The Val & Kit Mystery Series

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Val Wonders: Is April Fools’ Day Still a Thing (and if so, WHY?)?

April 1st began with an envelope pushed under my front door. It read: Dear Missus Balerie, sorry very much indeed to be sorry and bring you bad news, but your rent has must been much increased by twenty dollars. All person living in this building must pay for new workings on parking lot. It was signed by Horatio Westminster, someone I’d never heard of, and I doubted a measly twenty bucks would go very far toward improving the parking lot, which had space for only six cars.

I dismissed the letter and put my breakfast bowl in the sink for washing later because my dishwasher had not been operational for months. How about it, Mr. Horatio Made-up-name Westminster? Wanna take up a collection for that? Or was this my first April Fools’ prank?

When I returned to the kitchen, I saw a flashing light on my phone. Two calls I had missed while it was charging overnight. First one was from the Department of Justice. Wait a minute, Department of what? It advised me there was a warrant out for my arrest due to unpaid taxes, and I could expect a visit from the local sheriff (I hoped he could find a parking space).

Next call was from the Downers Grove library advising me that the book How to Train Your Cat to Do Almost Anything was overdue, and an undisclosed amount was owed. Ha! Not only had I not stepped foot in the Downers Grove library for more than a decade, I’d never owned a cat, and certainly had no interest in training one.

Okay, so three pranks, and I hadn’t even left the house yet.

The morning was uneventful since my client Mrs. Karlsson, who looked as though she hailed from Sweden but always wore a colorful sari and had a red dot on her forehead, did not show for our ten thirty appointment. Okay, so that could be real. I used the time to catch up on some important work, like balancing my checkbook. Next, I planned to make my weekly call to my mother. But she got to me first.

“Valerie, this is your mother, Jean.” (So glad she identified herself, because I was concerned she might be one of my other mothers, Diane Sawyer or Oprah Winfrey.)

“How ya doing, Mom?”

“Well, since you ask, I’ve played a huge prank on William Stuckey.” (That would be her husband, whose full name she always uses, lest we confuse him with some other William, like William Devane or William the Conqueror.)

“What did you do?” I asked, still calculating my checkbook balance. How could it be so low?

“Well, I took a pair of his socks—you know, the ones he plays golf in—and cut the toes off.”

“Good one, Mom,” I said, surprised. For most people, that would probably be considered lame, but for my mother, it was an SNL skit. She doesn’t do humor well—or ever. “Bet he’ll get a good laugh.”

“That’s not all. I painted his golf balls with clear glue.”

“Okaaay.” I stopped calculating, not quite sure what to say next. Had my mother turned into Soupy Sales? But I figured there was more.

“There’s more,” she confirmed. Did I want to hear it? Had she replaced his golf clubs with rubber hoses?

“I called the manager of the bar at the club and asked him to reject William Stuckey’s credit card when he tries to buy drinks.”

“Okay, Mom. Enough. Call the manager and cancel that. They probably don’t even take credit cards—”

“They do. I’ve met him there for drinks before. It’s gonna be a hoot.”

Hoot? When did she start saying hoot?  Did she even know what it meant? “Look, Mom, I gotta go. But have fun and don’t try anything else.”

“Okay, dear. But watch out—you never know who’ll try to play a prank on you today.”

Okay, this was getting weird. Perhaps I was talking to one of my other other mothers—Whoopi Goldberg, perhaps, or Lucille Ball. “By the way,” I said. “I’ve had several pranks, as you call them, already, and I’m way ahead of everyone.”

When I got home, there was a short, dark man standing at my front door. I’d never seen him before. “You are Mrs. Balerie?” he asked anxiously.

“Yes, I am; well, it’s Valerie, with a V—”

“That’s what I said. Balerie. I am Horatio Westminster, and I am hoping you got my note about—”

“Mr. Westminster . . . Horatio . . . whoever you are . . . have the owner of the building send me an official letter—”

“I am the owner, and I thought my note was being of the official, but if you would be liking to prefer—”

“Forget it,” I said, taking out my door key. “You’ll get an extra twenty when I pay my rent.” I rushed inside, just as my phone rang. “Ms. Pankowski? I left you a voice mail earlier. This is Phyllis Hoppenstaff from the library; I’m calling about the book How to Train your Cat—”

“Let me stop you right there, Phyllis. I have never taken a book from your library—”

“It seems the book was taken out ten years ago by an Emily Pankowski. And because you signed for her, and the book was never returned, the overdue fees are—”

“Yes, that’s my daughter. Fine, whatever, I’ll send you a check. You know, I thought your call was an April Fools’ joke—”

“I can assure you, we do not play jokes at the library. We take this sort of thing very seriously—”

“Apparently. How much do I owe you?”

“Seven dollars and twenty-eight cents. If you want to appeal—”

“I’ll send you a check. Good-bye.”

Would this day never end? Since I was apparently immune to April Fools’ pranks, there was nothing left for me to do but pour myself a glass of wine and wait for the sheriff to show up and arrest me.