Framed by Nancy Springer



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For picture framer Veronica Phillips, the most dangerous thing that happens to her on a typical day is a sheet of glass breaking or getting cut by an errant wire. When a key comes out of the back of a picture she's redoing, Ronnie soon finds herself mixed up in dark warehouses, dead bodies and harsh scrutiny by the local police for getting mixed up in the crime. Can Ronnie prove her innocence in the murder case, or will she end up being framed? A short story.

Excerpt:

Expecting nothing but the creative pleasure of a reframe job, Veronica ripped the brown paper off the back, wadded it and lobbed it into the trash. Reaching for the pliers to pull the brads, she asked, “So you think this guy’s had a sex change or something, Lois?”

“Who knows?” Putting on her coat to leave, the boss rolled her eyes. “His phone’s a wrong number, they returned the postcard I sent him, maybe he’s deep-sixed with Jimmy Hoffa. Who knows what goes on with customers? Look at the art they bring in. Look at the mats they put on it.”

“I’ll say.” Puce and fuchsia on a lithograph; what was somebody smoking?

“Another cowsy-wowsy print. Mat it up nice and some schmo will buy it.”

“I’ll do my best.” Veronica pulled the last brad and lifted out the backing.

“Well, I’m outa here. See ya, Ronnie.”

“See ya,” Veronica echoed automatically, staring at the strange little parcel she had just uncovered. Or not strange, exactly, but quite out of place, taped to the back of the fuchsia mat. Why would somebody sandwich a key inside a frame job?

A key in a clear plastic bag. Ronnie pulled it loose and looked at it more closely. Looked like some sort of locker key. And a business card. With one stubby, callused finger Ronnie coaxed the card out of the bag and read it: GROAT’S MINI STORAGE. And scrawled in Bic pen the number 129.

“Huh!” she said.

“What’s that?” Tim, the other framer on the evening shift, had just come in. She showed him her find. It was good for a lot of joking and speculation over the next four hours, during which she reframed the lithograph in a really classy cream black-core mat with V-groove.

“Groat’s Mini Storage. Isn’t that where they had an Elvis sighting or something?”

“I doubt it,” Ronnie said. “It’s down near where I live.”

“Well, something happened there. I can’t remember. Clinton did it with some woman there? Princess Di’s ghost?”

When it got near time to close, Ronnie said, “I’m just going to drop the key off.”

“Sure.”

That night? Why not; it wasn’t like there was anybody waiting for her at home. Since the divorce, the less time she spent at home, the better. It felt good to walk into Groat’s 24-Hour Convenience Store. Lights. People. She asked the man behind the counter, “You’re under the same management as the mini-storage out back, right?”

“Right. You want to rent a unit?”

“No. I found a key.” She laid it on the counter in front of him. Leaning on his plump forearms, he stared at it but did not touch it. He had eyes like a dead fish, expressionless.

  • Published by: Untreed Reads


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