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'Murder at the Brightwell' Chapters 7 & 8


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Illustration by Dongkyu Lim

 

Chapter 7

 

MY HUSBAND SMILED at me, his white teeth glinting in the moonlight. “Weren’t expecting me, I see.”

“I never know when to expect you,” I answered lightly. Remembering my manners, and relishing the slight dig at my errant spouse, I gestured to the man who had been about to kiss me. “You remember Gil Trent, I suppose.”

“Very well,” Milo answered amiably. “How are you, Trent?”

“I’m very well,” Gil replied, somewhat curtly. I could feel the tension in him from where he stood, slightly behind me. It was obvious that he did not care for the intrusion, and I knew he was probably embarrassed. I didn’t imagine that kissing married women was much in his line.

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“Yes.” Milo took a cigarette from the silver case he kept in his pocket and put it in his mouth, lighting it. “You seem to be getting along all right.”

“You haven’t answered me, Milo,” I put in, before Gil could make some sort of remark. Men could be such idiots at moments like this.

His eyes moved back to me, flickering silvery in the darkness. “I’m sorry, darling. I seem to have forgotten the question.”

“What are you doing here?”

“I received word that there had been a death in your party.” He blew out a stream of smoke. “I’m glad to see you haven’t allowed it to upset you too much.”

“Now, see here, Ames,” Gil said, moving slightly forward. I put my hand on his arm.

“It’s really been quite an ordeal,” I said. “Emmeline, Gil’s sister, you remember, she was engaged to the young man.”

“My condolences.” He sounded as sincere as Milo ever sounded, but then one could never be sure just what he was really thinking.

“Yes, well, I think I’ll just go check on Emmeline,” Gil said. Without another word or a backward glance at me, he walked past Milo and into the hotel.

Milo and I were alone. We stood for a moment, looking at one another. His expression was as maddeningly impassive as ever. He just stood there, placidly smoking his cigarette as though we were enjoying a quiet evening in our cozy parlor.

“Who told you there had been a death here?” I asked at last.

“These things get around.” He dropped his cigarette and ground it out with his toe. “I was concerned for you at once, of course.”

“And so you rushed to my aid?” I made no attempt to hide the skepticism in my voice. This business was all very odd, his concern definitely suspect.

“Naturally. Shall we go inside, dearest?”

“Not yet.” I moved to him. “I want to know why you’re really here. News of Mr. Howe’s death could not have appeared in the papers in time for you to make it here this evening.”

He made a gesture of assent. “Very well. I read in the evening paper that there had been an accident here at the Brightwell this afternoon, but that wasn’t my sole reason for coming.”

“No. I thought not.”

“I had come to have a word with you about this other business. I assumed that if you chose to carry on with Trent, you would at least be discreet.”

I was surprised by his admission, but I made no attempt to deny his accusation. Denial would serve no purpose. “You have always cared so little for discretion, Milo. I don’t see why I should be any different.”

“The difference between us, darling, has always been that you care for your reputation.” He reached into the pocket of his dinner jacket and pulled out what appeared to be the folded page of a newspaper. “This appeared in the paper this morning.”

I took the slip of paper and moved into the patch of light from the dining room doors.

 

It comes as a surprise to few, no doubt, that a certain lady has had more than her share. The wife of a well-known rogue, lately returned from Monte Carlo, seems to have left for the seaside in the company of the man she jilted to marry said rogue. Do we dare predict divorce proceedings followed by wedding bells?

 

I thrust the paper back at him. “How perfectly disgusting.”

“My sentiments exactly.”

“I wonder how they found out that I was coming to the seaside. I only left yesterday.” Milo’s eyes moved over the article again and then looked up at me, his brows raised. “Am I really a rogue?”

“This is nothing to laugh about, Milo.”

“Who’s laughing, my dear? Do you expect I am amused to find you and Trent making the most of the moonlight?” His eyes slid over me in a way that would have been positively indecent were he not my husband, and may have been indecent in any case. “Although, I can’t say I blame him. You’re looking very beautiful tonight, Amory.”

I tried not to think about how long it had been since he had looked at me with that wicked gleam in his eyes.

“Really, Milo.” I sighed. “I am in no mood for your charm this evening. Did you come all the way down here to confront me with a gossip column? After all the ghastly things they print about you, I’m surprised one little article should so inspire your interest in my affairs.”

“Affairs? Are there more than one?” he asked dryly. “Is poor Trent being duped as well?”

“This is ridiculous,” I said. “I’ve had a very trying day. I’m going in. Good night.”

“How did the chap die?” His voice stopped me. There seemed to be something underlying the almost-uninterested tone.

I turned. “He went missing before tea. Emmeline and I went in search of him ... I saw him from the overlook. He was sprawled on the cliff terrace.” I stepped toward him and lowered my voice, though I wasn’t sure why. I was not even sure why I suddenly felt the need to confide in him. “It looked like an accident to me, but the inspector that was here today says it was definitely murder.”

Milo registered a marginal amount of surprise, indicated by the slight raising of one dark brow. “Murder, was it?” The corner of his mouth tipped up in what was half of a sardonic smile. “Well. It appears, my dear, that this jaunt to the seaside may prove to be more than you bargained for.”

 

***

 

I had thought, after the events of the day, that I would have difficulty falling asleep. But the old adage about the head hitting the pillow was never more apropos, and I awoke as the morning sunlight filtered into my room with no memory of having fallen asleep.

I bathed and dressed in one of my more somber ensembles, a tailored, belted dress made of emerald green silk, and went down to breakfast.

Only a smattering of our party was present in the breakfast room. Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton and Mr. and Mrs. Rodgers sat together, talking in subdued voices. Lionel Blake was with them, though I noticed he did not seem to be participating in the conversation.

Gil was not in there, and I assumed he was with Emmeline. I was worried about her, especially now that it appeared Rupert’s death had been more than an accident. The next few months, the next few days especially, were going to be very hard on her.

Milo, of course, was nowhere to be seen. He was not what one would deem an early riser by any stretch of the imagination, and I had little doubt he was still enjoying the comforts of his bed. His room was on the same floor as mine, by chance or design I didn’t know.

I sat at a table alone but near enough to the others to avoid appearing uninterested in their company. Unlike the morning before, I was afraid I could not summon the appetite for a lavish breakfast. I took some toast and tea and a bit of fruit.

A moment after I had begun to pick at my food, Anne Rodgers leaned over to me from a nearby table, her hand on my arm. “Have you seen Emmeline?”

“No. Have you?”

She shook her head, platinum hair bouncing. “Gil said she was much too distraught. The doctor had given her something rather strong, I believe.”

“Perhaps we will be able to see her today.”

“It’s the most terrible thing,” she continued. “I can’t believe poor Rupert is gone. We were all so fond of him.”

“Well, not all of us,” Mr. Hamilton said with a smirk. “I’ll wager Trent wasn’t crying into his pillow last night.”

“Nelson,” Mrs. Hamilton said softly, “what a terrible thing to say.”

“That doesn’t make it any less true,” he replied, but he let the subject drop. If he had any specific knowledge of bad blood between Rupert and Gil, he was not in the mood to share it at present.

“This all could have been avoided if they had put up a suitable railing,” Mr. Rodgers intoned. “The legal implications of such a hazard likely have never occurred to the hotel. If Emmeline, after a suitable period of mourning, of course, would care for me to look into the ...”

“Oh, Edward,” Anne Rodgers said, waving her fork at him. “Not now.”

He frowned at his wife’s gentle reprimand but didn’t finish his sentence.

Nelson Hamilton guffawed as he took an overlarge bite of egg. “Always on the lookout for a bit of business, eh, Ned?”

Larissa Hamilton had watched the exchange with the same look of vague alarm that I had come to realize was her natural expression. “I’m sure that’s not what he meant, Nelson,” she said softly.

“Not a bad idea, though,” Hamilton continued, as if his wife had not spoken. “Negligence, pure and simple.”

They were not aware, then, that it was murder.

I wondered why Inspector Jones would have revealed the fact to me and not to the others. Under the circumstances, I thought it best to keep the information to myself for the time being. I wondered who else knew about the bad feelings between Gil and Rupert. When the news was made public that Rupert had been murdered, people would be quick to point the finger at anyone besides themselves who might have had a reason to do him harm, and Gil’s dislike for Rupert might be construed as such. Of course, dislike for someone was not necessarily a motive for murder. Yet the fact remained that Rupert was dead, killed by a blow to the head from someone with whom he had presumably been arguing above the cliff terrace.

I still did not believe, even for a moment, that it might have been Gil. And after all, if Gil had been angry enough to strike Rupert, he could very well have done it that night when they had been alone on the terrace outside my window. No, I could not make myself consider that the overheard conversation was especially significant. That did nothing to ease my worry about what others might say, however.

A thought came to me suddenly. Perhaps if I could establish Rupert’s movements before his death, I could remove Gil from the scene completely. Perhaps it would rid me of my growing uneasiness.

“None of you saw Rupert walking about on the terrace yesterday afternoon, I suppose?” I asked casually, pushing my fruit around my plate with my fork.

“I hadn’t seen him since we were on the beach,” Anne Rodgers said. “Edward and I were napping. Weren’t we, dear?” She smiled luminously at her husband, and I rather thought he flushed.

“As I said yesterday, I hadn’t seen him either,” Mr. Hamilton said, a bit defensively, I thought.

“I saw him in the lobby after we came up from the beach,” Mrs. Hamilton said suddenly. She glanced at her husband as though worried he might cut her off and then continued. “He said something about having a meeting with someone later in the afternoon.”

That was curious. I remembered distinctly that yesterday afternoon she had agreed with her husband that they hadn’t seen Rupert.

“I ... I only just remembered,” she said, as though reading my thoughts.

I wondered. It seemed more likely that Mr. Hamilton had encouraged her silence.

“I took it to mean his tea engagement with Emmeline,” she went on, “but perhaps ...”

“I’m sure it was nothing,” Mr. Hamilton said abruptly.

“Yes, I’m sure you’re right,” she echoed, but her eyes met mine, and I saw the question in them. I would have to speak with her about it later, when her husband wasn’t present.

“I understand your husband arrived last night.” The crisp voice of Veronica Carter broke into the conversation. I turned to see her approaching my table, regarding me with those cold blue eyes of hers.

“Yes,” I answered indifferently. “Quite unexpectedly.”

A rather vicious smile played on her trifle-too-red lips, and I fancied I saw her eyes glint just a bit. “How inconvenient.”

As much as I abhorred indelicate language, at the moment I would have been able to think of several appropriate names for the woman.

“Your husband?” Anne Rodgers asked. “I thought ...” She paused, and an awkward silence descended.

“And will you be going home now, after this accident?” It was Lionel Blake who broke in with a fresh question, thankfully obliterating the necessity of an explanation of the current state of my marriage. He had been silent throughout my conversation with the others, but I had noticed he had been listening with apparent interest.

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“I’m not sure,” I answered. “What about all of you?”

It was my turn to be met with an awkward silence.

“We’re not sure either,” Anne Rodgers said at last. “It sounds frightfully coldhearted, but we may finish out our holiday.”

“The rooms are paid for,” Mr. Rodgers said, taking a bit of his kippers. “I think it’s dreadful,” Larissa Hamilton said softly. “I wish we could go home today ... now.”

“Nonsense, Larissa.” Her husband spoke, I thought, a touch louder than was strictly necessary, given their proximity. “Rupert would want us to finish out our stay, life of the party, he was. No good packing up and heading home.”

“I expect Emmeline will go back with ... with the body, when everything is cleared up here,” Anne Rodgers went on. “The funeral won’t be for several days yet, and we can attend when we go back to London.”

“Life goes on, eh?” Hamilton said, almost defiantly.

It seemed that there was nothing further to say, so I rose from the table. “If you’ll all excuse me, I think I’d better go take some aspirin. I have a headache.”

It crossed my mind as I left the room that I greatly hoped my friends would be just a bit more distressed were I to meet with an untimely end.   

 


Chapter 8

 

A SHORT WHILE LATER, I tapped softly on the door to Emmeline’s room, and I heard the low murmur of voices before the door opened. Gil looked out at me. “Hello, Amory.” His tone was noticeably aloof.

“Hello, Gil,” I answered, as though I hadn’t noticed the lack of warmth in his greeting. “How is Emmeline?”

His eyes darted back into the room. “Not very well.”

“Let her come in, Gil,” Emmeline’s voice behind him sounded very weak and faint. Gil pulled open the door to allow me to enter.

I stepped into the dark room. The curtains were drawn against the cheerful sun, and Emmeline sat on the sofa, a blanket draped over her. Her face was wan, and her eyes were swollen and red from crying.

I moved to her and sat down beside her on the sofa, taking her soft, cold hand while Gil seated himself in a nearby chair. “Emmeline, I’m so sorry,” I said. “I know there’s nothing you can hear now that will make you feel any better, but I truly am sorry.”

Her eyes immediately filled with tears. “I don’t know what I shall do,” she whispered. “I ... I ... don’t know how I’ll get on without him ...”

I squeezed her hand in mine. “You mustn’t think about that now. Concentrate on getting your strength back. One day at a time, dear. That’s all you can do.”

She shook her head. “Even one day seems too much without Rupert. I loved him so ...” Her words trailed off into sobs that shook her slight frame.

I did my best to comfort her as she cried. Eventually, the weeping subsided and she fell into an exhausted sleep.

I stood and pulled the blanket over her. “Poor dear,” I said softly.

I moved toward the door, and Gil walked with me. I stopped halfway across the room and turned to him, almost without thinking about what I was going to do. “Gil . . . I need to tell you something.”

“Yes? What is it?” he asked, his tone flat. It seemed to me that he had tensed ever so slightly, as though preparing himself for something he didn’t want to hear.

“It’s about Rupert. That Detective Inspector Jones ... well, he says that Rupert was murdered.”

I watched Gil’s face as I said the words. His features remained perfectly smooth, but he blinked twice, very rapidly, as if he could not quite conceal his surprise. “He told you that?” he asked.

“Yes.”

“Is he certain?”

“It seems so.”

“What else did he say?”

He asked the questions calmly, but I sensed urgency beneath them. I began to wonder if perhaps I should not have said anything.

“He only said that he’d been hit on the head before he fell.”

Gil blinked again, almost a flinch. “Did he say who he suspected?”

I hesitated. He hadn’t, not in so many words. The inspector had asked me questions about Gil, but mentioning it might cause Gil undue alarm. “I think it’s rather early for him to have determined that.”

Gil let out a short breath. “He can’t know anything for sure,” he said, almost to himself.

I frowned. This wasn’t exactly what I had expected. I had thought Gil would be shocked, perhaps a bit skeptical, as I had been. Instead, it seemed almost as though I had confirmed some private belief of his. Either that ... or he knew something.

“You mustn’t say anything to Emmeline about this,” he told me, glancing over his shoulder at his sister’s sleeping form. “She’s far too distraught for any more bad news.”

“She’ll have to know eventually, Gil,” I said gently.

“Yes, I suppose you’re right ...” His voice trailed off , and his gaze wandered, as though he were lost in thought.

“I asked at breakfast if anyone had seen anything. Perhaps if I talk to everyone ...”

His gaze came sharply to mine. “Don’t,” he said. “Don’t start asking questions.”

“But I only ...”

“No good can come of it, Amory. Trust me.”

I was surprised by the vehemence of his reaction. “Gil, is there ... do you know something about this?”

He recovered his composure and smiled a very forced smile.

“Of course not.” He almost managed to make his voice sound normal, unconcerned. “I only meant that the investigation is bound to be unpleasant, and I would hate for you to be involved in it.”

I suspected there was more to it than that, much more, but it was very apparent that Gil was in no mood to confide in me at present.

“Perhaps you’re right,” I answered, hoping to let the subject drop.

Gil looked immensely relieved, and I felt much more uneasy. Was there something that he was refusing to tell me?

I turned toward the door again, but his hand caught my arm. “Amory, wait. I ... I have to ask. What is Milo doing here? What are his intentions?”

“One never knows with Milo,” I answered.

There was a sudden intensity in Gil’s expression as he looked down at me. “I don’t like his being here, not now.”

“I can’t very well send him packing, can I?” I retorted. Something in his manner was irritating to me. It wasn’t as though I summoned Milo here. His presence had been as unexpected— and unwelcomed — to me as it had been to Gil.

His hand dropped from my arm. “I’m sorry. I know it isn’t your fault. I just ...” The dark brown flecks in his eyes stood out, as they did when he was troubled. In that moment, I felt a rush of affection for him, and sensation of guilt over all that I had put him through. It wasn’t Milo that had hurt Gil; it was me. And for that, I felt rather shabby.

“You don’t have to explain, Gil,” I said gently. “We’re all on edge at the moment. And I know how you feel about Milo.”

He offered a smile that seemed forced. “He is your husband, after all. I really have no right to ... feel the way I do.”

Our eyes met and caught for just a moment. He was very close, and I could smell the heady scent of his aftershave. I thought he might try to kiss me again, but instead he reached behind me, his arm brushing mine, and pulled the door open, the click of the latch loud in the heavy silence of the room.

“You had better go,” he said in a low voice.

I nodded. “We’ll talk later, Gil. I think there are things we will both want to say, once things have settled down a bit.”

“Yes.”

I left Emmeline’s room and took the lift down to the lobby. I wasn’t certain where I was going. I only knew I didn’t intend to return to my room to sit idly thinking. My mind was much too full for quiet solitude at the moment. The murder, Milo, Gil — everything seemed to be tumbling about in a disorderly jumble in my head.

Gil’s behavior was puzzling, to say the least. It was disturbingly obvious from his reaction to my news that he knew, or at least suspected, more than he let on. His determination that I not get involved only strengthened my resolve to help in some way. Gil was worried about something, and if he wouldn’t confide in me, perhaps I could put the pieces together on my own.

There was so much to think about. What I needed was a steady sea breeze in my face and the roar of the waves in my ears. A brisk walk along the shore would serve me nicely.

The lift opened, and I stepped, preoccupied, into the lobby, nearly walking directly into the arms of Detective Inspector Jones. I stepped back, a trifle quickly, and hoped he would not be of the impression that I had leapt away in order to avoid contact. Such an idea was not one I cared to cultivate with the police.

“Mrs. Ames,” he said, politely enough, “just the person I wanted to see.”

“How frightfully popular you are, Amory,” Milo drawled from behind me.

I turned to him, less than enthusiastic that he should choose this moment to descend upon the scene. “Hello, Milo.”

“Hello, darling.” He dropped a kiss on my cheek and then paused, leaning in close for just a moment, his mouth very near my throat.

“You smell of aftershave,” he noted in a low voice.

“Do I? How very odd,” I answered, my attention turning back to the inspector. “Inspector Jones, this is my husband, Milo Ames. Milo, Detective Inspector Jones of the CID.”

“Mr. Ames.” The inspector extended a hand, which Milo shook.

“Always pleased to make a friendly acquaintance with the law,” Milo said. “One hears so many things about the police these days.” The way in which Milo said this could, perhaps, be construed as less than complimentary.

“And I have heard of you,” Inspector Jones replied unperturbedly. “Mrs. Ames mentioned that you weren’t expected, I believe.”

Amusement turned up the corner of Milo’s mouth. “I certainly wasn’t.”

“I suppose you wish to speak with me alone,” I interjected.

“I had thought to ask you for a private interview, if you would be so kind”— he glanced at Milo with the same sort of perfunctorily requesting gaze he had given Gil the first time he had interviewed me — “and if your husband has no objection.”

Milo gave an elegant shrug. “I am becoming accustomed to having her spirited away.”

“Indeed ... However ...” He paused, his expression blank. “I see no reason why your husband should not be party to our conversation. Perhaps we should all step into the sitting room.”

I had no idea why he would wish to include Milo in our conversation, but I had no strong objection. In fact, if anyone was disinclined to participate in the interview, it was my husband. Murder would be of very little interest to Milo.

Nevertheless, he followed the inspector and me to the sitting room. The inspector motioned with his hand for me to precede him, followed by Milo, and then he entered and shut the door behind us.

I took a seat on the green sofa, and Milo sank easily into a white chair, a vaguely indifferent look on his face. As for myself, I was beginning to dislike this room intensely. It had come to represent, in my mind, all the charms of an interrogation room, not that I was actually acquainted with such places.

The inspector remained standing. “There are just a few things I wanted to ask you, Mrs. Ames,” he said, pulling out his notebook. He flipped it open, and I could make out bold but neatly printed notes.

“The medical examiner has concluded that Mr. Howe was killed sometime between noon and four o’clock. Had you seen him at all yesterday afternoon?”

I shook my head. “That last I saw him was at the beach in the morning.”

“At what time?”

“Ten, or perhaps half past.”

“Was anything of interest said then?”

I thought back. “No, nothing of consequence. Rupert was swimming. I stopped to speak to Emmeline, he came up, we chatted briefly, and I moved on.”

“What about at dinner Saturday night?”

“He was there. We spoke very little, danced once.”

“And he seemed ... untroubled?”

“Very. He seemed quite pleased with himself.”

“In what way?” The questions were shorter now, his tone more expectant. I was not entirely sure I cared for it.

“In the way of a man who has everything he wants and feels that he unquestionably deserves it,” I replied.

He paused for just a moment, looking up at me over his notebook with his calm brown eyes. Was it a glint of approval I saw there?

“What made you look down to the cliff terrace?”

“Emmeline told me that we were to take tea there. She thought perhaps he had gone down to wait for us rather than meeting in the lobby as they had discussed.”

“And when you discovered the body, he was lying facing upward?”

“I only saw him from the top of the cliff ,” I replied. “I don’t really recall seeing his face, just his body lying there.”

“Yet you were quite certain it was he.” He flipped to another page in his notebook, his eyes scanning the notes written there. “The hotel manager said that you told him that Rupert Howe had fallen off the cliff.”

“You’re rather good at this, Inspector,” Milo interposed dryly.

The inspector’s gaze flickered to my husband, and for once I was glad of Milo’s maddening insouciance.

“Next thing, you’ll have her confessing, though I’m quite sure if she were to bash in anyone’s head, it would be mine. Am I right, darling?”

“Milo, really ...”

“I am merely ascertaining the facts,” Inspector Jones said calmly. “It is my opinion that Mrs. Ames would have neither sufficient motive nor force of will to kill Mr. Howe.”

“How very kind,” I replied crisply.

“Nevertheless, I should like to know how you knew it was he at the base of the cliff.” I cast my mind back, forcing myself to remember what I had been doing my best to forget. I had looked over the edge ... “Now that you ask, I am not at all certain why I was so sure. I was expecting to see him, I suppose.”

“Perfectly logical.” He turned to Milo. “And you arrived when, Mr. Ames?”

“Oh, is it my turn now?” Milo smiled. “I arrived last night, around nine.”

“You came directly from London?”

“No. From our country house in Kent.”

“On what train?”

“I don’t recall. One of the afternoon trains. I’m sure my ticket stub is about somewhere, if you should require it.”

The inspector jotted another note. “Very good.”

He turned back to me. “Just one more thing. You can think of no one with motive to do harm to Mr. Howe?” he asked. It seemed to me there was something expectant in his gaze, as though he were ready for a specific answer.

“No, I ...” The memory of the conversation I had overheard between Rupert and Gil once again made an unexpected and unwelcome appearance in my mind. I had convinced myself that it was nothing ... yet ... no, I decided, I needn’t mention it, not until my own mind was settled about the matter. To do so would be disloyal to Gil. I only hoped no one else had overheard it. “I am quite sure I don’t know why any of our party would wish to do harm to Mr. Howe.”

“The hotel is nearly at capacity,” Milo noted, once again relieving me of the piercing official stare. “I’m sure that must give you any number of suspects, a much larger field than in the mystery novels.”

A tight smile showed itself on the inspector’s mouth. “It’s very unlikely, I should say, that a complete stranger would care to — how did you put it? — bash in Rupert Howe’s head. There has been no connection made between any of the other persons staying at the Brightwell. It is highly probable, then, that it is someone of his own acquaintance.”

“You’re certain this was no accident?” I asked, knowing the question was a futile one. What ever else Inspector Jones might be, he was certainly competent.

“I’m afraid there’s no question. He was definitely hit by a blunt instrument. The medical examiner is certain the wound could not have been caused by the fall. There will be an inquest tomorrow. You will give evidence?”

“I have little evidence to give, Inspector,” I answered. “However, I would be happy to relate my experience.”

He nodded. “Very good. Until tomorrow, then.”

“Yes.” I stood. “If that is all, I think I might go out and take in some fresh air.”

“Going for a walk?” theinspector asked. “With all that’s occurred, perhaps it would be best if Mr. Ames accompanied you.”

“He needn’t bother,” I said with a glance at Milo. “I’m sure it’s much too early for him to be getting any sort of exercise.”

“Nonsense,” Milo replied, not moving a muscle. “I am perfectly capable of physical exertion in the cause of chivalry.”

“I doubt I shall need your gallant protection, but you may come if you wish.” I turned toward the door, and Milo rose languidly from his seat.

“A pleasure to meet you, Inspector,” Milo said. “Our acquaintance has been most enlightening.”

“Indeed, it has, Mr. Ames,” Inspector Jones replied. “Indeed, it has. I hope you enjoy the rest of your stay.”

“Well, it’s not exactly the Côte d’Azur, is it?” Milo answered. “But I daresay I’ll find some way to amuse myself.”

“Yes, I don’t doubt it.” The inspector’s thoughtful gaze moved from Milo to me and then back again. “Well, good day, Mr. Ames. Mrs. Ames.”

“Pleasant chap,” Milo observed, as Inspector Jones walked off, no doubt in search of other victims to interrogate. There was something distinctly unnerving about the man, but I suspected that was a useful characteristic in his line of work.

“A very efficient policeman, I should think,” I replied. And a clever one, unless I missed my guess. There was something Inspector Jones was getting at, something he suspected and was trying to confirm. For some reason, the thought was discomforting.

My thoughts went back to the conversation between Gil and Rupert. If one imagined hard enough, one might be able to see some sort of vague threat on Gil’s part, and it worried me more than a little. Not that I believed for a moment that Gil was capable of murder. It was just that if I had overheard the conversation, others might have, and they might not interpret Gil’s words as innocently as I had.

I wondered if that was what had worried him when we had spoken earlier in the day, but somehow I thought it was more than that. I wished, not for the first time since coming to the Brightwell, that Gil would take me into his confidence. Then again, I had long ago forfeited my rights on that score.

That didn’t mean, of course, that there was nothing I could do. Perhaps I should continue to talk to the others, to see if any of them had an inkling of what might have happened. Even if they had seen nothing, they might have their own suspicions— or hidden motives.

“... I shall have to change my clothes,” Milo was saying.

I turned to him. “I beg your pardon?”

“Before we go traipsing about on the beach, I shall have to put on some other clothes.” He was wearing a blue suit that fit him to perfection, but that was neither here nor there.

“We’re not going to the beach,” I answered.

“No?”

“No. I’ve changed my mind.”

“Very well. Am I dismissed?” Something very subtle in his posture gave me the impression that he was ready to be gone, that there was something innate in him like a tide, ready to sweep him away from me. A calm sea with restless, swirling currents.

I almost laughed at my absurd philosophizing. If Milo could have heard my thoughts, he would no doubt have had something very droll to say about them.

“Yes, you may go,” I said loftily, in keeping with his general lack of gravity. I headed toward the back of the hotel, ready to get out into the fresh air of the terrace.

“Amory.”

I turned.

“Before I go, may I offer you one piece of sound, husbandly advice?”

“And what is that?” I asked, wondering if he could possibly have any sort of counsel that could prove useful to me, for some reason hoping that he did.

He stepped closer. Then a look of amusement flickered across his eyes, and, even before he spoke, I knew that he was not serious.

“That scent on your neck is not at all becoming, I’m afraid. Your usual gardenia is much more suited to you.”

NEXT: CHAPTERS 9 & 10

 

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