I, Philibert Q. Winslow
(Chapter One only)
Michael W. Paulson
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This is Chapter One of I, Philibert Q. Winslow by Michael Paulson. To buy the entire eNovel for only $3.99, click the 'Buy Now' button.
Austin's newspapers reported rain and murder, that Sunday morning.
Throughout the heavens, clouds rumbled with black bereavement. Across the treetops, birds hung their heads in desolation. And in the gardens, flowers remained furled with forlorn. Even the newspaper in my hand sagged with sorrow. It was as if each and every thing mourned the unexpected passing of Gila Parker.
"My sweet Gila," I murmured, staring at her front-page smile. "No one loved you as I. No one understood you, as I. Least of all these parasitic panhandlers parading as the press. How dare the fourth estate let sexual innuendo play as truth upon the printed page? Sex-orgy precipitated event, indeed! I could understand such a claim if the victim had been that bigoted Texas bastard in the Whitehouse! But not Gila. She epitomized all that was grace and beauty."
A feeble tap upon my study door was followed by Bernard's quivering entrance. As rotund manservants went, he was unmatched in culinary cleverness and the innate ability to cower in complete submission: something I have always insisted upon in minions. As for his choice in wearing apparel, it was invariably within reproach: a black, swallow-tailed tuxedo complimented by an orange tie and green shirt, this accented with an ever-so-creaking pair of red patent-leather shoes. Despite his semi-sterling attributes, Bernard had a seepingly negative trait: the not-so-small-matter of unbridled perspiration--one not unlike the constant mucous ooze of a terrified salamander. Still, I would be at a loss without him.
"You heard about Gila's murder, oh Human-humidifier?"
Bernard's fuzzy dark head dipped solemnly. "This morning's radio report, Sir. Tragic. Simply tragic."
"Tragic, indeed. Naturally, the task of preserving her wondrous memory has fallen to me. Only I, Philibert Q. Winslow, offered Gila unconditional love while she was alive. And, now only I shall offer her perpetual adoration in death. It is the least I can do for Gila."
Bernard, in his usual flatteringly-devoted--albeit damp manner--exuded, "As only your impeccable taste can, Sir."
"I try, Bernard. You above all others know how hard I try." I set down the paper. "Is my Champagne brunch ready?"
He offered a shuddering spray of sweat before whispering, "The police, Sir: a Lt. Carlisle Davis. He's at the front door."
I stood, not concealing my irritation. "Police? Here? On a Sunday?"
I then reached out, grabbed Bernard's soggy tie and wrenched its knot tight to his goiterous throat, tethering him within reach. What are servants for if not to endure an occasional strangling? Or the intermittent flog?
"Has the President finally come out of the closet? Is an ice-storm raging across Hades? Has Queen Elizabeth admitted her affair with Lord Chesterton's Springer Spaniel?"
"Not that I am aware, Sir." Bernard choked, his tiny eyes bulging like hardboiled eggs.
"Then how dare this heathen inflict such an intrusion upon my day of rest?"
"It's about Gila Parker, Sir!" His walrus-like face was turning the color of an overripe plum.
I released my grip and mournfully wailed, "Tell the desecrator to return tomorrow! I've been salivating for strawberry scones all morning."
Bernard loosened his tie, spewing out another spray of human dew. In his most pleading tone he whimpered, "I attempted to turn him away, Sir. However, Lt. Davis insists upon speaking with you. Something about 'sitting on his dead ass during a murder investigation would not endear him to the polished brass monkeys at the top.'"
Instinctively, my eyes darted to my own polished concerns: the oak parquet floor beneath Bernard's widely splayed legs. To my relief the expected puddles of perspiration were not yet evident. I curled a finger, drawing my servant's somewhat hesitant attention.
"Are the scones out of the oven?"
He nodded wetly. "A toasty golden-brown."
"Is the Champagne properly chilled?"
He nodded wetly, again. "A crisp forty-three degrees."
"Then," I growled, "tell the insolent bastard to return at a more convenient hour--preferably in the next millennium. As you know, I loved Gila heart and soul. But the woman's dead, for God's sake. And it isn't as if I ever saw her naked."
Bernard's immense bristling moustache quivered damply as he whispered, "And if Lt. Davis declines, Sir?"
"As my faithful servant you are obliged to physically dismiss the intruder. Even at the risk of your own mundane lifeafter serving brunch, of course."
Bernard offered me his usual liquefied trembling before whining, "He has a gun, Sir--the biggest I've ever seen!"
I punctuated my displeasure over his obvious cowardice by rolling the newspaper into a bat, and thumping it soundly upon his cowering head. "You spineless wimp. Just how yellow is that stripe down your pimpled back?"
In cringing protest he exclaimed, "My only thought was to avoid bloodshed upon your beloved parquet, Sir--particularly my own."
"You're a craven coward, Bernard."
"Only because I have an overwhelming desire to live, Sir."
My eyes focused upon my servant's oddly small feet, around which his transudational excretions now glistened. "Polymer is the answer, Bernard. Only it can resist your infernal pollution."
"And Lt. Davis, Sir?"
I dropped the newspaper to my desk with a disgusted sigh. "Since you refuse to die like a man, I have no alternative but to receive the infidel here in my usual magnanimous manner. After which, you will retire to the kitchen and prepare a fresh batch of scones--to be served immediately upon the Cretan's departure."
Bernard gave me his deepest minion bow, sending another shower of oily mist in all directions. Then he lumbered off, the jiggling folds of his receding backside reminding me of a constipated rhino waddling across the veldt in search of its favorite dung heap.
"Thank God we live in a clothing-required society," I murmured. Then, my eyes drooped to a vagrant hair clinging to the lapel of my expensively tailored brown tweeds. Immediately, I brushed off the clinging trespasser. By its curly dark color, it was not mine own. "Bernard, you mangy mongrel!"
I unrolled the newspaper with a grieving moan and once more studied Gila's picture. Murder had a way of bestowing immortality, particularly upon the truly beautiful, such as she. Had Gila passed on through accident, illness or natural cause her memory would have quickly drifted into oblivion to all but me. A violent end guaranteed the woman of my dreams, perpetual remembrance--a thought that would offer solace in the years to come.
I closed my eyes and let the last memories of her flash through my
mind. It had been at Antoine's, one of our favorite bistros. We had dined
heartily and then shared a bottle of claret. I had been unerringly witty. She
had been articulative perfection. Together we had toasted the beauty of life,
the beauty of love, the richness of our irrevocably linked souls. I could still
feel the touch of her fingers upon my cheek. I could still smell the sweetness
of her perfume. I could still hear...
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