the marvel murder case (part nineteen)

This story started here.

 
We were in town for most of the day.

We were never actually under arrest, and when we were threatened with arrest there was some confusion about what we might be charged with. As my employer pointed out, we were not burglars, since we had not used force to gain access to the former sheriff’s house, and we had not entered the premises to commit a felony (rather the opposite).

I had been armed, of course, but for no purpose beyond possible self-defense (and I am licensed to carry).

The answer, of course, was unlawful entry, but we weren’t about to volunteer that information.

The deputies were hampered both by the absence of their boss, the sheriff (who was still in the hospital), and also the absence of the county attorney, Mr. Barris, who recused himself, with evident relief, because he was a long-time friend and associate of the accused. And, of course, for most of the deputies, the accused was their former boss as well.

I had called Professor Lebrun when we’d arrived at the police station, just to let him know why we hadn’t been at the house when he’d got up, and to let him know that there had been, to say the least, developments.

 
That afternoon, when all of the paperwork had been dealt with, at least for the moment, we had a late lunch at the Wagon Wheel. We ate mostly in silence — we’d been awake since the previous morning and we were both about ready to collapse.

In addition to the exhaustion, there was also the letdown of having the mystery solved, and the feeling of adrenaline seeping away. I had been pretty keyed up in the house of the former sheriff, waiting for him to come home. In those types of confrontations, it’s never possible to be entirely sure how things are going to go, no matter how carefully you prepare.

After our meal, we took the jitney back to the campus. Professor Lebrun wasn’t home, so we decided to get some sleep. My employer’s exhaustion was shown by the fact that she went right to bed, without showering or taking a bath.

One thing she did do before bed, though, was to leave a note for the professor. I peeked at it when she was done. It said:

Dear Professor,

The case is solved. A woman will come to see me this evening. If I’m not up yet, please entertain her while I get some much-needed sleep.

Thank you.

JS

 
I awoke, and not for the first time, to the feeling of my employer’s long, bony forefinger poking at my shoulder.

When I got my eyes open, wondering what time it was (and guessing that it was not — unfortunately — going-back-to-sleep time), she held her finger up over her lips and gestured at the living room with her eyes.

Through the wall, I heard the professor, his voice rather closer to a purr than usual, and a woman, who was chuckling warmly.

It seemed that this might be the sort of evening where our sudden appearance in the living room might be unwelcome, but there was no other way out of our bedroom except for the window.

My employer gripped my arm and leaned over to whisper, “Don’t worry. I’m very popular.”

She dressed with even more care than usual, and when she was done she raised an eyebrow and asked, “How do I look?”

I scrutinized her. “Immaculate,” I admitted.

She smiled and gestured with her cane that I should open the door so she could sweep (well, sweep with a pronounced limp) into the living room.

I wondered who she was planning to impress, and why.

The visitor was probably in her forties, wearing wire-frame glasses. She wore a dark brown pantsuit, no vest, and the collar of her cream-colored shirt was open. My experience working for my employer told me that her clothing was very expensive indeed.

“Miss Stapleton,” my employer said, extending her hand as she limped forward, “I’ve been hoping to meet you. I gather you’ve met Professor Lebrun, who is our host, and this is my assistant, Marshall. I’m sorry I wasn’t available to greet you upon your arrival. I hope your flight wasn’t too taxing?”

A brief round of handshaking ensued (Professor Lebrun’s eyes twinkled as he toyed with the idea of shaking my hand), and then we all sat down. The professor and his visitor had glasses of wine, but he didn’t offer us any.

Ms. Stapleton (she had indicated, during the handshaking, that she preferred this honorific) smiled at my employer. “I’m somewhat impressed that you know my name. Are you also going to deduce what I had for dinner?”

My employer smiled also. “That is, of course, a trick question, since you’ve had no dinner.” She turned to me as Professor Lebrun got to his feet, apparently stricken that he hadn’t offered any food to his guest.

 
To be continued…

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