James Nexis - Deception: Part Two
James flipped out his notebook, completely unaware that his excited grin was inappropriate for both the atmosphere and the mood of the Gelert, Lucas.
“Let’s start with the basics. The victim...?”
“He is... was... my Uncle.”
“Treywhite,” Lucas corrected wearily, gazing at the fireplace. “He’s lived here all of his life, like his father had before him. When my parents died, he adopted me.”
“Did you know him well?”
“Yes, very well indeed.”
James scribbled for several minutes. “And what happened?”
Lucas’s face darkened with grief. “I don’t know. At around one in the morning some noises woke me. When I came down, I found my uncle on the floor in the library. At first I thought he was asleep, but he wouldn’t move when I shook him. It was then I noticed a knife and blood.”
James checked his watch. “It’s almost half past two in the morning now. Have you left the crime scene exactly as you found it?”
“Except for my uncle, of course I did.”
James flinched. “What do you mean, except for your uncle?”
“We took him to the mortuary.”
“You mean you moved the body? Actually took it out of the house?” James asked with evident horror.
Lucas looked shocked. “Of course. What, did you except me to leave my uncle just lying there until morning?”
James groaned. “Well, yeah, that’s generally the protocol for crime scenes.”
There was silence for what seemed like eternity, while James made anguished faces and Lucas stared stoically into the fire.
At last James sighed. “All right. What’s been done has been done. Is there anyone your uncle had a disagreement with? Anyone who’d want to do this to him?”
“Toni Roscoe,” Lucas said after a moment’s thought. “I remember my uncle being worried about something that involved him. Something financial, I believe.”
“The name sounds familiar,” James said. “Who...?”
“Local gangster,” Deirdre said instantly. “Leader of a group who call themselves the Blues. Very wealthy. Not entirely adverse to violence.”
Lucas looked impressed. “You certainly know your suspects, ma’am.” Deirdre shrugged, looking pleased.
“So this Toni Roscoe had a disagreement with your uncle? How long ago?”
“Two, three weeks ago, maybe. I don’t know what it was about specifically, but I know it was pretty big. My uncle was considering leaving the country for a while.”
“But it was sorted out?”
“I have no idea. Maybe. I wasn’t told much.”
James wrote the name in his notebook. “Well, I’ll check that out. You moved your uncle, but did you touch anything else in the room?”
“No, not at all.”
“May we have a look?”
“Of course, officer. Follow me.”
Lucas stood up and led them from the room and down a dark hallway. Some candles had been lit, but they didn’t shed much light on the massive, vaulted-roof passageway. A staircase ran down one side, and portraits of a plump, cheerful-looking elderly blue Gnorbu lined the other side. James pointed to the portraits questioningly, and Lucas nodded. “My uncle.”
At the base of the stairs was a group of maids and various other staff, talking in low voices and wiping at red eyes. They fell into respectful silence as James, Deirdre and Lucas passed. At the end of the hallway was a large double door, and Lucas pulled a ring of keys out of his pocket to open it. Inside was pitch dark, so Lucas picked a candle off a hallway table and led them inside.
It wasn’t as bad as James had expected. A large room, lined with bookshelves, and large windows at the back wall. In front of the window were several comfortable chairs, and gaps between the bookshelves to the left suggested further shelves lurked behind them, but the space in front of them was empty. A large red patch stained the carpet, and a small knife lay beside it, but otherwise everything looked normal.
Being very careful not to disturb any of the evidence, James bent down to get a better look at the knife. It was fancy, almost ornamental, and about as large as a pair of kitchen scissors. As he looked at it, James noticed a fain engraving on one side: A Treywhite.
“Do you recognise anything about this?” James asked.
Lucas shrugged and shook his head. “I don’t believe so, why?”
“No particular reason, except it has your uncle’s name carved on it.”
Lucas bent down to look at it for a second, squinting. “My goodness. Yes, I do remember it now. It was my uncle’s. I believe he was given it years and years ago, and he kept it as an ornament.”
“That’s strange,” James muttered.
Deirdre, who was looking slightly nauseous, had moved away from them to the window. She pushed the curtain aside for a second before shoving it back into place, and turning around sharply. Walking to James with fast, determined steps, she tapped his shoulder as he knelt.
“Sir?” she hissed.
James glanced at Lucas, who had left him and was standing far enough away not to hear, and whispered back, “What?”
“Police. They’ve just arrived. I saw them out of the window.”
“Right. Time to go.”
Standing up, James flashed a bright smile. “Thank you for your hospitality, Mr Lucas. I’ll review all of the facts, follow up on anything that seems promising, and get back to you; but I don’t think I need to stay any longer.”
“Thank you, officer. I’ll show you to the front door.”
“Actually,” James said quickly, “would you have a back door I could leave from?”
Lucas gave them an odd look. “A back door? Well, yes, I suppose... I’ll... uh... show you to that, then?”
“You’re very kind.”
The Gelert, still looking mystified, led them from the room and back into the hallway. James grinned and winked at Deirdre, who shot him a ‘we need to hurry’ look in return.
“Down here,” Lucas said, turning a corner and nearly knocking over the Cybunny maid. “Whoa, careful, Sammy.”
“I’m sorry, Master Lucas,” Sammy babbled, “but there are some gentlemen at the door wanting to talk to you.”
James and Deirdre exchanged apprehensive glances.
“Very well, Sammy. I’m sorry, officers, I’ll have to leave you here. Sammy will take you as far as the front gate.”
“Thanks,” James flashed a grin and began to shoo Deirdre and Sammy towards the exit. “I, uh, hope everything turns out all right.” Lucas gave him an odd look, and he hastily corrected himself. “Well, not that your uncle’s death is all right, but, uh, yeah, I’ll have a look over what you’ve told me, and, uh, stuff, so you have a good evening, and all of that. Come on, Deirdre, don’t dawdle. We really must leave Mr Lucas to deal with his guests. Good night, sir!”
Lucas raised a paw briefly in farewell, then turned and made his way to the front door. James concentrated on walking as quickly as the comfortably slow Sammy would let him go, and Deirdre concentrated on flashing “I told you so” looks in James’s direction. Just as they reached the door, voices floated to them from the main entrance, and James was able to pick up some of the words.
“But... police already been... what... well, he was a Hissi... yes, brown, and a Xweetok...”
And then a very loud, very annoyed voice that James recognised all too well as that of the chief constable, Wilson, blared out. “NEXIS!”
He gave Sammy, who had hesitated, a final shove to get her out the door, and then slammed it shut behind them, smiling. “Well, better not loiter, Sammy, show us the way to that gate, would you?”
Deirdre just shook her head.
Shenkuu’s civil defence unit was known as the Royal Guard, on account of their origins being to protect the royal family. Through the centuries they expanded and branched out to investigate civil disturbances and crimes, deal out justice and maintain order.
Although their proper title was the Royal Shenkuunese Guard, James fondly referred to them as The Police, mainly because it was less of a mouthful. Constable Wilson had worked on many of the cases that James had reported on. The large Elephante and the quick Hissi were stuck in a permanent love-hate relationship, most of the hate being on Wilson’s side. The fact that James had gotten to the scene of a murder, acted as an officer and nosed around the evidence before he had wasn’t likely to strengthen the bond.
Sammy, thankfully, was too trusting to doubt James’s all-powerful superiority, and led them down the path in blissful ignorance.
“I do hope you find the murderer, officer,” she said sincerely. “I can’t quite believe that dear Master Treywhite is gone! He was such a good person, too. And how horrible for Master Lucas to find him.”
“Lucas’s room is near the library, then?”
“What, sir? No, actually. Master Lucas sleeps on the third story.”
James stopped walking completely. “What, you mean three stories separated the library from Lucas?”
“And where do the servants sleep?”
“On the first floor, three rooms from the library.”
“Ah.” James continued walking as he thought furiously. “Is your Master Lucas a light sleeper?”
“No, never.” The Cybunny smiled. “I oughtn’t talk ill of my superior, but we’ve always said he could sleep through a cyclone. Here’s the gate, officer. Can I help you any more?”
“No, thank you, Sammy. We’ll be right from here. Apologise to your Master Lucas for us, would you?”
Sammy looked surprised. “Whatever for?”
“Don’t worry, he’ll understand. Good night!”
James grinned and waved as he and Deirdre left the property. “That was close,” he noted. “Good idea to keep an eye on the window, Deirdre.”
“It wasn’t an idea, sir, it was a necessity.”
James stared at her. “Huh?”
“I don’t like blood.” The Xweetok was starting to look queasy just talking about it.
“Really? Wow. I never knew that.”
Deirdre sighed in frustration. “I don’t know why I bother. Well, sir, what now?”
“Now,” James pulled his notebook out of his pocket and flipped to the relevant entry, “now we go and visit this Toni Roscoe.”
“Do you know where he lives?”
“Nope,” James grinned. “But I do know where a certain private detective does.”
To be continued...