Happy New Year – And Thank you for reading all year!

A short mystery – enjoy.

Celebrate In Style

‘Ssh, here he comes,’ Janice said.
Paula grinned and tapped her friend’s thigh. Both girls looked up at Ade as he smiled, ‘Hello, girls, how are you both? Can I offer you a drink?’
Janice slid her glass across the table; Paula picked her’s up and mouthed, ‘See you later,’ and signalled a wave across the dance floor.
‘May I sit with you?’ Ade asked as he waved the waiter across.
‘Wow, Champagne?’ said Janice as the ice-filled bucket and two flutes appeared.
‘Would you like me to open, sir?’ asked the waiter.
The “pop”, barely heard, signalled fun to follow as the cork securely lodged in a sparkling clean cloth, the bottle rested in the crook of the server’s elbow, and France’s finest splashed into the glasses; the next unheard sound was the pretend click of glass against glass. Both drinkers smiled as they tasted the bubbles.


‘I won’t say, “Do you come here often”, as I’ve seen you on other occasions,’ said Ade as he leaned close to Janice’s ear. She shivered, her spine tingled, and, embarrassed, she hid her grin, eyes down, checking her skirt was not too short or just short enough.
‘I’ve seen you too; why have you never spoken to me before?’
‘Maybe, because I’m shy? Or was I unsure of myself?’
‘And now, we are chatting and sharing a wonderful drink. What more do you expect, I wonder?’ said Janice.
‘I want nothing more than to enjoy our drinks tonight, at least, as I must leave soon. But, would you accompany me to another function later this month?’
He finished his glass, kissed her hand and disappeared.
‘Did you upset him?’ asked Paula.
‘No, I, we, I don’t know. But Ade wants to see me again.’
‘Shall I get a clean glass?’ Paula smiled as she slid across the seat.

Janice had not lost a crystal slipper, but she checked her mobile every few minutes. How will he find her? They hadn’t swapped contact details. ‘God, I don’t know his number or where he lives.’
She moped until the doorbell rang, and she ran to answer. She glanced at the frosted glass, hoping to see the outline of a male. But, nothing, she opened the door, there was nobody, she thought the neighbouring children were pranking her, then she spotted the envelope jutting from the letterbox. A crafted handmade envelope sealed with wax boasted her name. She didn’t wait, and she ripped it open. Inside, on the same quality paper, was an invitation.
“Please accompany me to a formal function on Friday this week. My car will arrive at 7 pm”. At the bottom was a signature, Ade.
‘Paula, what can I wear? I’ve nothing suitable for a “formal function”. What have you got? Anything I can borrow?’
‘Calm down, and if he likes you, he’ll be happy to see you in a frock. And, no, I’ve got nothing you can borrow, as I didn’t get the last outfit back.’
‘Oh, yeah, sorry, I forgot about that. Can you come shopping with me?’

‘Sorry, boss, I feel terrible; I won’t come in today. I’ll see you Monday.’ Janice lobbed the mobile onto her quilt and started laying out her mini-skirt, the cost arm, and high-heeled leg pumps. She checked her make-up bag; all there. She struggled to watch the tv, and cooking was possible, but eating was not. Coffee and her favourite music calmed her. Finally, at 5 pm, she was ready. With a few last-minute touches, she listened for any vehicle pulling up.
The mantlepiece clock showed six-fifty-nine; she knew she had watched the minute hand drag its way around. A car door opened and closed; Janice rushed and opened the door. A chauffeur was about to ring the bell, but he was too slow; the door opened, so he guided Janice to the limo’s back door.
‘Where are we going?’ Janice asked.
‘You look perfect,’ said the driver.
Janice grimaced but remained silent. She checked her favourite pop stars on Instagram, then movie pin-ups on Pinterest, and she was bored of TikTok and social media as her wifi failed. Finally, she packed her phone away. The car left London’s Friday night traffic and headed west out of the city. After an hour of quiet classical radio tunes, trees and villages came and went. Soon, only the headlights were the only illumination. She rechecked her phone, no signal, no battery, ‘What the f…’ she breathed.
‘Please, where are we?’ Janice asked.
‘Nearly there, madam.’
She tried to read the road signs, but they were moving quicker than she realised as she only caught a glimpse.
They turned towards a building.
‘Is that a golf club?’
‘It is, yes.’
The clubhouse came and went. They pulled onto a driveway; Janice looked out of the rear window to try and catch the name of the club.


Solar lights cast a dull glow on the roadway, and trees appeared to block any view. Then ahead was light, a grand building with luxury cars scattered around the parking area.
The driver leant back and handed his passenger a mask. ‘Please put that on.’
‘Oh, Valentine’s Ball?’
She slipped it over her head without disturbing her hair.
‘It is surprisingly heavy,’ Janice said.
‘Yes, madam, silver to match your outfit.’
‘How did you know what I’d be wearing?’
‘Allow that man in the tailcoat to lead you to your host.’
Janice was impressed by the collection of luxury cars and the men’s dinner suits. She was guided into a hallway with teak doors lining the corridor, a muted chit-chat could be heard, but no live music, “surprising”, she thought. It was then Janice noticed she was the only female. She looked left and right, pulling her arm away from her guide.
A click whispered in her ear. Her “Valentine Mask” darkened to black as the eyeholes closed. Her elbows were clasped to aid her balance. She hoped a cheer would go up, welcoming her as the surprised guest. But, instead, her arms were secured to chains and hoisted high.
She held the steel loops and twisted her body and head left and right, straining to see or hear anything. Then, in silence and darkness, she felt her arms stretch, and her body slowly lifted from the floor.
‘Stop it, now, it hurts,’ she screamed.

Paula tried to call Janice’s mobile; she tried many times. Finally, she went to her home, knocked at her front door, and peered through the frosted glass. Then on Monday, Janice didn’t turn up for work.

The END

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