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An Understudy In Scarlet

by Mark S Bailen

About the Author: Mark S Bailen has published in the High Plains Literary Review, the Sonora Review, and Little Blue Marble.


At first it was a fabulous job. Elaine had little to do except stock the liquor cabinet. Occasionally she was sent out to buy cigarettes or fancy cheeses. And she got to wear sultry red dresses and boas. But then one afternoon Miss Scarlet asked her to kill Colonel Mustard in the billiard room with a revolver.

"You have the safety off?" asked the Colonel from across the snooker table. He was a jaundiced man with a paunch.

"I think so," said Elaine. The gun was awfully heavy.

"Then pull the trigger, dear. Let me have it." He tapped his foot impatiently.

"It won't hurt?"


"And you won't die?"

"Of course not." The Colonel belched. "I'll be back in a jiffy, ready for the next match."

Elaine shut her eyes and fired the revolver. She missed badly. The shot created an explosion of lath and plaster, knocking a dart board from the wall.

The second time Miss Scarlet asked Elaine to kill somebody it was Mrs. Peacock in the hall with a dagger.

"Just poke the knife in, dear. Between the ribs." Mrs. Peacock was a frail woman with fluttering eyes. She lifted a blue shawl, providing an easy target.

"I can't," said Elaine.

"Come now. Just shove it in and twist."

"Twist?" Elaine retreated a few squares, limply holding the knife.

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