“I must say,” I added as a counter-thought, “it’s pretty obvious. You’re an influencial politician who has to find a way to make votes meet. You’re literally on dangerous ground with an investigation coming up to rob you of your precious building site. It’s quite easy to fit together, don’t you think?”

His face sneered. He crept towards me. “Try me, Miss King.”

“You murdered them all, didn’t you? From Don, the environmental opposer to your greatest plans of corruption against nature – ‘it is a crime’; those words ring any bells? – all the way to poor Delaina… Almost. But, of course, you kept your hands out of those last cases.

“Imagine that! You used,” (I didn’t expect the word of morality would resonate with Vladimere, but still I selected it), “a miserable, frustrated woman and her anger to orchestrate your back-up. True, Mrs. Karkroff was not innocent in coru; I believe she knew what you were doing anyway, didn’t she? That was the reason she allowed you to use her: because she cared little for your outcome as long as she got her own.”

Confusion sparkled across Vladimere’s expression.

I backed away towards the edge of another platform, dearly hoping I wouldn’t need to jump. That move I might not win. “You see, even after all that, she was willing to poison her heir (but what is succession to Maripose? Ivor might not even be the Karkroff heir), her son, for the man she thought she was in love with. Heartless and love-cold from being scorned by the younger man she had employed to tutor her children, Maripose knew power when she saw you. How did you two meet?”

Vladimere growled. “That’s no matter. I came to the Hall for publicity.” 

“Right….” Could I make that jump? I had to try. “She wanted to win him back or punish him some other way. What better than to rid the world of Richard’s new lover? I bet it was you who put the idea of kidnap into her head. You teased her, gave her the dates and plans, making sure that Maripose was worked up enough to pull it off. After all, you needed a big enough distraction to disturb Petre's patrol. Let me tell you something that you didn’t factor in, though: Petre and Delaina were half-siblings –”

“What?” Vladimere said in a gasp, before he quickly regained his snarling composure.

“That’s right: a father in common. What I don’t quite get the sense of is why Petre had to face extermination. Something between him and his best friend, Don. He hadn’t made the connection until recently, had he? The idea of having a new sister in his life must have returned Petre to the day he lost a best friend.”

As I finished talking, I seized the chance to turn and jump over the break forward. It didn’t take Vladimere long to follow in pursuit. He lingered over the gap as I did, and I begged that he take the bait a little longer. I was running out of space, though the fire-exit was a promising escape – if I could reach it in time.

“He was a witness you idiot,” said Vladimere. “I would have thought that as part of your ‘obvious’ set of facts. The evening I came for Don happened to be the day that Petre had been meeting him. I was sure that, if threatened, Don would have passed on the message somehow.”

“Mmm.” If I could stall him a little longer…. “A blackmail can only go on for so long. Ten years is an expanse of time and money.”

Vladmere, who had previously been calculating the jump and preparing for it, whipped up to stare at me. His eyes were dark with flecks of the oddest white tint in places. Unassuming at the first meeting, he now had that ‘evil aura’ surrounding him. Hatred gleamed throughout his movements.

“How do you know that? I tried to destroy the documents.”

“Documents aren’t the only way to uncover the truth. Think.” I shrugged. “When Elsie saw you – for it must have been you that night, visiting your lover – sneak back to Mrs. Karkroff, you must both have thought it was Ivor because of his silence.” I pieced the remaining threads together in my own mind quickly. The pole was my only defence. I swung it with false assurance. “There was a realisation of what you had done, but you persuaded her to put easily-accessible cyanide into his drink. Poor Elsie realised; but still she knew not to confess when she was being targeted along with her brother in sadistic mind games.”

Vladimere dipped his head slightly, as if he was conceded to the ideas I threw into the air. Then he jumped. I grabbed, with one hand, the edge of the scaffolding as it rocked on his impact. I fell to my knees as he did; the one big difference between us was that he had superior balance to me.

In my continued attempt to stall the evil man, I cast my eyes across the construction site, hoping he could sense the real confusion in my movements.

“So are you going to tell me what you plan to do here? Sabotage your own project? That’s hardly logical.”

The End

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