The Middle (short story)

Here is a little short story that I wrote that some of you may find entertaining! Enjoy!
The Middle:

Start in the middle he said. So I started in the middle. It seemed a pretty ridiculous place to start – much more ridiculous than the beginning or the end but who am I to argue with the Great Inspector Proust? I took out my little notebook and my pen and chipped away at the facts. Johnston was the jewel thief that much was clear but who was his beautiful yet enigmatic accomplice? The little seen but always present Ms. Black? A constant presence in a glittering career of crime that spanned decades. How to find her now? She hadn’t been at the funeral; even those victims (former friends and colleagues) of Johnston’s had attended; wiry smiles on their faces and glasses of a certain vintage in their hands.

Her last known address stared back at me from the page but it was no use. I’d visited a dozen times. Grubby curtains, empty dust-bins and a stale smell of old cat…surely this couldn’t have been Ms. Black’s last known abode? Yet the bills were all addressed to her alias Ms. Aretha Jones. She must have dug herself a hole somewhere. There were still at least two highly prized items which had never been located. Inspector Proust always maintained Black had gotten away with those while Johnston took the fall.

So to the middle. The middle of the investigation had been the most interesting, no doubt, much more so than the beginning (painfully dull complaints of petty thefts amongst the upper crust set) and the ending (painfully pathetic with Johnston handcuffed and shrunken, leaning against his cell door, the hard look wiped clean from his eyes). The middle had been a rush of exhilaration, a jaunt through the unknown, a suspense from Real Life and a taste of something quite unexpected. That’s when I first glimpsed her from afar; a sparkling diamond type too full of life to notice me in the shadows. But she did notice me. Not that time but the next. She spoke through ruby glossed lips and sent me spiralling off in the wrong direction. Inspector Proust kept me office bound after that. Still it was I who noted Johnston’s first mistake and even Proust couldn’t deny that had helped brings things to a close.

But no one had seen Ms. Black since that last day when she melted away in the rain. Johnston swore there never had been a Ms. Black but you couldn’t quite believe a man who had spent over twenty years stealing from friends and acquaintances.

The new thefts began again a year or so after we laid Johnston to rest. It was his MO exactly so all presumed a successor to the crown. Ms. Black would have been far too old to have bothered with such nonsense now. Besides why risk exposure when you have, thus far, escaped detection?

The Police Archives were a messy place; the last archivist having given up in despair. I was rooting through some old files when the photograph fell to the floor in front of me. Ms. Black again. This time in some 1920s ensemble. Must have been a party for the others in the photo were attired exactly the same way. I pretended not to notice how old the photograph was and the date clearly marked on the back. I tucked it away in my pocket and spent whole nights just staring at it.

Later that week Proust and I played security for one of Johnston’s old golf buddies. Police work is my life blood but it only pays so much. Sweeping past us through the door Ms. Annabelle Waters, the brilliant and only daughter of the late Professor Waters, stopped to give me a knowing wink. She was hosting a gala in her father’s honour at his old stomping grounds; the National Art Museum. I knew that fleeting expression. I knew those lips. Her face hadn’t changed, not even a wrinkle to suggest the passing of time. Proust recommended I see a shrink. Waters looked nothing like Black. But I knew that face. How could I not? It haunted my dreams every night. Proust and the others began to keep their distance; I became water cooler gossip. Confined to a tiny office I was put in charge of monitoring the payment of speeding fines. How Ms. Black would have laughed to see me.

She did laugh when I confronted her. But only for a second. The knife in my hand gave her pause for thought.

“Now Henry you wouldn’t.” those lips parted slightly.

I slumped against the wall. Of course I wouldn’t.

“But how? ” I managed to croak out as she prepared to leave me again.

“Now Henry that would be telling and well if I told you I’d have to kill you and I really don’t want to have to kill you. There’s just something about you Henry I’ve always liked.” she chuckled to herself before disappearing into the dusk.

I took early retirement. Lately I’ve found myself logging on to one or two conspiracy sites. I used to think those sites were pure tosh; all that ‘I believe’ nonsense. But that was before. I’ve seen a lot of unbelievable things so I guess that kinda makes me a believer.



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