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The Fifth Party: The Barbecued Photorgrapher

“The victim is Edgar Allan,” replied Constable Havers as Adrian examined the charred remains, “He is an illustrative photographer who is famed for his photographic depiction of female socialites about their everyday lives.”

“I have heard of him,” replied the detective. “Mr. Allan uses autochrome colours with his black and white photography. Truly a modernist.”

Getting back onto his feet, Adrian glanced at the spectators who had witnessed the photographer’s grisly demise. His hazel eyes narrowed when he spotted Leslie among the the crowd. You never cease to surprise me Miss Beckford. The detective thought to himself. What if Professor Bauer’s theory was right? Could Leslie be the mysterious Mr. Hange Hurston after all?

“Detective Powell,” said a police officer, interrupting his train of thought. “I have brought the events organiser of the National Gallery as requested.”

Muttering a brief thanks, Adrian dismissed the police officer who hurried away to investigate the venue.

“It was awful!” exclaimed the events organiser, “The moment Mr. Allan took the photograph, his camera exploded and he suddenly went up in flames! Luckily though, none of the paintings on display, nor Mr. Allan’s photographs were damaged while the fire was being put out. How on earth could this have happened?!”

“Would you kindly elaborate on the events that led up to Mr. Allan’s death?” inquired Adrian.

“An auction to sell Mr. Allan’s works from a recent exhibition last month,” explained the events organiser. “The auction is more of a soirée, hosted by Mr. Hurston to celebrate the photographer and his successes. The guests arrived at half-four to participate in the first part of the evening, which was the auction. Afterwards, Mr. Allan’s assistant, a Miss Yvette Carmichael, suggested that we have a group photo before the second half of the auction. All the guests gathered together to pose for the photo.”

“And that’s when the victim’s camera exploded, setting him on fire,” finished Adrian.

“Yes,” the events organiser replied shakily. “I can still hear his painful screams and smell of burning flesh clear as day. No one is going to get any sleep tonight because of all this!”

“Thank you,” replied the detective. “I would now like to examine the evidence.”

He then approached the table where the burned camera and additional equipment had been laid out. Putting on his gloves Adrian picked up the flash lamp and examined it. From a distance, there seemed to be nothing wrong. However, despite his gloved fingers, Adrian felt one side of the tray was strangely smooth compared to the other side that felt sharp when applied pressure from the finger.

Getting out his magnifying glass, Adrian stared closely at the smoother side. There were scratches indicating that that particular side of the tray had been filed down. This is no accident. Thought the detective to himself. This is murder! Whoever instigated the death of Edgar Allan must have been close to him, even to know how to use the photography equipment. And one of the guests was already looking suspicious.

“Detective Powell!” exclaimed Constable Havers as he hurried over, “I was going through the victim’s belongings and found this.”

He pulled out a file. Taking the file from the constable’s hands, the detective reached inside and pulled out some documents. It was divorce settlements between Edgar Allan and Adelaide Allan. Adrian recognised the name Adelaide Allan, (formerly known as Adelaide Vaughn) a fashion model who retired from her modelling career after marrying the photographer.

“Did anything prior happened before the fire?” Adrian inquired out loud, “Say, the victim had disagreements with any of the guests tonight?”

“There was a scene mid-auction!” exclaimed a female guest, “Mr. Allan was arguing with Lord Cavendish. We did not quite hear the entire argument, but Lord Cavendish did yell at Mr. Allan, saying that he owned him, or something along the lines.”

“Are you referring to the Lord Lawrence Cavendish?” Adrian asked the female guest.

“Yes,” she replied. “The president of Cavendish Holdings. He is known for his love of photography and art.”

“Lord Cavendish hugely sponsors Mr. Allan’s works!” explained a male guest, “He was also the one who curated Mr. Allan’s photographic exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery.”

“You have been a great help,” said the detective. “I thank you for your cooperation.”

He then turned to one of the nearby police officers.

“Escort Lord Cavendish, Mr. Allan’s assistant and his wife into the next gallery,” Adrian instructed. “I will need to interrogate all of them at once.”

“What is the meaning of all this?” muttered a young woman who looked in her mid-thirties, and whom Adrian recognised as Adelaide Allan, “My husband just died and you’re accusing me of killing him?!”

“Calm down madam,” said a young woman with fair blonde hair, dressed in black and white, with bright red lipstick and looked in her late twenties. “He’s just doing his job. The more you resist, the more he’s going to suspect you.”

She must be Mr. Allan’s assistant. Thought Adrian as he watched the younger woman calm the ex-model down.

“That is Miss Yvette Carmichael,” one of the police officers whispered into Adrian’s ear. “Not only is she Mr. Allan’s assistant, but also his protégé.”

“Miss Yvette is right,” said the older man whom Adrian recognised as Lord Cavendish. “If you could at least cooperate rather than vehemently deny his accusations, the sooner he will set you free.”

“Hmph!” went Adelaide as she voluntary allowed the police officer to escort her and the other suspects into the next gallery.

As Yvette and Lord Cavendish followed after the ex-model, one of the male guests stepped forward, intending to move to a different part of the gallery. Unaware Yvette was heading towards him, he bumped into her. The filled champagne glass he happened to have in his hand sloshed over the sides of the glass, spilling onto Yvette’s dress.

“Oh! Pardon me Miss!” he exclaimed in the utmost flustered manner, “I- uh- Wasn’t looking where I was going! I hope I didn’t ruin your dress! How- uh- I- should make it up to you?”

“Don’t worry about it,” replied Yvette assuringly. “It was an accident, and besides I will not be wearing that dress again after tonight.”

She then turned to the detective. “Detective,” asked Yvette. “Is it alright if I could use the bathroom en route? I would like to get off as much champagne while I still can.”

“Very well,” sighed Adrian. “I will have one of the police officers accompany you in that case.”

Yvette puffed out her cheeks as another police officer escorted her to the washrooms, while the remaining suspects followed Adrian into a vacant gallery.

The suspects settled themselves on the sofas as they waited for Yvette to return. I have the right suspects so far. Thought Adrian to himself. Though in the back of his mind, he could not help but wonder if Leslie Beckford had crossed paths with the photographer. He now needed to confirm their relations with the victim and whatever motive they had to want him dead.

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