Friday the Thirteenth.
That should've tipped me off, right there. I'd never been a superstitious man, per se. At least; not prior to this. But,...well, I guess I better start at the beginning.
The name is Calvin Cahill. "Cal" to my friends. Ex-harbor patrolman for the NYPD. Now, a private detective specializing in surveillance of extra-marital trysts at sea. In this case, however, I'd been hired by J. Amos Saunders (the richest guy on Fisher's Island*) to keep an eye on his daughter, Penny. It seems that she and two of her classmates from Miss Salisbury's School for Girls, in Northwest Connecticut, were going up to West Springfield, Massachusetts, for the weekend.
"Have you ever heard of the Big E?" he'd asked, right off the bat.
I nodded: "The Eastern States Exposition. Biggest agricultural fair in New England! Been running almost every fall since 1916."
"Precisely! I want you to follow her there, to make sure she's not holding some clandestine rendezvous with her ex-boyfriend, William Dalton."
"Why? Is he some fortune-hunting gigolo?"
"Well, his nickname of 'Wild Bill' certainly wasn't acquired through his flamboyant touch-down dances as a college football player! He goes to Harvard, by the way. While I am president of the Yale Alumni Association."
"Ahhhh!" I replied (the proverbial light finally dawning).
"He took the bribe I offered him, to dump Penny, willingly enough," he'd continued: "But, I wouldn't put it past him--or her--to reconcile behind my back."
So, there I was. Opening Day of the Big E; Sept. 13, 2013. Following six of the longest, prettiest legs I had ever seen! Four of those legs belonged to Penny's identical twin roommates; Billie and Nellie Thorp. Their father, a wealthy high-end antiques dealer, had named them "Memorabilia" and "Paraphernalia!!" So, I wasn't _too_ surprised that _they_ were trouble-makers at their school. Yet, what troubled Old Man Saunders the most was that they'd converted Penny to their rebellious ways, as well.
Hence, her taking up with a slightly older man. And, a non-Bulldog, at that.
The trio was easy to keep track of. While Billie and Nellie might have identically long blonde hair, and matching blue eyes, they were each dressed differently. Billie's ensemble consisted of a bright green, long-sleeved shirt with blue denim shorts and brown sandals. While Nellie's outfit consisted of a short-sleeved, dark green T-shirt with pink shorts and gray-and-orange-striped Skechers. Penny, herself, walked ahead of them. Short-sleeved, dark blue T-shirt; white denim cut-off shorts (with matching sandals); shoulder-length, dark brown hair; and bright blue eyes.
Our first stop (after paying admission) was the Maine Pavilion on the Avenue of States. You see, exhibits and handicrafts unique to each of the six New England states are housed in replicas of their old colonial government State Houses! And, evidently, the girls were famished enough that they were willing to wait fifteen minutes in line for a Maine baked potato (with melted butter) apiece.
After finishing their spuds, they went next door to the Vermont Pavilion. It wasn't easy keeping them in sight, with that big crowd slowly circling through it. So, I was secretly glad when Nellie called out to the other two.
"Look at this, guys! 'Emu oil for sale.' What the frig is that?"
Billie shrugged, indifferently: "It's probably used on squeaky emus."
Our next stop, after that, was the Rhode Island Pavilion. There, they passed a booth dedicated to the author of the "Magic Sceptre" books for children. And in a relatively small barrel, just below the counter top, were replicas of that literary staff.
Penny, with a mischievous smile on her face, decided to buy one of them. When her puzzled friends inquired why, she replied:
"When I meet up, later, with Bill, I'll pretend I'm angry at him, for even pretending to let Daddy buy him off. Then, I'll point this thing-a-majig at him and say; 'May you now be as small as you made _me_ feel!' "
By this point, however, I had followed them across Storrowton Green to the New England Center. A red aluminum, barn-like building famous for its Big E cream puffs. So, as Penny was practicing this little speech, she was inadvertently pointing her magic sceptre...
The next thing I knew? The plastic white picket fence that had barely come up to my knees was suddenly as big as a California redwood!
* * * * *
For the first few seconds, I was open-mouthed with shock. I mean, come on. A magically shrunken man? Stuff like that is only supposed to happen in lousy science fiction stories!
But, there was no denying what had happened to me when I suddenly had to dodge being trampled beneath the feet of a fife and drum band, playing "Old Saybrook," as they took a short cut through the New England Center. As a result?
I landed on Penny's left foot.
Almost immediately, she looked down and noticed me.
"Ewwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww!" she groaned: "There's a bug on my flip-flop!"
The next thing I knew, she had raised her leg. Shaking it at waist-level in an attempt to dislodge me. But, I had infiltrated enough yacht-racing crews, in my line of work, to know how to hang on to something in rough seas! So, Billie decided to help out. With a disgusted grimace on her face, she pulled me loose from Penny's foot with her left hand. Just as she was about to throw me in the nearest dumpster, however, Nellie came to my rescue.
"Wait-wait-wait! That's not a bug. It looks more like a...a guy!!"
"Who cares?" her sister replied, as she resumed heading for the dumpster.
"But, maybe he's a mutant!" Nellie persisted: "Like that bug-man in MIMIC 2. Only way smaller!"
"I'm _not_ a mutant bug-man!" I shouted up to them: "I'm a tourist...like you three. Now, could someone let me right side up, so I don't get too much blood rushing to my head?"
The trio promptly bought some cream puffs, and headed to the nearest picnic table, so they could pretend to be talking to each other while actually conversing with me. And, naturally, they pounded me with questions as to who I was and how I'd gotten this way. So, I told them my name (though not my occupation). And I also told them about the last thing I had overheard Penny saying as I was about to pass them by, on my way to the race car exhibit.
"I guess you really do have a magic wand, there, Miss..."
"Penny Saunders. These are my friends; Billie and Nellie Thorp."
I nodded up at them, in greeting, and they nodded back. Whereupon, I decided to go for broke. I half-seriously asked if Penny would point the sceptre at me, again, in order to reverse the process. But, my hope was dashed when she got that mischievous look on her face, once more.
"If this really is magic, I can shrink Bill and take him back to school, with me, on Monday! With Dad never being the wiser!! And, in exchange for you two promising to keep mum, you could keep him for yourselves."
To my shock, she pointed down at me. And my alarm only doubled when the twins lasciviously grinned and nodded!
The next thing I knew? They were buying three more cream puffs...so they could stick all six in a white cardboard box. With Billie burying me, face-first, in the blob of whipped cream in the middle of hers!
"No, wait! Plmmmmmmph!!"