Death by Cream Slice
Monty strolled over to the boat house. He was greatly in favour of strolling, especially when there were dead bodies. It projected an air of calmness and detachment. Florence stayed with Aubretia Williams, the Air Baron. While they did not think that Aubretia had anything to do with the murder of Alan Droightman – and now, perhaps, the murder of Rahul Anand – it made sense to keep her away from any corpses.
The boat house was a white, wooden structure, two stories tall. The upper storey had a veranda that looked out over the lake, while below the building was open to the water. A gravel path led up to a door set in the side of the building. The door had a window split into four panes, so Monty followed the path and peered through the window. Inside he saw several boats against jetties, and a work area on the side furthest from the lake. There was a boat upside down on a set of trestles, with a man working on it.
Just as he raised his swordstick to tap on the door, he heard the sound of someone trotting down the gravel path towards him. In the door’s window, he could make out that it was Mark.
“Ah, Mark!” said Monty, turning with a smile, “Have you finished going through the rooms of Alan Droightman’s two associates?”
“Yes,” said Mark, breathing a little heavily. “Miriam Davies room was very boring. Nothing personal there at all. Rahul Anand’s room, though…”
“Yes?” prompted Monty.
“The Engineer said that the chocolate fountain had been rigged to electrocute someone, right? And that meant adding a chunk of equipment to it – so guess what I found in Rahul Anand’s room?”
“Sufficient electrical equipment to suggest he might have done the job,” said Monty nodding. “Do you think it was planted on him?”
“I don’t think so. There were short bits of wire around – you know how stuff can ping off when you cut a wire? Like that, as if he’d been working on something in his room.”
Monty nodded again. Either he or Florence would check the room later, but for now he was inclined to trust Mark’s judgement. After all, you wouldn’t go to the effort of framing Rahul for Droightman’s murder, and then kill Rahul anyway. Which made for a rather interesting problem. If it had been Rahul who had killed Droightman, why was he now floating around the lake being dead? Murderers falling out, perhaps? Something more complex? Either way, talking to Miriam Davies had to be a priority now.
After he’d taken care of Rahul and his little boat trip. He tapped on the door of the boat house with his swordstick. The man working on the upturned boat looked up and stopped what he was doing. Monty waved, and the man came over and opened the door.
“Yes, sir? What can I do for you?” asked the man.
“I say, you see that chap out there in the boat? I’m pretty sure he’s dead. Be a good fellow and bring him back in, would you?”
The man’s whiskery face blanched and he asked, “Dead, you say?”
“As a doornail. So, if you could just bring him back in, then that would be capital.”
The man hurried towards a boat, and Monty called after him, “Don’t touch anything you don’t have to on the other boat, there’s a good chap!”
“Who’s dead now?” asked Mark.
“Our friend, the chocolate fountain electrocutioner,” replied Monty.
Mark grunted, and they stood together watching as the boat attendant rowed out to Rahul’s boat, tied a rope to it, and towed it back. From the efficiency of the operation, it was clear that the man was used to handling boats.
“Here you are, sir,” said the boat attendant. “Haven’t touched anything, just like you said. That’s not a pretty sight, there, sir.”
“Indeed not,” replied Monty. “I will be sure to inform Lady Worthshire of how helpful you’ve been.”
The boat attendant took this as his cue to leave and returned to the boat he had been working on. From there he kept sneaking glances at what Monty was up to. He had been right. It was not a pretty sight.
Monty peered at the figure lying across the bench of the boat, with Mark by his side. At first glance, it did appear that Rahul was asleep, but on inspection it seemed that the unfortunate man had collapsed in that position, probably striking his head in the process. Carefully, Monty observed the position of everything in the boat before touching anything. There was the bag that Rahul had carried his snacks in. On the floor, covered with blood was a cream slice – Rahul’s self-confessed weakness. It seemed that he had been eating it at the time of his death. Most the blood seemed to have flowed from the mouth. Strange.
He prodded around the body a little with the sword stick.
“Ah! What’s this?” said Monty.
On Rahul’s wrist was a bracelet.
“Isn’t that one of those medic alert bracelets?” asked Mark.
“Yes, it is,” said Monty, kneeling down beside the boat. Taking a handkerchief from his pocket, he turned the bracelet until he could see the warning. “Haemophilia.”
“That’s the bleeding thing, isn’t it?”
“That’s right. Without medical attention, he would have kept bleeding, and bleeding, and bleeding. Looks like he cut his mouth, and then, maybe in a panic, slipped and struck his head. He would, of course, have been vulnerable to bleeding in the brain following a blow to the head. Result, in this case, death.”
“Didn’t even get to finish his cream slice,” muttered Mark.
“A particular favourite of his,” said Monty as he reached over and picked up the remains of the cream slice in his handkerchief. He took out a penknife and started poking at it. After a few seconds he found something. “Now, look at this for something nasty,” he said showing it to Mark.
“Is that glass?” asked Mark.
“Oh, far more subtle. It’s a single crystal of sugar. Wide, flat, and very sharp. Easy to slide into a cream slice, especially if you know that the victim is a haemophiliac. Look, I’ll show you.”
Carefully, Monty took the crystal and a piece of paper from his notebook. With a quick movement, he sliced the paper in two. “You know,” he mused, “I think you could shave with this.”
“You’re saying that someone has done this deliberately, and this is someone who knows that Rahul Anand is a haemophiliac and has a weakness for cream slices?” asked Mark. “Sounds like you’re looking at a pretty short list.”
“Oh yes, a list of one, I would think,” said Monty standing up. “Miriam Davies. Come on – let’s go to the kitchen.”
“To check if there’s any other cream slices?”
“No, because I want to see the Engineer.”
Monty exited the boat house and started walking briskly up the gravel path. He waved to Florence who came over.
“Nothing new from Aubretia,” said Florence as she joined them.
“I’m not surprised,” said Monty. “But I have an idea, and I want you to poke holes in it.”
“Certainly,” said Florence.
“Alan Droightman has made a career from stealing students’ ideas and passing them off as his own, in return for promises of high-flying careers. He did this most successfully with Miriam Davies, who, despite all evidence to the contrary, continues to believe his lies.”
“And why would she still believe him?” asked Florence.
“We’ll be able to work that out better when we talk to her. I’m not one for the clever medical definitions, but as a lay person I would say that her genius has come at the expense of her having a few loose toys in the attic. In any event, at the moment, this is still only an idea.”
Florence nodded that Monty should continue.
“Under pressure to come up with something new – perhaps someone is questioning his exalted status – Droightman tries the same trick on Rahul Anand. Steal the idea for fake dreams of glory. But! Rahul gets wise to him. Rather than expose Droightman, he decides to kill him.”
“You need to work on why Rahul would kill rather than expose him,” said Florence. “Murder is an extreme step to take on any occasion.”
Monty waved a hand, dismissing the concern. “I’m sure we’ll find a reason. Perhaps Droightman had some further leverage, perhaps details of some studently misdemeanour which would discredit Rahul, or which would cast doubt on Rahul’s word. Who knows? It doesn’t matter. Mark found the pieces for making chocolate fountain killing equipment in Rahul’s room. At this stage we can be pretty sure that Rahul did for Droightman.”
“And who killed Rahul?” asked Florence.
Now at the steps of the house, Monty spun around, and raised his swordstick, as if raising a finger. “Aha! Someone who knew he had a fondness for cream slices, and who also knew that he was a haemophiliac! Miriam Davies!”
“I will allow your reasoning that she would fulfil those criteria, but how do you kill someone with a cream slice? And where are we going?”
“We’re going to the kitchens to find Sophia!”
“Sophia?” asked Mark.
“The Engineer. And Miriam did it by growing a single razor-sharp sugar crystal and inserting it in a cream slice which she then ensured Rahul would have.”
“I grant you that she would have specialised knowledge of crystals. Droightman’s equations – or perhaps we should call them Davies’ equations now – are all about the crystalline nature of Interfaces and how they are created by growth. However, that still doesn’t explain why she would kill Rahul.”
“Ah! Helen!” called Monty, seeing her on the stairs. She was dressed more conventionally for her, in T-shirt and combat trousers. “Come join us! Significant developments are afoot!”
As Helen came down the stairs, Monty continued, “Miriam found out that Rahul had killed Droightman. I don’t know how she found out – perhaps he even told her, thinking that she might like to be free of him too – but she found out. Believing that Rahul had cost her her imaginary meal ticket, she then decides to kill him.”
“Mark,” said Helen, “Rather than asking Monty to repeat everything I missed, can you update me?”
“But before you do that, Mark,” said Monty, “Tell me what you think Miriam Davies will be doing now.”
“Oh, that’s easy,” said Mark, the former Runaway Avatar of the Railway. “She’ll be running.”
“And that,” said Monty flourishing his swordstick, “Is why I want to see the Engineer!”
“He does so enjoy this kind of thing,” Florence confided to Helen and Mark.
“You may update Helen now,” said Monty, entering the kitchen.