Opus 46, No.1
The sun peered through a crack in the drapes and lazily crept up Henry’s shirt while he dozed against Winston on the couch. Finally, the bright light shone in his eyes and rudely woke him.
Dash and Desi had searched Henry Streator’s house throughout the night. The officer sat in the chair in the corner, still alert as if not a moment had passed.
Dash and Desi were in the den, the last room of their search, when Dash declared, “Well, if this isn’t conveniently incriminating, I don’t know what is.” He showed Desi the black bag he had just found in Henry’s closet. “Apparently Ralph is cutting Henry loose.” He pulled out the letters and the jewels and displayed them to Desi.
Desi, trying to mimic Dash’s scholarly teachings, said, “Be warned, Dash. There is nothing more deceptive than the obvious.”
“As my dear friend, Nigel, would say” — Dash attempted to emulate an old, stodgy accent — “’the old chap is snookered.’”
Desi looked at him as if he had blown a fuse, and then followed him into the sitting room.
Henry, drowsy from sleeping on a lumpy valet, looked up at them. “Finished?”
“Quite so. Mr. Streator, you are under arrest for theft and insurance fraud.” Dash conspicuously swung the satchel over his shoulder.
“What?” Henry screeched.
“You’re under arrest.”
“What the anneheg are you talking about? I can’t be arrested! I’m the victim!”
“Oh, yes, you can.” Dash patted the bag. “The evidence we just discovered clearly shows your involvement with the crime.”
“You’re crazy!” He pointed at Winston. “Well, arrest him, too. He’s been stealing my wine.”
“You can remain silent, but don’t have to. We might use it against you, or not. If you can afford an attorney, hire one,” Desi smirked. He enjoyed reciting the Ladascan version of the Miranda warning to Henry.
“Oh yeah, buddy?” Henry leaped off the couch, his veins popping out of his forehead.
“We can leave either with or without the handcuffs,” a polite, deep voice came from the corner. The officer rose out of his chair, his large, stocky build and muscular frame apparent as he dwarfed Henry.
Henry didn’t know what to do or think. Should he make a break for it? Should he expose Ralph? He wavered a little as he weighed his options, of which he had none.
Dash, Desi, and the uniformed officer escorted Henry out of the house; Winston eagerly held the door open for them.
“Pity,” Desi said as they walked out. “It would have been more intriguing if the butler did it.”
“Valet…Sir.” Winston said with a stern grimace.
They placed Henry into the squad car and closed the door. Henry looked back to his house one last time, only to see Winston as he held a bottle of wine and raised a filled glass to toast Henry’s departure. Henry clenched his teeth, his face turning red.
Later that morning, Fred entered the Soufte Embassy alone. Immediately, he was pummeled by Frank’s shouts from their office down the hall. “No! No! You idiots! What kind of play was that?”
Tricia looked up at Fred from behind her desk. “He’s been like this all morning.”
Astonished, Fred walked to their office and stopped at the door. He saw the usually-neat-and-tidy Frank sitting among a pile of spent soda cans and microwavable food wrappers. The sounds of the Ullamaliztli game emanated from Frank’s computer.
“I can’t believe you are still watching that game.”
“It’s a great game,” Frank said, not breaking eye contact with the screen. “It’s gone into double overtime.”
“I still can’t believe the memory card Evinrude gave Henry Streator had this game on it! Aren’t —”
“Shush!” Frank, holding up a finger to silence Fred, slowly rose to his feet, his eyes glued to the screen. “Yeah! Now that’s what I’m talking about!” He fell back in his chair, relieved, as if a great weight had been removed. “Macideneb! That was a great game. Remind me to thank Evinrude for the copy.”
The announcer could be heard, “And that concludes double overtime of the game of the millennium! This copyrighted broadcast is the property of the National Ullamaliztli League. Any rebroadcast or reproduction without the consent of the…” Frank stopped the recording and looked at his watch, ignoring Fred. “I should go home and shower.”
Tricia passed by the door. “Please do.”
Back in her average house on an average side of town, Alfia cooked another of her infamous breakfasts. This one, however, was highlighted with a bottle of Trebuchet port already open and breathing on the table.
Marsha entered quietly, hoping not to be seen.
Alfia was busy at the stove, “Good morning, you two.” She turned to find only her mother, on the brink of tears. “Where’s Joe?”
“I lost him!” Marsha cried out, breaking down and sobbing.
“It can’t be that bad.” Alfia hugged her. “He stands out around here. Someone must know where he is.” She walked into the other room and turned on the morning news, instantly bombarded with the negative media coverage of Joe that the Establishment had put out.
“Newsflash!” the announcer yelled excitedly. “The Earthman Joe has been declared public enemy number one. The alien has contaminated the entire city. Citizens are warned to stay inside until this menace can be contained and sterilized. Seek medical help if you’ve been in contact with the Earthman. If you see the Earthman, please contact the authorities right away.”
Immediately, Janet appeared at the patio door, knocking, and called, “I told you he was dangerous.” Alfia walked over and closed the drapes.