Snapshots #1 — A Flash Fiction Romantic Comedy
Selena Beauvoir smiled as the final tumbler fell into place.
Stepping back, she spun the wheel on the vault door. After a few revolutions it abruptly halted, a simple ‘clank’ sounding from the internal machinery. With a tug, the door swung open.
Her grin widened. Of all the banks to hold her objet du désir, it happened to be this small, archaic institute in a derelict borough of Prague, where security was so last century the cameras fed into an old VHS recorder and the vaults had dial combination locks.
Selena stepped through the vault door, her headlamp cutting through the darkness.
The interior was spare and orderly. Banks of polished oak drawers, each bearing a brass plate engraved with a number, lined three walls. A large oak table occupied the centre of the room, antique lamps standing sentry on each end.
Selena pulled the chains on the lamps, bathing the room in a warm glow. Turning off her headlamp, she turned her attention to the drawers and began her search for 623.
It took moments to find the drawer. Fewer to pick the lock. Removing a small rosewood box with the initials JB carved on the lid, Selena turned to place her prize on the table–and froze in place.
“Mademoiselle Beauvoir, I presume? Celebrated French illusionist–and it would appear, the infamous Bonaparte Burglar.”
Selena studied the woman on the far side of the table. Slightly shorter than herself, the woman was dressed in business attire, long black hair hanging loose in contrast to Selena’s own blonde braids. A photo ID hung around the woman’s neck; her small hands were folded on the table.
I am sorry, ma chère,” Selena responded, “You have me at a…disadvantage.”
The woman smiled. “I am Inspector Amy Nguyen. Interpol. I’ve been looking forward to making your acquaintance for some time now, Mademoiselle Beauvoir.”
“I bet you say that to all the ladies,” Selena said.
“Only the ones that catch my eye,” Nguyen replied.
Selena felt her cheeks flush slightly.
“Well, now it would seem I am the one who is caught. Now that you have me–what will you do with me, cherie?
Selena couldn’t be sure–did the inspector’s cheeks redden a little too? She felt her own heart beat a little faster at the thought.
“First, I must confess–I’m curious as to what has brought you all the way to Prague. I’d like to see what’s in your little box. After that–,” Nguyen laid a pair of handcuffs on the table.
“On our first date, cherie? My, but you are forward.”
Definitely a blush this time. Along with a sparkle in her eyes that matched Selena’s own.
Nguyen smiled, “I prefer the term ‘assertive’. Now, let’s see what’s in the box.”
Selena placed her prize on the table and flipped the small silver latch. With hands on either side of the lid, she met Nguyen’s gaze.
Selena opened the lid.
Blue satin lined the interior. Three small paintbrushes and three small glass vials lay inside, each bottle partially filled with a viscous liquid; one red, one yellow, one blue. A blue felt buffing cloth lay underneath the vials.
Nguyen’s brows furrowed in confusion. “You’re stealing paint?”
Selena smiled. “Not just paint. Nail polish. Nail polish belonging to none other than the first Empress of France, Josephine Bonaparte!
Nguyen’s eyes widened, then narrowed. “Worth a lot of euros to the right collector.”
“Mon dieu! Do you really take me for a common thief? The owner of this security box is the thief! These polishes belong to the people of France!”
“The ‘people of France’. Meaning–you?”
“Well–,” Selina shrugged, “–I am a people of France…”
“–And I’m sure the French authorities would be delighted to discuss that with you. After the Czech authorities, of course.”
“Now, Inspector–Amy. Perhaps we can come to some kind of arrangement? I can paint your nails while we talk about it…” Selena picked up the bottle of red polish and un-stoppered it.
The stench hit them simultaneously. Both staggered back, covering their noses and mouths from the putrid essence wafting from the open vial.
“Oh my god, what is that?” Nguyen exclaimed.
“Mon dieu–I think the polish has putrefied,” choked Selena.
“Close the bottle!” Nguyen did her best not to retch in the corner.
Holding her breath, Selena re-stoppered the vial. “I have changed my mind. You may keep it after all. The people of France can live without it.”
“You mean they’re more likely to live without it,” coughed Nguyen.
“Touché, cherie. Unfortunately, as delightful as this has been, it is time me to say au revoir. Perhaps next time we can do each other nails. And perhaps–,” Selena dangled the handcuffs in front of her, “–I’ll let you put these on me.”
With a wink, Selena threw a smoke pellet to the floor. A cloud billowed up, and when the smoke cleared, Interpol Inspector Amy Nguyen found herself alone.
“Mademoiselle Beauvoir? Your espresso.”
“Ah, merci,” Selena took a sip as the server wound his way among the shaded patio tables. With a contented sigh she leaned back.
A shadow fell across her, blocking the mid-morning sun.
“Inspector Nguyen!” Selena grinned. “How good to see you!”
“Likewise, Mademoiselle Beauvoir.” Nguyen took a seat across from Selena. “I thought I’d return these. It seems you forgot them when last we met.” She slid a matchbook across the table, Café Bonaparte emblazoned on the cover.
“Merci.” Selena tilted her head, “I imagine you would like your handcuffs back.”
“No, you can keep those–for now.”
Selena blinked in surprise. “You’re not here to arrest me?”
“Au contraire, Mademoiselle–Selena. I’m actually on vacation. There will be no arrests today. Besides–,” Nguyen reached into her pocket and placed a bottle of Vishine nail polish on the table, “You promised to do my nails.”
Selena’s surprise grew into a smile. “Inspector–Amy–I’d be delighted.”
About the author
A dabbler in Flash Fiction, Coyote O'Reilly loves the challenge of writing stories in 1,000 words or less. Coyote also loves experimenting w/ different genres, from Romance and Romantic Comedy, to Science Fiction, Fantasy, and even horror.