This story started here.
My employer enlisted a couple of people from neighboring rooms to help, and they quickly brought Fifteen, our young aide.
Fortunately, whoever had rousted Fifteen out of bed had apparently mentioned that the emergency had involved gunshots, because Christy came with him. Her ensemble consisted of a big fuzzy bathrobe, some puffy slippers, and a large revolver.
We clustered in the doorway. My employer addressed her comments to Fifteen, but they were for Christy and me also.
“Priorities: We need a medic for the princess — to make sure she’s okay. We need security for her also, since her bodyguard has been murdered by person or persons unknown. We need to move her to a safer location, immediately. Marshall broke the lock here so that we could get in, and I need to do a thorough investigation of this room and the next one. And we need to get the bodies to the hospital — I’ll need at least a preliminary autopsy as soon as possible.” Fifteen nodded.
“Christy and I will take the princess to our room,” I said. “The door and the windows have good locks–“
“I don’t need a doctor,” the princess said. She’d come up behind me without making a sound. She was still wrapped up in the blanket, looking like a refugee from some sort of natural disaster. “I would like to get out of this room, though.”
“Clear the hallway,” my employer said, then she turned to Christy. “We have to assume that the princess is in immediate danger. Please don’t leave her for a moment.”
When the hallway was cleared of the curious, we started moving quickly to our room. As we reached the door, the princess suddenly grabbed the door frame and started crying again. I scooped her into my arms and got her into the room. Christy closed and locked the door as I lay the princess on the bed. She curled up, as if trying to occupy as little space as possible.
Christy made sure the window was locked and the drapes were closed while I got a robe out of the closet. Christy took it from me and twirled a finger, telling me to turn my back. I did, and she helped the princess put on the robe.
After a few minutes, the princess recovered and sat up. Even with the robe on, she still kept the blanket wrapped around her.
There was a knock on the door, and Christy went to open it a crack and look out.
“It’s coffee,” she said.
The princess frowned as if she’d never heard the word before, and I found myself trying to remember if I’d ever met anybody named Coffee.
Christy, seeing our perplexed expressions, raised a hand and mimed drinking a cup of coffee. Then her eyes met mine and she frowned. Probably I did also.
“Is there a problem?” the princess asked.
I went to the door, keeping it half closed so that the princess wasn’t visible from the hallway. Christy was behind me, her gun in her hand.
A man who I didn’t recognize said, “Fifteen asked me to–“
“Very thoughtful, and please thank him for that, but not now. Thank you, also.”
I closed the door, and the princess frowned. “Do you really think–” she began.
“No, it’s unlikely, I admit, but it’s not impossible. i had somebody get poisoned right in front of me once. It’s not–“
She nodded and sighed. “I would appreciate some coffee at some point, though. I…” Her shoulders sagged.
“But not enough to die for it, I know,” I said. I went to my desk, opened the bottom drawer, and pulled out a small electric tea kettle.
Christy shook her head. “Isn’t there a rule…”
“Because of the wiring in this place…”
She watched as I filled up the kettle in the tiny bathroom, set it on my desk, and plugged it in.
“Well, I guess I’ll have some, too,” she said, which got a small smile out of the princess.
I was glad to see that smile. Knowing my employer, her investigation of the crime scene could take hours, and, having spent a lot of time with people who were recently bereaved in my career as a detective’s assistant, I knew that the earlier you can introduce at least a tiny bit of humor, the better in the long run.
Christy caught my eye. She didn’t need to do any more than that — I’d attended her father’s funeral with her, fairly recently, and we’d had quite a long discussion of this question.
I suppose I should add that her father had died of natural causes, aided by a lifetime of heavy drinking.
More to come…