"I'm telling you, I'm innocent!" Erik Boyette traced a hand across his brow. "Why would I want to poison Kathryn Smithe?"
Inspector King crossed and uncrossed his legs, then scribbled something down on his notepad. "Why indeed? Grayson."
A reliable yet shabby-looking police sergeant stepped forward. "Yes, sir?"
"Fetch Miss Blyde, will you, please? Thank you. Now, Mr. Boyette, why did you wish to kill your fiancée?"
Boyette frowned. "Kill Ethne? Are you mad? It's Miss Smithe that's dead, isn't it?"
The inspector smiled and folded his fingers together. "Yes, it is Miss Smithe, God rest her soul. The point—" There was a knock on the door. "Come in, Grayson. The point, Mr. Boyette, is this: Miss Smithe pretended to be your betrothed, for goodness knows what petty reason. You believed her, slipped something into her punch and here we are. The question is 'why'?"
"You had the opportunity: A crowded party, noise, distractions."
"I didn't do it! You must believe me, Inspector; I would never harm Ethne Blyde. I love her."
King nodded. "Love. Love can do funny things to a fellow." He turned to the door. "Ah, Grayson. I see you brought the girl." His eyes traveled to another gentleman who had also entered the room. "What's this?"
"Mr. African, sir," said Grayson.
"Ackerman, actually, sir," the man said.
Grayson rolled his eyes. "I'm sorry, sir; he said he wanted to help, and he was very persistent."
"Every Tom, Dick, and Harry thinks he can solve a murder." King waved them away with an inky hand. "Tell him to leave; I don't need some old fool getting in the way and muddling things up for me."
Mr. Ackerman gave a bow and said, "Sir, please do not think I'm an interfering busybody. You see, I was the chief inspector in charge of the original X Murder case."
The confusion on Miss Blyde and Mr. Boyette's faces was nothing to the surprise on Grayson's stubbly mug. King, however, grunted and pointed to the leather armchair opposite him. "Miss Blyde, you may have a seat there. Mr. Grayson, take Mr. Boyette into another room; I'll send for you both again when I'm ready. And… Ackerman, was it?"
"At your service," said Ackerman.
"We'll see. You may take the window seat. Now, Miss Blyde, tell me truthfully: Why were you and Miss Smithe dressed in an identical manner?"
Miss Blyde, now without wig and mask, took the seat offered her. "The truth? I don't know."
"You don't know what the truth is, my dear?" In an identical movement, King and Ackerman drew a notepad from their inner jacket pockets.
"No, no, I know what the truth is, and the truth is this: I don't know why she dressed like I did. We're good friends."
Inspector King looked at the pale-faced beauty, sitting tall and straight before him. One of her hands clutched to the armrest, while the other rested a pointed finger against her lower lip. King jotted down a few letters next to the woman's name, letters that would be gibberish to another. "Please, continue."
"Well, I told her what I was wearing tonight. She obviously copied me purposely."
"Do you know what possible motive she might have had?"
For a moment, Miss Blyde looked like she had no answer to the question, then burst out suddenly: "She's jealous. That's why she did it. Erik told me he thought that Kathryn was I when she came from the punch bowl."
"And where were you when Miss Smithe was getting punch?"
A blush came over her pale features, and she hemmed and hawed a little before answering. "I was powdering my nose. There's nothing odd about that, is there?"
Mr. Ackerman answered instead. "No, but didn't Mr. Boyette believe you to be at the punch bowl?"
Every trace of the blush disappeared from Miss Blyde's face. "How did you—?" She looked over at Mr. Ackerman for the first time since entering the room. "How dare you!" she spat. "How dare you accuse me of this nonsense."
Ackerman's eyes narrowed. "You have been caught in two lies tonight, madam. The truth would be refreshing."
"Two lies?" she parroted.
"Ackerman," said King in a tone of warning.
"Isn't it true that you and the late Miss Smithe were after the same man? That you weren't close friends at all?"
"I never!" she cried.
"Enough," King roared. "Mr. Ackerman, if you continue to interrupt me, I shall see you behind bars."
With a shrug, Mr. Ackerman lowered his notebook and said, "Very well, Inspector. I shall behave myself."
Inspector King turned back to Miss Blyde. "A thousand apologies, Madam. It shall not happen again."
"I should think not," she said.
"Might I ask one polite question?"
At this, the woman sat up more straightly in her chair and folded her hands in her lap. "Yes?"
"Where were you doing missions work in Africa?"
Miss Blyde crinkled her brow. "I've never been. Why?"
"Oh, you have a hint of a foreign accent in your voice. One often picks up that sort of thing when one visits different countries. I was merely curious, having traveled to South Africa recently myself."
Miss Blyde nodded stiffly, as if she did not approve of such travels.