There were five boxes stacked side by side in the kitchen doorway.
At the sight of them Maria fainted and fell to the linoleum. Andre and Henry scrambled to her side.
Then Shakespeare poured a glass of water over Maria.
Andre, who was holding Maria's head up, started to say, "Wha ..." when Maria began to thrash her hands and curse at Shakespeare, "...You crazy shrimp, what are you doing?"
"He's just trying to help you, Maria," Henry said, wondering when Maria was going to explode.
"Yeah, like he said," Shakespeare snapped.
"Sure sure, it's probably gasoline!" Maria cried, her bracelets jingling, her hands flailing, and her eyes crazy. Maria had exploded later than Henry thought she would.
Andre cleared his throat, "Ahem, people we have trouble here, big trouble, so SO BIG."
Maria stood almost knocking Andre and Shakespeare to the floor, "Even bigger than you, maricon!"
Suddenly all eyes turned to Diego, who had begun stacking the boxes end on end. There was a sunny haze in the kitchen that day in spite of the number of skulls that seemed to be piling up.
"I think they look better end on end than side by side by side, don't you, Henry?" Diego said whilst hoisting the last box on top of the pile.
Henry scratching his head, staring at Diego said, "What is the difference?"
Then Shakespeare chimed in, "Isn't somebody going to open up the boxes?"
"Why, why, why?" Maria cried out, pulling on Andre's arm, "They all have heads in them! Must we degrade our eyes by opening them, looking out on the dead like voyeurs?"
Andre, pulling his arm out of Maria's grip, responded, "Well, how are we going to know for sure? Sure, we can guess at what is inside those five boxes, but how will we know with the utmost certainty?" Andre grimaced, spinning his head around, staring at everyone one by one like he was Inspector Clouseau about to fall on his rear.
Suddenly and without warning, an unfamiliar voice broke out over the kitchen. All (living) heads turned to see a small man in an overcoat wearing a purple beret say, as he passed by the pile of boxes entering the kitchen, "We can be pretty sure there are five more heads in those boxes. Good day, I am Fransau, and we have some business to discuss."
Then Andre fainted.
Ever vigilant, Shakespeare tossed a glass of water on Andre's head.
Andre, shaking his head, thrashing his hands, said, "Who are you, the waterboy?"
Shakespeare responded, pointing his head toward the floor, "When I was a child my puppy died because I didn't wake him up in time."
"In time for what?"
"For him to run out of the fire."
"AY, I AM SO SORRY LITTLE ONE," Maria cried out and ran over to Shakespeare, then she leaned down, smothered him in her arms and cried, "Poor poor poor, poquito!"
"HELP!" Shakespeare said, trying to free himself from Maria's grip.
"Shakespeare, she is just trying to help you, by the way there is no fire here," Andre said vigorously, pointing his fingers at Shakespeare.
Henry stamped on the floor and said, "Um, we have a gentleman here who wants to conduct some business."
Maria released Shakespeare and cried, "Oh my, we almost forgot; there is a stranger among us, a stranger who means us no good." Her eyes gleamed and she glared at Fransau like she was about to spit on him.
Then Andre, slapping his head, let out a cry that could wake the dead. "My chickens have finally come home to roost!"
"Always about food isn't it?" Shakespeare snapped.
"Not now, Shakespeare. I recognize this man; he used to work in the mayor's office." Andre broke out into a cold sweat. Every part of his body quivered.
"Are we having chicken tonight?" Diego whispered.
Fransau removed his beret, tipped his head, slowly stepped over to Andre and said, "Ah, we meet again, Andre."
Maria scrambled toward Andre. Standing between Andre and Fransau she said, "You mean to blackmail us, sir, you scoundrel!"
"Blackmail is such an ugly word," Fransau replied, holding his index finger in the air as if he were about to catch a breeze. "Let's just say I won't go the police and name Andre as an accomplice in the mayor's shooting if you all do one tiny thing for me. Give me Clarissa. I can make a fortune with her on the freak show circuit."
Shakespeare said, "Okay."
Quickly Henry intervened and said, "Would you be needing a blind midget too?"
Maria suddenly jumped in the air. The sound of her bracelets could be heard for miles, " HOW DARE YOU! YOU EXPECT US TO TURN HER, OUR ONE MISTRESS, OUR GIFT FROM GOD OVER TO YOU SO YOU CAN CAGE HER UP AND TREAT HER LIKE A FREAK? SHAME ON YOU! SHAME ON YOU FORVER AND EVER! MAY YOU ROT IN HELL!"
Fransau simply responded, stepping even closer to Maria, "It is Andre's freedom or hers. It's up to you."
Shakespeare raised his hand and said, "By the way, where did you get all those skulls?"
"I bought them at Skulls R Us. Never you mind, they are just for effect; to show you all what I am capable of." Fransau tightened his overcoat, walked over to the pile of boxes, opened one, took out a head, and began to laugh hysterically.
Then Diego nudged Henry and whispered, "I think he is crazy."
Henry's wing sank.