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Happy Families

chapter 9.

Envy was indeed his father's son. Like Hohenheim, he conducted himself with coolness and self-restraint even in the face of obvious grief. Roy approved of this, but somehow found it hard to pity him.

"My mother was not an easy woman to understand," Envy said. Something in the set of his mouth and shoulders suggested that pity would be unwelcome. "Her forthright manner of doing things may have angered people on occasion, but she never meant harm. I demand that you find whoever is responsible for this and bring them to justice."

"We intend to do all we can," Farman assured him crisply. "Now, if we could ask you a few questions?"

Envy's version of the events leading to his and Dante's presence in the Elric household tallied exactly with Hohenheim's. "Hohenheim wanted me to continue onto University, but Mother insisted I take a job in the private sector. About that time I saw that Father was advertising for a secretary and I applied." He added with just a trace of his former smug smile, "I was probably not the most qualified candidate for the position."

"It was your idea and not Dante's?"

"Yes. At that time they'd quarrelled. I'm not clear on the details, but the only contact I had with Father was through letters, and even that Mother wasn't keen on. I didn't tell her about the job until the contract was signed. She wasn't pleased, but she quickly saw the advantages."

"She did not approve of you having contact with your Father then?" Farman hovered avidly over his notebook.

"It wasn't Hohenheim she minded—she was very happy for me to spend time with him. Trisha though—Trisha was the kind of woman my mother despised most. She wasn't ambitious, or socially active in the slightest. Her entire world consisted of her sons and husband. My mother had worked hard to be treated as the equal of a man. She feared the effect that association with Trisha would have on my outlook," Envy explained placidly.

"And that was enough of a reason to keep you from your Father?" If Roy hadn't already thought that Dante's priorities were somewhat askew, that alone would have done it.

"She was only acting in my best interests," Envy insisted. "Everything she did, she had me in mind."

Frankly, Roy disagreed, but it would have been cruel to dissuade the young man. "She wanted to see you Master of this house, did she not?"

Quickly masked surprise flittered across Envy's face as he replied, "How do you know that?"

Smart move, Roy congratulated himself. He couldn't exactly say he was hiding in a closet outside Dante's room at the time. "I caught a snatch of conversation as I was retiring last night. You and your mother were discussing Edward's treatment, I believe?"

Farman consulted his notebook.. "You didn't mention that you'd seen your Mother after dinner last night."

"I didn't think it was important," Envy shrugged. "Before going to bed I stopped by her room. I wanted to ask her about the trip to London. I was surprised—this was the first I'd heard about it."

"Your mother usually confided her plans in you?"

"Mostly." Roy had the very strong impression that Envy was not happy with the turn of the conversation. "I wasn't really very interested in her social committees, but I knew the main outlines of what she was doing, and she sometimes dictated letters to me. I had no inkling that she'd been in correspondence with a doctor of Gran's reputation, and that surprised me." His voice sounded faintly wounded as he continued. "You'd think she'd have told me, at least."

"It surprised you then to discover your mother's planned trip to London?" Hughes asked casually. Roy wondered what he was playing at; Hughes had been unusually quiet during this interview.

"I don't think anyone expected it," Envy agreed. "In fact—well, it seemed rather odd to me. Mother liked to talk about her ideas and plans a lot. To bring this out so suddenly—well, it seemed almost—" he hesitated. "Deliberate."

"In what way?" As Envy looked unwilling to continue, Hughes hastened to reassure him. "Our understanding of the deceased will impact greatly our ability to find the party responsible for her death. As you've already stated, your mother was not an easily understood woman. As the person closest to her, it's only natural that you would be better acquainted than any other with her personality and her . . . quirks. We won't judge her, we only want the truth."

Envy nodded, though measuring his words carefully before speaking. "It seemed to me rather like she'd left it until the last minute to ask so that there wouldn't be time to say no. Mother was very definite on getting her way."

That was putting it mildly, Roy thought. "What did you make of her intentions?"

Envy looked plainly uncomfortable. "Well, I really don't know. Of course, she wanted to help Edward but she didn't believe in coddling invalids either. Mother was of the opinion that extreme action was necessary in Edward's case, and it infuriated her that Hohenheim would not be persuaded to send Edward to a clinic or a hospital more suited for him."

"Always a woman of action, wasn't she?" Hughes suggested, silkily. "Do you have any idea why Hohenheim was so reluctant to take her advice?"

Envy answered promptly. "Oh that's no secret. It was Trisha's last request—her last words to him before she died."

That startled Roy. "Her last words? I understood she was found already dead—"

"She was. It happened earlier that afternoon. They'd been arguing over whether or not Edward and Alphonse should go to school, and they parted without making up. Before she left, Trisha asked Father to promise her that whatever happened, Edward and Alphonse would not be parted." Envy paused, a melancholy expression coming over his face. "She was like that."

"A strange request," Hughes said, leaning in curiously. "Did she have reason to think the family might be separated?"

"I'm not really at liberty to say," Envy said softly. "I—it was a difficult time for everyone, and well, Trisha and I hadn't been close for some time." He hesitated, then added, "Mother might have been the cause of that."

"She'd taken a house in the neighbourhood by that stage, hadn't she?" Hughes prodded. "I imagine that might have caused stress—old acquaintances and all."

"Mother didn't exactly make things easy," Envy confessed softly. "She was—well, I suppose it can't hurt to say it now." He looked up at the three men interviewing him squarely. "She was still in love with him," he said. "That was why her marriage failed, why she hated Trisha, why she didn't want me to have much to do with Hohenheim. After all that time, after all that had happened she still—" His voice wobbled slightly "—loved him."

Roy glanced towards Hughes and Farman. The police officer caught his eye and nodded. It would be ungentlemanly to press now.

"Would you like a minute?"

"I'll be all right, I—you know, I think it's only just hit me. She'll never have the chance to achieve her dream, she's dead—" Envy struggled valiantly to calm himself. "I'm sorry, I don't think I can continue."

"We understand. It's all right, you've helped us enough." Farman showed Envy to the door. "If you think of anything else, let us know."

Roy averted his eyes out of tact as Envy left—the young man clearly didn't want a spectacle made of his emotions. He nudged Hughes as the door shut behind the youth. "Who's next on the list?"

"Tucker, then Shezchka, and I'd like a word with Mrs. Curtis," Hughes said. "See if you can round them up for me, Roy?"

"What, am I your man-servant now?" To be honest, the prospect of stretching his legs a bit was not unwelcome. Roy was much more at home making decisions, foiling schemes, getting out in the thick of things. These seemingly endless interviews were growing tiresome.

"If you see Mrs Curtis, try and rustle up some grub," Hughes instructed. "A plate of sandwiches would be fine."

"Could do with a cup of tea myself," Farman agreed. "A biscuit or two wouldn't go amiss either."

Roy eyed them both sourly. "Anything else?"

"See if Marcoh and Hohenheim have had time to see if anything is missing from the lab." Hughes, for all his vaunted observational skills, had a remarkable blind spot to sarcasm directed his way. "And remember I like lemon in my tea, but not too much. Just the slightest hint of it—Roy, I haven't fin—-"

The drawing room was empty; Roy found Lila in the dining room clearing away the last of the lunch dishes.

"I haven't seen Shezchka all day," she said in response to Roy's inquiries. "But I think that Tucker's in his rooms. He said something about taking care of Nina and went upstairs ages ago."

About time the man showed some initiative, Roy thought. "His rooms are near the school room?"

"At the end of the corridor from yours," Lila loaded the last of the dishes onto her tray. "Sandwiches and tea was it? I'll let Mrs Curtis know."

Roy reached out idly to toy with a lock of her hair. "Make sure to mention that Hughes prefers his tea with lots of milk and sugar."

Lila smiled at him, putting a suggestive lilt on the words as she replied. "Milk and sugar, was it?"

Roy smiled, reaching out to cup her chin gently. "Lashings of it," He purred, leaning in.

There was a sudden burst of noise from the garden, and Roy stepped back in haste.

"Alexander! Leave the policeman alone—bad dog!"

"Nina, wait! You're going to get your pinafore dirty!" Alphonse paused as he caught sight of Roy and grinned, abandoning his pursuit of girl and dog to lean in the window. "One of the officers let me ride in the police car! We went all the way to the gate and back! And I got to see real handcuffs!"

"Astounding." Somehow Alphonse's enthusiasm was infectious, and Roy found himself wandering over to the window to reply. "Did you get to try them on?"

"No," Alphonse admitted ruefully. "Although, I have to say they weren't what I expected. I thought handcuffs were, you know, padded."

"Padded?" Roy was baffled. "I've only been arrested once, and I have to say the handcuffs they used on me were definitely not padded."

"How odd," the boy looked momentarily confused then brightened. "Maybe it's because they weren't ladies' handcuffs."

"Ladies . . . ?"

"Alphonse, if someone sees you standing in the flower bed, there will be hell to pay," Lila interposed gently.

"Oh, right. I'd better come inside then."

"Not through the window, you don't! You young man are going to get out of the flower bed, fetch Nina and come around to the back door, and don't even think of coming inside until you've cleaned your shoes, you understand?"

"Yes, Lila." Alphonse answered meekly. He waited until Lila had waltzed out of the dining room with the tray before asking Roy, "Have they finished the interviews yet?"

"We've still got a few to go," Roy told him.

Alphonse brightened hopefully. "Oh, I see. Well, if you need me, I'll probably be in the kitchen or the school room."

"Ah . . . thank you, Alphonse. I'll pass that on." The boy looked so expectant. Somehow Roy couldn't bring himself to say that they weren't going to need to question him. "I should be off, I'm supposed to be fetching Tucker."

Tucker was not in the school room, but in his quarters right next door. He didn't open his door at Roy's knock, but stuck his head around the door, giving the Colonel a glimpse of an untidy room, clothes and papers scattered everywhere.

"I say, Colonel, this is most unexpected," Tucker said with a weak laugh. "What can I do for you?"

"The police have a few questions," Roy informed him. "We'd appreciate it if you could join us shortly."

"Ah—of course," Tucker tugged at his tie. "I'll be right down."

"Thank you," Roy looked down the hall way. "Which room is Shezchka's?"

"Shezchka?"

"Yes, we wish to interview her after you."

"So you're not—ah, of course." It may have been Roy's imagination, but Tucker suddenly seemed a lot more relieved. "Other wing, third on the right."

Like Tucker, Shezcka was slow to open her door, but unlike Tucker, she had an obvious reason for her delay.

"Couldn't find my glasses," she explained, blinking fuzzily at Roy. "Did you want something, Brigadier Hughes?"

She was still in her night clothes, a robe clasped loosely around her. It was too big for her and threatened to slip from her slender shoulders—only the delicate hand clutching the neck of the robe kept it together. Roy was startled to realise that free from the drabness of her customary garments, the researcher had a good figure, and features that were quite appealing.

"I'm not Brigadier Hughes," he pointed out. "Not much of a morning person?"

Shezchka's embarrassment was extreme. "Oh, Colonel, I'm sorry! Without my glasses, I'm just impossible—I'm really sorry!"

"Think nothing of it," Roy assured her. Now that he'd had time to take in the details of her deliciously disheveled appearance, he'd noticed that Shezchka's lips were somewhat bruised and that there were long shadows under her eyes. Clearly, she had not slept well last night, and Roy had a very good idea why.

"I should apologise for disturbing you, but the police want a few words," He explained.

"What—now?" Shezchka was clearly not expecting this. "I can't go downstairs like this!"

"You have some time," Roy reassured her. "We'll be interviewing Tucker first."

"That's lucky. Of course, I'm anxious to help and all, but I don't see what I can tell the police. I mean, I've been resting all morning. I didn't even come down for breakfast."

"Even so, I think the police would be interested in hearing what you call tell them of your work and the family," Roy reassured her. He hesitated then added, "You might want to put a scarf on."

"A scarf?" Shezchka blinked at him, patting her neck absently. Comprehension dawned and she flushed. "Oh! Thank you, Colonel!"

"Not at all. We'll be waiting in the study."

Roy continued downstairs feeling smug. He had the feeling that Hughes would be very interested in this piece of news.


Hughes was.

"You, Roy, are the goods."

Roy permitted himself a smirk. "Naturally. So, any idea who the lucky fellow is?"

"I can't believe it," Farman shook his head. "Shezckha's always given me the impression that she didn't have any interest in men outside of work and books."

"Envy is very good looking," Roy admitted. "And it would explain why Lila is so down on Envy. I can't imagine she'd take being looked over in favour of a bookworm well."

"If Lila had been ditched in favour of Shezchka, I rather fancy there would be rather a lot more venom directed her way—Lila's not one to spare her tongue."

"You may have a point there," Roy conceded, remembering Lila's attack on Envy. Her words about Shezchka in contrast appeared positively benign. "Perhaps Lila didn't know?"

It sounded unlikely even to him.

"Hohenheim and Shezchka would naturally be thrown together a lot in the lab," Hughes speculated carelessly. "It could happen—and I can't imagine Dante being terribly impressed if it did. If she'd got wind of it—"

"So one or both of them killed her? I won't believe it," Farman shook his head.

Roy agreed. "Hohenheim doesn't strike me as one to take to murder to cover up an affair. Much more likely to brazen through it. And I can't think of a less likely murderer than Shezchka."

"What if the fellow had a more pressing reason to cover things up?" Hughes suggested. "A married man?"

"No," Farman said immediately.

"Sieg could have done it," Roy admitted slowly. "He can move very quietly when he wants to." The shaving razor incident was fresh in his mind.

There was a hesitant knock at the door. "Ah, I'm ready for my interview . . ."

Tucker? Roy shared a glance with Hughes and Roy, and all three of them shook their heads. Definitely not Tucker.

The tutor was clearly ill at ease during the entire interview. He stumbled over his account of his history of employment, contradicted himself over his movements of the morning and completely forgot to mention that he'd been near the laboratory at all. When Roy mentioned seeing him in the hallway, he at first denied it, then hastily said that he was looking for a book. he'd misplaced.

"A book?" Farman made a note. "I was under the impression that the laboratory and study were kept locked, and there are no other rooms down that hall way—

"Quite. As soon as I got there, I realised how unlikely it was and turned around."

"I heard a door close," Roy insisted.

"Oh, I may have tried the handle of a door, but I didn't go in." Tucker laughed weakly. "Was there anything further, gentlemen?"

"Just one small detail," Hughes said. "Which door did you try?"

"Door?"

"There are two down that hallway—the laboratory and the study." Hughes leaned in. "Which was it?"

"Ah—the study, of course."

"Was there anyone in the study?"

"I didn't see. I told you, I didn't go in."

Hughes nodded at Farman; that could be easily verified.

"Thank you, Mr. Tucker. That will be all."

"He's lying?" Roy asked

"Certainly looks that way." Hughes nodded. "Of course, we'll have to ask Hohenheim if Tucker came to the study while he was there."

Farman made a note of that. "His manner did not impress me. We'll definitely have to do some research on him."

"Very wise," Hughes said. "All the same—"

"What is it, old bean?"

"Striking Dante down from behind," Hughes said thoughtfully. "She obviously wasn't expecting it. To see a chance, to get her into the laboratory, to calmly walk away afterwards—whoever did it, must have had nerve."

Roy snorted. Tucker did not have nerve, that was certain. "He could have done it in a panic. That would explain why he's gone all to pieces now."

Farman made a note. "He's guilty of something. The question is simply 'of what'."

Shezchka had managed to find her glasses, and her scarf. By the time she joined the men in the study, the researcher was looking much more her typical self. Only the shadows under her eyes betrayed her.

Her account of how she came to be employed by Hohenheim was exactly the same as the one she'd given Roy in the living room the first night of their visit; and she hadn't noticed anything amiss last night.

"Of course, I didn't notice anything this morning. I didn't get out of bed until—well, until Lila informed me there'd been a murder."

Farman coughed delicately. "Is there, uh, anyone who can collaborate that?"

Shezchka turned a rich pink. "I'm afraid not."

"You're sure?"

Shezchka nodded, still blushing. They weren't able to get anything further out of her the rest of the interview.

"Well," said Roy. "That didn't tell us much."

"Here's hoping we have better luck with Mrs. Curtis."

Mrs. Curtis was not in evidence in the hall way, the drawing room or even the dining room. They eventually found her in the kitchen.

"I hope you gentleman will excuse me if I keep on working," she said, peeling potatoes at the sink. "Dinner isn't going to make itself." She was the only one who appeared entirely unruffled by the interview, hair caught back in a casual ponytail, apron neat over her practical brown dress.

"We appreciate that you're busy, of course," Farman said. "We'll try to keep this as brief as possible."

"I first met Hohenheim when I was a student," Mrs. Curtis informed them calmly. "We were at the same University."

"Then you'd have met Dante then as well?"

"Only in passing. Dante and I never had much oppurtunity to meet—I was an under-graduate at that stage. Not a very promising student either—of course, I had other concerns." She paused a moment to blush like a schoolgirl, much alarming Roy in the process.

"That would be—-?"

"Sieg and I met in Munich—the Oktoberfest." It was nothing short of scary to watch the extremely practical housekeeper give way to a swooning fit more commonly associated with girls of tender years and little sense. "We reached for the tankard at the same time, our fingers touched and our eyes met across the tankard of foaming larger—"

"Sounds positively romantic," Roy interrupted hastily. "So how long have you been in England?"

"A little over two years. We were in France, for my health, and starting to become concerned about funds when we saw an article about Mrs Elric's death in the paper. We hadn't seen Hohenheim in decades—"

"And you came hoping he could help?"

Izumi smiled ruefully. "When you put it like that it sounds as though we're merely freeloaders. I won't deny that we weren't a little desperate . . . We'd had a butcher shop. The war hit us hard, but we managed to struggle through. Things were just beginning to go our way, I took a job as a chemist's assistant to help pay our bills and just as looked as though everything might be all right . . ."

"What happened?"

"You gentlemen must know that my health is not sound. We were just managing to live quietly when my condition took a turn for the worse. Between losing my job and the doctor's bills . . . well, we sold the store, but treatment in France took up most of our savings. My health was improved, but we were at a loose end. I knew I could count on Hohenheim to give us a place until something turned up."

"And that was two years ago?"

"I did not expect to stay longer than a few weeks. With an introduction from Hohenheim I might find work in any laboratory in London, and there is always jobs for a man of my dear husband's strength—Sieg is so industrious!"

Not again. "Why would you stay then?" Roy asked hastily, hoping to forestall another romance induced side-track.

Izumi paused, knife and potato still in hand. "I'd never intended to stay," she said softly. "Hohenheim and I hadn't communicated in years. If it wasn't for the boys—"

"Edward and Alphonse?" Roy was baffled. "What do they—"

Hughes put a hand on his shoulder. "Let Mrs. Curtis finish."

She nodded thanks to Hughes, turning to face them from the sink, her smile oddly sad. "Thank you, Brigadier. You have a child of your own, do you not?"

Hughes nodded. "Please continue."

"I can never have children," Mrs Curtis continued. "I've always wanted a family—Hohenheim has no idea what he has. Two perfectly good sons and no time for them. It's enough to drive you mad." She picked up the vegetable knife again, deliberately returning to her work. "I gather that after Trisha's death Hohenheim threw himself into his work with something approaching obsession. Alphonse and Edward were—well, someone had to take them in hand."

"And that someone was you?"

Mrs. Curtis snorted. "You think Tucker was capable?"

Roy was liking her more and more every second. "True enough. What did you think of Dante then?"

"She was hardly concerned for the boys' welfare. There was absolutely no way I was going to leave while she was in charge of things."

"We appreciate your frankness," Hughes said. "Is there anything you can tell us about today's unfortunate events?"

Izumi proved to have an excellent memory. Her account of the morning's routine accounted exactly with those they'd heard earlier.

"That certainly clears things up," Farman said, making note after note. "If only all our witnesses were so reliable."

"Glad to be of service," Mrs Curtis edged past Roy to put the bowl of peeled potatoes down on the kitchen table. "Now, if you don't mind, I'd like to get dinner on."

"She managed that rather nicely, don't you think?" Hughes remarked. "We learnt very little new information from her."

"You want to go back?" Roy asked.

"Not likely," Hughes stretched, grinning widely. "I'm just as glad to have all the interviews done with."

Something moved in the shadows above as they re-entered the main hallway, and Roy looked up to see Alphonse leaning over the banisters above, Edward with him. As he saw Roy look up, the boy smiled and waved.

Roy sighed. "There is one more interview left to go."


"Do you want to take my finger prints?" Alphonse sat on the very edge of his father's armchair, alert with excitement. "Or maybe we should go to the station so that I can look at suspects."

"Ah—that probably won't be necessary," Farman interrupted apologetically. "Unless you saw the murder take place, we'll just ask you a few questions—"

"But I know who did it!" Alphonse insisted. "It was Envy, it had to be."

Not this again. "What reason would Envy have to kill his mother—the only family he had for most of his life?" Roy pointed out.

Alphonse was momentarily daunted. "I'm not sure, but I?know it was him—maybe he killed her so he wouldn't be suspected!"

What the blazes? That didn't even make sense! "Alphonse—"

"Maybe we could start with your movements last night and this morning," Hughes interrupted, bringing the interview back on track. "Let's start with the last time you saw Lady Dante."

Alphonse was definitely the most entertaining, if not the most accurate witness thus far, his account filled with so much intrigue and dire foreboding that Roy was sure the boy could have had a future writing for any of the more sensational newspapers. Almost every word or gesture Envy had made last night was pronounced to have been full of murderous intent or cunning.

"So you see!" He wound up an in depth tirade on Envy's smug manner at breakfast ("Because he was obviously expecting to get away with it"). "It had to be him."

Farman shut his notebook. "Enlightening as this is, I'll need more in the way of facts, Alphonse. Envy's been part of your family a long time, I understand?"

"It was better before he became father's secretary," Alphonse said resentfully. "Then we only had him for the holidays. One year we didn't have him at all. That was great."

"You don't get on with your half-brother then?"

"He's so annoying," Alphonse complained. "And everyone always likes him best. Even Edward and he's supposed to be my brother."

Sibling rivalry? Roy supposed he should have expected that. "Edward and Envy get on well then?"

"They always used to do stuff together and leave me out. It's not my fault I'm the youngest. But they don't so much now that Edward's sick and Envy's busy all the time with Father's work." Alphonse settled back in the armchair, frowning slightly.

"Interesting that such a big change would occur," Hughes said, leaning in. "Alphonse, can you remember if it happened before or after your Mother's death?"

"I'm not sure. After I think."

"Do you think that had an effect?"

"Well, without mother there was no-one to stop Envy from picking on us. He always gets us into trouble. Father never believes anything we say, and Tucker's too scared of Dante to tell him to stop. Also—-" Alphonse paused. "Well, after she died—that changed everything. Ed stopped talking to me, Father never had any time for us and Envy got—he got crueler. I know it was him, but I don't know how—and I don't understand why Ed won't believe Envy had anything to do with her death."

"The enquiry into your mother's death produced no evidence of foul play, Alphonse," Farman said gently. "I was a lieutenant then, remember? I presented the police findings at the court case."

"But—"

Farman quoted from memory easily; "Questioning of friends and family members present in the Elric household produced no suggestion of death by design. The only member of the household who might have had the opportunity to commit foul play, being confirmed as absent from his rooms at a crucial time (although no likely motive was ever suggested), Mr. Dante, was in the company of Master Elric, the oldest son, during the likely time of death and was afterward cleared of all connection with the incident." He patted Alphonse's shoulder. "Edward confirmed that Envy was no where near the stairs at the time. I know it was a difficult way to lose your mother, Alphonse, but you must accept—-"

Alphonse brushed the well-intentioned hand aside and stood. "I know what I know," he said, abruptly. "If you won't believe me, I'll find someone who will."

"I do feel sorry for Alphonse," Farman said as the study door shut behind the boy. "He's not a bad child but he does take things to heart."

"You know the family then?"

"Course of duty and all. I was investigating Mrs Elric's death." The police officer shook his head. "You know, it's rum the way things happen—if either of the boys were to cut up rough over their mother's death, I'd have thought Edward much more likely. Alphonse was upset of course, tears, carrying on, but quite natural for an eleven year old. Edward—well, that quiet wasn't normal for him."

"Surely grief affects everyone differently?" Roy suggested.

"You're right there," Farman nodded. "And even when they were young, Edward had a tendency to try to be grown up and strong for his brother. They were brought in to the station once, accidentally breaking someone's window or something—youthful shennanigans and so forth. Alphonse was in tears, but Edward managed to be calm and apologise. It was really impressive actually, for a child his age. Even so—" Farman shook his head. "Holding something so tightly inside can't be good for you. The mind needs to express itself."

"You on your way then?" Hughes asked, as the officer stood, gathering his notebook.

"I want a search-warrant—that Tucker is definitely hiding something," Farman said. "And I'd like to hear the results of the official autopsy."

"I might come with you," Hughes said. "There are a few things I'd like to check up on." He clapped Roy on the back. "You think you'll be all right holding the fort on you own, old man?"

Roy snorted, seeing them to the door. "This is hardly what I consider holding the fort, Hughes. Give me some credit."

"True enough," Hughes clapped him on the back, then paused, his hand coming to rest on Roy's shoulder. "All the same—be careful, Roy. There's been at least one murder here already—"

"You forget who you're talking to," Roy smirked. "Jerries couldn't bring me down, I hardly think a weekend in the country is going to."

"If you say so." Hughes squeezed his shoulder, taking the stairs two at a time as he made haste to join Farman at his automobile. "Just don't do anything foolish!"

Roy tossed him a mocking salute. "Have no fear. I have no intention of leaving the body any where you lot will find it."