Eight elegantly costumed people sat in the empty theatre while Officer McKendrick spoke to Sergeant Prydoc. At last, the two policemen turned and faced the Variety Show performers.“Thank you for your patience, ladies and gentlemen,” said McKendrick. “I have to tell you that Mrs. Moncrieff is extremely upset. As you all know, she is a major benefactor of your theatre. The heirloom necklace she wore to this evening’s presentation is missing. She had it on when she entered the theatre tonight – several people confirmed that - and now it is gone. Its worth is estimated at over half a million dollars. Does anyone want to speak up before we start our questioning? This could take a while, just so you all understand.”The eight performers looked around at each other to see if there was any sort of reaction from their fellow thespians. Nothing.“All right then,” said Prydoc. He and McKendrick proceeded to interview the eight people who were dressed in assorted show and evening attire, dismissing each (for the time being) as that person’s inquiries were completed. At last, they were down to Alexander Norville and Paula Weiss. Norville had performed as a magician, billing himself asAlexander the Great. Paula Weiss, dressed in a purple and blue sequined outfit, had been his assistant.McKendrick asked if he could please inspect the small red lacquered box sitting on Norville’s lap. Norville quietly handed it to the officer. McKendrick flipped open the silver latch and looked in the box. It was, as expected, empty.“This is a trick box, isn’t it?” said Prydoc. “One of those magician illusion props?””“Indeed,” replied Norville, and before the officers could even ask, he sprung open a hidden lock of some sort, and a panel flipped up. “As you no doubt can see, it too is empty.” He handed the box to Paula. “But so that the two of you are entirely satisfied of my innocence in this unfortunate matter, please feel free to frisk me or inspect my cape or whatever else you deem necessary.”Norville stood up and McKendrick patted him down. Norville handed Prydoc the cape, which also underwent considerable scrutiny. Satisfied at last, they dismissed Norville. He retrieved his cape from the cops, the box from Paula and then, more or less glided out of the theatre.A few minutes later, Paula was excused and she departed the auditorium as well.The police were left to scratch their heads and wonder which of the eight had pulled off the theft. They were convinced that one of them did it, but who?In the meantime, Paula Weiss joined Alexander Norville in his waiting Maybach 57 S. She kissed him lightly on the lips and then smiled as he handed her the little red lacquered box. The engine purred as they pulled out of the theatre’s parking lot.
“Ah ha, there it is!”“Uh, hmm?”“Oh wake up J, I’ve found the box. It was lying at the foot of the bed. How didn’t we notice it last night?”“Uh? Hmm.” I could have sworn we had only fallen asleep minutes ago. I forced one eye open. Ok, we’d had almost three hours sleep. I felt terrible.“Key, key, key,” she was now saying. “Have you seen the key? J! Wake up J! I don’t know where the key is!”I didn’t need this right now. “Good God E, do you know what time it is? It’s not even 7am.” “I know J! But look! The box!” she was waving a red box with steel lock on the front around. “I found it! So where’s the key I wonder?” I tried to get my head back under the covers to block out the sound of her enthusiasm, but it was pointless. She was on her feet now, still undressed, opening drawers and rummaging through boxes, lifting up the clothes and underwear that were strewn around my apartment. “J, you should really get this mess sorted Mister,” she said.“Actually, I was thinking of getting a maid,” I replied, sitting up and folding my arms. I was still tired enough to make keeping a straight face a simple task. Sure enough she froze where she stood. While still half bent over, my jeans with the belt attached still in her hand she turned her head and looked over her shoulder at me. “A what?” She didn’t look amused.“A maid … ‘oooh, a man needs a maid,’” I sang, before breaking off abruptly, ducking as E launched herself at me from where she stood, all fingernails and wide eyed insanity. “Argh, get off, it was a joke! A joke!” She has some strength for such a petite thing. Lying together, once she had clamed down, our arms and legs tangled in the covers, gasping to get our breath back, I reminded E that today was Friday, which meant…“Roast chicken day, yes I haven’t forgotten,” she said. Fridays, ever since I had moved into this arrondissement, had been classed in this way due to maddening smells of roast chicken exuded by the “Café Neuf”, the brasserie on the corner before the Metro steps. The first time we walked past it together we made a pact to meet there every Friday at midday. Of course, the novelty of eating their chicken wore off after a couple of weeks – five for E – but the rest of the menu smells just as good.“Yes, but it’s not just any old roast chicken day E,” I reminded her, “it’s a year since the first time we were …”“Noooo! Really. We’ve been there 51 times then?”“Um, I dunno ...” I wasn’t sure if it worked like that, but the date was almost the same. “Anyway, I have only had three hours sleep, and I really don’t want to be grumpy when we sit down to have lunch on this very special day, so please E, can we just get some more shut-eye?”“Ah, a grumpy lunch date. No thanks.” She curled up against me and closed her eyes. Her breathing slowed and her long eyelashes lay motionless, her grip on my shoulder relaxed to nothing. Her face – it was always so dreamily calm when she was falling asleep. It amazed me how she managed it. Watching her like this, I began to dose until I was fully under.Suddenly I heard her voice shout, “J!” Wide awake again, I thought my heart was going to explode with the shock.“What is it?” I panted, my eyes pulsating like electric basketballs.“The box! I forgot about the box!” she yelled, jumping out of the bed again.
Hahahahaha! Jonas - well done! You did a terrific job with the prompt today!
Tick. Tick. Tick.“It it a bomb?”“It’s a red box.”“But is there a bomb inside the box?”“It’s got a nice latch on the front.”Tick Tick. Tick Tick. Tick Tick.“A latch to lock a bomb in?”“Well it’s hardly locked now, is it?”“I don’t know. You going to try and open it?”“You’re the one that curious, not me.”Tick. Tick Tick Tick. Tick. Tick Tick.“Bombs tick like that don’t they?”“Lots of things tick.” “Yeah, but why would someone put a metronome in a red box?”“Why would someone put a bomb in a red box?”Tick.“It keeps ticking differently, you notice that?”“Maybe there’s a wee man inside with a tack hammer, rapping on the sides of the red box.”“That hardly seems likely.”“And a bomb does seem likely?”Tick Tick. Tick. Tick.“What else could it be?”“A wee man. I said so, didn’t I?”“What else that really exists, I mean?”“Wee men exist.”Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick Tick.“What are we going to do?”“Stare at this red box, it seems.”“About it, I mean.”“What do you want to do?”Tick Tick. Tick. Tick.“Run.”“We could have started that eons ago.”“I wasn’t sure yet.”“Are you sure now?”Tick Tick Tick Tick Tick tick.“Yes!”“Okay, then.”“Run!”“But what if the wee man is banging in Morris code, asking for help?”Tick Tick Tick Tick.“Just run!”“Okay, then.”“Come along!”“I’m coming!”Tick Tick Tick Tick.Tick Tick Tick Tick.Tick Tick Tick Tick.“Where are you hiding now, wee little man? You always do this. You always go off and hide, thinking it will be fun to make me chase you. One of these times you’re going to hide so well, I won’t find you. Then what? You’ll end up locked in a refrigerator, or a fire safe, or something. And then what? Then you’ll suffocate. And it’s not on my hands.”Tick.
RJ -- fun little mini-mystery!Jonas -- great slice of life!
I took the red metal box out of my bottom drawer. Setting it on the bed between Melissa and me, I gave her a hard stare. “You sure about this?”“Yeah,” her voice was a breathy whisper that held a hint of excitement and a lot of fear.“It will be okay.” I tried to act more convinced than I was. The suspense was nearly killing me too. Melissa nodded.“When we open this we’ll know how his secrets. I mean, there has to have something in it, right? He does keep it hidden in his closet.”“Did you get the key?”“It’s right here.” I slid my hand in my back pocket, pulling out the tiny brass key. The edges were dull and scraped from usage. “The laundry hamper was a nasty place to hide it. His gym socks really smell, by the way.”“Just open it already!” Melissa wrung her hands.Inserting the key I turned the lock. It clicked and the lid gave a pop. Melissa and I looked at each other for long seconds before I lifted the lid. We leaned over to peer inside.Condoms.“That’s it?” Melissa’s lip curled. “We went through all that work to steal that?”My brother was up to a lot more than I thought he was. “On the positive side, at least I have blackmail.”
Lightverse- I felt like I was watching Clue! Hahaha. Love it.Jonas – I need a maid too. ;)Nevets – The wee- man in the box, huh? Soooo many jokes I could make with that one. Yea! I loved them all!!!
After I post mine I see so many errors. Maybe I should start rereading them for a change. Ha!!!!
Heather - loved the blackmail ending! What a riot! (And that error thing - I hate when that happens!) =DCN - Wee-man - Wow! An unusual and very clever take! Um...or rather, tick. Tick...tick...
Heather, don't pscyhoanalyze my flash. hahahahahahahahahahahahaGreat story, too, by the way. I love the description of their thievery. Brothers are so smelly. LOL
Great stories today everyone! Gotta go to San Francisco tomorrow for stressful nonsense so I'll be back Wed. Arggg. (Just thought I'd share my angst for a minute)