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Barnie Brewster's Body Begone Bureau
About the Author: Ricky Sprague, writer and cartoonist, has stories published in many fine publications, including MYSTERY MAGAZINE, DIE LAUGHING, ASININE ASSASSINS, CRIMEUCOPIA: AS IN FUNNY HA-HA OR JUST PECULIAR, ELLERY QUEEN, and JACKED. The attached story is a sequel to one of the stories I had in the DIE LAUGHING collection.

When composing one of these narratives I’m never quite sure how much ground to re-cover in re: catching the reader up on prev. events. Naturally I’d rather not alienate the existing aud which has devoured all my prev. stories. At the same t if this is your first encounter with yrs very truly I need to make sure you’re thoroughly speeded.

All this by way of saying: in a prev. story I inherited a percentage of a vinegared shorties concern from the pater of a beazel who had the misfortune to expire whilst she and I were engaged to be matrimonied. While I enjoy being monied, I most esp. don’t wish to be matrimonied.

Corking wordplay, that!

Anyhoo, no sense further ad nozzing the preface. Now let’s establish that my valet, Jaspers, was off gallivanting on some “restorative sojourn” (his words), leaving me to my devices. Being a member of the noblesse I prefer to hold my devices in abeyancy, ergo I opted to contract for a temp valet with the Burgess Gentleman’s Gentleman Service. The specimen whose shadow crossed the old threshold was called Upton. Whether that was the sur- or Christian-name I wasn’t inclined to ask.

Though my age or mayhaps younger his pan betrayed a troubled spirit. This might have coloured my own behaviour in re: my treatment of the creature. I let out the leash in a way that was a bit out of character.

Example: I waited until nearly nine-thirty that first night before noting in a tone of withering disappointment that he’d yet to lay out any sleepwear from which I might make a selection.

“Very sorry, Mr. Brewster,” he said. His tone seemed to belie his words, by which I mean he didn’t sound sorry at all. In fact, he seemed decided unperturbed.

“Been at the gentleman’s gentlemaning game long? You seem a bit raw to me,” said I, magnanimously.

“Only a short while,” he conceded. “I’m still learning to acclimate myself to the ways of the bourg—the elites.”

“Ah, yes. We of the noblesse are a rare breed indeed. And I mean that in every sense. Having said that, we’re easy enough to get along with, assuming everyone knows their place.”

“I hope you won’t mind me asking you a question—I believe it will help me to serve you better.”

“There can be no nobler reason for making a query. Ask away.”

“How do you make your money?”

Make? My money?” I asked, agog. “I don’t.”

“You don’t?”

“No. I have an income.”

“From whence?”

“From—well—an allowance. Or from a trust. I come from money, as the poet occasionally says. Just sort of sprouted out from it.” He had me a bit stumped, I’ll admit. It wasn’t something I gave much lemon-effort.

At this point, he did something which struck me as charmingly thorough. He took from his jacket a small notebook and began to scribble furiously.

“I hope you don’t mind my taking notes,” he explicated. “It should help me to serve you better.”

“As you wish. Would you like to know my hat size? Favourite colour?”

He seemed not to have heard me. Instead he asked, “Have you no investments? Or ownership in some business concerns?”

I squeezed the old lemon to discern the a to his qs. Finally, at length, I responded, “No.”

“That’s interesting, Mr. Brewster.”

“In what sense?”

“I’d heard that you were at least part owner of Brontley-Brontley’s Vinegared Shorties.”

Once again, the lemon squeezed. This time, a bit of lemonade dribbled into my rememberries. “Oh, yes. Of course. Inherited from one of my previous fiancées. The one who suffered the tragic bean-bashing. Unsolved crime, as I recall.”

“It must be interesting, you being part owner of a famed and popular industrialized food concern.”

“Indeed,” I said, playing along. “Many’s the hour I wile away thinking how interesting it—what was the topic of this convo again?”

“Brontley-Brontley’s Vinegared Shorties.”

“Oh, yes. That. I’m part owner of it, you know. Get a nice boost to the bank account every month.”

“Are you familiar at all with the working conditions in the factory where the shorties are produced?”

This story appears in our NOV 2022 Issue
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