It was compassionate Cynthia who first noticed that he wasn’t there.
“Where’s Mr. Rhaïd?” she said slowly. Her refined voice was layered gently: all her time spent in LondonTown had given her a slight cockney lick, but not even that could disguise the worry and fear that crackled across her voice. They were little details that Alexandra had not noticed before, but were starting to emerge after her strange outburst over the cocktails.
“Yes, where?” cried Mrs. Winters loudly, standing up and clapping her hands in the usual way. “Now, if I could have everybody back in their positions and silent please…”
Most of those gathered obeyed without a second though, hushing themselves and baying farewell to those who would be speechless due to death once more, but Cynthia had a stronger opinion.
“This is part of the game?” she cried, true in her exasperation. “Someone is missing and it is still part of the game?”
“Indeed that is the truth,” Mrs. Winters said simply, placidly, “It is the final murder! Thank you, young Cynthia, for such a conveniently-timed distraction, by the way. I don’t think my message telling of possible arrangements of their transport home would have been enough to draw everyone’s attention away from Rhaïd’s exit. Oh, and do not try to look for him out by Mr. Stones; he will not be there, as our Mr. Mahalle is more intelligent that we, in our characters’ eyes, first assumed.”
So that was what it was that Mrs. Winters had been hiding.
“Hush, we must resume our business. It’s rather lucky that your character, or rather your lack of a certain character, gives way to such an open opinion, and not much sense to be quiet. Although, I daresay that is derived from your own displacement.” She giggled. “There are bound to be similarities with such a undefined person.”
“Quite,” Cynthia muttered in an undertone.
My god, she’s gone mad with power… Alexandra pondered, fear for the security of the plans springing more into her mind than the unsteady emotion of her soul.
After a poignant glance from his wife that seemed to say, in that loud way that accompanied Mrs. Winters, ‘go on’, Mr. Winters announced, like some sort of twisted commentary:
“And so, Mr. Nigel Stuart is missing.”
“How can that be?” Azura frowned, “I saw him seated one moment, and then, after I looked up from attending to my offspring, he was gone from his place, and was not even residing by the drinks cabinet. I don’t understand how my eyes could have deceived me about his whereabouts so. Perhaps they are using a trick in a similar way to that which theatres like to fool their audiences by.”
“No tricks, Ms. Peterson. Just pure chance and ability. Of course, he has been really kidnapped by the murderer, that is all.”
Glancing swiftly down at his invite, Joshua announced, “I indeed saw him head off towards the drinks too.”
There was a tray containing a decanter of brandy, the cocktail mixers, what remained of the champagne, and the port wine bottle over at the side of the room where Alexandra was situated, and to the left of the telephone. It was expected of the maid to continue to provide the various drinks for the guests when called, or at the various times that Mrs. Winters had instructed before. She had mentioned that the guests would need such substances to aid their acting skills and enhance the atmosphere; in Alexandra’s opinion, cases like Cynthia needed no more.
It was, usually, Christophe’s job, but at the present, he was concealed, and she was relied on for something away from her custom.
In lieu, it came out in the persons’ instructed dialogue that Rhaïd (known as Mr. Stuart in their ‘little game’) had stepped up to pour himself another shot, and that ‘mistake’ had become his downfall. The mastermind detective of the mystery had been snatched up into the clutches of his very adversary that he was on the verge of vanquishing.