Kester Norwood wasn’t a detective.
Kester Norwood was a “wannabe” detective. Kester Norwood wasn’t even his real name, but he didn’t think James Donaghue sounded as mysterious and exciting as Kester Norwood did.
Even his brother had a more interesting name than he did – Brogan. Brogan Donaghue. But he was Kester now, so it didn’t matter. He’d changed it officially as soon as he’d turned eighteen and now, in his first year at University, nobody knew any different.
He modeled himself on the 1920s film noir style detectives, and could always be seen in a sharp, slim fitted suit and a trilby hat carefully balanced atop of his short blonde hair. Occasionally, he wore sunglasses, but not usually indoors.
He’d never actually solved any crimes, just read a lot of books and watched a lot of films. He’d been training, that was what he called it. He’d been training since he was thirteen years old, just waiting for the right opportunity, for the right case to come his way. And now, finally, it was here. He’d always known that going to University was the right move for him. He’d grown up in a small, stuffy middle class village in rural Devon. There were never any crimes there. Literally none at all. He’d helped to find a missing cat once. That was his crowning glory so far. He’d wrote a report for his website. He had a website, of course. All great detectives had websites these days, or so he’d heard.
There hadn’t actually been a crime, as such. In fact, there hadn’t been any crime at all. But he knew it would only be a matter of time. He was in London now, after all. Well, he was on the outskirts of London. He’d tried to get a flat on Baker Street but it was far too expensive. Rent has gone up since the Victorian era, apparently. Besides which, he’d only been in town for two days. Before long an interesting case would present itself. He had faith.
Now though, it was time for Kester’s most important and crucial first step. Choosing a sidekick. It is a well-known fact that all great detectives have a great sidekick beside them, superheroes too. It would be a grave error to underestimate the importance of a sidekick. And so, Kester had come to the Student Union Bar, situated on campus and near to his halls of residence to suss out the potential. He had three people already in mind whom he had met earlier that day during University registration.
Claude Faulkner was shorter than him and slightly rounded. He could do with losing a few pounds chasing round after criminals. He seemed to favour wearing rather untrendy looking tweed jumpers, had a pair of large rimmed round glasses and the other students had already marked him out as a bit of a geek. Kester could imagine he was the type that had probably been bullied in school but he was probably intelligent, highly knowledgeable on certain subjects and loyal to those who befriended him.
Sophy Ruskin was probably the prettiest girl Kester had ever seen although he told himself that wasn’t why she was on the shortlist. If she didn’t cut it as a sidekick she could definitely cut it as his girlfriend, should she agree. Pale with striking long black hair, she seemed to dress with the latest trends and was instantly friends with the “in crowd”. She was smart too though, studying English Literature and always carrying a classic tucked under her arm. She knew what she wanted and she knew how to get it.
Then there was Ren Takahashi. Japanese. This was his first time in England on some kind of placement studying History. He was obviously clever, a bonus point for any potential sidekick. He was quiet too, didn’t seem to do much talking. That was a good thing. Kester could do the talking, after all. The thing that really swung in his favour though, was his expert knowledge of judo. He was a black belt. That’d definitely be handy in a sticky situation, and Kester fully expected to get into many of those during his upcoming detective career.
He cradled his whiskey and soda, regarding the three of them thoughtfully from his position at the bar, trying to decide which one to approach.
Kester knocked back the rest of his whiskey and soda, giving himself the extra courage needed to approach and hire his new sidekick. Then he stood up from the bar and hesitantly approached the table where Sophy Ruskin was sat chatting with two other female friends. She seemed as though she was only half listening to their conversation and Kester got the impression he’d actually be rescuing her from the boredom of the two fashionistas talking about the “fit” boys they fancied on campus.
“Excuse me,” he cleared his throat in a loud exaggerated fashion. “It’s Sophy, right?”
“Er, yes,” she looked up at him, surprised that he knew her name. He wasn’t normally very good with names but he’d made an effort to memorize hers.
“I wondered if I could have a quick word…in private.” He looked at the girls pointedly.
Sophy smirked and got to her feet, walking towards the bar and ordering herself another drink, her eyes beckoning Kester to follow. He did so.
“You may have heard of me,” he introduced himself with an air of authority.
“My name is Kester Norwood and I’m a private detective. The best in London.”
“I seriously doubt that,” Sophy gave him a skeptical look. “Most arrogant in London, more like.”
“The thing is,” he continued, completely ignoring her previous statement. “I need a sidekick and I was wondering if – ”
His question was interrupted by the sudden crash of broken glass from across the other side of the bar, followed by an angry shout and the scuffling of feet. Two male students were squaring up to each other, ready for a fight. A punch was thrown and one of them went sprawling across a table, drinks flying everywhere. Then his mate got involved, two of them beginning to lay kicks and punches into the poor chap now lying huddled up on the floor.
Kester and Sophy just gaped in amazement, like the rest of the students, nobody quite knowing how to react.
“We’ve got to do something!” Sophy said finally, erupting into life and grabbing Kester by the arm.
Sophy pushed Kester towards the two men, who were now laying into their poor victim on the floor, attempting to defend himself by curling up into a ball as they kicked him in the ribs rather ruthlessly.
“Go on!” She urged, looking horrified that he was just stood there doing nothing.
“Me?!” Kester’s eyes widened.
“Yes!” she snapped impatiently. “You’re supposed to be some great detective, aren’t you? At least, that’s the chat up line you were trying to spin me thirty seconds ago. Surely you can fight?”
“Of course I can fight,” he rolled his eyes. He couldn’t. In truth, Kester had never had a fight in his life. He wouldn’t even know where to begin. That was why he needed a sidekick, for God’s sake. To take care of the heavy work whilst he did the thinking. He was the brains of the outfit, after all. “Can’t you do it?” He glanced at her, a little terrified.
“No!” She gave him another shove. “You’re the detective. You stop the fight, and maybe, just maybe, I might consider being your “sidekick”. Although we’re changing the name sidekick right away. Partner is more like it.”
“Partner in crime?”
“Partner in solving crime. Now go!”
“Right. Right.” He cracked his knuckles, lumbering up like a boxer ready to step into the ring. He could do this. He could do this. How hard could it be.
Approaching the two men, he tapped one of them on the back politely.
The guy had a quick look over his shoulder, then completely ignored him.
“Excuse me!” He said a little louder.
Finally, he stopped what he was doing and turned round. “What?” He snarled. He was quite a scary looking bloke, when it came down to it. Looked a bit too old to be a student. Tall. Muscles. A very short hair cut. Tattoo showing on the lower part of his neck.
“I think…I think you should stop,” said Kester hesitantly.
The man smirked, then gave a little chuckle. “Oh, you do, do you?”
“Yes. Yes, I do,” he nodded, more confident that the conversation was going well, especially since it had caused his mate to stop kicking the guy on the floor. Now they were both looking at him and he had their full attention, although they were sneering rather too much for his liking.
“You hear that, Pete? He thinks we should stop.”
“Oh yeah, yeah I heard,” Pete replied with a snigger. “And I suppose you’re gonna make us, are you? Tough guy.”
Kester looked back over his shoulder at Sophy. She nodded, egging him on. He made a fist with his right hand, keeping his arm by his side.
“Yes,” he answered calmly. “My name is Kester Norwood and I am a great detective and if you don’t stop kicking that man I shall punch you in the face.”
The two men started to laugh.
“Why are you even kicking him anyway, may I ask?”
“Why?” said Pete. “Because he’s a queer, that’s why. And he was hitting on me. Or trying to.”
Kester swallowed, looking down at the floor and thinking about it for a second, starting to feel quite angry. It always annoyed him when people were prejudiced against others for no good reason.
Finally, he answered, “Well that’s just…that’s just…stupid.” And before he could change his mind, he swung his fist out and chinned Pete’s mate with a mean right hook he didn’t even know he had in him. He fell to the floor like a sack of potatoes. Kester staggered backwards, amazed by his own ability. It was the first time he’d ever punched anyone and it had actually gone alright.
Apparently, the first move was all that was needed for other people in the bar to wade in and get involved. As Pete’s mate was struggling up to his feet, he and Pete were forcibly removed from the pub by the barman and several other students.
Kester offered out his hand to the young man on the floor and helped him up.
“Thanks,” he grinned, wiping some blood from his bottom lip. “I wasn’t trying to chat him up, I don’t know where he got that from at all.” He gave a little laugh. “My name’s Darius, by the way.”
“Nice to meet you, Darius,” Kester smiled back, shaking his hand properly.
“Did I hear you say you were a detective?”
“Yes, yes I am,” he said proudly.
“Well actually, I might have a case for you. It’s only a little one. Probably won’t interest you.”
“Oh yes?” Kester replied with a casual raise of his left eyebrow, trying not to be too overly keen.
“Yeah. Um…maybe we could talk about it somewhere more private? We could go back to my halls?”
“Darius…” said Kester with a little smile. “That sounds…absolutely excellent. If you have a case for me, I will certainly look into it for you. No case is too big or too small for the great Kester Norwood.”
Darius gave him a slightly weird look, then shrugged his shoulders and nodded.
“Alright then,” he agreed, standing up and rubbing his side gingerly where he’d been kicked. “Let’s go. I wouldn’t mind patching up these cuts too…think my rib might be broken.”
“Ooh, broken ribs can be bad,” Kester gave him a sympathetic frown.
“You ever had one?” Darius asked as the pair of them began to walk away from the bar together and towards the door.
“Er no…but I’ve read about it in books and on the internet,” replied the young detective confidently. That was all the knowledge he needed at this stage, and would hopefully ever need to know. He didn’t fancy getting a broken rib anytime soon.
“Er…excuse me a minute!” came a rather annoyed sounding female voice just over Kester’s shoulder.
He turned round to find Sophy glaring at him. “Just where the hell do you think you’re going?” she demanded.
“Oh. I’m just going with Darius to check out this new case,” he explained casually with a confused expression. He didn’t think he had to relay everything back to her all of a sudden. It’s not as if they were dating or anything. Thankfully. Obviously, she was dating material, but she was kind of pushy for a girl.
“Oh, oh, you’re just going with Darius to check out this new case,” she repeated his statement, an action Kester felt was wholly unnecessary and quite illogical. Always best to adopt a logical approach in every situation. That was what he’d learned over his years of independent detective study. “What about me?” she continued. “I thought I was supposed to be your sidekick, I mean…assistant, partner, WHATEVER.”
“Right yeah. Well, you are,” Kester frowned. “I mean at least, I think you are. You never actually said yes, you just said that you’d consider it if I could fight and I think I proved to everyone that I’m more than handy in a fight so – “
“You know what…just go,” she interrupted him with a wave of her hand. “I’m gonna have a drink.”
“Right,” nodded Kester. “Good idea, sidekick. You keep your eyes out here. If any bad stuff goes down, text me.” And with that he made a swift and extremely cool (or so he imagined), exit.
“I don’t even have your number, dimwit!” Sophy shouted after him, but it was too late by then. He was already wandering off down the road with Darius.
Ten minutes later they were sat in his small room at the Halls of Residence where the young black man with the South London accent and the sparkling white perfect teeth was explaining the ‘case’ to an increasingly bemused looking Kester.
“There’s this girl, y’see,” he began. “She’s older than me. A third year, I think. Anyways, she started hitting on me. Really proper coming on to me, y’know. But the thing is, Kester mate…I think she already has a boyfriend.”
“I see,” Kester shifted his weight around on Darius’ bouncy mattress that they were both awkwardly sat on, trying to get comfortable and thinking of a way to best let him down gently. “The thing is…Darius…I’m not a matchmaking service. If you want to get with this girl and she’s – “
“Oh no, no,” he shook his head fervently. “I’m not interested in her in the slightest. Not my type. The reason I’m saying this is…well…for a start off…I’ve seen this girl with someone else, yeah, so I know she’s cheating. And I don’t like that. I don’t think people should cheat on each other. It’s not right. And – “
“That’s very kind of you, Darius,” interrupted Kester. “Very noble and er…honorable and all that but – “
“She’s dating your brother, mate.”
“Your brother. That’s who she’s cheating on,” Darius explained. “I heard him say something about you like…’my idiot baby brother thinks he’s some kind of detective’…you know, or something like that anyway. So, I just thought, y’know, if you’re looking for a first case, you could always expose your brother’s girlfriend for cheating. Maybe then he might like you better.”
Kester cleared his throat, thinking about it for a moment.
“First of all,” he said eventually. “I’d like to point out that I couldn’t give a damn what my brother thought of me.” He adjusted the trilby on his head somewhat elegantly. “Having got that off my chest, I’d like to thank you for bringing the case to my attention.”
“Eh, no problemo,” Darius shrugged. “You did a favor for me so…only fair I do a favour for you.” He walked over to the desk and lifted up his shirt, examining the injuries to his ribs with a wince.
Kester felt a bit sick. He couldn’t stand the sight of blood.
“I’d uh…I’d better get going,” he announced, getting to his feet. “I need to get back to the bar and discuss this case further with my sidek-I mean…assistant.”
With a final handshake and a goodbye, Kester left Darius alone to patch up his wounds and made his way through campus and back to the pub.
The warm, welcoming yellow lights were in sight and the sounds of students chatting and drinking and enjoying themselves already reaching his ears when –
A piercing scream filled the air.
Kester froze, terrified for a moment. It sounded like a woman’s, but he couldn’t be too sure. And it was definitely coming from the direction of the bar. Listening again, he realized that everyone had stopped talking inside and a strange hush had descended.
He was only a few meters away by now so raced on ahead and burst through the doors. Several people turned to look at him, Sophy included. She hadn’t moved from her position at the bar and she jumped off the stool, grabbing him by the arm.
“You missed all the action,” she hissed, an excited gleam in her eyes.
“Who was that screaming?”
“Mrs. Thorborn,” she answered. Kester was none the wiser and his blank look obviously betrayed him. “Mr. Thorborn’s wife?”
“Yeah, I gathered that much, Sophy,” he rolled his eyes at her.
“Timothy and Felicity Thorborn. They’re the people who run this pub.”
She pointed to the other side of the bar where the scruffy, tall man with short sandy blonde hair was furiously counting through notes of money from the cash register. His wife, Felicity, the one who had let out the scream, was much shorter than him, shorter than most of the people in the pub in fact. Plump and round, with a grumpy face, she was currently cradling what looked like a dead cat in her arms.
“A dead cat? Yeah,” Sophy confirmed with a nod. “That was why she screamed.”
Kester’s eyes widened, wondering what the hell had gone on.
“They’ve….they’ve murdered Brandy too,” Felicity stammered, sounding angry and upset at the same time.
“A murderer and a thief,” Timothy confirmed in an annoyed growl.
“Thief?” Kester looked at Sophy questioningly.
“Yeah, that happened whilst you were out,” she explained. “Timothy noticed there was some money missing. He’s been counting it ever since. It’s definitely gone though. He said it was there earlier this evening so one of the students who was in tonight must have stolen it.”
“Wow,” Kester couldn’t help grinning slightly. “This is exciting right? A real case! Our first case.”
“Our? So…is this an official invitation then?” She raised her eyebrow at him.
“Oh um, yes. Yes it is,” he confirmed, then stood up straight to address her properly. “Sophy. Would you…would you care to be my assistant?”
She frowned, cocking her head to one side as if pretending to consider it. Kester even thought she might say no. But then she slowly held out her hand.
“Put it there, partner.”
Kester gave a small laugh, took her hand and shook it enthusiastically. He hadn’t even had chance to mention the other “case” Darius had told him about yet, but that was of little importance now this new and infinitely more exciting adventure had been placed in their path. His career as a detective was finally taking off.
“Let me handle this,” Kester gave a sideways glance to Sophy and a slight, confident nod of his head, attempting to assure her that everything was under complete control here and there was nothing to worry about.
She merely sighed and folded her arms, taking a couple of steps forward along with him as he approached the bar and leaned across against it, reaching over to tap Timothy on the arm.
“Er, excuse me? Mr Thorburn?”
The man looked up. It was probably the third time he’d counted the money whilst
Kester had been there. It wasn’t going to just magically appear.
“What?” He snapped.
“I don’t think we’ve properly met yet, but my name’s Kester Norwood and I’m a private detective, by profession. Now, if you and your wife were agreeable, I would be very happy to take the case on and look into it further. I can assure you most whole heartedly that I will definitely find out who took your money and murdered your cat.”
It was a bold proposal seeing as Kester didn’t really even know where to start. Timothy raised a skeptical eyebrow in his direction, although Kester could tell he was definitely quietly impressed by his little speech and had faith in his abilities as a detective.
“Well,” he shrugged. “If you really think you can help…s’pose there’s no harm in it.”
“Shouldn’t we just call the police?” Felicity looked at him strangely.
“No, no, no,” Kester quickly interrupted. “The police will take ages to get here. By that time the murderer will have made his escape. I’m here now. I can find him, right now.”
“And me,” Sophy butted in, feeling like Kester was taking all the glory for himself already. “I’m his partner. Partner in solving crime not any other kind of partner.” She hurriedly added the last part just in case they got the wrong end of the stick.
Timothy and his wife consulted with each other for a moment, speaking in hushed tones. Then eventually, Timothy looked up at them again and nodded.
“Alright. You can investigate,” he agreed. “If you’re as good as you say you are, there might be a reward in it for you too.”
“Excellent,” Kester grinned, trying not to look too pleased as he spun round to face his partner. “Sophy. Look the doors. Don’t let anyone in or out.”
Sophy nodded and darted over to the front doors, quite excited about all this now. She locked them as instructed and put a couple of chairs in front for an extra security measure. Kester leapt onto one of them and did a quick head count of everyone in the pub. Eight people in total. Surely it wouldn’t take them too long to interview everyone and find out who did it.
“Thomas!” He shouted over at the landlord. “When did the money go missing? After I left?”
“When did you leave?” Thomas asked.
“Yeah, it was after,” Sophy confirmed, answering the question for him. “And I know what you’re thinking. That it was those two guys who started the fight. Well, it wasn’t them. The money was still there then. It was definitely someone in this room.”
“And nobody left after I did?”
“Nope. You weren’t actually gone that long. Nobody came in either.”
By now, some of the people in the bar were beginning to get a bit annoyed at being locked in. Claude Faulkner, the short bumbling geek, trotted over to the front door with a blustering red faced expression.
“I have a dissertation to finish!” He complained.
“Well, you’re just going to have to finish it here, mate,” replied Sophy smoothly. She tugged at Kester’s sleeve to try and get him down off the chair.
“I think we should get everyone to empty their pockets,” she suggested.
“Empty their pockets?” Kester looked at Sophy, leaving a slightly overdramatic pause before announcing, “that was exactly what I was about to suggest.”
“Yeah right,” she scoffed, disbelieving.
“You’re proving quite a useful assistant, after all. Perhaps you can read my mind,” he smiled at her encouragingly.
“It’s a good job you can’t read mine right now,” she quipped back.
Kester wasn’t sure whether that was an attempt at flirting or not. (It really wasn’t) but he resolved himself to think about that later, once the case was over.
“Alright, I’ve got the loudest voice, I’ll tell everyone.” He waved his arms emphatically as if desperately trying to hail a taxi that was about to drive right past him. “Hey! Hey everyone! If I could just possibly get your attention for a few minutes just to make a quick announcement, it would be most appreciated!”
His polite cries for attention went completely ignored. Sophy rolled her eyes and hoisted herself up onto the chair, having to grab hold of him to squeeze on next to him and not fall off. Kester felt a sudden rush of excitement at her close proximity, the scent from her perfume darting up his nostrils.
“EVERYBODY SHUT THE HELL UP!” she yelled, deafening Kester and silencing the bar entirely. He was impressed and stared at her open mouthed for a moment. Within seconds everyone was looking at each other and listening to what she had to say. “As you’re all aware, some money has gone missing. We need everyone to empty out their pockets onto the table so we can come and search through the contents.”
There was a general grumble of assent as people reluctantly or readily removed the contents of their pockets and made little heaps of money and wallets and mobile phones and dirty tissues on the small round bar tables.
“Nice work,” said Kester quietly, smiling at her.
She smiled back and agilely leapt off the chair. “No problem,” she shrugged, immediately beginning the walk round to search for the missing money.
Kester took the opposite direction and strolled round the other side of the pub, rifling through the other student’s possessions with as much decorum as he could manage. He was secretly hoping he would be the one to find the money so that Sophy didn’t take all the glory. She seemed a little bit too good for his liking sometimes. He was supposed to be the brains of the outfit after all.
So when he met her back near the barricaded door and discovered she hadn’t found the missing cash amongst the student’s items he was as pleased as he was baffled.
“But…if you didn’t find it…and I didn’t find it…where is it?”
“Ahh, good question, detective,” she said sarcastically before launching into, “I was thinking that they probably – “
He put a hand up to silence her.
“Sorry to interrupt,” he apologized. “But I really need to think of this on my own. You came up with the first excellent idea, it’s my turn now.”
“Alright,” she shrugged. “Fair enough.”
He frowned, thinking about it hard for a moment whilst Sophy gave him some silence, just watching him with a slightly amused expression on her face.
“Got it!” he yelped eventually, his body jolting with excitement. “They must have hidden it somewhere.”
“Well done. It only took you five hours,” she replied, even heavier on the sarcasm than her previous efforts at humor.
“I think we should look – “
He held his hand up again. She sighed. “Go on then, detective. Where do you think we should look?” she asked, indulging him.
Kester fell into silent thought, slumping into one of the chairs by the door whilst he considered it, Sophy standing over him waiting impatiently.
“The toilets!” He cried eventually, raising a finger in the air. “We should look in the toilets.”
“Why the toilets?” Sophy asked him, genuinely interested to hear his opinion. It had been her first idea too so they were obviously on the same page somewhere.
“Well, we know they’ve hidden the money somewhere,” he explained. “And anyone could have gone to the toilets without arising suspicion, whereas if they’d done something weird like start taking up the floorboards, someone might have noticed.”
“Exactly!” Sophy grinned. “I completely agree. You take the guys, I’ll take the girls.”
“Oh, I was going to suggest I take the girls and you take the guys,” Kester waggled his eyebrows up and down. He was only joking of course, but he wouldn’t have said no.
She rolled her eyes and thumped him on the arm, making her way to the girls’ toilets to begin the search. He followed her down the narrow corridor and turned right into the gents, emerging five minutes later empty handed. Sophy was too.
“Nothing?” He asked her, exasperated.
“Nothing,” she shrugged.
He frowned, thinking for a moment, his eye line coincidentally settling on the door to the disabled toilet. “Of course!” He dived towards it, Sophy hot on his heels, the two of them searching together.
“This makes much more sense,” she remarked. “Whoever it was could hide it in here without us knowing whether they were male or female.”
Kester was only half listening, on his hands and knees searching through the waste bin, an unpleasant but necessary job that he had assigned to himself. His patience and determination was soon paid off when he triumphantly produced a handful of notes rolled up and fastened with an elastic band.
“Got it!” He yelled and jumped up.
“Brilliant, Kester!” caught up in the excitement of the moment, Sophy threw her arms round him and gave him a hug. “Come on, let’s go give it back. Now all we have to do is work out who took it.”
“And who killed the cat,” Kester chimed in.
“And why,” she added.
“Thanks a bunch, mate,” Timothy said genuinely, shaking Kester’s hand and grinning as he began to replace the lost money back in the till. There was a general murmur of amazement spreading round the pub as word was passed of Kester and Sophy’s first success. They’d found the money.
“How many people went to the toilet in the past hour?” Kester shouted.
Everyone stayed silent, no one wanting to admit it in case they were accused of the crime. “Well someone must have!” He continued, impatiently.
“I’ve got a better idea,” Sophy mumbled, then spoke up to the crowd. “Who in here’s studying a medical degree, either veterinary or ordinary?”
“What for?” Kester whispered.
“So we can find out what killed the cat…”
One person raised her hand, a girl in the corner sat with two guys.
“Excellent!” Sophy strode towards her. “Let’s go and take a look at this cat, shall we…Kester, you coming?”
“Actually,” said Kester, nodding seriously. “I think I’d better stay here. What if someone tries to escape whilst we’re doing this…cat autopsy or whatever it is we’re doing?”
Sophy looked at him as if she was actually quite surprised he’d come up with something intelligent to say for once.
“That’s a pretty good idea,” she replied. “Nice one, detective.”
With that, she flashed him an almost flirtatious toothy grin and disappeared out the back in the direction of the toilets.
Flirtatious? Was it really? Kester paused for a moment to analyze it. Certainly seemed that way to him. Maybe she was starting to develop a crush on him. It was difficult for him to understand how women could resist his rugged good looks and manly charms in the first place, so discovering that Sophy had a crush on him, or at least maybe had a crush on him, was no great revelation.
“And just how long do you intend to drag this out for, Mister Detective?” came a voice from his left hand side, breaking him out of his rather pleasant daydream.
He turned to look. It was Ren Takahashi, the judo expert he had considered for his sidekick.
“Until we catch whoever did it,” Kester answered. Surely that was obvious. “Do you have somewhere you need to be?”
“I am tired of staying in this ridiculous pub.”
“If it’s ridiculous, what were you doing here in the first place?”
“I only came to see Annie,” Ren replied with a little knowing smirk.
“Who’s Annie?” Kester was none the wiser.
The short, wily Japanese student winked at him and pointed across the bar to a rather stunningly attractive girl sat on her own nursing a drink. As they stared over at her, she noticed and gave them both a teasing wave. Now THAT was flirting. He was starting to wonder whether he’d been getting the wrong end of the stick with Sophy.
“Wow. Is she your girlfriend?” Kester asked, impressed.
“She could be. If I buy her enough vodka and cranberries. This is what I’ve been told. She’s easy.”
The detective rolled his eyes. “That’s ridiculous. So, you’re just going to buy her drinks in the hope that she’ll sleep with you? Nobody’s that easy.”
“I’ve been told,” Ren repeated.
“This guy, Oscar. He’s a third year. She is too.”
“Ren, you’re not going to get with a third year on your first month at Uni. It’s just not going to happen mate,” Kester assured his fellow student with some certainty. He wouldn’t even try. “And anyway, if you’re so busy trying to get off with her, why do you want to leave the pub?”
“So I can take her somewhere more private, obviously.”
“Well, I promise we’ll be as quick as we can,” Kester assured him. “Listen, you didn’t see anyone going to the toilet whilst I was gone did you? Anyone looking suspicious, a bit shifty?”
Ren thought about it for a moment, cocking his head to one side.
“There was someone….”
Kester looked hopeful.
“The fat one. He went to the toilet.”
Ren nodded. “And the landlord and lady. They were back and forth to toilet also. Or back room.”
“Yeah, there’s the store room back there too, I think,” Kester sighed, trying to think. “Anyone else?”
“I don’t think so,” Ren frowned. “Cannot be sure. You should continue your interviews,” the martial artist recommended. “They might get you somewhere.”
“I think I’ll start with your little girlfriend in the corner,” Kester smirked.
Ren put a hand on his chest to stop him. “She’s mine, remember? No chatting her up.”
“I’m not going to chat her up,” he rolled his eyes. “Just want to ask her a few questions, that’s all.”
“She’s been with me the whole night. She hasn’t stolen any money or murdered any cats.”
“I have to speak to everyone, Ren. Just to eliminate them from the inquiry.”
He crossed the room and approached the girl. In reality, it was actually quite logical that he should approach her, seeing as she was the first person he would pass if he chose to walk round the room in a clockwise direction. It all seemed perfectly natural.
He tipped his trilby hat dramatically and bowed his head. “Good evening, Miss. May I take a seat?”
“Free country, isn’t it?” She shrugged and took a large swig of her foul colored drink. The glass was almost empty. She glanced over towards Ren who was lingering by the bar watching them and looking anxious. “Is he getting me another, or what?”
“Er, I think so yes,” Kester answered distractedly, trying to focus. “You’re Annie, I believe.”
“And you’re friends with…um….” He tried to remember the other name Ren had given him. “Kosta?”
She scrunched up her nose. “Who the hell’s Kosta? You mean Oscar?”
“Oscar, yes! That’s it. Is he here tonight?” He looked round the rest of the pub, glancing at the faces.
“Oscar!” She yelled at someone on the other side of the bar, waving her arm. He got up from where he was talking with one of his friends and wandered over, bringing his pint with him.
“What is it?” he asked, hooking back his scruffy long hair over his ears.
“The detective wanted to meet you.”
“I’m just trying to establish some facts,” Kester explained. “You two are – ”
“You know you’re even weirder than your brother said,” she smirked and knocked back the rest of the drink almost slamming the glass down on the table. She was quite drunk. “Ren! Another!”
Kester stood there aghast for a moment, everything processing in his brain. Of course! This was the girl Darius had told him about. His brother’s girlfriend. The girl who was cheating on him. Suddenly, it all made sense and he felt quite secretly proud of himself knowing he had solved his first case, or at least, that first little mystery Darius had given him to ponder over. He had uncovered Annie’s cheating, and what’s more she seemed to even be proud of the fact. She wasn’t even trying to hide it or deny that she was dating Brogan, his brother.
“Yep, I’m his girlfriend,” she confirmed, responding to his obviously shocked expression.
“And I’m his mate,” said Oscar. “Your brother’s a dick, by the way.”
“Yeah, yeah I know,” Kester sighed.
“Don’t tell him I said that though.” Oscar was suddenly grabbing his jacket collar, as if quite nervous. “Don’t say anything, he’ll kill me.”
“Alright, alright, I won’t.” Out the corner of Kester’s eye, he saw Sophy and the other girl returning with smiles on their faces, looking rather triumphant. He brushed Oscar’s hand away and quickly moved over towards her.
“What is it?” he asked. “What did you find out?”
“The cat,” Sophy announced. “It’s not actually dead. Just sleeping. It’s been given a heavy sedative.”
A general murmur went round the pub as people took this new information on board.
“Why would anyone do that, though?” Kester asked.
“To get the cat out the way whilst they did something else,” suggested Sophy with a shrug. “To cause a distraction so everyone thought the cat was dead so they could DO something else. You noticed anyone acting suspicious around here?”
“I’m suspicious of everyone and everything.”
“That’s useful.” She sighed.
“But listen, Sophy…how could Felicity not notice that the cat was alive? I mean…surely it would still have been warm…still breathing, however shallow the breathing actually was?”
“That’s a really good question, Kester,” Sophy smiled. “I was hoping you were going to ask that. Maybe we should ask her?”
“Yeah, I think we should ask her,” Kester agreed with a nod. “Something’s definitely not right here. My natural detective senses can sense it.”
“Eloquently put,” quipped Sophy with a small roll of her eyes and a little smile.
“I’m Megan, by the way,” the unknown medical student introduced herself, holding out her hand. Kester gratefully took it. “Megan Sharma.”
“Very good to meet you, Megan Sharma,” he simply oozed charm as he spoke, or so he thought. Megan was sweet looking with pretty, deep brown eyes. Definitely girlfriend material, if he wasn’t already practically hooked up with Sophy. Yeah, things were definitely going well between them, he thought to himself, not bad for a first date.
“Your knowledge of cat anatomy has been invaluable,” he complimented.
“Actually, it’s my knowledge of sedatives, more than anything,” she shrugged, then added with a wry smile. “And I should be pretty good at those seeing as my mother was on them for God knows how long. Still is, probably.”
“Ah…well…” Kester didn’t quite know what to say to that. He was never very good at dealing with other people’s personal problems. Perhaps one of the reasons he never thought to become a doctor himself, or indeed anything that involved having to actually be nice to people and listen to the whinge about their lives. He was definitely selfish in that way. But he didn’t particularly care. He’d made enough sacrifices in his own life to become such a brilliant detective.
“Shall we…?” Thankfully, Sophy managed to get them out of the slightly awkward silence by leading the way over to the bar and attracting the attention of Felicity, the landlady. That wasn’t a particularly difficult task, due to the fact that the majority of people in the bar were all still staring at them open mouthed at their latest revelation that the apparently murdered cat was actually still alive and breathing.
“I heard what you said,” Felicity spoke up before they’d even had a chance to formulate any questions. “I feel like such a fool.” She frowned and shook her head, perhaps trying to think back to the moment she found her precious pet lying dead. “I think I just freaked out,” she continued. “I saw him there and…just assumed the worst. Maybe if I’d stopped to actually check him, I would have realised.”
“You didn’t notice he felt warm?” Kester asked.
“No,” she answered simply, looking rather baffled by the whole thing. Kester liked to think he was a fairly good judge of character. Although Felicity didn’t seem like the friendliest woman in the bar, and she certainly wasn’t the most good looking by a long stretch of the imagination, he was quite sure she was telling the truth. He believed that she had no knowledge of her cat’s continued existence.
The group of three as they now were, reconvened, shoulders together in a sort of conference style huddle, to discuss their findings.
“So, somebody wanted to make the cat appear dead, because….because….” Sophy was thinking aloud, and getting nowhere.
“Maybe…” Kester spoke up, then hesitated.
“Go on…” Megan encouraged him.
“Maybe they wanted everyone to be fussing over the cat temporarily, so that they had chance to sneak off and hide the stolen money in the toilets?”
“Brilliant!” Sophy cried, clapping Kester on the back with a grin.
“Really?” He gave her a surprised glance.
“Yes, really. That sounds like an excellent theory.”
Feeling on a roll, Kester spun round and ran over to Ren. The Japanese first year had gone back to chatting with Oscar and Annie, the three of them sat down at a table near the door.
“Ren!” He caught his attention, Sophy and Megan catching up just behind him. “You said that Claude Faulkner went to the toilet….was that before, or after the cat was found apparently dead?”
Ren thought about it for a moment.
“It was before,” he answered finally. “He came rushing back in when he heard the scream.”
“You’re sure on that point?” Kester asked him seriously.
“Definitely,” replied Annie. “I was with him too. I remember seeing Claude come back.”
“Perfect, thank you,” grinned Kester and turned back to his two companions. “That rules Claude out, as far as I’m concerned. Now, we need to think about who would have access to the kind of medicine that would be used to knock out a cat.”
“You’re actually not bad at this, you know,” Sophy leaned over and whispered quietly in his ear, giving him a small wink as she pulled away.
Kester felt his cheeks heating up, the compliment embarrassing and pleasing him at the same time.
“What about someone like you, Megan?” he cleared his throat and quickly recovered, not wanting to spoil the fact that he was impressing his new sidekick. “Someone studying a medical degree?”
“Mmm…difficult to say,” she shrugged. “The kind of sedatives that would knock out a human would probably kill a cat. So, you’d be better off looking for someone studying Veterinary Medicine, or someone with access to those kind of drugs.”
“How can we find out?” Sophy asked.
“I wonder if anyone else was spotted going to the toilet,” Kester mused out loud
“The only person I saw going out there was the landlord,” Ren shrugged in answer to Kester’s musings about who else was spotted going to the bathrooms during the incident. “Probably to the store room to get more beer or something.”
“I’ve got an idea,” Sophy nudged Kester’s arm. “Megan said we need to ask who’s doing a Vet Medicine degree, right? So…let’s ask them. Let’s get everyone to write down what they’re studying.”
“Excellent!” Kester cried in excitement, leaping towards the bar. “Timothy!” He attracted the attention of the landlord. “Could you give us some sheets of paper please and some pens?”
“Um…yeah. Sure,” Timothy shrugged and printed off some blank receipts for them, fishing out a handful of pens from a pot underneath the counter, passing them over.
“Here we go, guys,” Kester handed them out to Sophy, then the two of them walked round the bar, giving them to all the students and requesting they write their names and degrees down. It was a fairly quick process and within five minutes they were huddled in a corner collating the results.
“Nothing,” Sophy sighed disappointedly. “None of them are studying veterinary medicine, or even medicine.”
Kester rubbed his eyes, thinking. “What about Felicity and Timothy?” he suggested half heartedly. “We haven’t asked them.”
Sophy stared at him. “But…they were the ones who…the ones who reported the crimes in the first place. Timothy had his money stolen and Felicity had her cat…put to sleep.”
“We have to consider everyone in here as suspects,” said Kester calmly. “So…we should ask.”
“Alright,” she shrugged. “You’re the detective. Let’s ask. You do realise that someone could be lying, right?”
“Except, they don’t know why we asked them.”
“If they’re smart enough to pull this off, they’re smart enough to work out why we’re asking.”
“Mm, fair point,” Kester had to admit. “Still though. No harm in asking, I suppose.”
He approached the bar with a friendly smile, trying to appear casual. “So…did you guys go to Uni?”
“Huh. No,” Felicity scoffed, folding her arms. “Always wished I had though.”
“Really? Why didn’t you?” Kester didn’t particularly care about the reasons why. He was merely attempting to make casual conversation in order to get round to the point.
“Couldn’t afford it.”
“I did,” Timothy perked up. “I went here.”
“Oh really? That’s cool,” Kester grinned. “What did you study?” He felt like he was doing a fairly good job at being normal.
“Medicine,” he answered.
Kester tried not to look too excited by this and didn’t jump in immediately to ask him what field of medicine. Sophy did that for him.
“Any particular area of medicine?” came her voice from behind, sidling up next to him and leaning on the bar.
Timothy rolled up the sleeves of his shirt and began to wash up some dirty pint glasses in the sink. Kester couldn’t help but notice the tattoo on his forearm and things began to fall into place in his mind, using all his best detective knowledge to formulate a theory.
“Not when I was here,” he explained. “But then I signed up for the army. It was my dad that wanted me to join, I was never really that into it. I didn’t particularly want to fight or go on the front line. Ended up in the RAVC.”
Kester and Sophy glanced at each other with blank expressions.
“What does that stand for?” Sophy asked.
“Royal Army Veterinary Corps.”
“I’ve got it!” Kester yelled, thumping the air with his fist so enthusiastically and loudly that he soon had the attention of everyone in the bar.
“Got what?” Timothy was looking at him, confused.
“I’ve done it!” he continued. “I’ve solved the case.”
“Really?” the landlord seemed sceptical. He rolled his shoulders, eyes darting between Kester and Sophy.
“Allow me to explain,” Kester said, dramatically touching the brim of his trilby with his little finger. “I can tell by the tattoos of dice and cards on your left forearm that you’re a gambler and have been for a long time. So, you’ve got yourself into a bit of debt, perhaps with some bad people you’d rather not owe money to. This calls for drastic measures. Using your knowledge of animal medicine which you acquired through your course and through training with the Veterinary Corps, you administered sleeping tablets to your wife’s cat, then took the money from the till using the confusion that followed her discovery of the animal to slip to the toilets and secrete the cash there, knowing you’d be able to return and collect it later. And that was why you didn’t want to call the police. Because you thought we were a pair of hapless detectives who would never actually manage to solve this little mystery. Well, I’m sorry Mr Thorburn, but we did solve it, and now I am going to have to call the police, because you’re under arrest.”
Timothy Thorburn was staring at Kester open mouthed and aghast. His wife Felicity was glaring at him.
“T-Timothy,” she stammered. “Is this…true?”
He swallowed heavily. Everyone in the pub was looking now, wanting to know if Kester had got it right. He tugged down his sleeves again and shamefully hid his tattoo, hanging his head and staring down at the floor.
“Yes,” he sighed. “Every word of it.”
“I’ll call the police,” volunteered Megan Sharma, getting out her mobile phone as others gathered round Kester and Sophy, clapping them both on the back and congratulating them.
It was all a haze of praise that Kester found difficult to take in, still reeling from the fact that he’d actually managed to do it. He could hardly believe it himself, but he’d never felt so pleased and so proud in all his life.
“That was brilliant, mate”, “Well done,” “You really are a good detective,” “Great work”
But it was Sophy’s praise that meant more to him than any other as she turned to him with a big gleaming smile on her face.
“You know what, Kester Norwood,” she said. “I’d actually be rather proud to be your sidekick.”
Then, quite unexpectedly, she leaned up and kissed him on the cheek. “Maybe we could discuss it further over a drink?” she suggested, and winked.
Kester felt his cheeks flushing a deep shade of red as he realized he’d won the jackpot. He’d solved the case AND got the girl.
“That would be great,” he replied, nodding repeatedly. His future career as a detective was looking bright indeed.
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