“Are you okay, Miss. Rusav?”

“Call me, ‘Marina’,” she muttered, before bringing her mouth close to my ear. “Politicians. I don’t trust them and their words. People say stars like me are not to be trusted with love or money, but they are wrong. Politicians are the ones to stay away from.”

“I’m sure you’re just over-reacting, Marina,” I tentatively replied.

She shook her head wildly and cast a glare in Vladimere’s direction.

“Still, I will be glad when he is gone.”

She, departing from my side quickly, returned to her seat, whilst I was left to gaze mournfully at the spaces around myself.

Eventually, movement from Caroline caught my eye.

I made my way across to the governess, who was busy reading whilst her two students were still clinging to at least a part of her as they circled Caroline and their mother, who was sitting regally in the chair beside Caroline, what appeared to beherpersonal chair, arms draped like silk over the chair’s. However, towards her children, Maripose was indifferent.

“Aren’t you going to explain to them what you intend to do?” Carrie said, placing the book down and getting up when she noticed that I was in her light. “The Inspector has already done that for his part.”

As she glanced over at Inspector Simnova, a small smile crept onto her lips. He looked up at that second, and his face seemed to glow red under the light stubble. My eyes flashed between their smiling exchanged, and suddenly I knew.

“Caroline! You- and my enemy?” I gasped.

“Well, you told me to keep him busy, distracted. Turns out he’s a very good man when you get to know him,” she replied.

I raised my hands up in defence.

“I don’t wanna know!”

“Oh, it’s not like that!” Caroline too raised her voice. “My days of those sorts of womanly wiles went with the meth. But, I know Misha likes me, and I think that he’s only trying to be helpful by doing his job. It turns out he saw me at the police-station, as you said, and he looked me up, whilst suggesting the investigation be held here.”

“You are changing sides!” I realised.

“I’m not,” Carrie said, her face crumpling up like paper. “Please, Aggie, let’s just get on.”

“And what was it that you wanted me to do?” I couldn’t keep the anger from creeping into my tone. I was a volatile young woman nowadays.

“Please, Aggie, I don’t mean any treachery by it. Besides, I don’t want to make more of a scene than we are already. Not here. You can, like yesterday, if you want, but I seriously can’t afford it.”

I sighed, and tried some simple breathing exercises. A breath in, one to ten; a breath out, one to ten… When I re-opened my eyes, I seemed to see the world through a veil of blue.

I turned and walked away to the ‘front’ of the room, from where I knew the entrance and a maze of passages led off. I watched those people there gathered at Karkroff Hall: Mr. and Mrs. Karkroff (and the children and Carrie), the politician, Vladimere, Nicky, Marina, and Mr. Thomason.

“Ms. Peterson,” I turned back to Carrie, addressing her loudly as I watched her cower again, “What is it that you want me to do now?”

“It’s only what I was suggesting!” cried Carrie indignantly.

“And what do you suggest?” I replied, my voice now a steady andante tempo.

“Well, I think you should give them a summary of what has been going on and what will go on.”

I raised my eyebrows. That sort of thing rang a bell in my mind.

“I’m not Agatha Christie, Carrie.”

“All the best detectives do this,” she insisted.

I glanced at the side-table stood beside the chair that Carrie had just vacated, and at the book she’d been reading. Agatha Christie’s ‘Sparkling Cyanide’. So that was from where she had suddenly got all her enthusiasm and ideas.

“Life isn’t a detective story, Carrie.” I rolled my eyes at her. “But, okay, I’ll do it your way…

“I need to see each of you separately for some interviews,” I told the room. “Be prepared to talk about your life in Russia, Wednesday morning, Petre Rusav and Delaina Sael.”

Although no one present made a noise at that point, the room itself seemed to expand and contract with a sigh, as though it could feel the distress of the lives taken from the moving world around it. No one dared to move first; they had seen firsthand how vicious I could get.

As I turned, sweeping myself out the room (I wished I had a long trench-coat, so I could really sweep around), it was I who sighed, feeling as far from the truth as I had ever been…

Even claustrophobia was better than this…unknown territory.


The End

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