Characters: The Doctor/Agatha Christie
Spoilers: 4.07, 'The Unicorn and the Wasp'
Word Count: 1,786
Author's Notes: I can't get enough Agatha.
Previous Parts: Part One and Part Two
"Everyone has a talent. What is rare is the courage to nurture it in solitude and to follow the talent to the dark places where it leads." - Erica Jong
It only now dawns on me how completely simple the Doctor's suggestion of who to interrogate next was, yet for some reason I simply didn't see it. When hunting for a killer, if one only has suspects without motives and a murder without definite cause, one must then look for the source of the alibi.
"So this is your knife, then, Sir?" the Doctor asked, holding up the knife found at the crime scene to the kitchen's manager, a Mr. Bredrard. It is often said that thin cooks are never to be trusted, and Mr. Bredrard was a length of wire in a suit, it appeared.
"Yes, it has gone missing since yesterday afternoon," Mr. Bredrard said, sniffing his nose loudly at us. We were clearly taking up space he needed in preparing dinner, a topic I could not think to imagine with the body of a young woman still lying in a boxcar not far from us.
"And you didn't think to mention its absence?" I inquired. "Seems rather irresponsible of you, Sir."
Mr. Bredrard clearly had a distaste for me, as he raised an eyebrow and, at first, did not answer. It was not until I saw him turn his head to look at one of the female cooks that I realized he did not have a distaste for me, he had a distaste for women in general. Not uncommon, I'm afraid to say. Which is, perhaps, why I have often thought of writing a detective based on a woman. Perhaps my grandmother, who always appeared so harmless and fragile though her mind was sharp and swift.
"Miss Eleanor is in charge of the inventory and yet can not seem to keep her mind on her tasks," Mr. Bredrard said with no small amount of disdain. "Spends all her time daydreaming."
Miss Eleanor was a wisp of a girl not older than twenty, with her blonde hair cut short though not styled as mine or Miss Grey's was. She was a bit ill-looking and appeared more than a little ruffled. Her dark dress was in disarray, stained by some dirt, food, and white shoe polish.
"Is she head of inventory?" the Doctor asked, raising an eyebrow.
"No, she's one of our servers."
"And you've got her doing inventory."
"When she isn't bothering the passengers or daydreaming."
Miss Eleanor was most certainly not doing that now. Her cheeks turned a dark shade of red and she looked down to her feet, clearly taken off-guard and embarrassed.
"Everyone loves a daydreamer," the Doctor said, giving Miss Eleanor a smile. "I've been known to do the same on many occasions. Especially when asked to do things that aren't in my job description."
The girl brightened slightly at that, and I was grateful again that the Doctor was the inspector in charge of this case rather than another. He knew how to talk to the people on the train---the suspects, that is. And I would not know the right thing to say to make the girl feel more at ease.
"Do you know what happened to the knife?" he asked her simply.
The girl closed off instantly again and her eyebrows knitted together. She no longer looked embarrassed just…ashamed. She didn't speak, merely shook her head.
The Doctor and I excused ourselves from the kitchen and he leaned over to me. I must admit that although I was grateful for his presence, I was concerned that it would affect my ability to help deduce this criminal. I have always been nothing if not completely self-aware and I realized I had become somewhat infatuated with the man in the blue suit before me. Infatuated with his unusual style of speech and dress; in the way he regarded me as though I were a close friend and not merely an acquaintance he'd met on a train. But perhaps that is the way with admirers; they always feel close to those they admire. Or perhaps it was the situation, as fear makes companions of us all.
I also found myself fascinated by the secrets the Doctor kept. In the coldness of his skin and the darkness that hung around his eyes. He was an investigator who had seen much horror, I determined. Perhaps he had been in the Great War. I would have to ask him, but not now.
"It's not just the lack of inventory, that girl was hiding something," he whispered to me as he guided me away from the kitchen.
"A knife of that quality is the sort usually kept locked up to prevent theft, certainly not watched over by a young woman whom the chef holds in such disdain," I voiced.
"Yeah, but he could've been holding her in disdain due to the lost knife."
"But isn't he simply asking to have his inventory lost if he places an inexperienced girl in charge of it?"
The Doctor's eyebrows knitted together. "What makes you think she's inexperienced? She looked a little out of sorts, but with only two members of staff running a kitchen I imagine it gets a bit rough."
"She was green, in fact," I said. "Green around the gills, as they say. Her pekish complexion and gauntness about the cheekbones is usually a sign of nausea. Which, unless she's rather ill and should therefore mean she doesn't belong in the kitchen, means she has motion sickness. Running about on a moving platform with food all around her."
"An experienced chef on a train wouldn't have that sort of a problem, ooooh, that's good." He grinned again, and I would not admit to the butterflies in my stomach.
"Which means we have not narrowed down our suspect list but rather expanded on it," I pointed out, tapping his arm once with the end of my pen.
"Well, we're more likely to find the right culprit if we don't narrow everyone down too soon," he told me. A very true statement and I added the pair to the list.
Not much later I was once again examining the deceased woman and her room as the Doctor left to "analyze" some of her saliva to check for poisons. A former pharmaceutical worker, I knew that many drugs could inhibit the blood flow to the brain causing death and the blueness to her lips that we had noticed prior.
There was something wrong with the scene, though. The time of death was all wrong, which meant all the alibis were gone, but no, no, there was something more. Something I was missing. Something that didn't add up.
I knelt down next to the girl. Her eyes were open, staring vacant and empty at the wall. To see her like this, looking so full of life…it sent shivers down my spine. This is what I would write in my novels. A corpse, a living being that I would kill in order to have a mystery surround them. Would I be above taking this young girl with perfectly-placed make-up and primped hair die for a story? For the thrill of the chase? I could only wonder how morbid that made me.
The Doctor arrived at that moment to rouse me from my thoughts, fortunately.
"No poison. No small amount of cocaine in her system, but that's not what killed her," he said. He turned over a small mechanical device in his hand. He always appeared to be moving. Like a shark, sink or swim, and the Doctor always made sure he was swimming.
"Means we're still at square one. Well, square two, at least. We've got the suspects but no clear idea how she was killed or when or why. This is quite the puzzler, Agatha. Quite the puzzler indeed." He scratched the back of his head and circled the room as he spoke.
"How much cocaine did your chemistry set imply she had in her blood?" I asked. To be perfectly frank, the science I am used to could not tell one what poisons were in a person's system, but the Doctor appeared to have the most nouveau science hiding in his room.
"Enough to know she was blitzed. Probably had been for hours."
"Strange. For a woman so lit on cocaine, I haven't found any sort of drugs inside the room," I replied. "But I did find something very unusual."
"We like unusual!" the Doctor bounded over next to me and crouched where I sat next to the body. His faith in my abilities was endearing and nerve-wracking. I've been a purveyor of nonsense, and yet he was completely convinced that I could figure this out. It would've been very flattering if I shared his confidence in my capabilities.
All the same, there was something I had noticed that was in no small way a solid clue. I pointed to the wound on the deceased's head, to where it indented her temple and was yet covered with makeup and almost unnoticeable.
"I initially assumed this must've been an old wound, covered up by Miss Hynes to prevent embarrassment," I said. "But there are certain ways a woman puts on her makeup. A way she wears her face, such as it is."
The Doctor did not understand, but I doubt most men would. All the same, he was listening, which meant I had to explain myself further and in as great detail as possible to keep him from misunderstanding.
"There's a method to putting on each layer of makeup to make it appear as natural as possible. A liquid, a powder, a crème, a blush. And a different method to covering blemishes and scars. This wound, however…" I regarded it again. "Is covered simply with thick liquid. Someone who hasn't practiced on Miss Hynes's face in the past. Hasty, almost. Altering evidence."
"Covering up a crime," the Doctor nodded, slowly. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a handkerchief. "Something a male detective might not have noticed, probably overlooked. You are brilliant."
He smeared the makeup away from the wound. It was a small hole, around the size of my pinky, and puckered and raw. The makeup had done a superior job of making it look less serious than it clearly was.
"A blow to the head like that would kill her instantly," the Doctor said.
The Doctor nodded. "Now we just need to find the murder weapon."
"I think it may be time to question the suspects again."
"I think you may be right."