Everal Mahogany Jones. The man stood six foot two had eyes of blue and a head that was as bald as a newborn’s butt. Seated as I was, with him looking down at me I realized he probably intimidated anyone that had ever had to look up at his chiseled features.
Fortunately, I am not intimidated easily. Many have tried, but few have succeeded. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. My full name is Argil Vaduche Montello Gandutada Vanella, but my friends just call me Aggie. I have no idea what my enemies call me as I don’t seem to have any.
Apparently being cute does have its advantages.
You see I’m a dancing gnome. Well, truth be told, I only dance when no one is around, so you may know me better as a common garden gnome. You know the kind most people have stashed in their garden. I often look fuzzy and happy while silently standing guard against any evil that comes along. The statue knock offs hardly do me justice but I tolerate them just the same. Without them I wouldn’t be able to hide in plain site as I often do.
When standing, with my tall red hat on, I manage the magnificent height of exactly two feet tall, but people have cast the statues in so many forms that I’m probably sitting more often than standing. People just don’t see anything knee high as a threat.
But they should.
I’m a hired gun, but I don’t use bullets. Rather with my trusty weapons of whatever happens to be at hand, I cause things to happen where and when people who pay me want them to happen.
Such was the case with my current visitor Mr. Jones. Fortunately New York City makes a nice thick phone book and they willingly sent me four to sit on when I meet with clients.
“So, you want someone to have an accident. As you knew how to contact me, you must also know my rate and that I get everything up front.”
Mr. Jones looked at me and frowned. “I had thought half up front and half after would suffice.”
Apparently my visitor had never dealt with a gnome before. I hitched my brown leather belt a notch tighter and wiped down my green felt shirt. “Sorry, I have my rules. Perhaps you can leave a card with my secretary on your way out.”
But our Mr. Jones was not having any of that apparently. He just continued to sit there with that little frown and a scowl that had formed to join it. “Fine, up front it is. How do I make payment?”
I looked over my visitor trying to see if he really had thought this was a negotiation. I reached into the desk drawer and pushed a small card over to him. They have to be small to fit in my pockets, not that many of the statues that look like me have them, but I do.
“On the card is an account in Zurich. Once payment has been received, then and only then will we discuss your situation.”
Mr. Jones pocketed the card which looked even smaller in his meaty fist. Pulling out an envelope, he pushed it across to me. “No, you will read what I want you to do. We shall not meet again. Expect payment by tonight.” He must have been thinking about who he was giving it to as the envelope was small and just right for me.
He got up and headed out the door without even offering a handshake. Fortunately as a gnome I’m used to it. People always walk by me when I’m doing a job and no one ever talks to me.
I stashed the envelope in my shirt for later and called my secretary Miss Ames. She is a very delightful young woman whose sole job is to carry me from job to job. She can’t type worth a darn, but she has great cleavage that I nuzzle as we travel. People have just grown used to seeing her carrying me in a babies pouch. They probably think she’s just eccentric.
Mr. Jones was true to his word and several days later I found myself doing the statue thing in the garden of a woman that he wanted something bad to happen to. Her name was Maggie and I was impressed with what appeared to be a very neat garden.
Accidents around the home are easy enough to cause. With the arsenal of tools most people see me with I can do a lot of damage. Dig out a step here, hack a support there, break something somewhere else.
Unfortunately this woman seemed to be kind and gentle. I had no idea what she could have done to merit what Mr. Jones had wanted done to her.
And then she started talking to me. Apparently the statue I had replaced was named Henry. Jack and Rodger were next to me, Jack was seated and apparently napping while Rodger read a book that he probably was enjoying if I read his facial features correctly.
I had been studying methods I could employ to finish the job when Maggie turned on some music and picked me up.
I couldn’t believe it. She was dancing with me!
We whirled around the garden to the music as she sang the song. She even personalized it for her dear Henry the gnome. I was feeling bad that he had missed it as it was apparently special and just for him. But then I remembered that unlike me, he was nothing more than a statue. Oh well, poor Henry.
She put me high up on a shelf once the song was done and walked away. Now this was no good. How was I to cause any mischief when I was this high off the ground?
Looking around for an idea to show itself, I heard a door open and close. It wasn’t so much that it opened and closed but that it opened and closed quietly as if someone was sneaking in.
I saw the top of Mr. Jones head as he walked through the garden apparently looking for me. I was about to whisper something to get his attention when I heard something else move behind me.
Henry, the garden gnome that I had replaced was standing there glaring at me. It wasn’t until he suddenly charged and pushed me that I realized he wasn’t the statue I thought he was.
Frantically I grabbed for the statues next to me and held on for dear life.
* * *
Jesse O’Bannon sighed as he pulled the unmarked detective’s plain brown Chevrolet to the curb. He watched as the Medical Examiner’s people moved the dead body down the side walk toward the Coroner’s wagon.
Pulling himself out of the car, he adjusted his belt and realized he was getting farther and farther out of shape the closer he came to retirement. Twenty-four years on the job and he planned to retire to someplace other than this city.
Casually he walked toward the gurney as they opened the back door.
“Whadya have Doc?” he asked, noticing that the Medical Examiner must have been at dinner when he had been called out. Unlike the wrinkled suits he wore around the morgue, he was actually wearing a tuxedo of all things.
“Close encounter with a falling gnome. Ex-husband with a restraining order trespasses in a garden he shouldn’t have and gets killed with a gnome to the head.”
Jesse looked at the doctor who simply looked back before shrugging and gesturing toward the garden. “Go ahead, look for yourself. I just call them as I see them. Looks accidental enough to me to get me back to the lamb I left warming with my date.”
Jesse nodded and followed the path back toward the garden in question.
A young woman sat sobbing with a uniformed officer who looked uncomfortable and happy to see him all at the same time.
“Glad you could make it Detective, this is Maggie Allen. She owns the house and garden where the accident happened. I need to go secure the scene if you don’t mind staying with her.”
Jesse nodded and watched the officer leave.
“I had just gone into the house for a minute when I heard the crash. That could have been me!” She wailed, dabbing her eyes with a Kleenex.
“You have a TRO against your ex ma’am?” Jesse asked, not seeing anything that jumped out suspiciously about the scene to him.
“TRO?” She asked.
“Restraining Order ma’am. They told me you had one against him?”
“Oh that, it was nothing.” She replied. “It was just to keep him away until the divorce was settled.”
“Mind if I take a look around?” As a crime scene he really didn’t need permission, but it was always a good thing to ask just the same. The woman simply nodded.
Gnomes were everywhere in the garden. There were standing gnomes, sitting gnomes, smiling gnomes and even a few dancing gnomes. Alone they looked harmless, but in a group as they were surrounding the small garden, they gave him the Willies.
Pieces of the gnome in question were spread around where they had fallen after hitting the victim. The gnome had been on the top shelf and apparently teetered off as the victim bumped the shelf as he had passed.
He’d seen enough to agree with the Medical Examiner. This didn’t seem to be anything other than an accident.
Stopping to give the grieving woman his card, Jesse asked her to come down and give a statement in a day or two. By then he would have completed the paperwork and have been long gone on other cases.
* * *
I was becoming annoyed. Not only had I been unceremoniously gang-tackled by the other gnomes, now I was tied up and lying under a pile of freshly dug dirt.
The woman had completely fooled me. I should have checked for signs that she had hired Protect-A-Gnome for personal safety.
Once I get these ropes off, I’m going to file an official complaint with those clowns.
Funny thing is that I can’t seem to get the stupid thing loose. Each time I try, it just gets tighter. Now it’s even getting hard to breath.
You don’t suppose they hired Choke-A-Gnome do you?
* * *