Chapter 07 - The Crime
She barely saw the man before she crashed into him. Her lips had time to
part, but only a groan escaped her throat when she harshly landed on top of
him. Her heart was still pounding aggressively in her chest and her breaths
were uneven while she pushed herself up, looking into a pair of
identical-colored blue eyes.
"…Are we going to do this more often?" was the stiff reply of the young man underneath her. But instead of apologizing, she clutched the hems of his blouse tightly and pulled him closer with enough determination to lift him a couple of good inches from the velvet-red carpet. "You," she breathed. "Where were you?"
Gazing into the detective girl's eyes, his surprised expression faded into a sullen look.
"Where was I?" he repeated, his hands folding over hers. "I was looking for you! I went to our guest rooms, but you weren't there, so I changed first and – do you even know what kind of hell I just went through!?" he exclaimed in one long breath.
Her different colored eyes narrowed and her grip on his clean white blouse slacked. There was a huff from her lips and he felt her breath on his neck. "Fair enough," she muttered. "You did change your clothes back."
"…So did you," was the reply. The light-brown cape and detective hat were only a familiar sight. He watched her rise from the floor gracefully, standing up in one fluid movement. While he needed his hands to lift himself, she did not need the support.
"I am taking these back," she stated, her strict gaze on him. It was only then that he noticed the keys in her hand. He stiffened, his hand automatically diving into his right pocket. How did she take it out of his pocket without him noticing anything?
She took one glance at the set of keys, before heaving a sigh. "But it seems that it will already be too late…" she declared, stepping away to turn into the hallway.
The writer blinked. "What…" he could only bring out. He took quick steps after her. "Did something happen?"
There was a vacant look in her eyes when she gazed back at him. "Of course it did…" she casually stated. "Isn't that why we came here to begin with?"
He could only try to grasp the meaning behind her words. "You mean that a crime has already been committed?" he asked her. "…A murder?"
She did not answer. Instead, she stopped before the first door they came across in the hallway and tried several keys on it before it finally clicked. Now unlocked, Len prepared himself to enter it. But instead of grasping the door handle to open the door, she walked away. Puzzled, his steps were right behind her as she attempted to unlock the second door. Once more, she decided to desert it once it unlocked. She walked through the hallway like this, unlocking four more doors, causing the writer to grow more confused with each door she did not open. "…What are you doing?" he finally asked.
The next door clicked. "Surely you can see that yourself," she muttered.
The young man frowned at her evasive answer. "You know what I mean. What are you searching for?"
For a brief moment, her eyes met his. "Why, the crime scene of course."
But instead of giving clearance, this answer just brought more confusion. "The crime could not have happened here," he protested. "These doors were locked before the masquerade started. No one is be able to enter any room on this entire floor."
Pulling the key back from the seventh door that unlocked, she stuck out her arm to him. The keys jingled in front of the writer, just inches away from his nose. "The set is incomplete."
Blinking, the writer was taken aback when she proceeded along. "There are eight keys on this set," she explained then, searching for the key to fit the lock that would send an audible click through the hallway. "How many doors had we locked, Len?"
Blue eyes gazed back at her. "…Nine," he answered. "But how…?"
The detective girl chuckled. "How, you ask? Well, for starters, I just proved that you aren't difficult to pickpocket." She pulled the final key away from the lock and turned the doorknob. It didn't budge… it was still locked. She smiled.
Instead of knocking, or asking if anyone was in the room at all, she rammed her shoulder into the door. The writer's eyes widened when she did not even hesitate with her second attempt. Quickly catching her by her shoulders when she was about to hit it once more, she seemed irritated by his interference. She was about to protest, but he forcefully placed her aside. Bracing himself, he took two steps back and kicked the door with all of his strength. Wooded pieces broke off at the side of the door. With one more kick, the door slammed open.
The moment of silence that followed was only broken by the soft footstep of the detective girl beside him. Comprehending the situation, he felt the words leave his lips in a whisper: "This is…. too cruel."
He gazed at the trembling figure of Lady Millina, the color of red surrounding her. The floor and a large section on the wall were covered in it and the white stainless dress she had worn so lovely before was soaked in blood. But it was not her own. The woman desperately clung to the limp figure that was lying against the wall, her eyes red and puffy from crying. "…Rin," her high voice, now thick and hoarse instead of light and charming, called out. "Rin… Rin, Rin," she repeated in an endless chant.
And when he tore his gaze away from the fragile woman in front of them, he was astounded at how little this had affected the detective girl. There was no look of shock in her expression, only a blankness he could not decipher. He stepped back to allow the detective girl to enter the crime scene and she walked forward without hesitation. Her eyes were focused on the hem of the knife that was pierced into the chest of the victim.
Tears streamed down Millina's cheeks. "Rin, he's… he's…" she whispered, clenching the lifeless body tightly. "S-so cold. You have to…h-have to… "
If the lady was searching for any shred of kindness in the different-colored eyes of the detective girl, Len could safely conclude that she found none. The moment her pleas interrupted the detective's concentration, her expression only seemed to harden. "Get up. You are tampering with the evidence."
Millina stiffened a sob and started to shake uncontrollably. Clutching her bloodied fists against her face, she finally let out an agonizing wail.
This caused the writer to grasp the hem of the cape tightly, forcing the detective girl to take a step back. "What do you think you are doing?" he hissed at her. "Have you got no mercy at all? Just look at her!"
The blonde girl to turned her distant gaze at him. "…I am looking at her." The words she send through the air were expressed calmly, as a clear contrast to his heated tone. "…Are you?" she asked him.
The breath of the teal-haired lady hitched. "…What do you mean?" he asked.
Her lips stretched into an empty smile. "I do not take pity in anyone. While you allow yourself get steered by your own emotions, I'd rather view things as they are," she told him. "And right now she is holding a dead man in her arms."
The writer seemed astounded at her response. "She's holding her husband," he corrected her. "Do you even hear yourself? She loved that man, they have a child together!" Millina cried even louder at this.
"I told you this before; you draw your conclusions too hastily," Rin stated, her expression indifferent. She broke the grip on her cape by taking hold of his wrist. "Now, put that right hand of yours to work," she ordered, giving it a small squeeze. "And start writing this down. As I recall, that is what you came to do, isn't it?"
Len narrowed his eyes, forcibly yanking his hand back.
"Lady Callisford-Vanquost," she then loudly addressed. While the lady did not stir, the fact that her sobs became a bit more controlled indicated that she was listening. "That man is dead. You are not helping him, least of all yourself right now. I need you to let him go so that I can investigate him."
The teal-haired woman hung her head low and took a deep, ragged breath of air. After a few moments of silence, she nodded her head almost unnoticeably. Slowly, shakily, she retreated her tainted arms from the neck of her deceased husband. Finally, she inched away from him.
The detective girl glanced at the large stain at the wall. "He had been standing when he was murdered and fell down when his blood was already flowing…" She diverted her attention to the victim that had created this pattern on the wall. Keaton Callisford's sea-colored eyes were open, but all life had left them as he stared blankly into nothing. "There is a heavy amount of blood on his chest and lower body. Stabbed at a close range… a fatal strike. I'd say it hit the heart directly… perhaps even punctured a lung."
The trembling figure of Lady Millina squeezed herself into the corner of the room, embracing herself. Tears still flowed from her eyes and she bit her lip in an attempt to control her sobs. The detective girl glanced the lady's dress alone, analyzing the large stain that reached past her hips. It shone in the light of the candles; still wet. "Awful lot of blood though. If the killer left the knife inside, I doubt it would flow this much…" the detective girl concluded.
"…What do you mean; if he left it inside?" Len glared. While he had taken his notebook and pen out of his pocket, she noted that he has yet to write anything down.
"Exactly as I state it," she answered. "Isn't it strange to stab someone… pull the knife out… and then decide that you want to leave it inside the wound?"
A look of disgust flashed across the features of the writer. "Why would anyone do that?" he openly stated, his voice appearing to be shaking in anger.
"Who knows," she mused, her lips spreading into a scheming smile. "Perhaps you should ask the culprit this…" She took a step away from the body and approached the teal-haired lady that was still shaking on her feet. "Before I'm thoroughly investigating this man… I need to know exactly why you're here."
"No," Len raised his voice, loudly objecting to this. "Give her a moment to calm down. She's in shock right now, we need to get her to a bed and – "
"Why?" the detective girl spat, sharply turning around to meet the glare of her assistant. "So she has enough time to make something up!?"
The young man didn't answer, but the way his jaw clenched made his opinion clear.
She turned back to the young lady, who met her gaze with grief and confusion in her eyes. "You left the party early to bring your daughter back to bed," she mentioned. "But you did not return afterwards. Why not?"
Millina squeezed her eyes shut and her hand shot to her mouth, looking ready to throw up. The stress of the situation seemed to be getting to her. "K-Keaton…." she replied, her voice thick from crying. "Keaton… my husband. N-needed to find him…"
This caused the blond girl to raise her eyebrow. "You searched for him on the first floor while the party was held downstairs?" she claimed. "That makes no sense."
"Keaton…" she once more called in a hiccup, her shoulders shaking. "Rin…"
The detective girl folded her arms together. "You aren't focusing… Answer my questions. Why did you head for the first floor instead of the ballroom? If you knew that these doors would be locked, why would you search for him here? I had told you my rules beforehand: I would have not allowed him to leave the party."
"I-I…" Millina stuttered softly, her voice thick from crying. "…Knew he… would come back here… eventually." She placed her hands in front of her face, taking a shaky breath. "I… found him…here…" she whispered very softly. "And I… couldn't… couldn't…" she shook her head virtuously.
"That's enough," the low voice of the writer called. "That's enough for now. Can't we let her-"
"Are you writing this down?" the detective girl bit back. She could almost feel the anger radiating from the young man, pointing in her back like daggers. "How did you get in here? I personally locked all the doors this afternoon," she continued.
Millina softly shook her head. "It was open," she breathed. "…when I came in."
A small chuckle filled the air. "What are you saying?" Rin claimed. "You got locked in and you didn't even realize it? Why did you bother coming here if you could not even enter the room?"
The reply was hard to hear. "Thought he could..." she closed her eyes. "…come here."
The detective girl's eyes sparkled. "Well, you were right about that," she said. "At least here he is allowing you to embrace him."
Millina looked horrified and at the same time, she felt a sharp pull on her arm. Len had gripped it tightly and his eyes pierced in hers. "Don't step on her feelings like that," he warned her. "This is not a game. She is not just a piece for your puzzle."
The blonde girl leaned towards the young man. "Is she not?" she countered. There was a strange gleam in her eyes when she gazed back at him. A hint of amusement covered by a tone that was surprisingly sweet… "I would beg to differ."
"Please," the lady pleaded, her head resting against the window, closing her eyes. "Rin… please." Rain started to clatter against the glass behind her.
Len frowned at the young lady, a frustrated sigh escaping his lips. While the detective girl neared a small table that carried two glasses and a bottle of wine, he stepped closer to the murder victim. Staring down at the male that had been alive and well just a short amount of time ago, he let his eyes wander towards the hem of the knife… and found themselves resting on something else entirely. And for a moment, he inched closer, stretching out his fingers…
"Len, don't touch the body!" He flinched. The sudden sneer came from the detective girl, who roughly placed the wineglass she had been inspecting back on the table.
"No wait," he told her, retreating his hand. "There's something on him."
"Step back," she ordered, approaching him. "This crime scene is tainted enough without you stirring up the evidence." Resting her hands on her knees, she narrowed her eyes in concentration to see what he was looking at.
"There, " he said, pointing at the left pocket of the decorated jacket. "There's something glistering. Can you see it?"
Rin stiffly nodded. Her gloved fingers carefully reached into the pocket and she clutched the object in her hand. Only after pulling back did she unfold fingers to reveal the item. Len noted how, once more, her expression became blank and unreadable to him. "Ah, so there is our missing key," she uttered.
He took the small key from her hand and made his way towards the door to test this theory of hers. Shoving the key into the lock and turning it around, the lock moved submissively.
"The set of keys was your responsibility, Len," she called out to him. "Therefore, I will hold you responsible for its disappearance."
He could only frown at her words as he walked back to her. "I will be honest with you," he said. "…I didn't check if the set was complete when you handed them to me."
She held out her hand, silently demanding them back. "Are you telling me that I gave you an incomplete set to begin with?" she suggested.
"I am not accusing you," he argued, placing the silver item back into the palm of her hand. "It is just that I did not come near Keaton Callisford the entire day… And you did, right after we locked these doors." He glanced at the lifeless body. "He must have entered the room somehow…"
The detective girl nodded, following his gaze. "Well, we cannot ask him any longer." She pulled the set of keys from her pocket, attaching the last one to it. "While a large number of people had been close enough to snatch this key away, we can narrow down our list of potential suspects by looking at who is in this room at the moment." Her eyes shifted to the teal-haired lady. "This door was locked after all…" she mused.
Suddenly a bright flash of light filled the room and a loud rumbling sound followed.
The blond haired girl chuckled at the dramatic influence. "My, this is the perfect setting for a murder case," she claimed, spreading her arms to the approaching storm. The writer could only stare at her in awe while Millina's quiet sobs mixed with the sound of the clattering rain, now fading away in the background.
"There was certainly enough time to commit the murder," Rin explained as she removed her bloodstained gloves. "Both Millina and Keaton had been out of my line of sight for a vast amount of time. Keaton Callisford had not been there to apologize for the chaotic state of the ballroom after the fight. Instead, his brother had felt obligated to step forward." After she had finished her investigation on the corpse, Len had insisted on bringing the lady to bed. They entered the master bedroom and the young man, who had supported the trembling woman, gently placed her on the mattress. Millina did not respond when he lifted her head to support it with an extra pillow. His blue eyes roamed over her for a moment, taking in her almost lifeless appearance.
The detective had taken that moment to slip into the large bathroom connected to the bedroom, using the opportunity to wash her gloves in the sink. As soon as the writer peeked inside, she had pulled him into the room and closed the door, speaking to him in a hushed tone. "The evidence clearly states that there wasn't a struggle between him and the culprit," she continued to explain. "Therefore, it was someone that he knew and trusted. Such a shame, really… It seemed like it would be a romantic night too." She placed her dirty gloves into the water and the writer watched the clear substance change color. "With an unopened bottle of wine and glasses already placed on the table, we can at least conclude that much…" she smiled.
"I know that we only managed to find incriminating evidence against her…" Len could not help but frown. "But this is only because she was holding him."
"Oh, you are absolutely right on that one," she almost seemed to congratulate him. "Clever such a strategy would be. Crying in the body of your dead husband might be the perfect way of retaining your innocence, despite all of the evidence. As you say: it is only natural for us to find evidence against her."
The writer looked taken aback by this. "I just can't imagine… What kind of motivation could she possibly have?" he questioned aloud.
The detective girl wringed the leather gloves, causing drops of pink to fall into the water. "Motives could be anything, really… In fact, I can give you five reasons to murder me where I stand." Her bright eyes gazed at him through the mirror and he did not miss the tone of her voice. She was once again challenging him.
"Really, five?" he repeated in disbelieve. He could not help but raise an eyebrow at that statement. "Fine, which ones can you make up?"
She placed the gloves aside and pulled the plug out of the sink. The foul water slowly ebbed away. She spun around, leaning against the porcelain as her gaze locked with his. She raised one finger in front of his face."One," she mouthed, her eyes gleaming. "Anger. I can see the anger in your eyes from time to time… Mostly when you disagree with my actions or interrogations," she informed him. "I haven't been sparing your feelings nor valued your opinion highly. I have no doubt in my mind that you believe my methods are sometimes unfair or even cruel... It leaves one to wonder if that anger of yours could be intense enough… for you to snap?"
The writer's clear blue eyes widened at her accusation. "It is true that I don't always agree with you, but I would never –"
"Two," she interrupted, raising two of her fingers. "Self-defense." Her smile widened at his bewildered expression. "Tell me, Len, how loyal are you to me?" she asked. "Do you think that my actions are a little strange sometimes? Can you be absolutely sure that I did not invent this case myself? What if I took that key myself before handing you the set? And where was I at the time of the murder…? If you truly believe in Millina's innocence, I should be the next suspect in your mind."
Surprisingly, the writer fell silent at this.
"Smart boy, that seemed to have crossed your mind before," she chuckled, before raising another finger. "Number three would be a grand headline. A detective murdered on a case makes a story a lot more interesting than a plain old murder of a rich man. Those happen all the time, don't they?"
At this, the young man started protesting again. "You know that I would ne-"
"Stop defending yourself," she waved him off. "I'm not saying that you'll actually do it, these are just examples. That would be a dull reason for me to die anyway." She now raised four fingers and stared up at him, the playful smile returning on the features of her face. "However, number four isn't. That once is actually kind of interesting." The writer seemed skeptical about this, so she mouthed: "Jealousy."
"...Jealousy?" he slowly repeated, frowning at her. "I am not trying to insult you, but there is no reason for me to be jealous of you."
The detective girl nodded. "And that is the interesting part you see." She took a step forward, closing some distance between them. "Material wise, you probably make more money than I do, despite the irregular assignments writers always seem to have…" she mused, placing her hand on his arm. "So that isn't the type of reason why I am proclaiming this particular emotion as a murder case motive. No, I am talking about our relationship here… and the frustration you hold when I put you back into your place as my assistant." The young man froze, his heart beating heavily in his chest when the detective girl leaned in. "Why don't we just stop pretending?" she requested. He could feel her warm breath on his lips. "Your curriculum was flawless, I admit. But your attitude has been awful." Up close, her eyes were endless depths. It was astounding how deep the colors of blue and red went, countering each other perfectly. They almost seemed to glow as they stared right through him. "You've interrupted me more than once… forcing your opinion on this case unannounced, detective."
He could feel the world around them halting as he stared blankly at the face of the detective girl. She met his gaze with self-satisfaction and curiosity residing in them and it felt like a decade before he could tear himself away from that penetrating gaze. Feeling his cheeks burn up as he took a step back, he looked away in shame. A breath escaped his lips. "I… gave up that way of life a long time ago…"
The detective girl leaned forward in an attempt to catch his averted gaze. "Have you?" she argued. "I see the doubt with every decision I take. You've been stretching your role of the assistant for quite a while now."
He briefly met her eyes, before looking down once more. His voice held hesitation. "How long… have you known?" he asked her.
The blonde girl seemed intrigued by his reaction."Since yesterday. It took me a lot of time… trying to find more about you than just your writing career. When I entered your hotel room and you were ready to launch at me with your knife…"
He opened his mouth to object, but she cut him off. "If I were someone else," she added. "It only confirmed the information that I'd discovered. Despite your position, you witnessed everything through the mind of a detective. You questioning my decisions is a luxury that isn't part of the job description. Not as an assistant. Not as a writer. Jealousy is number four, because you have absolutely no influence on what my actions are…"
The writer's fist clenched. His brows knitted together. "Then why… Why did you bring me with you… if you knew that I didn't tell you everything?"
She lifted her head, cold eyes staring at him. "I told you. Your curriculum was flawless." He felt his heart leap in his chest. "You have been working as a writer for two years. You have been working together with the police. Everything you've written down, was the truth. Even the name you gave up exists. For the last two years, you have been Levon Ellard Newman, a writer of small articles for the newspaper… Creating identities shouldn't be hard for a detective specialized in undercover work. Through some effort, I've managed to find the name you were known under at that time… Or is that a fake name as well?" Her gaze was intense and he could almost feel her peel back the layers he had build around himself.
A small choke, almost like a short chuckle escaped his throat. "An alias," he answered, sending her a apologetic smile. "But I've been using the name Dalen since I was nine years old, so in a way, it is just as important as my real one. When I was younger though, I used to rebel against it. I wanted to make up my own alias, so I shortened it to…"
"Len," the detective girl mouthed, a proud smile tugging at the corners of her lips. "Isn't it? You tensed when I called it out for the first time."
The writer ran his hand through his bangs, trying to gather enough strength to look into those judging eyes. "Something… happened," he then told her. "I - probably owe you an explanation for this… but it's something that I didn't want to be reminded of. I know that I've been lying about my name, where I live…" he muttered. "I really do apologize for that."
The blonde girl smiled at him, casually folding her hands together. While he was obviously uncomfortable, she seemed perfectly at ease. "It's a good thing you could pass as an eighteen year old… being three years older than what you wrote on your curriculum."
He lowered his head, the color of red filling his cheeks. "I didn't want to be traced back…" he explained. "There… is a reason why I carry a weapon with me."
She looked surprised at the mention of the knife. "I could use a reasonable explanation for that," she replied, watching him with curiosity. An awkward silence passed between them. The writer seemed to struggle with the option of telling her, his eyes avoiding her as they were glazed over distantly. He seemed as if he was in a different place when he spoke to her, the tone of his voice flat. "My parents were murdered when I was sixteen," he finally explained. "I was there. I saw it happen."
The way he held himself told her that he wasn't planning on telling her the details. Despite the nonverbal hint to close this topic, the detective girl wasn't planning on letting him go easily."Were you already an undercover detective at that time?" she asked.
He hadn't expected any words of remorse or pity from her, as she had showed no mercy before. Her indifference was a familiarity, something he strangely appreciated.
"I have been from the moment I turned fourteen. My father was an undercover detective and he trained me since I was small," he started to tell. "The young age helped to conceal me. No one expected a boy that wasn't even an adult yet, to be a detective. They were never suspicious of me."
Different-colored eyes stared back at him. "You both must have had plenty of enemies then," she said. "It's a dangerous occupation… a risk that goes with the job."
The young writer exhaled, absently staring into the distance. "The things you take for granted the most… are the things easiest to lose, really."
"Everything can be taken away," the detective girl agreed. "Life, love, innocence... Even your dignity, though some claim differently. Is the reason why you carry a weapon around because he was never caught? Or just recently released?"
"Never caught," he stated, his tone surprisingly calm despite the emotion he reflected.
The detective girl raised her eyebrow. "Must have traumatized you, if you still carry a weapon around after five years."
"You don't understand: I had to give up my job," he explained. "I couldn't stand the sight of blood… The mention of a murder paralyzed me. Even to this day I cannot objectively look at a crime scene anymore."
"That, I have noticed," the blonde girl bluntly remarked. "Yet, what I can't comprehend is this: why do you write crime-related articles? You knew that you could one day be part of a murder investigation."
The young adolescent lifted his head, piercing blue eyes staring into hers with sudden determination. "My interest in criminal cases never faded. I started writing in order to stay in contact with this world," he told her. "I liked it more than I expected. At first, I never wrote about anything too violent, but when some time passed, I forced myself to take a step further. I enjoyed working along with the police. It helped me overcome my fear." There was a pause. "I just wanted to stop being so weak…"
"You had a reasonably calm reaction," the detective girl commented. "You seemed to have overcome your fear."
He looked at her gratefully, a small smile at the corner of his lips. This was about the closest thing she would come to giving him a compliment.
"But, with my small reputation of only solving petty crimes, I do wonder why you chose to apply at my office," she asked, folding her arms together. "The chances were slim that I would be presented with something interesting like an actual murder."
The young man grimaced. "I was thrown out by the other, bigger agencies… Most of them didn't want anything to do with me after I told them I'm a journalist."
"Ah, that explains it then," she mused, a spark of understanding in her eyes. "They never are keen about the media. It's not your fault. The more famous a detective is, the less manners they seem to have."
"I noticed…" he replied.
The detective girl raised her head. The words she spoke were so sudden that he felt his heart skip a beat at it. "This is the last repetition of my warning. Do not hide anything else from me," she warned him.
For a moment, he was lost for words as hers sank in. While her eyes pierced into his, he felt himself take a small breath of air. All of the sudden, it seemed to click in his mind and he found himself remembering the words she had shared with him in the hotel room last night. She had told him that she hated secrets.
She hadn't just been talking about the knife he'd tried to hide from her. From the beginning, she had known everything. And he felt like an idiot for not realizing this sooner. "I won't," he hastily replied, feeling his heart race at her intense stare.
A moment passed in silence, until the detective girl turned her back to him. She grabbed the damp gloves. "Let's not stray in here for too long," she commented then, looking back at him. "Two people staying in a bathroom for a short moment is suspicious enough. Even with the state of mind Lady Millina is in, I'd say we have long passed the normal timeframe of a bathroom visit."
The writer flinched at the realization, warmth spreading over his cheeks. When she passed him to reach for the doorknob, a thought crossed his mind. Before she could turn it, the soft touch of his hand on her shoulder made her pause.
There was a slight hesitation when her eyes met his. "You only gave me four reasons," he said. Despite the fact that he had gotten her attention already, he found himself unwilling to remove his hand. He saw the skepticism in her eyes fade into an amused sparkle. The hint of a smile resided on her face as she parted her lips. "I did."
Her childlike smirk told him that he had to ask for it, in order to get the answer. In his curiosity, he played along with it. "What is number five?" he asked.
The detective girl raised her full hand, showing him all five of her digits. "Sometimes, I wonder if you really are that naïve…" she replied, amusement in her tone. "Or if you're just playing with me. You have a habit of asking questions you already know the answer of."
The young man blinked at that. "I don't…"
"Oh, I think you do," she replied, eyes sparkling as she turned the doorknob. "After all, number five…" The creak of the opening door was audible. "Is fixation."