The Mysterious Bookshop


If you haven’t read part one of ‘Cozy is as Cozy Does,' go to All Things Mysterious Volume Eight and start at the beginning!

We'll wait.

Slowly Brand awoke, unsure of his surroundings.  He couldn’t move!  Tied to a chair in the parlor of the little old lady, the victims and mayhem he’d seen came back to him in a rush. Involuntarily he started trembling, straining against his bonds. He’d never escape this way!  Must remain calm and take stock of the situation.  Brand thought, ‘I’m tied up and alone with an insane woman.’  So much for taking stock!

Just then the parlor door opened and a hunchbacked dwarf came in, studied Brand with a bulging eyeball, and continued out the door on the other side of the room.  At least he wasn’t bleeding or dead, that’s got to be an improvement!, thought Brand.  Before he could register this new development, in walked the little old lady.  Silently, she moved across the room and stood near the window on the far side of the room.  The hunchbacked man was next, and took a place next to the little old lady.  To Brand’s astonishment, the murdered bridge foursome hobbled in next, looking rather the worse for the wear after their ordeals.  Jeremy the paper boy, fresh off his hanging, strolled in and in a true adolescent style, draped himself over the armchair.  Then Smiley the town drunk came shambling in, bottle in hand, and took a place in the corner. Last, three letter carriers came in together, high kicking like the Rockettes.  There must have been one hidden somewhere that I didn’t see, mused Brand.  Still tied to the chair, he was beyond wondering what was going on since he had decided that he was either dreaming or had lost his mind.  So he took a detached, bemused air without stressing too much over what was next.

To his astonishment, the ensemble started singing!  At the top of their lungs everyone in the room but Brand himself was belting about knives and guillotines, gats and gams,  poisons and prisons.  The postmen continued their dance routine, Jeremy the paper boy had shredded today’s edition to make pom poms and was rhythmically shaking them, and even the little old lady was tapping her foot as she sang in her cracked old lady voice.

By now Brand was convinced that he’d truly gone round the bend, but even so it was with some trepidation that he noticed the little old lady coming toward him with a knife.  This was it, then!  So many things in life left unaccomplished!  He didn’t see his whole life flashing before his eyes, but he did reflect in those few moments on missed opportunities. Why did a body dwell on the dark side when about to be sliced to ribbons?  Ah, well. Plenty of time to figure out the meaning of life in the hereafter!  The little old lady raised the knife---and cut his bonds!  Over the motley ensemble still singing about creative ways to rub out your enemies, Brand croaked, ‘Why?  Why did you do this?’  The little old lady cackled gleefully and said, ‘We couldn’t have you leaving before we previewed our show, could we?’  ‘S-show?’ stammered Brand.

‘Our yearly variety show for the Wednesday Afternoon Fine Arts League.  It’s a real corker this year, don’t you think?’  At Brand’s look of horror, she continued, ‘Oh, don’t take on so.  We needed a fresh pair of eyes to make sure we were ready. Opening Night is next week, you know!’  

Rising from the chair and rubbing his ankles and wrists where he’d been bound, Brand said,

‘You know what?  That audience?  You’re gonna KILL ‘em!’

Try one of these scintillating mysteries with a theatrical theme:

Next: A look at the work of Fredric Brown.  Don’t miss it--even if you can!

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Questions/Comments/Egg Salad?

Written by Ian Kern — March 07, 2016

Specializing in Mystery Fiction and all its subgenres, including Detective, Crime, Hardboiled, Thrillers, Espionage, and Suspense.

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