I clutched the information close to my heart, unsure whether I should reveal it. In a way, I couldn’t even trust Carrie, though she had been the one to bring me here. However, what Nicky had said had given me some hope; Nicky’s points had led me to a conclusion that Petre’s murder must have already had some connection with the Karkroff family, and thus, the neighbours, and even the governess. It was that which kept me away from telling all to Carrie, even though I knew that she would always be innocent.
It was the Inspector who had, by chance, put all the suspects together with his selfish manner to be closer to Ms. Peterson. I would find out soon the logic of the gaps. And Marina was the one to tell me, despite her content manner now, proclaiming she had said all she needed to.
In the end, whether I told or not, these facts were sure to be vital in my investigation.
The tours had definitely finished by the time that moonlight full had settled over Karkroff Hall. I received no call from my mother. Slowly, I began to feel something akin to panic. That was, until both Mr. Karkroff and the Inspector found me wandering from the deserted household kitchen to the lounge, and back again in unsteady repetition, where I was checking for the speed of movement- as I had seen them do in many detective shows. I was ‘doing a Poirot’, I had thought, chuckling to myself: trying to solve a mystery via atypical, unconventional ways. No wonder I had elicited a few odd looks in my time. The words hung and they tickled my tongue with their senselessness.
“Miss King, is there anything I am able to do to thank you for your constant vigilance over Ivor?” Mr. Karkroff asked. “Perhaps by inviting you to stay in one of our guest-rooms, and not to have to make your long way back to your hotel?”
“I couldn’t…” I laughed. “Couldn’t impinge on your good nature, sir.”
“It would be my pleasure, Miss King.”
Automatically, I looked to Inspector Simnova. His eyebrows had already come into their raised position, but they seemed to retreat up his forehead even further.
“Very well,” he nonchalantly addressed me. “But you must know that I take nights off. It’s up to you to be the police here, Miss King.”
I continued to giggle. It was that thought of the oddities of Poirot, if nothing else, that had given birth to my good mood. Nevertheless, the Inspector chortled along with me, bemusement his most charming expression.
“Your room will be one of those on the second floor, neighbouring Marina’s, and along the corridor from Mr. Thomason’s,” prompted Mr. Karkroff. “I shall show you up in a moment. If you’d like to make your way first…”
“Sure,” I muttered, intending on turning back to my walk, this way leading me to the certain dining room again. I would easily have been able to curve around in a moment. Such movement, however, slipped out of my hands, since, in true eavesdropping style, my own name caused me to halt red-faced, coincidently outside Mr. Karkroff’s new study, to which I knew had two entrances.
“…she’s going about it nicely,” was the first snippet I caught, before I positioned my ear closer to the door. “I’m seeing things being done. Covert interviews. If this were a lock-down police investigation, my team and I would be doing the same.”
“She is your team, is she not?”
“You understand what I mean.” Gruffly, the Inspector continued in the strange manner, a mixture of his Russian and English pouring off his tongue.
“Ее помощь неоценима. Her aid is invaluable. I just hope there’s no repeat of the poisoning. If we get to the bottom of this…”
“She’ll be able.”
Biting my bottom lip as I forced down the urge to storm in and confront the two of them, I slid up close to the wall, my hand pressed against it as if that would aid my hearing, and I desperately strained my ears. Alas- no more English could I detect.
I had not ever considered any of the Karkroffs doubt in my skills, but this interchange was more than peculiar. It left me hanging with no idea whether they thought I could solve the mystery or not; were they, perhaps, just letting me dangled from a particular rope? It had been Carrie who had saved their little heir with her quick-thinking, not I.
I crept further away, sneaking myself to the edge of the stairs. But what had they meant by saying such things? That moment, in which I stood still in contemplation, Inspector Simnova rounded the corner.
“We’ll be taking this main staircase,” he reiterated; “I will stay to say goodnight to the house, and then I’d better be getting back to the station. I’m almost at the end of my shift, I’m afraid. Mr. Thomason left promptly after dinner, so Caroline tells me, but Marina remains if you would like someone to talk to.”
“Thank you, Inspector,” I replied as we walked, eyes fixed on the straight-ahead.
He walked me to the apex, but I couldn’t take in those repetitive surroundings. He might have been speaking, but the Inspector’s tones melted together with the décor; still, I could nod when a response seemed to be needed.
“Thank you, Inspector,” I repeated as we approached my room, Marina slipping out of her own. Her gentle face was warm, watching me. One smile from Marina and the Inspector was prepared to slip into the shadows.
“Oh, Inspector Simnova…” I called back.
“Can you check on my mother for me? She hasn’t called. I just thought that she might, but if she’s happier in her world of denial…”
“I understand.” He began to walk away, but turned at the last thought. “What if she asks for you? Should I make the excuse for more questioning and you safety?”
“Please,” I remarked dryly.
Then he became one of the dark shapes in the cobwebbed corners.
In the creaking of the halls, I identified seven chimes of a grandfather clock. Footsteps echoed, but still Marina said nothing, and her eyes glazed in and out of focus.
Her body twisted to normality.
“So, tell me, Agnetha, what’s your opinion of the case?” she asked, flicking her blonde locks and edging closer, eyes pricked with that vibrant curiosity she had always carried.
“I’m afraid I can’t tell you. Protocol and all that,” but I remarked it with a laugh.
Even so, the cold stress emanated from each of us, leaving nothing but static silence. Marina tossed her fringe back with elegance. I simply stood as if I were made of hard rock, a tarnished version of the superstar in front of me. I was no essence of greatness, nothing that she could mimic. Here I was, just stupid, in dumb remembrance of my past, in which Marina could not settle our differences. I recalled- was, in a way, forced to recall- the eccentricities of Josh Craig: his double hand waving, basking in the warm glow of his own sunny vanity, his assemblies and golden words…
“A teacher of mine used to say ‘when there’s nothing else to remark, say ‘satellite’ and make a canny observation.’ They thought he was quite odd,” I added in an undertone, my voice quickly trembling.
“It’s quite awkward, isn’t it?” Marina mumbled. “Sorry, Agnetha. I can’t say I can make a, umm, astute comment, but there was an English-German song I participated on once: ‘like a satellite, I’m in orbit all the way around you-’”
“Please don’t sing,” I interrupted. “It brings back bad memories.”
Marina’s eyes refused to lose their sparkle when her voice dropped. In the darkness, her eyes betrayed which of us stayed the wisest.
“You have experienced a great loss, have you not? Since Petre was…found, I’ve learnt what it’s like for those who have lost. The statistics of death are wild; the statistics for murder are…”
“Even worse, I know.”
“Of course,” Marina said, nodding her head and shaking her hands about at the same time. “You are the detective; you must have seen death first hand- staring him in the eyes many times.”
You have no idea.
“I’m…I’m not a detective, Marina,” I protested guiltily.
“Ah, the English Private Investigator, then. The Eye from London.”
Marina’s voice filled with Russian-English the more she spoke, her mind tiring in the evening.
I had to squint in the lack of light, barely making out the lady’s fine figure. Since we had been talking, the turn of the light, the dark Moscow winter, had descended on the Hall.
“I’m getting a headache,” I muttered. “I know it’s earlier, but I’ve had the busiest of days. I might go to bed.”
As I turned, pushing open my door with a single hand, I heard a garble of Russian pour from Marina’s lips. She blinked three times, a bemused expression flitting like a pack of cards.
“I’m sorry. What I meant to say was that I shall bring you a glass of water for your headache. Excuse me.”