Red on the Carpet

So I decided to write a short story. I hope you find it funny.

Red on the Carpet

Then there was red on the carpet and the maid was in tears. She knelt and wept in great silent sobs, feeling as though it were her very lifeblood which now stained the white. The dry-cleaning fees! The loan sharks! The disgrace to her maidly bloodline! She raised a fist in frustration but someone caught it before it could land. She looked up: into eyes as blue as warm summer shallows and every bit as deep. It was a detective come on white taxi-cab! Very casually he put an arm around her shoulders, and very casually he extended that arm into her beast pocket. From it he produced, with a flourish, a packet of 10p tissues from the corner shop. “It’s all right now,” winked he in Morse code. “I’ll be here to protect you and what is yours.”

Just outside the door, the lord of the house was eavesdropping on the two as he reviewed his schedule for the day. Needless to say, the maid would have to be fired. A tantrum was unbecoming of her office. But the unemployment bureau only worked one hour every day, calling it overtime labour, and he was due right then for a late lunch with the prime minister, who refused to see guests at occasions other than lunches. And the lord was a righteous, God-fearing man. He was vaguely certain there existed a verse in the Good Book that designated arbitrary disemployment as being a sin, although he hadn’t the faintest idea which verse that was.

The maid’s sobs were quieter now. Presently she spoke, in a voice only a little less shaky than her shoulders, her eyes fixed on the detective’s. “Protect my what?”

The detective looked through the walls into the unseen distance, his expression marked by infinite sorrow, as if he, alone, bore on his shoulders all the sadness to be found in their tragic world.

“Your virginity.”

***

Infidelity? The infidel! The lord could suppress his consternation no longer and threw the door open, the way they taught in his weekly anger management lessons. He stormed into the room to the disingenuously unfeigned shock of the detective, if not the maid, and rounded on the latter. “Whose is it?”

The maid hesitated the exact amount of time required to say, rapturously, “The baby is his” before the detective cut in, business card professionally outstretched. “There was no infidelity, Mr. Uh… Smith. What we are looking at here is a case of theft.”

How did this man know his name? Clearly he was worth his salt as a detective. He took the proffered card and detective’s hand to shake. Their fingers touched—so too did their hearts—he jerked back in surprise—an electric current running in the two. Then the moment was past and he brushed a hand over his eyes to clear them of the rose-tinted lights and coughed to clear his empty throat. “My name is Smith, but you can call me John.” He coughed again. “I don’t remember hiring your services, but explain to me what has happened here.” He waved the maid and her cough drops away.

“Indeed, my good Mr. Smith. Observe this red stain on the carpet. Unsightly, is it not? Blood is a vibrant red, like the colour of your cheeks this present moment, but this stain is of a duller hue. See how it takes on the aspect of the fading sunset, the midnight robin seen without light. A bit like your cheeks this present moment too. There is only one substance in this world of ours with a shade as unique as this, my good Mr. Smith, and that is cheap wine. Some uncouth vandal must have stolen into your reserves to steal this wine and, just as he attempted to slip out in escape, had it slip from his hands to shatter on this carpet. On which we now stand!”

Mr. Smith’s face was now as red as cheap wine, though he did not know if it was from admiration or from shame. “The rascal!”

“But fear not, my good Mr. Smith! Now that the culprit’s motivations are clear to all it will only be a matter of time before he is uncovered!” Very casually he put an arm around Mr. Smith’s shoulders, and very casually he extended that arm into his beast pocket, to produce from within a box of peppermint chews. Then he looked down into Mr. Smith’s eyes—for of course he was the taller one—and smiled most winningly, showing twin rows of teeth as mintly white as the chews he now offered with his other hand. “And I will always be here to protect you, my dear Mr. Smith.”

Mr. Smith’s head felt light. Like a feather, he suddenly thought, before the enormous creativity of his newly-invented expression hit him like a bucket of cold water in the face. Now he was a soggy feather. “What should I do?”

“Just sign here and you will be all right, my dear Mr. Smith.” The detective bent closer to Mr. Smith, the current between their eyes positively electromagnetic. “Will you hire me to investigate this case for you, at the wage of fifty pounds an hour, non-tax deducted?”

So flustered was Mr. Smith at his proximity to the detective that he quite forgot he did not keep any alcohol on his estate, and the fact that the carpet was too thick to break glass, and the fact that while God countenanced incest, he did not smile down on buggery. Breathlessly, he nodded.

“I-I do!”

***

The next day, scandal broke out in the news when leading scientists around the world discovered that while cheap wine looked a dull red, the stains it left were more precisely categorised as carmine with 20% carnelian mixed in. The ensuing report took up the entire first page and the following double-paged spread. And then, on the page right after:

SMITH HOUSEHOLD: BUTLER MISSING

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