Marina went to sit down, but a distraction was already at the door for both of us, in the form of Inspector Simnova. He smiled at me, but passed over the actress. “Miss King. Your stay has been pleasant, I hope?”
“Yes, thank you, Inspector,” I said.
His eyes lingered over Marina, but I was I who got the hint.
“Would you mind leaving we two together, Marina?” I asked. “Police business, of course.”
The singer rolled her eyes. A smile sneaked onto her lips, though her eyes still betrayed the hurt of her brother’s death, carefully hidden beneath. Now that I could spot it, it wasn’t hard to see.
“Oh, yes. I know how you detectives like to be alone with those formulations.” She tossed her hair and laughed, charging out of the room in her light-speed bubble. I wondered how many more times she would do so before fate caught her and held her away from Karkroff Hall.
The Inspector lurked by the door where he had entered, watching Marina until he was sure that she would not come back and ruin our ‘formulations’. When he took the time to sit down beside me, he was restless, heavy-lidded.
“I am sorry about that dismissal, Miss King, for I know how much you like her, but there is one thing I must say, and I think you will come to understand my reasons. I do not trust her.”
“Marina?” I boggled.
“Celebrities should not be trusted –”
“– With love or money. I know. However, apart from the anti-anxiety pill-popping, I think your claims are somewhat ungrounded.”
Inspector Simnova’s eyes grew to pop from his taught skull. “Oh, yes? ‘Somewhat’? If she wanted what a celebrity wants – to remove the truth – then she could well have.”
I knew what he was insinuating even without the full structure of his English sentence. It was a death sentence for Marina indeed!
“You don’t think that?” I spluttered.
“You have seen, as I have, surely, the lack of sorrow in Miss Rusav’s eyes?”
I fidgeted. “That’s not true. Richard has been perking up Marina; that means in no way that she has been truly happy. If he loves her –”
“The little a girl would know of love.”
I ignored in violent protest of that statement. “– Yes, if he loves her, he might be able to temporarily cheer her, but Marina is no advocate of false feelings. She might have that expertise of the stage, but her pain is still clear. Well, it is to me.”
“You would know?” the Inspector asked, raising an eyebrow.
“Marina herself remarked it: I’m the detective, I practically live murder.”
The Inspector cleared his throat, continuing. “Even so, Marina has no alibi –”
“Yes, she does –”
“I checked the airport computer system: Marina did not take the reverse of the journey that you did, changing at Madrid. There is no physical record of her landing in England or being on the plane when she says she was. Everything she has been doing is dancing with secrets. She has no alibi!”
“Actually, she does,” I interrupted him in my most official voice. “My brother and I – along with many others at Gatwick airport – saw her arrive, by private jet, at the time when Adam was reporting to the police-station. She can’t possibly have killed her brother, as she was halfway across the world when he met with death. That’s why there is no record: because a star like Marina R would never board a public transport and use a public system when she could live the high-life in private transport. I don’t suppose you checked the private runway bookings?”
Inspector Simnova swallowed any pride that might have next snuck into his voice. When he spoke, it was as if I had not just thrown his theory to the dust. “I didn’t, no. All right.”
“Look – ” I took out my phone, praying a word of thanks to my brother – “here she is in London in the early morning.”
“All with a time-stamp. Yes, Miss King, that’s evidence enough to clear Miss Rusav. Dare I myself ask who you convict?”
I lifted a nail to chew upon as I thought. “I don’t know enough. It’s not fair for me to put my finger on anyone when I do not have enough information.”
“Then, how is your investigation going?”
“It has its minute ups and downs. I feel like I’m going nowhere, even with the amount of information I’ve gleaned. Speaking of which, why were you discussing me with Mr. Karkroff?”
The smile that sneaked its way onto the Inspector’s lips was triumphant. “You were hired by Caroline, and so many would think you unsuitable for the job, especially if they knew of the age you are concealing. Your determination, however, has shown me that you have the mind of a policewoman. Even through the doubts of the household, you have pressed on. I needed a little test both to affirm your abilities and to have you prove them again.”
“Oh!” I exclaimed, both delighted and disgusted that he would do such a thing. “Thank you.”
But he was still an enigma to me, this Inspector; and still, I couldn’t put all my trust into him. As we conversed, I became aware that something was missing. Each word nudged another thought forward. When it finally broke, I wanted to curse the air for Simnova’s distractions.
“But we’ve forgotten about poor Delaina! You know, we’ve been so obsessed about the death of Petre, that we’ve not been concentrating on the missing person –”
“I’ve had my Miss Lingdstan working on that case. So far…unsuccessful.”
“But she must be somewhat connected, do you not think? In a way apart from that suggestion of Petre’s intervention being the cause of his death. It’s clear to me that he is interwoven throughout this case. We both know the links in our company are too strong to be coincidence.”
“I do. We have found no trace of the girl, Miss King.”
I cried out, “I should have been looking at that part of the investigation. Why have I been ignoring her?”
“Miss King? I don’t know that answer.”
“No.” I stood, brushing his hands away. “She’s important. Inspector, please leave me. I need to think to myself, away from the headache of talking. Delaina….”
“I’m sorry.” I dug my knuckles into my forehead. “Please….”
Outside of my own little bubble, I heard the Inspector’s loud footfalls fall away, stopping only when they reached the doorway to the living area once again.
“I’m sorry I disturbed you, Miss King. I only meant to come to say that an arrest will be inevitable, and I was looking for your opinion to break me out of the rut I have been forming. Nevertheless, the lady will be charged.”