I spent the remainder of the afternoon before dinner (not to be served until much later, about five o’ clock, and my mother had already text ‘I won’t be expecting you for dinner’ and that was that) studying my thoughts, especially those about Elsie and her counterpart made up of my many cloudy thoughts. Grey and dull, they were merely personality-based and not as deep as the flaws they withheld from me.

I just couldn’t find the pieces that fitted. These people were all entwined in the mystery, but how I couldn’t understand. And, if Elsie had something drilling into her mind, was it anything necessarily to do with the problems inMoscow? If only I could tell what everybody was hiding! Detecting lies was one thing; finding out the truth was completely different.

The guests slowly began to saturate in. I watched them from my solitude of Carrie’s study; the door was open whilst the governess kept her steady lessons going on through the room, and the great window opposite showed the coming and going of cars.

Mr. Thomason was, as usual, the first to turn up. He was involved so closely to the household, it seemed, with his brother, Adam, as the only witness; and Richard seemed to be pretty close. However, though he had told me that he was a friend, I had not seen Richard share one conversation alone with Mr. Karkroff or the wife of the household. And that was another miniature myself that swarm to hit at the cloud of thoughts in my cranium.

Nicky, having been watching the movement from her window, soon popped out her front door. The frilly netting twitched, and within a minute, she was out and about. She manoeuvred her way through the crowds, her red hair a beacon floating towards the Karkroffs’ gate. In less than a minute, the direction of my angle obscured her figure from view. As the Karkroffs’ neighbour, she’d known them for probably the longest, but she was still an enigma. Why had Carrie invited her? Had she seen more than she was letting on? I still didn’t believe that the passageway the Inspector and I had found gave way to a flurry of guilt for her. For all we knew, it was there coincidently.

Mr. Vladimere, that smooth politician, arrived right after her, and there were many heads turned towards him, Russian hands waved and tourists stared. I could see a couple of camera bulbs flash. Mr. Sterinsky marched, with a strange grace, through the gawking crowd, and had soon disappeared along the way of the path that Nicky and Richard had traversed down. I struggled to remember why Vladimere was here at all. He wanted to help out his countrymen, but after his car had been fixed, he still had returned to the house. The politician would want something in return, I supposed. And Carrie had invited him back for this dinner, had she?

I watched the clock’s second-hand tick round the face a couple of times, before footsteps from above stirred me from my waking dreams. The heeled clip-clop echoed from above and straight into my head.

Reclining around, I saw Marina wander past, dressed in a floral garden garb unsuitable for the Muscovite winter. Around her neck hung a neat string of pearls, which she fingered tensely as she walked along, before stopping and retreating back to meet Carrie at the door of the playroom.

“Hey!” the latter said, smiling broadly as the girls embraced. “Marina, you look lovely.”

“But not radiant, no?”

“You look okay. Is that a new dress?”

Smooth change of topic, Carrie… I remarked to myself.

“Old, really,” Marina replied. She had bags deep under her eyes, and had probably been losing sleep. She rubbed at her mascara, but it resisted her touch, and the megastar’s gleam continued.

“How is she?” Marina asked, nodding towards Elsie. It seemed the lady had not noticed me in my little hiding-space yet. Marina began to spout out a string of Russian, to which Elsie, I saw, gave a glare and wandered to the window, where her written-work was laid out, pictures of apples and other meal-time accessories labelled accordingly.

“You told her?” I boggled, calling to Carrie from my chair in her study.

Caroline shrugged as she turned to me, hardly surprised at my annoyance.

“Oh! Agnetha!” Marina cried, putting a hand to her heart. “You’re here.”

“I was invited to dinner just as you were,” I said blandly. Then I turned back to Carrie. “You told her?”

“She saw something was wrong. What else was I supposed to do?”

I moaned, putting my head into my hands.

“Now how many people know? You, Maripose, Mr. Karkroff probably… Who else? What happened to this being a private matter?”

Marina cast her blue-grey eyes over me.

“I didn’t realise that this was something between the three of you. I- and other people- have been concerned since the death that met us here…”

“Who…?” I sighed.

“Richard.” And that answer, I noted to myself, didn’t surprise me. “I was tired and worried, he was staying up here at the house late; he asked me kindly and I just blurted it out. I didn’t know it was, in any way, a matter of discretion. I didn’t think I had to keep it to myself. I’m sorry. I don’t know if he has told anybody by now.”

“It’s not the end of the world. I guess it wasn’t a tight matter anyway,” I mumbled, head still buried in the silent sand of my hands.

How many people knew now?

I glanced to the wide window one last time, just catching Inspector Simnova as he briskly made his long strides to under the front canopy.

“That’s all of them,” I said to myself, unwittingly out loud.

“Hmm?” Carrie replied, and Marina looked up in surprise. It was as if they had forgotten that I was there again.

“Well,” I shrugged, watching as Elsie mimicked my action, “we might as well go to dinner now.”

“That was indeed where I was heading. I’ll show you where the small dining room is.” The singer nodded.

She, tired-eyed and with her lips bent into a pensive frown, began to leave the room, Carrie close by.

“Umm...Carrie?” I jerked my head, reminding her about the children.

“Oh. Aggie, you go down with Marina, and I’ll catch you up in about five minutes.”

So, I followed behind Marina by about a metre, keeping a close eye on the lady.  She was still keeping strong for now.


The End

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