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Silverwood – Part 8

My fear that Mr. Porter’s identity would be revealed with the arrival of the police, had quickly faded. In fact, detective Stall and sergeant Penny hadn’t thrown Mr. Porter a glance since their arrival.

Detective Stall was a scrawny tall man, pale face, white moustache and greyish eyes with no emotion or light. His long bony fingers probed the blooded note.

‘It’s clear who did it!’ stated Tom. ‘Benjamin said those exact same words this morning!’

‘Do we know Benjamin’s whereabouts?’ asked sergeant Penny. His voice resembled a hoarse rooster’s crowing, edgy and sharp. He was a stubby young man, red haired and freckled. His blue eyes turned to detective Stall who hadn’t said a word since he came in.

‘He must have fled! spat Francis. ‘Of course he has!’

‘How many have seen the note?’ detective Stall spoke for the first time with a grave and low voice.

‘Just us,’ responded aunt Helena. ‘Including Robert and Victor who were here a moment ago. Robert has sent everyone to their rooms and the guards are making sure no one’s roaming around. Also, they’re looking for Benjamin.’

Detective Stall put the note in a handkerchief and kept it in his jacket pocket. It was only now I noticed Mr. Porter staring intently at detective Stall. I had of course, told him before that detective Stall had investigated both my mother and my uncle’s deaths. Sergeant Penny had been present at my uncle’s case too but when my mom died detective Stall had come with his partner, detective Lone, who had promoted over the years to chief inspector.

‘Could we…cover that?’ asked Francis as she looked at the hand lying in a wooden box on the table, the lid at it’s side.

‘Yes, of course,’ replied sergeant Penny and put the lid on top. They had investigated the crime area, examined the body, had taken us to the living room, put the hand in a box and with that their job was almost complete…I remember how fast they had been before though this case took longer…There had been a hand removed from its body and a note shoved in the palm.

Detective Stall walked around the living room though not inspecting anything.

‘Victor is searching for Vera, Benjamin’s mother, detective Stall. Surely she will lead us to him,’ said aunt Helena.

Lizzie sat in a corner staring at the fire in the hearth. Tom and aunt Helena were sitting comfortably on the couch as the detective and I stood near the piano. Francis sat on a chair holding a glass of port.

‘How did Benjamin do it?’ asked Mr. Porter breaking the silence.

Detective Stall gazed at him. ‘Pardon?’

‘How did Benjamin kill the butler?’

‘Well, that’s why we’re searching for him, aren’t we, so he can explain it to us all, Mr….I haven’t quite caught your name.’

‘Morgan,’ said Mr. Porter with cold eyes.

‘Yes, and he is…’ asked detective Stall turning to Tom and aunt Helena.

‘He’s the new assistant,’ said aunt Helena fatigued.

‘Though that’s not much of a use now…’ added Tom.

‘How so?’ I asked.

‘Due to this…incident, we’ll probably suspend all classes. Mr. Morgan is no use now.’

‘That’s Mr. Silverwood’s decision,’ I snapped.

‘Yes, and I do wonder what Mr. Silverwood will decide knowing Mr. Morgan broke one of his essential rules.’

‘A murder had taken place!’ I barked.

‘Now, now, enough! We have visitors,’ interrupted aunt Helena as though the police had come for tea.

The door burst open and Robert came in, his face serious. Behind him, Vera and two guards. They escorted her in the living room and left.

Robert watched us triumphally ‘Tell them what you told me!’ He asked her. She’d been crying a lot, her face red and drained.

‘Benjamin left the estate,’ she said, her voice exhausted.

‘Aha! The murderer! Fled like a coward!’ spat Tom.

‘He left after having an argument with his grandfather!’ she protested, her voice shaking, ‘he left this afternoon before…’

‘Of course he made you believe that! He was covering his tracks for God’s sake!’ shouted Tom.

‘Wasn’t Victor supposed to fetch Vera?’ asked Francis confused.

‘Oh, what does that matter?’ jumped aunt Helena. ‘Robbie was faster!’ she said looking proudly at her son.

‘Good, you’re coming with us for some questioning,’ stated detective Stall.

Vera shook her head, her face completely white. ‘I’m not going with you,’ she responded, ‘I’m not!’

‘Afraid you don’t have much choice,’ added sergeant Penny.

‘No,’ she shook her head as she slowly retreated, her back hitting the door. Robert stood close by watching her with threatening eyes.

‘No!’ she shook her head hysterically and cried.

‘It’ll be all right, Vera. It’s not the end of the world. They’ll just ask you a few questions,’ said aunt Helena.

‘Why?’ Vera’s words drowned in tears, ‘Why didn’t anyone ask anything when Arthur died? Why?’

‘Let’s calm down, now!’ suggested Tom who rose up.

Vera’s knees were giving up. She was going to fall any moment now.

‘Take her, sergeant Penny!’ ordered detective Stall.

‘You’ll use force on her?’ interfered Mr. Porter. ‘She’s about to faint!’ he shouted and hurried to Vera. He caught her just in time before she collapsed to the floor. Then he helped her over to the couch across from Tom and aunt Helena, and sat down with her.

‘If you want, you can come along too, Mr. Morgan!’ hissed detective Stall.

‘Why not question her here, detective?’ I asked.

No one reacted.

Detective Stall measured me with his eyes. Did he even remember me? Did he? My hands formed fists as my face changed, this time intentionally.

‘Vicky,’ said Robert, ‘Vicky…don’t…’ He cleared his throat, the panic in his voice fading, ‘Don’t tell the detective how to do his job,’ he smiled uncomfortably.

‘Very well, then,’ responded detective Stall. ‘Very well. Tom, perhaps you can provide us with a warm room and some tea to make the madam comfortable?’ he gave Vera a weary look.

Vera unfortunately was whispering to Mr. Porter, the poor fool unaware we could hear it all. To me it was a fact what she had just said, but Tom, aunt Helena and Robert’s faces changed. Lizzie, who surely had heard it, paid no attention to it. Francis dropped her glass. Which, to me was a complete surprise. I didn’t know Francis could…hear…

My heart dropped when I saw detective Stall’s face. He…he had heard it too. Impossible, he…him? That meant that he was…

‘This place is cursed, Mr. Morgan,’ Vera had whispered, ‘It’s not the house, it’s the people…They aren’t people, Mr. Morgan. They only pretend to be.’

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