The entire room was obviously taken aback by how commanding a sixteen-year-old could be. Or perhaps I was still just out of place.
Carrie shrunk away from me, placing herself in the nearest free chair. As she cast her eyes around at the other occupants, obviously both her acquaintances, I recognised the look asking them who out of the two would be willing to tell me.
“I’ll tell you…” said a voice from behind me, imposing and rather irritated. “Though what a young girl is doing asking questions in a manner that doesn’t befit her, I don’t know.”
The figure emerged by my side, also casting his eyes around the room, as though he was a poor imitation of me- though I’d hope that everyone would be a poor imitation of myself but me. I instantly knew the stance the man went into; he was a plainclothes policeman, no doubt. He couldn’t have been more plain-clothes, in fact, dressed in a tan overcoat, concealing all but his shiny shoes.
Oh, another inspector. He had an odd accent which meant he added additional ‘h’s to the beginnings of words and had a tendency to pronounce silent letters, meaning answer became ‘hans-wer’. I just didn’t need another crazy inspector on my heels.
“I am Detective Inspector M. Simnova,” he said, not to me, but the entire room. His eyes flashed at me. “And who are you?”
I turned to stare at the man.
He raised his eyebrows, and tucked his hands back into his trouser pockets; I hadn’t meant to be presumptuous but he didn’t seem impressed.
“So, you would like to know what predicament you’ve stumbled into? It came to be that during the Wednesday morning just passed, a Mr. Petre Rusav was stabbed, one stab to the back, when he was on his way back home from Sterrt Road where he was observing activity as is part of his job as a policeman. There were no witnesses, although the man who found the body said that he heard a high-pitched, obviously female, scream. We checked, and a Miss Delaina Sael, a young adult, went missing from her mother’s home the same evening; she was living around the same area.”
“Connected of course,” I muttered.
Inspector Simnova’s eyebrows rose even higher.
“Do you think yourself the expert, girl? All I see is a policeman in the wrong place at the wrong time. He must have got in the way of the kidnapping, and ultimately was murdered. The witness always is, you’ll find.”
“So…” I pondered. “You think that it was Miss Sael who really was the intended victim?”
The singer sprung up.
“No, that can’t be right!” she cried. The Inspector and I both turned to her.
“Miss Rusav? Is there something you would like to share?”
“Wait-” I said suddenly, “- Marina is Petre’s sister?”
“Yes,” Inspector Simnova growled. “If you were up to date like everyone else…”
Marina began to sob into a handkerchief that she had produced. At the quiet snuffling, the Inspector and I turned back to gaze at her. She lifted her puffed jade-coloured eyes to us.
“Yes, my brother would be the type to jump to the rescue of anyone, especially a lady, (and that was why he signed up to the police-force), but wouldn’t he be coming at the kidnappers from the front? I know his route pretty well, and Sterrt Road is the last on his beat. He goes down it, so there should have been no way for him to have his back to the kidnap-in-progress. And he wouldn’t have walked backwards into that knife, would he?”
The last she said through clenched teeth, anger directed at us. However, I could see that she thought correctly. She had a clever mind, that blonde bombshell.
I shot the Inspector a hard glance.
“Yes, Sir, were there any signs of a struggle?”
“None,” the Inspector replied, also tight-lipped.
“So, Petre might not have had the knife plunged into his back without question. If that was the case, and with no signs of a struggle, I doubt he was the one to attack the kidnappers. I’d put my investigation on Petre if I were you, Inspector.”
“Hmm,” he replied, once again irritated. He knew that I was trying to better him.
The room was silent as the Inspector and I stared each other down. The guests (including Carrie) were not forgotten by me, but even when I sneaked a glance in their direction, they seemed frozen in their awkwardness. My full glance at Carrie was responded to with a pulled face; I couldn’t tell whether she was trying to diffuse the tension or just playing one of her games.
Suddenly, my mobile rang, so very metallic against the air. I flipped it open.
“Mum…” Talk about embarrassing!
“Where are you Agnetha?” came my mother’s monotonic voice strained down the phone. “Have you left the museum?”
“Umm…yeah. I had a couple of things to do.”
I shot the four onlookers a flushed roll of the eyes, and mouthed ‘sorry!’
“But I’ll be back soon.”
“Mum!” I used the same tone that she had just used on me. “I’ll be back soon, I promise.”
“This is odd, though. Odder than norm-”
“I know.” I glanced around at the faces of the Karkroff Hall residents. The girls looked amused, but the Inspector was having none of it. He looked bored and annoyed. He even had the nerve to tap his watch at me. “I’ve got to go now. I’ll see you. Bye.”
I promptly hung up, and then pressed my phone into silent, hoping that I hadn’t caused too much trouble. In fact, I had seemed to do the opposite, as the guests were beginning to talk amongst themselves, not in jolly voices, but pleasantly amiable now.
“A nice diversion, Miss King,” the Inspector remarked.
For once, I grinned at him, and then I clapped my hands together.
“Thank you. Now, where were we?”