Episode 7 - "Burly Men With Nefarious Intentions"
by Camille LaGuire
Was this a coincidence? Had Antonio simply fallen down the stairs? No, no, it couldn't possibly be. His was lying with his feet to the side of the stairs.
He hadn't fallen. Someone had bashed his head in.
And was that her fault? Had she somehow brought this on him?
She started to step closer, but then she heard the sound of footsteps overhead. Someone was in the house, perhaps the killer. She wheeled around to run out the door, but she heard running footsteps on the walk, and the man she'd mistaken for a chauffeur -- the one reading a paper and leaning on a car -- came running into view.
She ducked into the shadows behind the door before he saw her.
There was a large coat rack, with several hats and long coats on it, and Plink slipped behind them. She set her suitcase down against the wall as if it were stored there, and lined her feet up with a pair of old riding boots, hoping that the small winter boots she'd worn to ease her sore feet would blend in.
She needn't have worried about that. The man who came in behind her shoved the door open so violently that it slammed back against the coat rack, covering it and her completely from view.
"Hoy! Hoy!" he called. "She's here! Catch her!"
His call was answered by other calls within the house, and the thundering of feet. Some from upstairs, another from the next room. There must have been at least five or six of them.
As they gathered, the chauffeur man continued calling to them.
"She just came in here! Came in a taxi. Almost missed her. That baroness! She's here!"
"Are you sure?" said an accented voice.
"Course I'm sure! Bobbed red hair. Can't miss her."
There was then a general hubbub, in a mix of languages. One voice rose a little above the others, in quick, quiet command.
"You, out back. You, in front. Don't let her get out if she's still inside. You two, check out the streets all around, in case she's already out."
This man spoke with a flat, nasal, Freedonian accent. More cultured, perhaps, than she expected from a big city gangster or a cowboy. But then, Freedonian gangsters were always called things like "Gentleman Jim." Perhaps their leaders had to meet some educational requirements.
There was a scurrying and shuffliing as at least half their cohort went outside to obey their leader.
"Bains! You were in that front parlor?"
"And I was searching the office. The only way she could go was upstairs or to the back. You boys go upstairs, Bains and I'll search down here." Then, as footsteps thundered up the stairs, he called out, "And be thorough! She can't get out, so there's no hurry."
There was a moment of silence, and Plink wished dearly that she could peek out from behind the coat rack, but there was a solid door as well as several coats in her way.
"Well, boss," said the voice of Bains. "This means Maurinos lied to us."
"That he did. But we lied to him, so I guess it's even," said the boss.
"This has got out of hand," said Bains. "We need to pack up and--"
"No we don't," said the Boss firmly. "We've got it fixed. The police will stay out of it."
"For you they might, you've got high up friends. But the rest of us will rot. We'll swing!"
"No you won't. My friends, as you call them, want us to succeed. If the police get in the way, a little phonecall here, and another one there, the case gets transferred, shuffled, and forgotten."
"They won't forget the murder of a baroness," said Bains.
"Oh, that we'll just blame on Maurinos." The boss paused, and then chuckled. "It's only right," he added. "Let's get cracking. We'll start at the back and move to the front."
Their voices and footsteps faded and Plink was left alone, except for poor Antonio. She resisted the urge to shove the coats aside and run screaming out the door. They were watching the door, and the street itself.
Watching for her.
But there were other people on the street. These men weren't watching for everyone. They were not, for instance, looking for a man....
Stay Tuned For Episode 8 - "Plink's Plan of Escape"
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