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Bill Posters Will Be Prosecuted
About the Author: JOSH PACHTER is a writer, editor and translator. Almost a hundred of his short crime stories have appeared in EQMM, AHMM, New Black Mask, Espionage, and many other periodicals, anthologies, and year’s-best collections. The Tree of Life (Wildside Press, 2015) collected all ten of his Mahboob Chaudri stories, he collaborated with Belgian author Bavo Dhooge on Styx (Simon & Schuster, 2015), and he co-edited Amsterdam Noir (Akashic Books, 2018).


William and Evangeline Posters came up the steep semi-circle of concrete steps from the Victoria and Albert Museum’s main entrance to street level. It was bitterly cold, and fat snowflakes drifted earthward from a slate-gray sky.

“The more it snows, tiddely-pom, tiddely-pom,” Bill hummed, his mind still on the delightful Winnie the Pooh exhibit they’d taken a taxi across the city from their hotel on the west side of Lincoln’s Inn Fields to see. He looked across Exhibition Road at the looming bulk of the Natural History Museum.

“Dinosaurs?” he said.

“God, no,” Evey frowned, eyes rolling. “I’ve had enough museums to last till next Christmas.”

They’d been in London for the last four days, having found an irresistible Expedia price on a flight-and-hotel package, and they’d already done the British Museum (“Sythians: Warriors of Ancient Siberia!”), the British Library (“Harry Potter: A History of Magic!”), the National Portrait Gallery (“Marlene Dietrich: Dressed for the Image!”), and Sir John Soane’s Museum (“Egypt Uncovered: Belzoni and the Tomb of Pharaoh Seti I!”), right around the corner from their hotel.

“May I have this dance, then?” asked Bill, taking her gloved hand and nodding at the gleaming ice rink on the East Lawn between the Natural History Museum and the Cromwell Road.

“Can you be serious for one minute?” demanded Evey, pulling free.

“What’s wrong with a little skating?” Bill insisted. “I used to play ice hockey, I’ll have you know. I was very agile.”

“Sure, and I won the first season of Dancing With the Stars,” his wife said. “Now let’s—”

“Five’ll get you ten they’ve got hot mulled cider and mince pies over there,” said Bill, winking temptingly.

“They’ve got hot mulled cider and mince pies at Covent Garden,” said Evey firmly, “and we’ll be there this evening. But I have tagged along to your museums, Bill, as agreed, and now we are going to Harrod’s to shop.”

“But we—”

“As agreed, Bill,” said Evey, and she took his arm and guided him around the southwest corner of the V&A and across Cromwell Gardens with the light, then eastbound past the Ismaili Centre and the Yalta Memorial Garden and into Thurloe Place. A tall blue hoarding blocked access to a line of flats undergoing renovation, and when Evey spotted the laminated white piece of paper screwed to the wall, she burst out laughing.

“What’s so funny?” her husband demanded, and she pointed at the black capital letters printed in two neat lines on the sheet:

BILL POSTERS

WILL BE PROSECUTED

“What a scream!” said Evey. “In the States, we’d say ‘Post No Bills,’ but here in Merrie Olde England it’s—”

“I can read,” said Bill, unamused, “and I know what we’d say in the States.”

“Bill Posters will be prosecuted,” said Evey, adopting a phony British accent and shaking her head from side to side with each syllable in a ludicrous attempt to imitate a London bobby.

“This is your idea of a joke?” grumbled Bill. “It’s not funny, Evangeline.”

“Evangeline,” Evey repeated. “Oooh, William, I see I’ve touched a sore spot.” She launched into her repertoire of terrible accents—Italian, Spanish, German: “Bill-a Posters Will-a Be Prosciutto! Beel Posters Weel Be Proseecuted! Herr Villium Posters Vill Have His Red Cross Packages Suspended!”

At each iteration, Bill’s annoyance increased, and at last he’d had enough. “Knock it off, Eve,” he growled.

Evey put her hands together in the Namaste pose, bowed, and said, “Ohhhh, Mister Bill Posters Will Be Being Prosecuted!”

“I said knock it off,” Bill snapped, and his hand shot out to cover her mouth.

Taken off guard, Evey jerked away from him and lost her balance. Her legs flew out from beneath her, and her head cracked against the hoarding as she fell to the pavement.

She lay there, motionless, a trickle of blood leaking from beneath her woolen cap.

“Did you see that, Gladys?” an elderly woman passing by whispered fiercely to her companion. “’e ’it ’er, ’e did.”

Bill dropped to his knees and cradled his wife’s head against his chest. “Somebody call 9-1-1!” he shouted.



This story appears in our MAR 2018 Issue
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Reader Discussion

28
Feb
Great morning read, Josh. Thoroughly enjoyed it. Well done, you!
By Judy Penz Sheluk

28
Feb
Cute story, Josh, and well-written. Loved the accents.
By Earl Staggs

28
Feb
What fun!! Great job.
By Robert Petyo

28
Feb
Nice tight tale. Witty and humorous! I don't know how you think this stuff up.
By Susan Rickard

28
Feb
So clever - love plays on words. And you did it so very well!
By Nancy Sweetland

28
Feb
Loved this story...perfect length and very funny! Love the accents, the puns, loved the ending. Very well done!
By Jason Otoski

28
Feb
I love short stories around puns and this was no exception, thanks! :)
By Jennifer Kunz

28
Feb
This was a great read -- clever!
By Rose Anderson

28
Feb
Entertaining lunchtime read. Nice work.
By Jeff

28
Feb
Great play on words, Josh! Congratulations!
By Bobbi. hukran

28
Feb
Wow! A great short story! Cleverly done!
By Nina Ritter

1
Mar
Thanks for all the nice comments! You pun lovers might also enjoy my even shorter "Father Knows Bets," which appeared on the SHOTGUN HONEY website last October. You'll find it at this link: https://www.shotgunhoney.com/fiction/father-knows-bets-by-josh-pachter/#more-6922
By Josh Pachter

2
Mar
Loved it! A superb ending.
By Frances Dunn


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