I turned to see a young woman in tight fitting scarlet cocktail dress that flattered her curvaceous body, lounging in the doorway of another room.
“I’m Caroline Peterson, AKA ‘The Ex’. Although nobody can really get over ‘Mr. Jacket’- Yes, I know that nickname. I practically encouraged him not to take it the wrong way when you children made it up.”
She said it to the hallway at large whilst she lazily examined her nails. They were painted dark crimson. Giving a bitter laugh, she finally turned her attention onto me, and continued, “What a sad, sad death,” though her tone of voice did not quite convince me that she was really as upset as the words would have expected. Her eyes were wild and the pupils were dilated.
“Come...” she called before disappearing into the room. I was hesitant to follow her but something told me she needed to be followed…
As I entered the room- a study of some sort- the young lady slid into a coal-coloured swivel chair and raised her eyes to my face. Although the room was light, with large rectangular French-windows that lead out to a green lawn, I could not decipher Miss Peterson’s expression. She looked like a woman with a heart of steel and a past of ash. She had straight short hair, which I had trouble working out whether it was brown or blonde, dyed with so many shades of blonde, yet the brown roots always breaking through for revenge. It was like she was ready to be a different woman every day of the week!
“Number one: I’ll be frank, Mister Josh Craig was hot, but a jerk. He dumped me for no reason, but I’ve found someone better. Oh God, I sound like a flipping advert.”
She put her head in her hands. I frowned; Miss Peterson was incredibly hard to figure out. Glancing up, a scowl from her joined our party of facial expressions. “Don’t look at me like that; I am not messed up!”
“Can we get to the point?” I tipped my head to one side as I continued to frown, “Number two?”
“Nuumbber two. He worked at that local school, Saint Christopher’s.”
“I know that-”
“Ah, but what you don’t know is that his best friend also worked there…”
“Nope, I know that too. Caroline... I’m sorry; if you’re not going to be useful then there is no point in me talking to you.” I knew that to get information from this woman I would have to be rougher with her than I had been with Mrs. Craig.
“Isn’t it strange though?” Miss Peterson giggled slightly, and I panicked that I might just have stepped into the path of someone mentally unhinged.
“Umm…” I mean: what was I to say to that?
“Okay. Well, I suppose you’d better get on with the usual interview questions then…” Miss Peterson ignored my baffled reactions.
Clearing my head, I went with the first query:
“Did he have a fight, or argument, with anyone recently?”
“Well, all I can think of is,” said Miss Peterson, finally sounding like she had information that she could share, “when Josh fought with Andy a couple of days ago… Monday? Or was it Tuesday morning? I should know; I was there. I saw it happen…” She paused and suddenly looked distressed; a completely different emotion from the rest of the evening.
“They were arguing over me…”
I frowned again, but made sure that Miss Peterson couldn’t see me looking sceptical; I thought she would have enjoyed having handsome men fight over her, but I supposed learning that a good friend had been murdered might have shocked her stone heart at least a little bit, and then I wondered if her fake ‘sadness’ earlier was all an act to hide her true feelings. I looked at Mr. Craig’s ex-girlfriend sympathetically and spoke quietly, “Are you okay to continue?”
“Yeah, I’m sorry. It was quite-quite scary being between them, at that point…they’ve been at war recently after such a good friendship. And it just ended… Just like that… But… No, that’s not important…”
“What?” But she was still staring thoughtfully far away into the abyss, so now I voiced another question that was eating away at me.
“Who’s Andy?” Although a nagging sensation told me that I already knew.
“He works at the school too: Andrew Smith. He teaches Design Technology, and Internet Technology.”
As I slowly said, “Yes, he taught me in Year Seven,” I wondered how she knew so much of the school’s operations.
There was silence as we both contemplated the truths of ours and other recent words. There was a growing intensity inside of me to find who this killer was.
“Do you know anything else important?” I pestered Miss Peterson for the answers…
“Well, there was one odd thing I saw; I don’t know whether it’s important…certainly not to me. But nevertheless I really should tell you before I forget-”