the deacon mystery (part six)

This story started here.

My employer, who was sitting on her bed, smiled at the sheriff. "I assume that this possible crime is the 'circumstances' you referred to downstairs?"

Rhonda sat in our one easy chair (without an invitation, but of course this was not a social visit). I stood by the door.

"There appears to have been a kidnapping last night."

My employer waited. Miss Nelson sipped her tea, her expression blank.

Rhonda continued. "I've had a few reports about your conversation with Fred Deacon at the book sale yesterday, and they were inconsistent, in terms of how they–"

Miss Nelson's voice seemed to float across the room. "Did any of these witnesses actually hear the conversation, Sheriff White? Was anybody close enough?"

Rhonda turned to the attorney. "Not that we've been able to discover so far."

"Well, in that case, my client–"

"Rhonda, would you like to hear what was said?" My employer took a sip of her coffee and placed her mug on her bedside table, carefully centering it on a coaster. "I can recite the entire conversation for you verbatim, if you want, and then Marshall can type it up and bring it to your office this afternoon, including carbon copies."

I got the idea that Rhonda was here because she had to be. She had a case that didn't interest her very much, but she had to do her job (and she wasn't about to have anybody from her staff interview my employer).

I kept my face impassive, but I was amused to think that this was not going to be one of those cases which would interfere with whatever personal plans Rhonda and Phyllis might have made for that evening.

Rhonda sighed. "That's not necessary. A simple summary will be enough."

"For now," Miss Nelson murmured, smiling. She sipped some more of her tea.

"At the book sale," my employer began, "I had a very pleasant conversation with Dr. Aubrey Deacon." I expected her to light a cigarette, but she didn't. "It went on for a while, and then his brother Frederick came up to us. Dr. Deacon introduced him to me, and then he left us."

She sighed.

"There was, I must add, a clumsy and painfully obvious attempt by the brothers to make this all seem casual, but they had planned it in advance. So, that put me off from the start." She looked like she was about to launch into a rant, but she held it back.

"Are you familiar with Mr. Deacon's daughter?" she asked the sheriff.

"Which daughter? Julie or Jennifer?"

My employer frowned, apparently surprised. "I confess that I don't know. Nothing in what Mr. Deacon said – at least while I was actually listening to him – told me that he had more than one daughter." She paused thoughtfully, and the sheriff waited.

"His daughter, whichever one it was, has apparently, from what he said, been kidnapped. Or, possibly, she has run away from home – he didn't seem to be entirely sure.

"I... as Marshall can tell you, this was a stupid approach for Mr. Deacon to take. As I explained to him, quite clearly, I am not a private investigator, nor do I have any desire to become one. I am a professional journalist and I support myself by writing, not by investigating. If I do decide to turn my attention to solving a mystery, it's because I find it interesting, and sometimes because it seems that it might make a good subject for an article – or maybe even a book – after the fact. I..." She stopped herself and made a face.

"To put it briefly, he told me his daughter was missing, he offered me money to find her, and he tried to get me to come to his house, immediately, to get started on 'our case,' as he called it."

Rhonda nodded. "Did Mr. Deacon give any indication–"

"Of why he was coming to me rather than going to the police? No, and I didn't ask. I'm afraid that, when he sensed my lack of interest and started to mention how much he was planning to pay me, I turned and walked away from him while he was in the middle of a sentence.

"I located Marshall, we paid for my books, and we left.

"Allow me to guess. Evidence has now come to light that Miss Deacon – a Miss Deacon – has been kidnapped."

"No, Fred Deacon has been kidnapped. Apparently."

I was finding that I had to focus on the conversation between my employer and the sheriff, because it was becoming increasingly obvious, at least to me, that the well-dressed attorney sitting by the window was studying me. It looked like she was only somewhat engaged by the conversation which was going on around her. I wondered if my employer was noticing this (well, of course she was), and whether I was going to get teased about this later (definitely, in private, at the most opportune time, probably when my guard was down).

The sheriff asked a few more questions, and she got answers. They were truthful answers, of course, but they did not happen to include any reference to possibly menacing cars, mysterious dark-clad women, or throwing knives with Portuguese words carved into their handles.

To be continued...

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