The Fourth Party: Hangwoman
“The circus was spectacular!” exclaimed Leslie as she and Adrian exited the circus ring, following the crowd to the Tower Ballroom.
“The industry is progressing considerably well,” added Adrian. “It was fascinating to see how technology is being advanced in this era. The transformation of the arena into an artificial lake was particularly impressive.”
“The water show was a great finale to the circus performance,” said Leslie. “Now I don’t know if I still have the strength to dance from all that clapping and cheering.”
“Well, we don’t have to dance right away once we enter the ballroom,” said Adrian. “The event goers are most likely wanting to freshen up or ingest something to fuel their energies.”
“I see,” replied Leslie. “Then I suppose a light snack and drink would do the trick.”
Entering the ballroom, Leslie gazed in amazement at the grandeur of the Tower ballroom. There was a live orchestra set up on the main stage, playing a slow tune. The dance floor in the very centre of the ballroom was already filled with me and women dancing to the slow music, most likely the classic foxtrot.
Adrian escorted Leslie to one of the tables overlooking the dance floor, giving them a clear view of the dancers. He pulled out a chair offering her a seat, which she accepted. Just as Adrian seated himself on the other side of their table, a waiter promptly appeared with a tray of glasses filled with champagne. Adrian took two glasses, one for himself and the other for Leslie.
“Shall we make a toast to newfound companionship?” Adrian asked Leslie as he raised his glass towards her.
Without giving him an answer, Leslie picked up her glass and clinked her glass with Adrian’s. As he sipped his champagne, he could not help but be amused by her cool attitude towards him. You never cease to raise my interest Leslie. He quietly pondered to himself. Especially now that father and I know that those rumours circulating around you are true.
Leslie, on the other hand, gulped her glass of champagne down in a jiffy when she heard the orchestra switching to a more livelier music than the one for the foxtrot. The Charleston dance was up next, and it was the rage of the twenties. In the past few months, Leslie had attended classes to learn this popular dance.
“Adrian,” she said teasingly. “How good is your Charleston? This young lady wants to dance.”
“Miss Leslie,” came the detective’s reply. “Is this a challenge, or is it because of the alcohol you have consumed so swiftly?”
“Why does it matter?” asked Leslie, “We’re here to have fun after all!”
Leslie took the detective’s hand and pulled him onto the dance floor at the next beat of the tune.
“Can you keep up with me detective?” Leslie once again asked in a teasing manner.
She began doing the moves of the Charleston, the basic kicks, swivels and steps. Adrian mirrored Leslie’s movements, catching up with the beats of the music and the timing of the steps. At the sound of the lively music coming to an end, Adrian took advantage of the remaining beats to grab Leslie’s hand and twirl her towards him. She twirled straight into his arms and into a back dip just as the music came to a stop.
Gazing into each other’s eyes, and their breaths intermingling, Leslie flushed with embarrassment. For some reason, being this close to Adrian felt intimate. There was a lot of features that she had not noticed about him from afar; his angular jawline with his protruding Adam’s apple, and his shoulders were quite broad.
“Did I meet your standards?” Adrian teased her back.
Just before Leslie could give him her reply, a woman rushed over to Adrian frantically. Leslie recognised her as Felicity Heathfield, the vice-president of the book club she used to attend before Countess Crawley expelled her.
“I first-most apologise for approaching you like this, but this is a matter of urgency Detective Powell,” said Felicity.
“Whatever is the matter Miss-” began Adrian.
“Miss Felicity Heathfield,” replied Felicity. “It is quite fortunate to find you here at this party. Your reputation has increased since the very first murder at Mr. Hange Hurston’s party in Brighton. As for the matter. Countess Crawley has vanished from the party.”
“Could she be in the powder room?” suggested Adrian.
“I have already checked,” replied Felicity. “She was not there.”
“When was the last time you saw her?” he then asked.
“The Countess suddenly felt dizzy and excused herself to go to the powder room,” explained Felicity. “She told me to fetch her once the Charleston was over. I did as she asked, but she wasn’t in the powder room when I arrived.”
“That certainly is strange,” said the detective. “We should definitely have a look around.”
“Thank you ever so much detective,” sighed Felicity in relief.
Asking the other guests, they informed Adrian that they had indeed seen Countess Crawley leaving the ballroom to go to the powder room. He was also told that the countess’ brother, Benedict Ketterwell, her nephew Simon Ketterwell, and Felicity Heathfield had also stepped out of the ballroom not too long after the countess had left.
The detective decided to check the powder room anyway. Entering the room, there were no ladies in sight. However, he did find an empty wine glass with a distinct lipstick colour that would suit a middle-aged woman. A moderate coloured coral shade imprint was on the rim of the glass. At the bottom, Adrian noticed what appeared to be a white powdery substance cluttered together in the leftover champagne. I wonder… Thought the detective to himself as he placed the champagne glass back in the spot where he found it.
It soon occurred to him that there was one more place he had not checked. The circus ring. Perhaps Countess Crawley had left something of utmost importance in there and had gone to retrieve it? Or maybe she had gone there to meet someone in private, and the circus ring was the only other place in Blackpool Tower where no one could disturb their conversation.
Adrian then hurried to the circus ring, but just as he was about to step through the entrance, there was a scream that sounded like a man. Abruptly dashing inside, Adrian spotted a backstage staff shaking in fright as he stared up towards the ceiling.
Following the man’s sight, Adrian spotted the lifeless body of Countess Crawley being suspended above the artificial lake. Right under my nose again. He quietly thought to himself.