(Here is part 3 — written by Susan Korich. Stick around for part 4!)
Perched on the stool behind the cash register, my eyes still wide with incredulity and my mouth following along with its own version of can-you-catch-flies, it took me moment to notice a man standing at the edge of my counter, clearing his throat.
“Ah-hem, excuse me, ah-hem, um, Miss?”
Hopping off my stool, I closed my mouth, and pasted on my most professional smile and look of laser concentration. It would be bad for business for word to get around that I ignored customers and hung around staring after others.
“Good morning, sir, how can I help you?”
“That was him, wasn’t it?” The bespectacled man asked his head tilting to indicate the closed door with the faint sound of tinkling bells dwindling away.
It isn’t often a solution to a mystery follows so soon on the heels of a discovered mystery. I may be an amateur sleuth but even amateurs don’t sneeze at easy solutions. I looked at Violet and she looked at me. Unspoken words passed between us. Violet nodded and raised her eyebrows. I turned back to the man with a look of confusion.
“I can’t seem to remember his name. How do you know him?”
“I can’t tell you that. It is forbidden.” The little man stared at me with distain and obvious superiority. I felt a tingling at the top of my head spread downward to set fire to the tops of my ears.
“His name is forbidden or telling how you know him is forbidden?” I asked, trying to keep my tone conversational.
The little man with his crooked, striped bow tie and starched white long-sleeved shirt, sniffed and tilting his head back, looked down his nose at me. “I cannot divulge his professional secrets.”
I could never fathom why people say they saw red on occasion of getting angry. I get it. I saw red. I also wanted to leap across the counter and give his tie two twists to the right and watch his eyes bug out of his head, but I am nothing if not a calm, friendly seller of books. I forced a light-hearted laugh instead. “Oh, no, sir. We are the souls of discretion. It is just that Violet and I want to hire him. We have need of his particular skills.” I said, surprised at my ingenuity and completely at a loss how I would further explain that load of nonsense.
The man took a step backwards and a look of shock passed over his face. “Why would you need a prestidigitator and seer of the metaphysical rainbow? The great Harry Whodunit does not waste his time with children’s or bachelorette parties. He is the great finder and setter of order in the colors of chaos. Lime is to calm the spirits into revealing their mysteries.”
“What does sapphire blue do?” Violet piped up beside me. The little man took another step back and all color drained from his face. His bow-tie looked hideously garish against all that pasty white.
“You have fooled me into divulging the forbidden. I will pay the ultimate price.” He said before putting his hand over his mouth and rushing out of the store. Violet and I stood, mouths agape, watching him stagger down the sidewalk as if inebriated or mortally wounded. An uneasy feeling gripped my stomach recalling the tears I saw gathering in his eyes.