'Murder at the Brightwell' Chapters 11 & 12
THE FOLLOWING MORNING, the day of the inquest, was suitably gloomy. The rain splattered against my window as I rose and dressed. I had tea and toast in my room, for I was in no mood for company. The thought of encountering Nelson Hamilton was especially unbearable.
The inquest itself was remarkably brief, such a cold, formal way to account for the ending of a man’s life.
It was held at the local inn, attracting a small crowd of locals curious about the mysterious death at the Brightwell and a handful of reporters, eager for some hint of scandal. Few from our party were there. Most of them had nothing to contribute, and the rain seemed to have dissuaded those with only a casual interest in attending.
Emmeline, her face white, sat in one of the hard wooden chairs until it was her turn to speak. She gave her halting account of the events that had led up to our gruesome discovery, and it was obvious that only the very greatest of efforts was keeping her from hysteria. When she had finished, Gil helped her to her seat. Grief and fatigue had left her weak and ill, and I was very sorry for her that her dreams of happiness had vanished in an instant.
When it was my turn to speak, I gave a statement regarding my role in the discovery of Rupert Howe’s body. There was precious little to tell, and I was brief.
The coroner reiterated what I had learned from Inspector Jones. Rupert had been hit on the head with a blunt instrument before being tossed over the railing. The blow itself had not had sufficient force to kill and might have been administered by either a man or a woman.
Inspector Jones gave his evidence, but I learned from him few details that I did not already know. No one reported having seen Rupert exit the hotel. No one could be certain when he fell.
The verdict came quickly and confirmed what we all already knew: murder by person or persons unknown.
"Mrs. Ames, might I have a word with you?” Inspector Jones approached me outside as I moved toward the hotel car. The rain beat a steady drumming on our umbrellas as we stood huddled in a rather forlorn little group.
I turned to Gil, who had just settled Emmeline inside. “Will you wait a moment, Gil?”
His eyes flickered to the inspector and back to me. “Of course.”
“If you’d like, Mrs. Ames, I can give you a ride back to the hotel. I had intended to pay a visit there this afternoon in any case.” I turned to Gil. “You had better take Emmeline back. I’ll be along soon.”
He hesitated only briefly, then nodded. “Very well.”
The car pulled away, and the inspector indicated his car, which was parked at a short distance. “Shall we?”
We walked toward it. The grass was sodden, and I could feel the dampness seeping into my shoes. They were entirely inappropriate for the weather, but in packing for this trip I had brought very little to wear in the rain and even less to wear to an inquest.
“I admired your recounting of events,” Inspector Jones said as we walked. “You were clear and concise in relating your information. You’d make a very credible witness.”
“Witness to what, exactly?” I inquired. His tone indicated that there was more to what he was saying than his words suggested. There was something very clever, in a devious sort of way, about Inspector Jones.
“I am speaking in generalities,” he said. “A policeman values a witness who knows how to recount events without embellishment or excessive emotion. Pure, simple truth is always admirable.”
I stopped and turned to face him. “You are quite right. And I would appreciate the same directness now, Inspector. What ever it is that you have to ask or say to me, perhaps it would be best if you came out with it.”
The barest of smiles touched his lips. “Very well, Mrs. Ames. But perhaps we should get out of the rain.”
We walked to his car, and he opened the door for me before going around and sliding in behind the steering wheel. He inserted the key but didn’t turn it. Hands on the wheel, he turned to look at me.
“You would like me to be blunt, so I shall be. I think there is something you are concealing from me.”
I was somewhat surprised by this accusation, but I fancy that I was able to hide it. “Oh? And why do you think that?”
“Come now, Mrs. Ames,” he said. “When one has been at this job as long as I have, one begins to develop a sense about these things. Twice I asked you if you knew of anyone who would have reason to harm Rupert Howe. There was something you hesitated over. I would like to know what it is.”
“It was nothing of consequence.”
“Why don’t you let me be the judge of that?”
I hesitated. I truly believed Gil was innocent, but the inspector might not feel the same way. If I told him that I had heard Gil arguing with Rupert Howe the night before his murder, it could go very badly for Gil. But perhaps the truth was the wisest course of action. Inspector Jones appeared to be very thorough and conscientious in his methods, and I doubted my information would form his opinion of the case one way or the other. This was my chance to rid myself of the nagging sensation that I was doing something wrong in concealing information. Furthermore, if I told Inspector Jones all I knew, perhaps he could begin to focus his attention in a direction more likely to bring results.
I spoke quickly, as though in doing so I could minimize the damage. “The night before Mr. Howe’s murder, I happened to ... overhear an argument between him and Gil ... Mr. Trent. As I said, it was nothing of consequence.”
“What sort of argument?”
“Gil wanted Mr. Howe to end his engagement to Emmeline. Gil wasn’t happy about the match. He had told me as much. It wasn’t a secret.”
“What did you hear?” I was wary of the calm, casual way he asked the questions. His ever-present notebook was nowhere to be seen, but I hadn’t the slightest doubt he was jotting neat little notes somewhere in his mind.
“Did Mr. Trent threaten Mr. Howe?”
“Gil wouldn’t ...”
“Did he threaten Mr. Howe?” There was a smooth persistence to his questioning that I found unnerving.
I thought back. Had Gil threatened Rupert? Not in so many words. “No. He told him that men like Mr. Howe always have their price. I didn’t overhear the entire conversation. I had fallen asleep and awoke to catch just a bit of it.” This was not the unvarnished truth, but it was not a lie.
“I’m sure it was nothing,” I concluded.
“There must have been some reason you chose to conceal it until now.”
“I didn’t want you to draw the wrong conclusions. Gil and Mr. Howe weren’t overly fond of one another, but there was nothing violent about their argument. Besides, if they’d argued outside my window, it seems unlikely Gil would have waited until the next afternoon to do harm to Mr. Howe.”
He didn’t reply to this bit of logic.
The rain drumming against the window was the only sound for a long moment. Then he asked, “Where exactly does the relationship between you and Mr. Trent stand?”
I stiffened ever so slightly. “That’s a rather personal question, isn’t it, Inspector?”
“Perhaps. But that makes it no less relevant.”
Despite the situation, I smiled. “You’re very good at your job, aren’t you?”
He returned the smile. “I like to think so.”
I sighed. “Gil and I were once engaged to be married.”
If he was surprised, he didn’t show it. Then again, perhaps he already knew.
“Who ended it?” “I did. I ... met my husband.”
“I see. And the current state of affairs?” His choice of words was not lost on me.
“Gil asked me to come to the seaside with him on the pretext that I had left Milo. I don’t know if my husband’s name is familiar to you, Inspector, but he has something of an unsavory reputation.” His brief nod conveyed that he was well aware of Milo’s exploits. I went on. “Gil thought I might lead by example. He felt Emmeline might be able to see the error of her ways having been witness to my own misfortune. In hindsight, it was all quite ridiculous and completely hopeless.”
“And your husband was amenable to this scheme?”
“My husband had very little to do with it.”
“Apparently, he is unaware of that fact,” Inspector Jones commented wryly.
“Milo very seldom makes informed decisions. There’s no telling why he is here.”
I ignored the insinuation. Milo was not inclined to jealousy. He had admitted as much last evening. The most likely explanation for his arrival at the Brightwell Hotel was that he had found our empty home dull and knew arriving unannounced would create a stir.
“In any event,” I continued, “Gil would never have hurt Rupert Howe. That is the reason I hesitated to tell you anything about the discussion I overheard. I feared it would cause you to suspect him unduly.”
“I seldom suspect people unduly, Mrs. Ames.”
I was not quite sure what to make of this statement, but the opportunity to ask dissipated as he turned the key and started the engine, easing the car down the wet road toward the Brightwell Hotel.
Back at the hotel, the inspector and I parted ways. I was not sure what his business at the Brightwell was, and he did not see fit to confide in me. Quite possibly, I was still holding rank on his list of suspects, though I couldn’t conceive of what my motive for killing Rupert Howe might be.
I was still not certain I had done the right thing by telling him about the conversation I had overheard between Gil and Rupert. Like any good British subject, I was brought up to tell the truth and respect the law, but I did not feel that my silence had violated either of these principles. Knowing Gil as I did, the argument seemed irrelevant. I hoped Inspector Jones would come to view it similarly.
It suddenly occurred to me that the next best course of action would be to alert Gil to what I had done. It was only fair that I should give him warning, in the event that Inspector Jones should wish to question him. I only hoped he wouldn’t be too angry with me.
I checked first at his room and got no answer. A soft tap on Emmeline’s door also went unanswered. A check of the dining room was also unsuccessful. I tried the sitting room next.
Anne Rodgers and Lionel Blake sat on the sofa.
“Oh, Mrs. Ames,” said Mrs. Rodgers as I entered, “you must come hear Lionel read these poems and sonnets. Really, he’s too talented! He does accents so well; you should hear his Robert Burns!”
“I would love to,” I said, “but first I need to locate Gil. Has anyone seen him?”
Mrs. Rodgers shook her head. “Lionel and I have been here reading since lunch.”
“How was the inquest?” Lionel Blake asked, setting the book of poems aside.
“Well ...” I paused, as if hesitant to reveal the news. “I’m afraid they’ve discovered that it was murder.”
“Murder!” Anne Rodgers practically shrieked. “Oh, no. Whoever did it?”
“A very good question,” Lionel answered dryly. “What have the police to say, Mrs. Ames?”
“I don’t really know,” I replied, “except that I am sure we are all suspects.”
As I had hoped, this alarmed Anne Rodgers into effusive speech. “I don’t know why I should be a suspect,” she protested. “I barely knew Rupert. Oh, well, we were friendly enough, but not the kind of friendly where you want to murder the person. Just wait until I tell my Edward about this. I’m sure he knows a good barrister if any of us is accused. If anyone did it, I expect I could guess. Perhaps Emmeline finally got tired of his making eyes at other women. And Olive Henderson never did get over it when he chose Emmeline.” She halted then, as though aware she had said too much. “Not that I think Emmeline or Olive would kill anyone,” she added, somewhat belatedly.
“Of course not,” Lionel Blake said with a cynical smile. “None of us would kill anyone.”
Still hoping to find Gil, I walked past the breakfast room and saw Mrs. Hamilton sitting alone at a table near the windows. I thought it would be an ideal time to speak with her; I was so seldom able to catch her away from her husband’s prying gaze.
“The verdict of the inquest was murder,” I told her when we had exchanged greetings.
She nodded, and I could detect no hint of surprise in her expression.
“You said the other day that you were not surprised Mr. Howe’s death was a murder. Why did you say that?”
She frowned. “Did I say that?”
I suddenly had the feeling she was being purposefully evasive. I took a chance on directness.
“What is it that you aren’t saying, Mrs. Hamilton?”
She didn’t meet my eyes as she spoke. Instead, she gazed out of the rain- specked windows at the sea. “I shouldn’t have said that. I didn’t mean it. I only meant that there were so many people who might have had cause to ... to quarrel with Rupert.”
“Yes, you mentioned a quarrel. Do you mean someone specifically?”
She looked at me then, and I saw again that flash of determination in her gaze, as though she had come to the private conclusion to move forward. “I only know I heard some rather nasty rumors about ... well, women. And then I saw them, Rupert and Olive — I mean, together — talking on the beach as they followed Emmeline, who had gone up to change. They all walked past me on the terrace. I was reading, and I don’t think they noticed me, you see. I might have thought nothing of their chatting together, but I’m fairly certain I heard Olive say that she wanted to meet Rupert later, that she wanted to talk to him about something.”
This was certainly news. Had Rupert and Olive been carrying on their affair, then?
“What did Rupert say?”
“He said he would see if he could get away ... but he seemed somewhat reluctant. I don’t think he much cared for her anymore. When he mentioned a meeting later, I ... well, I thought he just meant tea with Emmeline.”
It was a flimsy excuse for having concealed the truth, but I suspected Mrs. Hamilton was desperate not to cause any trouble. And this information had the potential to do just that. Could it have been Olive that quarreled with Rupert on the terrace that day? Or had it been someone else?
“Who else was on the terrace when this conversation occurred, Mrs. Hamilton?”
She hesitated for a fraction of a moment before replying. “Mr. Trent had come out and was talking with Emmeline. I thought I saw them turn around and look at Olive and Rupert, but the sea is very loud, you know. They may have been too far away to overhear them.”
Somehow, I didn’t think so. The sea was not as loud as Mrs. Hamilton made it out to be.
“Why didn’t you say something before? Did you tell this to the inspector?”
She shook her head. “I was sure it was nothing. I may have misheard, and I didn’t want there to be any difficulty. Oh, dear. What a mess all of this is.”
I couldn’t agree more.
“Thank you for telling me, Mrs. Hamilton,” I said, almost wishing that she hadn’t.
“I didn’t know if I should,” she said with a shaky smile. “But I feel better now that I have.”
I felt much worse, myself. This bit of information was certainly not in Gil’s favor. If he had overheard Rupert planning an assignation with Olive, it would certainly have increased his dislike for Rupert. Inwardly, I sighed. Rather than clearing up, things seemed to be getting murkier.
Unable to locate Gil anywhere in the hotel, I returned to my room. The rain showed no sign of letting up. Indeed, it seemed to have increased in fervency since my arrival back at the hotel. There was something slightly claustrophobic about the atmosphere. The rain pounding against the windows, leaving us, for all intents and purposes, caged in with a murderer.
Wearily, I lay on the bed, hoping to nap before dinner. My thoughts, however, would give me no such reprieve. Over and over, the events that had occurred since my arrival played in my head. Who would have reason to kill Rupert?
Gil as good as threatened him, my traitorous mind reminded me. For the first time, I fleetingly allowed for the possibility. Might Gil have done it? Though I had denied a threat to the inspector, Gil’s words to Rupert that night below my window had held a warning. It just wasn’t possible. Was it? No. No, I could not believe that Gil would resort to murder, no matter how desperate the circumstances.
It must be someone else. My mind played over the other members of our party, but I could think of no conceivable motive for anyone to have killed him. Mr. Hamilton seemed the type that would kill someone who crossed him, but a negative opinion of his character did not a motive for murder make.
Anne Rodgers had reminded me that Olive was involved with Rupert before he met Emmeline, and she had said that Olive wanted to meet with him on the day he died. Perhaps he had spurned her advances once again. Was she hurt enough to kill him? It was possible, I supposed. But there had been real sorrow in her eyes; I was sure of it. I didn’t believe she could have killed him.
Then who could have done it? It was all such a muddle.
Without provocation, my thoughts turned to Milo. What, I wondered, were his intentions now that he was here? I had not seen him yet today, and I could only imagine what he was up to. His arrival had only complicated matters, and it seemed apparent that he was intent on making a nuisance of himself for the foreseeable future, a role I suspected he would enjoy.
I sighed. More weary than when I had lain down, I rose to bathe and dress for dinner.
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MR. HAMILTON WAS the first to greet me as I took my seat for dinner. “Mrs. Ames, what’s all this business about Rupert being murdered?” he thundered at me. I wasn’t sure if he was angry or merely put out that he had not been given advance notice of this information.
“That was the verdict of the inquest,” I replied as calmly as I could.
“Nonsense,” Mr. Rodgers said, before forking a large bite of quail into his mouth. “Rupert fell. It was all negligence on the hotel’s part.” I wondered if he was being purposely obtuse or if he really regarded everything in terms of inane legal ramblings.
“The police are quite sure.”
Mr. Rodgers didn’t look convinced.
“I don’t like this,” Mr. Hamilton blustered. “I don’t like it at all.”
Larissa Hamilton was very pale as she watched her husband. When she looked up to see my eyes on her, she offered a small smile before quickly looking away.
Olive Henderson had not come down to dinner, so I assumed she was feeling poorly. I wondered if she might possibly be troubled by a guilty conscience.
I glanced around the dining room. Gil was not here either. The slightest trickle of fear began to seep down my spine. I hoped he was all right.
Milo sank into the seat beside me. “Looking for someone, darling?”
“Have you seen Gil?”
“No, I’m afraid I haven’t.”
“What do you think about this murder business?” Hamilton inquired of him.
“All very unfortunate,” Milo replied as he placed his napkin in his lap. I hadn’t seen Milo since my return from the inquest, and I wondered who had told him about the official verdict. Of course, I assumed the whole hotel would be talking about it soon enough. Since coming to dinner, I had already noticed the curious glances of people at nearby tables.
“But supposing it is true. Who could have done it?” Rodgers interjected. “I see no reason why anyone would kill Rupert.”
Hamilton snickered. “Only the husbands of half the women in London.”
“Nelson,” Larissa Hamilton whispered. “Please.”
I wondered if Nelson Hamilton was privy to the information his wife had shared with me today.
He ignored her. “Something of a ladies’ man, old Rupert was. He was fond of Emmeline, but we’ve been acquainted for years and it was always very apparent that he enjoyed the company of the women.”
“I think you may be misjudging him,” I said. I, of course, suspected that this was indeed the case, but I thought that presenting myself as sympathetic would perhaps be useful to my cause. More flies with honey, so the saying went. I was not entirely sure that this applied to murderers, but it didn’t seem that it could do any harm.
“He was always very pleasant,” put in Anne Rodgers. “And he seemed to me to be a true gentleman.”
“You’re a woman, Anne,” Mr. Hamilton said, with what seemed to be more than a touch of familiarity in his tone. “Of course you’d be charmed by him. Women don’t see through that sort of charm. They’re all susceptible to it. Aren’t they, Ames?”
Milo looked up from his plate, an impeccably guileless look on his face. “I’m afraid I’m not really in a position to know.”
“You’re much too modest.” This comment came from Veronica Carter. She had sauntered into the room in a lovely gown of scarlet silk.
“Of all my attributes, my modesty is the one of which I am most proud,” Milo replied.
She gave a tinkling laugh. “How clever you are.”
I resisted the impulse to roll my eyes, but only just.
“We were just discussing this business of Rupert’s murder,” Mr. Rodgers said. “Have you any theories on that matter?”
“So it is murder, is it?” she asked, sinking in a sort of sensuous melt into the chair the waiter had pulled out for her. She seemed to have been in doubt of the truth of my statement until now. “I’m very much surprised that any of us would have the stomach for such a thing.”
“Doesn’t take much stomach to shove someone off a ledge.” This bit of wisdom came from Mr. Hamilton. He was proving to be more insufferable than usual this evening.
“One of us?” Anne Rodgers said. “Surely none of us would have killed Rupert.”
“Theoretically,” said Mr. Rodgers, “such a thing would be hard to prove. Despite what the police say, how can they possibly know for certain that Rupert was pushed? An accident still seems to be the most plausible solution by far.”
“There’s truth in that,” said Mr. Hamilton, looking at me almost defiantly. I had the feeling that he held me personally responsible for the fact that Rupert’s death had been declared a murder.
“Yes, but he was hit on the head before he fell.” A brief silence greeted my announcement.
“Hit on the head with what?” Mr. Hamilton demanded.
“I’m afraid I don’t know.”
He snorted his disgust. “The entire thing’s ludicrous.”
I happened to glance then at Larissa Hamilton. She looked far from amused. I could only imagine how it must be to be married to a bore like Nelson Hamilton. In comparison, Milo was a model husband.
“It’s all very upsetting, but I suppose that is no reason we should discuss it at dinner. Let’s talk about something a bit more pleasant, shall we?” I asked.
The conversation shifted then to mundane topics, but there was no escaping the underlying tension that hung heavily in the air. Veronica Carter did her best to attract all of Milo’s attention, and she seemed to be succeeding. More troubling than this, however, was my worry about Gil. It wasn’t like him to disappear without notice. I had once again knocked on the door to Emmeline’s room before dinner, but there had been no answer. If he was there, he was not taking visitors.
The meal was finished at last, and I was only too happy to see it end. I wanted nothing more than to escape to my room and enjoy the rest of the evening in solitude. If only Gil would turn up ...
“I wonder what has become of Gil,” I said to Milo as we rose from the table. “I haven’t seen him all day. I do hope he is all right.”
If I expected sympathy or concern from Milo, I was to be disappointed. He looked at me, something of a hard smile playing at the corners of his mouth. “He has survived the last five years without you, Amory. I think he will manage.”
We dispersed after dinner. I watched Milo follow Veronica Carter out of the dining room, ostensibly for a game of cards. Though I was well accustomed to his neglect, it grated on me that her blatant flaunting of her assets should prove successful.
Repressing whatever feelings of jealousy I might have, I went once again to Gil’s room, but there was no answer to my knock. I considered calling Inspector Jones, but I really had nothing to report. Gil probably just wanted to spend some time alone. If he hadn’t surfaced by morning, I would contact the inspector, but I tried to convince myself that such a step would be needless.
Mentally exhausted, I retired to my room. I threw my gown over the back of a chair, and my stockings over its arm. Then I took a soothing bath in gardenia scent before I pulled on my scarlet-colored nightgown.
I had just begun to brush my hair when a knock sounded at my door. Hoping it would be Gil, I set down my brush and hurriedly pulled on a silk flower-printed robe.
I cracked the door, expecting to greet Gil, and found Milo, still in evening attire.
“What are you doing here?” I asked, somewhat rudely.
He leaned against the door frame, hands in his pockets. “Amory, my darling, aren’t you going to ask me in?”
Under the circumstances, I felt it ridiculous to leave my husband standing in the corridor. I pulled back the door, and he entered, flashing me one of his smiles as he did so. I was instantly suspicious.
“You look extremely fetching,” he said. “I don’t believe I’ve seen that negligee before.” He leaned closer. “And you smell positively enticing.”
I shut the door and crossed my arms, hoping the gesture did not appear as defensive as it felt. “To what do I owe the pleasure? Is your own room not to your satisfaction?”
He gave my room a casual, cursory inspection before turning to me. “Veronica Carter is there at the moment. I thought it best not to disturb her.”
Despite myself, I tensed. What possible reason could he have for coming to flaunt his newest liaison? I resisted the urge to order him from the room. There was no need for a scene. My anger would mean very little to him.
My tone, when I spoke, was cool and, I hoped, uninterested. “Oh? I take it she is expecting you back soon?”
“I haven’t the faintest idea what she is expecting.” I smiled coldly, my eyes narrowed. “Come now, Milo. Surely you don’t mean to imply that you don’t know her purpose there. She is certainly responding to your invitation.”
“Nonsense. We played cards and then parted ways. I had a drink and was coming down the corridor when I saw her enter into my room. Really, darling, I’m surprised at you. A woman secretes herself in my bedchamber, and I come running directly to you. I should think you would be impressed by my steadfast loyalty and devotion.”
“You must have done something to give her the impression that she would be welcome.”
He smiled, almost grimly. “Women, I have learned, tend to believe what they wish to believe.”
I would not give him the satisfaction of acknowledging that I had often seen this to be true.
“She indicated that you were acquainted with her in Monte Carlo,” I went on.
“She was there, though she was wasting her dubious charms on me.” He sighed. “Give me the least bit of credit, Amory. What would I want with a nasty bit of goods like Veronica Carter?”
The argument, to some odd extent, was sound. “I admit I thought your taste would be somewhat better.”
“Of course.” He smiled. “I married you, after all.”
My anger was not to be off set by his charm. “You were speaking to her a great deal at dinner.”
“And you were speaking with that blowhard Hamilton. However, I didn’t notice you inviting him into your boudoir.” He glanced around, brow raised. “He isn’t here, is he?”
I sighed, almost managing to contain my smile. “Really, you are ridiculous.”
He smiled. For a moment, there was something of the old familiarity between us. “Do you want a drink?” I asked.
“Thank you, no.” He settled himself into one of the white armchairs, pulling at his necktie. “It’s dashed inconvenient to have that woman clogging up my room.”
“Perhaps it would be more effective for you to ask her to leave.”
“I thought coming here might be more efficient. It speaks volumes, but discreetly.”
“Poor, dear Milo. You just aren’t used to saying no to women.”
He picked up one of my stockings from the arm of the chair and toyed idly with it. “I suppose I shall have to stay here all night.”
“Oh, you want to stay here, do you?”
“Of course, there may be scandal,” he answered, sotto voce. “What ever will people say? Imagine, a man spending the night with his own wife.”
There was no point in ignoring the obvious. “It is rather unusual, as we haven’t shared a room in some time.”
His eyes met mine, and he seemed as though he was about to reply when there was a light tap on the door.
Milo’s brow quirked. “Expecting someone?”
In actuality, I was irritated to be interrupted when we were on the brink of this particular discussion.
I pulled open the door, and Gil rushed in before I could say anything. “Amory, I need to speak with you.”
At the sight of Milo lounging in my chair, long legs extended, arms folded on his chest, one of my silk stockings dangling from his hand, Gil stopped short. “Ames,” he said.
Milo smiled pleasantly. “Trent. Fancy meeting you here.”
“I’ve just dropped by to speak to Amory.”
“So I see. Well, don’t let me stop you.” He waved a hand in a magnanimous gesture. “By all means, speak with her.”
“I ... had rather thought to speak with her alone.”
“I expect you did.”
“I have been looking for you all day, Gil,” I said, before they could begin to trade barbs. “I was beginning to be afraid that something dreadful had happened to you. Wherever have you been?”
“That’s what I need to speak to you about.” He cast a glance at Milo, then looked back to me, lowering his voice. “It’s rather urgent.”
“We are all ears,” Milo said.
Gil’s jaw tightened, and his reply was directed at me. “I’d rather speak to you alone, Amory. If you don’t mind.”
I turned to my husband. “Milo, perhaps you would give us a moment,” I said. Whatever Gil had to say would not take long, and if he would feel easier in telling it without Milo, then so be it.
“Really,” Milo replied, “I’m not certain I should leave. In fact, I might, under other circumstances, be inclined to ask what exactly a gentleman is doing coming to your room so late at night.”
“I might ask you the same thing,” Gil replied, turning to face Milo. His posture was tense, and there was a decidedly unpleasant look on his face. Though a gentleman in every respect, I was not entirely certain that Gil would be above landing a blow in a tense situation.
Milo appeared unperturbed by the threat of imminent fisticuffs. “I have every right to be here. She is my wife, after all.”
“How nice of you to remember at last,” Gil retorted.
“Please,” I interjected. “It’s been a very trying week, and I would appreciate as little additional turmoil as possible.”
Gil looked at me and had the good grace to look at least marginally ashamed. “I’m sorry, Amory. I’m afraid I’m on edge myself.”
“It’s all right, Gil. There isn’t any need for quarreling,” I went on.
“None at all, my dear.” Milo’s tone was light and his face remained impassive, but his eyes were uncharacteristically cold. “Except for I believe the general practice is to be affronted at attempts on one’s wife.”
Gil was, I think, about to reply to this, but my glance stopped him.
It was at this inopportune moment that another knock sounded at the door.
“You should charge for admission, Amory,” Milo drawled from his seat. “You may be able to offset the expenditures of this little holiday.”
“Oh, do shut up, Milo.”
I crossed to the door and opened it to find Inspector Jones looking placidly back at me. Without my invitation, he stepped into the doorway, hovering somewhere between the hallway and my room proper. “I’m sorry to disturb you, Mrs. Ames, but ...” His eyes caught sight of my guests.
“Mr. Ames, Mr. Trent.” There was an irritatingly interested note in his voice. He stepped fully into the room, and I shut the door behind him.
“Inspector Jones,” Milo smiled, “I’m glad you could join us. The party was just beginning to get dull.”
“Throwing a party, are you, Mrs. Ames?” He glanced from me to my husband to Gil and back to me. “A rather exclusive one, it appears.”
“An accidental gathering,” I assured him. “Milo came here because Miss Carter is in his room and he doesn’t wish to disturb her.”
I ignored the low, derisive laugh that came from Gil.
Inspector Jones looked at Milo, and his gaze came back to me, vaguely expectant.
“A gross misunderstanding,” Milo said, as though the phrase would explain the entire situation. Then again, I was not certain it merited explanation. Our bedrooms were not exactly the business of Inspector Jones.
The inspector’s brows rose ever so slightly at Milo’s reply, though his expression did not change. I was certain he would begin to think we were all mad. “I see. Mr. Ames arrived because Miss Carter is in his room. And” — he turned to Gil — “who is in Mr. Trent’s room?”
Gil frowned irritably. “There is no one in my room, Inspector. I needed to speak to Amory.”
“Alone,” supplied Milo.
“As intriguing as all of this may be,” said Inspector Jones. “I came here for a particular reason. I came to enquire, in fact, if you knew of the whereabouts of Mr. Trent.” He turned to Gil. “And here you are.”
“Yes, here I am. What is it that you wished to see me about, Inspector?”
“You were apparently gone from the hotel for a good deal of time today, Mr. Trent. I couldn’t locate you, and no one seemed to know where you had gone. Would you mind telling me where you were?”
Gil stiffened ever so slightly and hesitated for only a moment before he spoke. “At the risk of appearing to be rude or uncooperative, I must say that I don’t particularly see that that is any of your business.”
I was surprised by this answer. It seemed to me Gil could have no conceivable reason for concealing such information, especially at a time like this.
“Is that any way to speak to a policeman?” Milo asked.
Gil turned to Milo. “I should be careful, Ames, if I were you. I am very close to losing my temper.”
“I think you’d better be careful about making threats, Mr. Trent,” said Inspector Jones. “It puts you in rather a bad light.”
There was something in the inspector’s tone that made me uneasy. Gil must have sensed it, too, for he was composed in an instant. “What exactly does that mean, Inspector?”
“It means, Mr. Trent, that I am arresting you for the murder of Rupert Howe.”