James Nexis - Deception: Part Three
The temperature was dropping alarmingly as James and Deirdre stood outside a meticulously neat apartment at sometime around three in the morning. The brown Hissi was in the middle of pounding on the door for the fourth time when it was thrown open by a tired blue Nimmo wearing pyjamas.
The Nimmo grimaced as he saw James. “Oh, it’s you, Nexis.”
James pointed to the pyjamas. “Heh, teddy bears.”
“None of your business.” The Nimmo frowned, pulling his dressing gown over the offending bears. “Nexis, I know that you, as a reporter, may have no concept whatsoever of this, but I generally sleep during the night. Most people sleep during the night. It’s not considered polite to drop by for a visit at such unearthly hours.”
“Hello to you, too, Trix. I need your help,” James said, grinning. “There’s been a murder. Does the name Toni Roscoe ring any bells with you?”
Trix frowned, suddenly looking interested. “Roscoe? The leader of the Blues?”
“What’s he done now?”
- - -
“Yes, I’ve had some trouble with him. Nasty bit of work. Greedy, powerful, and surprisingly smart.”
They were walking down a street, Trix discussing Toni Roscoe, while James scribbled in his infamous notebook and Deirdre tried to make sure her employer didn’t walk into any lampposts. Much to James’s disappointment, Trix had abandoned his teddy-bear pyjamas in favour of a dark trench coat and hat.
James and Trix had been forced to work together in the past, and had consequently developed a mutual trust. The private detective would often pass interesting stories onto the newspaper in exchange for a commission. James, on the other hand, took for granted that he could use Trix as an extremely useful source of information, available at any time of day or night.
Trix stopped in front of a large, dirty building. “This is it. Stick close, and for pity’s sake, Nexis, try not to say anything stupid. Actually... try not to say anything at all.”
Before the Nimmo could knock, the door was thrown open by a black-leather coated Moehog. “What d’ya want, eh?”
Trix held his hands out to show he wasn’t armed. “We’d like a peaceful talk with your leader, Toni.”
The Moehog eyed them sullenly for a minute before beckoning and leading them into the building. It was pitch black inside, except for the occasional candle, and James was forced to step carefully. They were led up a flight of stairs and then shown into a smoky, dark room. A cluttered desk sat in the middle, with three seats in front of it and one large, oily Yurble behind it, munching on gum.
“Mr Roscoe,” Trix said politely, “I’d like you to meet some friends of mine: James Nexis, and his companion, Deirdre.”
“Call me Toni,” the Yurble said, blowing a bubble towards the ceiling. “So who are they? More detectives?”
“No, actually,” Trix said as they sat. “Mr Nexis is a reporter.”
Toni stiffened visibly. “I don’t give interviews, so you can shove off.”
“Not an interview,” James said quickly. “I just want to ask you a few questions.”
“Sounds an awful lot like an interview to me,” Toni said, blowing a bubble in James’s direction. “What do you want?”
“I want to talk to you about Mr Angus Treywhite.”
Toni leaned back in his chair defiantly. “If you think you can talk me into sparing him the consequences of stealing from me, you’ve got another thing coming.”
James paused for a second to pick his words. “You don’t know?”
Toni glanced at the three pets sharply. He obviously prided himself on knowing everything. “Don’t know what?”
“Mr Treywhite is deceased, Toni,” Trix said. “We came to ask if you had any involvement in that.”
Toni laughed. “Dead? Really? Good. And seriously, do you think I’d actually confess and tell you I’d done him in? Idiot.”
“I’d been hopeful,” Trix admitted grudgingly.
Toni chewed on his wad of gum. “If you must know, I intended to send one of my men over to have a chat with him sometime next week. So, no, I’m not the guy you’re after.”
Trix and Toni seemed to be involved in one of those incredibly intense staring competitions where you’re not allowed to blink. “Really?”
“You’re telling the truth?”
“As true as you’ll ever get out of me.”
More silence. James was starting to feel uncomfortable.
Trix’s eyes narrowed. “How do I know I can trust you?”
“How do I know I can trust your little reporter friend?”
Still they stared at each other. James’s eyes were watering just from watching them.
“Because my little reporter friend doesn’t have a criminal record longer than his arm.”
James squirmed slightly. “Well, actually...”
“Not now, Nexis.”
Toni shot another bubble towards the ceiling. “Never convicted, mate.”
“Justice isn’t what it used to be.”
“And the plain and simple truth is rarely plain, and never simple.”
Feeling that the no-blinking game had gone on long enough, James interrupted. “Mr Roscoe... Toni... what was your disagreement with Mr Treywhite about?”
Toni finally looked away from Trix. “The fight? Money, duh. He owed me a debt from several years ago. With the interest, it was pretty big, and he refused to pay.”
“Was it a serious disagreement?”
Toni shrugged. “We both yelled a bit. Called each other names, that sort of stuff.”
The door was suddenly flung open by the Moehog who had led them in. “Sir! Angus Treywhite-”
“Is dead, yeah, I already knew that.”
The Moehog looked stunned. “How?”
“Because I’m smarter than you, imbecile. Now get outta my sight. That goes for you detectives and reporters, too. Go on, get out.”
Trix dragged the protesting Hissi to his feet. “Time’s up. Let’s go.”
They were silent as they were led out of the building and left standing on the sidewalk. Trix looked at James and shrugged. “Best I can do. I hope you have some helpful information.”
“I know a few things,” James said. “Firstly, it would seem he doesn’t have anything to do with the murder, simply because he didn’t admit to knowing about it happening.”
“He could have been bluffing,” Deirdre suggested, trying to rub dust off her skirt.
“With an ego that size? Not likely. You saw how he enjoyed proving his superior knowledge to that Moehog. My reporter’s instinct is telling me that he would have done the same to us if he’d been able to.”
“Reporter’s instinct?” Trix sounded dubious, but James ignored him.
“I think it’s time to go back to Mr Treywhite’s house and apologise profusely. We need more information.”
“Apologise for what, Nexis?” Trix’s eyes narrowed. “You’ve gotten yourself into trouble again, haven’t you?”
“You know, you’re not half bad at that detective game,” James said cheerfully. “And don’t worry, it’s not that bad. Constable Wilson just wants me dead, that’s all.”
“Oh, spare me.” The Nimmo dropped his head into his hands.
“Thanks for your help, Mr Trix. I think I’ll be able to handle it from here on.”
“Good, because I’m not going to bail you out of jail. I’m going to be sensible, and I’m going to go back to sleep. Good luck, Nexis.”
James waved his friend away, and then began walking up the street again.
“We’re going back to that house?”
Deirdre had to jog to keep up with the enthusiastic Hissi. “After pretending to be the police?”
“Sure. The way I see it, we didn’t so much pretend to be the police, but were unfortunately caught up in a miscalculated assumption.”
Deirdre sighed. “Whatever you say.”
There was a faint suggestion of dawn on the horizon by the time they arrived back at the Treywhite estate, and by now most of the lights in the house had been lit.
James had just raised his hand to knock when the door was thrown open by an irate Elephante in an officer’s outfit.
James forced a smile onto his face. “Why, Constable Wilson, what a surprise to see you here!”
“I thought you might come crawling back, Nexis.” The Elephante’s eyes glinted dangerously. “What’s this I hear about you impersonating a policeman?”
When James failed to come up with any explanation, Deirdre said, “Apparently we were caught up in a miscalculated assumption.”
The Elephante didn’t seem amused. “I could send you and your little friend to jail for that, Nexis.”
James smiled winningly. “True, true, my good friend. But think of it this way; we both have to make a living somehow. You do it by investigating crimes and sending bad people to court.”
“Bad people my foot,” Wilson growled.
“I make a living by getting there before you, snooping around, and then getting out before you arrive.”
Wilson still didn’t look convinced. “I suppose you’ve now gone and talked to this Toni Roscoe.”
“Well, I can tell you one thing, Nexis, you’ve been wasting your time with him. We’ve gone over the whole place for fingerprints, and the only ones here are from those who live on the property.”
“Wow,” James muttered, stumped for once. “Really?”
“Yeah. Now listen up, Nexis, I’m going to make you a deal. Get out of here before I can count to ten, and I won’t prosecute you for trespassing. Got that?”
James grinned. “I knew you’d come through in the end, officer. You’re a kind and generous soul, you know that?”
“Just get out of here, Nexis.”
“C’mon, Deirdre.” James took his secretary’s arm and led her away from the irate Elephante.
“What now, sir?”
“I need to think. And in order to think, I’m going to need coffee.”
Deirdre grimaced. “Or we could just go to sleep for a couple of hours...”
“Nah, we don’t have time. Our good friend Wilson is catching up to us quickly; if he finds the murderer before us, we’ll have to deal with competition from goodness knows how many other papers. Coffee will have to do for now.”
A steaming mug of coffee sat in front of James as he flicked through his notebook. Deirdre had opted for herbal tea.
The petit blue Xweetok was on the verge of falling asleep when James threw down the notebook triumphantly. “It doesn’t make sense.”
Deirdre started back into wakefulness with a jolt. “And you’re happy that it doesn’t make sense?”
James stared at her. “Of course. Because it means there’s more to the story than I know.”
Deirdre, who really wasn’t coping without sleep, stared back. “Oh.”
“Do you want to know what doesn’t make sense?”
“I don’t really have anything else to do, so sure.”
“Mr Lucas’s story. According to him, he woke up in the middle of the night to hear noises. When he came down to the library, he found his uncle. But, as that maid was able to tell us, Lucas’s bedroom is on the third story, well away from the scene of the crime. If anyone was going to be woken, it would have been the servants.”
Deirdre nodded wearily and took a sip of her tea.
“Also, the fact that the body was moved so quickly worries me. Surely Lucas would have known that taking the body away would be destroying the crime scene. But if he moved it deliberately, why? Was there something on the body he wanted to hide?”
Deirdre bit into a croissant unenthusiastically.
“The fact that there weren’t any alien fingerprints suggests that it was an inside job, and the most likely candidate would then obviously be Lucas. But, I don’t know, it just doesn’t feel right. Firstly, we’re lacking a motive; from what we’ve seen, Lucas and Mr Treywhite were very close. If Lucas needed money, killing his uncle seems like a very extreme way to get it. There doesn’t seem to be anything to be jealous of, and I suspect we would have heard about it if they’d had any significant argument.”
“In other words...?”
“In other words, people don’t just go around killing their uncles for the fun of it. There’s something going on here.”
Deirdre took another sip of tea. “What do we do, then?”
James was silent as he thought, and then a smile lit up his face. “We, my dear, are going to the morgue.”
Deirdre paled visibly. “Do we have to?”
“Yup. Now finish your tea; we need to hurry.”
James pushed on a large stone door and entered the vault-like room. It was lit eerily by a single lamp, and James could just make out the outlines of several dozen sarcophaguses lining the wall. An old Pteri was sitting behind a desk, and James approached him, ignoring Deirdre, whose fur was standing on end.
The Pteri looked up coldly. “Welcome. How may I help you?”
James grinned. “We’re looking for Mr Treywhite.”
“As in the deceased Mr Treywhite?”
“As in you would like to actually see him?”
“Out of the question.” The Pteri slammed his book closed darkly. “If you would like to attend the funeral-”
James rolled his eyes. “No, I don’t want to go to a funeral. I want to see the remains of Mr Treywhite. Is that his coffin over there?” James made to walk towards a sarcophagus that was standing out from the others.
The Pteri jumped up to block James’s way. “No, absolutely not. Have some respect for the dead, I beg of you!”
“So that is his, is it?”
“I am not at liberty to-”
James easily shoved past the distressed Pteri and strode to the casket. It was a large, ornately carved wooden affair, and despite Deirdre’s stifled objections, he put his hands on the lid and shoved it off in one fluid motion.
As the Hissi gazed inside, he smiled. “Ah. I thought so.”
To be continued...