The prompt for April 2013 is April Fools. Check out the other guys' stories below, and be sure to comment and appreciate them all.
[Edited: I made this post in advance, ready to hit the post when my turn came. This morning however, news broke that one of my writing buddies, Kelsey Macke, had signed not just a book deal, but a book deal with a tie-in album to be recorded by her and her husband. Massive congratulations to Kelsey! We've never actually met - yet - but we were on submission together, blog together, and now our books are gonna be published not too far apart, in Fall 2014. She broke the news on her vlog - go watch it here and keep your eyes out for this rising star. Good! And now, the story...]
I thought it was an April Fools,' she said, and she rested her elbows on the table.
The man looked at her and said nothing. The tape recorder made small clicks and whirs, and it had hummed at the beginning, she thought, though maybe it still did, and she just couldn't hear it any more.
She had a paper cup of water. She took a sip, wetting her tongue.
Paper, she thought. How can it hold water? She almost asked them. When she looked up and saw their faces she stopped.
'You heard the call,' she said. 'I just didn't think –'
Now one of them spoke. He was the older one. He had grey stubble on his chin and grey eyes, flecked, she thought, with green. His accent was harsher, from the North.
'There are standards,' he said.
'Every call gets logged and reported.'
'You think so?' she said. He raised his eyebrows. The young man spoke up.
London, she thought. Native. And he's - what - mid twenties? A boy.
'Listen,' she said. 'You know it as well as me, so don't pretend to be so naive. Plenty of the calls are jokes, get treated as jokes, and get forgotten.'
'This wasn't a joke,' said the first man.
She sighed. 'No,' she said.
'And now we have a problem.'
'I do, you mean.'
It was the younger one who replied, and that surprised her.
'Sherlock Holmes,' he said. 'You know the name?'
She frowned and let her mind wander. Holmes? She did. How did she? Where had she heard that? Then it came to her. She frowned more.
'That ... private detective guy? He's been on the tele a bit.'
'Think he prefers "consulting detective"' said the younger one, and he actually smiled.
'He's quite good,' he added. 'We keep it quiet but honestly, he's better than most of us.'
The older man didn't stop him, didn't even frown, which was odd, she thought. He flicked his eyes to his colleague and then looked back at her. No one spoke. The machine clicked. Well, she thought. At least that's all on tape. At least they won't want to leak it to the press now.
'The call,' said the older man again.
'Look,' she said. She felt emboldened. She felt a sudden rush - a wave - of hope.
'Do you know how many 999 calls I answer in one shift? It changes, of course. If I'm on for three hours, say, no break, I can take well over twenty. Thirty, maybe. And on big days - Christmas, New Years, April 1 - more. Always more. And some are just pricks thinking it's fun. Some are people who needs help. And I've never gotten the two confused before.'
'That isn't helpful.'
The paper has to be waxed, she thought. That's how the water stays in. It can't be healthy, can it? Drinking wax. She pulled a face.
'Sherlock Holmes,' she said. 'Why do I need to know him?'
'Ah,' said the older.
'Hm,' said the younger.
She waited. For a moment, she had the power. Let them wait, she thought. People talk if you leave a gap to fill. It's basic, that. It's easy and primitive. Leave a silence big enough and people will always jump in to it.
'It was him who made the call.'
'It wasn't a joke you see.'
'He said they had swords,' she said.
'He said the Czar’s' Jewel was in the open.'
'It's 2013. There hasn't been a Czar for 96 years.'
They stared. Then, '96? Really?'
'The Revolution of 1917,' she said. She was good at history. She was good at a lot of things.
'He said Victoria - Queen Victoria - was wrong about the jade.'
'Ah. Yes,' said the younger man. 'You see-'
'There was more.’
'We have head the recording -'
'He said the Dandy Club knew. The Dandy Club. And that if the red haired man took three sugars - three, not two - in his tea, then he would be murdered.'
They didn't say anything.
'So yes, I thought it was a joke.'
‘We understand,’ said the older man.
‘And you say it wasn't?’
‘It all meant something.’
‘As far as is understood, yes.’
She had to ask, then. They weren't going to tell her if she didn't.
‘Is he dead, then? Holmes? Because I didn't send a car round?’
They shifted in their seats and looked uncomfortable. Good, she thought. At least this isn't a witch hunt.
‘We don’t know, truth be told,’ said the younger man again. ‘The problem is that he might be – in which case the police have lost something truly amazing. And if he isn't – well, then he’s going to be annoyed that you slowed things down a bit.
She scoffed. ‘Annoyed at me?’
‘It … wouldn't be the first time.’
She leaned forward. ‘Fist time for what?’
‘People get caught in the cross fire,’ said the older man again. ‘There’s always … collateral, when good and bad go up against each other.’
‘I have no idea what you’re trying to say,’ she said. ‘And I’m tired and confused and I might get angry.’
‘Don’t be sorry. Tell me what you want to tell me.’
‘If Holmes is alive, you’re probably fired. If he’s dead, you’re probably fired.’
She felt the shock in her stomach, like a freezing nausea, an icy ache. The men looked away. The tape whirred. Waxed paper, she thought. We can make waxed paper, and the Czar’s jewel is in the open, and I could lose my job.
‘This Holmes,’ she said, voice steady, eyes fixed. ‘He sounds like a child. He sounds like a boy.’
‘Perhaps,’ said the older man. ‘But he’s not one we can mess with.’
‘There are official procedures for this,’ she said.
‘And there are ways around them.’
‘You can’t just fire me and make me be quiet and –‘
‘We can,’ said the man, and he said it with a suddenly cold, tired voice.
The tape player clicked, and they were silent.
‘I thought it was an April Fools,’ she said, and the words sounded childish, and almost like a joke themselves.
They fidgeted, coughed, and had nothing more to say.
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