“It’s terrible! I trusted her. Not the flushed, ginger one, of course, but the other girl gave me her part to play and admitted (though it took longer than most) that I was the one in the right. I shouldn't have bothered to be anything but unappeasable.”
Ms. Azura Peterson didn’t bother to lower her voice as the others entered the guesthouse. Inspector Whitting swung the door closed with a bang.
“And it would be most prudent to listen to you, Ms. Peterson?”
Azura jumped slightly, and, finishing looking to her sons, turned to scowl at the Inspector. She opened her deeply rouge-coated lips to protest, but before she was able, the policeman continued in his deep, convinced voice.
“If I am to understand correctly, you were not exactly invited to this do, and that made me wonder, as police often chance to. Why have you taken your glamorous time to turn up? Surely you could be off preparing for a theatre show? I asked my sergeant, and he gave me the ‘lowdown’- the street-corner gossip- on you, ma’am.”
He paused, surveying the faces of those present. Alexandra absent-mindedly sat down; Christophe was nowhere to be seen.
“Your career not going too well, is it, Ms. Peterson? My connections told me that your agent is close to dropping you, and that your marriage has already gone the same way.
“Did you think that you could just bombard in here, make yourself noticed and ‘almighty’ again, and then demand that the world turn their misty eyes upon you?”
Azura fumed and bubbled inside. How dare he undermine her?
“It was not my fault,” she suddenly yelled out. “Once my ex-husband began suing for every penny of my fortune-”
“You would not even give me my own money back, Azura!”
Alexandra whirled herself round to stare at the man who had spoken. Peter Stones was red in the face and shaking.
“You?” Joshua cackled with laughter, trying to steady himself from falling by pushing against one of the chairs in such a way that Alexandra was worried it might break. “You and her? Mr. Stones is so petty and so poor that he doesn’t deserve a hair on her head… Yet, your lies bring you unity; you both deserve each other’s lying body.”
Inspector Whitting ignored him, and turned to Peter.
“Mr. Stones,” he said, whilst moving through the throng to the now seated furious man, “though they may sustain you for the rest of your days, and though you wife may not ever need the profit, I suggest you remove her emerald, sapphire and ruby necklace from your trouser pocket immediately.”
Gaping at him (and becoming more and more red with every second), Peter glanced at his left hand as it dipped into the left pocket and drew out Azura’s missing necklace, stolen in that fierce time of darkness. Even the gems buried in the fine silt of a rock-pool will be uncovered by the waves. Mr. Stones stared at the prized find as though he had no idea how it had come to be there.
“Ha!” Breaking into his reverie, Ms. Peterson leant across the table, reminding Alexandra of an eager child receiving much wanted sweet delicacies.
“I should have known that it was you, crook. Well, you will not be hearing from me personally any longer, mark my words. I will strip you of every penny you have and give you no respite!”
“Mr. Stones,” the Inspector interrupted her, “I would also suggest that you return the other objects that you saw fit to take from this room, including a certain Winters’ silver bracelet, and a faux ruby lighter. Thievery will not be tolerated, and you’ll find that other thieves will get nowhere with their advances too. The glamour of jewels is too soon to fade.”
Domestic troubles aside, Alexandra was actually quite fascinated by that which had traversed between the two couples at dinner. Mr. Newton and Cynthia were said to be engaged, yet their conduct between each other had been less than civil, in fact leading to a deep betrayal. Glancing over at the smug Joshua, she wondered if there had ever been any sort of soft feeling slip through his mind.
As for the actress and Mr. Stones, they had divorced already, and did not cease with their spiked words against each other, but Alexandra wondered whether one still had sweet feelings. His head tilted as she spat words at him and his eyes softened to creases…but only for a moment.
What was love if it led to things like this? Would her heart ever burn with hatred for the man she was infatuated with now?
No, Alexandra concluded. I’m not like them. I won’t make their games my play.
“I shan’t put up with this stupidity any more. Mr. Winters, I’m leaving, thank you very much for the agreeable afternoon!” Ms. Peterson spat, pulling Alexandra back to the present day. The lady stressed the words with much sarcasm, as it was clear that she was not at all pleased.
Mr. Winters did not leave his place. His eyes focused and unfocused ahead into the spaces around the table. As Azura gathered her sons at her hands, and Inspector Whitting approaching him, Mr. Winters appeared to focus back into his realism.
“Lady, upon my head, take your leave of this party. In fact, Sir Inspector, we are probably at an end to this misery. You have been invaluable, but your services are no longer required.”
“I was just about to inquire into that matter. It seems that I have sorted everything that needed help to become sorted.”
Alexandra frowned as she surveyed the room again from her place. Indeed, many of the guests were no longer there, and the few left sullen-faced, but she could sense that still something was forebodingly amiss.
Oh, of course!
“Sir…” she called to the retreating policeman. “I would say that you should stay…”
He nodded to her, knowledgeable that, servant or not, she had been correct on a number of occasions, and therefore took his previous place at the table, sipping a little on the warm champagne that remained in his flute.
However, if he had expected any kind of conversation, he would receive none; Mr. Stones, the only other person left in their seat, was sulking over the loss of such wonderful money and the loss of the love of his life. And so, the Inspector turned his attention to the maid, who happened to be hovering nearby.
“Is there something worrying you, Miss Alexandra?”
“I do not think… However, there might be... Let us not say anything for the time-being.”
Mr. Winters was suddenly on his feet, and smiling. His lapse of concentration earlier must have just been an act, one amongst many. To Alexandra, the truth was just a blur amongst these twisted walls she’d stepped into.
“Now, for those of you who have decided to stay, every game, every piece of artwork, and every life declared on high deserves a conclusion. I give you…another detective!”
With that cue, Christophe bounded out of the guesthouse bathroom, from which, Alexandra knew, there was a hatch that opened into the concealed part of the bedroom.
A black blindfold covered Christophe’s gorgeous eyes, and she marvelled at how he did not collide with anything in the room. Again, navigation and travel were part of Christophe; not even darkness could fool whatever he needed to achieve.
“Fate, they say,” Christophe proclaimed, “is blind. Those who pass away into the ether do so by hand of mortal, not by wish of Fate himself. Therefore it seems that those who survive do so by chance also. Here we have seen the very work of lethal mortals, and should be gladdened and gratified that we are not joined with Fate up in the Heavens now.
“Luckily, though, the eyes of the law are far from so blinded.”
He whisked off the blindfold and, to Alexandra, his eyes glowed with the ethereal light he had just been narrating about. Perhaps, though, it was just the effect of the dilated pupils, from being in the dark the best part of the afternoon.
And that, Alexandra supposed, as she gazed into his perfectly-sculptured face, is this end of this chapter of the storybook performance.
However, as things go, the ‘performers’ in the guesthouse had ideas to a different effect.
Azura cleared her throat. She was standing by the door, and it was apparent that not only Alexandra, but also the rest of the troupe had no idea that she was still present. The lady sniffed, she clutching her boys’ hands. One even blinked his tired eyes at her, and performed a perfect imitation of her arrogant sniff.
“Enjoy your little tea-party tomfoolery. I see I’m still nothing but a blur whizzing in front of all your untrained eyes.”
With that she stormed out, dragging her boys behind her. The slamming of the door signalled the end of tyranny and her mature tantrum.
“Well…” Christophe’s actions hadn’t, ultimately, led to this, but he guessed that he was currently being held responsible for it all. Christophe, head bowed slightly, wandered over to the maid as she watched the depressed expressions of the depressed actors.
“Great speech, Sir, it was very philosophical.”
“Ally, my dear, the formalities are, as I’ve said, many a time, unnecessary. In fact, I’ve written you a poem from being in my solitude:
“I fell for a girl with beautiful, flowing golden locks…”
“Christophe!” she squeaked, her accent becoming especially pronounced on the ‘ch’ sound.
Christophe smiled slyly.
“Okay, my darling, I understand to keep our distance as of the moment. Fetch the staff for me, Alexandra. Perhaps the policeman will know to whom it does belong. In addition, I would very much like to use it for my conclusion. A bit of glitz and glamour might patch up the disharmony I seemed to have caused.”
“It is certainly not your fault,” Alexandra said clearly.