The Case of the Stone Lions by Charles Cole

The Case of the Stone Lions
Charles Cole

My ex-wife, Janice, an intersection of deep-rooted quiet and calm like the library where she researched, was agitated. The sight was both alarming and darkly funny, like the time my third-grade teacher, Sister Anna-Maria, had blown a big bubblegum bubble on a dare and it had exploded in her face!

We met at her building’s roof-based smoking area, our apartments and workspaces being off-limits to each other while we adjusted to our recent legal uncoupling. Janice was pacing excitedly.

Joe, it was a publicity stunt run amok, and now we can’t get the genie back in the bottle!”

Sorry, Janny.”

You’re the only one in my social circle who knows anything about genies. Help me!”

My detective business had recently taken off when I’d been hired to assist a genie with a missing lamp. Now, based strictly on word of mouth, most of my clients were non-humans.

The two stone lions at the entrance of the library are gone. Have I got it right?”

Gone?! No, they flew away! They were statues of winged lions, like gryphons. Because a library is a place of nobility where your imagination can take flight. On our hundredth anniversary, we covered them with sheets while we were secretly cleaning them and polishing them, and we asked all the kids in the neighborhood to wish them alive. The wish went viral. Kids all around the world took part!”

That’s a lot of kids.”

Exactly! The wish apparently reached critical mass. We removed the sheets at this big public unveiling. The lions, with large sharp teeth, were very much alive. Edgar and Elsa roared at each other, unfolded their wings, which were a lot bigger than I expected, and flew into the sky. We haven’t seen them since.”

Sorry.”

You didn’t do this, did you, as some sarcastic parting shot, through your genie?”

Of course not!”

What if they eat someone? Would that be our fault? What if they come back, and our patrons are too afraid to use our services?”

I’m sure you’ve done the research. Who carved them? Where was the stone from? Was there any magic involved?”

Nothing. Can your genie turn them back?”

He wasn’t my genie; he was a client. I don’t know where he is. We’re not in touch. Now that they’re alive, I’d feel weird turning them back to stone. There’ve got to be other options.”

Consult your faery-folk friends, please.”

Back in the office, I asked my receptionist, Calendula, to review our recent cases, looking for a possible connection. Calendula was, uniquely, half-human and half-rosebush. “If you wanted to feel less alone, to be around others like you, where would you go?”

There are no others like me, but I suppose the arboretum.”

Good girl. I’ll visit the zoo. Look into the place where the gryphons were carved. See if anything strikes a chord.”

I hung out with the lions for a little more than an hour. For a relatively pampered existence, they were all muscle. There were no visitors from the sky. Given the number of bite-sized babies in strollers and vulnerable waddling toddlers, I was relieved. I called Calendula.

Bourbon’s Monuments was very apologetic. Not surprisingly, this has never happened before. They bought the gryphons second-hand from an Italian art dealer who in turn bought them from a broke parish with a fire-damaged chapel.”

Arson?”

An act of God: lightning.”

So, were they originally gargoyles?”

Sounds like. And they weren’t in perfect condition when they arrived. There was some damage, but the library thought that made them look more authentic, older.”

I called Janice. “Did someone repair the gryphons for your big reveal?”

The director went overboard, if you ask me. He found the original quarry and ordered them made whole again.”

That’s when they came alive,” I explained.

After some research, I was able to call the mayor of the little Italian village that had been home to their now-demolished chapel. “That’s right,” he said. “Two stone gryphons appeared on the front steps of the local police station, built where the chapel used to be. An anonymous gift. They’re quite realistic!”

He had no idea.

Case closed. I met Janice back on her rooftop. I could have phoned, but I was happy to see her again. Like the gryphons, I was drawn back to my old life.

It had nothing to do with a wish or a genie,” I explained. “They had a chance to fly home and they took it.”

Is everyone safe? Are they territorial?”

Apparently, there’s been no activity since they returned.”

That’s a relief, but you could have told me over the phone,” she said.

And you probably could have asked the magic mirror I gave you where they went.”

I could have,” she said, glancing away. “But we keep him plenty busy. I didn’t want to burden him with any unnecessary attention or stress. I knew you’d come through for me.”

Thanks for giving me a chance to make amends,” I said, “for all the times I overreacted about your long nights at the office, your weeklong conferences out of state. I’ve found a passion for work I didn’t used to have. I’d like to think you’re my role model, my inspiration, to solving each case. It also helps that, lately, my clients are larger than life.”

There was a long silence where we just stared into each other’s eyes. Another man might have been full of regret or begged for a fresh go-‘round, but I was happy we’d ended our relationship amicably. Janice deserved a second chance at work-life balance, and I loved her enough to step aside.

Good luck with your practice,” said Janice, delivered a little more neutrally than I was ready for. “I think you’re finding your stride.”

Me and Calendula.”

Is she really half-rosebush?”

Did your stone lions just fly to Italy?”

Touché,” she said. And that was to be our last pseudo-intimate conversation for many months, until the next time work and life collided.

The Case of the Stone Lions by Charles Cole 1

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