“Stolen?” Samantha’s eyes were wide with surprise, but the corners of her mouth trembled with mirth.
“Don’t laugh”, Roberto begged, dejected. “The thing is bad enough as it is.”
“Taken from the locked safe inside the locked vault of the locked museum. It is uncanny.”
“But a frog?”
He shrugged. “Well, it is a herpetology collection, after all.”
“And you just found it out because …”
“Because Luiz wanted to see it before going ahead with the trial.”
She made a face, stabbing a small red sausage with a green plastic toothpick. They were at a new lounge bar, one that had only recently opened for business. The service was lousy: the pickled sausages they’d ordered as appetizers had arrived after they’d finished the main course. As a silver lining, that course, steaks with onions and mushrooms, had been superb.
“Don’t call it a ‘trial’. You are being dramatic.”
He looked annoyed.
“What else am I supposed to call it?”
“By its proper name. Research Ethics Committee meeting.”
“A meeting convened to judge me!”
Her brown eyes, the color of dark honey, sparkled.
“To evaluate your conduct.”
He pulled two wrathful draughts from his pint of beer, throwing his head back as if in defiance. His hair was very thin, very blond, and when he once again turned to fix his stare on her, strands fell in front of his eyes. He swept them away with an angry gesture of the left hand.
“You love your euphemisms!”
“It is not euphemism, it is precision. But go on, tell me!”
“Well, as I was saying. I was on vacation and, when I came back to the institute last week, I had with me a very curious specimen, a smallish yellow amphibian with a pair of green ridges on its head and back, and bluish limbs.” He smiled at the recollection. But the smile soon vanished.
“I traveled all the way from that inn up in the mountains with the animal in an impromptu alcohol solution.” Roberto looked distraught. He took a deep breath before continuing.
“I had it on my desk and was filling a form with some preliminary details about the little bugger, so that it would enter our cataloguing system pronto. It’d take just a few minutes and then I would carry the amphibian to the lab, to prepare a more permanent preserving solution, to transfer the specimen to a proper vessel and all, when that paranoid asshole, Filipe, came in. He looked astonished when he saw the frog in the jar, cried that I’d committed an environmental crime by removing the animal from its habitat without a proper license.”
“Screamed!” He looked indignant. “Mortlake, our post-doc student from the US, came running in, thinking someone had been stabbed or something. Pedro, the janitor, came right after him. It was monstrous.”
“Then Camila, you know her, our general manager, barged in, also. It took her a while to understand what the brouhaha was all about, but when she did, she became really upset. It seems that violations of fauna conservation laws are now a big no-no with the donors and public endowment agencies. … You know, nowadays every single ‘worry’ has to be ‘addressed’, you can’t just tell people to get lost and to mind their own business. … Well, in the end, they confiscated the frog, locked it in the safe of the collection vault and that was that.”
“And convened the meeting.”
“Wasn’t the frog going to spoil? If it was in an inadequate solution, I mean?”
“It will keep. The safe is refrigerated.”
“Oh. How’d Filipe know you didn’t have a license?”
“If I had one, it would’ve been processed through his office. And I’d been on vacation, so it was a good guess, anyway. The man is insufferable.”
“So, Filipe got the committee on my back. They scheduled an audience for a few days later. I was there, as was the chairman, Luiz, and professor Rocha, my supervisor, and Filipe himself. They were to decide if I’d obtained the specimen lawfully.”
“And did you?”
He moved uncomfortably in his chair.
I am very selective in stories that I read - and if I am not immediately interested, I will not read at all. But this story captivated my interest from the first word - and kept me interested till I finished reading the story. This story is entertaining, well-written, with an unusual plot twist - I really enjoyed it! Especially I am delighted that a lady solved the riddle!
Wonderful. I like to learn new things about people, places and things when I read a mystery. Refreshing puzzle solved!
Great story! Love a riddle with a twist - and this had a very clever one.
Good one - interesting'hook' and kept me reading. I enjoyed learning a little something and also liked that the girlfriend figured it out! I'll watch for more stories by Carlos Orsi.
Great read. I love short stories and this one was especially good with a twist I never saw coming. Thanks.
The tale was interesting because of the "frog." However, it didn't grab me like many of the other mysteries I've read here. I found myself a trifle bored and the ending did not leave me "gasping." Well written though for sure.
Wonderful storytelling. A dead amphibian brings a story to life! I love a good mystery that keeps me guessing. More please!