Yesterday you read part one of Laura Bradford’s story. Here is part two and we get to see whodonit. Each author has been given leeway on who they accuse and how it’s solved. I am really enjoying the stories and I hope you are too! Remember we need you to vote on which story you liked the best. They are both winners to me..but I am a little partial to Laura and Claire since they are on my blog! 🙂
Claire pulled the door shut behind her and paused in the hallway. The main staircase to the lower level was still a hot spot for gawking. By now, the police were likely assessing the crime scene and the likelihood of getting down to the main floor via that route was slim to none. Instead, she turned left and headed toward a second staircase she knew would lead to the home’s music room.
There, she found Sammie, the young woman who’d so proudly introduced Claire and her fellow mystery event guests not more than two hours earlier. Huddled on a chair in the corner, Sammie looked up and tried to smile as Claire approached, but the tears streaming down the petite blonde’s face proved the effort futile.
“Miss Weatherly, I-I’m sorry you’re stay…had to start and end this way.”
Claire grabbed a nearby chair and pulled it over. “Have you known Mr. Reinhart long?” she asked.
“N-no. Not really. But all my life I’ve wanted to be an actress. I thought this gig would be my first big break. P-people could hear my voice, and-and my charisma and I’d be on my way, as my grandfather always says.”
“You did a great job on the introductions. You didn’t even read cue cards from what I saw.”
The girl visibly brightened. “I didn’t! I memorized everyone’s introduction just the way Mr. Reinhart wrote them. Though”—Sammie lowered her voice—“I embellished a few to make them sound better.”
The tears stopped and Sammie nodded. Hard. “Well, like that part at the end of the daughter-grandmother duo, about promising to keep us all in stitches? I wrote that. Needlepoint…stitches…get it?”
Claire found her smile and hoped it would encourage Sammie to continue. “Very clever.”
“The only thing I wish I’d done, in hindsight, was to add a line to Sylvie Sydell’s intro to really play up the mystery event.” Sammie pushed off her chair, walked about five feet, and then spun around to face Claire again. “Remember the part about her ability to enter someone else’s body making her the ultimate sleuth?”
She nodded as if she remembered, but she really didn’t. So much had been going on—with Maria the maid taking their luggage, and some handsome dark haired man rushing to take them from Maria’s hands—she hadn’t really paid attention to the introduction that followed hers and Diane’s.
“What I should have added was it could also make her the ultimate villain.”
Claire’s head paused mid-nod and she stared at Sammie. “What was that?”
“Think about it,” Sammie urged, bright eyed. “Being able to enter another person’s body might help you solve cases, sure…but it could also help you get away with murder, don’t you think? You could make somone else do exactly what you want…while still looking like they did it.”
Claire felt her own mouth gape, then close, then gape again. Mr. Reinhart, had, indeed insulted Sylvie by laughing at her ability. Maybe she’d been so offended she snapped?
“But none of that matters now.” Sammie returned to her chair and the put she’d worn when Claire walked in. “No one is going to remember the way I delivered those introductions. The only thing anyone is going to remember is Mr. Reinhart ending up dead.”
Sammie cut her off. “And all of you traveled so far to have a chance to solve the mystery and be named the Reinhart Super Sleuth of the Year.”
Claire made a mental note to learn as much as she could about Sylvie Sydell and her guest, Cassie Sanders, and then stood. “Do you know where I could find Mr. Reinhart’s assistant, Sarah?”
“Check his office.” Sammie straightened in her chair long enough to point Claire in the direction of a door on the far side of the room. “Take that hallway. It’s the first door on the left once you’re inside.”
She thanked Sammie and then headed in the direction the girl had indicated, her mind ricocheting between her original suspicion about Angie and her grandmother, and the latest possibility that, perhaps, Sylvie Sydell, had used Angie’s body and needlepoint stand to kill Mr. Reinhart.
She entered the hallway and headed toward Mr. Reinhart’s office only to stop just shy of her destination as whispered voices emerged from the partially open door.
“I’m not accusing you of stealing anything, Maria, but the woman’s bag is missing. That’s a problem.”
“I took all of the bags to the guest’s rooms, Sarah.”
“Ms. Curtis and her grandmother didn’t get their bag.”
At the familiar names, Claire crept closer in time to hear the maid’s voice morph from confusion to fear. “I did not take her bag, Sara. I would not do such a thing.”
“It never made it to their room, Maria…”
“I took as many as I could take in my hands and started up the stairs. I was halfway up the stairs when Lorenzo arrived. He offered to help. I tried to refuse, but he insisted.”
“I’ve seen your so-called refusals, Maria.”
“Lorenzo is just chivalrous, that’s all. I-I tried to tell him it was my job, that putting food on my table at night was more important than my self-esteem, but Lorenzo wouldn’t listen.” A pause gave way to an even quieter whisper. “Lorenzo didn’t like the way Mr. Reinhart spoke to me. But I told him it was okay, that I need my job.”
“Your job…my job…they’re all in jeopardy now without Mr. Reinhart.” Sarah worked to steady her voice. “Look, I need to go out and check on the investigation. Clean up in here, will you? And remember, just because Mr. Reinhart is dead doesn’t change anything regarding his desk or its contents.”
“I’ll stay out of his drawers.”
“Good. See that you do.”
Claire pushed away from the wall just as Sarah, Mr. Reinhart’s assistant strode out of the office. “Oh…Miss Weatherly. I didn’t know you were out here. Is there something I can help you with?”
“I’m sorry to hear about your boss,” she said quickly. “I imagine that was quite a shock. Your mind must be spinning in a million different directions right now.”
“Yes, yes it is.” And then she was gone, the woman’s long brown hair swishing across her back as she exited the hallway into the Music Room and, no doubt, the crime scene beyond.
Inhaling deeply, Claire peeked around the corner and nodded at Maria. “Hello, Maria. I have to ask you about something I overheard just now between you and Sarah.”
“Did I hear that the guests from Maine are missing their bags?”
Maria’s gaze dropped to the floor just before she nodded.
“Is there any chance your friend Lorenzo took those bags?”
“It is possible. He tried to carry as many as he could for me.” Maria pulled a cloth from her apron pocket and brushed it across Mr. Reinhart’s desk. When she reached the end, she pulled out his chair and shrieked.
“Maria?” Claire rushed forward as the maid stumbled backward. “What’s wrong?”
The maid pointed to a plain brown bag with the name; A. Curtis emblazoned on a cream-colored luggage tag. “I do not know how that ended up in Mr. Reinhart’s office unless Sarah…”
Plucking the dust rag from the top of the desk, Claire used it to slide the bags zipper open. Sure enough, the contents of the bag held various needlepoint tools including an empty stand case. “Maria, please get the police. Tell them I’ve found some evidence they might like to see.”
Maria looked at the bag one last time and then made a beeline for the door. Once she was gone, Claire took a moment to look around Mr. Reinhart’s office. On the shelf behind his desk were several old photographs, a handful of knickknacks, and a half dozen leather bound books.
Turning back to the desk, she opened one drawer and then another, a familiar clipboard in the second drawer catching her attention. Thumbing through the stack of papers it held, Claire counted Mr. Reinhart’s signature five times—two last minute orders for the mystery event, one document for an upcoming trip, a letter to a contractor being hired to make a few changes to the Music Room, and finally, an addendum to Mr. Reinhart’s Last Will and Testament.
“Okay, that’s weird,” she murmured, only to clamp her mouth closed around the statement as her gaze fell on a familiar name in the center of the beneficiary line—a name of someone with means and motive…
A sound just over her left shoulder let her know she wasn’t alone. The lack of subsequent footsteps firmed up her suspicion.
“You didn’t get the police, did you?” Claire asked as, step by step, she turned until she was facing Maria. Then, without waiting for the woman’s answer, she pointed at the clipboard. “You buried this document among the others while you were in here cleaning yesterday, didn’t you? And then, once you got the signature you needed, you set about the task of making it so…”
“I didn’t touch that man!”
“But you made sure Lorenzo did by playing the innocent victim—the wounded bird, didn’t you?”
“Mr. Reinhart didn’t need this big place!” Maria screamed.
“That wasn’t your choice to make.”
Maria’s eyes narrowed with rage and indignation. “He had it coming!”
“No, Maria…you have it coming.”