The Last Laugh

Flash Fiction Month 2015, Day 5

“So what are you in for?”

“Oh, nothing much.” Carl vigorously chalked his cue, buying precious time. “The boss wanted some stuff stolen from a place, it didn’t go to plan…the usual.”

“Huh.” The inmate with the prominent widow’s peak lined up his shot, took it, and sent the cue ball spinning into the corner pocket. “Was the place anywhere interesting?”

“Uh…” Carl put the cue ball back on the table and sank a red into the side pocket. “Not really. You know, standard secret lab. Nothing out of the ordinary.” It was more or less true. He took his next shot, leaving another red covering the corner pocket.

The inmate took his turn. A wild jab from the cue sent the ball flying off the table and bouncing noisily across the floor. “Frank!” he shouted. “Little help?”

Frank tossed the ball back.

The inmate caught it and handed it to Carl. “So what was the stuff?”

“Just, like, chemicals. Evil chemicals. You know.” Again, technically an accurate description. Carl sank two more reds and managed to leave the cue ball resting right up against the buffer. He allowed himself a smile. He might be in here for a while, but at least he’d be able to work on his Pool skills.

The inmate with the widow’s peak skated the cue across the top of the ball, sending it spinning into one of the reds. The red rolled neatly into the side pocket: his first ball sunk, and it was one of Carl’s. “Darn,” he muttered, half-heartedly. “So, uh, who’s your boss? Anyone I’d know?”

“Oh, I doubt it.” That was pretty much an outright lie. “Kind of a loner, you know? Funny guy, though. Really…funny guy.” It was getting difficult to put a red in a pocket with all the other inmate’s yellows cluttering up the table, but he had a respectable go at it.

The inmate with the widow’s peak stepped up to take his turn again. “Huh,” he said, cue poised just behind the ball. “See, here I was thinking that you were one of the Jester’s minions.”

Carl stared at him in horror.

“I figured you might have been that guy who tried to rob the Larsen Laughter Lab, fell into a vat of itching powder and ended up calling the cops for help.”

The rest of the prisoners burst out laughing. Frank was practically rolling about on the floor, red in the face.

“How…how did you…”

“I’m psychic.” Stefano the Magnificent took his shot—barely nudging the ball—then pressed his fingers to his temples. The cue ball rolled leisurely the table, nudging each of the yellows into the pockets before finally sinking the 8 ball. He turned to Carl. “You owe me one pack of cigarettes.”

“Don’t worry.” Frank, still out of breath, came over and slapped Carl on the back. “You’ve hardly got the worst story here.”

The laughter stopped. The eyes of everyone in the room were drawn to a man sitting in an open cell, staring blankly at the far wall.

“That’s X-ray Ted.” Frank sighed. “He’s a true mastermind. Used his X-ray vision to plan heists in painstaking detail. He could see right through the walls of a bank vault. See what’s in there, see how to get at it. His plans were perfect.”

“So how’d he get caught?” asked Carl.

“That’s the worst thing: it wasn’t his fault. Ted often had to partner up with another supervillain to pull off his heists—you know, someone with more of a brute force kind of superpower—and that was what got him. He joined forces with the Human Fly, and that went fine right up until they had to make their escape.”

“What went wrong?”

“The Fly couldn’t work out how to get out the window.”

“Bzzzzt.” The Human Fly gave an apologetic shrug.

“Oh, of course you don’t mind being in here!” shouted Frank. “You like eating garbage!”

Carl stole another glance at the back of X-ray Ted. If he knew they were talking about him, he didn’t show it. He didn’t even really seem to be in the room.

“He had the perfect criminal career,” said Frank. “He could get into any vault anywhere, and now it’s ruined, all because he’s the one behind bars. Who knows what he’s going through, just trapped in here with his thoughts all the time.”

The sound of a buzzer rattled through the recreation room. “Back to your cells!” called a guard from upstairs. “All inmates, back to your cells!”

Stefano the Magnificent walked over to his door, paused, and turned around. X-ray Ted was still sitting there, still just staring at the wall. Stefano lifted his fingers to his temples.

“I can’t believe they gave me the cell next to the strip club.”

If you’ve enjoyed this story, you can find my work from previous Flash Fiction Months collected in these books:

OCR is Not the Only Font Cover REDESIGN (Barbecued Iguana)Red Herring Cover (Barbecued Iguana design)Bionic Punchline eBook Cover

Click any cover to download that book in your choice of format.

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