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Living Proof
by Oonah V Joslin

Fast Flo was barmaid at The Clew & Sail. She knew how to keep a warm berth after a cold floe, mete out ale and meat fit for an ailing mariner and in return she asked only goods for sale. Her board was legendary and her bed as much sought after as her advice. It was said she was a witch – she’d certainly examined many a deck.

From Flo’s window you could see the sea, the strait, the quay and the sheer face of Scull Rock where young men tested their courage and seamanship. It was no minor feat to dive from that rock and whether feet first or head first, risk broken ankles or skull. Most of them proved their manhood with Fast Flo too but there they risked only a broken heart and as every sailor knows, broken heart is easy mended at the next port. She kept some token from each of them - called them her naval decorations. In reality most of the booty was tax free – of unknown source and origin, and a lot of it was gold. She watched them all moor up and saw them weigh anchor and sail away and return once more to the tavern and to her.

Her constant companion was a bird one of the sailors had acquired on his travels.
“Ate, eight, pieces of eight,” it said and “bait, bate pieces of bait” and “mi, me, minor, miner, mi minor, me…”
She’d been so enchanted with this drivel that she begged him to give her the bird instead of the diamond necklace he’d brought.
“It’ll be company for me when you’re not here…” she’d said although he knew very well company was never a lack. She’d been teaching it to say, “Bugger off ye bugger.”

Fast Flo never favoured any one companion so it was a strange thing when she was found dead in her bed. The local sleuth, Colonel Kernel searched for any clue as to why she was done to death. A client perhaps, jealous of the time she spent with others… But a jewel of some worth was found in her navel, why leave that? Some ships’ tacks had been spilled on the floor so it could be a shipwright, and a miner’s lamp stood on the table. No one had ever noticed it there before. Someone from the tin mines then…

“Bugger off ye bugger. Bugger off ye bugger. Bugger off ye bugger. Ate eight pieces of eight.”
“Will someone take that damned bird away, I CAN’T THINK!” said the colonel.

There was a large, empty carpet bag was on the floor nearby – “An accessory or an accessory?” he japed… Maybe she’d been planning a trip. She may have known she was in danger. The door was locked with the key on the inside and a trail of dark dust besmudged the carpet. What did it all mean?

The Colonel scratched his head as he concluded his examination of all the evidence. His mien was one of puzzlement. He took the monocle from his eye.
“Well man, straight to it! Have ye found the answer?” asked Joule the landlord.
“Aye, I think so. It is my belief she died of Homophonia,” he said.
“And what be that, prey?” said the man, much bemused.
“A mynah disease,” said the sleuth.