Azura’s eyebrows shot into the beginnings of her vibrant hairline. It took another moment for the thin, pencilled lines to sink back to their original place in her features.
“It seems you have misplaced your wisdom to an area where you have no visual or physical grasp of it,” she remarked quietly.
Although it led to a couple of the guests shooting either, and both, of them confused looks, Mr. Winters ignored the arrogant actresses declaration of the sanity of his mind. Alexandra noticed that he was becoming an expert at dissolving possible upcoming conflicts. She’d never noticed it before, but the lord of the house was far more sensible than his war-torn, merry-making, and port wine-drinking exterior self. Once again, the family had done the formal English tradition of keeping up appearances!
“And, it seems so far, that you, Mr. Renfield, are the most involved in your brother’s death-”
“Well, it seems that his death has sprung from various actions of yours…”
“I say, chaps, I think my brother’s death comes from his own actions. He had his own secrets, you know. Besides, we were estranged for too long.”
“Hmm,” Rhaïd managed to interrupt. “So the ‘golden brother’ had done something bad himself?”
“Don’t ask me,” Mr. Stones defended. “Believe it or not, I didn’t know much of my brother’s movements. He, of course, kept to himself…and his money.
“And, believe me,” he repeated, “anyone could have been out to get him. In fact, his study was recently ransacked. No money taken, he just told me when we met up today, not even any papers, it seems; whoever it was obviously did not find what they were looking for.”
“Or found the information they didn’t come looking for…” muttered Cynthia, her voice echoing with her puzzled thoughts, a mirror to her face.
“And…” Azura figured, her voice rising in triumph. “Whoever has the information that they discovered could also have the key to the mystery. A motive to keep Mr. Renfield quiet about bad business.”
“So dear Daphne knew about some ‘bad business’ he was once tangled up in?” Cynthia said. Her ‘dear’ was awkwardly forced, and the table knew all too well why.
“Everybody has a past,” Azura answered. “Even if they would rather forget it.” And here, Alexandra saw her glance involuntarily towards Mr. Stones.
“Perhaps Daphne was involved… You never know what girls are up to these days.” Joshua grinned cheekily, despite the deadly situation that they were all thrust into.
Mrs. Winters gasped and blushed dark red at the thought of her daughter in ‘bad business’. Alexandra crept forward but she was brushed away by the lady of the house just as fast.
“Let’s not jump to conclusions!” Her airy voice managed to push itself through the newfound gossip that was brewing. She was slightly breathless, yet she still held the air of command.
Suddenly another point of curiosity poked at Alexandra’s mind.
Did Mr. Stones keep these little nuggets of information to himself all this time deliberately? wondered Alexandra, or did the instruction the mistress gave him tell him to keep it a secret until as late as possible, as late as now?
Alexandra had briefly seen the invites one evening as she was helping to tidy up in one of the studies. The master (and Christophe) had used the new typewriter to print them up, the flimsy little things. The monotonic font had been decorated with yellow inked flowers and swirl decorations as a front page-cum-envelope.
The interior pages had consisted, as far as she had seen, of a personal character biography: a page of how they dressed, and who they were related to, and any business or life-style assets they had; another page was dedicated to points that the ‘player’ could tell the other guests at the beginning of the afternoon. Underneath that were instructions as to when or how the other snippets of information (which, apparently, were displayed on the next pages) would be revealed. Mrs. Winters had added in a scrawled note that the murderer was to be written on the last page of that player’s copy, along with a motive and possible opportunity time. She had also hastened to add that players would be notified shortly before the part of the game (that came about following various conversations that would eventually arise) in which the ‘death’ would happen.
“Such fun” had been her final remark.