The guidelines required the stories to be fantasy or science fiction, and to include at least one slug as a major plot element. (Rustycon 2007, meeting a few miles south of Seattle in rainy January, claims a slug as their mascot.) Beyond that, it was “anything goes,” and the collection, which is no longer in print, included a wild variety of slug stories.

I had a lot of fun with this story, and was gratified that many found it humorous, including my oldest son, who had been telling me for years that I couldn’t write humor. So there, Jeff.

The continuing adventures of Woodrow Cutter, TI (Thaumaturgical Investigator)

She undulated into my office, leaving a trail of slime that gleamed like the pearls around her lovely throat. She was dressed in red, a coy little number with a hood that nearly concealed her tentacles, but the plunging neckline and slit skirt left little else to the imagination.

A tantalizing tendril of scent reached out to cloud my already beer-fogged brain. Jasmine with something musky. When she dipped an eyestalk at me, I nearly swallowed my cigar.

“Woodrow?” she panted, in a breathless voice that sent shivers down my back. “Woodrow Cutter?” Her whole body was quivering like a flamenco dancer.

“That’s the name on the door, sister.” Mesmerized by the luscious moistness of the pulsating mantle before me, I took my foot off the desk and tried to look nonchalant as I put out the cigar in my coffee cup and swept the empty beer bottles into an open drawer.

“What can I do for you, gorgeous?” She was the most beautiful slug I had ever seen, and she was making goo-goo eyes at me.

“For starters, you might offer me a chair. The elevator’s out and I just climbed seven flights of stairs.”

I felt myself go pink from my foot to the base of my tentacles. The office was in its usual condition, with grimoires and alchemical paraphernalia covering every available surface.

Mumbling some inane excuse about the cleaning lady being on vacation, I hastily removed “Ten EZ Spells for Gastropods” and a couple of crucibles from the sofa. “Make yourself comfortable. May I offer you some refreshment? Beer? Comfrey tea?”

“Lemonade would be lovely, if you have it.” She fluttered her eyestalks.

I could do lemonade. I’d mastered it in lesson three of my wizard’s correspondence course. I slipped out my wand and murmured the appropriate words. Two sparkling glasses of lemonade appeared, complete with ice.

As I handed her a glass, I put on a self-deprecating smile, prepared to respond with some humble disclaimer when she admired my skill, but she took it with only a polite “Thank you.”

Annoyed at her unenthusiastic response, and even more irritated with myself for craving approval, I growled, “Okay lady. What’s an obviously classy dame like yourself doing slumming in my neck of the woods?” I took a sip from my own glass.

It was sour.

“My name is Rosamonde DeHoode. My friends call me Rosie. I came to you because… because…. Oh, Mr. Cutter, I do so desperately need your help. My poor old granny has disappeared and I fear for her life.”

She ducked down, squinching up her eyestalks, and started quivering again.

“But why me? Why not go to the police? Wait a minute. DeHoode. Not DeHoode Amalgamated Farms, DeHoode’s Confections, the Hoode’s restaurant chain…”

She sipped her lemonade and shuddered. “I see you’ve heard of the family businesses. Granny is the majority stockholder and chairman of the board of DeHoode Enterprises. So of course you understand why I can’t go to the police, why this matter must be handled with the utmost discretion.

News of Granny’s disappearance could rock the financial world as well as having social repercussions. We’d be hounded by paparazzi, our stock values could plummet, and worst of all, Granny might be in even greater danger. You must find her for me, Mr. Cutter.”

to be continued