Challenge as always courtesy of Chuck Wendig and can be found here. I rolled a natural 20 and got Detective as my genre and in my head Detective always translate to Noir.
Note, it’s be years since I read the fairy tale or watched the adaptation in Jim Henson’s Storyteller, so if the details differ from what you remember, that’s why. I don’t have an old or rare version lying around somewhere, I just have a bad memory.
Like all the others, this story started with ‘a dame walked into my office’. After that came trouble, as always. It’s not that I never learn; by now I’m perfectly well aware, that a beautiful woman walking into my office means trouble and lots of it, but somehow my common sense is always overruled by wishful thinking. And in this case, there was more than enough to be wishing and thinking about. Long red hair, legs that seemed to go on for miles and eyes dark and dangerous like the sea during a storm.
And so it was that, rather than send her packing, I told the lady to have a seat and pour her heart out. I even offered her a drink, which she declined, so I drank it myself, while I listened.
“Please, Mr. Horowitz “It’s my husband … He’s … He’s disappeared.” She lifted a handkerchief to her eyes.
I frowned. “Listen, Mrs…?”
“Kitsis. Emma Kitsis.”
“Mrs. Kitsis. In most of the cases I have involving disappeared husbands and boyfriends, I find things that make my clients wish that they had never hired me in the first place.”
She looked at me indignantly. “It’s not like that,” she said, like so many before her.
“Be that as it may, I will be requiring payment up front.” Some things I had learned.
“Very well. Money is not an issue.” She folded the handkerchief with a brisk movement. “But once I’ve told you my story, you’ll see that it’s not like that at all.” She hesitated. “I suppose I should go back to the very beginning.”
“A year ago my father found himself in a dark place. I won’t go into details, sufficient to say that it was a very dark place. My husband … Well, he wasn’t my husband back then … Mr. Kitsis, helped him out of the situation and in his gratitude my father promised him anything. Anything at all. Imagine his dismay, when Mr. Kitsis asked for the hand in marriage of one of his daughters.” She looked down at her immaculately manicured hands and added in a low voice: “He had a deformity, that made him very unattractive to look at. Had never had any luck with women, I guess.”
“That sort of thing is against the law,” I pointed out.
“Oh, there wasn’t actual forcing involved. No-one was dragged off to the altar. My father wouldn’t even ask me or my sisters to do it. But I felt it would be very bad to go back on a promise that had been given out of gratitude, even if Mr. Kitsis was asking for something that, strictly speaking, wasn’t my father’s to give.”
“And maybe you feared repercussions. After all, Mr. Kitsis must have been a man with some power.”
She licked her lips. “Maybe,” she said dismissively. “But that hardly matters now. The important thing is that we got married. And then we got to the wedding night.” She actually managed to blush prettily as she said the words. I wondered how she did it. “And he …” She hesitated once more and frowned. “He transformed,” she said finally.
“Transformed?” I eyed my by now empty glass and wondered if I should have another. “Metaphorically?” I ventured.
“Literally. When he lay down beside me, he turned into a beautiful young man. He told me he was under a curse and that I could help him break it.”
A curse. There was trouble and there was big trouble and then there were curses. My common sense was getting the better of my wishful thinking and I was seriously considering asking the lady to get the hell out of my office. Instead I grabbed the bottle and poured another drink. “A curse. Go on.”
“By agreeing to marry him, I had lifted the curse at night. But for it to be lifted completely, I would need to keep it all a secret for a year and a day. I couldn’t tell anyone.”
I knew what came next.
She looked down and lifted the handkerchief once more to her eyes. “But I couldn’t keep it. My sisters weaseled it out of me. They pretended to be worried about me, about my happiness, but really they were just jealous because I was happy. Anyway, the moment the words left my lips, I heard a roar. I ran upstairs, but my husband was … gone.” She sniffled and looked up at me with those huge, dark eyes, shining with tears. “You have to find him, Mr. Horowitz. Find him and break the curse.
I cleared my throat. “I may not be an expert, but shouldn’t it be you who go looking for him? You, who break the curse?”
She lowered her gaze demurely. “I am with child.”
I looked at her stomach, but there was nothing to see. I fact, it didn’t even look like she had had any breakfast, that was how flat it was. Still, it wasn’t hard to believe that spending several nights in bed with a handsome young man, could have had that result. “Yes, I see why your delicate condition would make it impossible for you to travel the world, looking for your true love.”
She smiled at me, a little too eagerly. “So will you find my husband?”
My common sense and my wishful thinking had a short but heated debate in my brain. There’s no telling who would have won, but then the two glasses of whiskey interfered and reminded both sides, that the lady was married to a wealthy man and that I needed to get paid if I wanted more whiskey. This made my common sense pause and my wishful thinking started to dream about whiskey.
“Yeah, I’ll take the case,” I said, already thinking about where to start. I knew a few birds who might be willing to sing for me.