The Eighth Guest

Chapter Ten

by TT (a.m.tilmouth.s99 at cranfield.ac.uk)
12/22/01
The manager of the Night Light restaurant was a Mr Jones by name, a polite well-spoken man in his late forties. He was short, rather soft round the middle where years of good food had taken their toll, and prone to bouts of uncontrollable hiccups. The restaurant had cost him most of the fortune he had made over the years in similar smaller businesses on the ground. He was also known for his charity work, feeding the homeless of London. But whatever his background, he certainly hadn't deserved twelve stone of angry racer bargeing in through his office door as he prepared to go and supervise the entertainment. The little man wrung his hands together again and tried to stifle a hiccup as Peter Ling glared at him, tapping his foot angrily against the wooden floor.
"Well, have you found them?"
The little man shook his head. "Not yet, sir; if sir would just wait a few more moments, our staff are searching the building this very moment."
Ling wasn't normally an angry man or prone to outbursts in the middle of restaurants, but where his fiancée was concerned emotions always got the better of him. They had been missing for over half an hour and he was worried, so he'd made his excuses and left the others to their sweets. Where Tessa went alone, trouble soon followed. He shook his finger at the manager. "Listen to me. If you don't find her...."
A strong hand gripped his shoulder. Ling turned, finger still raised. Holmes was standing behind him, smiling a thin little smile. It often amazed the racer how someone like Holmes could move with such cat-like grace. As far as Ling knew the man never exercised or practised at it; it was just there, like his piercing eyes.
"I'm sure the staff are doing all that they can. It's hardly every day people are in such a remarkable building; the ladies may have gone exploring...there are two people missing, remember."
Ling sagged and rubbed a hand irritably against his head. "Yes, I remember...sorry, I didn't mean to...."
Holmes smiled again, his eyes sparkling like those of a hound that has just caught the first scent of the fox. "Good. Maybe you would like to accompany Watson and I around the building. I think it's time we too did some...exploring of our own."

 

Behind the glasses, Tessa shut her eyes and listened. In front of her out on the walkway was Moriarty; behind her Fenwick lay senseless on the ground; and somewhere beneath, Beth Lestrade clung on for her life to the cold metal supports dangling over the nighttime city like some kind of Christmas ornament. She breathed out. The hate and anger was welling up in her now, a burning fire that she thought the death of Oreo all those months back, up among the vats, had quenched. Now she realised it could never be quenched, not until the evil that had cursed her family for generations was dead. Moriarty must die.
In the same breath she realised that she could never be the one to do it. Oreo's death had at least been in self-defense; this would be coldblooded murder and that was a line she couldn't cross, not even to avenge her family. She tried to grip the axe tighter but the blood made the handle slick and wet. She could practically smell the iron tang of it in the air. Bits of glass bit into her hand; she ignored them as best she could and moved closer to Moriarty. If she could not kill him, at least she could keep him away from Beth until help arrived. She was sure it wouldn't take Holmes or Peter long to come after them.
"My dear, what do you hope to achieve by this? You are wounded, blind and not two yards to your right is a quick trip to oblivion -- not a waterfall, I'll admit...but just as deadly."
Tessa laughed a cold mirthless laugh. "And what do you hope to achieve, Professor? You can't kill me; for some reason you're actually trying to keep me alive. I won't let you hurt Beth and sooner or later help has to come. You've lost, James Moriarty. Turn tail and crawl back under the rock you came from."
Moriarty snarled and made a lunge for the axe, Tessa backstepped but Moriarty was a lot more agile than Fenwick. The two generations ended up both holding the axe, wrestling for it dangerously close to the walkway edge.

 

The three men were as close to running as was possible while still walking. Holmes led the pack with both Ling and Watson close on his heels; his eyes were now so bright you had the impression they could have glowed in the dark.
"The greeter said that Lestrade had a telephone call waiting for her, so she must have come this way; and indeed, here and there you can see glitter fallen off her dress onto the carpet."
"And Tess?"
Holmes frowned and then bent, tracing an outline in the carpet with one finger. "She wore size six and a half shoes with a heel tonight!"
"Yes, I think she does take six and a half shoes."
"Then in all probability that is her following Lestrade, but for what purpose?" Holmes straightened and started walking again, Ling and Watson still close behind. "Mr Ling, do you know why your fiancé looked so startled tonight when we were walking through the main dining area?"
"No...I can't say she confided in me."
Holmes smiled. "It is no reflection on you, but I think she told Lestrade, when they disappeared for the first time during the evening."
"Yes, she was looking a little pale before that...." Watson said as Holmes bent to examine the ground again.
Peter thought for a minute. "And when she came back she looked a lot more relaxed, until Lestrade left."
"But whatever it was did not seem to have affected Lestrade very much. It is the telephone call which is the vital thing. I can't think of anyone who would have known she was at the restaurant or needed to phone her so urgently."
The steps turned into an office. In front of them a phone screen blinked on and off. Ling's skin prickled; the air felt alive with static. He rubbed his hands irritably.
Holmes bent to examine the floor of the office, particularly the area around the desk; then he sniffed at a greasy smear on the wall. Finally he picked up a clock on the desk and tapped on the computer bringing up the phone screen; it was blank. "Watson, scan that small smear on the wall in front of you. It's next to the large landscape picture."
Watson's eyes whirred quietly as they adjusted. "Butter, Holmes, it's a smear of butter."
Ling folded his arms and tried to control his temper. This was pointless, he thought. The staff must have been in here; we told them Beth had gone to answer a phone call.
Holmes frowned and moved off through another door leading from the room; the others followed.
"Now are you going to explain what that was about, Mr Holmes?" Ling was nearing a run as they moved quickly along a metal line corridor; he could smell the kitchens off to his right.
"There was no phone call. That machine hasn't been used for one since the office staff clocked off about five. Someone used a stunner; you can still feel the electricity in the air and the charge short-circuited a clock on the desk. I'm guessing it was on Lestrade as there is glitter covering the carpet, and bits of medium-length brown air were on the floor. The glitter then went off in this direction, indicating the body was dragged this way."
Ling was running now as Holmes covering ground at high speed. "And Tess?"
"Miss Moriarty was in the room at some point -- I think still following them. I noticed at dinner she accidentally put her glove into the butter dish, leaving quite a blob on her hand."
Ling nodded. "Yes, I meant to tell her about that."
"I'm glad you didn't, since that smear is what I'm following now. The metal doesn't drag the glitter off Lestrade's dress as well as the carpet did; we could take a wrong turn."
Watson started. "But why didn't it show up on the walls before, Holmes?"
"She had to change hands as they changed direction." Holmes stopped, the others bumping into him. There was a coat rack in front of him with two missing coats. Ling felt the cold air on his face. Holmes handed out the coats and motioned for Ling to put one on. Watson could withstand the cold air, but they would freeze if the air got any colder. Suddenly they all turned as up ahead someone screamed.

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