Written originally for Friday Fictioneers and posted on christinegoodnough.com
“I hid it in the old mill,” his note read. “Found a crack upstairs near that huge cog. No ‘eyes’ to watch me.”
She searched desperately, sensing her time running out. Rotten luck that the old lady recognized him in the lineup, but at least he’d managed to stash her wallet before they arrested him for assault.
Examining the floor and walls for a crevice big enough to hide a wallet, yet small enough to conceal one, she jumped when she heard footsteps coming up the stairs.
One of the curators appeared. “Lost your way, miss? We locked up fifteen minutes ago. Sorry, I thought everyone was out.”
The next morning Wanda was standing at the museum doors five minutes before the place opened. As soon as the curator unlocked them she stepped inside, ready with her story.
“I … I must have dropped my cell phone here yesterday. I was walking around up by that big wheel and… and I took it out to check the time.” Wanda took a deep breath, hoping her nervousness wouldn’t give her away.
“I was sure I… had just…put it back in its special pocket and…and I…it must have slid out somehow. I didn’t have it when I got home. I’d like to…to just run up and look around. I’m sure it’s…
Wanda froze as her cell phone, from its usually pocket in her purse, started playing the tune to “Somebody’s Fool.” She turned a bright pink, silently berating herself. Why didn’t I think this might happen?
The curator looked at her in surprise. “It appears…”
“Oh, no. Not really,” she gasped. “I…like…uh… I borrowed my friend’s phone. Like, just in case I needed to call…uh… In case I didn’t find my wallet and…you know…needed stop credit cards…”
“I’m sorry. I’m not getting this. Did you lose your wallet, too?”
The temperature in the room shot up ten degrees. Maybe twenty. She gave herself a good mental slap, took another deep breath, and tried to save face. “Oh, dear. Now I’m getting mixed up. No, It was my phone, not my wallet. I’ll just be a minute looking for it.”
The curator eyed her a moment, looking as stern as the ancient mill owners whose portraits hung on the wall. Maybe he wondered if it was safe to allow her around those huge gears alone. Finally he nodded. “Go ahead. If you were standing on the landing maybe the sweeper found it last night. I’ll check in the office.”
“Oh, thank you so much.” Wanda turned and wasted no time getting up the stairs. Frantically she scanned the walls and the big wheel.
Thank goodness this part doesn’t have any security cameras, she thought. Not like the main lobby. I guess that’s why Nick stashed it here. A minute later she spotted something dark in a crack.
She was reaching for it when the curator appeared at the top of the stairs. “I had a thought, miss.” “If you use your friend’s phone and dial your own number your phone will ring and you’ll find it in a jiff.”
Wanda gritted her teeth. Isn’t it wonderful how helpful people could be when you wanted them to just beat it and leave you alone? But the museum curator stood there waiting for her to try out his bright idea, so what could she do? On an impulse, she dialed Nick’s number, knowing he was in jail and couldn’t answer.
“Hi. Sorry Nick isn’t home right now.” The voice definitely belonged to some young female. “I’ll be seeing him shortly. Can I take a message?”
“Hello? Who is this?” Nick’s going to hear about this chick answering his phone, Wanda thought. And what does she mean about seeing him shortly? Is she going to visit him in jail?
“My name’s Emmy. I’m Nick’s…um…friend. Can I ask who’s calling?”
“This is Wanda.”
“Nick’s girlfriend, Wanda.” She clenched her fists. Nick is definitely going to answer some questions when I see him again.
Aware that the curator was frowning at her, she whispered, “Sorry. I pushed the wrong redial. On my friend’s phone,” she added. He didn’t look impressed.
Emmy seemed to be in shock. “Nick’s…uh…girlfriend?”
“Nick’s fiancée.” Wanda almost shouted it into the phone. “He has mentioned me, surely.”
The curator rolled his eyes and headed down the stairs.
“No!” Wanda caught the sizzle in Emmy’s voice. “He never told me about you at all. Honest. The cheating rat!”
“You got that right.” Wanda jabbed the OFF button and stuffed the phone in her pocket. Just wait til I get my hands on you, Nick. You’re toast!”
Quickly Wanda grabbed for the wallet. Nick had told her the old lady had just cashed her pension check, so likely there’d be a couple hundred dollars in her purse. She kind of felt sorry for the woman, a senior and all, but she needed the money herself. Badly. Her rent was due tomorrow. She sighed. What a life!
Once outside, she found a bench in a secluded spot and opened the wallet. “Two five dollar bills. That’s all! All this mess for two measly fives,” she squawked. She fumed for a moment, then pondered her options.
I’ve had it, she decided. I really was a fool to get mixed up with all this. Nick is history. She grabbed her cell phone and pushed a button.
The voice at the other end said a hesitant “Hello?”
“Hi, Mom. I’ve just learned a really important lesson in life.”
“Oh? And that is…?”
“Crime doesn’t pay. And being with Nick really doesn’t pay. I’m through with Nick and his wild schemes.”
“Oh, I’m so glad to hear you say that. We’ve been praying you’d come to your senses and see him for what he is.”
“Mom… Do you think you and Dad could…would…let me move back home for a few months. Just until I get my life straightened around?”
“Oh, Wanda. Yes. We’ll gladly help you. Just come anytime you’re ready.”
Thanks so much, Mom. See you in a bit.”
Wanda hung up and searched through the stolen wallet for ID. She had one important stop to make before she headed home.