Monday, 19 March 2012

The rest of the house

"What are you expecting to find here?" asked Miss Flava.  She turned her head sideways to look at her boss, but he was concentrating on the corridor ahead.  It was mundane, carpeted in a light green, hard-wearing carpet, and the walls were painted cream where there weren't scrapes and scuffs from things having been carried along it.  At the end they'd come through was the door that Playfair claimed had just popped open of its own accord, and at the other end was a glass-paned door with a white frame.
"Nothing much," said Playfair.  "Judging from the forensics report Stormy was killed too many times to have died here and been taken elsewhere.  It's just about possible, I suppose, that he wasn't killed where he was found, but you'd have to ask yourself why someone would try and kill him again somewhere else."
"Yes," said Miss Flava, wondering not for the first time just how oddly her boss's mind worked.  "That would be a strange thing to think.  Which kind of explains why it's you thinking it, I suspect."
Playfair huffed a little.  "What I'm looking for here is something to tell us what kind of a man Stormy was.  Something so that when we start talking to people we've got things to talk to them about."
He turned the handle on the glass-panelled door, and Miss Flava found herself hoping for a moment that it was locked, but it turned and opened, admitting them to a living room.  It was spacious; there was a wide-screen television on the wall next to where they'd come in, and a leather suite set in a horseshoe shape around it.  Behind that was a table with a stack of papers, some pens, and a steel ruler on it, and behind that was a low bookcase.  As Miss Flava looked around, she found more and more things to look at, as though the room were actually two rooms, each used at different times and unaware of the other's existence.
"Hmm," said Playfair, sitting down on the couch.  "This is a bit close to that screen for comfort."
"For you, maybe," said Miss Flava.  "For all we know, Stormy is short-sighted."
"Was short-sighted," corrected Playfair.  "Well he enjoyed watching television anyway, look at this."  He leaned forward and indicated the slim boxes below the television that provided cable, satellite, and free-to-view television, along with PVR facilities.  "There's games consoles here, too," he said, pointing at another three boxes set a little way off.  "There must be a sea of cables hidden behind all this."
"You think he put them all in himself?"
"No," said Playfair almost immediately.  "It's all too tidy really; I think it was done by a professional so that it's hard to get them all out and mess them up again."
Miss Flava left Playfair to inspect the DVD cupboard and wandered over to the table and bookcase.  On the wall above the bookcase were glass-fronted pictures of men, and the occasional woman, in evening-wear.  Most of the women had the look of 'glamorous assistant' about them, but one or two looked as though they might be the star performer in their own right.  She was about to turn away when one of them caught her eye.
"Playfair!" she called, leaning in a little closer to look at the picture in more detail.  "Come and look at this."
"I hope it's better than these DVDs," said Playfair sounding grumpy.  "I don't think there's anything here that isn't a recording of some show that he's done.  The SOCO boys are going to be really disappointed."
"Look at this," said Miss Flava, tapping the picture with her finger.  "Does she look familiar to you?"
Playfair peered at her, his eyes narrowing slightly as he considered the picture.
"It's the woman with Ronald," he said.  "Bit more meat on her bones in that picture, but it suits her."
"Right," said Miss Flava.  "And look at what's written below it: Angelique Demaître, summer '84.  Looks like there might have been a reason for her thinking that there might be something between herself and Stormy."
"I hope not," said Playfair instantly.  "Otherwise everyone else on this wall becomes a suspect, and some of them look pretty dead."
"You can't tell if someone's died just by looking at a picture of them, Playfair."
"Some of them look dead in their pictures."
"Anyway, if you were her and you knew that you were up on the wall like this, wouldn't you think there was a chance?"
"No," said Playfair. "Not when it's with all these others.  Could just be professional courtesy."
Miss Flava considered pointing out that they both thought that the woman was already slightly delusional but decided not to when she remembered that Playfair seemed almost as disinterested in her as her brother-in-law had been.
"Anything in the papers?" asked Playfair, looking at the books on the bookcase with a look of disgust.  "The books all seem to be magic books."
"Makes sense," said Miss Flava.  "These all seem to be blueprints for something."
"Right," said Playfair.  "I think we can leave this room then.  Where next?"

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