“He was one of Petre’s best friends,” Marina added. “They worked together for a while before Don went into politics. When Don was in the midst of his campaign, Petre helped run the security. They worked together to close down a government building a couple of months before Don disappeared. Speculation said that the occupants of the building were corrupt, having previously been involved with the steel works- and they were trying to reinvent the laws for steel miners, workers, and, frankly, slaves. Don might have been able to say, but…”
“Why didn’t you say so before?”
“And you think a missing person from ten years ago is relevant?” Marina cried.
“Yes, I happen to! As part of my previous case, a young lady and her body was the link to the end.”
Carrie stood abruptly. With a start, the guilt flooded me. I couldn’t bring her best friend back to existence.
“Excuse me…” she muttered, stalking from the room.
“Caroline!” I called, but she was not going to return, and I wasn’t going to follow her. Not now Marina was in a fury with me, too.
“Why didn’t we?” Marina exclaimed. “You didn’t know him, and we had only just come around to forgetting him. There was no point in bringing ghosts to the table.”
“And yet this is what we have found here!”
“He was dead and gone. No part of this case,” Richard interjected.
“Oh, yeah, by the way, we have a dead politician friend, by the name of Don. Useful. Do you want to know the name of my pet rabbit that died, too?” the man snapped.
“Don has been found! He is relevant now!”
“Rich!” Marina said, gasping, as whispered words of surprise shot around the room.
“In fairness, it was none of our business to mention it beforehand, Miss King.”
I sighed, throwing my hands into the air a little. At least Marina hadn’t joined Carrie sulking in the house.
“Guys, what was it like with Don around? What was he like as a person? Enemies?”
Marina jolted upwards, her whole body becoming erect to the chair.
“You don’t think that the two cases- that of my brother and his friend- are related? Oh!”
“I believe so,” Inspector Simnova told Marina.
“I believe I was summoned to that place for a reason. The church was calling me just as I began feeling…” I added, my attempt at an explanation.
“My darrling Ivor’s poizoning rezonated into everything. Oh, the shock was terrible!” Mrs. Karkroff crooned, raising her hand to her forehead. Why did she seem to be mocking what severity Marina and I were discussing?
“That reminds me of a point, Miss King. You’ll get to see Ivor-” began the Inspector, before my shock that he was addressing me led to an outburst:
“I’ll get to see him?”
“To ask him. You might. I’ve notified Mr. Karkroff that you have further information about the case to discuss with him. He has replied that you could talk to Ivor if the boy is well enough.”
Marina cleared her throat, drawing my attention back to her.
“There were no witnesses to the incident. Don disappeared…and we didn’t question… Though Petre had been upset, he let the uninvolved policemen question the workers who were there at the site on which Don was last seen on: the site of the building-wreck. One day, he arrived, the next…”
“Thank you, Marina…” I nodded.
Once again, the woman had begun to tremble.
“Excuse me…” she said, a mimic of Carrie, as she daintily glided out of the room, her face slowly crumpling.
“I guess I’d better go and see them both, again,” Mr. Thomason said, jumping up and into the same path as the singer’s. His sigh was much the same as my own. Frustrated.
“Mr. Thomason, don’t…”
“I guess that I was the only witness to see Don, on a technicality.”
Standing back, I let myself casually observe the remaining members of those who had gathered. Mrs. Karkroff cleared her throat and then stood, straightening the pleats of her deep crimson skirt. At this motion, Nicky, too, jumped to her feet. Mrs. Karkroff and Elsie made their way past me, the former almost sneering.
“Well, it was nice that you gathered us here, Mizz King. Unfortunately, any plan you seemed to have had has gone…awry.”
“If you want to avoid the tours, I’d leave now,” Nicky said as she marched past me.
I nodded, proceeding to head towards the tapestry-door.
“Not that way!” a voice crowed at me. Nicky was turned from her path, eyes and heels threateningly in my direction.
“They go through that route,” she pointed out helpfully. For once, I noticed a slight slur in her voice, ‘raoot’ instead of ‘root’, where the Russia tang was bouncing through her broad Northern accent. And she claimed not to have much knowledge of the Russian system. So much for not absorbing the culture of foreign when a Brit leaves home.
“We’ll take you to a room that will not be disturbed, though the noise of footfalls and tour-guides might resonate upwards,” the Inspector added, himself leading out now. I wasn’t going to let them leave me alone now. Curiosity for Don still bit at me.
“Why haven’t I encountered this before?” I asked him.
“You’ve just been lucky, I guess,” Nicky suggested. “Whilst the odd winter timings have made the tours hard to arrange, you’ve managed to sneak into the house and out again, without becoming caught in the flow of tourists.”