Delphine’s first day at the Victson Police station went about as well as she could’ve expected it to go. She spent most of it behind the service desk in place of the timid constable Delphine had come to know as Gilbert Smallwood, getting to know the other constables as she moved two and fro, completing her tasks one by one. On lunch breaks she made cups of tea for the constables and a special cup of Portelli’s coffee for Detective-Sargent Kingsbury. She hoped that it might be a lead-in to soothing the thus-far awkward working relationship they had but it wasn’t to be. Kingsbury as it seemed, was quietly fuming over something on his desk.
“Miss Price,” he said through gritted teeth. “Did you by any chance, tell anybody about what you saw at Harmonies when the girl was killed?”
“No Mr. Kingsbury, why do you ask?”
“Because someone’s certainly told the press.” He pushed a newspaper across his desk towards her. The headline reading ‘The bloody nightingale: A killer on the loose’. Oh dear, she thought with dread. This was the last thing the police needed.
“Well, I can promise you it wasn’t me. Sir, I don’t even want to think about what happened, let alone draw more attention to the murder. But as it was someone else, could this mean there might be another witness? Maybe someone who saw the perpetrator better than I did.”
“I’ve been considering that Miss Price, which is why I’m organizing another visit to the club tomorrow night in order to gather some more statements. I’m telling you this because I’ll need you on standby to take notes so bring whatever you deem necessary.”
“Understood sir,” Delphine replied. “Will we be going in plainclothes or in an official capacity?”
“Plainclothes. I don’t want to disrupt anything by bringing a whole hoard of constables in.”
After that he scarcely spoke to her. While Delphine wasn’t exactly put out by his lack of attentions to her it did sting a little. The man she met at the bar, talked with, danced with seemed to be drifting further and further away from her and she didn’t like it. As if that wasn’t enough he seemed…vexed, by her working for him. As if I can help it! She thought bitterly to herself. If she knew that this handsome, but stern detective-Sargent was going to be her new boss then she would’ve let that presumptuous girl take the position and kept her promised post with Ms. Abernath.
When five O’clock finally came along Delphine had almost missed it. Caught up in unresolved paperwork, it was only her glancing briefly at the clock after finishing her tenth file that prompted her to put her work away and fetch her coat. As always, it was just after she took her eyes away from the printed paper that her general focus sprang back and thoughts of dinner filled her mind. Canned soup, bacon, eggs with runny yokes. Now that she was living on a fixed wage she had the perfect excuse to neglect the ideal diet every now and again.
“Miss Price?” Kingsbury caught her as she was heading towards the door. Delphine held back a sigh; she really didn’t want an unwarranted lecture when she was supposed to be thinking of relaxing.
“Yes, Mr. Kingsbury?”
“I…about earlier with the news paper, I didn’t mean to accuse you. I didn’t want this to appear in the newspapers so soon after it happened but I keep forgetting that one cannot always help it. And finding out that you’re going to be working here is making this a little…”
“Exactly. I knew it troubled you-I’d have to be a terrible detective not to know. And now it seems you’re more involved in this case than I ever could have anticipated.”
“If it makes you feel better it certainly wasn’t my idea.” She explained, “I was supposed to be personal secretary to Ms. Abernath but some other girl was already working in my place. She seemed so desperate for the job so when Ms. Abernath herself offered me the choice I suppose I took pity on her. Not because I liked her but because I like my work-situations to be somewhat unpredictable. I suppose I should’ve listened to that old phrase ‘be careful what you wish for’ because even I couldn’t have predicted working here.”
“I see,” Kingsbury allowed himself a small, sheepish smile. “So they neglected to mention that twelve Gutchlag Street was a Police Station?”
“Indeed. They only gave me they physical address and directions on how to find it. If I knew of course…”
“Of course. Well, I should be letting you go Miss Price. No doubt you’ll be wanting to go home.”
“Good evening Mr. Kingsbury. I’ll see you first thing tomorrow morning.”
Although that conversation felt extremely awkward, it was an improvement from the gruff, unending silence she had from him for most of the day. They weren’t friends or friendly, not like they were at the club, but Delphine held hope that they might progress from here. She still found him very attractive and she knew the feeling was mutual on his part. If only things could be different right now, she thought ruefully. If only they could dance again, recreate that warm, tingling sensation that drew her further to him.
After an unsteady tram-ride and a few stops to the butchery, the grocers and the general store, Delphine arrived back at her flat. Arms full with paper-bags containing vegetables, fruit, butter, cream, various cheap-cuts of beef and pork, a carton of eggs and half a dozen cans of condensed soup. That ought to be enough for a decent meal, she relished with a smile. But that could wait a little while. For now she put the groceries away and flopped back onto her sofa. No mail yet, as her parents had yet to track down her latest address, no telephone calls as nobody had her number. Just…silence.
“Delphi? Delphi it’s me, Priscilla. May I come in?” And just like that, the silence was interrupted. But Delphine wasn’t vexed. She even supposed it was good she might have somebody to unburden her day upon.
“Come in Cilla. I’m just having a bit of a rest.”
Priscilla made her way in, draping her coat over one of the kitchen chairs. On her yellow, cotton frock were loose strands of cotton thread; different colors, varying lengths, as if she’d been snipping fabric and unpicking crooked seams all day. It must come with the job, Delphine thought with a touch of fondness. Just like how ink-stains and the indent markings of a pen came with hers.
“Goodness, today was busy! Three uniform fittings, two alterations and to top that off, four burgundy, satin, pleated skirts for two sisters who’ve only just two inches difference in size. You can guarantee I got confused once or twice! But it is a bit easier now that the waistlines are higher again. Making them to sit on the hips was tricky because you’ve got to get the curve right so that they won’t slip down-oh, look at me gabbing away when I’ve made myself at home in your flat! Tell me how your day was. What is it Like at Pratts?”
“I didn’t end up staying at Pratts in the end.”
“You mean you were let go?”
“No-there was a mix-up of secretaries and I was given the option of either taking the job of Ms. Abernath’s secretary from some jumped-up little girl or taking another position elsewhere. I almost felt bad for the other girl so I volunteered myself for the latter and you’ll never guess where I ended up!”
“Where? Tell me!”
“Do you remember that handsome stranger I met at the club? The one who turned out to be a detective?”
“How could I forget? He secured the crime-scene. Wait, you don’t mean…”
“…If you’re on the same train of thought then I’m afraid so.”
Over another pot of tea and some jam sandwiches Delphine launched into the story of her day. From meeting the disgruntled Miss Andrews, right to the tense conversation she shared with Kingsbury just before she left the station. To her credit Priscilla listened attentively and when Delphine was finally finished, waited just a few seconds before reflecting on the whole predicament.
“Well to me it sounds like you’ve hit a bit of a road-bump but there’s still a golden opportunity here. You’re accompanying him to ‘Harmonies’ tomorrow night, aren’t you?”
“Well yes, I already told you-”
“-Which means you’ll have him in the same setting as you did the night you two met. At a bar, warm lighting and soft music, cocktails and whisky…investigations aside, maybe it’ll give you the chance to let him see the woman he was so besotted with that first night.”
“Priscilla, this sounds good in theory but in his official capacity he would see it as me obstructing an investigation just to flirt with him!”
“Or it might, at the very least, make him consider you as something more than his secretary. Even in an official capacity Delphi, you’ve still got something to work with! If you help him wherever he needs to be helped, he can also see that you’re clever as well as attractive. Compatible, as well as alluring.”
‘She has a point’ Delphine concluded begrudgingly. Flirting on the job certainly wasn’t a good idea but it could be a golden opportunity to pick his brain at least. Besides, if this ‘bloody nightingale’ were to strike again Delphine would be better prepared to keep her eyes peeled.
“How about this; I’m not going to flirt with him but I have to agree that providing him a little ‘assistance’ could be beneficial. At the very least it could make talking to him a lot less painful.”
“It’s settled then! You’re going back to ‘Harmonies’ with the delicious detective and you’re going in with a plan. Now, first things first, we’ve got to decide what you’re going to wear. It absolutely cannot be your pink frock! Even if you could get those awful stains out you still wore it before and if there’s anything I’ve learnt from being an aspiring seamstress it’s that you can’t be overly predictable with your style. Sometimes the right way to go about achieving something in a good dress is to surprise whoever is looking at you. I think that something in red should do the job, to compliment your hair but first let’s go through your wardrobe to see what we’re working with.”
’This is going to be a long night’ she thought. But Priscilla was trying to be helpful and, admittedly, Delphine wasn’t as big of an expert on fashion as Priscilla clearly was. ‘Best leave it to the expert’ she concurred. Maybe in listening, she could learn a thing or two.
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