A clumsy bunch of green butterflies

Back in his hotel room Donald noticed that the light of the hotel phone was blinking. Maybe Valerie left a message? Somehow he was hoping that she’d change her mind and show a bit of pity for him. He picked up the receiver and followed the instructions to check the voice mail. There was no message, but for a split second he heard the recorded noise of cars in the street and then a male voice saying “Damned!”. Donald didn’t like this at all. Other than Valerie, nobody knew he was in Vegas, let alone that hotel. He couldn’t help his anger: he took the dummy and gave it a first kick on the side, so strong that the dummy ended up on top of the heart-shaped bed. Donald put the dummy straight and gave it a couple of uppercuts and, while in the air, a flying kick from the side. The puppet, with its wide-open eyes and permanent smile appeared impassive to such violence. On the other hand the uppercuts hurt Donald’s knuckles quite badly, and that irritated him even more. Deciding to take revenge, he stepped into the dummy’s right hand, then took one finger and twisted it and pulled it as if he was opening a bottle of wine. There was a knock at the door.

– “Who’s there?” Donald shouted.

– “Excuse me Sir, it’s the concierge here. I’m here with Mr. Sherman. He stayed in this room the night before you came in and he seems to have forgotten a puppet here. Do you mind if we come in and …”

– “There’s no puppet here!” Donald rushed to reply.

A long silence followed during which Donald tried to work out different case scenarios and the possible reactions.

-“Excuse me,” said the voice again, “but would you mind opening the door? Mr. Sherman is an old customer of this hotel and very much respected. We just want to have a quick look.”

Donald instantly understood that he was in a complicated situation. This Mr. Sherman seemed to have some kind of insider status in the hotel and he obviously knew that Donald was lying, and that the puppet was in the room. The best strategy he could adopt was a controlled transparency: he’d hide the puppet; tell them to have a short look and then politely ask them to leave the room. Donald took the puppet and put it behind the curtains. Then went to the door and slowly opened it with a big smile in his face. His first look of Mr. Sherman gave him goose pimples. He had very thick w-shaped eyebrows that run uninterrupted from one side of the face to the other, and a big, crow-like nose. Without saying a word to Donald, Mr. Sherman went straight to the bed, knelt before it like a monk before a shrine and then proceeded to put half of his body underneath it. When he came back from underneath the bed, he turned to Donald and with a very sharp voice said, “Where is it?”

Donald hesitated. As he walked to the window to add an extra security layer between Mr. Sherman and the puppet he replied with a flat voice “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Mr. Sherman’s face turned purple and his fingers cracked as he clenched his fists. He made a few steps towards Donald but suddenly stopped and noticed that Donald’s eyes seemed to be distracted by something on the carpet. Mr. Sherman followed Donald’s eyes and found the puppet’s finger. He made a feline jump towards Donald who at the same time instinctively dived behind the curtains to take the puppet. Donald grabbed the dummy by the arm but before he could do anything with it, Mr. Sherman had managed to catch one of the puppet’s leg. What followed was a ridiculous tug-of-war with both men pulling from the puppet’s limbs and the concierge throwing short and weak “oh my gods” and making aborted and half-hearted attempts to intervene.

This was the state of affairs when an unexpected noise pre-announced the disaster: Donald suddenly tore apart the puppet’s arm he was pulling from and got ejected like an arrow against the window. With the weight of his body Donald broke the glass, went through the window and fell down. As he was falling Donald could see how several dollar bills where coming out of the puppet’s arm and spreading into the air like a clumsy bunch of green butterflies.

Donald got lucky. He fell into the oily swimming pool and only broke one finger, one arm and one leg. The same finger, arm and leg that the unfortunate puppet lost in the action. When he first opened his eyes Donald recognised Valerie’s face. The police tracked her down through the rental car and asked her to assist them with the investigations. Apparently Mr. Sherman had been under surveillance for several weeks. He was the main suspect in a scam that involved selling fake chips to groups of Japanese tourists. The cops hadn’t been able to gather sufficient evidence to indict him. The various dollar bills hidden in the body of the puppet could have been used as proof against Mr. Sherman, but the puppeteer managed to escape with most of the dummy, and the money stuffed in it. Valerie told Donald not to worry. Her testimony proved his innocence and non-involvement with the scam. She also told him that the nurse asked her if he was covered by a medical plan. A first estimate put the hospital bill for treatment and services at $11,000.

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