Friday, July 5, 2024

Deadly Drafts - CH 4


The Admiral pulled a sheet from his typewriter and read it. Spelling—perfect. Grammar—flawless. Tone—flowery but not ostentatious. What a pity! To waste such talent on the reporter and the detective. Superlative prose demanded a multitude, not barely-literate halfwits. The Admiral flexed the gloves into the valleys between each finger, marveled at the whorls over the fingertips as he reached for the coffee at his elbow. 

The night air was unseasonably warm. Good, he thought. We'll turn off the furnace, prolong our strained relationship with the utilities company. A full deck of bills piled to his right. Past due. Second Notice. Final Notice. Collections. He smiled; two more weeks and he'd have enough to pay the debtors 100 times over. 

The only blessing was he'd seen it coming. Declining revenue, skyrocketing overhead and increasing competition—the internet. Hrmph. He'd hatched his plot months ago. Their stories appeared in his PO Box and the whole thing was so deliciously outlandish! He couldn't have invented a finer situation himself (which is saying a lot). 

He ran a finger over the typewriter's curves, relishing her gentle buzz. "Just a few more days, love," he whispered. 

With a nod he stuffed the type-written page into a manila envelope. Dipping a sponge into his instant coffee, he wetted the envelope and sealed it. To 'Sheila Talbot, 5220 Birchard Ave., Apt. 3B.' He checked his watch: 10:15. It would have to wait until morning. Now that the gears of the machine were grinding, fate tempted him to simply hand her the envelope himself. But he'd waited this long…a day or so in the mail was time well spent if it laundered his identity. 

"Bernard!" He swiveled his chair to face the office door. "Bernard!" 

"Coming, sir." Bernard's plodding footsteps rattled the windows in their panes, clattered photos hanging on the walls. He filled the doorway, his elephant mask still on. And the gloves. 

"Will you take that damn thing off," the Admiral said. "The gloves too, you impetuous oaf. What if some interloper were to come down the drive, peer in the window, and see an elephant in a trench coat stomping through the house? We'd be undone you buffoon!  

Bernard tugged the mask, laid it on the desk beside the Admiral's typewriter.  

"Sorry," he mumbled. 

"Sorry, what?" 

"Sorry, sir." 

"Don't you forget." The Admiral thrust the manila envelope to Bernard. "I need you to leave before dawn. 4:30 at the latest. My ride into town will be here around 7. Spend the morning in your apartment however you'd like. Whet your twisted appetites. But you must…must! Take these to the Potter's Village post office at 9:30 AM on the nose. It's very important. What time? 


"Ante Meridian, Bernard! 9:30 a.m. On the nose. Drop it in one of the mailboxes outside the building. Do not return here any sooner than 5 p.m." 

"But there's a mail box right ou" 

"Is it you or I who has the brains here?" 

Bernard took the envelope. It looked like a playing card in his hands. 

"That is all, Bernard," the Admiral waved Bernard away. 

With a small nod, Bernard turned and walked from the office, examining the envelope in his hands. 

"Bernard," the Admiral called. "Your coat?" 

"Oh," Bernard's voice bounced from the hallway outside the Admiral's office. "Yeah—okay." A moment later, the leather duster hung over the doorknob to the Admiral's office. 

The Admiral swiveled his chair back toward his desk, head shaking. It was a good thing he had enough brains for the two of them.


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