The French fries were hot, the mayonnaise cold, as Julien Marchal preferred.
He was about to dip the first fry when a woman with curls the size of inchworms burst into the café. “Monsieur Marchal!” she said, “My watch!” This was said apropos to pretty much nothing, so Marchal was a bit confused straight away.
He looked at her wrist, and there it was — an imitation Lord Elgin watch. “I’m looking,” he said as he looked, “and you appear to have… a tribute to Lord Elgin”
“I assure you,” she said with a frown, “when I put it on yesterday morning it was an entirely more sincere tribute to Mr. Elgin.”
“So you are aware that you are wearing an imitation watch? A relief to be sure.” He stared at a French fry for a moment before eating it and after a short mayonnaise dip.
“Of course I am, I am no fool! My name is Laurel Oakes. My fiancé wanted to treat me to a special something for my birthday and so we went to a magic show at a bar we frequent. The magician was superb. At one point he took my watch and said he was going to break it and then put it back together by magic. He put it in a box and smashed it, and out it came, smashed – he wrapped it in a cloth and it was whole again! But now it is clear that it isn’t the same watch. ”
Marchal looked at the watch. “No,” he replied, “it is not. We should find this magician, yes? Perhaps a few questions?”
They went the following evening to see The Amazing Stupendico perform, but arrived at the theater a bit early so that Marchal could speak with the magician privately. He had called the theater and said he was both a big fan of The Amazing Stupendico as well as a journalist covering his performance for the local newspaper blog and wanted to get some insight as to what he should watch out for during the performance.
“What can I tell you about the performance, Mr. Willis?” Marlon Willis was the name Julien had given when he had called the theater. That and a definitely not fake looking mustache and journalist’s notepad was all he figured he needed to pass as an actual journalist.
“I of course will not ask you to divulge any of your magical secrets… mister Stupendico. I might like to know about what your assistant does as far as helping with your performances.”
“Ah yes, the assistant.” A woman came out from a back room. Her high heels got the old wooden floor squeaking with every step. “This is Marlon Willis. He’s writing up a review of our show tonight.” He buttoned his suit coat down the middle until he got to the last button, which he left untouched. “What would you say you do as an assistant — that’s what Mr. Willis has come to ask.”
“Great question, of course. Well, Mr. Willis, my name is Beatrix. I am as you now know the Amazing Stupendico’s assistant but unlike what a lot of people imagine, I do a lot more than just point to the letters and turn them if you understand my meaning. He did. “There are often rabble rousers in the audience seeking to disturb a performance, for example. I have to carefully vet them out and make sure they don’t succeed.”
Stupendico nodded his head. “I have so much to prepare for every show, I really can’t spend the time staring into the audience and trying to figure out the disruptors from the well behaved audience members.” Beatrix pulled a tin of lip balm from her leather Walborg purse and applied it. “If you’ll excuse us, Mister Willis, we do need to start preparing for the show. We hope you enjoy it.”
The show went on as scheduled and the audience was having a good time as the room was full of applause every time Stupendico pulled a rabbit out of a hat. He looked out into the audience and said, “For my next trick I need an item of jewelry from a member of the audience. Miss Beatrix, won’t you be as kind as to help me find someone in the audience willing to let me borrow something?”
Beatrix scanned the audience of raised hands and saw a man with his hand up in the air. “My girlfriend’s watch!” he proclaimed. Julien’s right eyebrow went up half an inch. “I guess…” she said and reluctantly took off her watch. The trick was exactly as Laurel had described — first the watch seemed smashed, then it suddenly wasn’t smashed. The woman got the watch back and the show continued. The audience burst into a standing ovation at the end of the show and the magician and assistant came out a couple of times to bow.
After the show, Julien found the woman who had volunteered. “What’s going on?” her boyfriend said. “I need you to come with me straight away,” Julien said, and without further explaining led them to the backstage area.
The Amazing Stupendico sighed and tsked when he saw Julien coming with Laurel, the volunteer from the audience, and her boyfriend. Beatrix came out and did a double take when she saw the three of them. “Did you enjoy the show, Mister Willis?”
“I did indeed, Amazing Stupendico, but I am afraid I am here on a more serious matter. First I must apologize for coming to you in a sort of disguise. I am not actually Marlon Willis.” He took off his definitely real looking mustache. “I am Julien Marchal, the eighteenth greatest living detective from Belgium. I was brought here to investigate a missing… or shall I say stolen… watch. Miss,” he said to the young woman whose name he had not ascertained, “if you look carefully at the watch you are wearing you will notice that it is distinctly a forgery now — and to be sure it was not so before you came to the theater tonight!”
She looked down and gasped rather loudly. “Mister Stupendico, I’m afraid your assistant has a bit of a side career as a magician — making perfectly nice watches disappear entirely and cheap substitute watches appear in their place. I believe if you search among her belongings you will find not only our young volunteer’s watch but a number of other very real watches… along with quite a few impostor pieces!”
Though the Amazing Stupendico could not believe it at first, a quick search of Beatrix’s wardrobe revealed a number of hot watches. She confessed to the thefts as she was taken into police custody.
What made Marchal suspect Beatrix? The answer is here.