We’d stayed huddled in the ventilation shaft for quite some time, shaken and confused. I’d peppered Oliver with questions—where his actual house was, who might have stolen the trophy, and why someone would stab Jackson and Marie-Ann with it—but he hadn’t answered. For the first time, Oliver was—not scared, but something else—worried? More than that. He’d been great friends with Jackson, and although he hadn’t shown his sadness at Jackson’s death, I knew it was there. Eventually, there’d been no other option save crawling back through the shaft, down the tube (me gingerly avoiding the cigarette ash), and sneaking out the steel door. I’d hustled Oliver into one of the limos that seemed to constantly circle Galaxy, and we'd headed for Oliver’s real home.
It was impressive, but my ability to feel excitement seemed to have died a swift and effective death. Hey, Edmund. Maybe someone stabbed it with a trophy.
“Huh? Oh, yes?”
Oliver was still lying on the chair he’d draped himself on the moment we were inside his home. It matched the outside—big, modern, and bleakly practical, although, thankfully, the chair wasn’t almost entirely made of glass. I was still trying to get over my discombobulation at finding that one entire wall of the sitting room was see-through. “Do you have any idea how we could find out who stole my trophy? Because if we could find them, maybe…”
I gladly set aside the book I’d picked up off the coffee table—never trust anything associated with coffee. Utter poison. “Didn’t you report it when it happened?”
“I didn’t really care.” He noted my bemused expression and gave an unusually wan smile. “I have an entire room full of useless trophies, Edmund.”
“Oh. Well, do you have security cameras?”
“Then what do you expect me to do? I’m not Houdini—no wait, he was an escape artist.”
Oliver sat up suddenly, eyes alight for the first time since we’d heard the conversation between the two clipboard men. “I have an idea.”
“Wonderful. Do share.”
He turned to face me and illustrated his points with dramatic hand gestures. “I hardly ever have anyone in here—you’re the first to even walk through that door apart from me since Marie-Ann, and we know she didn’t kill Jackson, and she wouldn’t kill herself.”
I was beginning to cotton on. “So is there any way in or out of that room for a thief?”
Oliver was grinning. “Nope. But there is for someone on the inside.”
There was a silence as we digested this. Well, Oliver digested this while my constantly cynical brain searched for ways to disprove this theory.
It succeeded. “This just makes you look all the more guilty. I mean, Marie-Ann, whom you’d just broken up with, Jackson, whom you might have had an argument with, both stabbed with your trophy, which only you had access to, me your only alibi…maybe you’re a murderer.”
“Or maybe it’s the only person who’s had access to that room besides me.” Oliver gave me a pointed look. I put my hands up in a mock surrender.
“This is the first time I’ve been here. Last time it was your little hermit hut.”
“Oh, yeah. Guess we won’t be needing that anymore.”
Oliver had pulled a piece of paper out of his pocket and was writing furiously on it. “With Jackson dead, the film will be canceled.” Another pointed look. “Guess you won’t get to be my love interest after all.”
“Love interest slash arch nemesis. What are you writing?”
Oliver stood from his chair and approached me, throwing himself down far too close for my liking. “List of everyone who’s been here apart from me.”
“Don’t you ever throw parties though? Could have been one of them.”
“No way. Too much mess. Besides, I don’t have any friends. Well, apart from you.” Oliver cleared his throat and began to read, refusing to catch my eye. “Me, you, Marie-Ann.”
“None of them. And since when am I your friend?”
“Jackson, a random film person called James, a girl scout, and Melissa. I think witnessing dead bodies together qualifies us as at least friends.”
“Wouldn’t think it was the Girl Scout, but could’ve been the film person. And at least friends? I might not even like you.”
“I didn’t let the film person out of my sight, so that just leaves Melissa, my ex-girlfriend. And I thought you did like me? The fact you were feeling up my leg seems to suggest it.”
“Melissa the ex who broke up with you after the gay scandal? Why would she kill Marie-Ann? And I was not feeling up your leg! That was an accident!”
Oliver sighed. “Okay, all this double dialogue is confusing me. So maybe Melissa didn’t kill Marie-Ann, but she might have taken the trophy, or left her spare key somewhere.”
“So we find Melissa and hope she leads us to Jackson and Marie-Ann’s killer?”
“Sounds like a plan—or it would, if I weren’t so exhausted. Jet lag is an evil earwig.”
Oliver had his arm draped across the back of the sofa, which coincidentally meant his arm was also around my shoulders. I decided to not give him the pleasure of an annoyed reaction and instead adopted a supercilious distance. He shifted, probably trying to provoke me. “Evil earwig?”
“It’s the result of tiredness. Go away and let me sleep.”
“So even though you’re sleeping in my house we’re not friends?”
I put my glasses on the coffee table and pushed Oliver off the sofa with my feet. “If you go away and promise to make me tea in the morning, we can be friends. Maybe.”
“Friends with benefits?”
“Going, going! See you in the morning.” He strode out, flicking the light off as he went. I was suddenly bathed in the much softer uncertain yellow of the street lamps and flickering white headlights of the cars. I lay back on the sofa with a sigh, closing my eyes for the first time in almost two days. Immediately the face of Marie-Ann swam before me, scarlet lips dripping blood.
I decided to stare at the ceiling instead, where visions of dead faces couldn’t taunt me. The sudden near-silence with only the soft whooshing of cars was calming, allowing me to finally think in peace. It seemed unbelievable that a couple of days ago I was drinking tea in my bookshop and missing Oliver, and today there’d been two murders which for some reason Oliver had taken upon himself to solve with me acting as his personal John Watson.
I realised that my mind had drifted to Oliver all too soon for my liking. Not that I didn’t like thinking about Oliver occasionally, but it was as guilty a pleasure as my shortbread biscuits were at home. Think about murder and murderers, Edmund. Calm yourself.
Sometimes, when faced with an actual problem, I could be quite good at thinking it through logically and reaching a conclusion. Unfortunately, my logical thinking was all too often interrupted by sudden random explosions of thought: What if there is air in space and the Government just doesn’t want us to escape? What if violent computer games were created by the CIA to prepare the future generations for a massive war? If bread always lands butter side down then if you buttered both sides would it just float in mid-air?
So now, with the near-silence and in the equilibrium between sleeping and waking, I could think.
Firstly, Marie-Ann was killed with Oliver’s trophy. Then Jackson was killed with the same weapon. To kill these people, someone needed Oliver’s award, which meant they needed a way into Oliver’s house, like Melissa had.
I suddenly realised I sounded like a policeman on a television show explaining—Edmund, focus. FOCUS.
So did Melissa kill them? Why would she do that? She initiated the breakup with Oliver, so she wouldn’t harbour resentment. But she might also feel she'd been forced into the breakup because of Oliver's gay fling with me... That never happened, Edmund! Focus! Did someone take the trophy from Melissa and kill Jackson and Marie-Ann on the same day, and in the recording studio? Why?
My brain hit a wall so I put my glasses on to feel cleverer.
Maybe someone was targeting Oliver. But why would they do that? Perhaps they wanted Oliver’s part in the film, but it’s unlikely someone would kill Oliver’s ex-girlfriend because they wanted to get at him.
I mentally crossed out the ‘find out who would hate Oliver’ train of thought and moved to a new one.
They would need to be inconspicuous to get to both Jackson and Marie-Ann, so they probably worked at Galaxy. So the killer: works at Galaxy, has access to Melissa who maybe stole the trophy…but how did they even get into the rooms where Marie-Ann and Jackson were?
Maybe they didn’t have to get close to the rooms after all.
The clattering sound of running came from upstairs and soon Oliver skidded into view, hair ruffled and in a grey t-shirt and pyjama bottoms.
“What’s wrong? Are you dying?”
“No, Oliver! The ventilation shafts!”
Oliver took a deep breath and leant against the doorframe. “So you’re not dying?”
“No, the ventilation shafts! That’s how the murderer got to Jackson and Marie-Ann!”
Oliver cast his hands into the air with an expression of hopelessness. “So? That doesn’t tell us anything. They’d still have to be an employee of Galaxy to even get into the building.”
I deflated a bit. “I didn’t think of that. Right, well…night.”
“Goodnight, Edmund, and stop thinking. We’ll go and see Melissa tomorrow and talk to her about the trophy.”
Oliver turned to go, running a hand through his hair. I called after him. “Oliver?”
He looked round at me. “Yeah?”
“I was only joking about the friend thing. I do consider you a friend.”
“I know, Edmund. Goodnight.”