The game’s afoot

More from the Dinner Party

“I’m not one to be critical,” Hallie began, “seeing all you’ve done for me so far.”

“You’re questioning how we can ensure you will not be incarcerated by our local constabulary, again?”

“It has been a month and I still don’t know what’s going on,” Hallie said.

The two were sitting in the mahogany furnished library of Mr. Augustine Stiles. Hallie Meyer, his house guest these last four weeks, was facing felony murder charges. She was released to Mr. Stiles on the condition she would be available for any case related court dates.

Hallie was a former patron of one of Mr. Stiles’ Wish Dinner Parties. Favors included the granting of one wish, one deep-down-heart’s-desire wish. Hallie’s wish was to confront a childhood bully and for him to know how his taunts and torments affected her.

The bully, Ralf Sauer, was found dead from a knife wound. Hallie, who was found unconscious in the same room with Sauer, was the only suspect in the crime. Mr. Stiles and his concierge, Jasper, were working on proving her innocence. Their efforts, so far, had not been effectual.

“Your trepidation is understandable,” Mr. Stiles said. “Jasper is committed to your cause, and he won’t rest until you are no longer under a cloud of suspicion.”

Before Hallie could respond, Jasper entered the library with a tea service on a silver tray. As he poured the comforting, warm brew into china cups, he made eye contact with his employer. An almost imperceptible nod brought Mr. Stiles attention to a small manila envelope tucked inside Jasper’s baroque vest. Mr. Stiles acknowledged the gesture with a return salute with his tea cup.

The remainder of Mr. Stiles’ and Hallie’s conversation involved discussion on whether coffee or tea was a more civilized beverage, and whether they would have both potatoes and bread with dinner.

When Hallie begged off furthering their conversation after finishing her cuppa, Mr. Stiles went in search of Jasper and his discovery. The contents of the envelope were undoubtedly regarding the disposition of her case.

Mr. Stiles found Jasper in the garden. pruning the camellias, a pile of spent flowers at his feet. The edges of the full blossoms were a milky brown, as if Jasper had dipped them in a pot of Mr. Stiles’ Australian tea.

Jasper was wearing a heavy canvas apron and a matching bucket hat to shade his face from the bright winter sun. His gardener’s attire was complete with khaki dungarees, doc martens and leather work gloves – atypical of his usual button-down sartorial aesthetic.

A sliver of manila envelope was peeking out of one of Jasper’s apron pockets, and a blue paisley bandana folded like a fine suit’s pocket square was in the other. Seeing his employer’s approach, Jasper pulled out the bandana and wiped his brow.

“You have something for me?” Mr. Stiles held out his hand.

“I do,” Jasper presented Mr. Stiles with the small, but thick, package.

Mr. Stiles pinched the metal clasp open and carefully extracted the contents. He unfolded the papers inside and read Jasper’s report. A wicked smile played across his lips.

“Very fine work, Jasper,” Mr. Stiles said. “There will be a bit extra in your wages this week.”

That evening at dinner, Mr. Stiles greeted his guest with that same wicked smile.

“You have news?” Hallie asked, buoyed by his enthusiasm.

“I have the answer to the riddle Ralf Sauer,” Mr. Stiles said. “It was Professor Plum in the kitchen with a knife.”

“I don’t understand,” Hallie said, her confusion unmistakable.

“You will Miss Meyer,” Mr. Stiles said, passing her the envelope Jasper gave him earlier.

After reading the contents, Hallie had the same wicked smile as Mr. Stiles.

To be continued…

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