the deacon mystery (part eight)

This story started here.

The Deacon house was smaller and shabbier than I’d expected. It looked like an old summer cottage that had been converted for year-round occupancy. It was on Pine Street, just a few doors down from the sandwich shop where we’d eaten our lunch the day before.

It occurred to me that if my employer and I did ever have the desire, and the wherewithal, to get a house in Claremont, a house like this was probably the best we’d be able to manage. And then we’d need to buy furniture…

I made a mental note to make sure we stayed on Mrs. Jessup’s good side.

As we walked downhill on the narrow path from the sidewalk to the house, I wondered how we were going to get “in the door,” so to speak. Did my employer have a plan, or did she think that her fame in the local area was now such that any family in any sort of distress would automatically welcome her arrival?

She knocked on the wooden frame of the screen door and waited. After a few moments, the inner door opened and we could see a young woman in a dark hallway, looking out at us. It seemed that she took a moment for her eyes to adjust to the bright sunshine outside, and then she opened the screen door.

“Miss Sleet! Can I…” her voice trailed off.

“Miss Deacon, I am Jan Sleet. This is my assistant, Marshall. May we come in?”

Miss Deacon stepped aside and motioned us in. “Of course,” she said awkwardly, after we were already inside. “Can I…”

“You’d like to know why I’m here, of course. I spoke to your father yesterday at the book sale, and today I’ve heard that he’s missing. I was wondering if there was some way I could help.”

“Oh.” She looked around the dark and narrow hallway. “Would you like to come into the living room?”

“That’s very kind. Thank you.”

My employer sat in the best armchair in the small living room. Miss Deacon perched on the arm of a sofa and I sat on a straight-backed chair.

Miss Deacon (whichever Miss Deacon she was — had my employer figured that out already?) was apparently around twenty years old, slender and dark-haired, dressed in a Claremont College T-shirt and washed-out jeans. Her feet were bare.

“My father is missing,” she said slowly. “From what the sheriff said, I know he talked to you at the book sale–”

“How did you learn he was missing? Do you and he live here alone?”

“My sister Julie — she’s a year older than me, and she’s at college.” She stretched out her T-shirt. “This is one of her shirts. I’m a senior in high school.”

“Will you attend Claremont also?”

She shrugged. “I don’t know. I’m going to apply to several schools, and see where I get accepted…”

“Do you live here — just you and your father? Does you sister live on campus, in the dorms?”

“Oh, no. She still lives here, too. She has a boyfriend. Sometimes she… They’re out sailing now — he has a boat.”

I could tell that my employer was finding it rather charming that Miss Deacon was trying not to state the obvious: that sometimes her sister spent the night with her boyfriend.

Miss Deacon waited a moment, then she said, “Miss Sleet, do you think you’ll be able to help?”

The great detective shrugged and smiled. “I have no idea. Not yet.”

Miss Deacon seemed to take this as cautious optimism, combined with eagerness to get the investigation going.

I had a different interpretation.

To be continued…

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