01 Feb The Terrifying Tale of Mr. Frankwell and Mr. Smith
Mr. Frankwell admired the display. It was, at first glance, quite simple; just a very nice looking car along with an arrangement of other related essentials scattered around it on pedestals or hanging off of hooks or set on the car itself. That was the thing though; it got you to glance. It was, Mr. Frankwell thought, a marvel of visual design. You couldn’t pass this little display window without looking at it, forcing you to see all the items within, considering whether or not you might buy them – if you had the money, of course. And naturally associating that need to buy things with the logo at the top: ‘Frankwell’s. Fine things for fine people.’
“It certainly is very nice, isn’t it? How much did you have to fork over for those designers again?” a man said. Mr. Frankwell jumped a little. He hadn’t noticed the man join him in viewing the display window. The man was wearing normal clothes for a lower class citizen of London; a flat-cap, a rough beige jacket with a (mostly) white shirt under it, and a pair of ordinary trousers. His attitude was entirely relaxed, with his hands clasped behind his back as he looked on the display and hummed a tune that Mr. Frankwell couldn’t recognize.
Mr. Frankwell collected himself. “You have to pay the top price to get the top service.”
“Indeed,” the man said, still staring at the display. The tune that he was humming bothered Mr. Frankwell. There was something about it that seemed… unconventional. It was a melody unlike any song that he had heard before.
“You clearly know who I am, but I do not know you, young man. Would you care to introduce yourself?” Mr. Frankwell said, extending a hand towards him.
“Oh how could I not recognize you?” the man said, glancing over at Mr. Frankwell, “the whole of London… no, the whole of England knows who Theodore Frankwell, the owner of Frankwell’s is.” With a brisk movement, he grabbed Mr. Frankwell’s hand and shook. When he was done he turned back to the display.
“Well, Teddy – can I call you Teddy? My name is John Smith. Glad to make your acquaintance, and all that,” he said. He’d clasped his hands behind his back again.
“I’d prefer if you called me Mr. Frankwell, I feel that we don’t know each other well enough to…” Mr. Frankwell started, but was cut off before he could finish.
“Look here, Teddy, I’m here on important business. Business involving you, as it happens. I’m a journalist you see. I write things down and then people read it,” the man said. He glanced back towards Mr. Frankwell, and confusing his expression of shock towards his incredulity for confusion over his words, mimed writing in the air.
“I… well… Mr… Smith, was it? If you intend to interview me, I do not mind. However I do insist that you set up an appointment with me through my secretary, like all of my other visitors. Ms. Lundgram will arrange for a meeting and…” Mr. Frankwell was cut off again.
“No, no, no. I don’t want an interview with you. What I’m here to write about is quite different,” Mr. Smith said, dismissing Mr. Frankwell’s statement with a wave of his hand.
“Out with it then! What do you want?” Mr. Frankwell demanded. He was starting to get quite annoyed with this uppity young man. No respect for the elderly, these days.
“A death. Your death, to be exact,” Mr. Smith said nonchalantly. He now turned from the display and studied Mr. Frankwell’s face for a reaction. The sympathetic smile on Smith’s face hadn’t wavered despite his sombre words.
“My death? Are you threatening me, young man?” Mr. Frankwell said, shocked. In the heat of the moment he did not even pause to consider whether or not the threat was real and whether he needed to take action to save his life: the incredulity of the young man’s actions clouded his mind with an all-encompassing anger.
“Not at all. I’m not a murderer Teddy, I’m a journalist. Although I suppose the two aren’t exactly mutually exclusive, even if they are an unlikely combination. But nevertheless, I’m here to record your death, not cause it. Someone else will have to take care of the murdering business,” Mr. Smith said.
“Now listen here, young pup. I’m a very powerful man. If you don’t tell me what the hell you’re talking about I’m going to make sure you’ll regret ever starting a conversation with me,” Mr. Frankwell said. With a quick movement he pulled a small notepad and a pen from the confines of his coat. “What rag do you report to, Mr. John Smith?” he said, his pen poised to record what was to come.
“I work for the Chronicle. And everything is exactly as I have told you, I’m afraid. I could not be clearer. You will die tonight, and I will write a nice story about it for my paper. That’s it. Cross my heart and hope to die,” Mr. Smith said, and motioned a cross over his heart. Mr. Frankwell wrote down the name of the paper, and was about to stuff the notepad back in his pocket when he realized something and stopped to stare at what he had just written.
“The Chronicle? That’s not a paper that I’ve ever heard of, where do you operate from? How new is it?” he said.
“Depends on the point of view, I suppose. For me it’s quite old, but for you, as new as it gets. I think the offices shall be opened somewhere around here in the next few months,” Mr. Smith said, moving his arm about a little to indicate the potential location of the coming office.
“I am done with you. You and your boss shall know what comes of insulting Mr. Frankwell. Good night,” Mr. Frankwell said, and started off away from Mr. Smith at a brisk walk. When he glanced back after a moment, he saw that the man was still standing at the display window, seemingly having forgotten about him altogether.
He had walked along the path towards his town house – the same one that he took to work every morning – for only a few minutes, when something emerged from the roadside bushes to stand in front of him. It was a very large man, and although Mr. Frankwell couldn’t divine much detail due to the darkness of the fall evening, he could see that the man was holding a knife.
“Right then. Hand over all of your valuables and I’ll let you go. Quickly, too, I’m not the patient type,” the low voice of the man said.
Mr. Frankwell was furious. This was just too much. He was far too successful, far too well known to be threatened, twice in an evening no less, by low lives like this brute and that Mr. Smith.
“Now listen here. I am Mr. Frankwell. Do you hear me? Mr. Theodore Frankwell, owner of the Frankwell’s, and…” he started to say. Before he could finish, he felt the blade penetrate his stomach, the pain causing him to gasp for air. He fell on his back onto ground. In a few moments he had been cleaned out, his pocket-watch, his notebook, his wallet, all transferred from his coat to the robber’s.
“Thanks, old-timer. Sorry about the knife,” the man said and disappeared into the dark of the night.
Mr. Frankwell just lay on the ground, his hand on the open wound in his stomach. The pain was radiating throughout his body, making it hard to focus on anything. He wasn’t sure what was going to happen, but he was suddenly very afraid of dying, a feeling that used to be foreign to him.
“Theodore Frankwell was walking down the path towards his town-house that evening, when he was brutally assaulted… no, that wasn’t very brutal was it? Mugged and stabbed, maybe…” a voice mumbled near him, accompanied by the scratching of a pen on paper.
“Help,” Mr. Frankwell managed to croak out despite his pain.
“What?” the voice said, and footsteps approached Mr. Frankwell. He could feel someone kneel next to him, but his eyes failed to focus on the man’s face.
“Oh! You are still alive! This changes the whole story! Everyone thought that you died instantly. I was always of the opinion that a slow, painful death would have been more fitting for a man with your background, rags to riches with a bang for a finish, am I right? All the fittings of a great story,” the voice that Mr. Frankwell not recognized as that of Mr. Smith’s said. He was writing things down on his notepad again, from the sounds of it.
“Help,” Mr. Frankwell repeated.
“Oh, Teddy, I’m terribly sorry. I’m not allowed to. I’m just here to record events, not to change them. That’s a job for other people. If I did help you, I would lose my job. And probably get a fine of some sort too. And besides, don’t you think it would be a waste to ruin a great story like this just for a measly life?” Mr. Smith said. Mr. Frankwell felt him stand up, and heard him pat some dust off of his trousers.
“I’ve got to be going. Rest in peace, Teddy,” he said.
“Help,” Mr. Frankwell said, but there was no response. There was no one there anymore to hear him say it.