Disclaimer: All characters belong to David Renwick and Company. No copyright infringement is intended. Enjoy!
"Oh, come on, Jonathan," Madeline Magellan sounded off over the phone. "Please come, you'll have a great time, I promise!" Maddy paced the length of her kitchen, dragging the cord of her newly purchased phone behind her. Somehow, she thought that if she had a phone that was attached to its base on the wall, she'd be less likely to lose it. After having the phone for a mere week, she was ready to toss it into the bin and reinstate her cordless. The extra long cord, while allowing mobility within her modest domicile, also had a nasty habit of knocking things over when she went from room to room. Within the last week, she'd had to replace a lamp, two knick-knacks and a tin of coffee she had left on the kitchen table.
"I'm sorry, Maddy, but rubbing elbows with some American romance novelist is not exactly high on my list of must-do's before I die." Jonathan replied. "Besides, I have a rehearsal with Adam this Friday night, he's setting himself on fire again. Should be good for a laugh, at the very least. It took nearly six weeks for his eyebrows to grow back last time."
"Yes, I remember. He smelled like a barbecue for a week." Maddy smiled at the memory, Adam Klaus was none too pleased at being ridiculed by the media. 'Toast of the town' had been on the tabloid front pages the day after the unfortunate event.
"Look, the gala doesn't start until 9 O'clock and it's right down the street from the theatre, there's no reason you can't do both." Maddy adopted a more winsome tone. Whining rarely succeeded over the phone. Finally she sighed and levelled with him. "All right, if you must know, I need a date, okay? Barry will be there, so it's not as if you won't know anyone. His publishing firm is signing on this new author, and it's absolutely mandatory that the other writers show up to tell her what a smart decision she's making and how wonderful the publishers are and how they only demand your firstborn child if you fail to meet a deadline." She turned again and headed for the sink to rinse a glass.
"Why not reply to another personal ad? Maybe this time you can write to the Elephant Man, at least it would give that author something interesting to write about instead of heaving bosoms and windswept desires." Jonathan joked, but he had already made up his mind that he was going with her. In fact, he had mentally accepted and anticipated the evening as soon as the offer was made, but he didn't want to make things too easy for Ms. Magellan. The last thing he needed was Maddy coming to the realisation that he would do anything for her and that he was completely powerless against the awesome force of her personality. It was much more fun allowing her to squirm and think she still had to work at it. At this moment, he was perusing his closet and picking out a suitable outfit for the event.
"And here I was thinking that you didn't-read romance novels," Maddy said sweetly.
Jonathan chuckled. "Do I need a tie?" he asked.
Maddy whirled in the kitchen and made a beeline for the refrigerator. "Jacket and tie will do." She said calmly as she opened the door and pulled out a container of milk. She tried to keep the grin on her face from being heard through the phone.
"You knew I'd say yes," Jonathan accused as he removed a suit jacket from the closet.
"Well, yeah. Meet you there around 8:30 then for cocktails?" she asked as she poured herself a glass of milk.
"All right, see you then," Jonathan disconnected the call. He stared for a moment at the dead receiver in his hand and smiled.
"Yes!" Maddy pressed the disconnect button with an ear to ear grin. She turned to hang up the phone and promptly tripped over the cord that had tangled itself around her midsection from her pacing.
The Nelson Hotel was one of the luxury hotels in London. It was built only three years before and had the distinction of being a classy and elegant hotel without the ridiculous overpriced expense of luxury accommodations. Already a small crowd of people milled about the hotel lobby. The party was being held in one of the larger conference rooms. Barry's publishing company, Smith and Opper, was a small but growing firm. They had at least fifteen writers other than Maddy, but Maddy's most recent book, 'Scales of Injustice' was becoming popular and Smith and Opper were reaping the rewards. Tonight's guest, Amelia Maxwell, was just the beginning of those rewards. Amelia was an American romance writer who had just finished her contract with her current publisher and was currently one of the most sought-after writers in America. Underground rumours had it that the break with her publisher was not an amicable one, and Amelia had walked out the day after her contract expired. The offer from Smith and Opper coincided with her decision to leave Andrewson Publishing, so she accepted and moved to England. But of course, that was rumour.
It was that very rumour that Maddy was discussing with Barry when Jonathan walked into the room at 8:45. Maddy turned and watched him scan the crowd, seeking her out. He was wearing a smart looking black sport coat and a colourful navy blue and maroon tie over a maroon shirt. His curly hair always gave him a boyish look. She watched as he smiled politely at the waiter as he took a glass of wine from the tray. That smile always did her in. After a few moments, he spotted Maddy and Barry and made his way over. It wasn't hard to read the look of relief on his face after he had found them.
"Jonathan," Barry greeted him and held out a hand. "So nice to see you again. You'd better watch yourself in this crowd, though, many people here have read Maddy's book, and have taken quite a fancy to the mysterious Jonathan Creek, creative consultant to Madeline Magellan."
Jonathan blushed slightly and said nothing.
"Barry and I were just discussing the circumstances surrounding Amelia Maxwell's decision to sign with Smith and Opper," Maddy brought Jonathan up to speed on the rumours. Jonathan tried to pay attention to Maddy's words, but he was too busy looking at her to listen closely. She was wearing a pair of small diamond earrings. Jonathan approved, he disliked the long too large dangly things she was always wearing. Her short auburn hair was styled attractively. She wore a knee length black velvet dress with a loose black velvet jacket. A small diamond pin in the lapel completed the outfit. The entire effect was stunning.
"So they think she was having an affair with her publisher behind her shack up boyfriend's back. Can't imagine why, though, the man was designed jewellery for a living, and fairly pelted her with diamonds and gold. What do you think, Jonathan?" Maddy asked.
It took Jonathan a moment to realise he had been asked a question. He blinked. "Sorry?"
"What's with you, Jonathan?" Maddy asked, her eyes slightly narrowed. "Bored already?"
At that moment, a press photographer asked to take a photo of the trio. Barry, Maddy and Jonathan turned and smiled for the camera. The photographer thanked them and continued to take photos of the guests.
"No, no, it's just that well, you look lovely tonight, and I wasn't sure how I should go about saying it." He stammered. The truth would certainly please her.
Maddy smiled, taken aback. "Well fine then, don't tell me what's on your mind, but thanks just the same." She snapped and walked away to find another drink.
Jonathan's mouth hung open. "But Barry, that was the truth."
Barry smiled and patted Jonathan on the back. "I know a lot more than either of you give me credit for. Maddy has a tough shell, Jonathan, she's not used to having deep feelings for someone, and having those feelings returned. Just be patient. She cares a great deal about you, Jonathan."
"Returned?" Jonathan echoed. "Oh no, you have it all wrong..." he trailed off as he spotted Maddy about 15 feet away, laughing at something another partygoer had said to her. The man was tall and from this distance seemed a little too close to Maddy. Barry followed Jonathan's gaze and correctly guessed that the look on Jonathan's face was jealousy.
"..and pigs fly," Barry said gently, he was unsure if Jonathan had even heard him. Barry excused himself and headed for the private office in the rear of the conference room. The office was located behind the stage where the official announcement and press conference was to be held. He had deposited his briefcase there earlier and the tie he was wearing was beginning to itch.
Barry opened the door to the office and quickly pulled off his tie. "Oh, Miss Maxwell, my apologies, I didn't mean to intrude." Barry stammered upon seeing Amelia Maxwell seated at the desk. She was painting her fingernails. A half-full cup of coffee was on the desk near her right hand. The combined scent of coffee and nail polish was slightly overpowering.
"Barry!" Amelia smiled. "I'm the one who should be apologising for using your makeshift office here." She held up a hand "I guess I should have warned you about my rituals. Before I make any press appearance, I paint my nails, have a cup of coffee and twist my rings." She smiled slightly, as though she were embarrassed by the admission. "I slipped in the back door here," she gestured to her left at the door which led to the corridor behind the conference room.
Barry laughed. "As long as you're not sacrificing cats to your gods, that's fine."
Amelia laughed. "I should be ready for the press conference in about 10 minutes, okay?"
"That's fine, lass. I'll go ahead and find my partner. We'll come and get you a," he looked at his watch. "about 9:15?" as he spoke, he deposited his tie into his briefcase that was behind the desk. "Bloody things," he mumbled to himself.
"That's fine." Amelia smiled. Barry turned to the back door of the office and walked out into the corridor.
The waiters mingled unobtrusively amongst the guests as Jonathan finally managed to catch up to Maddy. He stood behind her as she spoke with a group of people. "Maddy," he began.
Maddy turned. "I thought you were bored?"
Jonathan sighed. "You said you thought I was bored, I never said I was."
Maddy's gaze softened. "I'm sorry, I have a terrible temper." She linked her arm through his and began to walk them towards the buffet. "Do you know where Barry went off to?" she asked.
Jonathan did a quick scan and finally spotted Barry in the corner having what appeared to be a heated argument with his partner, Henry Smith. "Wonder what's going on there?" Jonathan asked Maddy.
"I don't know, but I've never seen Barry and Henry argue like that before. Think we should take a snoop?" Maddy asked.
Before Jonathan could answer, they saw Henry walk away. He went through a side door that led to the rear corridors. Maddy and Jonathan approached Barry.
"Barry?" Maddy asked. "What's happened? Why were you and Henry fighting?"
Barry shook his head sadly and looked at the door that Henry had disappeared through. "That man has the worst temper!" Barry seethed. "He's got his britches in a bunch because Amelia's running late." Barry smiled and shook his head. "He'll get over it."
A commotion behind the head table caught their attention. Barry, Maddy and Jonathan ran over to the entrance to the private office. "What's happened?" Barry asked the crowd. Finally, Henry emerged. He walked up to Barry. "Henry, what's happened?" Barry asked again.
Henry took in a deep breath. "Amelia Maxwell," he said gravely. "She's been murdered."
Jonathan and Maddy looked at each other and read each other's mind. Without exchanging a word, both headed towards the door to the office where a hotel employee was guarding the door until the police arrived.
"I'm sorry, but you cannot come in here, there's been an accident." The concierge said in a small voice.
Maddy feigned anger. "That's my SISTER in there!" she fairly shouted. The concierge blanched and hastily backed away from the door. Maddy knew she shouldn't have taken advantage of him that way, but in her experience, hotel personnel liked things quiet and orderly. If she kicked up a fuss, he would fold faster than a bad poker hand. She had gotten more than her fair share of free accommodations that way.
Maddy, Jonathan, Barry and Henry entered the room. Seated at the desk was the slumped form of Amelia Maxwell, quite obviously dead. Her head lolled back and her blue eyes stared mutely at the ceiling. Her red lips were parted slightly and her exposed throat revealed the colourful patterns of the tie used to strangle her.
Maddy and Jonathan exchanged glances and slowly made their way to the body of Amelia Maxwell.
"Looks like someone wasn't a fan," Jonathan commented. He sniffed the air and noticed the open bottle of nail polish on the desk.
Barry's eyes went wide as he saw the tie around her neck. His hand strayed to his throat, to the open collar where his tie was painfully, obviously absent. "I think," he started. Maddy turned to look at him.
"Barry? Are you all right?" she asked, worriedly. "If you feel faint.."
"No, no, Madeline it's," he paused and swallowed reflexively. "That tie about her throat."
Jonathan stepped closer to the body, careful not to disturb anything. Something rustled under his foot. He looked down and saw an empty sugar substitute package on the floor where it had missed the trash bin under the desk. Fishing a handkerchief out of his pocket, he carefully picked up the packet and deposited it into his coat pocket. On his way up, a flash of jewellery caught his eye. Amelia's left hand dangled at her side, her gold watch was twisted so the face was on the inside of her wrist. She wore two gold rings on her hand, each encrusted with a very intrinsic pattern of jewels. Her freshly painted nails still had the telltale scent of polish clinging to them.
Jonathan stood up and studied the tie "It's a Jerry Garcia tie, Barry...quite a nice one. What about it?" Jonathan's eyes squinted as he took in the rest of the tie's appearance. The tie was corded very tightly about the neck, looped twice and knotted at the base of her skull. There were splotches of nail polish on the tie from Amelia's struggle with her murderer. Something stuck in Jonathan's mind about the crime scene. Something that was not quite right. He stepped back and took in the rest of the scene, brow furrowing in contemplation. The body was slumped backward, arms dangling at her sides. The coffee cup was nearly empty and had lipstick stains about the rim. The nail polish, a dark mauve colour, was still open on the desk.
"That's my tie," Barry said at last after Maddy repeated his name several times. "I took it off mere minutes ago and left it in my brief case behind the desk."
Jonathan stood behind the desk and looked at Barry's briefcase, still open on the floor. "Of course not, it'd be too easy if the tie were still in there," he said out loud.
Barry did a double take. "This cannot be Maddy, I was in here just a few minutes ago. Amelia was painting her finger nails, I took off my tie, had a conversation with her and left through the back door."
"And when I came in here, she had been strangled." Henry finished. "This doesn't look good for you, Barry,"
"Doesn't look good at all," a new voice entered the room. Maddy groaned inwardly. Detective Inspector Barrison strode into the room. Maddy and Jonathan had met him before under similar circumstances a mere handful of months before when Adam's visiting sister, Kitty witnessed what she thought was the strangulation murder of Felicity Vale by one Duncan Procter. Turned out to be a cleverly disguised murder by Felicity's own flatmate, Clare Sallinger.
"Well, well, well....Madeline Magellan." Detective Inspector Barrison said quietly. "Why is it that whenever we meet, there always seems to be an unexplained dead body involved somehow?" he asked tiredly.
Maddy smiled weakly. "Just dumb luck, I'm afraid."
The constables moved in, taking crime scene photos and dusting for fingerprints. Detective Inspector Barrison moved the group back into the conference room where the police were questioning most of the partygoers.
"So, let me get this straight, Barry Offer," he looked at Barry's ashen face, "was the last person to see the victim alive. You entered the office, had a conversation with her, took off your tie which somehow found itself wrapped about the victim's neck, left the room by the back door and went to speak with Henry, your partner." Detective Barrison paused. "What did you two speak about?"
Barry paused and thought for a moment. "Nothing out of the ordinary. She was telling me of her superstitions about meeting the press. She always painted her nails and had coffee and twister her rings round her fingers before a press conference. She called it her ritual."
Barrison wrote down Barry's words as he spoke "So, according to you, she was killed at some point between the time you had left the office and had come back." Barrison closed his casebook and looked Barry straight in the eye. "I find it very, very difficult to believe that in the space of five minutes she could have been strangled by anyone other than you. You are the only person seen entering the office, and it's rather convenient that you left by the back door with no witnesses to your departure."
"Now hang about, Detective-" Maddy interjected. "You can't go about accusing someone based on circumstantial evidence! There are no witnesses."
Barrison's eyes shot up. "No, but there is evidence enough to have him arrested until we can lift prints off of the desk and chair and the murder weapon," Detective Barrison said with a smug look. "Constable?" he motioned to one of the PC's and had him put Barry in handcuffs. "I think we can continue this discussion at the station."
"Why would he kill her? He had no motive, I should think that even you could have figured that one out!" she fairly shouted at the Detective's retreating form.
"Ms. Magellan," Detective Barrison began patiently, "unless you want to have obstruction of justice charges hanging over your head, I have nothing more to say to you. Your statement will be taken by one of the other officers."
Maddy made a move to follow, but Jonathan held her in check. "Maddy...Maddy!" Jonathan whispered urgently in her ear. "There's nothing we can do for Barry at the station, we have to help him from here." His arm went about her shoulder as they watched helplessly as Barry was led away.
"Why would someone want to kill Amelia, and the set up Barry to take the fall?" Maddy asked.
"I don't know, Mad, there are too many pieces to fit together right now." Jonathan murmured. He turned his head to have a peek at the crime scene photography going on. "C'mon, Mad. We're not out of this yet." Jonathan turned and headed for the hotel lobby.
"Wha-? Where are we going?" Maddy demanded as she ran to catch up with him.
"To get a room," Jonathan called over his shoulder.
That stopped Maddy dead in her tracks. It took Jonathan a moment to notice that she was no longer following him.
"What do you mean to get a room?" she asked suspiciously. "Barry's just been arrested for a murder he didn't commit and you want to get a room? Why?"
Jonathan stopped, turned and walked back to her. "To prove that Barry was framed and to prove that Amelia Maxwell wasn't strangled at all."
Maddy couldn't believe what she was hearing. "What? Jonathan, I'm sorry, but are you completely stupid?"
Jonathan rolled his eyes and turned to head to the lobby. Maddy was close at his heels.
"She was there, in the chair, with a necktie wrapped around her throat for god's sake!" Jonathan waited patiently for Maddy to finish spouting off. He headed to the front desk as Maddy continued her lecture.
"One room, please. Two beds," he said to the clerk as he fished out his wallet.
"There was no blood, so she couldn't have been shot. There was no knife sticking out of her back. How can you sit there and say that she wasn't strangled?" Maddy continued. The clerk's eyes widened as she handed Jonathan the room keys. Jonathan took the room keys from the confused clerk. He made a gesture that indicated to the clerk that Maddy was drunk. Understanding dawned on the clerk's face and she directed them to the lift down the hall with a smile. Maddy was completely oblivious to the entire exchange.
The ride on the lift to the third floor was quiet. Maddy and Jonathan were both absorbed in their own thoughts. Suddenly Maddy looked at him. "You never explained why we needed to get a room."
"Location," he said simply as the doors opened up. "we need an excuse to stay here, so we can examine the scene of the crime after the police have left."
They walked down the hall towards their room. Jonathan slipped the key into the lock and opened the door to a modest suite complete with two queen sized beds.
"Well, first thing's first," Maddy said as she strolled into the room. She picked up the phone and dialled the front desk. "Yes, can I have room service, please?"
Thirty minutes later, Maddy was gleefully tucking into a steak. Jonathan was lying on one of the beds, hands tucked behind his head, staring up at the ceiling.
"Now are you going to tell me exactly what makes you believe that Amelia Maxwell was not strangled?" Maddy asked patiently. "I waited until after I finished eating so I wouldn't lose my temper again."
Jonathan sat up. "When you paint your nails, what's the first thing you do when you've finished?" he asked.
Maddy stared at him. "Pardon?"
"Answer the question."
"Well, I suppose I recap the nail polish bottle so it doesn't get dried out." Maddy replied, completely baffled.
"Exactly. But the nail polish bottle was open when we got there."
Maddy paused. "So, she hadn't finished doing her nails."
"Barry said that she was drying her nails as though she had just finished. If someone were choking you from behind, what would be your first instinct?"
"I'd try to grab at whatever I was being choked with."
"So, if Amelia were being choked and was trying to save her life...presumably, as any other human being who was into self-preservation, she would have grabbed at the tie. Why weren't her nails smudged or broken? I can't imagine that she was debating whether or not her life was more important than a good manicure."
"Pardon?" Maddy stood.
"When I examined the body, I noticed that the nails on her left hand had been freshly painted, none of them were smudged.
"There was nail polish on the tie, but it had been put on there after the tie had been secured about her neck. There were globs of it all over the tie and none on her neck. The tie itself presents another interesting element that doesn't quite add up."
Maddy walked over to the empty bed and sat down facing Jonathan. "Go on," she encouraged.
"It was looped twice about her neck and knotted twice. Why?" Jonathan slid his legs off the side of the bed and sat facing Maddy. "I mean, if you were going to strangle someone, presumably you'd do it and get the hell out of there as fast as you can. You wouldn't take the time to wrap the tie up twice about the neck and then secure it with a knot."
"She must have already been dead. It's the only logical explanation. There were no signs of a struggle, no one heard anything, her coffee cup hadn't even been disturbed."
Maddy leaned closer. "So how was she killed?"
Jonathan looked into her eyes. "I haven't worked that part out yet. I only know how she was not killed."
"But why frame Barry?" she looked into his eyes.
Jonathan hesitated a moment before answering. "Convenience, I suppose. The tie was in the brief case. I expect the murderer had planned to make her death look like a strangulation from the start, probably had a rope in the pocket or planned to use the cords from the venetian blinds in the window. Something, anything to throw off the police to the real cause of her death. Barry's tie provided nice, tidy evidence to throw the track off the real killer and pin it onto someone else." Jonathan moved forward a bit, their faces merely inches apart.
"So who did it?" Maddy whispered. She smiled slightly as she anticipated Jonathan's kiss. "This is starting to seem like an old habit." Maddy closed her eyes and leaned in.
Jonathan returned Maddy's kiss very tenderly, then something clicked in his head. He opened his eyes as the thought struck home. He pulled back from Maddy's kiss and held her face in his hands. Maddy opened her eyes in surprise, lips still pursed.
"Old habits..." Jonathan repeated.
Maddy stayed where she was, her face still clasped in Jonathan's hands. "What...oh, no, you've got that 'I just finished the jig-saw look' again."
Jonathan released Maddy and stood up. "I think we need to have another look at that office."
Although it was nearly midnight, the hotel still thrummed with the sounds of everyday goings-on. The front desk personnel chatted quietly amongst themselves as Maddy and Jonathan quietly made their way back to the conference rooms down the hall.
"What are we looking for?" Maddy whispered as Jonathan tried the door to the conference room.
"Coffee." Jonathan replied. "Door's locked. There's too much light to risk picking the lock."
"Coffee?" Maddy dismissed it. She knew enough about Jonathan to know that he'd explain when he was ready to. Maddy turned and leaned against the door, thinking of another way in. She looked down the hall and spotted a maid wheeling a linen cart towards the service elevator.
Maddy grabbed Jonathan's hand. "Come on," she fairly dragged him down the hall.
"Wait! Please, wait!" she called out to the maid. The maid paused in her duties and waited for Jonathan and Maddy to catch up to her.
"Thank you! Did you just come from the pool?" Maddy asked, detecting a hint of chlorine coming from the dirty linen cart.
"Yes," the maid said cautiously. "People leave their towels there to be picked up."
"Oh, thank goodness! I've lost my wedding ring, and my poor husband paid an absolute fortune for it! I had it wrapped in a towel..."
Understanding dawned on Jonathan's face as Maddy and the maid both began to dig into the cart. Jonathan could see the set of keys sitting in the maid's pocket. He carefully pulled them out and pocketed them before she noticed.
"Darling, I'm sure I put it in my bag before we left the pool. Let's have a look upstairs." Jonathan said. Maddy straightened and caught Jonathan's slight nod.
"Why didn't you tell me that before we pestered this poor woman?" Maddy said sharply. "That's it. No sex for you!"
The maid watched the exchange silently, she was used to being invisible and was privy to the most private of conversations by the mere fact that her uniform rendered her invisible. Since neither addressed her again, she continued pushing her cart towards the elevators.
Jonathan and Maddy walked back towards the conference room. "Nice trick. Used it before?" Jonathan asked her as he pulled out the keys. He began trying different keys, waiting to find the right one.
"Once or twice." Maddy said as Jonathan unlocked the door. Jonathan looked down at her as he opened the door leading into the darkened conference room.
Maddy waited a few feet inside the room as Jonathan secured the door behind them, making sure it was locked. The room was completely pitch black.
"Jonathan...can you see anything at all?" Maddy asked in a loud whisper.
"Not a thing, but I don't think we should risk walking across the room in case there are tables. Maybe we should stay to the wall and make our way to the office that way."
They began their walk in darkness, one hand to the wall. "You really picked a lousy time to have a brilliant inspiration, Jonathan." Maddy quipped as they made their way. "If you hadn't, we'd probably be having sex right now."
Jonathan rolled his eyes in the darkness. "If you had kept your mouth shut, you'd probably be right."
Maddy stopped short and Jonathan ran into her. "What do you mean 'probably'?" she asked. She turned to face him and fixed him with a glare he couldn't see. "Are you saying that you were still deciding on whether or not you wanted to have sex with me?"
"There you go twisting my words round again!" Jonathan said in a heated whisper. "Barry's been put in jail for a murder he didn't commit, we were in the room trying to puzzle it out and you were thinking of whether or not you'd like to be on top!"
Maddy continued her walk. "I know Barry's in trouble, and if you had put any moves on me, I would have said no," Maddy argued, "but you took that choice away from me and didn't even give me a chance to act all righteous and indignant. It was a let down." She finished.
Jonathan rolled his eyes and followed Maddy. They turned the first corner and were now making their way down the short side of the room.
"Righteous and indignant! Is that what this is all about? Control? Oh, heaven forbid that Ms. Madeline Magellan not be in control!" Jonathan sneered.
Maddy sighed and let her anger go. "Jonathan," she said seriously. She stopped again and turned to face him. "Look at me."
"It's difficult to do that at the moment,"
"Really. Look at me. I'm not a super model, I have a smart mouth and I'm too opinionated and I have feelings for you. You are tall and handsome and reclusive. Sometimes I think you have feelings for me, too, but it's been my experience that men like you just don't go for women like me." she paused. Jonathan waited for her to finish. "I guess...well, I guess I was hoping that if you made the first move, it would mean that I can trust that you have feelings for me."
Jonathan put his hand on her shoulder. "Maddy, if I didn't have feelings for you, I wouldn't have let you drag me into reclaiming Sylvester LeFley's painting, I wouldn't have helped you to figure out that Norman Stangerson lived two lives, or how a corpse wound up in your wardrobe and I most certainly wouldn't have come here tonight with you."
Jonathan heard Maddy's slight intake of breath and could almost feel the smile that he was sure was on her face. "Thank you, Jonathan."
She turned and continued down the wall. Jonathan followed. Nothing else was said.
"I think I've found the door," Maddy said a few minutes later. She paused and allowed Jonathan to pass by her. She heard him pull out the keys and patiently try to fit each key in the lock by touch.
"It's no wonder why Hewie Harper got his eyes fixed," Jonathan muttered as he tried each key. "Ah, here we are," he said to Maddy as the lock finally turned.
They entered the office single file and shut the door behind them. They could see light emanating from the doorframe in the rear of the office. "Should be safe enough to turn on a light." Maddy commented. She felt along the wall until she found the switch.
The harsh light blinded them both momentarily. Jonathan recovered his sight first and took a look about the room. It was much the same as it had been earlier in the evening, minus of course, a body. "Do you smell that?" he asked Maddy.
Maddy wiped her eyes and scanned the room. She could smell something. "It smells a bit like...hazelnut?"
Jonathan walked over to the desk where Amelia's coffee cup was still on the desk. He carefully picked it up and waved the remaining contents under his nose. "Not hazelnut...almonds." He set the coffee cup down and reached into his jacket where he had deposited the artificial sweetener packet and pulled it out. "...with sugar substitute." He placed the sugar packet on the desk.
Maddy crossed her arms in front of her. "Jonathan, I'm not following. We came in here to smell her coffee cup?"
Jonathan walked around to the front of the desk and leaned back on it, folding his arms across his body. "What do we know about Amelia Maxwell?" he asked.
Maddy paused and thought back. "She had a boyfriend who was a jeweller. It was rumoured that she had been having an affair with her publisher. She left her publisher's firm and came to England."
Jonathan stood and walked behind the desk again. "Well, I have another theory," Jonathan said as he squatted down behind the desk. He pulled out the chair and slid a cardboard box out from underneath the desk.
Maddy walked over. "What's that?"
Jonathan opened the box to reveal Amelia Maxwell's latest best seller, 'Winds of Change'. He pulled out a copy and handed it to Maddy.
"Read the dedication." He instructed.
Maddy gave him a look, but did as she asked. "'For Jason, the love of my life, and my wonderfully patient publisher, Chris. I love you both with all my heart. A.M'" Maddy closed the book. "So?"
Jonathan pulled the book from her hands. "If you were living with someone and having an affair with your publisher...would you say something as deeply personal as 'I love you both with all my heart' on the dedication?"
Maddy thought about it. "Chris...that's a gender neutral name." Jonathan watched as she reached the same conclusion as he did. "What if Chris is a woman and it was Chris and Jason who were having an affair?" her eyes widened as she thought of the possibility.
Jonathan hid a smile, mentally applauding Maddy's deduction. She was learning to think around the corners. "Amelia found out about it and left the publishing company, taking all of her royalties with her and leaving Chris without a best selling author. She then threatened to expose Chris and Jason, and with Amelia's status, that would certainly damage Chris's company. So Chris and Jason come up with a plan. If Andrewson Publishing can't make money off of her while she is alive, they'll make money off of her when she dies. All of her royalties will go to Andrewson, since they published her books to begin with. Sales are guaranteed to go up, considering the way Amelia died. Brutal murders sell."
Maddy picked up the phone. "There's one way to find out. What time is it in Seattle?" she looked at her wristwatch. "It's 1:30 in the morning now...that would be about 4:30 in the afternoon there."
Maddy dialled the operator and asked for the number for Andrewson Publishing in Seattle, Washington. She chuckled to herself as she waited for the call to be connected. "I used to do this when I couldn't afford to make long distance calls," she explained. "I would walk into a hotel or a business office and pretend I was a business person travelling and I was lost and could I please use your phone?"
Jonathan smiled. It was just like Maddy to do something like that.
"Yes, hello?" Maddy suddenly straightened. "Could I speak with Chris, please? The publisher for Amelia Maxwell?" Maddy waited a moment and then broke into a smile. "Oh, she is?" she looked at Jonathan. Suddenly her brows furrowed. "All week? Thank you." Maddy hung up the phone.
"The plot thickens. It seems that Ms. Christina Andrewson is away on a business trip."
"Let me guess...London, right?"
"London. Looks like we've found a motive and a pair of murderers and at least one of them had to have been to the party tonight." She turned and headed for the front door.
Jonathan stared off into space for a moment, thinking back. "The photographer who snapped our photo." he said absently. "If he was working for a local paper...he'd have pictures of all the guests who attended the party. If Christina Andrewson and Jason the jeweller were both here, that would get Barry off the hook."
Maddy turned away from the door and took two strides towards Jonathan. She grabbed him by his lapels and pulled him into a quick, hard kiss. Jonathan's eyes flew open in surprise and she released him before he could kiss her back. "You are brilliant, Jonathan."
Maddy and Jonathan left the office by way of the rear door. The corridor that networked behind the conference rooms was well lit, so they felt confident that their escape would go unnoticed. Jonathan left the keys he had nicked in one of the locks of the other offices. A maid would find them later and berate one of the staff for not paying attention to their job.
"Well," Maddy sighed a few minutes later. They had arrived in the lobby of the hotel. "I guess we should head to the police station to try to clear this whole mess up."
Jonathan quickly agreed and they made their way to the street. The temperature had dropped considerably since they first entered the hotel. Maddy wrapped her arms around herself. Her thin, velvet jacket offered little protection against the chill. Without a word, Jonathan pulled off his own coat and draped it over Maddy's shoulders. Maddy looked up at him, but said nothing. She was a little disgruntled to discover that they were in fact, about the same size clothing wise, but the thought left her head when Jonathan rewarded her with one of his patented lopsided smiles. They walked on in companionable silence.
It took all of five minutes to walk to the station. Even at 1:45 in the morning, the police station seemed alive and active. It took little time to convince the duty constable to allow them to see Detective Inspector Barrison. The duty constable used the speakerphone and paged the tired Inspector.
Maddy could hear an audible sigh rumble through the antiquated speaker box. "Agatha Christie and Watson? All right, send them in."
Maddy and Jonathan were escorted to the rear of the building where the offices were located. To the left was a flight of stairs that led down, presumably, to the jail cells.
Detective Inspector Barrison didn't look up from his desk as they entered. He had to admit, although Madeline Magellan was a pain in the ass, he had a grudging admiration for her tenacity. Not many people would go this far for a friend.
Maddy and Jonathan stood there in an awkward silence for nearly a full minute before he addressed them. "Well, since I have had the pleasure of your interference before, I am assuming that you are here to tell me that I've yet again arrested the wrong man."
In that instant, Maddy felt sorry for him. He was an overbearing, controlling bastard, but she could tell that it irked him to no end that a simple crime writer and an inventor of magic tricks had puzzled out what his years of training could not. Not so much the fact that it was a crime writer and an inventor, but that had it not been for their interference, a sever miscarriage of justice would have occurred. She stepped forward. "I couldn't let this one rest, Inspector. Barry is a close friend of mine. But we did manage to find a few things." Maddy deferred to Jonathan.
Jonathan cleared his throat and began. "Let's start at the beginning. Amelia Maxwell, a best selling author from America has signed on with Smith and Opper, relocating herself from Seattle, Washington to London. She leaves behind a boyfriend and rumours of an illicit affair with her publisher."
Inspector Barrison leaned back in his chair and folded his hands in his lap. This was nothing he hadn't heard already from the various statements collected from the people who attended the party and from Barry Opper himself. "We all, of course, assumed that the affair was between Amelia and her publisher, Chris. But what if the affair was actually between Amelia's boyfriend and the publisher?" Jonathan asked.
Maddy spoke up. "We rang Andrewson Publishing earlier this evening. Chris is a woman, and is away on a business trip. We think that Chris and Amelia's boyfriend, Jason, were having the affair. Amelia found out and left the company, threatening to expose the two. I mean, after all, Amelia Maxwell is a very popular author in the United States, and the publicity would have ruined Andrewson Publishing, unless Amelia Maxwell met an unexpected and unfortunate end...one which would accomplish two tasks. Keeping the affair under wraps and increasing sales of Amelia Maxwell novels, of which Andrewson Publishing would keep the royalties, since they would no longer have to pay Amelia Maxwell for her work."
Inspector Barrison leaned forward, listening to Jonathan's lateral brain in motion. "Go on,"
Jonathan continued. "The thing that got me was how Amelia was murdered. She was strangled, right? I mean, the tie was wrapped about her neck, there was nail polish on the tie itself, but her fingernails themselves were not smudged or broken, but who is going to look at her fingernails when it's obvious there was a struggle? A neat and tidy little murder, no questions asked except perhaps who did it. The answer was obvious when it was discovered that the tie belonged to Barry Opper, but he had no motive." Jonathan walked to Inspector Barrison's desk and leaned against it with his hands. "The killer wanted to make the murder appear to be something it wasn't, so there would be no post-mortem done to discover the real cause of her death." Jonathan removed the packet of artificial sweetener from his pocket and laid it out on the desk. "Amelia Maxwell was poisoned by cyanide in her coffee cup." He stated simply.
Maddy turned to look at him, the pieces at last falling into place. "Someone who knew her rituals, every move she made before a press conference, would know that she drinks coffee with artificial sweetener and paints her fingernails. Someone who knew her old habits." Maddy started to smile as she worked the last clue into place, the interrupted kiss from earlier in the evening now understood and forgiven. "Cyanide leaves a tell-tale scent of almonds behind, and when it's in an innocent looking sugar packet, no one would suspect."
Jonathan smiled, mentally applauding Maddy's deduction. "The scent could be easily covered up by keeping the nail polish bottle uncapped. Cyanide is a naturally occurring by-product of metallurgy, a field which Jason was quite familiar with since the jewellery industry is something akin to a cousin of metallurgy." Jonathan finished. "In order to pull off the murder, one or both of the partners had to be present to administer the poison."
"And since this was a press conference, and there were photographers there, it wouldn't be too hard to track the photos and see if our murderers were caught in the background somewhere." Maddy finished.
Inspector Barrison remained silent for a moment, taking in all the facts. After a few moments he looked up at Maddy and Jonathan. "I'll order a post-mortem on Amelia Maxwell and issue a search warrant for the photos taken tonight. Barry Opper will be released immediately, all charges dropped in light of new evidence." He stood and took a long look at Maddy and Jonathan. "Good work," he said simply and left the office.
Maddy watched as Inspector Barrison left. The door closed quietly behind him. "You're welcome, you rotten sod." She called out, well out of earshot.
The intercom buzzed. "I heard that." Came a clipped reply. Maddy jumped at the voice. She turned to Jonathan. "I think we need to collect Barry, get back to the hotel and take a well deserved rest for the evening. Tomorrow, we celebrate!"
Jonathan watched her quietly as she turned for the door. "Hey, Maddy," he called out as she grasped the handle.
Maddy turned to face him. Jonathan took two long strides towards her, grasped her by the upper arms and kissed her hard on the lips. He allowed the kiss to linger for a few seconds, then abruptly let her go. He opened the door and walked out, leaving Maddy a breathless pile of mush. She leaned against the desk for support and watched him walk out. 'Well, it's only fair,' she thought to herself as she stood and composed herself. She felt a grin etch itself on her face.
The night would prove to be interesting.