ahttyy srsrb o o Enh ng l C nn l ai e
Mugs By Ellen Channing Alexis pressed the elevator call button repeatedly. She was in a hurry to get to work on time, and living on the top floor of her apartment building meant a daily struggle with the lift. A melodic ding announced the arrival of her escape vehicle. When the metallic jaws of the elevator slid open, she rushed in and began jabbing the door close button with equal impatience. As the lobby level was already illuminated, indicating the final destination, there was nothing she could do but wait. She popped open the top of her plastic coffee mug and took a sip to pass the time. Her body relaxed as the caffeine began to enter her blood stream. Then her muscles seized up, noticing another passenger on the elevator. There was a thin, shadowy person standing near the rows of buttons opposite her own. She didn’t recognize them, nor could she remember when they got on the elevator. I didn’t see anyone step on with me, but she mused, but concluded that they may have embarked after her, and she simply didn’t notice in her haste. They were wearing a hooded black jacket with the hood up, and appeared to be holding a square of fabric against the buttons. Germaphobe, must be, Alexis thought. They must be running up and down the stairs for exercise, but they got tired and wanted to ride down the elevator. A germaphobe would exercise in an apartment building; they’d be too afraid to run outside or on a treadmill at a public gym. Bored with this line of thinking and still impatient to be off, she tossed her hair and began checking her work email on her phone. Tonight she was going on a date, and so she was eager to get things done and get out of the office early today. This would be the second date with this guy she’d met through a friend. After he treated her to a nice dinner out, she suggested that she should be the hostess for a second date. She would be preparing a nice, stay at home meal to be
shared over this week’s episode of CSI. He was a crime novelist by profession, and so she thought she should play to his strengths. After what seemed like an eternity, the elevator finally reached the ground floor. Alexis raced out of the double doors, not bothering to notice that the hooded figure had used tweezers to pick up one of her hairs, floating away in her wake. Later that evening, Alexis was again standing in the elevator, begging it to move faster. It was 8:15pm, and she had reached full anxiety mode about this date. He had called her in the afternoon to let her know he would have to stay late at his office, but didn’t want to cancel, suggesting dessert and CSI instead. At first, Alexis was very excited to accept this alternative, because she had anticipated being let down. After she hung up, she began to feel uneasy. She fervently hoped that this wasn’t his way of saying “let’s just be friends” and shrug her off. After all, he was a crime writer, and this whole excuse of being late seemed fishy to her. Do writers even have offices? She wondered. Because she had no dessert at home, she rushed out to buy something. Settling on ice cream from a nearby drug store, she was now hurrying to get ready for CSI’s 9:00pm airtime. At exactly quarter ‘til nine, someone knocked at the door to her apartment. It was her date, looking shaggy and disheveled in his most adorable, starving artist sort of way. Smiling, she let him in; relieved that she could smell his cologne. She took this as a sign of his still serious intent to date her. He got settled on the couch, and she traipsed into the kitchen to serve dessert. Generous scoops of ice cream in her favorite, serious office-style mugs were the sweet fare. She liked the high contrast of the colorful ice cream in the pewter and navy gold rimmed glasses, like a high-stakes businessman wearing a garish colored tie. The aesthetic was not lost on her date, who laughed appreciatively. They ate in silence, absorbed by the unfolding CSI drama. He finally broke the silence, pointing out a character in the show.
“He did it.” “How do you know? It’s only been four minutes; they’ve still got 56 minutes to solve the crime?” she giggled, flirtatiously. He winked back. “Trick of the trade. The first person they talk to is always the guilty one, just you watch.” They returned to the program, eager to challenge his hypothesis. Tension was mounting in the show. The main characters were on a high speed pursuit on foot, through the mean streets of Las Vegas at gunpoint. Tension was also mounting in the room. Alexis inched closer and closer to her date, in feigned fear. At that moment, the door to her apartment swung open. They both jumped, sending the mugs flying, shattering on the floor. Shadows of two figures were backlit in the hallway’s fluorescent bulbs. “Freeze! Police!” The intruders yelled, holding guns drawn at arms length. Alexis and her date were too stunned to move, so freezing would not be a problem. One of the officers flipped on a light switch near the door, and Alexis blinked a few times as her eyes adjusted to the sudden appearance of light. The next thing she knew, she was being jostled and shoved towards the doorway, hands cuffed behind her back. “Alexis Connaway? You’re under arrest for assault and robbery.” “What?” she cried, incredibly confused. “I’ve been here all night; just ask my boyfriend.” She jerked her head, indicating her date. He was quick to reply, but his works were not the right ones. “I’m not her boyfriend” he stammered, hands raised. Alexis gave a little scream of shock and frustration, while the policeman hauled her out of the room. “They’ll be plenty of time for storytelling down at the station. For now, you have the right to remain silent.” As the cop read her Miranda rights, Alexis continued scowling at her
date. There would so not be a date three. Unceremoniously, she flopped down on an aluminum chair in a small, unnecessarily bright brick room. She could see her own reflection in the one way mirror on the wall directly opposite from her. Clearly, this was an interrogation room. At least my cuffs are off and I have free movement of my hands, she thought. Two burly detectives strolled in, not the same cops who arrested her. She hoped she would get the opportunity to make a good impression on the pair. They sat down simultaneously, one sipping coffee from an outrageously large mug. Standard PD issue mug, ideal for late night shifts she guessed. The other tried very hard to slam a thin file down on the table. If his intent was to startle her, it was unsuccessful, since this police document had very few papers in it. Thus, they began a rather shaky good cop, bad cop routine. “Where were you today?” the bad cop asked, leaning menacingly (or so he hoped) across the table. Alexis wrinkled her brow. “What do you mean, today? Like I went to work, then came home, and had a stay-in date. What am I even accused of, anyway?” The bad cop snarled, “We’ll be asking the questions here!” but the good cop interrupted. “No, she has a right to know. You’ve been accused of mugging an old woman and stealing her jewelry. Her body was found, badly beaten, around the corner from your apartment.” Alexis looked shocked. She couldn’t imagine harming another human being, as quick as her temper may be. The good cop noticed her surprise, and sighed. “Can I get you something to drink? It’s going to be a long night.” “Tea please!” Alexis replied. The bad cop sat in silence, waiting for the good cop to return with the tea. He flipped
through the three or so papers in the file. Alexis noticed how minimal the document was, and decided this must be a mistake. She had nothing to worry about. The other cop returned with her tea in a Styrofoam cup. It felt crumbly and weird to the touch. She longed for the smooth cylinder of the mugs that she had at home. “So, why do you think I did it? I don’t have any blood on me or evidence of a struggle. Do I look like I could take somebody down? Also, I don’t have a criminal record. I’m sure someone can account for my whereabouts all day.” The bad cop sneered, and skimmed her mug shot across the table. “You have a criminal record now!” Alexis began to bristle. She examined her mug shot. She had smiled during the photo, trying to look pleasant in case anyone came across it in the future. The effect was good. The good cop started to speak. “Look, Alexis. We have your DNA and fingerprints at the scene.” The bad cop grinned gleefully. “Caught you, sucker. If you didn’t do it, how’d your DNA get there?” Alexis started to speak, trying to offer a reasonable explanation, any explanation, but was interrupted by the good cop’s ring tone. He stepped outside. The bad cop took advantage of the absence of his partner to heckle her further. “Your hair was found on the body, and a smudged fingerprint on her purse. Where’s the money? Where’s the necklace?” The good cop stepped back inside, his face as unreadable as the two way mirror. “Alexis, it is time to come clean. We exercised a search warrant on your apartment, and this was found in the air duct above the television.” He showed her a picture of a gaudy necklace, laden with diamonds, rubies, and sapphires. Alexis wrinkled her nose in disgust.
“Ew. That’s something an old person would wear. Why would I want that?” She sat back, arms crossed. She knew things were starting to look bad for her, and tried to work out a plausible reason for this unfortunate sequence of events. The good cop thumbed through the three pages of the file, and commented aloud. “The necklace was stolen after the mugging, sometime after seven tonight. Can anyone corroborate your whereabouts for those hours?” Alexis, thoroughly frustrated, said “I told you, I was at home. I had a date.” “Not so fast, missy” the bad cop sneered. “Your ‘date’ claims that he showed up at a quarter to nine, leaving you plenty of time to mug the old lady, steal the necklace, stash it, and set up the love nest.” “Wait!” It hit Alexis like a thunderclap. “I went out to buy ice cream.” “Did you get a receipt?” the good cop asked as he made a note. “No...” she said, crestfallen. “I paid in cash. But someone might recognize me; I’d be on security tapes at the drugstore!” “Alright, we’ll look at those, but you’ll have to wait here.” The bad cop roughly escorted her to the holding cell, and hissed, “It’s just a matter of time before we get you. You know, it’s always the ones you talk to first that did it.” As the bars slammed shut, Alexis yelled back, “What? Is the police budget so low that they just show you CSI reruns at the academy?” Alexis did her best to be a disruptive prisoner. This wasn’t fair, she was innocent, and she wanted to be heard. She ran her Styrofoam cup from interrogation along the bars of her cell, but it did not make the satisfying clanging sound as the tin mugs do in old Mob films. She eventually gave up, and started to reflect on her current predicament. Who could it be? And why would
they do this to me? Maybe it was my date, or rather, ex-date, she mused bitterly. He was totally unwilling to back me up at all. He could have planted the necklace while I was scooping the ice cream. She boiled with rage as she realized that she was being framed, simply an experiment for a plot for his latest crime book, she was sure. He could have taken a shred of hair from our first date, and planted it at the scene. That’s why he wanted to cancel dinner; so he would have time for the heist. She couldn’t explain the fingerprints, but that might be another one of this “tricks of the trade.” Her famously horrible taste in men just took an epic downturn. What seemed like hours later, the good cop came and unlocked her cell, presenting her with a package of her personal effects. “You’re free to go” he said. Confused, but not wanted to question this turn of fate, she hurried out, signed some exit paperwork, and headed to the front door. A thin man with a hooded sweatshirt was being booked and processed with the bad cop goading him the whole time. When the thin man noticed she was being released, he started screaming hysterically. “She’s being let go? She did it! She’s the first person you talked to, remember?” Alexis didn’t want to stick around and give the bad copy any other ideas. Apparently, CSI crime theories were getting too prevalent; they better change their plot structure soon. Now a free woman, Alexis had no idea how to get home. She extracted her cell phone from the the evidence bag and checked the bus schedule. Just then, her crime novelist date pulled up in his car. He got out and sat next to her on the curb in front of the police station. She tried to ignore him. “I’m sorry about last night,” he began. “But I was right about CSI, you know. The first guy did it.” Alexis gave him a look. “Need a ride home?” he asked, as a peace offering. “I brought you some coffee.” He passed her the glass.
“Coffee from a teacup?” Alexis said, shocked at the impropriety and misuse of the drink receptacle. He grinned. “Yeah, I know. I just thought you’d be sick of mugs.”
If you enjoyed this short story, please visit my blog at www.ellenchanning.com! More by Ellen Channing Carmageddon: A Short Story For Art’s Sake Portable Offices Wild Mouse Chase