The Short Tale of Charles B. Vondemond
By Austin Durose
Mister Vondemond had paid for the cab back to the Fransworth Residence and the Lady let them both in. It wasn’t very far and would have been an easy gliding distance for the Lady if he hadn’t bought her a few drinks. She couldn’t go very far without falling. Curbs were an issue, he had realised. Curbs and road sides and any cobble. The cab was the easiest option.
She had welcomed him into her home and he passed though the large doorway into the hallway of the house. She led him into a spacious living room where a grand fireplace adorned one wall, and well stocked bookshelves lined the others. In the middle of the room stood a long, decorated couch accompanied by two wing-back chairs. Vondemond was directed to sit as Lady Fransworth rolled over to a large bookshelf which also served as a drinks cabinet. She poured him a whisky, told him to ‘sit tight’ and disappeared to ‘freshen up’.
Once he was certain she had gone, he put down the glass and rose to his feet. The treasure was here, he was certain of it. And now that he had his chance, he would bloody well take it.
He quickly searched the living room; the shelves were lined with an array of books, ornaments and liqueur, but not what he was after. It was true that he had never seen the item he searched for, in fact he didn’t actually know what it was. All he knew was that it was old. Ancient, to be precise. He would know it when he saw it.
Having swiftly glanced over any possible hiding place, he was quickly making his way through the grand hallway to the next room when he stopped suddenly. A small white cat sat in his way. He looked at the cat with a peculiar stare, the cat looked back and cocked it’s head aside. It was a funny looking creature, more ball of fluff than cat. Its features were undersized and almost lost amidst a large puff of soft white hair. It seemed a docile creature, expression blank and emerald eyes that appeared to look in different directions. Vondemond decided to pass by quietly, not sure if it was actually looking at him or not. He walked by. The cat turned and, in a simple manner, followed.
The man walked hurriedly but silently from room to room, the cat slowly plodded after. Vondemond had done this sort of thing before, in fact he considered himself quite professional at the task in hand. Seeking and plotting. Searching for any treasure, he would sketch on the blank pages of his mind a blueprint indicating well estimated floor plans and distances. On the sticky notes of his mind he would also jot down anything that caught his eye; unlocked windows, possible hiding grounds, security systems, booby-traps, and the like.
The cat plodded on behind with a mind full of warm fluff that tickled as it moved it’s head. It smiled.
After a short while a thought sprung to Vondemond’s mind like a well toned athlete delivering an important letter. A letter that said ‘In her leg’ and nothing more. He called off the rest of his search of the lower floor and headed up the stairs. He followed the tuned voice of a lady bathing with glee. A voice that suggested that once, long long ago, a young Miss Fransworth had been classically trained but it had never amounted to much more than bathing song.
The bathroom was en-suite of the master bedroom on the first floor. He opened the door ajar, and glanced in. It was clear.
He passed through and at once was stopped. He looked around. The room was a standard ladies chamber. A four-post bed in the centre with vanity chests on either side covered with jewellery, wigs, perfume and the like. The odd thing about this room was that each wall was covered, inch by inch, with portraits of felines. Painting after painting of cats, kittens, alone or in families, every colour, every breed, every angle. All with eyes that seemed to follow him.
The small cat which had been following him all this time had eyes that seemed to follow nothing. Or at least if they followed anything, they would be following two completely different things heading in different directions.
Vondemond’s eyes struck a wooden leg with wheels attached. The logic here: something so precious and perfect would be the sort of thing you would want with you at all times. On closer inspection the timber was heavy and solid. No good thing could find hiding place in such dense wood.
Frustrated the man let out a grunt and threw the leg aside when his eyes happened upon something he hadn’t at first noticed. A small wooden box lay upon a cabinet amidst perfumes and hair pieces. A small wooden box with elaborate metal details and locked by primitive padlock. Covered in ancient carvings, he knew he had stumbled upon that which he did seek.
The singing stopped. But he did not notice. Eyes fixed on the small box, he carefully made his way forward. He reached out his hand to touch the item.
‘My dear!’ the voice made him jump. He spun around so quickly he almost lost consciousness. And there before him, his fate on crutches. Lady Fransworth was wearing nothing but a towel. Not even a wig. ‘If I had known you were this keen I wouldn’t have kept you waiting!’ The odd strand of natural hair still on her head wavered in the air as she giggled to herself. She gave him the eye, and without moving dropped the towel.
Of all the things he had ever done over his long career as treasure hunter, cat burglar and playboy, there were few that made him actually hate himself. Laying with Lady Fransworth was one of them.
The next morning the Lady woke alone in bed. On the bedside table she found a note.
‘My Dearest Lady Fransworth,
It is with regret that I should leave you at such an early hour, but it seems my work has caught up with me and unfortunately this is a task I cannot leave undone. Urgent business must be attended to urgently.
However, it would be my greatest pleasure if you were to meet me tonight. A well respected friend of mine is hosting a fund raising gala in aid of his gambling addiction and I would be honoured if you were to join me. You will find the details written on the reverse of this note.
I hope to see you soon, and once again I apologise for my early disappearance.
Charles B. Vondemond
P.S. You are a very, very generous lady in the bedroom.’
She lay back with a smile. Last night had been the best that she had had in over two months and had to tip her cap to Mister Vondemond.
Vondemond had heard stories of the treasure. Some said it would bring blessings, others said it was cursed. Stories of it causing the fall of empires, of it granting desires, of it having the power to change the past or simply cook a decent meal. One story he heard, a story solely based on the treasure, said that it didn’t even exist. One thing was for certain, though, and that was that every story contradicted each other, no one could agree on exactly what this thing was.
And that made it a thing of legend.
To Charles B. Vondemond, the status of ‘legend’ was not something to be taken lightly. It was a status to be earned, a status to risk everything for, to risk anything for. It was a status far beyond any other. Legend begot legend. Legend is deserving only of legend.
And Charles B. Vondemond had burglary skills that were themselves stuff of legend.
© Austin Durose 2011