The name’s Charles. Charles Ashton. I’m a private eye working in LA. Or at least, I was till recently. Currently, I’m being held in a holding cell the size of a janitorial closet, awaitin’ my trial for assault. My lawyer’s coming soon, but by my luck he’ll have the brains of a pitbull and none of the brawn. Now, how did I get myself into such a situation, you ask? Well, it’s a bit of a long story, but I don’t mind indulging.
You see, it all started about last week, just on Christmas day. It was a snowy evening. Kids were running amok lookin’ for some candy to buy right after all the busy parents had come back home for the day to relax. Me, though, I don’t relax. I was just sittin’ in my office, waiting for new potential clients. Now, business wasn’t exactly boomin’ for me. Other than some distrustful dames comin’ in worryin’ about their marriage going downhill, I hadn’t gotten much in terms of good clientele. And investigating stale marriages ain’t my style. No interesting material and it usually turns out that the dame’s just being paranoid. No, I was on the lookout for something much more unique, and I knew I’d got something good on my hands when that man walked in.
He was a tall man, something about six feet or so, but he was dressed like he was at some costume party. The fancy old suit was the first tip-off, the top hat the second. The snobby look on his face and the monocle over his left eye? The icing on the cake. He looked like he was from another period of time entirely.
“Do you happen to be Charles Ashton, by any chance?”, he asked.
“That’s me”, I muttered, eyeing him from head to toe. “You got any business here?”
“Ah, yes!” He adjusted his monocle, a glimmer of hope shining in his eyes. “But first off, introductions. I’m JJ Vincent. Pleased to meet you.”
“Pleasure”, I replied, shaking his hand, though not rising up from my chair yet. I preferred to get up only when the request seemed interesting enough, so the client could tell if they’d caught my interest.
“I happen to be a stockbroker, Mr. Ashton”, Vincent explained, taking his hat off and holding in his hands. “And recently, a most disdainful thing has happened at my own house!”
“And what might that be?”, I asked, looking out of my window.
“A burglary! It’s absolutely terrible!”, he cried out. “My wife’s jewellery has been stolen!”
I raised an eyebrow, getting up from my chair. Now this sounded like a proper case.
“Shouldn’t you go to the police for that?”
“I have, but they’re not offering any support! They’re simply saying they’ll do their best, but they’re front loaded with other crimes. If you ask me, they don’t seem interested in my case at all”, he said. “You need to come with me, Mr. Ashton! The thief needs to be caught!”
“Fine. I’ll see what I can do then”, I agreed. “So do we set out now?”
“Of course! My chauffeur is waiting outside for us. He’ll take us to my house. I’ll give you the rundown on the way there.”
So we set out. As we were on our way, he gave me some info. Apparently, his wife had stored some jewels in the main hall of his home, but by the next day, they’d disappeared entirely. It seemed a strange coincidence. Although his wife had gossiped about the box at a party the previous night, only the couple were there that night in the house. No servants were working for him at his house either, and all doors and windows were locked. As we arrived there, his wife was there to greet us.
“Oh, Vincent!” She cried out, nearly in tears. “What ever shall we do? Once word of this gets out, our reputation here will be practically ruined!”
“There, there, Poppy”, he said comfortingly, patting her on the back to console her. “I’ve got us a private investigator to help settle the matter.”
As they talked, I took a look at Vincent’s house. It looked about as old fashioned as he did, like a bonafide chateau. It looked like a fancy place, though with some minor adjustments like a chimney poking out through the front. Looking to the right, I saw a mansion just as posh looking. A man appeared to be peering in the general direction of the house, a strange look on his face. He looked like a guy who’d undergone a lot in his life, and the scars on his face seemed to affirm that.
“Ah, you’ve noticed him, haven’t you?” I heard Vincent’s voice behind me. “Yes, well, that’s our neighbour, James Mortimer.”
“Howdy”, he said, giving us a short wave. “Got the jewel problem shorted yet, JJ?”
“I’m afraid not, James”, he sighed. “But with Mr. Ashton here assisting us, perhaps we can reach a solid conclusion on this case.”
“Heh, really, now? Good luck with that, fella”, he smirked. “Let’s hope you’ll have better luck than the coppers did.”
“You two know each other well?”, I asked out of curiosity.
“Ah, well, we actually used to be coworkers once”, Vincent explained.
“It wasn’t the life for me, ‘nfortunately, so I quit and joined the circus instead. Built up a lotta money and then shifted here. And lo and behold, we’re neighbours now! Straight out of a movie, yeah?” James gave a friendly grin.
“Anyway, we should be going to the house now. I shall see you later, James.” Vincent then escorted me to the house. I barely had to look around to figure out what the problem was.
“The fireplace”, I pointed out. “You left your jewels on the table right next to the fireplace. The thief could’ve just snuck in through the chimney and stolen the jewellery from there.”
“But no normal person could fit through there! It would be nearly impossible”, Vincent countered.
True, he did have a point. It did seem rather narrow. I couldn’t crawl through there if I tried and I’m the type of guy who could be mistaken for a beanpole without moving. The windows had been closed the night before too, and all the doors had been locked beforehand. So unless either Vincent and his wife were misremembering or lying, this seemed to be a perfect locked room. Still, I had an idea.
“How about we keep a box here just like the other one and leave it here at the same time? Then I’ll keep watch here and see if I can nab the guy behind this when he strikes.”
“It’s not foolproof, but I suppose it could work”, Vincent admitted. “I’ll just have to make it “public knowledge” that I’m keeping yet another box of jewels here and see what happens.”
That night, the both of us stayed in the main hall, hiding behind the sofa. Sure enough, the perpetrator entered…through the chimney as well.
“I knew it”, I whispered with bated breath.
“Wait! What is he doing?”
The mysterious figure went to the box and picked it up.
“Now! Let’s nab him!”
We both jumped up at the same time and caught the thief red handed, though he put up quite the fight. And just as we turned on the lights…
“Huh? A monkey?”, I asked in confusion.
“Oook ook!”, the poor creature cried out. Clearly it had been shocked by both of us. Around it was a name tag.
“Wait…” I paused. “I think I know who’s behind this.”
“Eh?” James opened the door, appearing groggy. “What’re you doing here so late, you two?”
Vincent raised the monkey in his hand. “We just figured we should return this to you, James”, he said, voice clearly strained.
James staggered in shock. “Wha- whose is that? I dunno who that ape belongs to-“
“The game’s up, Mortimer.” I poked the tag attached to the monkey- JM. “It could only have been you- isn’t that right, former circus performer?”
James’ eyes shifted to his belt. Suddenly, he pulled out a revolver. “Don’t move.”
I don’t rightly recall what happens next. All I remember is getting into a huge scuffle, and then suddenly the sound of a shot firing and then silence. Then I just blacked out.
When I woke up, I was in the hospital. My ear was bandaged, but Vincent was by my side. He explained what happened. Apparently, they’d managed to arrest ol’ James but not before he had managed to shoot both my ears, somehow. I’d apparently been out for six days- it was the 31st now. Thankfully, they’d managed to stitch back my ears together, so all was good now. It was bandaged but it would only take a few weeks to get back to normal. And already things were sounding alright- literally and figuratively.
“Congratulations!”, the doctor by my side said heartily. He gave a slight chuckle.
“What’s so funny, doc?” I asked.
“I just thought it was good timing- you woke up just in time…for New Ears!”
I didn’t think it was funny.
So I decked him.
Next thing I know I’m sitting here in this dump of a cell waitin’ for my lawyer to come. Happy New ‘Ear’, indeed. But it’s alright, it was self defence. With jokes like that, I was just defending myself from him.
Hey guys, thanks for reading this! Just wanted to wish you all a Happy New Year in my own special way! I have some other cool stuff planned for this site for 2019 as well (though I’ll still be a bit busy, but I promise to at least get some posts in!) and I can’t wait to show it to you all. Have a nice one, and remember not to tell people bad jokes! Just a general tip.