Episode 5 - French Literature
by Camille LaGuire
"Clarice leaves threats for me sometimes," said the lady in a low, confidential voice. "She has a letter of mine. It is from a man other than Henri. This man loves me, and Henri would not understand.... Do you read French?"
"No," I said.
"Well, the letter is addressed to me, so that should be clear it is mine. I will pay you twenty dollars if you get it for me."
I thought about that. I wasn't sure we were getting the straight story, but it sounded interesting. I looked at Casey. She gave me a little shrug without looking at me, so she was still mad, but she didn't object. Maybe she wanted to get back at Clarice.
"We'll do it," I said. "...but not for twenty dollars."
"No money. You gotta sing."
Casey straightened up a little. Yep, that's what she wanted. I turned to Olenka and, and damned if that woman wasn't looking sour, like singing was the last thing in the world she wanted to do.
"Why not?" I said. She shrugged and turned back to her mirror and started playing with her powderpuff and combs and things. Because of the mirror, though, she really couldn't avoid looking at me.
"I...sprained my voice," she said. "When that man shot his gun. I screamed...."
"You did not. The other gal did, but you didn't."
She looked at me in the mirror, reluctantly. She sighed and turned around again.
"It is difficult to sing for people who do not appreciate...."
"We ain't good enough?" said Casey. She uncrossed her arms, and stood like she was about to draw. The lady narrowed her eyes, and made a little shrug.
"Perhaps," she said, "I will sing from sheer joy if I have the letter in my hand."
"You get the letter after you sing," I said. "That's it. It's the only deal."
The lady sighed and shrugged. "If I must, I must."
It seemed to be a deal.
Casey was already out the door, and I found her in the hall, staring hard at the door of Miss Clarice's dressing room. As I came up to her, she twisted around slow and looked at me with the scariest look on her face I ever saw. I nearly took a step back.
"Okay, Sugar Lips," she said. "You lure her out of that room and distract her and I'll search it."
I did not like this plan. But Casey didn't leave me any time to come up with a better one. She reached out and knocked lightly on the door.
"Entrez!" came the voice of Miss Clarice. Casey reached over and pulled the door open while staying behind it, out of sight. I didn't have any choice but to step into the room.
I thought quick and decided furtive was the way to go. I put a finger to my lips and hunched down. Miss Clarice took a quick glance behind me, didn't see anybody, and gave me a mischievous smile.
"I need to talk to you," I whispered. "But she might overhear."
I pointed toward Madame Olenka's dressing room, and Clarice smiled slyly. I backed out of the room, looked both ways like I was watching out for trouble. Trouble, as it happened, was well-concealed behind the door where she wouldn't be seen.
Miss Clarice followed me out, and I hustled her around the corner into the little hall that led to the back door.
It was a narrow space, and Clarice smiled, and reached up to caress my chest. In that moment I changed my mind on how I was going to handle it. I shoved her away, down the hall where she was trapped. Her face turned pink enough to match her rouge.
"You were not so unfriendly before," she said.
"Well, that's 'cause I'm slow," I said. I backed her up another step, and said: "So where's that letter?"
"I don't know. What letter do you mean?"
"The one that belongs to Madame Olenka."
"Ha! She is a liar. She has my letter."
"Oh, it's your letter," I said. "What's it about?"
"It is nothing, and indiscretion. This man is in love with me, and he wrote a letter...."
"And Mr. Henri might not understand."
"It's in French, too, I bet."
"Yes, it is. Can you read French?"
"No, but I'm sure it's addressed to you so if I saw it I would know it."
"Would you find it for me? Could you? I would be grateful. I would make you very happy if you did...."
"That won't be hard to make me happy," I said.
She smiled and slipped forward, all friendly. I poked her back, and leaned in.
"All you have to do is make my wife happy."
Her eyes got wide. "How?" she said.
"You gotta sing in that concert tonight."
She had the same look on her face that Madame Olenka did. Exactly the same.
"You sprain your voice?"
"Why, yes, I did." She put her hand to her throat, and looked guilty.
"Tell me the honest truth. Did you two ladies hire Rufus to take that shot just so you wouldn't have to sing tonight?"
"No," she said. "But it would have been a good idea."
She sidled up to me like she was going to kiss me again. I straightened up and tried to think of how keep stalling her, without shooting her or getting any more rouge on me.
But it turned out I didn't need a stall. Just as she put her hands up to my shoulders, the door behind her opened up.
It was the sheriff.
"Why the hell is this door unlocked!" he said.
"But it was locked," I said. It was only then that I realized I should have asked Casey how she had got into the building, seeing as the doors were both bolted from the inside. I had thrown those bolts myself.
The sheriff slammed the door shut and locked it. "You been standing here guarding the door the whole time?"
"No sir," I said, and I recounted just what I'd done to secure the building. He gave me a look like I was the lowest fool he ever saw.
"It ain't locked," he said, pointing back to the door. "And Rufus must have come back in this way. It's the only place he coulda gone."
Clarice gave a squeal and grabbed onto me for safety, while the sheriff went stomping around the corner.
"You make sure those opera folk are all safe," he called back to me. "I'm going search this place again and--"
He stopped, so sudden Clarice and I ran into the back of him. He was looking down at the floor, and I looked down too.
There was a little pool of blood seeping out from under the door of one of the closets.
"That door was locked too," I said. "I think."
The sheriff reached out and yanked on the handle, but it didn't budge. Miss Clarice, in the meantime, let out a scream and fainted right into my arms.
Stay Tuned For Episode 6 - "No Reward For Rufus"
Available after 8am EST, on Thur
If you're enjoying this Mick and Casey Mystery, check out their other stories, such as the first novel in the series: Have Gun, Will Play.
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