CHECK YOUR PREMISES
The phone rang exactly at 8.31 am.
" Lt. Anthony Felton , " l said crisply .
" Oh God ! Tony ! Come quickly ! It's Uncle Sid ! " lt was Laura . " Uncle Sid... " her voice broke .
Someone took the phone from her . It was Malcolm , Sidney Maximilian 's son . " Lt. Felton , come at once . I think Dad's dead ! "
" What !" I said. " But he was perfectly well when l saw him this morning !"
" You left around 7.30 am. Maria says when she served the tea , he was perfectly well. "
" I'll be right there . Don't touch anything ."
I informed the homocide team and got into my cruiser with Ian MacDougal , my deputy and raced to Sidney Maximilian 's seaside villa.
" Strange ," said Ian , " He was fine when we were there in the morning. "
I nodded agreement .
Malcolm met us at the door and led us to the foyer . It was crowded with his house guests .
"I hope nothing has been touched , " l said .
They all shook their heads , too overwhelmed to speak . I followed Malcolm to the huge sea facing master bedroom on the ground floor .
Sidney Maximilian lay half sitting on his bed . His tea cup lay drained by the bedside table . On the window- sill sat his cat - Lady Catherine , his dog Sir Donald lay whimpering near the bed . Of his parrot - Madame Pollyanna - there was no sign . Then Ian gave a shout - Pollyanna lay still and cold between the bed and the bedside table .
" Who found Sid ? " l asked.
" Norma , his nurse , " said Malcolm .
I took one whiff of the teacup , " Probably poisoned "
" Oh my God ! " lt was Laura, " We were to celebrate his 75th birthday today ."
She broke into hysterical sobs .
" Everyone had gathered here for the big bash . I saw your name on the guest list too , " said Malcolm.
Everyone was looking in from the foyer , not daring to come in .
" Nothing is to be touched, " l repeated warningly. " The homocide team has been informed . They will soon be here . "
I came out into the foyer.
" Please get dressed and meet me in the living room , " l glanced at my watch . " In fifteen minutes. I want all the household staff here too . "
Fifteen minutes later they began filing in . Being a constant visitor , l knew most of them . Victoria, his twenty - nine year old third wife with Monica , her twin sister ; Leonardo , his second wife 's son ; Laura , the orphaned daughter of his friend who stayed there ; Malcolm of course .
These were the house guests . The other guests had been accommodated at the two near by five star hotels. Thankfully they had not been informed .
Of course , the staff comprising Mrs. Hutchinson the housekeeper ; Norma the nurse ; Gonsalves the cook ; Maria the maid were all there . Jeeves the butler was unwell and was supposed to report in the evening .
I glanced at them . "I want to speak to each one of you separately in the library ."
A tsunami of protestations met my remark .
" Are you suspecting us ? "
" Blood relatives ? "
" Why would we want him dead ?"
" l loved Sid ! "
I gave them a withering glance .
" l'll be in the library . I'll call you in alphabetical order . "
Once in the library , l went over the list given to me by Malcolm .
The first to come was Gonsalves the cook . He looked shell - shocked .
" I swear l made the tea as l always do. Just as he liked it . I also drank the remaining tea as l always do .. Why would l want to kill Sir Sidney ? He was so appreciative of my cooking ! "
" No one is accusing you ," l said placatingly . " Do you suspect anyone ? "
Gonsalves , calmed for the moment , came closer .
" It could very well be Leonardo . They never got along . Had an argument last night too . "
Next was the housekeeper , Mrs Hutchinson. She came in , wringing her hands .
" Oh poor Mr. Sidney , " she said tearfully . " No doubt he was difficult to please but why would anyone kill him ? And his birthday too ! "
" Do you suspect anyone ? "
" Oh Mr. Felton , " her voice fell to a whisper. " It could be Leonardo ," she came closer to my desk . " It could very well be Madame Veronica . They never got along ! And ever since Madame Monica has come , things have been worse - they don't even sleep in the same room anymore ! We think Mr. Sidney plans to divorce her... "
Leonardo, in his mid - thirties came in quite flustered .
" l always looked upon him as a father . Why would l want to kill him ? "
" No one is accusing you , Leo , " l said calmly. " Do you suspect anyone ? "
He perked up at once . He clutched my arm .
" You mark my words , it's those terrible twins - Veronica and Monica ! Dammit , they are younger than me ! And Veronica is nothing but a cheap gold digger . Besides she hated his guts ! "
Laura came in dabbing her eyes .
" l loved Uncle Sid , " she said tearfully . " He was like a father to me . Why would l want to kill him ? "
She began crying again .
" Calm down , Laura , " l said ." Do you suspect anyone ? "
" Suspect ? " A pause .
" lt could well be Veronica . Or maybe Leonardo ... " Malcolm was next but before we could start , Ian informed me that the team from Police Headquarters had arrived . I told Ian to take the team to the bedroom and begin investigations while l completed my interrogation .
Malcolm , a successful investment banker , was in his forties . He looked quite distinguished . His family had not come as his wife was busy with their son's University admissions .
" l really don't know what to say , " he said sombrely . " He had a lot of flaws but even after the divorce , he saw me through college . "
I repeated my question , " Malcolm , do you suspect anyone ? "
" Now that you ask , it is probably Veronica with Monica 's help of course or even Leonardo . Actually Dad was going to have his new will read out . He had summoned his lawyers . Veronica and Leonardo feared being left out ."
Next was Maria the maid .She looked totally distraught .
" l brought the tea as usual , " she said tearfully . " l swear l didn't add anything to it . Nor did Gonsalves . We shared the left over tea in the kitchen , as usual - and we are fine ..."
" Do you suspect anyone ? "
Maria looked up.
" lt could have been Leonardo . They never got along . But most probably it was Madame Veronica . You should have seen the way they argued . Except for them , l can't think of anyone else ."
Next was Monica . She breezed into the room.
" l resent this . I completely resent this ! You realize you are insulting me , don't you ? The Police Chief will hear of this - l am going to lodge a complaint.. "
" Please yourself . But as l said l am not accusing anyone - l am just making inquiries . "
" l just got here a week ago . We were having a whale of a time ! Why would l want to kill anyone ? And Sid of all people ? "
" Do you suspect anyone ? "
" Well it's not me or Veronica ! Why don't you ask Leonardo? And what about butter - would - not - melt - in - her - mouth- Laura ? She's there with him all the time !"
Norma the nurse was next . She looked completely flustered .
" l swear l had just gone to the washroom when Maria brought the tea . I was hired to look after him , not kill him ! "
" Calm down , " l said . " Do you suspect anyone ? "
She wiped her eyes .
" lt could well be Madame Veronica with Gonsalves' help ..."
Now came Veronica. Even at this time she was in full makeup . She looked more like a hooker than a recently bereaved wife .
" Just because we got into arguments doesn't mean we didn't get along . We haven't been sharing our bedroom for only a week . Ever since Monica came . Poor thing is very upset . I keep her company to cheer her up . She is going through a messy divorce . Why don't you ask Leonardo ? "
We were interrupted . It was Ian .
" Can l have a word with you ? "
Preliminary investigations revealed that Sid had indeed been poisoned . The medics took his body for the post - mortem and put all the evidence - the teacup and its contents , and the parrot , Pollyanna in separate containers . A watch had been found - wedged between the bed and the bedside table .
" That's Leonardo's watch , " shouted Veronica triumphantly . " What did l tell you ? "
Meanwhile the others had come up .
" My watch ! " said Leonardo in surprise . " But where did you find it ? It was lost ! "
There was a stunned silence .
Then in spite of his shocked protests , Ian clapped the handcuffs on his wrists as prime suspect pending further investigations .
" You have the right to remain silent , " he intoned . " Anything you say can be used as evidence against you ."
I took my leave as soon as our team with Leonardo had left . A lot of work had to be done . Until results of the tea sample and post- mortem results of both Sid and the parrot were in , Leonardo had to be lodged in a cell .
As l drove back , l thought to myself, how right Ayn Rand was when she famously said , ' Contradictions don't exist in nature . If you find they do , check your premises , one of them is sure to be wrong . '
Premise - law enforcers cannot be law breakers , let alone murderers , right ? Wrong !!
Ever since Sid had confided that he wanted to kick out Veronica and marry Laura , his fate was sealed .
Concealing my shock , l had said , " Isn't she like your grand daughter ? "
" LIKE my grand daughter but NOT ACTUALLY my grand daughter !" he had said slyly .
What about Leonardo ? When he had tried to persuade Laura to become his second wife with little success , he had attempted to molest her ! Thus his fate was sealed too !
This morning when Sid was in the washroom , while giving crackers to Pollyanna like l usually did , l had let it dip its beak into a concentrated solution of fast drying cyanide . I knew Sid always shared his tea with her . First she dipped her beak and then Sid took a sip .
Thus it was only a matter of time . You know - dip ,dip ! Sip , sip ! There you have the perfect murder ! Besides it was child's play to swipe Leonardo 's watch on one of my numerous visits . And today , slip it between the bed and the bedside table . Clinching evidence !
As l drove back , the breeze felt cool on my fevered skin . Everything had gone without a hitch . I thought about Laura and myself and our life together . She had no idea about this and l would not enlighten her . After a decent interval , l would propose to her and we would live happily ever after . I began to hum .
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