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Somthing Afoot in Licoln City
It was a dark and stormy night……. That’s the beginning you so often see Snoopy type up. Must stories begin with this in some form such as, “Lightning cut through the dark night as the rain lashed the roof of the old castle, “ or “Alexa sat in bed while the dark crept in, and the storm made the shadows stand out, but she was thinking about her day at school,” etc., etc. Mine does not start with that. In fact, mine starts like this….
It was a light and sunny day, but none of that light was reaching multi-billionaire Sam Smith. Sam was cooped up in the theatre, watching a play that had been described as “tedious, tedious , tedious tedium” by the Lincoln City News, “Pure torture” by the USA today, and “I wanted to walk out, but was chained to the seat with the horrible noise” by the New York Times. Sam was trying to come up with something original, such as “My only hope was to get out alive,” or “Too utterly horrible for words,” when the lights went out. Sam made a mental note to write this in his notebook but he never got to. Then the lights came back on, all that was in Sam’s chair was the old campaign slogan, the one for Dwight D. Eisenhower, I LIKE IKE. Sam had vanished.
“Baffling indeed,” I said to my client, “But, to be modest, I am the best in the business,” Maybe I should introduce myself. I’m Joe Jones. Or, as the news likes to call me, “The best detective in the Lincoln City land area.” Perhaps you’ve heard of me. No? Well, anyways, I’m a good detective. I sent that happy customer on his way when someone came charging in the door. I had no time to identify him before he came to a halt at my desk. It was Alan G. Armstrong. The editor who was known for being plump had bolted at the speed of a speeding ostrich toward my desk. He would have gone straight out the window if I hadn’t been here. As Alan came screeching to a halt something fell out of his pocket. At first, it seemed like his notebook, but I investigated closely and could see writing on it. From my desk, I could see the word URGENT, written at the top. Alan opened his mouth and started babbling “Sam Smith…..I Like Ike……Kidnapped……….black out….” Even the best detective could not figure out what he was saying. I turned around and stared out at the sprawling, dark metropolis and thought what I would do if I was Rodentman, Lincoln City’s comic book hero. I had adored Rodentman as a kid and was still partial to him. When I was in a corner, I always thought what Rodentman would do. Suddenly I knew what had happened. It had been all over the media. The kidnapping of Sam Smith. I turned to look at the still out of breath editor and said, “You’ve found your man.”
Lincoln City seemed to grow every day, reaching its roots out into the suburbs, and even for a person who was born and raised here, it was still easy to get lost. I was walking to the nearest Starbucks (besides the one located 50 feet from my office, which was always crowded to overflowing) when I got lost. I wandered to the left- nothing I knew, to the right-the same. Everything was new. It seemed remarkable that I hadn’t been to this neighborhood.
“Hi, Mister” I turned around. It seemed in my ineptitude, I had not noticed that a well dressed, young, man had crept up behind me. His black hair was slicked back and he was wearing a pinstriped suit. I didn’t know him and there was an uncomfortable air about him. I didn’t like that air. Not one bit.
“Hello…? I don’t believe I caught your name.”
“I’m ….um…Larry, Larry Landover and you?”
I was a little taken aback that he didn’t know my name already.
“Jones,” I said. “Joe Jones.”
“I’m new around these parts; perhaps you could direct me to your...uh… nearest coffee shop?”
“You mean Starbucks? I’m trying to find the nearest one myself.”
“No thanks, I…uh… don’t support chains. I mean Mom and Pop shops. “’
“I think there’s one down by the town center.”
He turned to go away,
“I don’t believe I caught your job,” I yelled after him. He froze. A look of nervousness crossed his face.
“I’m a…….uh…………………in advertising.”
I was chewing my pen and pondering the rain at my window when I heard a knock. Before I had time to answer someone walked in. That someone was tall, thin, and walked with a stride that no man has stridden before. That’s because that someone was not a man.
“Hello Mr. Jones.” Simone Smith bent over and sat down, crossing her legs and putting her purse in her lap. Simone Smith, the well known fashion designer, was the wife to one Sam Smith who had recently got kidnapped. She put her hands on the desk and started talking.
“You know, Mr. Jones- “
I cut her off “What do you want, Simone?”
“Well, I was hoping for some idle chit-chat but-“
I cut her off again “What did you come here for?”
“It’s always straight to business with you, isn’t it? Well, I have this problem, and it needs to be solved. Immediately! After my husband got kidnapped I had no idea how to hide it anymore. Obviously, the kidnapper knew.” This was arousing my attention.
“What?” I asked, trying to hide my curiousness.
“Well, a few days before his kidnapping, my husband went into the fortune room.” Everyone knows about the Smith’s famous fortune room. A hundred years ago, Simon Smith, the first mayor of Lincoln City, made a fortune that had been passed down centuries to its latest generation, Sam Smith. They kept a special room in the Smith mansion for it.
“He went in and when he came out, he had horrific news. All the fortune was gone. I want you to find the fortune and the person who stole it.”
To ring the doorbell at the Smith mansion was like playing a symphony on the organ. To some it might be beautiful, but to others it sounded like noise.
“Hi! Can I help you?” said a way-too-cheery voice.
“I’m Mr. Jones. I believe you’ve been expecting me?”
“Ah, Mr. Jones!” the way-too-cheery voice got even more cheery “We have been expecting you!” A second later, the double oak front doors opened with a weary groan and out stepped a butler. “Come this way, please!” said the butler in the way-too-cheery voice. the butler was a short man; with brown eyes and graying, balding, brown mousy hair. He wore a jacket and a necktie with a pin on his lapel that said “I LIKE IKE. “ I recognized those words immediately from the writing on Sam Smith’s notebook. I thought, Of course! The butler did it, and I said, “I see you’re a Dwight D. Eisenhower supporter.”
“Oh, yes!” he said enthusiastically.”In fact, I’m descended from the former Commander-and-Chief.”
“Really!” I said, genuinely interested.
“Yeah!” he said “And here we are at the fortune room!” we had arrived at a square room with an open top and a spiral staircase leading down. I couldn’t see the bottom. The butler took out a key and turned a lock in the elevator door. Immediately, a panel came out and the butler lowered his eye. They did a retina scan and the door opened. The rocketed down.
“Here we are” he said as we rushed down to the floor below. As we went down I could see the half-light that could only mean we were under ground. The doors opened for a second onto a room and the butler got out. But then, before I could get off. The elevator doors closed and I was swept back up to the sound of uproarious alarms
I held a press conference immediately and to the sound of many questions I picked one; the one that I didn’t know the answer to.
“Who did it?” the mustachioed reporter asked.
“We think it’s the butler,” I replied, “but we’re not sure. “
This raised another cascade of questions when someone burst in out of breath, Alan G. Armstrong held up his hand and said, “We have proof that the butler didn’t do it. He couldn’t have. He was at Starbucks with his friend.”
The media echoed what I was thinking. “Then who did?
I went back to my office, and I paced. I paced and I paced and I paced. I thought what would Rodentman do? I answered my question aloud. “Go back to the house!”
As I rode the elevator down to the fortune room, alone this time, I thought of the cases that have come before me. It was strange that the doors had opened just for me but I was too nervous to think about that. The doors opened onto the fortune room and I briefly saw the once-magnificent room. I started to get out, but the doors closed as I plummeted down to what felt like my certain death. I waited for the impact, but none came. Instead, the elevator came to a stop. When the doors opened, there was a figure sitting in a chair in front of a giant screen, divided into sections. As he turned around I could see the distinct blue eyes that had so often stared up at me from the paper in the review section. I gasped, “Sam Smith!”
“Yes,” he admitted with modest pride “It is I.”
“But….”I stammered “How….”
“Let me explain,” Sam said, getting up from his chair and beginning to pace the room. “It all started when I kidnapped myself. “
“Kidnapped yourself? Why?”
“Let me explain!” His cool demeanor started to warm up. “I kidnapped myself so that people wouldn’t know that I had stolen the money.”
As he paced I could see something familiar in the way he walked.
“Larry Landover!” I exclaimed.
“That is also me, but let me finish!” he exclaimed. “I stole money out of my fortune vault and out of the bank of Lincoln City!”
“But why?” I asked.
“Do you know what happened to my great-grandfather, Simon Smith?” he questioned.
“He got assassinated, that’s the sort of thing that you study in middle school.” I answered carelessly.
“No! He actually faked his assassination; He lived to a ripe old age under the name of Louis Landover. How do you think he got all of the money on a mayor’s petty salary? He didn’t! He stole money from TowniBank! Why do you think all of my relatives died early? They didn’t! They just were stealing from banks and had to go into hiding so that nosey inspectors like you didn’t find out. How do you think I made my considerable portion on a measly journalist’s salary? I didn’t! And now, for the final curtain of your show.” He pulled out a gun and aimed it at my head. It would be curtains for me if the things hadn’t happen as they did. First of all, there was a commotion on one of the screens. And second, the butler came hurtling out of nowhere (the elevator) to knock the gun out of his hands.
“But…” I stammered “Why…?”
“I owe you a debt,” he said, “Your press conference saved me and now I have paid it off”
With Sam Smith handcuffed and the Smith name being potentially dishonored I decided not to let slip what Sam had told me. The people didn’t need to know the truth. Not always.
Inside Lincoln City jail, Sam Smith sat in his jail cell, waiting for his trial. All huddled up and freezing from the rain he caught something out of the corner of his eye. It was a flower, smooth as could be, sprouting out of the otherwise barren floor. It was an odd thing to see in a jail cell. As he looked at the flower, Sam began to laugh. A cold, mirthless laugh. A laugh that reached down into your very heart. As the laughter echoed around the small jail cell, the flower wilted, and died.