a princess in u-town (part nine)

This story started here.

 
My employer smiled, briefly. “How did I know? Two general observations, really: the rule of the sheets, and the rule of traveling couples, I guess we can call them. Plus one very specific observation.

“Two people, sharing a bed, may use any number of pillows, pillow cases, comforters, and blankets, but they seldom use more than one top sheet and one fitted sheet. What would they use them for? But in your room, obviously in use, there were four sheets.

“And here’s the specific observation: The bedclothes were scattered all over the floor. Why?

“There was nothing in your account of the crime that would explain the way the bedclothes were scattered around the room, even apart from the question of the number of sheets.

“On close examination, though, it became apparent that someone had been sleeping on the floor. A comforter folded up as a mattress, two sheets, a blanket on top, a pillow, and then the whole thing kicked around to hide what was going on, probably right before we stepped into the room.

“Leading me to the rule of traveling couples. A couple at home may fight and one may end up sleeping on the couch or elsewhere in the house — but this almost never happens when traveling. That’s a big bed. No matter how bad the fight, you’d have just moved to opposite sides and gone to sleep.

“So, why did you pretend to be lovers?”

The princess nodded slowly. “We…I had started to become uneasy about Archie. We both felt it. Just… If he was loyal, we were very safe. But if he wasn’t, we were totally at his mercy.”

She shrugged. “It may seem odd to you, Miss Sleet — as a woman of the world — but I was suddenly aware that this was my first trip away from home, and sometimes it seemed like it was a big adventure…

“Anyway, I decided I wanted Ana with me at night, in my room, so it wasn’t just me, with Archie on the other side of the door. I was going to make up some sort of story, but then I found out that Vicki Wasserman was — you know — that way, and it seemed the easiest solution. We laughed about it, Ana and I…” Her voice trailed off.

My employer nodded. “I thought it was something like that. I wanted to establish that you were not lovers before I tell you how I believe she betrayed you. To be betrayed by a friend and companion is bad enough, but to be betrayed by a lover is worse, and I didn’t want you to feel compelled to act out a level of grief that you didn’t actually feel.”

The princess frowned. “She betrayed me?” she asked slowly. Then her voice sharpened. “Miss Sleet, may I remind you that she died trying to protect me?”

“That’s true… But let me start at the beginning.” The princess folded her arms, looking stern.

“A careful study of your room revealed more than your sleeping arrangements. Let’s look at the events from Mr. Glover’s point of view. He is prepared and he is a professional. He is ready to come quickly into a room and kill two sleeping women.” She shrugged. “There was no reason to keep Ana alive, and every reason to kill her, too.

“So, how did Ana get all the way across the room to struggle with him for the gun? How did he allow that to happen? The answer — the only answer — is that he didn’t see her as a threat.”

“But–“

“Yes, but. She did get across the room to him, pretending to be on his side, and then she did struggle with him, to save the life of her mistress, so she must have had a change of heart.

“But then, her mistress jumped in to help her, and got knocked down and suffered a fatal injury, and somehow the bodyguard was killed, and then Ana was stuck with the fact that she and the princess had been pretending to be each other, another of their games.

“But then, why did she not say so right away, at the moment when it would have been natural for her to admit the truth, when Marshall and I burst into the room? Because of her guilt about her original plan to betray her mistress, and then it was too late to tell us, because why hadn’t she said it at first, and also there was the fear that I would discover it anyway, as I have.

“Isn’t that how it happened, Ana?”

 
More to come…

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