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Diary of a Con-Man 1: Séance (2/3)

Title: Séance
Series: Diary of a Con Man
Word Count 4499
Summary Nick Adamson tries an old-fashioned con on an old-fashioned mark
Author's NoteThis was my attempt to do a series written in first person. It's fun but can be somewhat limiting. That's why there's only four.

Part One




There was a knock on the door. No response. I was too shocked, he was too dead. The knocking turned into pounding. I stood and ran to the window. I shut it behind me and rushed as fast as I dared back tot my room. Thank God the window was still open. The blood on my hand had become diluted with the rain and I rubbed it away with the other. I took off my jacket and shoes and put on a spare robe I found in the wardrobe and pretended to dry my hair.

The knocking I was expecting happened. Quickly, I remembered I still had on my trousers and shirt. I took them off and stashed them out on the ledge, propped between the house and the drainpipe. I walked to the door, rubbing my hair with the towel in one hand and opened the door with the other. 'Mr. Anthony.'

'Major.' I motioned with my hand for him to enter.

'A bit late for a shower, isn't it?'

'I needed to relax. I was still tense from the dinner conversation.'

'So you've been in your room all night?'

'Yes,' I lied. 'Look, what is going on here?'

'Come with me, Mr. Anthony. Something you must see next door.' He led me to Newbury's room. There, in the middle of the floor, lay the body 'undisturbed'.

'My God!' I cried out. (Con men are great actors.) 'What happened?'

It was then that I realised Sinclair was in the room. 'After a preliminary examination, I've concluded that he was shot in the back at somewhat close range. Death was instantaneous.'

I moved cautiously towards the body. 'How do you think the murderer got into the room?'

K.S. pointed to the wet prints that went from the body to the window. 'He walked along the ledge to avoid being seen in the hall.'

'A person would have to be nuts to be on a ledge that wide in a storm like this!'

'You had a very convenient shower,' he said quietly.

'Are you accusing me of this?' I yelled, forgetting there were other people in the house. 'Just come out with it!'

'You did have a motive.' The others in the household were standing in the doorway in various stages of dress.

'Motive?'

'Newbury accused you of being a con-artist which gives you a good motive.'

'Do you think that after being publicly accused, I would be stupid enough to kill him when that could be brought up again?' No reaction from the Major. I saw Bill and Sophie next to each other in the doorway and gave them a private rolling of the eyes.

Meyers came in and went directly to the Major. 'The police are on their way, sir.'

'Very good, Meyers. Will you escort Mr. Anthony to his room?'

'Sir.' Meyers walked to me and stood beside me waiting for me to move. I glared at the Major and walked past him.

Back in my room, Meyers began to set out clothes for me to wear. 'What's this? Inquisition Wear?'

'The police are on their way here to investigate, sir. It is only proper that you be dressed,' he said as he put out a pair of casual black trousers. 'The Major is asking everyone to dress.' He stood there, waiting.

'What is it now?' I remarked, sitting in an easy chair.

'I was told to wait and help you dress, sir.'

'He didn't say that! All he said was to escort me to my room.'

'It was implied, sir. Please, I must help you.'

I gave in and Meyers held my clothes out and helped me dress. It was a weird feeling, having a butler help me dress. I didn't get too comfortable with it because I remembered the reason he was doing it: I was under suspicion of murder.

When I was done, I looked quite dapper for a murder suspect. Meyers walked down with me to the drawing room where everyone was gathered. The police hadn't arrived yet. Glares and stares were thrown in my direction. Lenora coldly shook her head probably thinking He seemed such a nice boy. Kathleen almost seemed in awe--hiding it well, of course--Oh my, a real murderer. Sinclair couldn't wait to get out of the place and take Kathleen with him before she became corrupted just by being in the same house with me.

Bill and Sophie tried their best to looked shocked at me. Sophie was my alibi and she seemed tempted to speak out and say I was with her. I don't really know why I didn't myself. Maybe I was being chivalrous so as not to compromise her reputation. Guess I should have been a knight. Now I knew what it was like to be a social leper.

I sat in a chair off to the side of the room, isolated from the the others by my 'deed'. The Major seemed very aloof in the attentions he paid me. After all, I wasn't convicted, only suspected.

A car pulled into thee gravel drive and cast its headlights into the house. The Major walked into the foyer and met the police at the door. 'That's all, Meyers. I'll take it from here.'

'Very good, sir.' He turned to walk away.

'Be where I can talk to you,' said the policeman. Meyers left.

The two men walked into the room shaking hands. A constable followed. The man looked to be 39 years old, maybe early forties. He had light brown hair, the eyes looked to be green, I couldn't tell from across the room.

'Ladies, gentlemen. I am Sgt. Palmer from the Widecombe police. I know a tragic thing has happened, it's late at night, and you're all tired, so please co-operate and we can end this preliminary questioning.' Palmer cast his eyes about the room , taking in his suspects. Such variety, he must have thought. His eyes lighted on me and he asked why I was off to myself. 'They think me Suspect Number One,' I replied bluntly.

'Then maybe I should talk to you first.' He turned to the Major. 'Is there a room we can use for questioning?'

'My study.' The Major led us across the hall to a small but well-furnished room. 'Will this do?'

'Yes, this will be fine.'

The Major smiled nervously and backed out of the room. The constable shut the door behind him and sat on a chair in the corner. Palmer motioned for me to sit as he leaned on the desk. 'So they think you the main suspect. Why?'

'At dinner, Newbury and I had an exchange of words and he accused me of being a con-man and causing his scandal. I walked out and went upstairs to calm down.'

'What time did you leave?'

'Close to 8.30, I think.' He nodded for me to continue. 'Anyway, I was upset. Newbury had planted doubts in the Major's mind about the validity of the séance. I lay on the bed thinking and getting myself even more tense. It was about 10.30, 10.45, when I decided to take a shower to relax. I had just stepped out when the Major came knocking at my door and told me that Newbury was dead.'

'What made them think you did it?'

'There were wet prints going from the window to the body, and, as the Major said, my shower was "convenient".'

Palmer nodded. 'Thank you very much, Mr. . . .'

'Anthony. Neil Anthony.' I had expected him to open with asking my name.

'Mr. Anthony. If you will please wait in the drawing room until I've questioned everyone.'

'Certainly.' The constable opened the door and followed me to the room. Some people were surprised to see me walk out again. The constable called for the Major who followed him out.

Sophie forgot her coldness and came over. 'What did he ask you?'

'He asked me to tell him about my night and why everyone thinks I did it.'

'Did you tell him everything?' I knew what she meant.

'I just stretched the truth. Didn't tell him about you at all.' I smiled. 'I wouldn't compromise a young lady's reputation.'

She kissed me on the cheek. 'Thanks.' She stared at me as if remembering something. 'Do you think he'll say anything about being in my room?'

'And that he came on to a female guest in her room? No bloody way.'

'You're right.'

Fifteen minutes later the Major returned and Sophie was called. I gave her hand a squeeze. 'Keep calm.'

The Major stared at this familiarity. 'What were you talking about?'

'Things. You, mainly.' I got up and walked over to the French windows and looked up at the moon. Things were definitely getting worse.

The constable came and went; I heard the door and his voice. I refused to turn around and look at Sophie, even Bill. I wanted to cut myself off from emotional ties until I discovered who killed Newbury. There was a polite cough behind me. I turned to see the constable. 'Sgt. Palmer would like to see you again, sir.'

I reluctantly followed and Palmer didn't even bother to motion me to sit. 'I just want to tell you I know you're protecting someone. According to these stories, practically everyone it. The only ones with true alibis are Mrs. Westbury, Dr. Sinclair, and Miss. Preston. They were with each other at the estimated time of death. Kennsington-Smythe, Mr. Curry, yourself, and Madame Saphrona were alone with no one to vouch for you.' I just stood there. 'I thought you might want to know.' He winked. I think he knew that I was innocent and wanted help. This was really strange: a police sergeant asking for help from a con-man! He motioned to the constable as he stood. 'If you change your mind about your story, notify me.' He walked past me and turned to go upstairs to view the body.

I wandered back across the hall to the drawing room and stood in the doorway. Nobody said a word to me, but I must have had a peculiar look on my face. Something wasn't right. My eyes searched the faces of those about me and found that Thompson was missing. I then realised that I hadn't seen him since the afternoon. I said the name softly.

'What?' asked Bill, who had come up beside me.

'Thompson. He's gone.' I turned to the Major. 'Where's your valet?'

K.S. was shocked. 'Are you accusing my valet of this?'

'No, but he is conspicuous by his absence. If you know where he is, say so.'

'I would remind you, sir, that you are not the investigating officer, but the prime suspect!'

'Will you drop that! I know you won't believe me, but I didn't do it. I think Palmer believes me. Where's Thompson?'

The man in question walked into the room, water dripping from his clothes. 'Where have you been?' scolded the Major. 'You have been accused of murder!'

'Murder? Who's been killed?' He rubbed his head.

'Don't you know? Mr. Newbury was found shot in his room.'

Sophie walked over to Thompson and led him to a chair. 'What happened?' she asked softly.

'I was setting out the Major's night-clothes when I heard a noise coming from the hall, so I followed it. I heard voices talking, but I couldn't tell if it was from your room or Mr. Newbury's. Before I could call out, I was knocked unconscious and I just woke up in the back shed. That's why I'm so wet.'

'You'll have to tell your story to the police sergeant who is investigating the case,' she told him.

I ran out of the room and bounded up the stairs to Newbury's room. Palmer, who was kneeling beside the body, looked up when I entered. I stopped as the constable held up a hand to prevent me from going further. 'What is it, Anthony? Have you changed your mind?' he asked, standing.

'Um, no. I have to tell you that the Major's valet has just shown up with an interesting story.'

'I've seen all there is up here. I'll contact the morgue and have the body taken away. Until then, this room is going to be sealed.'

'I'll handle that, sir.'

'Fine, McGuire.' Palmer walked past me and went to the stairs. At the top, he paused, turned, and called to me. 'Well, what are you standing there for?'

I couldn't believe the feeling that went through me when he said that. The clock seemed to roll back and I felt like I was a boy again and my uncle asked me to go with him to the City. I joined Palmer at the top of the stairs and followed him like a puppy to the drawing room. He walked over to Thompson, who was wrapped in a blanket and drinking a small snifter of brandy. 'You're Thompson?' He nodded. 'Would you kindly tell me your story?' Thompson repeated it and Palmer had him insert times and try to describe the voices he heard.

'I really can't say, sir. They were muffled.'

'But were they angry? Was there shouting?'

'No, sir, they seemed quite civilised.'

'Thank you, Thompson.' Palmer looked at us all as he prepared to leave. 'I'll be back in the morning for further investigation. None of you are to leave the premises until this is solved. The best thing to do would be to get some sleep.' He nodded to the Major and he and McGuire departed.

We all heaved a sigh of relief, then looked suspiciously at one another, knowing one of us was a murderer. We carefully walked upstairs. I could hear the doors lock. I couldn't sleep. I put on the bedside lamp and prepared a suspect list based on the information I knew and what Palmer had alluded to.

* K.S.--was with the others downstairs then came up after Bill and Sophie, possibly walked up with Newbury. Came into Sophie's room but left when subbed.
* Thompson--only have his story that he was knocked-out--must have heard me and Sophie.
* Sophie (?)--could have done it before she came into the room, definitely not afterwards
* Bill--arrived on the first floor after Sophie and could have had time to kill Newbury after leaving Sophie's room; no alibi
* Sinclair--was downstairs with Lenora and Kathleen at the time of death--could only be guilty through complicity
* Kathleen--same as Sinclair
* Lenora--same as Sinclair


I looked this over a few times to see if I could add anything, but found that it was all blending together. Maybe sleep would help. I lay back and closed my eyes, waiting for Morpheus to take me.

* * * *

I opened my eyes and checked my watch and saw that it was 5.15. The sun would be coming up soon. I sat up and rubbed my eyes. I then stood and walked to the bathroom to splash cold water on my face. I returned to my room, opened the shutters and looked out at the door, still dark against the early morning light. I had to get out of the house, even if it was just to the tor.

The rest of the house was quiet as I crept downstairs and out the front door. A mist clung to everything. The ground of the moor was muddy and I almost slipped while climbing. I reached the top, sat on the rock and watched the sunrise. This made me think about what had happened, but on a general scale. A man had died yet life went on, the sun did come up next day.

The sun was beautiful and warm and the mist gradually cleared. It must have been the heat because I suddenly felt tired. I stretched out on the rock and fell asleep.

Some time later I felt a shadow over me. I opened one eye and saw Palmer standing there. 'What are you doing here, Anthony?'

'I needed to get away. There seemed to be such an ominous feeling in there. I came out at about 5.30.'

'Mind if I join you?' I sat up and moved over. 'Look, I know I'm taking a risk in this, but I don't think you did it. I know you're not telling the truth about the shower.'

'What are you leading to?'

'I want you to tell me the truth. Why was your hair wet? What were you doing in Newbury's room after he was dead?'

I looked at the man. He was determined. 'You promise not to let on that I was the one who told you?' He nodded. 'After dinner, I didn't go to my room, I went to Sophie's.'

'The medium?'

'Yes.'

'Why?'

'I wanted to wait to talk to her and I kinda felt safer in her room.'

'Safer?'

'I didn't really trust Newbury. He had a temper. Can I go on now?'

'Go ahead.'

'So I waited in her room and thought. She told me she was scared for me so I told her to read the Tarot.' I noticed his puzzled look. 'One can divine the future with them. We heard a knock on the door and it was the Major. To hide, I went out on the ledge leaving the window open so I could get back in, but he closed it. What I could gather from the conversation, he was trying to make a pass at her. She got rid of him and tried to open the window but it was stuck.'

'What was the conversation like? What types of things did he say?'

'Things like "I was going back to my room and thought I'd check on you".'

'Innocent enough.'

'Not when his room is on the other side of the stairs.'

'Okay, so you're out on the ledge in the storm. What next?'

'I walked carefully along and, in a flash of lightning, saw Newbury lying on the floor. I went in to see what was wrong and saw that he was dead. I heard the knocking on the door, climbed back onto the ledge and returned to my room. I changed, put on my robe, and pretended to have just gotten out of the shower.'

'You hid your clothes behind the drainpipe beside your window.'

'How did you know?' He pointed to the Hall and I saw my shirt flapping in the wind. 'Oh, I guess I didn't pack it tight enough.' I turned to him and saw that he was smiling. 'What is it?'

'Your story's just narrowed down the suspect list. If Sophie backs up your story, the two of you are cleared. That leaves, in my mind, the Major, Thompson, and Curry.'

'Oh.' I had almost forgotten that Bill was without an alibi.

'Let's go back to the Hall, shall we?'

We walked back and Meyers opened the door. He was definitely surprised to see me up, especially coming in from the moor. 'Sgt. Palmer, Mr. Anthony. Breakfast is being served in the dining room.'

'Thank you, Meyers. Are you hungry, Anthony?'

I followed him into the room and helped myself to eggs and bacon then sat down and started to eat. Sophie gave me some inquisitive glances, trying to get my attention, but I ignored her (as much as I could, anyway).

The Major looked at Palmer. 'have you come to any conclusions, Sergeant?'

'It's too early to say, but some new information has come to light that narrows down a few things.'

'Oh? What might they be?'

'The whereabouts of three suspects last night close to the time of death.'

That quieted everyone. They all stared at Palmer. 'Who are you talking about?' asked Lenora.

'I can't tell you, ma'am, but that means that I have to question you all again. My associate,' he hit me on the back, 'and I will be using the study as soon as breakfast is over.'

'Your associate?' yelled Sinclair. 'How can you use a suspect for an associate?'

'He's cleared himself by telling the truth. Maybe that should be a hint for the rest of you.' He finished his juice and pulled me up out of my chair. 'Major, I think we'll talk to you first.'

I shrugged at Bill and Sophie as I passed them. They must have thought I turned traitor.

The Major followed us to the study and I sat a bit behind Palmer as the questioning began. 'Describe your actions of last night.'

'I did last night.'

'Tell me again.'

'When I went upstairs, the only people who were missing were Madame, Mr. Curry, and him.'

'Why did you leave your guests?'

'The pain in my leg was bothering me again and the medicine was in my room. I was on my way back down when I thought I heard a movement in Mr. Newbury's room. I went in and saw him lying there.'

'You stopped nowhere else on the way?'

'No, the pain was too strong.'

I opened my mouth. ' "I was just on my way to my room and thought I'd stop in and check on you." '

The Major turned slightly red. 'What are you talking about?' he blustered.

Palmer said, 'Mr. Anthony thinks you were in Madame's room last night.'

'Why would I be in her room? She is here just to hold a séance!'

' "You are well-rounded in the occult,"' I said opening my big mouth again.

'Are you sure you weren't in her room?' Palmer questioned softly.

The Major looked at me and I gave him a small smile. He broke down. 'I did go to her room. Nothing came of it, though.'

'Why didn't you say that in the first place?'

'You may not understand, Sergeant, but my reputation as a host would be blackened if it ever came out.'

'Tell me about when you found the body. Try to remember all the details.'

'I went into the room after knocking quite a few times. I rushed in when I saw the body lying on the floor. I knelt beside him and felt for a pulse. Nothing. It was then that I saw the trail of water going to the window. I went to the you of the stairs and called Sinclair to examine him.'

'Why did you go to Mr. Anthony's room first?'

'He had a motive. He swindled him.'

'But how do we know that's what happened? Edmund Newbury could have been lying.'

'Speaking ill of the dead, Sergeant? Edmund Newbury was a prominent politician.'

'With a scandalous private life if the stories in the papers are anything to go by.'

'That's a big "if", Sergeant.'

'What was Mr. Anthony doing when you went to his room?'

'He was drying his hair. He said he had just taken a shower to try to relax.'

'That sounds reasonable, after being accused of running a scam on an MP.'

'I also know that no water was run in that shower that night.'

'Anything else?'

'Else? Sergeant, this man has lied! And you have taken him into your confidence!'

'You lied to me as well, Major. You shouldn't talk so of Mr. Anthony. For your information, he has told me the truth. He wa on the ledge last night when you were in Madame's room.'

The Major looked my way and I tried to look as if I wasn't gloating. Palmer was one smart guy. 'I want you to know, Gordon, that if Newbury was right--and he wasn't--would I have killed him knowing that there were witnesses to our "altercation" last night? Use your head for once.' That shut him up.

K.S. stood and headed for the door. 'Oh, could you send Madame in next, please?' Palmer asked matter-of- factly.

After he had gone, I heaved a sigh of relief. 'Now you know how they feel towards me. God, I can't wait till this whole thing is over. How much longer will it go on?'

'It varies from case to case. Something should break soon.' There was a knock on the door. 'That will be Madame Saphrona. Come in.' Sophie entered and moved to the centre of the room. 'Please, sit down.'

'Thank you, Sergeant.' She looked at me, questioning the turnabout. 'Mr. Anthony,' she said coldly.

'Now, Madame Saphrona, both the Major and Mr. Anthony told me of last night, I want to hear about it from you.'

Sophie settled back in her chair and began. 'After dinner Mr. Anthony went upstairs because of the accusation Mr. Newbury made.'

'How long have you known Mr. Anthony?'

'For close to four years.'

'What did you think if the accusation?'

'I thought it absurd. Mr. Anthony is not a con-man.'

'What did you dio after her left?'

'We all finished dinner and had coffee and dessert. No one mentioned what had happened. I was tired and went upstairs to my room to prepare for bed. When I entered my room, I knew there was someone else there. Then Mr. Anthony spoke. Needless to say, I was surprised, but he said he needed to think and couldn't in his own room. We talked, mainly about the absurdity of the whole thing and then I read his cards.'

'Cards?'

'The Tarot cards,' I said.

Sophie continued. 'When that was done, there was a knock on the door and Mr. Anthony went out on the ledge so as not to compromise my reputation. It was the Major. He began to make advances but I avoided them. He had locked the window. I tried to open it after he had gone but it was too stiff. Mr Anthony then had to walk back to his room along the ledge. The next I knew, he was being accused of murder.'

'What was your initial reaction?'

'First, I was horrified that a man had been killed in the room next to mine. Then I became angry at them for accusing Mr. Anthony. I know he didn't do it because he was with me, but I couldn't just come out and say so.'

'Quite understandable, but why didn't you tell me the first time I questioned you?'

'I didn't know what you'd think. I couldn't tell a stranger, not even a policeman.'

Palmer looked at me and I shrugged. 'I have no more questions for you, Madame. Could you send in Mr. Curry?'

Sophie got up and walked to the door. She stopped and looked at me. She was worried about me, I could tell. She was taking the Tarot to heart. I smiled encouragingly at her and she left. This did not go unnoticed by Palmer. 'There's more than a business relationship here.'

'Don't I wish. No, there's nothing between us, though Lord knows I've tried.' Palmer grinned. There was a knock on the door. 'That would be Mr. Curry.'

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