Wednesday, August 3

Chapter 22

In Which the Tale of Teapot-man-man-man is Continued and Concluded (We Hope)

Part 2

"I thought I’d be seeing you again soon," Michael said as I ran up the steps to the Root’s house. "She said something that started your thoughts."
"It was the ring." I said, holding up the engagement ring for him to inspect. "This was the ring I was looking at in the jewelers the day I met her." The two of us sat down inside at the table while Shauna brought us all some water and a bowl of popcorn.
"Yes," Michael said somewhat disinterested, "what about it?"
"She knew it was the one I looked at in the shop."
"Well, she was there." Shauna said. She had heard the entire briefing from Michael earlier that night.
"But that’s just it," I said setting the ring on the table. "She never saw me looking at it. She and Michael came in when I was across the street, and I didn’t look at the ring after I returned."
Teapot Man’s eyes lit up, and he stood to his feet. He started pacing back and forth with his chin in his hands. Shauna and I watched him for a moment as we waited for something to happen.
"What does it mean?" Michael asked sitting down again and putting his forehead on the table. "It all adds up... but to what?"
"What exactly are we adding up?" Shauna asked.
"The clues." I said thinking.
"Which clues though?" Shauna asked, "there are so many."
I took out a piece of paper and began writing down the clues we had, but stopped immediately because the first thing I wrote down was "ring."
"That’s it!" I yelled jumping up. "What do Lisa, the jewelry shop and Emily and this ring have in common?"
"This sounds like a bad joke I heard the other day..." Shauna said.
"Of course!" Teapot Man said leaping up. "The jeweler!"
The three of us leapt into Michael’s truck and started off toward the jewelry shop, but instead, we turned and drove to Emily’s house instead. "I have a feeling that one of the clues is still hidden," Michael said as we pulled up in front. "I just hope that it is still there."
We practically ran up the steps to the door and flung it open.
It was cleaned out. Every piece of furniture, and every scrap of paper had been taken out of the room. I ran to the laundry-room and found what I was looking for... a full laundry basket.
Our next stop was at the uncle’s house, and as we ran up the drive, I hung back and headed toward the back gate because we noticed a light was on, and we weren’t about to lose another clue.
I waited as they fumbled with the lock. I could hear the back door open, and footsteps -- irregular footsteps -- coming toward the gate at a fast pace. I braced myself, and saw the gate open.
It was the balloon man. His torn and dirty jacket fluttered behind his quick pace as he barreled into me and fell headlong down the drive, rolling, and then stopping altogether.
I walked slowly over to where he was struggling to stand. I offered him a hand and he gratefully took it.
"I didn’t see you standing there," he said in his gravely voice as he stood. "Please excuse my haste, but..."
"But you were fleeing the scene of a crime?" I suggested. He looked for an excuse to run, but then stopped and asked. "Weren’t you the one I saw in the alley?"
"Yes." I said. "The first Thursday of..."
"It wasn’t the first Thursday." He said. "My brother had been missing a week before that."
"His brother?" Michael exclaimed when I introduced him to the balloon man. "Then..." Michael wandered off into his own world as he began pacing.
"I thought you might have been some of the kidnappers." He said. "That was why I ran."
"You run pretty fast for having a club foot." Michael said, "especially a nine-iron club."
"What?" Shauna asked.
The balloon man lifted his pant-leg and showed off his false foot made out of a nine-iron. "I had it done after I lost my lower leg to a snake-bite. Roger drove me to the hospital in his Mustang."
"I knew it was a sports car!" Michael said, jumping in. "Did they take it?"
"No," the balloon man said, "it is in the shop."
"Why did you think it was a sports-car?" I asked.
"He was an engineer," Michael said.
"He liked going fast." The Balloon man said.
"What does being an engineer have to do with going fast?" Shauna asked a bit befuddled.
"An engineer," I said, the light coming on in my head. "For the railroads."
"I have a question." Michael asked just as a thought struck me like a flash of lightning. "Why were you outside the jewelers?"
"Because," I said, "they were in it together! Lisa, Emily and the Jeweler!"
"That’s why they are connected with your ring!" Shauna cried, "they all were in on the kidnap... murder!"
We all stared at each other in amazement at the fresh turn of events. We weren’t solving a kidnapping; we were working on solving a murder.
The will was to be read the next day, so we all planned to attend, but Michael said he would be a bit late, and we excused him.
The lawyer sat us all, under some hesitancy -- he not being used to having people other than family present when the will was read -- and began.
"I, Roger Lucas Alexander, being of sound mind, do hereby bequeath all my earthly belongings to my only living relative, Emily Klein..."
"Isn’t that odd," Shauna said out loud interrupting. "That he would say his only living relative was Miss Emily?"
"Why?" Emily asked quickly. Since I had left her so abruptly last night on what may have been our engagement, she seemed a bit nervous.
"Because his brother is still alive Miss Emily." I said. "Or should I call you Elaine?" There was a sudden knock on the door and Michael and the uncle stepped in and nodded at me. "That was why I broke off our engagement last night. I noticed what you said about the ring, and clues started dropping into place from there."
"We have detained Lisa and the jeweler," Michael said. "So, in effect, Elaine," he smiled and leaned on the lawyer’s desk, "The gig is up!"
"I think you mean ‘jig’." Elaine said. "And you can’t prove a thing."
"What about your finger-prints?" I asked, "and the fact that Emily has two uncles."
"And maybe you can explain this," Michael said, holding up a set of keys. "These are the keys to your ‘uncle’s Mustang which was delivered to the shop three days before you kidnapped him."
"Not to mention the fact that your apartment was rented out to one ‘Elaine McIntyre.’ You."
"But what did the other clues have to do with the mystery?" Shauna asked as the three of us sat straining at Big Al’s Milkshakes the next day.
"Well," I said, "the book I found in the uncle’s apartment told me he wasn’t blind because it was a new copy and was book marked on the third chapter -- not in braile."
"The oil stains showed that there had been a car there recently." Michael said.
"The laundry basket was filled with men’s clothes." I said. "Which means that Lisa wasn’t doing her laundry because she isn’t married, and besides," I took a long drag on my Peanut butter milkshake, "they were still dirty which means that Lisa merely made them wet instead of washing them when she brought them into the house for us to see."
"And the phony will was made up in his name a few days ago and mailed in a post-dated envelope to the lawyer." Michael took a long drag on his Pineapple and Banana milkshake.
"So why did she... Emily or Elaine, whoever... why did she do it?" Shauna asked.
"Insurance money." Michael said. "The real Emily has been dead for over a year now. She died in a car accident involving a drunk driver. Her real last name was Emily Franklin. Because Emily had us working on the case, all suspicion was thrown off her, and we only had her and Lisa’s word that she was who she said. There was no picture of the uncle because they couldn’t find one. The death of the parents a year ago was also a phony: only her mother was killed, and her father lost his foot."
"So the balloon man was really Emily’s father?"
"The real Emily’s father." Michael said slurping the last of the milkshake through the straw. "That’s a nice sound, don’t you think?"
"Sure is," I said slurping as well.
"There’s just one thing bothering me," Shauna said. "Who paid for all of our milkshakes?"
"The police department," Michael said. "When they saw how nicely we had wrapped all this up, they gave us a reward."
"I’m sorry you didn’t get the girl Josh," Shauna said.
"You know, it’s funny about that," I said. "She was only falling in love with me for a front. If we were married, I could testify of how broken up she was over the death of her uncle, etc., but wouldn't be able to testify against her. She was never really in love."
Shauna gave a knowing, but wry smile as she thought of her Canadian boy-friend and slurped the last of her pimento and orange milkshake.

The End


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