[All characters in this story are entirely fictional. Any resemblance they may bear to real life peoples, places, and things are unintentional and should not be taken seriously.]
AMADEUS STONE AND THE DANCE OF THE ELITE
Murder. This whole country is full of it. They say that every fifteen seconds, a man is murdered. If this is true, how am I to decide who I should save? Whose murders should I solve? Who must I avenge? My name is Amadeus Stone. I am a retired war veteran of the age of thirty six. I live in Westminster, Britain. After my long service in Britain’s army, I turned my attention to detective work. Love me or hate me, I’m here to stay. As I write this, I remember that today is the anniversary of my first big mystery. I had solved several local crimes, but nothing as big as what was to come.
I had attended a party in the great halls of the King. There was a ball held only for the elite. It was a time for men and women of high society to forget their troubles. A time for them to forget the war on the other side of the Earth; for the patriots had just signed a ‘Declaration of Independence’ and a full scale war was on everyone’s mind.
Now I must admit that I was not invited to the ball, but I came nevertheless. I leaned in a corner, my pipe in my mouth. I watched and observed. I observed everything. A man, lean and wiry in frame smoked a well-carved oak pipe while talking to a rather large, sinewy man. My eyes darted across the room to a beautiful woman sneaking into a room with the Prime Minister’s son. No doubt they were ready to ‘have fun.’ The King’s guards laughed off to the left, the troubles forgotten for the night. The war didn’t matter. Not at the moment.
It was then that my ears caught a sharp whisper of ‘Amadeus!’ I did not need to turn around to know who it was.
‘Captain Thomas Hill,’ said I, ‘What may I do for you?’
‘What are you doing here,’ said he. He yanked heavily on my sleeve, and still his voice did not rise above a whisper. His voice was angry, and he struggled to maintain his composure, ‘You were not invited to this event.’
‘I am observing,’ said I.
‘Observing what?” he moaned.
‘A man will die tonight,’ said I.
‘How can you tell?’
I turned to look at him. My eyebrow shot up before I spoke the words, ‘High society folk? All of them gathered in one place? Could it not be more obvious?’ said I.
Captain Hill raised a questioning finger and spoke the words, ‘Amadeus, no one is going to die. This place is heavily guarded. No one can enter who is undesired.’
I shot Hill a questioning look, ‘Have I not infiltrated the ranks of the elite?’ Hill grumbled something under his breath, and, as if to prove my suspicions true, a bone-chilling cry resounded in the great halls of the palace. Captain Hill cursed under his breath, and by the time he had turned his attention back to me, I had left.
The cry had come from a back room I saw the man and woman enter earlier. I prayed the cry did not come from who I thought it was. Alas, I was wrong, for the son of the Prime Minister lay dead. Closer inspection told me this man had been shot through the chest. A dark shade of red lipstick was barely visible on the edge of his collar. Only to the trained eye could it be noticed.
Just then I turned my attention to Captain Hill, who was followed by Detective Freeman close by.
‘What did you find, Stone?’ asked Freeman in his usual nonchalant manner.
I blinked twice, faking astonishment, ‘Me?’ I said, ‘I found only the son of the Prime Minister dead in a back room, shot through the heart.’ I cast an apprehensive glance out the window, when, to my surprise, I saw a figure darting through thick, dense foliage, trying to slip away in the cover of night. Slowly and discreetly I made my way to the window, trying to stall the police. I needed time to question this mysterious figure. ‘Now,’ said I, ‘Since I have given you all of my findings,’ I sat against the window sill, ‘I shall take my leave.’
I could almost see the officers astonished faces as I leaned back out the window. I laughed to myself as I landed in a bush. Swiftly, ever swiftly, I began my pursuit. Within minutes I had found the figure, gripping their arm tightly. To my surprise I found it to be—
‘Whisper?’ said I, aghast.
Whisper Morgan. The love of my life, who just happened to be the very definition of a femme fatale; she had moved from America to escape the troubles of war. What can I say? I could never help myself around her.
‘Well if it isn’t Amadeus Stone,’ she cooed gently, in her soft, pretty voice, ‘I wasn’t expecting you.’
‘Nor I you,’ said I. It was then that my eyes turned to her lips as she smiled, ‘You’re wearing the same shade of lipstick I found on the collar of the dead body back there.’
‘A happy accident,’ she said, gracefully slipping her hand out of my grasp.
‘So why did you run?’
‘I had to,’ she said, ‘You know my past, Amadeus, you know I would be instantly hanged should I even be found there.’ She tilted her head slightly, almost challenging me, ‘But you have no concrete evidence, Stone,’ she said, ‘You could turn me into police, but we both know you won’t do that.’ She cast a glance to the carriage behind her.
I was at a loss for words, I fumbled and tripped, trying to organize my thoughts, ‘How do I know it isn’t you?’ said I.
Her lips perked slightly, ‘You don’t.’ she stated simply, and with a flourish, she made her way to the carriage awaiting her. I stared blankly while she left. She waved a final goodbye. Her smile was almost a challenge in itself.
‘She’s a wondrous woman,’ said I to Detective Freeman, once I had returned to my home in Westminster. ‘Truly a challenging foe; I can’t stay away from her, Freeman.’
‘I do not understand, Stone,’ said Freeman, ‘What do you see in her?’
I leaned back in my armchair and closed my eyes, taking steady puffs of my pipe. ‘She’s a wondrous woman,’ I repeated, ‘Her brilliance eludes me. Always she remains one step ahead. Always she plays me. Our game of cat and mouse is never ending, Freeman. There is nothing more thrilling than that.’ I sighed and again opened my eyes.
‘But Amadeus,’ Freeman retorted, ‘The woman was tried as a killer.’
I was quick with a rebuttal to point out she was never convicted. ‘Now what is it you came to me for, Freeman?’ said I, ‘What is it you want to show me?’
From his breast pocket Freeman withdrew a pipe and handed it to me. I examined it thoroughly. Carved graciously from oak, it bore resemblance to one I had crossed paths with before. Upon it was the carving of a ship. Beneath it was a small inscription. I reached for the magnifying glass. I read aloud the inscription. ‘Mayflower,’ it read, and suddenly it hit me. I knew why the murder took place. ‘Where did you find this?’ I questioned Freeman.
‘It was discarded a few feet from the balcony. I knew not if it belonged to the killer, so I took it to you.’
I said nothing for a moment, but quickly responded with the words, ‘Freeman, could you grab that map off the shelf for me?’ he did so, and I began to pour myself over it. I looked over the palace where the ball was held. Without looking up I asked Freeman ‘Has there been any word from the Prince?’ said I.
‘None at all.’ Freeman said.
‘As I suspected,’ said I, ‘It seems he was pushed off the balcony.’
‘The death of the Prime Minister’s son served as a distraction. I noted the Prince on the balcony immediately before I arrived to inspect the body. No doubt one of our killers snuck onto the balcony and pushed him off. They likely have the body.’
Freeman shook visibly. ‘But where are they, Amadeus? We must have justice!’
I let out a low hum, ‘That’s what I’m working on,’ said I. ‘Now, I saw a man, lean and wiry with the same pipe, and he was talking to a large man whom I later saw driving a carriage after Whisper left the grounds. It would take approximately three minutes for the man to kill the Prince, and another fifteen for him and his friend to hide the body, while Whisper kept me busy.
‘Assuming the three of them left soon after the crime was committed, they would have likely retreated to the nearest inn available.’ My fingers ran smoothly along the map, until finally I found it: ‘The Blue Moon Inn,’ said I aloud, rushing for my hat and coat. ‘Meet me there with backup within the hour!’ I shouted to Freeman, and with the slam of a door, I left.
Indeed, night had fallen by the time I reached the inn. Before entering the inn I took a moment to reflect upon how easy Whisper had made it to solve the mystery. I pushed the thought to the back of my mind and burst through the doors, and as I suspected, Whisper was one step ahead of me, for her sinewy friend was there to meet me.
His long arms reached for me, but fortunately my training in my country’s army served me well. My fist scraped across the gruff man’s jaw, but not before his fist had also collided against my ribcage. He was trained, for his blow had power. I knew I had to end it quickly, and end it quickly I did. With three strikes to the head followed by a kick to the stomach, the man was felled.
No sooner did I do this, however, than did the lithe and wiry man climb down the steps, his revolver in hand. I, however, had come prepared as well, and had produced a gun of my own before he was able to load his. ‘Drop the gun,’ said I sternly, and through willpower alone, the man dropped it to the ground with a thud. I paced forward cautiously.
‘How did you know?’ he cried, ‘How?’
‘It was quite simple, really,’ said I, ‘You left one piece of incriminating evidence against yourself. Your pipe said ‘Mayflower,’ leading me to believe you were American, just like Whisper, who no doubt masterminded the plan. Since this war is going on, you wanted something to distract the leaders of our nation, allowing your people to win the war and since you could not kill them directly, you went for a more subtle approach. For what more would distract them than the death of their own sons?’ still I paced further. ‘Do you admit your crime or not?’
By now the wiry man was in a fit of rage. ‘Yes,’ he shouted, ‘Yes I admit it all right! He tore himself at me only to meet the butt of my gun. ‘I did it,’ he laughed, ‘I killed them. I killed them!’
The police soon arrived and dragged the two men away, the wiry one still repeating the phrase ‘I killed them,’ over and over. I, however, had further business to attend to.
I climbed the stairs, careful of the creak of the rotted wood, and slowly I opened the door to see Whisper with one leg out the window. ‘Leaving so soon?’ said I.
She turned to me, ‘Amadeus,’ she said, ‘You figured it out in record time.’ Seductively she moved closer to me, until our faces were inches apart. ‘This is just the beginning,’ she said in a low voice, ‘This is only to warm you up.’
I knew immediately what she meant, ‘You planned for me to solve this easily,’ I responded.
‘Precisely,’ she said, ‘I planted the pipe there after things had quieted down. My friend was still busy with the prince. He was too busy to notice.’ She moved backwards, back toward the window, ‘Things will only get harder from here on out, Amadeus Stone,’ she cautioned, ‘Things can only get worse. Worse, and more difficult. Until next time, Amadeus,’ before dropping from the window she let out two final words, ‘Be prepared.’
The police found the room no more than a minute afterword, led at the helm by Captain Hill. ‘Where’s Whisper,’ he asked me, ‘Where did she go? What happened to her?’
My lips curved upwards into a slight smirk, a pushed past him to leave, uttering the final words, ‘I’m sorry sir, she got away.’