The trouble started this morning when I was making my way to back to my hovel. I was nearing my neighborhood when I heard the unmistakable m-m-m-r-r-o-o-w of a cat fight. Out of an alley shot a grey tabby chased by a large tom as dark as midnight. I’m not normally a suspicious person, and a black cat crossing my path wouldn’t normally bother me, but in pursuing his rival this black cat twined himself around my legs, causing me to trip and slam my head into a three-foot high brick wall. Since I was already so close to the ground and the world was spinning, I deemed it appropriate to continue the rest of the way and lay still for a moment. At the time, I didn’t realize the fall had torn my shirt, revealing a gold chain I had recently acquired.
“Are you alright, sir?” called a street urchin who’d been sleeping in the alley.
I groaned in response, certain I’d fractured my skull. Before I realized what was happening, little hands tugged at the chain, the clasp broke, and little feet took off running. I stumbled to my feet to see the child disappear around the corner. I’d scaled a five-story building and sneaked through a window into a lady’s chamber to acquire that chain, risking arrest and hanging, and I wasn’t going to let some street child steal it from me. Besides, I couldn’t countenance theft in one so young.
I had two problems in my plan to apprehend the villain. One was the cut above my eyebrow, causing blood to flow into my right eye, and the second was the still-spinning world. You must take this into account and not blame me too heavily for what happened next. Gamely, I took off in pursuit of the thieving scoundrel and rounded the corner. I did not see the ladder until it was too late to stop. Now, as I’ve said, I’m not normally a superstitious person, and I have run under many a ladder with impunity, but this time, because of the blood in my eye and my none-too-steady balance, I rammed my shoulder against one of the rungs, causing the ladder to topple and the workman using it to fall. I did my best to cushion his fall, seeing that he landed on top of me. Not only did this knock the air completely out of my lungs, but as I fell, my purse caught on the ladder and tore, scattering rings and other baubles.
The noise—the workman howling at the top of his lungs, as I might have been if I could catch a breath—drew a small crowd. “Well, well, well, what have we here,” a voice said, as the workman was helped off of me. “If it isn’t young Phineus.”
To my horror, I discovered the voice belonged to Constable Rawlins. The good constable had been trying to apprehend me for some time, but when the world was not spinning and I could see out of both eyes, I was—and I can say this without boasting—the fastest runner in the city of Longston Beachidea. A hand grabbed me and hauled me roughly to my feet while I was still struggling to get air back into my lungs.
Believing my neck sufficiently long without having it stretched, I desperately scanned my surroundings for a way to extricate myself from my predicament. That was when I saw it. An owl flying in the daylight is the worse kind of luck and a sure death omen, but since I’m not a superstitious man, I didn’t fear for myself. Instead, I pointed. “Hey, look, it’s an owl.”
The owl conveniently hooted to confirm its identity. Fortunately, the crowd, especially Constable Rawlins, was superstitious, and while they were busy making the sign against evil, I was able to wriggle free.
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