Sunlight streamed through the windows onto the printed word I followed with my eyes. In my mind of pictures, I followed Poirot as he sniffed the cups, checked people’s bags and generally did the rounds of inspecting for poison. Christie could certainly weave a cosy tale of detection.
The door creaked open and Caroline poked her head in.
“Well? Have you finished reading it yet?” she asked as I looked up lazily.
“No…” I laughed and leant back. “I’m not into speed-reading like you are, remember.”
She nodded and pointed to the television she had recently installed into the blue room. Since I had last been in this room, it had been trashed, but Caroline had done her duty and replaced all the bookcases, repairing all the books within. A stronger pane of glass stood where the previous had been wrought apart. As before, the rest of the room was scarcely furnished, but it didn’t need to be more so; the flat-screen TV took up the better parts of the empty space.
“I came in to say to turn the TV on, channel four. Look who it is.”
Wordless, I obeyed. A snippet of a music video flashed on and I recognised the heady, fruit-filled voice that flowed down from the set. She was difficult to mistake now.
Another second, and the clip was gone, replaced by the cosy studio of chart-show, host and guest seated in identical chairs that, conveniently, faced each other and the camera.
“So, Marina,” the leggy blonde host was saying, “that song looks fascinating. Is there any background to the poignant lyrics?”
The Russian singer lifted her head higher and nodded. “The whole song is about the lost of a man dear to me…my brother.”
“It’s rather controversial of you to record and release a single so soon after the inquest into his death, don't you think?”
“I was inspired. It is in my opinion that an artist must be able to feel what they are creating – and murder gives enough passion for me to feel. And echoing loss….”
“All right. Marina R, everybody! ‘Missing You’ will be out on Sunday –”
“Aunt Caroline?” called a voice from the hallway.
Carrie muted the TV, rolling her eyes. “I’m in the blue room, ‘Licia.”
A second later, Alicia was at the door. “Are you watching –? Oh, yes, that’s the one. Marina bounced back quickly, then?”
I snatched the remote from Carrie and turned the TV off. Marina wasn’t worth watching any longer; and the picture on the screen was a pale imitation of the star now I had met her. I adjusted the curtains, before settling back down into the armchair I was sitting in and picking up Sparkling Cyanide again.
“She was ‘inspired’, so she said,” I remarked vaguely. “That’s celebrities for you: they turn everything into fame.”
“Come on, Alicia,” said Carrie, standing. “Let’s leave Miss King in peace.” She stopped at the doorway and looked back in my direction. “Dinner will be at five-thirty. Don’t be late. I abhor late guests.”
I rolled my eyes and nodded as my two friends left. The ceiling, cast cucumber green by the altered light from the foliage in the garden, reminded me briefly of Joshua Craig and the journey from his death that had brought me to this exact moment with two very unique women. It was, indeed, that Alicia had replaced him, too; she had even taken his rarely-used bedroom, ABBA vinyl and all. Part of me wanted to hate her for doing so. Shipping away the precious cargo! But I had better cargo, more precious memories.
Perhaps, as the clerics might point out, this was the way it was always meant to be. I was meant to lose my Mr. Craig, and, whilst battling with the truth, find Carrie, and through her, Alicia. As things eventually do, life made a little more sense. At least, I liked to believe it was so.
Still, it didn’t explain why he haunted my thoughts as much as haunting the past.
Before I had the chance to fight my anxiety of the perpetual mystery (or to continue with the papery one by Ms. Christie), my phone bleeped. It was so quiet that I might have missed it, had I not been startled by its vibration, loud on the wooden coffee table beside me. I eyed the screen to see what the matter was.
Miss King to the station for in-action training stage one. Arrive as soon as message is received. We are waiting.
It seemed I would be missing dinner, then. So be it. I had a much better date. There was no rest for wicked – and, for I didn't consider myself that evil, no rest for the good people who fight them.
Standing up, I discarded Carrie’s book, open at the page I had slid my bookmark into, open in the midst of its secrets.
The twisted plot would be lost to me soon. I’d had enough of touring a storybook world when I had my natural, real work to do.
And so, leaving Caroline’s house, I wondered what my first official mystery would be….