcontent Jake Mallard. The investigation is still pending. We will bring you more, as the news develops.”

Immediately ideas began to swim through my muddled mind, but the jarring voice of the reporter kept intruding. He was blathering something about the unveiling of some exotic whatchamacallit at the museum in a week or so. I turned the set off to let my mind calculate in piece. I missed Bionca Beakley. Now she had a voice.

An hour later I was infiltrating the crime scene, slyly making my way through the yards of yellow police tape and past officers with better things on their minds like how far away the nearest doughnut shop was. I applauded myself for my ability to slip into places without detection.


Oh, great.

I turned around coolly to gaze at my old friend.

“Hello, John. I didn’t expect the director to be pulled out of his office for a murder. Usually it’s something much worse like anthrax or terrorism.”

The gander stared at me with a pursed bill. Apparently he didn’t see the humor in the situation.

“Agent Gryzlikoff was one of our finest,” he began in a huff, but I decided that was a boring subject.

“And how was our, ahem, rotund friend bumped off?”

“Shot through the head – twice. Pointblank.”

I winced. “That’s gotta hurt.”

“We’ve retrieved the bullets. We should have results soon.” Then he turned toward me, his back stiffening. “Now I’ll thank you to leave this crime scene. You’re trespassing on SHUSH business.”

He never let me have any fun where SHUSH was involved. Still, a mallard’s gotta try.


I sneered as Steelbeak was escorted into my office.

“Search him,” I said smoothly, leaning back in my overlarge leather chair while Bushroot and Megavolt patted Jake’s lackey down.

Steelbeak worked for F.O.W.L., but I knew he was on Jake Mallard’s payroll as well. Most everyone had a duel check coming in these days.

“He’s clean, boss,” Bushroot reported tentatively. The knob was always terrified of me. In fact, they all were. I liked that in a gang.

“Leave us,” I ordered darkly as I sat up. The two henchmen scrambled out the door.

Steelbeak regarded me coolly, but I could tell I intimidated him. I could practically smell fear underneath that cloud of cheap cologne he wore. A slow, venomous grin curled across my bill.

“I’m here wit’ a message from Jake Mallard,” he announced in that irritatingly pinched voice of his.

“No kidding,” I drawled carelessly. Unlike his, my voice had the distinct quality of sending shivers through spines like nails on a chalkboard. “Let me guess. ‘This town’s not big enough for the two of us,’ heh.”

“He wants ya ta stay offa his toif, or else. Capishe?”

“Or else what? What’s the old man gonna do, cane me to death?” I chuckled.

Steelbeak was growing visibly frustrated with my glaringly superior wit. I grinned, satisfied.

“He’s gonna start pickin’ youse guys off, one by one. I’d watch my back if I was you.”

“And I’d watch your front!” I pulled a large Uzi from behind my desk. Steelbeak stiffened. I had deadly aim and he knew it. I could have shot him right then as a message to my sorry excuse for a father, but I decided it would be much more fun to watch the metal-mouth scurry out of my office with his tail feathers between his legs.

The blast rocked the building, sending mortar and plaster raining down from the ceiling. Quackerjack burst through the door to see whether or not I’d been assassinated. The hopeful glint in his eyes died when he saw that I was the triggerman.

Steelbeak stood before the gaping hole in front of him, and had he had a normal beak, his nostrils would have been filled with the stink of gunpowder. I loved that smell. In fact, I thrived on it. It sent a wild rush of madness through me.

“Tell your boss,” I said evenly, “that he should enjoy the view from his throne while he can. There’s going to be a new King of Crime in St. Canard very soon.”

By then the F.O.W.L. agent had regained his composure, and he glowered at me as he dusted off his Armani suit.

“Ya shoulda stayed away from SHUSH, Negs. You’re gonna pay big time.”

He disappeared from my view (and my aim), and I started cackling. His petty threats didn’t scare me, and neither did my second-rate crime boss of a father. It was time to put my old man in his place – six feet under.

The thought reminded me of something, and I pushed the button just under my desktop. The wall behind me slid open to reveal my hostage.

I came toward her, ignoring her muffled snarls, and ran my fingers gruffly through her black hair before I grabbed a fistful and yanked her head back.

As I stared into her fearful eyes, I grinned in triumph. It wouldn’t be long now.


I jiggled the doorknob fiercely as the lock pick squirmed inside the miniscule hole. My ear pressed firmly against the door, I waited in anticipation for the soft “click.” It seemed like I had been jimmying the lock for ages before at last I heard the sound I’d been waiting for.

With a self-congratulatory smile, I let myself inside of Gryzlikoff’s apartment, set on completing my own search of the crime scene. Naturally the police had searched the immediate areas around the body, but my years on the force told me the more extensive searches were usually less-than-thorough, not to mention that half of the police force had their pockets filled with illegal bribes. Hypocrites. It was the main thing that had driven me to strike out on my own. That and all the damn paperwork.

My scrutiny led me from one end of the apartment to the other. The living room, the kitchen, the bedroom, the bath – even Gryzlikoff’s home office offered up no clues for the motive behind his murder. Perhaps it was simply vengeance for someone he’d put away. Such things were common in St. Canard. That was why it was so dangerous to be one of the few honest men left – and even I had my moments. But the ends always justified the means.

I had just about given up hope of finding anything that might lead me to a paycheck when my foot caught the edge of the rug and my body was pitched forward awkwardly. Grumbling, I sat up to inspect my twisted ankle when I caught a glimpse of something that brought an excited spark to my black eyes. In an instant I was on my hands and knees, shoving back the disgustingly spotless rug to reveal a small trap door, no wider than two boards and three hand lengths in the hardwood flooring.

“Well, well,” I crooned to myself. “What have we here?”

My wizened fingers removed the precisely cut boards with a deft swiftness that only came from years of experience, and eagerly I removed the contents of the compartment.

It was a folder, jammed up with so many papers that its edges were beginning to tear and its middle bulged like the Chief of Police’s gut. The first handful of pages I removed all had the SHUSH logo printed at the top. My gaze scanned down for more, and below those I discovered bank statements. Each page held a puzzle piece, and it wasn’t long before they all fell into place. I lifted my eyes, staring across the room at nothing at all.

“Son of a gun…”


“Checkmate,” I sneered, sitting back and enjoying the sound the leather made as it molded to my body.

She frowned, determined to find some way to escape defeat. It was the quality I most admired in her.

The gratifying feeling of having outsmarted her for once didn’t last long. My office door sprung open wide so fast that the doorknob slammed into the wall, leaving a deep impression.

“Boss, we got a problem.”

I scowled, eyeing the now marred surface of the wall.

“What now?” I demanded, keeping my voice steady yet firm.

“That private detective Jacob Mallard’s sniffin’ around ol’ Gryz’s place. I think he found somethin’ he shouldn’ta.”

“And?” I said with raised eyebrows, taking a sip of Jack Spaniels.

“A-and?” the single-minded lackey repeated dumbly.

My grip tightened around my glass, but I got the better of my temper. I’d chosen these henchmen precisely for their devastatingly unimpressive IQs.

“And,” I elaborated calmly, “did you make sure he’d know not to further pursue this ‘something’?”

The fox stared at me blankly. I decided to take a different route.

“What did the detective find?”

“Copies of the stuff Gryz was passin’ along to yas from SHUSH.”

I smirked. It figured that SHUSH’s chief agent would be so thorough. “The Feds can’t touch me with it now that he’s dead. Besides, they won’t be able to trace it back to me.”

“Th-there was somethin’ else in dere, Boss.”

“Oh? And what’s that?”

“Records. Payment records. And your collection notices.”

For an instant I felt cold, weightless, almost giddy with the twinge of fear this news brought. But it ran its course and was quickly suppressed. While it escaped my associate’s attention, it caught hers. She raised a questioning eyebrow, but I ignored her.

“Get someone on his tail,” I barked. “Now.”

I’d known it would be wise to have someone keep an eye on the ex-chief agent’s old abode. That bear couldn’t be trusted even when he was alive. It infuriated me that he’d stashed evidence relating back to me. I should have offed him sooner, but the information he’d retrieved for me had proven useful.

Finally I met her curious hazel eyes.

“It seems your talents are required elsewhere, my dear.”

I knew Jacob Mallard was no fool. I wasn’t taking any chances with him.

She stood up, her chair dragging roughly across the Persian rug, and smoothed her outfit against her sleek figure.

“I have a meeting to attend anyway,” she replied smoothly, flashing me a devious grin. But it faded as quickly as a lightening strike. “What does it do?”


“The device the Fearsome Five stole from SHUSH. What does it do?”

The mention of my ingrate son’s turncoat gang made my blood boil. The fact that he had stolen it before I could didn’t exactly thrill me, either. I had been planning that heist for nearly a year.

“What does it matter?” I snapped. “Just stick to your instructions.”

She looked like she’d been about to make a biting retort, but she wisely held her tongue. If everything went according to the plan slowly forming in my mind, I could kill two birds with one stone. My green eyes crinkled above a calculating smile.



I thought about telling J. Gander what I’d found, but the moment quickly passed and, my innate senses told me to see things through on my own. If I involved SHUSH, there’d be all kinds of red tape involved, not to mention bureaucratic paperwork, and the problem with SHUSH was that it ran like the world of crime would wait for orders to be approved before action was taken. But I knew better. You had to catch a crook red-handed, especially in this town. You had to play their game, and you couldn’t do that hunched behind a desk nursing paper cuts all day.

I decided to head back to my office where I could think in private. Jake was up to something big here, and my instincts told me the Fearsome Five’s heist at SHUSH was connected somehow. Everything pointed back to SHUSH, and to the development of the machine that was now in the clutches of the city’s public enemy number one.

What was it, exactly? Why did Jake take such great pains to have information on it? It seemed both of St. Canard’s most powerful gangs wanted control of it. I figured I would need more information on the actual weapon before I could proceed in linking the other evidence I had.

I dialed the main line for SHUSH, and then punched in an extension number.

“Yes, Dr. Bellum please,” I said to the lab assistant who answered. I waited a long moment as I listened to him on the other end. “All right,” I continued calmly, “just have her call Mallard, P.I. when she gets in. She should have my number.”

I replaced the receiver in its cradle absently, thinking over what I’d just found out. My instincts were telling me to follow this thread and it would eventually lead me into the web.

I didn’t have long to contemplate much else because a sudden knock at the door jarred me out of my thoughts.

“Come in,” I snarled toward the doorway, angry that my train of thought had been derailed. I had felt close to a breakthrough.

The frosted glass revealed a hesitant silhouette reaching for the knob, and then the door opened slowly. Inside stepped someone that only made me feel even more agitated.

“Miss McCawber.” I had to force my voice to stay even. I didn’t have time for any more sob stories.

She took a couple of steps in and eyed me shyly, as if she was afraid I’d suddenly leap at her and devour her head. Untangling her knotted fingers from behind her, she held out a small white cloth toward me gingerly.

“I’m sorry to bother you,” she said apologetically in a soft voice, “but I wanted to return this.”

Some part of me was amused, and I could feel the tension begin to drain away slowly. I stood up and headed toward her with an outstretched arm to receive the handkerchief.

Her eyes wandered downward inadvertently toward my legs, particularly my left one, and I knew she was just noticing my limp.

“It’s all right,” I smiled. Her face had flushed bright crimson when she realized I’d observed her staring. “It’s an old wound; nothing worth talking about. Just a reminder that nothing is what it seems.”

Just as my fingertips brushed the cotton material, the window behind me shattered in the wake of the loud BANG of gunfire.

“Get down!” I yelled, leaping at her and pulling her down to the floor. Hovering over her, I listened intently for the sound of any more bullets.

“What was -?”

“Sssh!” I hissed, trying to decipher footsteps from floor creaks.

Our breathing was heavy, and it was hard to silence the pounding in my ears. I’d been shot at before, many times in fact, but that didn’t stop the adrenaline from heightening my senses to full capacity.

Multiple pings resounded just outside of the broken glass, and I knew someone was fleeing down the fire escape across the alleyway.

“Hey!” I bellowed, pushing myself up off of the ground and hobbling toward the window as fast as I could manage. But as soon as I got to the window, the only glimpse I could get of the assailant was two pointed horns, curved back in an L shape.

I heard stirring behind me and whipped around, putting my hand to the revolver I kept slung at my waist. I’d forgotten about the girl.

“Are you all right?” I asked her, though I wasn’t really so much concerned with her safety as with the identity of the gunman.

“Fine,” she said breathlessly as she got to her feet and leaned against the wall. “Why would someone shoot at you? Who was it?”

“Both very good questions, Miss McCawber. Ones I don’t doubt I can figure out the answers to in due time. Now, if you’ll excuse me.”

Her face darkened and her stance grew more resolute. I could tell I wouldn’t have any easy time getting rid of her. “My sister is still missing,” she said pointedly. I had to keep my eyes from rolling upward in exasperation. “Have you found any leads on her yet? Or have you even bothered looking?”

“I have a heavy caseload at the moment, madam,” I said as patiently as I could.

In an instant she’d stuck a fistful of something under my bill.

“I found this under the bed in my sister’s bedroom.”

The corners of my beak curled up in disgust. What she was showing me was a small mass of long brown hair, very curly.

“So she was brushing her hair and some of it collected under her bed. What do you want me to do, alert Maid Patrol?”

She leaned forward and glared at me directly in the eyes. “Mr. Mallard,” she said evenly. “My sister has black hair.”