Devil in the Dance Hall

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Mystery and Crime  |  House: Booksie Classic


Danielle Deville finds herself at the heart of another mystery, as an Auction party gone wrong brings out hidden depths one keeps secret from the world, for better or for worse. One thing is
certain though, by the end of the night, it will have only just begun.

Submitted: February 23, 2018

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Submitted: February 23, 2018

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Devil in the Dancehall

A Danielle Deville Mystery

 

Another night in this City of Dreams, although with all the lights on you could hardly tell it was night unless you looked up. As I walk along the bright sidewalks with all the other members of this bustling city, cigarette burning in my mouth, I can’t help but take a moment to reflect. Just this morning I was solving the case of the Alexandria murder, starting around 8:30 and ending just a little after noon.

But here I was, not more than 12 hours later, walking along the streets as I do every night, without any change. My cigarette starts to burn out, so I flick it to the ground and stomp it out. I turn to look at all the different people. Mothers, Daughters, Fathers, Sons, Children and Adults alike. They’re living their lives without fear, laughing and smiling as they go about their peaceful lives.

I may be a jaded, old woman, but knowing this is what I help keep safe, it brings a smile to my face. “No time for sentiments, Danielle. You’ve got a date to keep!” I tell myself, putting a spring in my step towards my destination. As I walk further along the sidewalk the lights of the bustling city start to fade away, and only streetlights show my path now. I turn a corner down a silent, dark street, and a single neon sign shows me my destination.

It’s a small pub called The Stump, but the regulars like myself know it as Jack’s. As I walk up, hands in my jacket to keep them warm, I kick open the thick, wood door to the bar. As I do the entire pub is silent. “Well come on guys, don’t stop having fun just for my sake!” I say with a grin.

The pub bursts up with laughter and greetings as I walk in. I feel I should mention that this place only has regulars. If you come once, you either belong or you never come back. In Jack’s case, it’s the home of all the surly, brutish sorts of people in this town. Or at least you’d think so, but half of these guys are harmless. They just look tough.

As I greet the usual crowd of ruffians in here, I make my way up to the front bar counter. Greeting me is the man himself, dressed in a simple shirt and vest, with his hair slicked back and the same dumb smile on his face. “Hey Jack, got anything new in?” I ask him.

“Well if it ain’t Miss Devil once again! You’ve got the devils luck y’know! I just so happened to get a primo new item in today, it’s high quality Dihydrogen Monoxide!” He says with his trademark smirk.

“Jack, you do know I’m one of your few customers with a proper education, right?” I ask him. “I mean a glass of water would be nice, but I think I’d like some of the usual.” I continue. He gives off his usual cheeky chuckle. “Ah I should’ve known better. I’d need an entire sheep farm to pull the wool over your eyes! Or at least to get past the devil’s horns!” He laughs again. “I’ll serve you right up, Dani. Go ahead and have a seat.” He says, giving a sincerer smile. Jack might be the owner of a pub, but one feels like he tried to be a comedian in the past. His jokes are awful, but it’s part of the charm.

“Oh Dani~! Come sit over here, won’t you sugar?” Said a fake-sultry voice from behind me. I turn around and there’s a blonde, frilly-dressed, and curvaceous woman waving at me from her usual table. “Yeah, yeah, just hold your horses Collie.” I say as I walk over.

Collie was the eldest of three sisters known as The Three Cats. Not only were they crafty ladies on their own, but they were also some of the best informants I could ever find. Hell, maybe the best in the entire city. But weirdly, she was the only one here that night. “So, trying out a country look, or what?” I ask with a dismissive eye, putting my feet up on the table.

“What’s wrong with a little taste of home, my dear Miss Deville?” She said in a terrible accent. “Where’s Holly and Molly?” I ask. It was rare to see the three of them separated. “It’s just the most tragic thing. Molly has come down with a terribly awful cold! The girl is so smart, but she never takes care of herself. Holly has much better bedside manner than myself, so she’s looking after her.” She explains.

“But that’s not all that is a concern to me right now, Dani. I need a bit of a favor.” She says with a puppy dog face. “Let me have my drink and I’ll hear you out, your favors are never nice.” I reply, but as I do, Jack had already shuffled over and given me my usual mug of Brandy. “Y’know, Jack, with the way medicine is these days you could probably get your leg fixed by now.” I say to him. It always pains me to see him hobbling about.

“I appreciate the sentiment Dani, but it keeps me humble. Unless I fall! Then, it keeps me tumble!” He says with a chuckle. Turning around, I take a big swig of my brew, and prepare myself to deal with one of the Cat’s infamous favors. “Alright, hit me.” I tell her, taking my feet down and looking at her.

“I am lined up to attend a rather prestigious event in the richer part of town tomorrow with my current, friend we shall say.” She said, being obvious. “Now normally this would be no issue, but this is a very rich, very singular raced event. I may not have the dark skin as others of my mixed heritage, but I am still quite darker than the people who will be attending. As such, I would feel much safer and much more secure with a dear friend there with me. Could you do that for me, Dani?” She asked with more genuine feeling behind it.

“I don’t mind it, but what’s in it for me?” I ask. Obviously, I’d do it no matter what, but I have an image to uphold! “Danielle, this is a prestigious, well-funded, well stocked event. You will have your pick of some of the best Wines and Scotch this city has to offer.” She says. God damn that is one hell of a selling point.

“Alright, Collie, you got a bodyguard!” I tell her, sticking my hand out to shake on it. She takes it and we make ourselves a deal.

The next night comes around and I am instantly regretting this deal. Thankfully I didn’t have to wear a dress but my ‘fancy’ wear is not exactly comfortable. Tight shirt, tight vest, tight pants, loose shoes, thank god. Thankfully I had a decent looking, black long-coat to cover it up. Now I’m just waiting on the corner for Collie.

As I do a kid bumps into me as he runs past. “Sorry Mister!” He says as he runs away. I think he could feel me glaring as he starts to run faster around the corner. “God, tonight is going to be awful!” I say to myself. Now wait a minute, Dani. You get some of the richest, refined, most expensive booze these schmucks could buy. Isn’t that worth a couple of hours of discomfort? I make a good point.

As I’m convincing myself to not back out, Collie and her date finally show up. He doesn’t look anything special. Plain in every sense of the word, down to his suit. Name’s probably John Smith. “Danielle, this is my accompaniment tonight, James Smith!” Collie introduced. Well I wasn’t too far off.

“Hey how’s it-” I begin, before clearing my throat. “H-How do you do, my fair sir?” I ask. It has been too long since I talked in a “proper” manner. “You must be the famous Miss Danielle Deville! Colette has talked to great lengths about you.” He said. “Oh, I am sure. Colette is a great friend of mine.” I say, barely laughing at that half-assed false name.

“Now, shall we get going? The car should be here quickly.” James asks. “C-Car?” I ask to confirm. Collie said nothing about no damn car! “Why, of course! The Contraire estate is just outside of town.” He explained. Tonight, is going to be damn awful.

After a very bumpy, very sickening, and very boring car ride, we end up at one of the largest mansions I have ever been to. Full on gate and gardens to boot! Every dollar I see spent here is one more dollar I imagine that booze is going to be worth.

Entering the party is a huge flash of light to me. Dozens of chandeliers over a large, pristine, dancehall. There are a small group of tables around the outside, but it is mostly space to dance and mingle about. As our group enters the room, we are stopped by two people.

First is a short, young girl, with short, curly blonde hair, and a sparkling dress. Secondly is a middle-aged, white haired, short, butler. The second one seems way too familiar. “Welcome to the event Mr. Smith. Who are these two with you?” He asked in a light british accent.

“This is Collette la Chat, my plus one, and this is Danielle Deville, my plus two I suppose.” He greets. “Evenin’. Weird question, you wouldn’t happen to know a Crawberry would you?” I ask suspiciously. “Not that I am aware of, my name is Albert von Buttle. If you mean that sorry fellow from todays paper, then I assure you there is no connection. He is a shame to humanity and to Butler-kind.” He says proudly.

“Now, do not mind me but I shall need to do a quick check for weapons on you three.” He tells us. “A weapon check? Is this that serious of a shindig?” I ask. Of course, I was safe, I only had my arms for weapons, but I was worried about the danger of the event. “Just a precaution Ma’am, I assure you.” He says, quickly patting each of us down, but being very careful not to be too handsy. Afterwards, we have another greeter.

“I’m so pleased that you could come James! Daddy’s been looking forward to talking business with you!” The young girl chimed in. “Ohmigosh, please excuse my manners!” She said, flustered as she locked eyes with us. “My name is Dalia Contraire, i’m the daughter of Rosencratz Contraire, the owner of the estate.” She said with a curtsey. “But all my friends just call me Doll!” She said, springing back, full of life.

“Great, well, it’s nice to meet you. Collie, if you need me I’ll be over by the refreshments table with the alcohol.” I said, pointing towards the table fill with unopened bottles.

“Oh, we don’t have any alcohol here!” Dalia said

“You don’t have any alcohol here?” Collie asked

“You don’t. Have any. Alcohol here.” I repeated.

“That’s right! My father is very much a prohibitionist, so all we have is delicious sparkling cider! But it’s bubbly enough everyone’s loving it! I hope you enjoy Miss Devil!” Doll says as she bounces away to other guests. “It’s Deville!” I correct as she bounces away.

I slowly turn my head towards Collie. She has a face riddled with guilt, avoiding my eyes. I give her a pat on the head, as she is just up to my chin, to let her know it’s fine. I can survive a couple of hours. But I also squeeze her head a little bit to let her know she owes me a round back at Jack’s.

I head over to the table and pop open a bottle with my thumb. I contemplate just hanging on to the bottle and downing it, but it’d probably just make me sick as well as make Collie look bad. So, I settle for serving up a few tiny cups in a row. As I sip I look around the room. Collie was right, this is a real bleached event. But I’m not a stranger to everybody, I remember a couple of these people as former clients.

Nothing major, just thefts or trespassing. I do remember one time this big wig hired me to investigate a colleague’s tax evasion and I ended up booking the guy. “Excuse me, but are you the one they call Devil?” Said a female voice behind me. “It’s Devi-oh forget it. Yeah I’m her.” I say as I turn around.

Before me I see an older woman, probably around my age, but much more gracefully so. She hardly has any wrinkles, but her gray hair and the air she gives off is one of experience. But she’s also a tad bit weird, dressed in a slim, black dress, and a masquerade mask. “Was there a dress code I didn’t read?” I asked. But as I looked more, she was the only one wearing it.

“I have heard many things about you around the town. They say you’re a dangerous, yet mystifying woman. Devil of the Details, is it not?” She asks as she walks right beside me. “Uh, yeah. That’s the detective agency I own. Well, own and operate. I’m a detective.” I say, caught off guard by her.

She lets out a small giggle. “I figured. Shame this party does not have any alcohol, but I could understand that being drunk is not wise when money is at stake.” She says, swirling and sipping her glass. “What do you mean?” I ask her. “Oh, you were not aware? Tonight there is to be an auction. Seems like terrible timing in my opinion, but our dear Rose carries on his wife’s spirit.” She continued.

I don’t even get a word out before she lets out another chuckle. “I suppose you will ask me why it’s bad timing. I may not be a detective, but I know a woman’s heart better than anything.” She says with a sly smirk. “There has been a string of robberies lately. All part of the advertised ‘crime spike’ I’m sure you’ve heard of.” She said, walking back to face me head on.

“But, I’m sure we will be safe with you, Miss Deville.” She says. “So sorry to come and go, but I simply must return to my partner for the evening. Au revoir!” She says as she drifts back into the crowd like a ghost.

“Who the hell was that?” I say, completely awestruck. “Oh, that was Madam Boudoir! She’s a well-known fashion stylist in the area!” Doll says, suddenly right behind me. I jump and nearly sock her in the face on reflex, but thankfully I turn around quicker than I can punch.

“Jesus, kid! Warn someone before you just jump up behind them!” I say, a little out of breath. “Oh, I’m sorry Miss Devil, I thought you would have heard me already, but I guess you were distracted.” Doll said, surprised just as much.

“Looks like someone else has arrived! I’m so sorry Miss Devil but duty calls! Hey Mikey!” She says, bounding off once again. “Little firefly, that girl is.” I say to myself. But, I remember when I was like that once.

As more time goes on and the doors close to the dancehall, it seems that all the guests had arrived. There were about 30 people in there altogether, not counting the host himself, who had yet to be seen. With all these people in the same room, at the same time, I can’t help but feel that something is about to go wrong. Terribly wrong.

And as that thought enters my mind, the lights all went off, and there was a shrill scream.

I hate being right all the damn time.

After a few minutes of panic the lights come back on, and with a quick scan everyone didn’t seem to move too much, save for a larger woman leaning against a table. “Is everyone alright?” I shout as I rush towards the main crowd. “It all looks good Dani, nothing seems to be wrong.” Collie shouts out as she runs towards me. “Everything is fine by the door too.” Doll said as she joined us. “I’m going to go find my father and see if all the auction items are in place” Doll said as she ran out the hall door.

I follow her to keep her safe, and as we reach a locked room she struggles to get it open. “Stand back!” I tell her while I’m running towards her. As she moves out of the way I jump and kick the edge of the door with both legs, forcing it open. “Dad!?” Doll cries out.

“D-Doll, is that you?” Says an older, haggard voice. Doll flicks the light on to find her father knocked on his tail, by an open window. “Dad!” She cries out as she rushes to his side. I groan as I start to get up. Drop-kicking a door open probably wasn’t the best idea for someone over 50, but it was a good idea at the time.

“Is he alright, kid?” I ask as I stand up. “Yeah, looks like just a bump. Dad, what happened?” She asked. “Well I don’t really have the dimmest idea! One second I was placing Madam Clifftons priceless Swan ornament on the shelf, the next second I’m cold on the floor!” He recalls. As soon as I regain my bearings I rush over to the window. Looking outside, I can’t see anything out of the ordinary.

Which that, is very unordinary. There’s no rope, ladder, or hook. Absolutely no escape from what is clearly a high window. Also, the mansion is surrounded by tall hedges and gates, so unless they had a car there isn’t any kind of get away, and I haven’t heard a car leaving recently.

“Dalia, dear. Can you help me up? I must make sure that nothing has been stolen!” Her father said as she grabbed onto his arm. “I think it’d be best if you didn’t stress yourself out too much right now, sir. Take it from someone who’s gotten hit on the head plenty of times, you don’t want to rush.” I advised, setting him back down.

“Miss Devil is right. I’ll check your list for you dad!” Doll said, picking up a clipboard from the wall. “Oh, if you insist. Oh, but Angus Thompson and Michael Tullin haven’t brought up their pieces yet!” Mr. Contraire added. “Michael, is that the kid you were greeting when the power went off?” I ask.

“Yeah, Mikey has been a good friend of mine for years now! Although he’s always such a scaredy cat, he was almost the one that screamed, I’m sure of it!” Doll said, laughing as she went up and down the shelves in the room. “Alright kid, your father seems to be alright. Just make sure he doesn’t move too much. I’m going to go make sure the main hall hasn’t turned into a big old blitz.” I say, running out the room.

As I enter the main hall, it doesn’t seem too disastrous, mainly old ladies on chairs, fanning themselves, and younger women gossiping like mad. I spot Collie and head in her direction. “Oh, Dani! What on earth happened?” Collie asked. I pull her away from the main crowd to not cause any panic. “The old man got clubbed on the head. He’s stable but they’re looking to make sure that nothings been stolen. Just keep calm and it should all blow over.” I told her, to ease her nerves.

But, I’m expecting something to go wrong any second. Even if the window wasn’t open, even if there wasn’t an auction, you don’t just club a guy for no reason. There’s the possibility that something fell, but there wasn’t debris around, and he was hit right on top of the head, so he couldn’t have ran into anything.

She heads back to her date and his group, and the mingling resumes once more. Seconds later, the tinkling of glass is heard, and Doll is at the top of the stairs, leading to the back door, chiming the glass to get attention.

“Everyone, I ask that you all stay calm, but I have some tragic news. There has been a theft tonight.” She says in a calm manner. Already there are some people freaking out and gasping. “Now there hasn’t been any big losses, but a few items have been discovered as missing.” Doll recounts.

More people are getting antsy. “Now I ask that please none of you panic or try to leave until the police arrive! Also, be cautious, because the robber could still be on the property.” Oh, that poor kid. Instantly the crowd of posh, pompous, simple-minded rich folk goes absolutely nuts. The risk that they may lose their lives, or worse, their money, sends them into a frenzy.

I can tell Doll is trying to shout orders for them to stay calm, or reassurances, but nothing is happening. She tries it again, on the main floor instead of on high, but her voice is still drowned out. I walk closer to her by the base of the stairs and spot a Marble bust. Or at least that’s clearly what it’s trying to be, but I’ve seen marble, and that isn’t it.

“Hey kid, just want to say, sorry for this.” I say, seeing her father coming out from the stairs now. Well now or never, Danielle. As I walk up the bust I reel back my arm and punch it full force on the neck, making one big, solid, definitely marble head land and shatter.

“THAT WAS SOLID MARBLE!” Doll’s father shouted

“THAT WAS SOLID MARBLE!?” Doll asked, clearly surprised.

“Oh shit that was solid Marble.” I whined out. Even with my strength, that hurt like hell.

But at least it made the party silent again. If there’s one thing that will get rich eyes, it’s breaking something that looks expensive. I shake off the pain and command the attention. “Alright everyone, listen up! My name is Danielle Deville and I’m a certified Detective. I may be attending as a quest, but a crime has been committed and it needs to be solved. Now one of you go call the police, the rest of you stay here! You, stringy kid!” I say, pointing to one of the first people in the crowd, and he jumps up.

“What’s your name kid?” I ask. “M-Micheal T-Tullin.” He responds. Well at least it’s the chicken. “You go call the police, ask for Richard Edwards. When he answers, tell them there’s been a robbery at this address and Dani is here. Then come back, right away.” I say, emphasizing the last directions.

I see Collie inching forward and give her a hand sign to come to me. She does and stops right in front of me. “I’m sorry but, just play along.” I say quietly. “Now! I don’t want anyone leaving this area, and I don’t want any ruckus! If any of you step out of line, my friend here will take care of you, in a very brutal way.” I announce. “In a what way?” Collie asks.

“She may look like a charming, sweet, southern belle, but Collette here is a master of eastern martial arts!” I begin, stretching my acting muscles. “You may have heard of people wrestling crocidiles in the Bayou, well they learn it from her. One chop from her can stop your blood cold, or make you twist your own arm like a pretzel! So don’t get out of line now!” I say, dramatically pointing across the entire crowd.

“Layin’ it on a little thick, ain’t ya?” Collie whispers to me, using her real, city accent. “Hey you’ve had harder roles before, just stand around all scary-like, and do some poses if they get suspicious.” I tell her. After my speech, the kid comes back in.

“Alright good. Mr. Contraire, I want you to lock all the doors to this room except for the one right behind you.” I order. “Now wait, what if anyone is missing?” One of the guests ask. “Not to worry, I have been watching the doors, and everyone is currently accounted for.” Albert declares. Mr. Contraire then goes around and locks all four of the doors leading to the dancehall.

“Collie, keep a watch of anyone. Me and Doll are going to check the power room to see if we can find any clues of tampering.” I say. “But what if they find out that martial arts thing is bull?” She asks, worried. “You…you do have your gun, right?” I ask. She stops for a second and thinks. She then discreetly feels around her thighs through her dress.

“Oh yeah I do! Sometimes I just get so in character.” She says with a giggle. With that me and Doll head off to check it out. Thankfully the power room is just in the basement, which isn’t too far of a walk from the dancehall. We open up the door, pop on the light, and find the room devoid of anything out of place, with the exception of a pair of opera gloves.

“Oh, that’s a clue isn’t it? It means that a woman was down here, pulled the power, and then disposed of the gloves, since they were evidence!” Doll theorized. “Well kid that isn’t a bad guess from just the first look, but any good detective knows to look a bit deeper.” I said, kneeling after putting on my leather gloves.

“For starters, these gloves are way too thin to be on a real person, unless they’re a child. Last I checked this was an adult-only function. Secondly, there should be some kind of mark or dust on the hands of these gloves.” I continue, picking up the glove by the ends.

“The fingers of the glove are perfectly clean, but the middle has plenty of dust.” I finish. “So, what you’re saying is, it could have been anyone, and they used the gloves more like a rag then actual gloves?” She asked of me. “Yeah that’s the gist, which means it could have been about anyone.” I say, climbing back up. I look around the room but don’t seem to find anything.

“Alright it’s not great but it’s a start, let’s head back up.” I say, but I take a few steps and find out Doll isn’t following me. “Everything alright kid?” I ask.

She doesn’t respond, but instead gets closer to the ground, and brushes across the floor with her hand. She then pops up and shoves it in my face. “Do ya see what’s on my hand Miss Devil?” She asks. “N-No?” I answer. It just looks like a bunch of sparkles and dust. Wait a second, sparkles?

I must have changed my look because Doll gets a big grin on her face. “This isn’t just any kind of dust, there’s a bunch of Costume Glitter on the floor. Which means that someone in a very sparkly outfit came in here to do this, which leads back to the original theory of a woman assailant!” Doll said, very proudly.

“Not to be a distraction, but, are you trying to become a detective, kid?” I ask, leaning against the doorframe. “O-Oh, um…not really. I wanted to when I was just a little girl, but that was just a silly playtime thing, nothing real serious, y’know?” She said, suddenly sheepish.

“Shame, you would have made a damn good one.” I say with a smile as I walk back into the room. As I do I notice something. “Hey, kid, can you tell if any of that glitter was in the hall?” I ask. She peeks her head out the door and looks down the hall. “Not that I can tell!” She says, leaning back in.

The two of us look all over the floor and I notice that it sparkles a bit more headed to a certain wall of the room, just to the left of the main switch. I give it a couple knocks and hear an echo. “Did you know this was here kid?” I ask her.

“No, not at all! The staff and daddy never let me down here much, I’m a very impulsive person y’know?” She told me. With a push I’m able to swing what turns out to be a hidden door open, opening up to a small hallway.

“Well, let’s explore.” I tell Doll. This just got a whole lot more interesting.

As me and Doll walk down the secret hallway connected to the power room, the silence was deafening. We could hear the slight chatter of the party at first, but now it was just silent. “Doll, you’re still behind me, right? There isn’t a damn light in here.” I ask, straining my eyes. “Yep! Don’t worry Miss Devil, I got myself some pretty good peepers, so I can see real good in the dark!” She says happily.

“I’m sorry, did Little Miss Jane Austen character just use the word ‘peepers’?” I ask with a chuckle. “Well, I always use my educated words and etiquette training when we have guests, but I’m still a young, spry gal who loves to have fun!” She says.

“Why do you bother with hiding yourself like that, then? Everybody expects kids these days to be all fun and laughs, going on dates and getting their jiggles on, or something.” I recount. “It’s get a ‘wiggle’ on Miss Devil, and its just what I’m expected to do.” She replies.

“Were you expected to stop being deductive too?” I ask. She doesn’t reply this time, at least not for a while. “You have talent, kid. You got good eyes, a good sense for connecting details, and from what I can tell a good memory. You have all the makings of a good detective, or at the very least someone who can help. Why stop?” I continue.

She takes a deep sigh. “When I was younger, I used to play detective all the time, especially with Mikey. I would find friends stuffed animals, or stage fake murder scenes. Even my mother played them with me back then! It felt right for me to do it. But, one time when Mikey’s father was over, I was playing around and started giving him these fake accusations. It made him uncomfortable and short with me, and after that daddy told me to stop messing around. After that, it really didn’t have the appeal anymore.” She told me.

“Well in my experience, if someone gets nervous because you ask too many questions, then they have something to hide.” I say, but she doesn’t respond again. A few seconds later, I reach the end of the hall. “Alright Doll, stand back a couple of steps.” I say, pushing against this wall as well. With just a little bit of effort, it swings open, showing the backside of the mansion.

Looking up I can see the window from what I can only assume is the storage room based off of the curtains, when all of a sudden I see the window slam shut. “Oh shit, Doll I think someone’s in the storage room!” I yell out.

“What? Why?” She asks, looking straight up. “The window just slammed really quickly!” I yelled preparing to run back, but then Doll grabs onto my collar and we are both dragged down. “S-Sorry Miss Devil but I didn’t think you’d stop soon enough if I just said it, but that window slams all the time if it’s not latched right. It’ll fly in and out like crazy during big storms!” Doll says, rubbing her nose.

I look up again and see it open once more. “Well damn, I got all nervous for nothing. This does tell us there was a way inside though. C’mon, let’s head back.” I say, standing back up. “U-Um…Miss Devil, I think we got bigger problems.” Doll says, looking to her right from the ground. I turn my head as well and see the bigger problem. A dead, bleeding corpse, right underneath the window.

“Ah, shit.” 

My worst fears for this evening had finally come true. Right in front of me I’m seeing a body turned into a pincushion. Or at least so it seems. I am no medical expert, but I’ve gleamed plenty from the forensics teams before. Stab wounds right through the chest and stomach, but nothing vital. I’m not seeing any blood trails, so he was stabbed here too.

“Miss Devil, look at the wall!” Doll pointed out. It was hard to spot in the moonlight, but there seemed to be splatters of blood against the wall. So, maybe our John Doe here was the would-be thief, fell out when the window swung open, and feel to a karmic death. But that brings up the question of the stab wounds. Nothing here could pierce the skin that far, as there were just a few thorny vines.

“Doll, do you have any idea who our mystery man here is?” I asked her. “Well, I’m not sure with the darkness and how he fell. Maybe if we had a lantern of some kind?” Doll told me. I rummaged through my coat a bit. “Oh, hang on I got a Wonderlite.” I said, flicking my lighter on for a flame near the poor saps face.

Doll let out a terrible gasp and jumped back. “That’s Angus Thompson!” She said in terror, her eyes watering a bit. “That’s one of the guys who hadn’t added to the auction yet, right?” I said, standing up to meet her. She nodded yes. I could tell she’s on the verge of tears. God, oh god I cannot handle crying girls. But I need her to keep a level head, so I should tell her something like my mom would say.

“Doll, no cow is meant to graze on grass all it’s life.” I said with a stern look. “W-What?” She asked. “Never mind, it’s sad that he’s dead, and if he’s been killed then we have to find out who. You can grieve and be sad, of course, but as the two-people investigating here, we have to keep a level head.” I reminded her.

She wiped her eyes and took a deep inhale. She nodded towards me with determination. “Now, before we head back, what was Mr. Thompson like?” I had to ask her. “Well, not to speak badly of the guy but he was a really sour person. Very judgmental but generous behind closed doors. He was just a selective type I guess you could say.” She summarized.

I took one last look over the body with my lighter, and noticed a small sparkle coming from his coat pocket. I reach in and grab what it was, and when I pull it out I find what is unmistakably a Jade Beetle Broach. “Well this just got a whole lot uglier.” I said, showing Doll the evidence. “Is this one of the stolen items?” I ask, and she nods to confirm that. “That was Madam Boudoirs, and the other was a Mink Scarf.” She expands.

“Wait a second Miss Devil, doesn’t it seem strange that he got stabbed? It might be vigilante justice, but my daddy was the only one in the room at the time. Couldn’t it have been planted?” She asked me. I actually hadn’t thought about that factor just yet.

“We need to get back to the main hall, quickly!” I said, grabbing the broach and running back down the hall. “But, Miss Devil shouldn’t we wait for the police?” Doll said as she ran behind me. “There was glitter around the door to the room, but the door on the other side still had the vines on it!” I explained to her. “That’s why it was harder to open! The power room door just wasn’t used a lot, but the exit door wouldn’t have the vines if someone else opened it!” Doll realized.

We reach back the power room and rush back up the stairs to the main room. “I think there was a robbery, Angus or not, but it all took place inside the house! All eyes were on the main hall so if they sneaked past they could have faked a sudden entrance. But for some reason that robbery quickly turned into a murder!” I explained, as we entered the main hall.

And since everything happened so quickly, the murderer was still here. Thankfully the party hadn’t devolved into complete chaos at this point, but I could tell people were getting nervous. “Collie! How have things been?” I asked, near frantically. “Well everyone’s been a bit nervous and suspicious, but there haven’t been any outbursts.” She says, clearly shaken herself.

“Ah, Miss Deville, any clues yet?” Mr. Contraire asks me. “Well yes, but you ain’t gonna like it.” I tell him. “Before I start, got anymore marble sculptures to break?” I ask. He doesn’t like that question. “Hey it was worth a shot.” I said.

This night has been utter shit so far and it’s not getting better any time soon. It’s been nearly an hour and Ricky still isn’t here. The phone lines weren’t cut at all, that kid was able to call just fine. Save the worries for later Danielle, you got some bad news to deliver.

“Everyone, I have made some progress in this case. I have found one of the two allegedly stolen items.” I say, holding up the Jade Beetle. There is a sigh of relief, which honestly breaks my heart a bit. “However, it was sadly found on a murder victim.” I continue. No one is relieved now.

“The victim has been identified, as Angus Thompson.” I finished. Gasps and some cries were heard throughout the party of 30. “Oh trust me, you’re not going to like the rest either. From the start this party has been like a ship in a bottle. Everything goes inside as easy pieces, but once you get it all together, you can’t get it out. Out of the 30 people here, one of you is the killer.” I begin, pacing around the room.

They all start to look at each other. So much distrust is grown within that one sentence. They’re all looking around because it could be any one of them. “Now, I may not be able to find out who it is by the time the police get here, but I’ll be damned sure to give them less options.” I told them all.

Thankfully this isn’t the biggest crowd I’ve had to whittle down. “There are four people in this room I trust already. Dalia, her father, Collie, and the butler, Albert. That leaves 28 of you as potential suspects right now.” I continue.

Before I really begin, I should come up with a timeline. “Could I have you all line up in order of arrival. That would leave Mikey at the end. Doll, can you and Albert help with that?” I ask. In a few minutes, and after some bickering, they’re all lined up. “Now, did anyone here at all see Angus Thompson arrive?” I ask of them. I get a few people looking at each other, but no one answers.

“I-I thought I heard his car pull up, but I didn’t see him come inside.” Mikey pipes up. He would have been closest to the entrance after all. When the lights went down Doll was practically holding him verbally hostage by the door to the hall.

“Mr. Contraire, how long were you in the storage room?” I ask. “I was in there since the party started, with Sir Reginald being the first to arrive and hand off his antique Shawl.” He explained. “Did you ever see Angus come in?” I asked again. “If I had I wouldn’t have told Dalia he hadn’t given his item yet.” He continued.

So he had to have been in the storage room when the power turned off, was murdered, and then feel out the window. “Alright, now that I have the timeline figured out, I need to figure which one of you might have brought the murder weapon.” I announce, which causes more murmurs.

“Dani is it something that could have been gotten here?” Collie asks, much calmer than the other folks in the lineup. “Well I haven’t seen any knives here, and the victim was stabbed repeatedly. The lights were off for a few good minutes, yes, but that doesn’t give someone much time to hide something that could stab clean through a man.” I explain to her.

“Doll, were any of the items in the auction room a knife?” I ask her. She grabs the list from her father and scans it over. “Y-Yeah! Number 25 was an antique ritual knife from the Caribbean.” She describes. “Number 25? Who’s that?” I asked. “Well we don’t know, everyone gets assigned a number once they arrive and when their item is put in the back.” She explains to me.

“Alright then, who here is number 25?” I asked the crowd. I wasn’t expecting a confession, but I was expecting something. “Miss Devil, Number 25 was never checked in. It hadn’t arrived yet. So, that really just takes it down to two people. Mikey and Mr. Thompson!” Doll told me.

Mikey looked hurt to be considered one of the only suspects. But for some reason this made Mr. Contraire laugh more than anything. “Now, don’t be absurd, Doll. Mikey may not be emaciated, but he’s not strong enough physically to push a man out a window, or mentally to even kill a man! It must have been Thompsons item and it was taken from him.” He continued.

“But dad can’t you even consider tha-” Doll began. “Dalia! Enough with this faux-investigation nonsense! He has practically been your brother and this is how you treat him?” He interrupts. “Well I don’t know about you pal, but the actual detective here thinks she was onto something.” I chime in.

“Miss Deville?” A soft voice calls from the line-up. We all turn our heads and Madame Boudoir steps forward a bit. “If I recall correctly, I saw Michael standing by the door before the lights turned off, but not afterwards.” She revealed to a collective gasp. “It was not until you and Dalia had already fled to check on Rosencratz that he returned.” She continued.

“And why the hell wasn’t this brought up before?” I asked her. Withholding information is stupid in a case. “Well, he wasn’t a murder suspect before, and I had assumed he was merely scared at the time of the blackout.” She replied. “I remember now! Someone pushed past me when it happened, and I couldn’t help but scream! I was moving past the door at the time!” The larger party goer chimed in.

“Doll I need to ask you something, and your father can be quiet while I do it.” I say, giving him a glare. “You were right beside Mikey when it all happened, did anything happen around you?” I ask her, looking directly into her eyes.

“I-I don’t know!” She says. “Yes you do! This entire night you have been observant and deductive and tactful, what happened? This is the time to play detective, Doll!” I tell her. Even if it’s minor I can’t have a helping hand clam up like this. She closes her eyes and strains to remember more aspects of that moment.

When she opens them again, she looked horrified. “He wasn’t there. When the lights went off I remember I swung around and my arms were out then, and I didn’t hit him, he wasn’t there!” She said, terrified at the realization.

And now, all of the eyes were on the most nervous looking kid I’ve ever seen. “Well, got anything to say, kid?” I ask him. “Y-Y-Yeah I do!” He stutters out, stepping forward.

“You’re all a bunch of hypocrites!” He shouts out to begin. “The entire time I’ve been in the presence of any of you pompous bastards, I’m too nervous to even speak because I’m afraid you’ll judge me! I know my father did illegal shit, and that was wrong! But now you’re all pointing fingers at me anyways. You know what you all got my father locked up for? Tax evasion! Like none of you have skimped and saved! But I’ve been out here, trying to live an honest life, but all of you look down on me!” He ranted. God this kid can talk.

“And now that some jewelry and a scarf have gone missing, you’re all back to blaming me for everything! The littlest thing sets you all of doesn’t it?” He finished. “Wait, Mikey, your father got locked up for that? B-But that was just some joke I grilled him about as a kid!” Doll said, completely confused.

“Maybe that’s what it was to you, but your old man there took it really seriously. Enough to hire some half-wit detective who couldn’t tell when somethings out of their pay rate to take care of it! Doll you’re a great friend but your father is a bastard! He acts all sorry and respectful but really he was just taking advantage of me being in charge some day!” He explained.

Then it all came rushing back. “You know kid, you really shouldn’t call someone a half-wit detective. Not when they put away your sleazy old man, and just busted this case wide open.” I said with a laugh.

“What the hell are you talking about?” He said, angrier than ever. “I may not get involved with blue collar crime once, but I have taken down exactly one prominent banker, and that was Jackson Tullin!” I revealed. I swear I could see the vein pop in the kids head at that moment. “That’s why I recognized these folks, I interviewed them to get the evidence! Oh your pop bribed me, but I’ve never really had much need for money, so it was all worthless. But, he was still smarter than you were kid.” I taunted.

“What the hell did you say!?” He shouted. “Hey, Doll. What was stolen from the storage room?” I asked. “Like I said when we found the body, Miss Devil, it was the Jade Beetle and the Mink Scarf” She replied. “Yeah I remember, but when’d you tell him that?” I asked. Then it all hit them.

“You see kid, as an investigator, you gotta see where the cracks lie. I’m the only one Doll told the exact missing contents too, you all just heard that they were stolen.” I announced. “So, you feel like fessing up now?” I ask him, staring him straight in the face.

This meek, skinny kid just turns red, anger popping out of every pore, eyes going mad, and then he finally speaks up.

“Okay.”

“Excuse me, what?” I asked, surprised. “I said Okay. I’ll confess to what I’ve done, but only to what I’m actually guilty of.” Mikey continued, calming down. “Alright well let’s here it. Honestly there’s a few parts I haven’t been able to figure out, so let’s get the testimony.” I tell him.

He takes in a deep breath. “It all started right when I arrived. I want to say ahead of time that I had nothing to do with the robbery.” He began.

“When I arrived, I had the knife with me, wrapped up in paper. I was coming up to the door and I put it inside my coat pocket. Then Doll greeted me, and the lights went out. After that fat lady sang, I heard footsteps in the hall. I know there’s been a lot of thievery lately, and though I hate that fat bastard Rose, I don’t want to see him killed or anything like that. So I rush around the hallway and get into the room, and he’s already flat on his fat ass, window wide open. I swear I see a hand right outside the window to boot, but I grabbed a couple things that were knocked on the floor, to put them back. The scarf, and the broach. But then, as I do, the door slams shut again with the wind, and in walks Angus, the prime asshole. He starts ranting and raving, and blaming me! Calling me just as bad as my father, and how they all should have left me to destitution! But I don’t want to take that shit or cause a fuss, so I try to walk past him to put the stuff back on the shelf. But he thinks I’m trying to get away, he grabs the broach out of my hands and tugs the scarf away. I’m still holding on but I let go, and it sends him against the window, which opened again, and he starts yelling at me more! At this point I’ve had it and start yelling back, when a big gust of wind shut it again, it blew the paper off of the knife, and the windows closing knocked him forward. And I was just too close.” He explained.

There are some winces and murmurs from the rest of the others, and Doll seems to be taken in by his testimony. “Keep going kid.” I tell him. “Well, after that he stopped moving a lot, and I pushed him out the window, knife still inside. He fell, and I rejoined the party later. I was just hoping there would be some chance to leave, to run, to leave this whole mess behind and start again later. When you talked about locking everyone in here I felt more confident, but I guess being stopped by you runs in the family.” He finished.

There were a few moments of silence in the room. Then I stepped forward to meet the kid, and leaned down to be eye level with him. “Bull.Shit.” And there is another gasp. Seriously it must be currency with these people.

“You really expect me to believe a victim with multiple stab wounds just happened to fall on a knife one time. You expect me to believe you left the knife when it is nowhere to be found, and you expect me to believe that you didn’t steal or leave the missing items somewhere when the scarf hasn’t been found either? On top of that, how would Mr. Contraire have been knocked out if not for you? Face it kid, you’re guilty of this, and no amount of covering it up will save you.” I ranted back.

“So…I guess none of you will believe me. Will you?” He asks. “Look if you don’t have the courage to fess up for the rest, you’ve at least admitted to manslaughter. The rest will come when the police get here.” I say, turning my back on him.

“You still think they’re coming?” He asks with a chuckle. Oh of course, everything about this night was just going so well, I had the goddamn murderer call the police. “Well, what’s stopping us now?” I asked while turning around, and when I did I heard something go right past my ear. It makes my body shiver, but looking forward, I see the little shit has a gun on him.

“S-Shame that Albert didn’t check me, huh?” He said, shaking as much as I am. “Someone…do something! Don’t just stand around!” I yell out. Redness is starting to fill the edges of my eyes, but he’s just a kid. He killed someone but he’s just a kid and I can’t hurt a kid like I will if I can’t control myself!

“Wh-what? Miss Devil you’re stronger than any of us!” Doll complained. She seemed ready to lunge at him too, but everyone here is shivering. “If I take a step forward, the kid’s getting his damn spine broke!” I retorted. But while we were talking, the kid started to back up, trying to escape. Then, a second click was heard.

“Now that’s far enough mister!” Says Collie, her small pistol drawn from under her dress, aimed with the steadiest hand I’ve seen in a long while. He aims it at her, but she aims for his hand and shoots the gun out. With that opening, I rush in and pin him against the locked door. After that I grab his arm, push it behind his back, and get him down on the ground.

Most of the crowd still has their eyes on Collie though, gun still pointed at Mikey. “What? He killed a man but suddenly the black girl with a gun is the main focus point here?” She asked, getting some small laughter from the thoroughly shaken up crowds. “I’ll ask again, kid. Got anything else to say?” I ask him.

“Who gives a shit.” He says, before going silent.

I get Doll to call the police this time, and Rickys crew is there within the hour. They haul off Mikey, get Angus’ corpse, and take the evidence that they’ll need for at least a base sentence. “Geez, Dani. How do you get yourself wrapped up in these kinds of messes?” Ricky asked. “Hey, I was just here for a bodyguard gig, everything else just kinda happened.” I told him with a laugh.

“Anywho, the suspect still isn’t saying anything about the theft, or tampering with the power. Honestly, there’s so much left open it’ll take a while before we can figure it all out. We might have to employ your services more soon.” Rickey tells me with a grin.

After taking testimonies from the party goers, they all start to file out and head their own ways, with the promise to not leave the state or country. Before she goes, however, I get stopped by Madam Boudoir. “It truly is a shame what happened here tonight, isn’t it Danielle?” She asks. “Well, bad things happen all the time. I’m just glad I caught him in time. Saves your rich hinds some stress.” I say with a laugh. “Now, now, at least let me take you out to dinner before you get hands-on with my ‘rich hind’ alright?” She says with a coy laugh. It honestly takes me a second to process that, and just makes me beet red. With a sly smile, she wraps her smooth, bare hand across my chin, and pulls my face in to kiss me upon the cheek.

“I hope that next time, we meet under much more favorable circumstances.” She says, before leaving in a very large limousine. Then Collie comes up to me, clinging on. “Dani I’m the one who brought you here, but in the grand scheme of things I felt like a side-character! That didn’t make me happy in school and it ain’t making me happy now.” She said with a pout, hanging off my arm.

“Oh don’t worry, you’ll get a chance at the limelight soon. So, is your date going to join us for a drink at Jacks?” I asked her. “Well I do owe you something for all the complications, and if he asks it is a perfectly reputable establishment.” She tells me in hushed tones. I can’t help but laugh. “Now I’m the one who has to act!” We both say with laughs.

“Miss Devil!” Shouts Doll from the house entrance. I turn around to face her. “You said, that I had what it takes to be a detective, a real skill for it. Is that really true?” She asked. “Look, Doll. Before you mentioned the kid being on the list, I was ready to just whittle everybody down, more random guessing than deduction. It was your quick thinking, and your memory that really saved the day. Apparently, your father listened in the past too. You can be a Detective, and you’ll be a great one. When that day comes, hit me up! We’ll get a drink, on me.” I say, ruffling her hair, before turning around and walking away to the car.

Looking back, a lot still bothered me about that night. The robbery was barely solved, even if I am sure the kid did it. On top of that, there was the glitter and the gloves. All in all, it felt very incomplete, or maybe, there’s just something that I’m not getting yet. Some big picture that is just beneath the surface, growing to a point.

Nah, that’d be too damn cliché. 


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