The girls screamed blue murder through my headphones as the train stopped. I thumbed past the video that had automatically started playing to silence it. I scrolled back up and it started playing again, silently this time. Three girls, all my age, all from my school, all having the time of their life in the middle of a field. And where was I? Sitting on a packed train going to London to spend the summer with my uncle. My mum had taken it upon herself to organise some work experience for me during the summer holidays. “Make a little bit of money,” she had said. She didn’t say, “make a little bit of money, and get involved with a murder investigation” though – which is exactly what happened.
Waterloo station was packed to bursting as I pocketed my phone and clambered off the train. I allowed myself to be carried to the exit barrier on the flow of people who were impatient to leave the platform. I, however, was less than eager.
What really stung is that it seemed that almost everyone in my year had an awesome summer lined up. That’s all anyone had talked about during the last few weeks of school. The highlight? Reading Festival; a music festival, not a festival where you just read books. One of my favourite bands was due to be performing there, the biggest smallest band from the city, Metro Gnome. It’s not as though I had been invited to go, though. No one was likely to do that.
As the stream of people evaporated around me, disappearing into the crowded station, I pulled my phone from my pocket. The video of my classmates still played on a loop. I closed it and pulled up the maps application. I looked around, trying to orientate myself with where I was standing in the station. It wasn’t easy. I tied my hair back into a ponytail with a hairband from my wrist, hoisted the backpack that contained my belongings up on my shoulders, and popped on my headphones. No point sulking.
My walking pace matched the music I was listening to, a fast paced beat. I weaved in and out of people who were dawdling. The more people I could dodge, the more points I gave myself.
London was bigger than I had ever expected it to be. I had only been power walking for a few minutes and found myself in front of the giant wheel on the river. Luckily, I saw the perfect excuse for a break: the bass of a Korean song that was popular a few years ago overpowered the music in my headphones. It was coming from further down the jetty. I pulled my earbuds out, and joined the crowds.
I’m glad I did. A group of guys were dancing freestyle. It was mesmerizing. They finished and asked for money from the crowd. I had nothing to give, but I watched as the crowd dispersed and the young men huddled together laughing and joking. One of the dancers was pretty cute.
I pulled up my phone to check what I looked like in the camera. I looked like I always did, a thirteen-year old mess. My dark brown eyes saw the usual nose that was too large for my face. Family trait apparently. My tied back brown hair just showed off my sweaty brow. I didn’t open my mouth as I knew that I would see the same braces that I’ve seen again and again for the past eight months. I looked a sight. I decided not to go and talk to them. They drifted away.
Begrudgingly, I followed the mass of tourists crammed along Westminster Bridge. Barriers stopped people walking on the road to overtake, making everyone walk in single file. This was made even slower when we were forced to stop every few steps as someone would decide to take a photo of the Houses of Parliament or the London Eye. I was part of the problem as I definitely stopped several times to take my own selfies.
Finally, I was across the river. The shadow of Big Ben stretched across the throng of tourists clambering to get a better view of the clock tower, their selfie sticks outstretched like swords. I tried to photobomb as many holiday snaps as possible.
A loud American man was explaining to the lady beside him about the tower, “Most people think that the tower is called Big Ben, but that’s actually called Elizabeth Tower. Big Ben is actually the bell inside.”
“I know, Kurt!” replied the American woman curtly. “I watched the same documentary as you.”
A melody started playing from up high. My head looked up towards the clock face. A singular strike of the bell marked the start of another hour.
The toll died off, and I stood there in admiration of the building like everyone else beside me. I wouldn’t have been surprised if some of the tourists had clapped, like it was some kind of street performance. They didn’t, but they all seemed like they were there for the long haul though, waiting for the next strike of the bell, as no one moved.
I whipped out my phone and Instagrammed a photo of the impressive clock. I hashtagged it with everything London related I could think of. I wanted to get more than my fifteen customary likes. I scrolled through my feed, looking at everyone else’s other photos and videos, liking all the new ones.
I clicked back to my own Instagram post again, admiring my photographic skills. I zoomed in to the clock face. Like the bell that had just been stuck, I was suddenly struck. Not by a person, but a thought. One o’clock. I was late. I was supposed to be at Uncle Humphrey’s office by now. As quickly as it took to swap back to the maps app, I was off.
Room Fourteen, Number Three, Lord North Street.
I think I’d seen my uncle once or twice in the past five years. So essentially I was staying with a stranger for six weeks. I remembered once when I was younger, like four, he gave me a forensics kit for Christmas. It wasn’t a simple one either; it was almost like he had taken it straight from a laboratory. To this day I’m not too sure what I was supposed to do with it. I had managed to make something that smelt like burnt eggs, which lingered in the house for about three weeks. After that I don’t know what happened to the kit, I have my suspicions that my mum had thrown it away to ensure that the house never smelt that bad again.
Despite not knowing my uncle, I was hopeful that it might be fun. Humphrey Bach was a Private Investigator. A Detective. A Man of Mystery like Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, and James Bond merged into one. Least that’s what the papers seemed to herald him as.
I see more of my uncle on the front page of newspapers and plastered over the Internet then in person. It’s weird, like having a celebrity in the family. If the people at school knew that we were related I bet they would talk to me just because of him, rather than for me. Everyone has heard of at least one of his cases. I saw one just the other week that involved a kid napping. The police thought it was about a sleeping child so dismissed it, but Humphrey realised that a prize-winning goat that had been stolen in order to fetch a high price at auction. Humphrey solved it, but the police got the goat.
I turned the corner onto Lord North Street, a magnificent church at one end casting a shadow. Even from this distance I could see the gleam of the golden clock face and dials. I could definitely make out the fact that I was almost a whole fifteen minutes late. The dull red Victorian residential buildings lined the street in a uniformed fashion. I looked at my phone. The pin on the screen showed the one at the end of the terrace was the one I was heading for. Number Three.
The front door to the building stood ajar, I looked down at what was wedging it open, and it was an actual jar. I moved it out the way, slipped inside the building, and softly closed the door behind me.
I was grateful to be inside the cool of the building. I didn’t realise how hot it had been outside. I could feel a sweat patch on my back where my rucksack pressed against it. I looked around the entrance hall. The white washed walls of the reception area looked so fresh you could almost smell the paint. A few un-cushioned chairs were pressed against a wall. There was an unmanned desk in the corner of the room with a small sign which read, “Out to Lunch. I will be back”. Luckily, I spotted that the lobby had a sign that displayed all the businesses in the building. I scanned down the list. Of course, Humphrey’s name being at the bottom of the list meant that his office was on the top floor. Office Fourteen.
The top of the stairs greeted me as I wheezed like a hippopotamus that had tried to run the 100-meter sprint at the Olympics. Humphrey’s office was easy to spot, as it was the only door on the landing. The glass door had the words “3.14 Humphrey Bach – P.I.” emblazoned onto it. It looked like it belonged in a 1940s detective film. Reaching it, I quickly took a photo, applied a filter, and uploaded it to Instagram with all the hashtags - there was always time for a new post, even when running late for work. Satisfied it was online, I stepped towards the door.
There was a shuffling from deep inside the office, and before I knew it, Humphrey’s silhouette had filled the door. He was tall, slender, and held himself very well. However, my uncle Humphrey was unique, like all great detectives, and I spotted his uniqueness straight away: a dark, abnormal, shadow over his left-shoulder. I couldn’t help but stare. Humphrey suffered from a condition called kyphosis, which meant that he had a curved spine. Most people know it from various characters like Quasimodo and Shakespeare’s Richard the Third. Humphrey was a hunchback.
The door opened.
“Alice, I had a hunch that was going to be you,” he said as he opened the door.
I smiled up at my uncle. He stood just as I remembered him, or how the photographs in the newspaper had immortalised him. He had dark brown, disheveled hair, hazel eyes, and a rather larger than average nose.
Humphrey had the kind of face that would suit a pair of round spectacles, but he didn’t need any. I think he was in his late-thirties. He was dressed smartly as he wore a pair of dark grey trousers and a sky blue shirt. The shirt was clearly tailored to conceal the hump on his back as much as possible, but it didn’t quite hide it.
He continued, “Although you’re late. By my calculations, you should have been here about seventeen minutes ago. I would ask if you enjoyed your casual stroll here, but I know that you did. How long did you actually spend watching the people dancing on the South Bank? Also, I’m pretty sure that you waited at least a minute for Big Ben to chime before continuing on your journey. Taking photos?”
He inhaled deeply; did I sense an air of disappointment there?
“How on earth did you know? Were you following me?”
“I have eyes all over this city, Alice,” he smiled slyly.
I stared at him, not knowing whether he was telling the truth or not.
“Really?” I asked.
“I’ll tell you my powers of deduction, but I am not going to do it in the hallway where just anyone can be listening in,” he said conspiratorially, looking back down the empty corridor towards the stairs. “I will tell you over a cup of tea. Come on in.”
The office had a musty smell, like a second hand bookstore. Whereas the rest of the building had been turned into a blank canvas, Humphrey’s room had almost too much character. A desk dominated the middle of the room, with one large squashy, green chair behind it, and two uncomfortable looking stools the other side. Papers and documents lined every bookshelf across every wall. Some were yellowing and curling from the amount of time they had been in the sunlight that streamed through the little window behind the desk. The room had kept many of the original Victorian features including walls which didn’t seem straight, and a floor that creaked even if you looked at it.
“So this is your office?” I asked, taking it all in. “Are those all your cases?”
Secured to the only wall that didn’t have a bookcase was a map of London. The map was covered in hundreds of tiny red pins. If there was a pattern there I couldn’t see it, but there were little numbers on the top of each one.
“Yeah,” Humphrey said almost proudly.
“And you’ve solved them all?”
“Most of them. Although you see the ones in blue?” I looked closer at the map, and there was indeed a scattering of blue pins. These weren’t numbered, they were lettered. “Those are my unsolved cases. They’re connected”.
“All connected?” I asked. “Are they all murders?”
“No, they’re all different,” confessed Humphrey. “That’s what makes them all baffling. I just cannot figure out what ties them to one another.”
“How do you know that they’re all connected?”
“Somewhere within the crime scene was a symbol, some sort of call sign.”
“Like the Joker in Batman?” I asked
“Exactly like that. You read Batman?” Humphrey said, clearly impressed.
“Uncle Humphrey, we’ve all seen the movies,” I said as though it was obvious. Humphrey ignored this.
“Whoever it is leaves behind a circle with a wiggly line underneath” Humphrey pointed to a small section to the left of the map of London. There were seven Polaroid pictures, each relating to a blue pin that was in the board. Each photo showed the same symbol in different locations. I looked at it.
“What does it mean?” I asked. The markings reminded me of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs. Their complex alphabet was made up of pictures and symbols like this.
“Your guess is as good as mine. I’ve compared it to various languages. Ancient and modern. Posted it to various forensic friends, had discussions online about it,” said Humphrey; reeling off the ways he’d tried to crack it. “And I’ve had no luck whatsoever. Sure, plenty of theories, but no way of actually linking it to some of the cases I haven’t been able to solve.”
“What was this one?” I asked, pointing to a Polaroid. The symbol was clear, but I couldn’t make out what it was stenciled on.
“Ah, that one is interesting. The papers were calling it The Dog House. Last September, there was a phone call to the police about a man who was fed up of his neighbour’s dog barking every night at exactly forty-two minutes past three every morning. The barking would last exactly two minutes, and then cut out. He complained to his neighbour, to the council, to the police, to anyone who would listen.”
“Did anyone else complain?”
“No, and do you know what was the weirdest thing about it?”
“The neighbour didn’t have any dogs. Or any animals for that matter.”
“What?” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. “Then what was barking?”
“This is where it gets stranger. The police decided to come around to the house to witness the phenomenon for themselves. Soon as the clocks hit forty-two minutes past three, the barking began. The police stood outside where you couldn’t hear a single woof, but inside the barking was endless, until it stopped two minutes later. The police left stumped, not knowing what to do, as it wasn’t a matter they could help out with.
“I was called in the next night to see whether I could shed some light on the situation as the barking was slowly making the owner of the house go insane with the lack of sleep. I confess that I couldn’t figure out where it was coming from, almost as though it was coming from within the walls themselves. A few nights later there was an electrical power cut that affected the whole area; the entire street was plunged into darkness at three o’clock in the morning.
“That night, our owner of the house wasn’t woken at all by any barking or any noises whatsoever. It was the first night with uninterrupted sleep he had managed to have in over seven months. The barking began the next day at eight o’clock in the morning, which happened to be the time the electricity went back on. What happens to your cooker when the power restarts, Alice?”
“It starts flashing midnight; zero zero zero zero.”
“Exactly. Well, I got told that the barking had changed times. I rushed to the house, pretty sure I knew the answer.”
“And what happened?”
“I got some builders to remove one wall from the living room, just strip it of plaster, nothing too drastic. Behind the plasterwork were six alarm clocks, all wired up, all flashing the same incorrect time. I corrected one of them and set its alarm to go off in one minute. Lo and behold the alarm went off. It was the same barking which I had heard a few nights previous, and which our poor occupant had heard for months. Someone had rigged the house up to bark every morning no matter what room you were in. In the end they found fifty-one alarm clocks in the house,” concluded Humphrey.
“Yes, and each one was marked with that symbol.”
“Where was this house?”
“It was in a section of London called Barking.”
“Barking? You’re joking me…”
“No,” said Humphrey. “Strangest thing is that the owner has no idea how they got there. He hadn’t had any building work done on the property in years. So who would have access to the house? The only thing that he could recall was that he had lost his keys before the barking started, but the police had returned them a few days later. They would have returned them sooner but he was at a conference for the bank he worked at.”
Humphrey gestured at the wall, to nothing in particular. “I don’t know the meaning of this, but I am determined to link all of these together one day. It’s like someone’s funny game with the people of London.”
He stood there staring at the map for a moment longer, engrossed in his own thoughts. I could almost see the cogs turning in his head, trying to work out what all of this was about.
“So is that what I’m here to help out with?” I asked eagerly. It sounded like a great mystery to get sunk into.
“Oh, goodness no. I can’t get distracted with that. I’ve got a box of receipts that I’ve got to have someone go through. I’m behind on my taxes, and I have to send these to an accountant to file them away.”
My hopes of a fun summer evaporated into thin air in an instant.
“Sure,” I said, disheartened. “Is there a desk for me?”
“No. You can just have that chair in the corner of the room.” He pointed at a chair that was so scrappy I had over looked it when I first looked around the room. I wasn’t even sure it would take my weight. “Taxes are important,” started Humphrey, but before he had the chance to go deeper into why they were important, we were both interrupted by a knock at the door.
Our heads snapped towards it.
“Who could that be? I was only expecting you today,” Humphrey said, looking slightly put out.
He reached the door in two strides and swung it open. A young woman, smartly dressed in a black pencil skirt and white blouse, stood in the doorway. Her cheeks were blotched red; I could tell that she had been crying. She looked up at Humphrey, and across to me.
“Oh, sorry. Is this a bad time?” the stranger asked, almost backing out of the office before she had fully stepped into it.
“No, of course not. Come in.” He gestured towards one of the uncomfortable stools. “May I introduce myself? I am Humphrey Bach. Although you already knew that, or you wouldn’t be here.”
“Yes,” the young lady said in a timid voice while grasping Humphrey’s hand. “Who’s she?”
“My niece. She’s here helping out for the summer. Now, will you share a cup of tea with me?” Humphrey asked.
“No, I would prefer one of my own,” she replied, sitting down. She smoothed out her black skirt, trying to keep a sense of decorum even though she had black eyeliner smeared across her face. It made her look like a raccoon that had a fight with a felt tip pen.
“A cup of tea of your own, coming right up,” Humphrey said.
I looked around. I couldn’t see where Humphrey would be making this tea, as there wasn’t a kettle in sight. Humphrey crossed the room, stopping when he reached a bookcase.
“Always look out for the unexpected, Alice. Things aren’t always what they seem to be,” Humphrey said as he fumbled behind a pile of papers, allowing the entire bookcase to swing forward. The books and files threatened to leap off from the shelves as a corridor was revealed. “Kitchen and toilet just down here.”
Humphrey disappeared down the corridor, leaving me with the stranger. A slow tick-tock of a clock somewhere in the room made me painfully aware of the silence between us. I thought about getting out my phone, but was aware of how rude that would have been. We sat, looking anywhere but at each other. It was cringe-worthy.
The silence had to be broken. You can do this Alice, I said to myself.
“Can I get you a tissue?” I asked the blotchy faced woman. Great start, I thought, this is why you struggle making friends.
She didn’t respond, just stared at me.
I’m sure she was wondering whether she had made the right decision in coming here. I tried again, “Humphrey is my uncle, I am here as a summer job. Earning some pocket money.”
“Makes sense,” the young woman said. “Been working long?”
“About twenty three minutes.”
Silence. She looked at me incredulously. “Twenty three minutes?”
I tried to backtrack. Clearly I had just said entirely the wrong thing, and it looked like this woman was about to start crying again.
“Whatever your problem is, I am sure that my uncle can help.” I tried to be enthusiastic. “He’s one of the best. If not the best.”
Fat tears were welling up in the sides of her eyes.
I tried a different approach, “What’s your name?”
“Me? I’m Miss Terry,” came the reply.
“Welcome to my office, Miss Terry,” said Humphrey, who had just come back into the office carrying a tray with a pot of tea, and an already opened packet of chocolate digestives. He placed the tray down and took his seat behind the desk. “I see that you’re getting on with Alice. I am training her up to be a first class private investigator like myself. She’s my apprentice, and a pretty fine one if you ask me.”
Apprentice? I tried not to let my shock show on my face. Humphrey has not seen me in years and now I was his apprentice.
“I run a strict business, and I can ensure you that no confidential information leaves this room. Whatever you’re comfortable telling me you must be comfortable telling Alice. Now, if you feel you cannot continue then I must show you the door as I have a busy schedule ahead of me. If you still think that I will be able to help you must answer one very simple question.”
Miss Terry starred at Humphrey, he had the full attention of the room.
“How do you take your tea?”
Once three steaming mugs of tea had been served up, and a few biscuits had been consumed, Miss Terry seemed to regain her voice and her strength.
“Mr. Bach. I’m sorry for dropping in without phoning ahead. I just didn’t know where to turn. Your name is in the papers all the time; you can solve the unsolvable. I knew that you’d be the only person for this job. Weren’t you involved with the sleeping goat story? The one where the police got it completely wrong?”
“As I explained to the papers, it was a simple misunderstanding which anyone could make.” He waved the flattery aside. “But please, go on with your story.”
“I was there. One moment he was alive, next he was dead.”
Humphrey watched her, letting her continue.
“It’s Victor Tymm, the millionaire. He’s been murdered.”
I looked between the two adults.
“Who?” I interjected.
Humphrey looked at me and filled in the gaps. “Mr. Tymm was a very public figure who was very generous with his money. It was old money that had been passed down, generation to generation. He’s made some wise investments over the last few years which increased his fortune a tremendous amount. The last I read of him, he had given a significant amount of his wealth to prevent cross contamination in factories which work with plants.”
“Is that a thing?” I enquired.
“Apparently so, and in the forefront of Mr. Tymm’s mind, or it was, at any rate.” Humphrey turned back to Miss Terry. “Anyway, murdered, you say? What relation are you to Mr. Tymm?”
“Do you know the Verba Tymm Estate?” asked Miss Terry.
“Of course, it’s the family home,” Humphrey answered quickly.
“Well, that’s where I work. I’m the maid. I’ve worked there for about four years now.”
“A maid for four years…” Humphrey muttered to himself, as though storing the fact to memory. “How many people work for Victor?”
“Three of us: me, the gardener, and the chef. The chef is on holiday though, so it couldn’t have been her who did the murdering.”
“How do you know he was murdered?”
“Well, and this is the most surprising bit, Victor died while locked inside his library. There was no one else in there.”
Humphrey leaned forward in his seat, finger tips pressing together. “Go on,” he prompted the maid.
“I heard him scream! I was in the kitchen at the time, you see. But I had seen him only moments before. He had finished his cereal and milk, and I handed him a cup of tea when he was going up stairs to read the newspaper. It’s what we always do. Anyway, he was in the library with the newspaper and I ran up the stairs three by three to see what was going on. I got to the room and the door was locked. Now, he does lock the door when he doesn’t want to be disturbed, so I didn’t think anything of this. But I could hear him in pain behind the door.
“I managed to get the door open with my spare set of keys and I rushed over to him. He was writhing on the floor. He had one hand against his throat as though he was being strangled.” Miss Terry paused for a second to regain herself. Retelling the story was clearly making her remember it very vividly. “And then he was still. He sort of just relaxed. I saw his hand unclench and there was something in his other hand. I didn’t know what to do. He was dead and I was the only person around who saw it.”
She fell quiet.
Humphrey and I shared a glance. It definitely was an interesting story.
“What was he holding?” Humphrey asked curiously.
Miss Terry dabbed at her eyes with a spotted handkerchief, composing herself. “Well, one hand was against his throat. He had dropped his cup and his tea had spilt all over the floor. It was a waste of a good brew and an even better man. In his other hand, well, Mr. Bach, it was the strangest thing. He clasped the hands of a clock. They had a scarlet hair ribbon tied around them.”
“That’s strange,” said Humphrey.
“What’s stranger is that Victor was afraid of time.”
“Afraid of time?” Humphrey thought for a second. “Chronophobia?”
“Is that the name for it? I don’t know. All I know is that it didn’t agree with him and he would make sure to avoid it at all costs.” Miss Terry replied.
“Interesting,” pondered Humphrey. “My first thoughts are that the tea was poisoned.”
“It couldn’t have been poisoned. Mr. Bach, you have to understand that I made the tea. There is not a bone in my body that would want to bring harm to Victor, let alone want to murder him.”
Humphrey leaned back in his chair, assessing the woman who sat opposite him.
“Anyway,” she continued, “the police did a test on the tea, believing it could have been poisoned. They found no traces of any poison the tea stain. They have said that he died of natural causes, which is ridiculous. It was the look in his eyes when he was dying. I will never forget that look. It was the look of someone who knew that they were being killed. That’s why I came to you, Mr. Bach. You have to believe me. It was murder!”
I looked at my uncle.
He was thinking over her request. “Miss Terry, The police are already involved. This, I believe, is a matter for them to figure out, not for me,” Humphrey said matter-of-factly.
Miss Terry’s face fell, tears that had threatened to fall from her eyes the entire time she recounted her tale finally dropped onto her cheeks. “All I want is for you to come out to Verba Tymm Estate. I need someone to tell me how he died.” Miss Terry started sobbing uncontrollably. “I-I-I didn’t k-kill him. The p-p-police told me not to leave the house in case they need to interview me again. I know that I’m a s-suspect. I know that if there is anyone who will be able to figure this out, it’s you…”
“I want to help, but I can’t.” Humphrey was suddenly very serious. “Let’s just say that the police have the hump with me. Especially Inspector Lanyard; he’s made some pretty serious threats.”
“Inspector Lanyard?” asked Miss Terry, looking up from her lap, eyes puffy, tears still streaming down her face. “I know him.”
“You do?” asked Humphrey
“Yeah. He’s the inspector in charge of the investigation. He seemed adamant that it wasn’t murder, doubly so when he found no traces of poison in the cup. He looked at me as though I was stupid. I’m not stupid! Victor did not die of natural causes. Anyway, what about the clock hands? Surely that’s a message? A clue? Why would he be holding them at the time of his death? I had never seen them before. Surely someone planted them there.”
“Indeed. Why would the hands be in his hand?” He paused for a moment.
Both Miss Terry and I watched him closely. He was thinking.
“I can pay,” said Miss Terry, interrupting his concentration. “If it’s the money that’s an issue. Whatever the cost is, I can get the trust that Victor was in charge of to pay your bill, expenses, and for your apprentice, of course.”
I tried to keep my face as neutral as possible because I was sure it was about to have dollar signs whizzing past the pupils like a cartoon. Money, I was going to have money. Which is perfect news because the battery life on my mobile phone was absolutely appalling and I was trying to save for a new one.
“I will come to the Verba Tymm estate,” Humphrey finally said, making up his mind.
I looked at my uncle.
“I want to survey the crime scene. I don’t want to promise anything, Miss Terry. The police are investigating this, and I don’t want to get in their way. But there is something about this that does pique my interest.”
“Thank you, thank you, thank you,” Miss Terry squeaked, her voice breaking as she started crying again.
“I will only be doing this to help the police if they have overlooked something. I’m sure that they haven’t, but I want to help if I can. Detective Lanyard has had a problem of overlooking the obvious in the past. Remember the missing animals from London Zoo a few years ago?”
“No,” Miss Terry and I said at the same time.
“Well, lets just say that Detective Lanyard missed the elephant in the room. I solved the case, which he took months to even come close to any version of the truth. When I presented it to him, he dismissed me out of hand. When he did finally listen to me, he stole my theories and presented them to the chief of police like they were his own. Which all turned out to be true.” Humphrey trailed off from what seemed to be a mini-rant. “Anyway, I just want to help.”
“Oh, Mr. Bach. Thank you so much.” Miss Terry got up so quickly she slopped the last few cold drops of her tea over her skirt. “I need to phone the board members of the trust to make sure they’re aware that you’re doing some consulting for us.” She handed Humphrey a card. “That has the address of the estate on there. Come as soon as you can.” She turned and left the office.
Silence settled over the two of us. Humphrey slurped the remains of his tea.
“Apprentice?” I asked
Humphrey silenced me with a wave of his teacup. “I have a hunch that I might need your help with this case. So, welcome to day one of the job, Alice. We have a murder to solve!”