XX

I turned on my heels and ran, caring no more about Richard and his girl.

“You know what?” I called to him over the roar of my own pounding heart. “I have been so blind. Truly blind.” That was my way of telling him goodbye.

So: art-hater Vladimere loved to play games. Of course he did. So much so that he would throw the victim right under our noses at the last minute. Well, of course he needed to when he had seen that Richard and I were coming.

He always had a flair for the dramatics. And now there was no time to lose. I sped off in my shoes to where the cab was waiting. I knew exactly where Vladimere had taken the car – and I had a pretty good feeling about who his accomplish was, regardless of the escape into the house.

“Thanks, driver,” I said as I popped into the cab. Although I could tell him nothing in Russian, I pointed out my destination in one of the ‘Russia’s upcoming’ magazines strewn about the car.

The driver was hesitant. I didn’t blame him. Nevertheless, after a moment, we both set off in the way of destination. Whatever qualms we had, we’d both have to do our duty.

After all, I was hired to solve the mystery.

 

The site of Vladimere’s future plaza was, as per his snide requests, unguarded; if there had been many guards once, he had now dismissed them all for whatever grand scheme of things.

Having paid the driver and let him finish his employment for the night, I went in search of my proof for this theory. There it was in the form of an unlocked door, a show of protocols refused in favour of habits and desires.

I guessed I was lucky to have chosen soft-heeled shoes. They made no sound as I tiptoed into the building – for, though it was not finished, the structure still possessed a roof spreading right over my head. As far as I could tell, I let footsteps pass into the air from this imperial, steel-plated floor.

Looking up, I noticed row after row of scaffolding-type green platforms; upon one strode a figure: Vladimere, the epitome of determined evil. He himself had chosen, this particular night, steel-capped boots, which, luckily for me, left an echoing clang each time he took a further step.

Glancing around at the base area of the structure, I noticed a long, metal pole not yet tied to the rest of the work. Little boxes were attached to the scaffolding beside it, but, for the moment, I paid them no idea of consequence.

I braced it uneasily – this burden was heavier than anything I’d shouldered or braced before – balancing and pushing the pole to my shoulder. What was I thinking? I didn’t care to actually think about what I was doing as I did it. Thus, I scaled one of the ladders that also balanced precariously along the sides of the scaffolding. I flexed against the weight, once or twice wondering if I would topple to my death this way. Nah, it was not worth it.

The pole clanged against the scaffolding as I reached for one rung and then the next. Before I knew how I had avoided falling, I was standing upon the green gangplank. Facing Vladimere.

He leered, a glint of steel flashing in his palm.

“Look what we have here,” he snarled, his Russian accent suddenly deep and distorted, villainous, even. “It’s the detective Miss King. Have you worked out who tried to poison the child? Have you come to ‘foil’ my plans?”

I hoisted myself onto the ledge before he could make any move against me. “Yes. Actually, no.” I had never been good at the talking business of villainy. “I’ve no remote idea of your plans, so much for the foiling of them.”

His features contorted, twisting grotesquely. “Don’t try your word games with me.”

“So, go on then: tell me everything.” I spread the arm not balancing the pole wide. It was a bad idea.

Vladmere lunged for me, his knife clanging down against the railing it caught when I swerved. I spun, heading for the nearest platform away from Vladimere, a couple of metres away. I ran quite well for someone who had never proven herself agile with an object in her hands before.

The End

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