I turned from my desk for a moment, just as a tall redhead walked past my office window. I knew she was tall, 'cause my office is on the second floor of the building. I watched her copper curls bob for a minute, then shook my head and turned back to the enigma on my desk. Something here just didn't add up.

I'd barely squared my swivel chair in front of the desk when the door burst open and Teri bustled in, all swivel and swagger, her skirt tighter than a Dutchman's wallet.

"Dex," she said. "I'm goin' to take my lunch."

"I thought I told you no interruptions," I growled.

She gave me a look that would've made a lemon pucker. "I'm just sayin'," she muttered, then slammed the door behind her as she left in an almighty huff.

Finally, some peace. I put my elbows on the desk and stared down at the puzzle again. A dossier filled with bits and pieces and not much to connect 'em together.

So, who was this Faltarego character, anyway?

I shuffled the papers and scratched my head. The guy was a dabbler if ever there was one.

I picked up a copy of "The Phaser's Edge", a Star Trek fanzine he'd put together for a couple of years when he ran the Star Trek Universe of Nova Scotia. How long did that last?

A few contributions to another Trek rag, from an outfit called the USS Frontier. A bizarre fanfic called Hell Hole, about the Deep Space Nine crew and Bill Shatner. A few unfinished short stories and a couple of half-done novels.

A few forays into video editing, MIDI music composition. A short stint as an editor with Fargoth, a world-building website for role-playing gamers. A couple of editing jobs with RPGObjects.com.

This guy was all over the map.

And then was this Protagonize thing. As usual, he bounded in, started stamping all over the place, then disappeared. His usual MO. What was it with this guy?

I flipped through some more pages. There were a few other names that stood out. Maybe I'd get some answers from them.

First there was Ganga, a computer nerd with a penchant for running off to the Himalayas for hiking and self-reflection. He'd given this Faltarego guy some pretty nice feedback, just the kind of ego stroking that kept the dabbler hanging around for a while. Also a fellow Canadian, though you can never be too sure of these West-Coasters. Seems a decent sort, but he needs to learn how spell Faltarego.

Then there was Rac7hel, the dame with the lucky 7 in her name. She was another ego-stroker, and her "Epic Nursery Rhyme for Strange Children" was just bizarre and addictive enough to get ol' Faltarego's creative juices flowing. And I don't quite get her back story. You're never going to convince me there's a place in the U.S. called Oxford.

And this Dr. Pinch character. What's his story? With a name like that, I expected to see a rap sheet with a history of sexual harrassment. But no, it turns out he's been travelling through space and time, collecting info on extinct species. There's hobbies, and then there's hobbies. Gave Faltarego some pretty decent feedback, though he's a bit of a hardass. And he's a Brit. Go figure. Never did trust 'em.

Then there's Nickb. The ringleader. A shady character if ever there was one. Another Canuck. Another West-Coaster. Another computer nerd. Plus, he keeps changing his name. There's more digging to be done here, I can tell you that. Plane trips, train trips, websites, secret projects. The guy reminds me of an iceberg: A cool customer with a lot hidden beneath the surface.

There were a few other names as well, people that this Faltarego character seems to be waiting to hear back from.

JJ1979 looks like thug to me. Another Brit. A fighter. Writes about the mean streets. Tells it like it is, or maybe how he thinks it oughta be. Good writer, this guy. Pulls you in. Takes you places you weren't sure you wanted to go, and you have the bruises to show for it when you get back. I'll be keepin' an eye on this one.

Amo1143 is a dame from the States. Seems like a good, solid, red-blooded citzen to me. Her "Ode to Cliché" is just the sort of loopy stomping ground that Faltarego likes to play around in. She writes a pretty mean action-adventure-crime story, too. Keep it up, Chickie...

Jonty writes some pretty funny stuff. He's another Brit, but I won't hold it against him. I gotta admit, I kinda like Doctor Who myself. This guy's writing style kinda flows off the page (or screen) and makes it sound like he's talking to you. That's pretty tough to do. The flow thing. The Big Easy. Yeah. You know what I'm talkin' about.

I don't know where to start with this case. Too many bits, not enough connections. Maybe when Teri comes back, I'll get her to fetch me a coffee and sandwich. Maybe I'll think better with a full stomach and a caffeinated brain.

And, yes, in case you were wondering, Teri's last name is Sekra.

The End

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