What? I wrenched my head out of my hands, scouring over his gaunt face as it searched my own. He was playing me, surely, but, somehow, I couldn’t stop the rushing thoughts, the growing anger, and – most importantly – that sense of justice that was never absent from my mind for too long.
I charged over to the Inspector.
“Do you still think Nicky is guilty?” I demanded.
“I do, yes,” he smirked.
“For what reason?” I continued. “What is her motive? And where is her opportunity?”
The Inspector tilted his head to one side, scrutinising me. “As for her opportunity, she was alone on the Tuesday to Wednesday, and easily had the ability to creep to Sterrt Road using the cellars.”
“But do you have the evidence?” I stressed.
“Aha, that is the clever part. And it links back, the little vein of connection between this street and the place where Miss Sael vanished.”
He waited and he studied me, before adding, “you have found out now about Delaina’s heritage?”
I nodded enthusiastically.
“Well, the truth is obvious. Delaina found out about her brother, and she went to him to ask about her mother. Nicky, too, found out the truth, and she wanted it all to be kept away from Russian business, she refused to let the girl find out the woman who had discarded her.”
“Then why kidnap her own daughter and be so distraught about it afterwards?”
The Inspector’s eyebrows knitted patterns, but only for a second. “Nicky heard where they were meeting up; she arrived earlier to catch her daughter, to stop the half-brother of a different class get in the way. When he still did, she had to stick a knife in him. There, the mystery solved.”
“And we only have the word of a missing girl and a dead man to prove this.”
“We have the lies of the criminal right in front of us,” countered Simnova. “If we can get Mrs. Cunningham to admit the truth, we have her.”
I folded my arms, not convinced. Inspector Simnova eyed me for a moment before doing the same action. I rolled my eyes.
“Ask her about her husband’s death,” he said. “Ask her to tell you the truth. Then you will realise who you are looking at.”
“I don’t think you understand, with all due respect, Inspector, how much you are distressing Miss Cunningham,” I replied, jolting at the latter. “Wait, did you say half-brother?”
He smirked once more. “Ah, your investigation is a notch behind mine.”
“Not to mention that you can have police records,” I grumbled to myself. Looking up from the curves in my hands, I added aloud, “tell me, then, who is Delaina’s half-brother?”
The Inspector chuckled, eyeing me, causing me to fume once more.
“What?” I snarled.
Before he could correct my blind ignorance, voices outside the room trickled in.
“Yes, I’m sure Carrie would be delighted with that arrangement.”
Another voice spoke just out of reach, high intonation surrounding hidden words. As she entered the room, Marina ducked her head, replying in Russian. I caught the word ‘Richard’ but nothing more. Automatically, I looked to the Inspector.
With a nod he translated, “she’s telling Mrs. Karkroff that Richard is about the grounds somewhere. I’ve heard that everybody is truly scattered today.”
“Thank you, Inspector.”
He removed himself from the sofa at Marina’s rotation. She faced us again, placing herself in one of the other chairs somewhat awkwardly. “I hope I’m not further interrupting.”
“No, I think we were done. Aren’t we, Inspector?” I wasn’t asking him to pick up my rebuttal, but he did so with policeman’s eyes.
“We are done for now, Miss King.”
The Inspector almost had a glare written on his face as he crept away. Indeed, the expression was not lost on Marina.
“He doesn’t dislike me, does he?” she muttered. “I wondered….”
I tucked a strand of hair behind my ear, uncomfortable. “I’m sorry if that’s awkward. It’s an occupational hazard of an inspector; we have to keep our guards up.”
“It’s not the…um….”
“No, he has barely noticed.”
We couldn’t say the words, just as Carrie and I had done two years previously. Drugs. They always crept into my life, despite the fact that I would not have touched them. I shook my head furiously.
Marina played with a bracelet, rubbing it up and down across her arm, as her eyes followed, acting once more. As I watched her, her lips opened and closed a couple of times; eventually, she stopped her actions and caught my eyes, holding them.
“There’s something I would like to say to you, Miss King. Yes, I’ve concealed it, but I thought that you were some stranger. Now, watching you, I can see that you are to be trusted with the…entails of this case finally….
“Delaina, the girl who vanished at the same time my brother was killed, on the same street, she was our sister. She sought me out unconditionally, just because she wanted to get to know her only family – she had never known her mother, you see, though we shared our father. He was dead by then, unfortunately, so Del set about trying to find that other half of his family: a boy called Petre and a girl called Marina. It was just about the time when I had started to release my English album, though, of course, I had little idea how famous I would be by it.”
“I see,” I said, nodding. Had she been listening at closed doors? “Now it is beginning to fit together. Do you know who is Delaina’s mother?”
“No.” Marina was most puzzled. “Wasn’t she adopted?”
“So, you knew that she was adopted?”
“She came to me through Petre; that way I knew she wasn’t a crazed fan. She told me how she had the idea that I was her sister. I was going to get to know her better when….”
“I see,” I remarked again, thoughtfully.
Marina paced about the room, eyes flitting back and forth, stopping most often around the windows, those great outsides of fresh air and freedom. “Hmm?”
“I know her mother,” I said. “It is she who links all this together. And when I go to see her – as I will soon – I think I will have found another piece of the puzzle.”
“You can do that?”
“Then, hurry, please! I just wish this torment of not knowing who killed Petre would be over now. If Del’s kidnapping and Ivor’s poisoning are related –”
“And Don’s murder –”
“Oh no. Do you really think…?” Having stopped at one of the armchairs, she began her pacing again. She couldn’t place her hands anywhere where she would not fiddle with them: her bracelets, the tassels of the displays, the very fingernails that scratched at each other. Marina was erratic.
“Yes. Family business is one of my specialities,” I admitted coyly. “If some piece of information came up recently from Don’s unsolved murder and the killer realised that your brother saw more than he said he did…. Well, it could be arranged.”
“I’d rather you didn’t say ‘arranged’,” Marina snapped quietly.
“Sorry. I’m just saying that tangible links are everywhere.”
She bowed her head. “Sure.”