The door swung open, and a man with dark suntanned skin and sunglasses burst in. He sported a blonde ponytail behind a slicked-back hairline that had just started receding. He was attractive for sure, though he had probably been hotter a decade ago. Dressed in a sharp white suit sans tie and with the top button of his pink oxford casually undone, he reminded me of an older, more shopworn version of David Beckham. The sparkling diamonds in his ears and shiny Rolex peeking out from beneath his right cuff made it clear he was rich—or, at least, that he really wanted people to think so.
Charlotte didn’t sleep well that night. It may have been the dry thunderstorm that crackled outside and the periodic booming of unproductive thunder. Or it may have been the electric storm in her brain, her buzzing synapses using nighttime to piece together the colonel’s mystery.It did seem odd that Colonel Andrews would lead her to a body then provide no other clues, except perhaps that kitchen glove, which really told her nothing. And honestly, how could a recent murder tie into his ancient tale of dead nuns? What if … (stop it, Charlotte) … but what if it really … (you’ll make a fool of yourself) … really was … (oh, go ahead—it’s safe to think it in the darkness, where we’re free to explore our most foolish imaginations) … What if it really was real? What if she’d discovered a genuine murder victim, and the murderer had returned in the night and hidden away the body? Then the murderer was someone at Pembrook Park, most likely someone who had been up playing Bloody Murder and who would know that Charlotte discovered the crime scene: one of the lady guests, gentleman actors, or perhaps Mary. Everyone else had been in bed. But then who was the victim? Should she go to the police with a half-baked suspicion? Here, after midnight in her room, she couldn’t believe her discovered corpse had been nothing more than a rubber glove. But without a body, how could she prove it?
It turns out that it’s not always safe to think things alone to oneself, even at midnight.After forming that needling dread into a thought, Charlotte had to get up a few (or twelve) times to peek outside her door and make sure there wasn’t a murderer lurking in the hallway, preparing to come in and kill her in her sleep. No murderer would find her sleeping, by golly! If a murderer wanted her dead, he/she would have to face her like a man/woman and just go ahead and kill her to her face! Because that’s a much nicer way to die. Awake and aware, so you can really experience the whole nauseating horror of it.Oh, go back to bed, Charlotte.
More than anything, Charlotte wanted not to take up space. She longed to sit in a corner of the world, inconspicuous, being harmless and pleasant. Cheery. People could come to her when they needed a hand or a friend or a loan, but otherwise not trip over her in passing. Nice Charlotte. Clever Charlotte. Out-of-the-way Charlotte.Charlotte pushed her breakfast around on her plate, thinking of the many poisons Agatha Christie’s murderers employed. There might be arsenic in her eggs, strychnine in her sausages, or cyanide in her cider. (Her glass actually held orange juice, but cider was alliterative.) Why couldn’t she let this go? Did she want there to be a murder? Didn’t her brain have anything better to do, like, say, contemplate Mr. Mallery’s lower lip again?
She looked around the table. Who’s a murderer? Who drew the short stick?
After breakfast she paced the gallery upstairs, thinking about rubber gloves and real bodies, British police and the fears that crawled over her through the night.Why had Marco sent that letter? Why now? The effort of crying so hard was exhausting and yet the release was such a relief that I couldn’t stop.
Lorrie talk to me. What’s wrong?I’m sorry, I choked out.
You’re sorry? she asked. Her voice had raised a pitch, indicating her concern. What are you sorry about?I tried to get words out, but blubbered instead. My aunt stopped asking me to speak. I could hear her breathing tense on the other side.