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The Rise and Fall of Bombay
I, Georgia Bombay, was perched in my private office, propping my crimson stilettos limply on my desk. Another day, another lesson, I suppose. The memory was fresh, but it was beginning to make a permanent imprint in my mind. So, this was how it was going to be. I quickly scanned the latest article, editing my latest intern’s wretched grammatical errors, multitasking as I dutifully deleted Baron’s latest number from my cell. Just moments before, I’d overheard Baron, the rich heir, conversing with Ramses, his family butler, in the outer corridors of the Boston Globe. Baron’s leather shoes squeaked in inferiority against the pristine brass tiles, just like they had when we were together.
“So what? Bay’s too old for me…and I love Chloe!” Baron’s distinct voice represented all twenty-one of his unwise years. Just because he went to Harvard didn’t mean he knew it all. Not by a long shot.
“That was hardly the plan,” Ramses croaked. I heard him tapping his cane in anguish on the wall. “She goes to MIT; you’re Ivy League. I know you’re losing money, but that’s no reason to marry her! The operation was to be her tutor and gain secrets about her corrupt professor uncle so Bay could expose him. Without getting married to Bay, there’s no way your parents will permit you to acquire that advance on your inheritance you so desire. Do you want to survive on fried potatoes and roast beef sandwiches forever?”
“Do you-do you always have to talk like someone out of a Dickens novel?” Baron was stalling, I could tell. Typical blonde. I winced as I fingered my own light locks and resolved to dye them cherry amber as soon as possible.
“What about Bay?” Ramses asked softly.
“What about me? I’m not your puppet! I don’t love Bay; I made a mistake! Look, I’m marrying Chloe. She may not be as rich as Bay, but she’s awesome, and she’s got plenty of money to support the both of us.” He scampered away, screaming down the hallway, “Where’s the exit?”
So there I was, tapping my gold pen against the table. I put the article down. A knock came. Ramses, of course. I buzzed him in. “That’s why he broke up with me?” I gnawed on the pen, ruining my whitening job.
“The name’s Bay.” I slammed my Princeton Class of 2005 wine goblet on the article, the words blurring. “Baron doesn’t even care about that diploma I slaved for years to acquire: Georgia Bombay, Master’s degree in journalism, Princeton University!”
“I see,” Ramses scoffed without really seeing. “Oh, this isn’t personal! Don’t let your emotions get in the way! You must remember that you and I are working towards a better goal: Baron cannot marry Chloe! Concentrate, if you will.”
“Ramses, sometimes you’re so weird,” I crossed my arms. “Fine. Whatever. We’ll do it your way, I suppose.” I sighed, paging my personal assistant to set up a manicure for tomorrow.
“Good,” Ramses said. “This isn’t Burger King; you can’t ‘have it your way’,” he laughed at his own joke. “Now here’s my plan…”
After he detailed his convoluted plan, I dismissed Ramses. I simpered, pulling out Baron’s cell phone out of my bureau’s lower drawer. I’d swiped it the night before, when we had our, ahem, “falling out”. Unethical, you say? Probably. But I didn’t care. I scrolled through his texts until I found something. Perfect. I speed-dialed Ramses. “Ramses,” I said, “We’re going to the Boston Public Library Thursday night! We’ll carry out the plan there. Check and mate.”
“”Seen anything so far?” I was huddled in the Map Room Café with Ramses a few nights later, in the old part of the library. We’d arrived separately and scoped the place out for potential eyewitnesses: I took care of the new section, and Ramses the old section (how fitting, right?).
“Just quiet enough yet full of witnesses,” Ramses scratched his gray hairs with a buttermilk biscuit.
I noticed a debonair young man near the cash register. He sported a slender leather jacket and was evading the glance of a nearby security officer, whose nametag said Jack—he could be a setback. (I took note in my BlackBerry.)
“The perfect target!” Ramses exclaimed, referring to the thief. We toasted. “They’ll all blame him, whoever he is.”
“Hey! You there!” The blond, portly security officer pointed at the thief, who I deemed Rebel in my mind. “Get your hands out of that cash register!””
Rebel held up his hands in mock innocence. “I know this looks bad; my parents forced me out of the house,” he rambled. “I, uh…I was going to read a book, but, you know, I got hungry, and…I didn’t do it, Officer!”
Leatherface ran away at top speed, like a giraffe. Jack sighed.
“Another day, another problem,” Jack groaned miserably, downing a house salad with extra dressing, two hoagies, three hotdogs, clam chowder, coffee and of course, a jelly donut. He came over. “Stay calm, folks, minor setback…This night shift is harder than you think! I know this is a piece of history and everything, but come on! I feel like everyone steals things…Why’d I ever choose night shift, of all things, huh? Huh?” Ramses and I shrugged awkwardly as Jack ran.
“I’ve terminated the girl,” Ramses said. “She’s in the courtyard fountain.”
“Excellent. All that’s left is to gather innocent patrons, Jack, and Rebel to frame either Baron or Rebel. Preferably Baron,” I sipped my tea. “We’ll, you know, instill a group panic thing.”
“Oh, you mean like in the movie Saw,” Ramses perked up.
“Yes, exactly,” I said. I stirred cream in my coffee and wondered how old Ramses was. Sixty? Nah, younger. Fifty? Forty-five? Ah, he’d lived a good life either way. I didn’t want to terminate Ramses, you understand. It’s just that this hoax would not be believable otherwise. Oh, who am I kidding? That butler had gotten on my nerves for the last time! Ramses made a quick trip to the security room (using the insiders’ map he had as a librarian) while I distracted Jack as the rebel got away.
“Pleasure meeting you, Officer,” I shook Jack’s hand cordially, striking my most nubile pose. “So…come here often?” I giggled.
“I’m new; I’m stressed,” he wiped sweat drops off his pale face. Or were they tears? Ramses paged me and I promptly left the drooling man.
“I’ve acquired,” Ramses said, out of breath, as we met on the lion stairs, “everything: here are the main keys; Jack’s cell phone and radio dispatch; a flashlight from the mansion; I located Baron and had the argument like you asked, right in front of the stone lion on your left. The right eye is a camera, which I’ve temporarily deactivated. We have about three minutes to break the rare book display and hide the book when the power goes out. I’ve programmed it to black out in ten minutes. We have to make this authentic; I steal the book, and you can alert everyone of the crime scene. I’ll leave—”
“No; what if they blame me, since I led them to the broken display? Too risky.” I reached into my work satchel for my red, diamond-studded tranquilizer gun, complete with fatal darts and all. It bore a champagne flute-and-flamingo insignia; it was a gift from my friends of the Boston Archery Society. It was meant to hold recreational darts, but oh well. I skillfully aimed at Ramses, eliminating him. I lightly blew a puff of air on the blow-dryer-like weapon.
Patrons found him, of course. They gathered, gasping. I saw Jack, a couple of teens…and Baron.
“What in the name of Conrad Hilton are you doing here?!” Baron said. I rolled my eyes as I soared down the steps and made up a lie about some book club. I simpered, mussing up his shaggy dirty blonde hair. Jack suggested that we leave the premises while he called for backup and I was forced to traverse with the group. There were Audrey and “Twist” (he loved reading, apparently), both local high-school students. Later, the Rebel thief emerged from behind a column, introducing himself as Jersey (he turned out to be a high-school dropout, not that that was a bad thing—In fact, if I were just a few years younger…), explaining he was on the run from Jack. Baron pointed him in the opposite direction of where we’d seen Jack last and Jersey eluded us again. My BlackBerry beeped. It was go time.
As Ramses’ preprogrammed “blackout” took effect, I shimmied along the corridors to the nearby rare books room. I felt paintings and statues on the route while using my memorization of the map of the McKim building to navigate. I flicked on my flashlight at the glass-enclosed first edition of Oliver Twist. The flashlight revealed Jersey lurking near a closet, observing a watercolor. His back was to me, so I axed the flashlight, gagged him with a bandana, and threw him at the display, which I also hurtled with a hammer. I made sure to get slices of glass on that leather jacket of his. I only had forty-five more seconds, so I force-fed the hammer and book into my messenger bag. I managed to stash the book in the Mechanics section but had no time to escape. Reluctantly, I rapidly & quietly strolled back to the other patrons.
As the ceiling chandeliers illuminated again, Twist cried out, “Where’d Jersey go?” He led us round and round until he found Jersey in the rare book room.
Jersey staggered to his feet. “It’s not what it looks like! I was looking for the bathroom—”
“You said you were escaping Jack,” that kid Twist folded his arms over his Lacoste-imprinted chest. Baron made a fist, preparing to take Jersey down.
“I had a lot of coffee at the café!” Jersey retaliated. I nodded and revealed I had seen him there earlier. Jersey continued, “I thought this was the bathroom, because the door was closed, but then the lights went out. Someone gagged me and launched me against—that!” He pointed at the dilapidated display. “Let’s find the security room; with our luck Jack will be out munching a donut.”
“Good idea,” the teen Audrey stroked her amber braids. “We’ll see if anyone else is in the building.” I sighed. I had to get out of there soon.
Baron roughly brushed against my shoulder and scowled as we went to the TV room; what a wretch. Kid Twist informed Jack the doors were all locked; we couldn’t leave.
“Oh. Well, I caught something at about ten p.m.” Jack pointed at a TV and disturbingly dimmed the lights, as if it were the premiere night of Mr. & Mrs. Smith. Ramses and Baron were shown arguing on the lion statue stairs:
“You betrayed Polo!” Ramses said. “You sold stock to my nephew when you knew they’d plummet! And you didn’t pay him back on the student loan!”
“After my parents’ divorce, I can’t afford Harvard anymore! Family helps family!” Baron stomped his Puma tennis shoe.
“I’m not your family; I’m your family’s butler! Don’t marry Chloe for her money! Marry Bay; she’s richer and has better family status. Don’t tell me you’ve fallen in love with Chloe!”
“Well…I have! You’re fired! How do you like it now?!” Baron decked Ramses (a slight punch on the shoulders, but given Ramses’ fragile condition, I’m surprised he didn’t collapse). The security TV fizzled and Jack pressed the off button and dramatically kicked the light switch on as my stiletto-clad foot was halfway out the door. So close—foiled again. I couldn’t leave now or I’d be suspected.
“So we had an argument,” Baron shifted from foot to foot. He’d developed a stutter. “I’d never kill him! I have to see if Chloe’s okay. She’s been gone forever getting coffee.”
“Likely story,” Jersey mocked Baron’s British accent. “You’re not going anywhere without us.”
“Hey, you’re the café thief!” Jack said to Jersey all of a sudden.
“Pizza?” Twist, Audrey, Jersey, Jack, Baron and I turned to see a handsome young man in a Red Sox cap toting a pizza box. “I’m Landon,” his voice wavered a bit at all of our penetrating eyes.
“Baron must have ordered it to help cram,” I nonchalantly applied lip plumper. Landon was about five years my junior, with a slender body, stellar tan, azure irises, and short, wavy, dark caramel hair. I was so immediately enamored that I didn’t notice Baron slipping out of the room, toward the courtyard. Until Landon spoke again.
“The front door of the new area of the library—the Johnson building—was open. I got here through the courtyard—”
“Baron left!” I realized, fumbling with my lip gloss. We played follow the leader yet again, with me playing leader. Chloe was sprawled on the outer edge of the fountain, the signature insignia dart punctured in her heart, blood sputtering like Old Faithful. Ramses took direction really well. He’d even thickened the blood in the fountain by pouring corn syrup into it. The effect was very realistic to innocent passersby, judging by the nauseous looks of Audrey and Twist. Poor kids.
Baron was holding Landon in a headlock. “Time to restate the facts! I saw all of you before this murder,” he pointed at Jack, Twist, Audrey, Jersey and I. “And now I see a pizza delivery guy, who did more than just deliver.” Poor Landon. Such a bad joke.
“I didn’t do it! She wasn’t here earlier!” Landon gasped for air, barely breathing.
“He seems kinda suspicious to me,” I whispered to Jersey, the one I’d most identified with. He took the bait.
“The pizza box; it could be a clue!” Jersey charged onward. Audrey opened the pizza box and water gushed out, Niagara Falls style.
“I don’t know what to say,” Landon stuttered, falling onto the dewy courtyard grass. I whipped out my flashlight, as did Jack, and we swung the lights over Landon like private detectives swaying a faulty lamp above a felon. The night sky contributed to the scene as well as several rather ominous lanterns dangling from the Egyptian marble walls. There was a gray figure in the center of the fountain, raising an arm in conquest. I noticed that kid Twist observing it with great innocuousness. Ha. So ironic.
I made sure to let my flashlight “fall” into the fountain as soon as the typical interrogation was over with. It contained the evidence (one final, lethal arrow for Baron, of course). “You look sorta like Jonas in this light, Landon,” I squinted ditzily.
“Which one?” Audrey strolled over to get a closer look. “Nick?”
“Does it matter?!” I threw my shoulders back haughtily.
“Nah, I don’t see it. I’d say more of an Orlando.” I groaned.
Jersey clutched some video tape and screamed at Jack, “Hey! How do you explain this fifteen-minute time gap? Watergate much?” Apparently the murder of Ramses had been erased from the security tape. Jack stammered in response and mentioned taking a café break; the security room was unattended for a quarter of an hour. Yes, he actually said café break, not coffee break.
“Jersey, how would you even know about Watergate?” Twist scoffed.
“Shut up, Twister!”
Fed up, I pitched Jack’s flashlight to Baron, still clinging to Landon’s neck for dear life. I began the obligatory frame-your-victim speech. “J’en ai ras le bol! I’ve had it! How do we know you and Landon here aren’t working together?! Think about it: Baron murders Ramses, then keeps us occupied while Landon exterminates Chloe for Baron. They’ve both got airtight alibis, don’t they. Look at them; Baron’s threatening Landon with bodily harm! They’re doing the opposite of what allies should be doing, to throw us off! I’m leaving before someone jumps out of that fountain wearing a Scream mask!” I then realized I was still donning the 24 karat, coral hued diamond ring Baron had given me. I heaved it into the fountain as fast as possible. Didn’t want Baron to get too suspicious. Plus, that Twist was penetrating his glare on it, as if it incriminated me.
“That’s a ridiculous theory,” Baron loosened his death grip as Landon fell to the fresh grass yet again.
“Yeah, it is,” Twist said. “Because I know who the killer is now.”
“Who?” Jack, Jersey, Audrey, Baron, Landon and I demanded.
“Anyone want to reveal themselves first?” Twist fixed his Leonardo DiCaprio-esque hair, the blond strands fraying in the wind. “Don’t say I didn’t give you the chance. It was Bay who erased Jack’s tape and swiped the keys when he was in the café and locked the doors from the inside and the outside. When we were in the security room, there was aqua nail polish on Jack’s desk. Bay’s nails are the same shade. She killed Ramses and Chloe—”
“You’re preposterous,” I was not willing to give up without a fight. “I was simply here for a book club and have the alibi to prove it.”
“She’s right,” Jersey shoved his hands into his jacket pockets. “I’m thinking she didn’t kill Chloe.”
“Thank you,” I said, relieved someone was dumb enough to take pity.
“I saw her and her gentleman friend at the café this evening. Or should I say Ramses, the murdered employee resting peacefully on the stairs,” Jersey continued.
“Where you tried to pilfer some cash,” Jack grumbled. “If we ever get out of here alive, I’m apprehending you.”
“Talk to my parole officer. Anyway,” Jersey babbled, “Ramses took care of Chloe for Bay. Then she kills the killer. Classic scenario. Get rid of the evidence, you know?” He shrugged as if he’d witnessed this manifold times.
“Why would I do that?” I said.
“You had an affair with Baron and were jealous of Chloe,” Twist said plainly. “When we left the security room, Baron brushed past you rather malevolently, and you returned it a few minutes later. You just tossed that bejeweled jewelry into that fountain, glancing furtively at Baron, wanting him to see it. FYI: We all did. When you first came down those stone steps to Ramses, we all saw you ruffling Baron’s hair, him stepping back awkwardly. From that, and the tape saying Baron was to marry Chloe, the one he loved, I can only construe you two had an affair.”
“That’s…accurate,” Baron admitted, rouging.
“So? It was just an affair. I’d never murder,” I said disgustedly.
“Really?” Twist pursued. “Because you dropped that humongous flashlight into the fountain rather in haste. Could’ve held some weapons.”
“Could’ve,” Jersey joined in. “I’ll bet upon seeing me at the café, she decided to frame me for stealing the rare book by ramming me into the display.”
“As if I’m strong enough!” I refuted.
“You had the element of surprise,” Jersey fought as Jack fished the flashlight out of the tainted water and cracked it open. A silver dart hit the fountain’s stone edge, along with Jack’s keys and dispatch/cell phone.
I knew I should have made a break for it after I stole the book. But the others would’ve seen me. Ramses hadn’t nearly given me enough time!
“Seems like you opened the front door of the library. That’s how Landon got in,” Twist said to me.
“Hey, I’ve called the police for backup,” Jack notified us.
“What explains the wet pizza box?” Baron snarled vindictively at Landon.
“Well,” Audrey began, “I spilled water on it while microwaving it in the kitchen,” she suppressed a sheepish grin.
“How do you know Baron didn’t frame me?!” I said indignantly.
“You and the flashlight were with us the whole time,” Twist said. “There was no way he could have snuck anything into it.” I fished my tranquilizer gun out of my bag.
“As far as we all know, Baron did it.” I had to maintain some authority. And I was a gambler.
“There aren’t any darts left in there,” Twist tried unsuccessfully to sway everyone.
“Perhaps there aren’t and I’m bluffing. Perhaps there are. Feeling lucky?” I said. Jack whipped out a pair of handcuffs. “What are you doing?” I held the weapon in his face. He cuffed me anyway, tossing his .38 breezily in the air.
“How’d you know there weren’t any darts in there?” Twist said.
“Mass of the darts was about 10 grams metal, 10 ml lethal medicine. A tranquilizer gun like Bay’s only carries 30 grams of that austere metal—an alloy, actually—without messing up the medicine. I took the chance that she’d put the third dart in her flashlight to throw us off if she got caught. Bay, you’re coming in for questioning.” Jack retrieved his keys and led the way to the exit. “I’ll have backup inspect the bodies.”
“There’s just one thing I want to know,” Landon interrupted for the first time. “Where’d you put the rare book, Bay?”
“The one place no one would ever look. Good luck finding it!” I screeched.
Of course, with the help of my wealthy family, in twelve hours I had an airtight alibi of people swearing I was at a club that night, a stellar lawyer, and a paid bail. Having no further evidence (which was circumstantial, you must admit) and more money than they knew what to do with, the local police station was forced to let me go and call it a mystery.
So there I was, resting once again at my Boston Globe desk, when the morning paper came in. Guess what they deemed the case. “The Wrench in the Massachusetts Institution of Termination.” Rich.