The flickering glow cast off by the half dozen railway lanterns created an eerie dance of shadows along the margins of the room, adding an element of the macabre to an already gruesome midnight scene. Father Vorpal knelt silently beside his mother’s broken body which had already begun to putrefy on the kitchen floor of her tiny roadside diner.
“It was that psychotic old man and his hideous creature that did this,” Rugbottom said in hushed tones. “They must have come over here after they attacked me in the hotel lobby this afternoon.”
“Now Albert, let’s not jump to conclusions,” said Sheriff Knotsinham who had arrived a few moments earlier with his two smart looking deputies in their fresh-pressed red shirts. “There is still one…” he glanced at his notepad, “…Martin Malus who remains at large. A rather volatile young man if one is to believe reports of bickering and shouting at the tranquil Falunian Hot Springs earlier in the day. I would like to question him before I rule him out as a suspect.”
“Hey Snotsinham!” Petra shouted, hands on hips. “Malus may be a turd-burglar but he didn’t do this to old lady Vorpal.” She pointed at the body with one hand, the other hand still planted firmly on her hip. “He’s in the Underground now trying to catch them that did!”
“Petra Flax?” Sheriff Knotsinham narrowed his eyes, scrutinizing the slightly built girl still in full disguise as a middle-aged German geologist. “Take off that ridiculous beard. I’d recognize that voice anywhere.”
“You must be mistaken Sheriff; this is my learned colleague, Dr. Von Hoopla, direct from the Vulgarian Institute of Higher Learning. That’s in Austria, you know.”
“Germany,” whispered Junie.
“Direct from Austria, Germany,” Emerson explained to the sheriff. “He is suffering from laryngitis, and the medication he is using to treat it is loosening his tongue. You’ll have to excuse his emotional outbursts. But what he said is correct. Martin Malus had nothing to do with this crime.”
“I’ll be the judge of that, Mr. Mornington,” replied the sheriff officiously. The small town lawman then approached Petra and leaned in so close he was a mere inches away from her face. The two continued to stare at one another without blinking and in silence for what appeared to be an interminable period. It was such an odd contest, yet it somehow captured the attention of all in the room.
Sheriff Knotsinham’s eyes seemed to pop out of his thin weathered face. He and Petra were about the same height and so stood toe to toe. The Sheriff’s nostrils flared. If Emerson was not mistaken, from his vantage across the room he detected a slight wheeze coming from the man. Soon, that sound was all anyone could hear.
Petra’s lips started to quiver until she pressed them tight. She began to dig her nails into the side of her leg. Suddenly the dam of sobriety broke releasing a torrent of laughter from the girl. But it was mixed with anger as she shouted: “No fair Snotsinham. You have a whistle boogie. That’s cheating!”
“Aha!” The Sheriff exclaimed, reaching out and tearing the beard from the girl’s face.
“Ow! You bugger!” Petra shouted. She then kicked the sheriff in the kneecap with her steel-toed safari boots, bringing the lawman to the ground clutching his leg in pain.
“Deputies Hugh and Krigh!” the sheriff hollered from the floor. “Apprehend that girl at once! She is a fugitive!”
Petra ran for the door to the street, and would have made it too, had it not been for Walden, the hotel bellhop, who just at that moment was hurrying through the door with a large brown envelope clutched in his hand. The boy let out a surprised shout as the two of them crashed and fell back into the doorway. By the time Petra managed to extricate herself from the gangly teen bellhop it was too late.
One of the red-shirted deputies reached out and caught the fleeing girl by the shoulder. “Got you!” he laughed.
Petra deftly twisted, spinning the deputy in an awkward angle until he released his hold upon the girl, affording her the opportunity of doubling back the way she had come. Petra leapt over Knotsinham who was struggling to unholster his weapon. With arms waving she skidded to a stop just before the door in the floor.
Petra looked back wide-eyed as the two sheriff’s deputies rushed across the room in close pursuit. As they reached the kitchen it looked as though the jig was surely up. They increased their speed and were mere seconds away from having the girl in custody when a bereaved Father Vorpal appeared to accidentally shift his leg sticking it out and unfortunately tripping deputy Hugh – or perhaps it was Krigh, the two deputies had never been properly introduced.
Hugh went down with a cry, sprawled across the floor. His partner, unable to stop in time fell atop his prone partner and there the two struggled just long enough to give Petra Flax the opportunity to slip over the frame of the door and climb down into the black passage leading to the Falunian Underground.
Subordinates in red shirts, never a good idea for said subordinates.
Yep – I don’t think the future is too promising for Hugh and Krigh