‘Stay at the estate for one week and look into my mother and my uncle’s death. One week, that is all I ask.’
‘What if I find nothing conclusive?’
‘If in one week you find nothing, I will pay you and we will part. You will have my respect and gratitude for accepting the case in the first place.’
He watched me, the letter still in his hands.
‘But there is a condition I’m afraid I’ll need to insist upon,’ I continued. His dark eyes lay on the letter but surely he was listening. ‘You cannot tell anyone you’re a P.I. nor can anyone suspect you of this.’
Frowning he dropped the letter on the desk and faced me. ‘Meaning?’
‘You must stay at the estate under a fake name with a fake identity and investigate through other methods than the obvious ones.’
‘I’m all over the newspapers,’ he snorted. ‘They will know who I am by the time I set foot in their house!’
‘As I said, Mr. Porter, the estate is well sheltered from the rest of the world. No one reads the local newspapers and I doubt anyone cares,’ the last words came out in anger. I sighed.
‘But you are well informed, Miss Cane and you come from that estate.’
‘I travel to the city once a week. It is one of my weekly tasks…’ He did not ask for elaborations. He took the letter and put it back in the envelope. I understood that the reason why he wasn’t asking anything else was because he had simply…stopped listening.
‘I apologize, Miss Cane, but this entire…situation,’ he put the envelope in a drawer as though it’ll soon be forgotten. ‘I, as I said before, am drowning in other matters that need my immediate attention and I cannot dedicate myself to something that I may not be able to…as much as my father might have…’
‘Mr. Porter!’ interrupted his assistant. ‘The reporters are here!’
‘Yes, very well…’ He stood up still searching for his words. ‘I…I apologize but I cannot help you!’
With that, detective Nathan Porter exited his office leaving me with a rather bitter aftertaste, the realization that my only hope had just shut its doors in my face while I too was drowning.
Where to? What now? Find another detective? Who would understand? Who would believe me? And even if someone accepted the case, say for the tremendous amount of money I was offering, what guarantee that the person would be competent? And would that person be able to stay alive? William didn’t. Though it could have been too much of a shock to explain to the detective the strange circumstances of his father’s death. Or had his father explained something about that in the letter? Was the detective afraid? Or did he simply not care?
I can’t! I can’t go back and wait for the next tragedy to take place.
I took a paper and a pen I found lying on his desk and I left Mr. Porter a note. He was my only hope and I would do whatever necessary to convince him.
I sat in the hotel lobby. I came to this hotel weekly, spent one night and went back early morning. It was my only escape from the world I was unsuccessfully running from. Had it not been for these weekly excursions, I would have gone mad a long time ago.
I smoked a cigarette, perhaps my third cigarette in my entire life and drank a glass of scotch. Why did I feel so lost and alone? Perhaps this case wasn’t so much for them but for my own peace of mind. Did anyone care? Mr. Silverwood certainly did not. In fact he’d be furious if he knew I was doing this even though I was looking into his own daughter’s death. The others, well, they certainly didn’t want a detective to dig into their little disturbing lives, did they? As for the children…they sometimes acted more mature than their own parents. That did not worry me any less. They were suspects. They were all suspects.
‘May I join you?’
I rose my gaze to face…Mr Porter!
‘Yes, certainly,’ I hid my excitement. He read my note after all.
He unbuttoned his suit jacket and sat down. I watched his face, his features, so gentle and beautiful even. Yes, I could see now. He was different. At least his features were. They were much softer than his father’s who had appeared to be a hard man, hardened by life and experiences. His son still held a flicker of light in his eyes. William Porter’s eyes had been dead when I first met him but when he promised me he’d protect me, his eyes had caught life.
‘I don’t know why I’m here,’ stated Mr. Porter bringing me back to the present. ‘Curiosity or my father’s letter. You seemed very important to him. I am not sure how much I can do. If my father wasn’t able to solve it, there is little chance I can.’
‘Circumstances were different then. I was a little girl who had just lost her mother.’
‘Yes, I never knew my real parents. The Silverwoods adopted me.’
‘Your mother was…’
‘Mr. Silverwood’s daughter.’
‘But your last name is Cane.’
‘My mother kept her late husband’s name and passed it on to me.’
He watched me for a moment, he was frowning again. He didn’t trust me. Why would he?
‘I don’t recall reading about any…canine attacks in the last days. Your uncle, you said…’
‘I’m afraid the Silverwoods are not the type to be mentioned in the newspapers.’
He stared at me curiously. ‘Everyone is mentioned in the newspapers, there is no “type” involved.’
I smiled. ‘You are yet to meet them.’
‘If I take on the case,’ he pointed out.
‘And what do you think happened? Someone deliberately set the dogs on your mother and your uncle?’
I took my time to think of a suitable answer. ‘Perhaps, yes. The dogs were rather peaceful creatures and never attacked without a reason, much less the people they grew accustomed to. They always guarded the estate and all that lay within it.’
‘And yet, dogs killed your mother then…the same dogs attacked and killed your uncle a few days ago?’
Now, what was I going to say to that? ‘No, the ones that killed my mother were put to death. These were other dogs.’
‘And these other dogs have been put to death as well?’
‘Who is the owner of these dogs?’
‘They belong to us all but there are guards who spend more time with them.’
‘You suspect the guards?’
‘I suspect everyone, Mr. Porter. But for you to understand the situation, you must come with me.’
‘You must provide me with a list of everyone living in the estate and their occupation.’
‘Of course,’ I stated hiding my excitement. He was accepting the case. He was going to help me!
‘And your family tree, your mother was Silverwood’s daughter and your uncle was…?’
‘My mother’s cousin.’
‘A family tree, yes. I am sure it will be helpful, too.’
‘Yes, of course.’
‘And we must discuss how this is going to take place. You said I can’t go as myself.’
‘Do you have any name and cover in mind?’
‘As a matter of fact I do.’ He watched me questionably. ‘Andrew Morgan will be appropriate as your cover name. As for your occupation, you will be my temporary replacement.’
‘As the teachers’ assistant.’
He watched me blankly. ‘A teacher’s assistant? What estate has a teacher’s assistant?’
I smiled. ‘I told you, Mr. Porter. The Silverwood is a unique estate.’
‘There are teachers and students at the estate? Who are the students? Is it an Academy?’
I was enjoying his curiosity. ‘It’s a secluded Academy you may say and most of the students are Silverwood’s grandchildren.’
‘The children receive home school, I see. Who are the teachers? Who is the teacher I will be assisting?’
‘The teachers are also family, some are even the students’ parents. And you will be assisting all, Mr. Porter. You will be the assistant of all the teachers. There are seven of them and now I will become the eighth until we find a proper replacement for that as well.’
‘So, I will also be your assistant, then?’
‘Yes, Mr Porter.’
He smiled. It was more than a surprise to me. His face looked different when he genuinely smiled. Which made me smile as well. Perhaps he thought it was all a joke or perhaps he was just as eager to do this as I was.
‘And what about you, Miss Cane, what will you be teaching?’ he asked amused.
‘I’ll be teaching Mythology, Mr. Porter. Myths and Monsters…’
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