The Maltese Falcon

System

a hack of Don't Rest Your Head

Series
Bird from Beyond
Number of players
1

Kana was sitting at her desk in Bharatpur’s Birds of Prey Sanctuary’s office, pretending to do paperwork, when the Animal Protection Service arrived with a big cage in tow. It contained a falcon that was discovered during baggage transfer by an airport worker and seized by the police. Kana checked out the bird’s shape. It was more than fine. Pampered, even. Kana rolled her eyes. While keeping such animals in captivity is technically illegal in Bhārat Mahāsaṅgh, she thought only an overzealous airport employee would report one just passing through in adequate conditions. Kana disapproved of religious devotion or environmentalism putting trade and the economy at risk.

When she examined the bird’s ring and air travel manifest, she realized it’s not a run-of-the-mill falcon. She knew this bird by reputation in the criminal underworld. It was Shō Zen’s prized Maltese falcon! Shō Zen — a member of Ryūkyū’s royal family and a businessman well-connected in international organized crime — was quite famous in the hunting circles due to his obsession with falconry. Kana has heard that he’s the boss mobster in Ryūkyū… and his favorite raptor was sitting in a cage on her desk right now.

It was obvious to Kana she can’t just keep the bird in the sanctuary – it could come back to haunt her. Besides, she smelled an opportunity. She should deliver the falcon to Shō Zen as a token of a goodwill. It was a key that could open many doors if used correctly.

Kana tapped her contacts in the shadow web. Since hunting was strictly proscribed in Bhārat Mahāsaṅgh, hunters and their enablers, such as her, had to communicate through the same private channels as other underworld fixers. Kana learned that Shō Zen is travelling to Qırım Ulus (the Crimean Territory of the Mongol Confederation) to strike a deal. He needed his favorite, lucky falcon to make an impression during the traditional business hunt on the steppe. Kana concluded that he could be upset that the bird was seized during transit.

Without trustworthy means to contact Shō Zen, Kana decided to deliver the falcon to the owner in Qırım personally. In order to do that, she first had to make sure the bird disappears from the official records and from public attention. As of now, the falcon was news of the week — Jains loved stories about animals being freed from abuse, so the press took notice, put up its photos and played videos of the falcon’s arrival in Bharatpur’s Birds of Prey Sanctuary. Kana herself was scheduled to chaperone the bird to an APS press conference in a few days. This actually gave her an idea: she met with her comrade-in-crime Madhavan Mishra, whose veterinary practices extended beyond the acceptable, both by law and mainstream science. He prepared a delayed-onset suspended animation serum for the falcon. Kana administered it before the public relations event. She timed it so well that just as the fired-up APS spokesperson exclaimed “It’s finally free!” the bird shrieked and, as if struck down by the horror of realization, dropped dead. Kana confirmed its demise with a voice full of sorrow and teary eyes. She explained it must have been in a bad condition after inadequate smuggling arrangements. Perhaps being seized by APS and paraded in front of the press was too much for its poor small heart… She departed with the falcon’s "corpse" with haste, excusing herself with the yearning of proper funeral somewhere in the Bird Sanctuary. Due to their PR victory being snatched away at the worst possible moment, the APS were eager to have the event buried. When both Kana and the bird were far away from the prying eyes of the public, the Maltese falcon was revived, no longer officially present in Bhārat Mahāsaṅgh. It was time to move to the next stage of the plan.

Unbeknownst to Kana, Shō Zen was watching the press conference on TV. When the bird “died”, he swore revenge on everyone involved — Kana included. He told his lieutenants to report her every step, hoping to find a way to hurt her the same way she hurt him when she declared his falcon dead. Meanwhile, Kana has pulled some strings and acquired a visa to the the Mongol Confederation and an excuse to go to Qırım. Madhavan Mishra helped her disguise the Maltese falcon as a cherrug falcon. She got forged documents saying it was smuggled in and needed to be returned to its natural habitat in the steppe. The plane trip was uneventful and quite pleasant. The problems started the moment Kana stepped out of the airport with the bird cage in hand. Four burly men in Zhongshan suits approached her and, in very simple Chinese, asked her to go with them, pushing her towards a black car parked right outside the terminal. Kana tried to explain that she has their boss’s falcon with her, but they clearly did not care to understand a word of what she said. The falcon’s disguise didn't help either. Kana did not want to cause a scene in a public place, so she went into the car, miffed that she has to deal with mob soldiers who presumably only speak Okinawan. The men were clearly hostile and there was no doubt that at the end of the journey, something extremely unpleasant was waiting for her. Left with no other choice, Kana took a deep breath, cleared her mind and whistled loudly, calling her special “friend”.

The mobsters expected resistance from Kana. Maybe a knife fight, or a hidden gun — definitely not a huge, dark bird dropping rocks on the windshield. The driver swerved the car into a ditch. While everyone inside was stunned by the crash, the Bird from Beyond dove through the broken windshield and eviscerated Kana’s kidnappers. It was relentless and very brutal, way more than what Kana remembered from previous times she summoned it for help. She quickly staggered off the scene of carnage with her purse and falcon cage in tow. Later that night she watched local news in the cheap hotel room she rented to throw the Okinawans off her trace. The anchors mentioned an accident involving a rented vehicle and a wild animal. They suspected a bear. Kana did not sleep that night, expecting more trouble. However, no-one and nothing came for her and the next day she has safely transported the falcon to the local branch of Qırım Hunting Grounds Preservation Department.

Kana devised a way to approach Shō Zen safely. She asked her Crimean contacts to organize a hunting party in memory of the Maltese falcon. The Ryukyuan royal was to be invited as an honorary guest. The preparations went smoothly. On the day of the hunt, when Shō Zen noticed Kana in the crowd, he turned red and started walking towards her with murderous intent. At this point Kana released the Maltese falcon. The falcon recognized its owner instantly and flew towards the man with a soft cry. Shō Zen did not believe his eyes. He declared Kana his best friend, forgetting that a few seconds earlier he wished her dead. On this day, they hunted together, admiring the Maltese’s falcon grace and abilities. Shō Zen swore an oath of gratitude to the bird handler and gifted her with a statuette of his favorite falcon.

Kana returned to Bhārat Mahāsaṅgh satisfied. She put the statuette of Maltese falcon on display in her office at the Birds of Prey Sanctuary in Bharatpur, among other raptor artworks.

Author
zasvid