Henry walked briskly back through the house, towards the office. Sylvia had difficulty keeping up. The moment he crossed into the office, he stopped and scanned everything, hoping to let the room tell him where to go next. The room wasn’t at all talkative. He turned to his left, and started to carefully read the titles, one by one. Mr. Alexander’s methodology was to group his book by subject and then within each subject they were alphabetical. It was very much a library.
There was a massive section on chess and next to it was a section on puzzles. Henry stopped, sure that the puzzle he was unraveling, must have a clue within these volumes. He pulled each book off the shelf, flipped through it, and looked for anything out of the ordinary. Sylvia watched him for a while, until her curiosity finally got the best of her and she asked, “What are you looking for?”
Henry had forgotten that he wasn’t alone, and realized she might be able to help. “I am not sure, but I think there may be a clue here, that will help…” He paused before he finished, as he hadn’t been entirely truthful with Miss Culberson. She had hired him and paid him well, to find the journal, which he had done, and now he needed to make a decision. He continued, “Sylvia, can I trust you?”
She thought the question was rather strange. “Yes. Why would you think you couldn’t?” She backed up, sensing that there was something going on, something she might not like. “Have you found the journal?!” Sylvia demanded.
Henry knew that he was walking a fine line. He knew that he needed Sylvia, he couldn’t let her fly off into a rage, and he must choose his words carefully. He started with, “I have learned something about your father. Please sit down.”
“Have you found the Journal? I have paid you well. I demand to know what you are up to! Can you trust me?! The nerve, can I trust you?” She was now in a rage.
It became apparent that he had done a poor job of choosing his first words. Henry was noting, if not quick on his feet, he took two steps towards her, tightened up his face, “Listen here sweetheart, I found your story to be thin, very thin, I have seen dames like you, and you are all alike. You can either park your cute little butt in that chair and listen to what I have to say, or you can go to hell, and try to find your father, on your own!”
This change in approach hit the mark. She was stunned by the last bit and stammered, “Did you say find my father?” She seemed unsteady and Henry helped her to the couch. She was calmer now, so Henry lowered his voice.
“Yes. I don’t believe he was killed in the lab. I don’t have any proof, and I probably shouldn’t have gotten your hopes up, but I needed you to listen.” He said and then paused. She didn’t say anything, so he continued, “First of all, I don’t believe that Mr. Alexander was keeping the journal about your father’s business, but they were working together to code the journal, to keep it a secret.”
This was a bit of a relief, but it didn’t make any sense to Sylvia, so she asked, “They were working together, but why would an accountant need my father’s help? “
“The next bit may be hard to understand, perhaps impossible, but I believe that Mr. Alexander had discovered some information, some proof if you will, that would bring down one of the city’s most dangerous criminals. I believe that your father and Mr. Alexander were planning to turn the journal and its proof, over to the DA, when it was leaked what they were doing. It was then that they both realized the danger. I believe they staged the explosion. It was then…” Henry stopped when he heard the footsteps down the hall.
Sylvia was stunned, but immediately filled with hope. She didn’t understand why he had stopped talking, as she hadn’t heard the footsteps. “Yes, go on, it was the, what?”
“Winston is coming.” Henry said.
“Oh you can trust Winston; he has been with the family since we moved here.” She stood up, and ran out to Winston, “Henry thinks that father may still be alive!” she said with glee.
Winston remained unfazed and looked at Henry and said, “You are as clever as master Culberson had hoped.”
Sylvia looked shocked, “You knew! Winston!” She was angry, but also thrilled, “It is true then?” She was almost shouting.
“Madame, you must lower your voice. I will try to explain.”
Henry let Winston explain, as he went back to the stacks. He went through each of the puzzle books and then it occurred to him that perhaps Winston knew where the next clue was. “Winston, do you have a message for me?”
“Yes sir. Mr. Culberson told me to let you know that he was very interested in animals of late.”
“That is the message?” Henry said, hoping for more, but not surprised by its cryptic nature. Undaunted he continued through the stacks until he found a section on the animal kingdom. There were dozens of books. A few books into the section, Henry noticed that these weren’t in alphabetical order by author, but were ordered by species, starting with ‘Ethel The Aardvark Goes Quantity Surveying’, and ending with a thick book about zebras. It seemed that the section contained all the books that had anything to do with animals, fiction and non-fiction combined. Next to the book on beavers, was a book on cows then a book about crows.
Henry paused, could that be the clue, as a group of crows are called a murder. He opened it and flipped through the pages. If the clue was there, he didn’t get it. Henry decided to continue looking. The Tage Frid clue was one that only he would understand, so he was expecting that the next clue would be similar, and suddenly there it was, a book entitled, ‘Fox Habits’, sitting to the right of a book ‘A Gaggle of Geese’. It was out of order, just by one book, but that, combined with the last present from the closet, meant this had to be the book.
Henry opened to the title page and read the inscription.
-- Brian Meeks, http://extremelyaverage.com