This is a novel, set in what I call my Known Magical World fictional universe. So far the Beowulf series of novellas and short stories, as well as the forthcoming novel Lady of the Lake are also part of the same interconnected universe.
The title character, Mr. Finn, is a talking ape who also happens to be a Licensed Private Hero in the state of Washington. He lives and works in Spokane, the informal capitol city of Washington's Eastern Empire. So far he isn't doing too well in his chosen career. Here is how a not-too-friendly local cop of his acquaintance had to say about him while having Finn checked out:
"More generally, see how he’s getting along financially. What’s his monthly nut versus how much he takes in? My guess is you’ll find he’s barely getting by. A talking ape working in town as a private hero and yet no one knows him? How’s that possible, unless he’s a failure at his chosen profession. He has only a few bucks in his wallet. A debit card, but no credit card. A state ID, but no driver’s license. A well used bus pass. Also find out when Finn became a legal person, then a citizen of the United States, and what his designation is in The Supernature. My guess is he’ll be listed as an exotic, but check his lycanthropy status too, just in case he was fibbing earlier."
The cop's instincts were right. Mr. Finn is in fact legally listed as an exotic, which is a catch-all term for unique members of the Supernature who don't fit into one of the broad general categories, like vampire, lycanthrope, and so on. He lives in Spokane's tiny X-Town (meaning Exotic Town) next door to Mary Fimbul, a little girl who can benchpress a school-bus.
And Finn is just barely holding on when we first meet him. Most private heroes are impressive combat sorcerers (from the best schools), or immortal heroes who can leap tall buildings, bend steel in their bare hands, and generally do amazing things far beyond what the average Joe can do. Finn is basically a pretty good investigator who also happens to be a chimpanzee. Pretty good for a novelty act but not really the first hero one might turn to when the chips are down. Still, he knows his fortunes can turn on a dime, if only that one really big carreer-making-making case comes in. And then one night, in the dead of night, that very thing came knocking on his front door.
At the moment The Remarkable Mr. Finn is being serialized over on my Patreon site, which you can get to by going here. Call this a polished second or third draft, which will be available there for a time, before being removed for final polish and then print publication.
Here's a short excerpt from Chapter Eight:
“First things first,” I said. “How’s your mom?”
“She’s okay, but…”
“She tries to hide it, but I think she is, especially when I’m not around.”
Two years ago the Kirkley house was full of children, strange and inhuman kids from every corner of the globe. Yemelia and Yeruslan, the Russian twins who were thropes, which wasn’t all that rare, but they were ursine shift, which was rare indeed. As toddlers they were as cute as a couple of bugs, but in bear form they were… well, big is the only word.
Alexander at seven years old showed signs of being a natural sorcerer, which by itself wasn’t enough to get him classified as an Exotic. Moreover it probably wouldn’t have caused him to be cast off by his natural parents. The complete lack of hair and azure scales in place of skin is what inspired them to drop him off at the foot of the Jolly Green Giant statue in Blue Earth, Minnesota.
Scary Mary, the second Mary in the house, was nine, or maybe still eight, at the time of the incident. She looked normal enough, but sometimes people would weep tears of blood when she was nearby.
Then there was Joe Boggle, the changeling kid. Loved baseball and enlisted me to practice with him often, since, in his words, I was already built like a natural catcher.
Then there was this Mary.
And finally there was Darla, the oldest of the bunch.
Lovely and hideous Darla Shugg. From about mid-point up she was probably the loveliest woman I’ve ever seen. No, I’m not at all attracted to human females. I’m chimpanzee through and through. But I’ve lived in this world long enough to have learned the human metrics of attraction. And I’m far from the only expert in this case. Every man or woman who’d ever seen poor Darla was astonished at her beauty.
Then they noticed the tentacles and other unspeakable things that made up the lower half. She wore big, floor-length skirts, long out of fashion, to hide it, but that only worked as long as she stood perfectly still, and exercised iron control. Sooner or later the tentacles would poke out and the horror show began.
Darla was with Mrs. Kirkley for nine years, longer than any other charge, except Mary Fimbul. During most of those years she stayed home, never straying outdoors except for the occasional foray into their small back yard, observation of which was protected by a twelve-foot wooden fence.
She was home schooled because no school would have her. Darla’s world was no larger than that, a small house and small yard, for most of her years.
Then she turned eighteen and the government told her it was time for her to go. She couldn’t continue to stay past the age of majority, at a state-run foster home, on the public dime. Mrs. Kirkley helped Darla fight the eviction with every trick she could muster. Darla tried to get a special dispensation to stay, if she paid her share of the expense of keeping her there. That almost worked, until the civil servants discovered the money was actually going to come from Mrs. Kirkley’s already ungenerous salary. They continued to fight the good fight, with every legal trick available, and lasted almost an entire year, before they ran out of things to try. As Darla’s nineteenth birthday approached, Spokane County Deputy Sheriffs came to make sure she left the property for good.
They placed her in the downtown Day’s Inn for the night, informing her she would be allowed to stay there only for the night. The next day, when they returned to fetch her, she was discovered long dead by her own hand.
It was shortly after that when Mrs. Kirkley announced she’d had enough and could no longer continue to foster her special children.