Exercise Your Imagination! Do you like stories with mystery and suspense? Well, if you do, keep reading and enjoy Eggcentricsagas. If you are just joining Eggcentricsagas, start from the beginning: A La Mano: Part 1-The Treasure
Penelope was scared. What would Émile do to her? She searched his eyes and saw nothing good in them. Squeezing her arms harder, he started to push her back up the stairs. She glanced at Pepe, noting that he was disoriented and hurt but had started to move. Returning her gaze to Émile, she recalled the knife and what Claude had said happened to Monsieur Le Blanc. Did this evil stranger intend on stabbing her in the stomach? Could she talk him out of it?
“Don’t hurt me, please,” she pleaded and didn’t resist.
“Quiet!” he barked and continued to propel her backward.
It gave her the answer she needed. If she was going to die, she would go out fighting. Summoning all her strength and breath, Penelope pushed back as hard as she could. “Help!” she screamed before trying to run past him down the stairs.
Caught off guard, Émile stumbled back a few steps. He uttered an angry expletive, blocked her path, and then slammed her hard against the wall. She struggled and kicked, but he had her pinned. The murderer began to strangle her. Her air supply cut off, Penelope began to feel faint, and her vision blurred. Her strength waned, and she felt herself go limp. On the verge of passing out, she heard a loud sound of splintering wood, and the front door burst open.
After kicking the door in, Claude ran inside. He saw what was happening and bounded up the steps. Émile dropped Penelope. Spluttering and gurgling, she fell roughly onto the steps. Claude and Émile began to wrestle. They each tried to shove the other off the stairs but only managed to slip, tumble and crash down the steps locked together. Sore, trying to catch her breath and focus her eyes, Penelope sat up weakly. Briefly watching the men battle, her concern for Pepe focused her search for him instead. Thankfully, he had limped to the corner of the foyer and was licking one leg ignoring the brawl.
Penelope pulled herself over to the railing and watched what was happening below. Claude put up a good fight but, unfortunately, was outmatched by the larger, stronger man. Émile managed to land an uppercut to Claude’s chin which made him stagger off-balance. With his other fist, Émile connected with Claude’s head again, causing the young man to fall back against the wall. He went down, and Émile leapt on top of him, raining blows upon his head. Claude blocked the strikes as best he could while Émile hammered on him.
Penelope knew she had to help Claude. Getting up, she started down the stairs. At the landing, staring at the open door, the girl pondered whether she should run out into the street for help. Would there be enough time before Claude’s face was a bloody pulp? Then the umbrella stand behind the door caught her eye. Propped inside was Madame des Plumes’ large, black umbrella. Quickly, Penelope ran and snatched it. Going to Émile, she swung it as hard as she could at the back of his head. There was a sickening crack as the umbrella struck its target.
Émile slumped forward momentarily but turned before Penelope could hit him again. Then grabbing the umbrella, he started to pull it away from her. A groan of anguish escaped her mouth as Penelope held on tightly and strained against him. This sound, and the sight of Penelope’s struggling, was the trigger to incite Pepe to action. Forgetting his pain, Pepe bounded forward and sprung at Émile’s face. Émile cried out in pain and swatted the dog away but not before Pepe took a piece of his flesh. Émile, covering his nose with his hands, fell off the dazed and motionless Claude. The evil man stared at his fingers covered in blood.
“Arrêt!” The cocking of a gun was heard. “You’re under arrest!” They all looked at Martin, the red-haired policeman, standing in the doorway with his pistol trained in their direction. Pointing the weapon at Émile, he commanded, “Put your hands behind your head. Now!” Blood dripping steadily from his wound, Émile complied. Penelope grimaced when she saw the jagged hole at the tip of his nose, where Pepe had removed a chunk of it.
Pepe remembered Martin, the ball thrower. Happily, he limped over to the policeman and sat down in front of him. Pepe looked up at him and wagged his tail. Martin praised the dog, “Good boy, Pepe!” Then Martin began to blow his loud whistle while keeping his eyes and gun directed towards Émile. Soon, two uniformed officers arrived, handcuffed and led Émile, in his blood-stained shirt, away.
Meanwhile, Claude had managed to get up. He and Penelope went into the salon. While her friend sat down on the couch, Penelope ran to the kitchen, found a towel, and soaked it in cold water. She brought it back to Claude, and he dabbed at his cut lip before placing it over his swollen eye.
Penelope sat down next to him and smiled. “Thanks for saving me. He was going to kill me.”
“We wouldn’t want that,” Claude joked and smiled weakly back at her.
“Émile said you left. Why did you come back?”
“We didn’t believe him. Martin decided to search around the stairwell. When he left, I spotted my stolen bicycle parked across the street. I went over to make certain it was mine. I had already started walking back when I heard you scream.”
Martin had returned and entered the salon. Penelope blurted out, “Émile is the murderer! He tried to choke me! I found a knife!” She led Martin to the upstairs closet and showed him the suitcase. He opened it and saw the weapon inside.
The policeman did not touch it but smiled as he shut the case. “Evidence. Good work.” Returning downstairs, they found Pepe sitting on Claude’s lap, licking the abrasions on his hand. Martin went over and petted the dog on the head. “Pepe and Claude. The heroes of the day.”
Martin turned to Penelope. “If you promise not to run away again, I won’t make you stay in jail tonight.”
Penelope nodded. “I won’t. I promise.”
He spoke to Claude. “I’ve called a carriage to take you home for tonight but you must come to the prefecture in the morning to give me a detailed report of all that happened.”
Claude agreed. “Oui.”
They were departing the apartment when Penelope saw the fortune-teller’s partially flattened hat kicked to one side of the hallway. It had gotten smashed in the melee. Informing the men, “Madame des Plumes left her turban for me,” she tucked it under her arm, similar to how Martin was carrying the lame Pepe, and they walked out the door. Penelope watched the inspector padlock the door handle. The red-haired policeman then helped them into the carriage, and off they went. Back to the apartment in Montparnasse and Madame Bisset.
Next: The Material World: Part 10-The Ring of Truth