Chapter 55 (DEATH BY CHOCOLATE)
Deric whistled as he and Jim walked into the police station.
‘My, my, my, it seems someone’s had a well-deserved Valentine’s.’ Patricia Mabone said with a tease, ‘you look better than ever!’
‘Well, if I look half as good as I feel I must be a male model.’ Deric smiled like the proverbial Cheshire cat, ‘Pat, you yourself must’ve had a good one! You’ve got a glow about you!’ He flattered back and gave her an obvious once over ala Sheffield. She wore green, which showed up her beautiful caramel skin. Her traditional copper hooped earrings tingled as she threw her head back in laughter.
‘A girl never kiss and tell.’ She said coyly.
‘Except to all their girlfriends and on Facebook and Twitter.’ Jim said as he pressed the button of the elevator. Deric pointed to the stairs but Jim waved that away.
‘Ooh, did the wife lock you out last night, Lieutenant Cruse? That why you so grumpy? Cappie and I had terrific Valentines, not so Cappie? But, I’m going to give all my love to you today. I can see you’ll need it desperately.’ Patricia quipped.
‘Actually, she wore me out, that’s why I need the elevator this morning!’ Jim smiled as they stepped into the elevator.
‘Deric, stop that damn whistling! You’re working on my one nerve as it is. You’re not one of the seven dwarfs off to work!’ Jim slam-dunked Deric’s exuberance.
‘Pat’s right, you need some love today. Are you Grumpy then?’ Deric said as the elevator came to a halt.
’I just can’t stand happy, morning people in any way, size or form. I want to slap each and every happy-peppy-morning-person with a glove – if I had one – left and then right – to a duel,’ he air-slapped an invisible opponent, ’especially with my boxing-glove. Happy morning people after Valentine’s are even worse! They give me a big, fat pain where the sun doesn’t shine. Maybe after three cups of coffee I can take it. As it is, I’d only had one cup up to now. So please…show some consideration! I have to have a heart-to-heart with Mae – she must stop this nonsense.’ Jim said pretend irritated, ‘I like it quiet in the morning!’
‘Well then, let’s get some coffee and go to my office. I want you’re grim, but appreciated opinion on something. Besides, I don’t want to let you lose on unsuspecting co-workers.’ Deric jest back before turning serious, ‘I’ve spotted something in a photo last night before Monty mentioned the time. I stormed out of here like a bat out of hell otherwise I would’ve been locked out of the house, and that would’ve been a shame.’
‘Aah, the advantages of married life! Did she piss on your battery for been late?’ Jim gave a snarl, ‘Told you!’
’Man, but you are grumpy today and NO, I’ve got a very forgiving wife – very forgiving.’
’Oh, please, spare me the soppy details, and I’m not in a bad mood. What gives you that idea? This is how I start out every day!’ Jim said firmly, ‘expect the worst and it can only get better!’
’Or worse…’Deric said.
‘Or worse.’ Jim grunted.
Deric knew Jim too well to fall for this act. He was a calm, calculated investigator who never acted in haste and was the most likely one to sensible hold back on emotion. It made Deric felt a little less guilty about the report and evidence-files he handed Sheffield. Jim didn’t think he’d done anyone in.
Deric took a sip of coffee before he opened up his drawer and pulled out the photos. He spread them fan-like, ‘these were taken by Monty the night of Gust’s confession – remember, when we still thought Kimberley Gust was in grave danger and they went-’
‘Yes, I remember, we thought she or the culprits could be at the party. What about them?’
‘No doubt this is where she got drugged. We don’t know how or who and with not as much as a fart to go. I mean evidence-wise…but then I spotted this…’ Deric pointed to one of the photos.
Jim picked up one of the photos. Looked very closely and pensively and then said, ‘I see what you mean.’
The photo shows a bar-counter next to a sign that stated “MAN-CAVE”. Four bottles of liquor were placed on the end closest to the door. The first bottle was a well-known chocolate liqueur, the other three held the familiar images of the three monkeys that stated respectively “See no evil” “Hear no evil” “Speak no evil”. Deric handed Jim a looking glass and watched him scrutinise the bottles. Although not ambiguous on its own, each of these bottles had been labelled by hand, it seems. The new labels were a tad smaller than the originals. A definite plant by the so-called “Ice-Cream Club”.
Jim read the labels out loud starting with the chocolate liquor and then the three bottles of wine:
DEATH BY CHOCOLATE / OVERINDULGENCE
SEE NO EVIL - OBFUSCATION
SPEAK NO EVIL – SADIST
HEAR NO EVIL - NARCISSIST
All words that were part of Brenda Blignaut’s word puzzle.
Because they knew the meanings by heart by now, it could also read:
Death – Darkened – Sadist – Narcissist or, put in an imaginative sentence:
DEATH TO THE DARKENED, SADISTIC NARCISSIST!
‘And there’s your link to the “Ice-Cream Club”,’ Jim said as he started to rummage through the rest of the photos, ‘see, my day just got better!’
They scoured all the other pictures but could not find anything else of interest. The last photo however, was a girl standing at the exact place where the first photo showed the bottles on the counter. In this photo the bottles were nowhere to be seen and only her silhouetted face was visible on the photo, but Deric recognised her again as the mystery cherry-haired girl.
‘This girl is definitely the link! However, except for me, no one…’ Deric’s finger kept tapping the ruby-hair image on the photo, ‘can’t see her eyes perse, but the hair and the style…I’m sure it’s her. It’s the fake Mila Jordan! Just like the other photo where she’s telling Monty about Kimberley Gust going home.’
‘Are we still looking for her?’ Jim wanted to know, ‘You think she did it? Drugging Kimberley Gust? Deceiving an Inspector?’
Deric looked a bit perplexed before he slowly said, ‘I think she could answer a few questions. But I do feel a little vindicated after seeing her. You all were wondering if my imagination went wild on me.’
‘No-one thought you were seeing or hearing things. But there’s not one shred of evidence that can place this girl, or, as a matter of fact, the real Mila Jordan, at the scene of the…well…the Kimberley Gust’s bedroom scenario?’ Jim was trying to make sense of a probable crime-scene that turned out to be not a crime scene. ‘Not even circumstantial evidence. What? She’s been in a hospital room where Brenda Blignaut died? We’re going to arrest all the students that attended the party? According to Monty and Danny half of them couldn’t even remember their own names, let alone that of Kimberley Gust! And by what name would this girl go by in real life? And this photo is her alibi – if she ever needs one! We are it!’
‘Maybe like Martin van der Westhuizen was Gust and Dunn’s back then!’ Deric said.
They looked at each other.
‘All this is making me dizzy. No, firstly we’re not going to arrest anyone. Let’s just try and clear things up.’ Deric said with his hand on his head, ’All I know is this girl is the link between Brenda Blignaut and the Gust set-up, which, of course eventually lead to Gust’s arrest. She must be a member of this “Ice-Cream Club”. She’s, however, way too young to have anything to do with the other executions, except maybe Jackson. Not a shred of evidence there either. Who is she and where she is to be found? All I’m saying is this photo proves her existence.’
‘And are we going to look that closely at the Kimberley Gust- scenario? Rodney Gust pleaded not to implicate his daughter in anything! The girl herself can’t even remember how she got home. She never mentioned a red-headed girl.’
‘I know her father prefer her not to be involved in this whole business, which I can understand and respect, but, it’s the same with Patsy Semper. The guy’s a ghost!’
‘Yeah, because Patsy Semper is a murderer and she doesn’t want her handiwork to come out. Gust – another murderer – wants to leave his daughter out of his mess!’
‘Exactly! Bear with me, just to clear this up; she was part of the plan or THE plan. There must’ve been a guy or two somewhere – Patsy’s blind date tells me that. No evidence to point to anyone and I bet they didn’t get sloppy on any aspect as it was planned to a tee, like the previous ones. Except the ice-cream flavours and the words ties them all in. But, here’s the question. Are they finished now? Was Gust the main target?’
‘I think so. Brenda Blignaut stated as much in the letters.’ Jim said slowly and then with some amazement, ‘they’re good, FC, very bloody good!’
‘Kimberley Gust said most all at the party-goers were acquaintances. She had one very good friend there. That friend went home earlier with a male-friend.’ Monty said as he read the statement back to Deric and Jim.
‘Monty, I think you must set up an interview with this Prinsloo kid. The one whose party it was,’ Deric scratched his head. ‘No, no, better yet, tell him we’ll come to him and that we just want some more details.’
‘Okay boss,’ Monty said as he reached for his phone.
‘I just want to be able to say, if ever asked, that we did follow up on even the minutest details.’ Deric shrugged his shoulders at Jim, who looked a little amused, ‘you know just for “in case”, rather safe than sorry and all that.’
‘That’s good, that’s good. Just let me know when you’re going and I’ll tag along.’ Jim said delightful.
Marius Prinsloo was as clean-shaven and sober as can be as he himself opened the imposing door of the multi-storey house. He put a hand out as he introduced himself to Deric and Jim. When he saw Monty he shook his hand as well and said, ‘Sorry, I know we’ve met the other night but, well…most of us…’ He shrugged his shoulders. ‘…can’t remember the name.’ He gave a nervous grin.
’I know, it was whirlwind, Tim said tactful, ‘I’m Inspector Tim Monty. I’ve made the appointment with you this morning.’
‘Of course, of course,’ he sounded apologetic once more, ‘come in. Want a Coke or water or anything else to drink, tea, coffee?’
‘Coke would be nice,’ Jim said, ‘as long as it’s in a closed can, we don’t want to wake up somewhere else not knowing what had happened to us.’ He also gave a friendly smile.
Prinsloo stared at him with a quizzical look on his face.
‘Sorry?’ he asked, totally in the dark, or maybe he was just a very good actor.
‘I mean like Kimberley Gust.’
Prinsloo stared at Jim, then at Monty and back to Jim.
‘What are you talking about?’
They did decide to tell him that Kimberley Gust was drugged that evening – nothing else - and that they suspected someone at the party was responsible.
‘Whoa, Captain, I don’t know anything about that! Well, to tell you the truth, I mean, we all had way, way too much…liquor. I fear…well, very few guys…let me just say, we drank a lot. But, I certainly don’t know anything about drugs or drugging. I remember you were looking for her, but for what reason I hadn’t a clue. You lot left just as abruptly as you came. I didn’t even had a change to ask why you’re looking for her, or what you were doing here!’
The housekeeper entered with three Cokes poured in glasses. She must’ve been listening close by.
They thanked her and she retreated silently where she’d appeared from.
‘What exactly happened to Kimberley? We heard rumours and everyone is speculating, but nobody really seems to know anything.’ Young Prinsloo asked nervously.
Deric held a hand up, ‘She was drugged, but luckily no harm had come to her. However, it could’ve turned out much worse, don’t you think?’
‘Is she pressing charges? Against me?’ his eyes were big as saucers by now.
‘No, not at all,’ Deric wasn’t prepared to reveal all, ‘we just want to know a few things, and don’t worry - nobody is in trouble or about to be arrested.’
’Thank God for that! As it is my parents are going to kill me when they found out, and I mean when not if. They’re in Brazil and they’ll only will be home Sunday, but this is bound to reach their ears via somebody.’ He looked mortified.
’One of those impromptu parties?’ Jim wanted to know.
‘No, it was my birthday-’
Deric sat up, ‘How old are you Marius?’
‘Turned twenty-one last week, sir. The party wasn’t supposed to be held here at the house, and it wasn’t supposed to get out of hand, as it did.’ He was defending, ‘but you know how it is. No parents, money, rooms…my fault totally. I allowed myself to be talked into it by my friends. And besides, my Dad’s “Man-Cave” is totally sound-proof. You see, my Dad and his army can also get a bit too rowdy at times, and my mom…’ He stopped as he realise he was maybe saying too much, ‘so we thought no harm done.’
‘You’re not in trouble. Not with, anyway.’ Jim calmed him down again.
Deric took out two photos. Enlargements. He put them down on the table.
’We want to know who this is and where can we find her? And who was the barman that night?’ Deric pointed to guy behind the bar and the bottles.
He looked fascinated by the bottles as he inspected them closely.
‘Do they come like that – I mean does it state those words?’
‘No,’ Jim said, ‘but the bottles were immediately removed after that.’ Deric gave Jim a warning glance. ‘We thought one of them might’ve contained the drugs.’
’And you think this girl did it?’ Prinsloo asked pointing to the ruby-haired girl, ‘or the guy behind the counter?’
‘No, we don’t know who did it. That’s why we want to know who was barman or did you hire someone?’
‘No-one. I mean, in the beginning some of my friends and I poured drinks for all, but later…well, everyone basically just helped themselves.’ He shrugged.
‘And the girl?’
‘Well, I did notice her. Beautiful, it’s hardly possible not to notice her. I mean look at that face. And she’s sexy, I must say, she had the most astonishing eyes – green-’
‘With little brown speckles in.’ Deric finished his sentence.
‘That’s right, you’ve met her?’
‘No, I’ve seen eyes like that. But, her, what’s her name?’
‘I think she said Rita.’
Deric sat up straight, ‘Any surname?’
‘No, just Rita, I don’t know with whom she came. She was here till late –after one I think! Well…I think so…I wanted…well…to dance with her and so on,’ no-one asked about and so on, ‘So did a lot of the guys. A real flirt this babe. But the party, as you know, got hectic - you can’t keep an eye on everyone all the time.’ He looked serious, ‘Like I said, I kept her in my radar for most of the night, trying to make a move... Is she in trouble?’
‘And you have no idea where she came from and where we can find her?’
’I wish! No, sorry, I cannot help you.
‘Was it an open party – didn’t the guys at the boom complain?’
‘Well, no…not open, but, you see, all were invited guests. However, the invite said you can bring a date. I just assumed this girl came with someone. She was always talking to some guy.’
Building an alibi, Deric thought.
‘I’m sorry I can’t help you except that she said her name was Rita.’ He did look a little deflated.
‘And you’ve never seen these bottles before, or after the party?’
‘And I suppose all the empty bottles have been removed already. Can we have a look at this “Man-Cave”?’
He shrugged, ‘I don’t mind, but it had been cleaned up.’
He led them downstairs and took a key off a hook. He unlocked a door that stated “KEEP OUT – MEN AT WORK” and stood to one side so they can enter. The place consists of one enormous open area with a separate small kitchen, a bathroom and a sunken sofa-area. An attached garage housed a Lexus, four-by-four and a Yamaha 750 motorcycle. The party area looked as clean as a new-born baby’s bottom. A well-loaded fridge hummed away, obviously restocked.
What were his parents thinking! It was just trouble leaving a twenty-one year old alone and in charge of a place like this.
The monkey-set bottles or chocolate liqueur were nowhere to be found.
No surprise there!
Everything was done by the book again. Why would they make a rookie mistake of leaving the bottles behind after all the efficiency they’d work with at all times?