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An Iona Falls Kidnapping
In a small town, a neon sign flashed. This neon sign was a movie theatre advertising a horror film. This movie had been out of theaters for a long, long time but people still flocked to the movie theatres to see it. Inside the theatre, the people sat spellbound, and so did Ben Babblseworth. Ben was on he edge of his seat for his favorite part was coming up. He saw a spinning smiley face on the screen and heard insane laughter when everything went black.
The rain was pounding hard as I was pondering my pencil. I didn't get a lot of business on these rainy spring days. I heard a knock on my door.
I grunted. 'Come in,' but it was unnecessary for the door opened. In burst George Garrison, my top contact. George is a chubby guy so he was huffing and puffing. 'George,' I said, excitedly, 'What is it?'
George held up a pudgy finger. I waited. George spoke. He had a high wheezy voice, 'There's'.' he paused, still wheezing, and took out an asthma inhaler. 'There's been a kidnapping. It's all over the news.'
I didn't know this because I don't trust the local news.
' Someone sent me. The wife of the kidnapped.'
Someone always did, I thought. No one ever came to Simon Shorthair, Private Eye, without a reason.
'What does she want?' I asked suspiciously. The wife usually had something to do with the kidnapping. I had an idea. It wasn't the best, but, it was a start.
Ben Babblesworth had a big house. Big enough to get lost in. Fortunately for me his wife showed up at the double French doors when I knocked.
'Mr. Shorthair, I'm so glad you came,' she said and grasped my hand enthusiastically. Mrs. Babblesworth had a British accent. I made a mental note.
'Well Ma'am, I try to come at every call,' I said as she led me through a maze of corridors. 'Wow, I could get lost in here!' I explained.
'I know.' She said, 'Let's sit down.' She gestured at a chair and sat behind a desk. I stood standing.
'Mrs. Babblesworth, you hired me to find and arrest your husband's kidnapper.'
I was very matter-of-fact and straight to the point.
'Yes.' She put on a business-like face. I looked around the room. It had bare walls that were painted a plain white. A solitary light bulb hung from the ceiling.
'Where was Mr. Babblesworth at the time of the kidnapping?' I began my interrogation.
'At the movies I think. He likes the movies. He's a movie critic.'
That I knew. I had done a little research on Ben Babblesworth before I stopped by.
' Which movie?'
' His favorite one, Joke's On You.' I had heard of this one. It had been playing at one movie theatre in our town for 20 years. It was ridiculous, I know, but everyone called it, ' Iona Fall's official town movie' because it was filmed here, and the director was born here. Anyway, Ben Babblesworth had a reputation as a hard critic and he just adored this movie.
'Why did he go out that night?''
'Because we had a fight.'
'Why did you-'
Mrs. Babblesworth cut me off. 'Oh Dear, look at the time, I have a hair dresser appointment at 5:00.'
'But,' I protested as she stewarded me through the door.
'Goodbye Mr. Shorthair', she said as she shut the door, leaving me wondering on the doorstep.
After the visit to Batilda Babblesworth, who was not as weepy as I expected, I decided to pay a visit to George to see what he knew. But when I got to George's street there was a note on his door, 'Out to lunch at the Iona Falls Caf'.' That was strange, especially since there is no Iona Falls Caf'. I thought, George must be at the doctor's, where he always is. He always is too embarrassed to admit it. Since George wasn't there, I went to the scene of the crime for some snooping around.
The Iona Falls Movie theatre has been playing the same movie for 20 years. I think it is a world record. People still flock to see it, even though many people have seen it five or six times. The movie theatre had been off limits for it was a crime scene. I went into the theatre to look for clues. According to the kid at the box office, Babblesworth was Row 15 Seat 14. There were many people in the vicinity, but no one saw it. The kidnapper had used laughing gas, for a canister had been found under the seat. I was just browsing when I noticed something. A smiley face had been left in the cup holder.
The crowded sports stadium was filled with crowds as Chuck Carmichael came into the press box. Chuck worked for the Iona Falls Gazette, coincidentally the same newspaper that Ben Babblesworth worked for. Chuck was now working for Channel 6, the Iona Falls Ionites channel, for today. He went into the box and prepared for a great game. Today, the Iona Falls Ionites would be battling the Fairfield Farmers. It was the bottom of the ninth and the bases were loaded for Kirk Kalimar.
'Power hitter, Kirk Kalmiar, up to bat. Bases are loaded, as the Iona Falls Ionites are down three in the bottom of the ninth, 'Announced Chuck's assistant, Marty Mortimer.' That's right, Marty, and isn't this an exiting game!'
' Yes, Chuck, and the count is 0-2 against Kirk Kalimar and here's the pitch' Swung at and its high, it's long, and it's gone!' Kirk Kalimar hitting a walk-off grand slam and wasn't this just an amazing game, Chuck!' said Marty looking over to his assistant but there was nothing to see. Chuck Carmichael had vanished into thin air.
I was sitting in my office listening to the sound of the silence in my office, hoping beyond hopes that it would whisper to me an idea. To disturb the silence a knock came on my doorknob. I didn't answer it because I was in deep thought. The door burst open and in strode Francis Johnson, the mustachioed editor of the Iona Falls Gazette.
'Shorthair!' Mr. Johnson barked, 'Where are my reporters?' Francis Johnson was as tall and thin as ever and he got straight to business. 'Chuck Carmichael has been kidnapped. I want you to find a connection between the two kidnappings. GO!'
I decided to interview Mr. Johnson right then and there. He was very grumpy about it, as he usually is.
'Where were you at the time of the kidnapping?' I asked.
'And why are you asking me this?'
He responded. I took a threatening step closer. He held his hands up. 'All right, all right. If you insist, I was in my office working on an article on the election for mayor. I was distracted and I turned on a webcast for the Ionites game. What I saw on the Internet was something that said that Chuck Carmichael had been kidnapped. Then I went over to you.'
I was suspicious of his unwillingness to tell his story but I had a gut felling that he was telling the truth. Then, Who?
The office of Gary Goldberg the candidate for Mayor of Iona Falls, was filled with people as I walked in. I was disguised as a reporter but I wasn't big on disguises. My hat was pulled down and my collar was up as I pushed my way to the front.
'Mr. Goldberg,' I asked. ' What is your view on the recent kidnapping?'
Mr. Goldberg responded in his deep, powerful voice, 'I think that the current mayor, Mr. Weinstein, does not spend enough money on police. If he spent more money on the police, we would have cases like this solved easily. All we have to defend the safety of our city is a bunch of numbskull doughnut eating cops and a mediocre yam that calls himself a detective.'' There he paused. He was breathing heavily and was getting worked up. 'With the proper help, this city could cut its crime rate in half and trivial kidnappings like this one could be solved in the blink of an eye, before anyone else has to suffer. Tell that to your readers Mr'?'
'Shorthair,' I answered, ' Lou Shorthair.'
As I was walking back to the office, I was pondering over what the candidate had said. In my notes I got to the crime rate part when out of the corner of my eye, I saw a shape moving. I thought it was nothing and went back to my notes. But then, I saw it again. Someone was definitely following me. The Kidnapper? I thought. So when I saw something move I whirled around and just caught the tail of a coat around the corner. At the corner, he had dropped something. I looked closer. It was an asthma inhaler.
In my office I wondered what the asthma inhaler meant. I called up the only person I know with asthma, George Garrison. I pick up the phone and George's high, wheezy voice answered.
'George?' I answered, 'Did you-?'
'If you're asking if I committed the kidnappings, I did not. It was not I. ' George cut me off.
'No,' I laughed, 'I was going to ask if you had lost your inhaler.'
'No.' He answered; I could picture him narrowing his eyes on the other lines. 'Are you accusing me?'
'No, ' I responded, 'I was just asking because someone was following me and-' Click. He hung up on me.
After the awkward call to George, I decided to interview the wife of the most recent person who was kidnapped. Carmen Carmichael had a quaint house not at all like the Babblesworth's majestic mansion. Mrs. Carmichael welcomed me at the door with a homey air and I walked in and sat down in a small kitchen.
'Welcome, Mr. Shorthair,' Mrs. Carmichael spoke in sad tones. She was short and pudgy and looked like someone who had been through a lot. She had patches of gray in her otherwise chestnut hair. She kept on looking around as though someone was watching her
'Hello, Mrs. Carmichael,' I said, 'I have come to interview you. Were you and the Babblesworth's close friends?'
'Yes,' she answered, ' We were, but then Batilda steered Ben away from Chuck. We grew apart. The last time we met was a week before Ben hot kidnapped. Batilda was growing less and less patient, I could guess that she wanted the Babblesworth fortune'.' I cut her off
'Wait, The Babblesworths have a fortune?'
'Yes, It dates back to revolutionary times. '
'What is your theory about the recent kidnappings?' I wondered aloud.
'I personally do not trust Batilda and I think she did it. But I could be wrong. I don't know the facts.'
I was whistling as I was unlocking the door to my apartment. Here everything was familiar and nothing looking out of place. As soon as I unlocked the door, my dog, Trusty, came barking up to me. I held up a dog biscuit that I got on the way over and he sat.
'Easy, Boy,' I said.
I had already had dinner and I was just getting into the shower. All over the building I am known for singing in the shower. Tonight was no exception. I got into bed and everything was warm and comfortable. I was just loosing my grip on the world when Crack! My window was lying in shards on the floor with another loud Crack! A man with a smiley face masked jumped into my bedroom. I am not paranoid so the only weapon I had at hand was a pillow. I noticed a brick lying on the floor. It was the one the man had thrown through the window. I picked up a pillow and I threw it at the man. He was distracted so I picked up the brick. Before I threw it at him he jumped back and disappeared. After a few seconds looking around I heard a crash and I knew he was out of the window. After looking around for a couple more minutes I saw that my study window was completely smashed and on the windowsill was a pin with an American flag on it.
I was beginning to piece this all together but I needed to make one more visit. The brick had an address on it. I wanted to see if it was a trap or not. To make sure, I had George Garrison to go with me.
George was really nervous because he had never gone on a mission with me before. I never knew George to be this nervous. Was it just because of the mission? Or was it something else? Something that he was hiding? So George and I went to the abandoned mall on West 42nd Street.
I haven't been around much lately, but I can tell you that West 42nd Street isn't exactly Park Avenue. The abandoned mall seemed to be crumbling around me. George and I were communicating by Walkie Talkie. I was talking to George when all of a sudden, I couldn't hear George anymore. Just fuzz on the walkie-talkie.
'George, George,' I shouted but there was no response. George was gone. I heard a laugh from behind me
'For me, George was always the sacrificial lamb of this story,' said Francis Johnson.
Francis Johnson paced the deserted coffee shop, muttering to himself. I could not understand the words but I think it was, 'I need to explain my plot, this is what happened next!' he spoke up, 'I have always wanted to write a good mystery story. I could imagine it, An Iona Falls Kidnapping, by Francis Johnson. I always thought that would be a good story, Newspaper reporters getting kidnapped, detectives investigating, and suspects all around the corner. That would be the perfect mystery. But, when I sat down at my computer, I realized that what the audience wants is a good, real, mystery. To keep my story, I would have to act it out. But, in order to make this realistic, I should investigate. As the story grew, so did my idea of what was going to happen.'
I gasped, 'It was you! You kidnapped your own reporters!'
Francis chuckled, 'I didn't kidnap them, I merely borrowed them, in fact, they are on a nice 'vacation' in the Bahamas now. By the time the police find them, I'll be halfway to Rio.'
'You're crazy!' I spat, 'You'll never get away with it!'
Francis laughed now, 'No, that's not how the story ends!' at that very moment, the police came in.
With Francis Johnson in jail, I was as free as a bird. Apparently, George tripped on a wire, and had to reach his asthma inhaler to breath. I sat back in my office, another case done with, when someone rushed in.
'Mr. Shorthair!' he said, 'Something's happened, come quick!'