Friday, September 24, 2010

"Sealed With a Twist"

This is an homage to one of my favorite short stories by Edgar Allen Poe: "The Cask of Amontillado."


The prank wars between rival fraternities on college campuses are well documented, but Frank Fortune had gone too far. I freely admit the video he shot of me in a "compromising situation" with the dean's daughter was a masterstroke, but the way he went about disseminating the thing was above and beyond the gentleman's agreement that generally held sway when it came to such things. The repercussions of the video's viral release were more than I could bear.

I gave him no reason to think a reprisal would be coming. In fact, I made sure to keep my interactions with him on a decidedly positive level. I gave him every impression there were no hard feelings. My smile, which he took to mean we were still on good terms, was in reality the result of my plan for revenge.

Fortune had a hobby. He viewed himself a brewer of sorts, and at the weekly parties our quad of frat houses rotated in throwing he never failed to produce a batch of his most recent swill.

So it was that I found him that night finishing off a large mug off some slop he called "wine." He threw an arm around my neck, confident in our continuing good relations. He was obviously wasted. His breath reeked of licorice and alcohol, and he was decidedly tipsy.

"Monte," he said, slurring the words, "How you doing, man? The dean let you out for the night?"

"The dean and I are okay," I lied. "As long as I keep clean we're cool."


"Speaking of awesome, I need your advice," I said. "My roommate and I have been trying our hand out at brewing. Since you're the local expert on the subject I thought I'd ask for your opinion on our first brew."

"Nats, bro. I'll give it a go. Hand it over."

"Ah, that's the thing. If word got back to the dean I had any alcohol I'd be screwed. Would you mind coming back to the SAE house to try it out?"

He eyed the impromptu stage across the room where a number of the Phi Kappa Psi guys were setting up for the traditional white t-shirt contest.

"I'll miss the show."

"S'ok," I said, "I can always ask Lucas. He claims he's better at brewing than you anyway."

I hadn't taken more than a step before Fortune's arm caught mine in a weak fingered grip. "No way. No way Lucas is a better brewer than me. You take his advise you'll ruin the batch for sure."

"But I don't want you to miss the show."

"I'll come," he said, swaying slightly. "We hurry, we can be back before it starts."

I nodded.


Five minutes later we were in my house heading down the stairs to the sub basement.

"You keep your stuff way down here?" Fortune asked. He was leaning heavily on me as we descended the stairs. I didn't think he would fall, but I wasn't taking chances.

"With the risk the dean may search my room at any time? Damn right."

I led him down the old hallway. The SAE house had been built in the early 1900s. It had been heavily modified during the prohibition era to include several hidden areas for the smuggling of booze. When SAE had purchased the house the first chapter members had discovered the areas. Many had fallen into disrepair and were no longer safe, though some were still used for various purposes.

We entered a room at the far end of the hall. It was scattered about with building materials. Drywall and two-by-fours were stacked in one corner with an assortment of tools lying here and there around the floor.

"What's all this?" Fortune asked.

"We're making this into a new rec room. In the meantime, I make use of this." I led him to the far side of the room where a drywall frame had been erected to cover over an old brick wall. A piece of sheet rock leaned against the frame. I moved aside the sheet rock to reveal an old door, barred with a wooden crossbeam and locked with a padlock. I took a key from my pocket and unlocked the lock. I then removed the wooden beam and pulled the door open. I procured a flashlight from the floor and shined the beam into the open doorway. A small passage made entirely of brick led away from the old door, ending in a jumble of fallen bricks and earth approximately ten feet in. On the floor near the back of the passage sat a small wooden barrel. I pointed at it.

"Good hiding spot, right? No one would ever think to look here."

Fortune burped. "Right about that."

I handed him his mug. "Go try it out."

He swayed a bit unsteadily. "In there?"

"If you don't want to that's fine. I'll ask Lucas."

I turned to leave. Fortune grabbed the flashlight from my hand.

"No, I'll do it." He made his way to the barrel, the light from the flashlight moving erratically as he stumbled forward.

When he reached the barrel I shut the door.

"Hey," he called out. "What're you doing?" His voice was so muffled it was hard to make out. I dropped the crossbar in place and attached the padlock. A moment later he pounded on the door. "What's going on?"

"A little pay back," I replied.

"Good one, Monte." He sounded much more sober now. "Good one. Where's the camera?"

"No camera, Fortune. It irks me that no one will see your humiliation, but I'll learn to live with it. You won't have to suffer long. I estimate you have four hours of air, and then you won't be worrying about anything."

I set the piece of sheet rock in its place on the frame. It covered the door perfectly. A few nails later and the door was completely hidden.

He pounded harder on the door. "Someone will find me. You'll never get away with this."

"My dear Fortune," I replied. "Everyone is at the Phi Kappa Psi party. No one will be down here until morning at the earliest. By then it will be too late."

There was silence for a good long moment.

"He-heh-he-heh-heh-heh. Ha ha ha ha ha!"

Was that laughing? "Something funny, Fortune?" I called. There was no response.


No answer still.

Smiling, I replaced my tools and left the room.


It was forty minutes later at the Phi Kappa Psi house I was approached by a man in a police uniform.

"Are you Monte Tresor?"

"Yes, officer. Is there a problem."

He took me by the shoulders, spun me about and proceeded to handcuff me.

"Mr. Tresor, you are under arrest for kidnapping and attempted murder."

"What? How? I…." It was at that moment the crowd parted and I saw Fortune standing next to another uniformed officer. The baffled look on my face must have spoken to him. In answer, he pulled a cell phone from his pocket and waved it in the air.