Thursday, April 12, 2012

Twenty Minutes Until Midnight

Henry Connolly opened his pocket watch for perhaps the fifteenth time that evening. Twenty minutes to midnight. Twenty minutes until he was free. He adjusted himself in the plush leather chair in the study and sipped his whisky before replacing the crystal glass on the side table.

He was enjoying his luxurious lifestyle courtesy of his wife, Evangeline. Henry himself had but a modest income. He was an entrepreneur, but thus far he had found no one to back his proposed businesses. Even his wife was skeptical that any of his ideas would earn a return on investment. Truth be told, Henry acknowledged that he was more of an idea man than a nuts-and-bolts man - the thought of actually running a business bored him to tears. Much better to think through new ideas and leave the details to those who were good at that sort of thing.

His one success was in convincing Evangeline to marry him. Her father was wealthy and doted on her, so winning Evangeline's heart was tantamount to winning her father's approval, along with a generous income. This suited Henry very well, at least for a time, until Evangeline showed more of a practical side than he had given her credit for. Not only did she refuse to invest in his business plans, but she had the audacity to suggest that he was not applying himself to earning a decent living.

She did agree to one suggestion of his, which was to finance a trip to the Greek isles. First-class berths, of course. Unfortunately for Evangeline, she mysteriously fell overboard during the voyage out. The distraught widower naturally cooperated fully with the Greek authorities, who ultimately determined that Evangeline suffered a tragic accident. He returned to his estate wearing a suitably sorrowful expression.

He had one stroke of luck about a month later when Evangeline's father, grief-stricken over the loss of his daughter, suffered a heart attack and died. Now Henry had but to wait the remaining six-and-one-half years to have his missing wife declared dead and he would inherit her now much larger estate. He would be free to become the success he knew was his destiny. That moment would arrive in - he checked his watch again - precisely six minutes.

The doorbell rang. Henry frowned. A caller at this hour? He let his butler rouse himself from bed and answer the door. Henry checked the watch one more time out of reflex.

The sound of several pair of feet on the wooden hallway floor came closer, and the door to the study swung open. There stood Evangeline as though no time had passed since their last meeting. Two policemen flanked her.

"Hello, darling. I hope you enjoyed the past seven years.... No, not quite seven, is it? When I was rescued after you so thoughtlessly threw me overboard, I considered going to the police immediately. Before I could arrange for passage back home I saw that my poor father died, and I understood what your plan was. Then I thought that it might be infinitely more cruel to wait until the stroke of midnight on the seventh anniversary of my disappearance to return home. Here I am... now stop drinking my whisky and please vacate my house immediately."

As the clock chimed midnight, Henry gulped the last of the amber liquid as the policemen advance toward him.

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