1. Write a story about a New Years Eve party that causes time to stop.
2. Use the following in your story: an undercover detective, the back of a converted van, and a box of Franzia (wine).
“But what does it mean?”
She titled her head to the side and then shook it slowly, which either indicated that she wasn’t sure or that I was an idiot.
“Come on,” she towed me out of line and toward the head table, where several high muckety-mucks were sitting.
There were four notable scientists sitting at the head table, with their wives, all of whom were over 60 years old. The man in the center, Professor Randall Alms-whatever, was a short man with snowy white hair and a bushy mustache. He was wearing a black tuxedo with gold highlights, and a broad red ribbon with a large medallion on it. Probably some award or something.
My wife interrupted him while he was ordering from a parchment menu.
He glanced up at her over his half-glasses, frowning. Then he smiled.
“Ah, Corrine. So nice to see you.” He finished his order with the waiter and then took off his glasses and gave my wife his full attention.
“Sorry to interrupt,” she stammered and then cleared her throat. “Professor, I’d like to introduce you to my husband, Henry Wainwright. Henry is a public defender. Henry, Professor Reginald Almstedt, quantum physicist and winner of the Nobel prize for astrophysics in 2010.”
The professor stood offered a warm hand. He looked me in the eye and said, “Your wife is a wonder. It’s a pleasure to meet you.” His eyes, just for a moment, seemed all black like the blankness of space.
“Henry has something for you,” Corrine said in a bland manner.
I offered the professor the folded note. He read it silently and slipped it into his pocket.
“What does it mean, sir? I mean, I know it’s a part of a formula but I wasn’t sure…” Corrine trailed off.
His benevolent smile didn’t move past Corrine to me.
“It’s nothing to be concerned about, my dear. Thank you for bringing it to me.”
The professor sat down and started on his salad. Obviously dismissed, we made our way back to the end of the buffet line, which had become serpentine.
Corrine stood in front of me, lost in thought.
“So that’s it? Mysterious note turns out to be nothing?” I complained.
She turned and gave me a flicker of a smile over her shoulder.
“With the red velvet tux, I at least expected the note to contain a ransom note or something.”
“You and your suspense stories,” she grumbled. “It was probably just a graduate student with poor taste turning in a late correction.”
“On New Year’s eve? School isn’t in session.”
“Thank the heavens for that.”
Which was an odd thing for her to say, I thought. We grabbed our plates and loaded up on the bountiful table of Professor Almstedt.