“So let me get this straight you clean statues’ noses for a living?” The man with the assault rifle asked Fred burning him with his eyes.
“I think you’re er… oversimplifying it. The job title is proboscis eviscerator”
“And they are paying you how much to do this?”
“Well it’s a lot more complex than it looks you’d be surprised at how sophisticated an ancient Greek statues nasal cavity is. Not to mention its tenderness. For such level of skill 3000 dollars is fair trade.”
“3000 dollars? And how many do you do in a day?”
“If I really feel the feather dusters biting I can do maybe four or five but usually I limit myself to only 3. Quality is everything you know.” Fred gave out his best fake smile. He could see the cogs turning in the guard’s head. “We could call Marjorie if you want,” he added.
“That’s not necessary,” the guard said straightening up the papers, “it’s all good on your end. You know the way?”
“Alright, and avoid the basement area on the left some movement is going on. For that kind of pay you better get all the boogers out.”
“Of course, without a doubt.”
He watched Fred’s figure bumble down the hall. The man was just about to collect 9000 dollars picking noses, Jack was not one to laugh. Hell for that kind of money he’d pick Fortworth’s nose and Fortworth was the one who got him into this mess.
Fred’s first stop was the bust of Hannibal Barca, the conqueror of Rome. Ironically, the second bust he would clean, that of Scipio Africanus the man who defeated Hannibal, was placed facing Hannibal’s in a staring contest Fred was grateful he was a millennium too late to witness.
He opened his briefcase and got out his D-tip cleaner. Sidney had told him that he was about as gentle as a bull on heat but he’d show her. After this first client he’d definitely show her. The cleaning went on meticulously with only the sound of movement coming from below breaking the monotony.
Hannibal’s tip was lemony fresh when Fred started on Africanus. He’d inserted the wet swap into the left nostril when a bee floated next to him. Images of trips to the doctor nursing sting allergies flashed before his eyes and he jerked reflexively. He watched as the bust tipped over. His hand almost had it: Almost.
He scraped its forehead and it landed with a dull thud. Fred’s jaw dropped as he scrambled to pick it up. He looked into the furious eyes of Africanus whose nose now lay on the floor in three pieces.
He scrambled to his feet. “The hell?” he cursed under his breath. He looked down the hallway; no one was there.
He had glue specially made for artifacts in his car. He looked at the camera across the hallway. Hopefully the guards here were as alert as most guards were at a museum. They’d only review footage if something was amiss. He scurried out.
He bumped into a guard at the doorway. He looked at the name tag to establish rapport quickly; it wasn’t there.
“Hi I just forgot something in my car was running to get it.”
“Well okay,” said the man who towered over Fred. He passed him.
“Hey you! get back here! what in the hell!”
Fred turned. just as he did, he heard the sound of metal sliding across the marble floor. There was a bright flash followed by smoke. Someone barked at them to get down on the floor. The nasal cleaner’s nose was on fire. He went down and felt a boot on his back. cuffs were forced on his wrists and ankles before he was raised up by a pair of arms that then marched him outside. His eyes stung too much to get details of the scene outside.
By the time he was coherent, Fred understood that he had been in the middle of a robbery. The man who had checked his ID was not a real guard. The real guards had been tied up in another location and they were trying to get down to the reason he was allowed in. In the interrogation room, they started by taking his name.
“So tell us Fred,” the detective started, “where were you going when we arrived?”
“I was going to my car to collect some things.”
“The camera’s were disconnected how can we know it is true?”
“Look up my appointment schedule with the curator. I’m sure she can testify to this.”
“There is a damaged statue in the hallway, what do you know about this?”
Fred hesitated for a moment, he exchanged glances with the officer, “you said they disconnected the surveillance system?”
The detective raised an eyebrow not keen on repeating himself.
Fred’s hesitation was brief, “how should I know? Those hoodlums must have no idea how to take care of art.”
Inspired by the Daily Prompt: Bumble