Continuing from Part 3, the conclusion (finally) of…
Max and the Lost Shakespeare Thank-You Note, Part 4: All Thanks Being Equal…
The yellowed piece of paper in Maxine’s hand read:Thanks for hiring me to write the bible! I didst the very best I was able. Now everyone can be churchin’, From viscount to urchin. (To ‘Wm. Shakespeare’ please make the check payable)
She carefully rolled it up in her hand and looked at the muscle-bound man pointing the gun at her. “Agent Little Dog. I have to admit, I wasn’t expecting to ever see you again. Especially not so… inflated.”
“Oh, that’s who that is!” Bonkers exclaimed. “From that time with the penguin and the cave and the pies. I knew he smelled familiar.”
“Yeah,” Max said. “You’re involved with a lot of bad stuff. You must be a terrible FBI agent.”
“Hey, don’t judge my day job by my personal interests.”
Bonkers asked, “How did you get here?”
Maxine answered for him. “That’s why we were delayed at the airport. To give us time to find that folder about this place, and for Little Dog to be here waiting for us.”
“Is that a lot?”
“Yes, that’s a lot!” he barked.
She smiled. “Wait a second, did you put on all this muscle because I called you Agent Little Dog?”
“Oh my God, you did! All for what? For this?” She held up the poem. “You know, of course, this is clearly a fake. It’s faker than quacamole.”
“Quacamole?” Reginald asked.
“It’s faux-gaucamole made from pureed duck livers, for those committed to a cruely-filled diet. The point is, this poem is a hoax.”
He shrugged. “Who cares. It doesn’t matter what it is, it only matters what people think it is. Or think it might be.”
“And that’s why you hired me. I wondered why it seemed so simple to find, and then couldn’t help but notice that when I asked why the Englishman wanted me for the job he didn’t say it was because I’ve found hard-to-find artifacts, he said it was because I was ‘well-known’ for finding artifacts.”
Little Dog said, “We just needed everyone to know the intrepid Maxine Cho was on the case. Tragically, she died in pursuit of the artifact, which – of course – only makes it more desirable.”
“And that’s why I sent out letters to friends in the press about everything I was finding – including that the poem is a fake.”
Bonkers tilted his head. “You did? When did you have time to do that?” He cocked his head the other way. “What friends in the press?”
Little Dog laughed. “Either way it’s a benefit. We were kind of counting on you to do so. That’s the beauty of conspiracy theories like this – the more you insist it’s fake? The more people will take that as proof of its accuracy.”
There was a pause.
“Aaaaand I was, uh, counting on you counting on me to do that.”
“No, you weren’t.”
“No. No, I wasn’t.”
“What’s the plan now?” Reginald asked.
“I’m going to go with running.”
Max threw the old pistol at Little Dog and she and Bonkers ran for the side door. Little Dog fired, but only succeeded in shooting a ceramic poodle. The blast sent poodle-shrapnel everywhere and Maxine had to dive through the door, on to the ground of the side alley. She looked up, and in to the faces of a group of angry looking young men. They had clearly been drinking.
Little Dog ran out behind them, gun in hand. He stopped and stared. “Who the hell are these people?”
“Agent Little – uh, I mean, Agent Manly Muscle-Man Man,” Max said, picking herself up. “This is the Brixton branch of the Society For Tolerating No Kerfuffle About Shakespeare.”
“Shit,” Little Dog muttered. “Shakespeare hooligans.”
“During our delay on the runway, I couldn’t help but notice our Scottish pilot’s lute tattoo.”
Bonkers said, “I thought that seemed like an extraneous detail at the time!”
“The trademark of the STNKAS.”
“Arrin tae tha bogollin toomargan!” the pilot said.
One of the other men, with a shaved head and a nose that appeared to have broken annually since childhood, said, “And wos’ all dis about a Shakespeare fenk you note?”
Maxine handed him the yellowed paper.
“Wot, you fink dis is funny? ‘Istory’s grea’est wordsmif writin’ a limerick?”
A burly man with red cheeks read over his shoulder. “I’ve seen better poetic cadence in the commoners’ lines in Julius bloody Caesar!”
This got a laugh from the other hooligans.
Little Dog held up the gun. “I’d remind you that I’m armed.”
“Also,” Max said, “he can bench press any one of you.”
“Besides,” Little Dog said, “Gentleman, it hardly matters if it’s real or…”
“’Ardly matters, he says! Muckin’ about wif a phony Shakespeare, and ‘e says it ‘ardly matters!”
“Contafarthan!” the pilot growled. And on this command, the men charged Agent Little Dog.
Max and Bonkers slipped out amidst an astonishing cloud of profanity and head-butts. They ran to the end of the alley and tried to join the normal flow of foot traffic.
“Well,” Bonkers said. “Now what?”
Max sighed. “We’re probably not going to get paid. But we’re alive.”
“I’m not,” Reginald whined.
Max rolled her eyes. “Okay, no one’s killed us to inflate interest in a fake Shakespeare.”
“What about the Englishman back home?”
Max smiled. “I did actually send letters out about what was happening, but not to the press. There’s a lesser-known theory that Shakespeare was a bear. The Shakesbear Society meets at The Grizzly Bar, and they were not impressed.” She sighed. “As for us, though… I’m not sure how we’re going to get home… maybe we’ll just do a little site-seeing.”
Reginald said, “I’d love to meet some of the ghosts at the Tower Of London.”
Bonkers wagged his tail. “I want to see Hadrien’s Wall! And Stonehenge! And pee on them!”
“Bonkers, we’ve really got to educate you on what’s in London. Let’s start with a drink.”
“We’re broke,” Bonkers reminded her.
“Reginald, up for a round of ‘Barkeep, there’s a ghost in this beer’?”
“By all means.”