"LOVE LOOKS NOT WITH THE EYES, BUT WITH THE MIND, AND THEREFORE IS WING’D CUPID PAINTED BLIND."
Inspector Sullivan was writing a report on latest investigation. After two years he had finally become good natured about Father Brown's interference in police matters. He knew that the Father was bright and perceptive but it was that he seemed to bend the law to his bidding to solve a case that had always irked him. He had to admit that his opinion had soften of late, since a few months back he had been set up to be falsely accused of murder and Father Brown and his motley crew had saved him. He had given a big speech that nothing had changed but it had, and he found himself feeling affectionate toward them although he tried hard to keep that under wraps as well. He had enough to contend with from his case load.
So as he wrote out his report and added Father Brown's views on the murder and the part he had taken to solve the case he did not have a grimace on his face rather a look of annoyed affection. 'I can't help being annoyed after all the man smashes into every investigation as helpful as he is, he is also damn annoying.'
There was a knock on his door and Sargent Goodfellow stuck his head in saying, "I have your mail, Sir."
"Thank you Sargent," he said as he accepted his mail, On top of the stack was a big fancy invitation much to his surprise it was indeed addressed to him. He looked at it exclaiming, "What on Earth?" He opened it and found it was an engraved invitation from Lady Felicia to a dinner party for her friend actress Anna Roberts.
"Anna Roberts, is she a theatrical star, Sargent?"
"I wouldn't know, Sir. I have not ever gone to the theater."
"No Sir, I prefer to spend my money on football."
"Oh yes, I enjoy a good football game myself." He smiled at the Sargent and went back to work. The big man knew he was being dismissed and left the office closing the door behind him.
Although the Inspector was an athletic man and enjoyed sports as much as the next man, he was also a well read, cultured man who enjoyed going to the theater. He enjoyed the classics especially Shakespeare and Shaw and when he was assigned to London he went often. It was one of the reasons that he kept his private life private, he knew that other policeman did not approve of intellectual colleagues. So he never discuss theater or books at work.
He knew he had seen that name before and was determined to go through his programs and see if he could find her in one of the plays that he saw during his vacation last year. He picked up the phone and dialed the number on the invitation.
The butler answered and put him right through to his mistress, "Hello?"
"Hello Lady Felicia , this is Inspector Sullivan."
"Ahhh, Good Afternoon Inspector, what can I do for you?"
"Good Afternoon...um....was my invitation to your party a mistake? I'm not a part of your social set and..."
"Oh no, Inspector it is not a mistake at all. Anna is a girl I went to school with when I went to the states with my husband, I was a bit bored and took some acting lessons. Anna was dear and helped me a lot, she is pretty, smart and talented but her conversation is a bit too intellectual for my friends. I would love for you to sit on one side of her and Father Brown on the other, you three will be able to chat about things that will make her happy and she will not pretend to have headache and hide in her bloody room like she did when she visited in London."
"Well since you have Father Brown you don't need..."
"Please Inspector, you will like her. She is very nice and friendly, very real and down to earth. She loves stories, you can tell her about your cases and you will be able to chat Shakespeare with her, she loves the Bard. She will be enchanted with you and she needs some cheering up."
As much as he despised to be the extra man, he was also intrigued by the actress. He signed and replied, "Alright Lady Felicia I will come to your party."
Oh, would you mind wearing that impressive uniform you wore to the base, she will fall to your feet when she is sees you in that?"
"Oh! No, I...."
"I am joking, silly. She won't swoon but she will be impressed by how brave you are. Please come, you will like her and I don't want her to hide during her own party, please?"
He signed and resigned himself to going, it wasn't only because he liked Lady Felicia and wanted to help her but he was very intrigued by the actress, if she was in that Noel Coward play he had seen when he was in London last year. He would have to check his programs.
"Alright, Lady Felicia I will be there."
"Thank you Inspector, see you tomorrow."
"Goodbye Lady Felicia." He signed and lowered his head to his desk. 'What have I gotten myself into?'
So Inspector Sullivan arrived at Lady Felicia's estate wearing his dress uniform minus the hat. He felt a bit ridiculous but he thought it might be an ice breaker he had never been so nervous. The butler guided Sullivan to the South Parlor where all the guest had gathered for cocktails.
Father Brown approached with a sweet smile and said, "You look very smart, Inspector."
"Thank you Father, I am wearing this at Lady Felicia's request. Have you met the Guest of Honor?"
"Briefly, she is over there with the gentry, she is very charming." Father Brown pointed to a group of people gathered by the bar across the room. Sullivan looked to see if he could spot her among the throng by the bar. He had spent some time the night before looking through his programs and found that had he had indeed seen her on stage. She had performed a series of Noel Coward plays at the Old Vic. He had been quite enchanted wither her she was very funny and handled the dialogue beautifully. She just sparkled on stage and he had to admit he had been mesmerized. When he spotted her he felt something in the pit of his stomach that he could not identify and that made him feel suddenly like he wanted to high tail it out of there.
She was standing by the French Windows the light making her sparkle and he really could not take his eyes off of her. She was standing with a group of the local gentry looking politely bored. She was not what would be termed movie star beautiful but she was beautiful, she was 5'4 with a lovely shapely figure that was flattered in the new style Dior cocktail dress that she was wearing. Her hair was cut short in the new elfin style very fashionable in New York, and she had a round sweet face that made her appear much younger then Sullivan knew her to be. Her eyes though were bright and highly intelligent, dancing with humor. He swallowed as her eyes met his, he was drawn to her like a beacon and he saw her blink as their eyes met and she politely excused herself and headed toward him.
Sullivan watched as she crossed the room, Father Brown said softly, "It looks like the lady in question is coming our way."
Sullivan nodded and smiled shyly. Father Brown who's greatest talent was understanding human nature saw something he never though that he would see. Inspector Sullivan tongue tied. And the young lady in question had not said one word to the man yet.
Anna grabbed Lady Felicia and whispered to her as they headed across the room toward Inspector Sullivan and Father Brown. Lady Felicia smiled happily welcoming them both, "Good Evening Gentleman, I am so happy you both could come." She shook their hands and was a bit surprised at how the Inspector's hand trembled slightly. She looked up at him and he smiled saying, "Thank you for inviting me, Lady Felicia." The Father joined him in gratitude for the generous invite.
Felicia placed a gentle hand on Anna's shoulder and said, "Gentleman, may I present my dear friend Anna Roberts, This is our Parish Priest Father Brown and our Senior Detective Inspector for our Constabulary, Inspector Sullivan."
Anna smiled at Sullivan making his nerves jump through hoops, she spoke to Father Brown first. "It's nice to meet you Father, Felicia has told me some wonderful stories about you. I can't wait to hear about all your adventures."
"Thank you Miss Roberts, I am very much looking forward to hearing your adventures as well. I have always enjoyed the theater."
Anna smiled and said, "Thank you Father I do have a few interesting stories," she then walked right up to Inspector Sullivan, she was so close he could tell that she had freckles on her nose and she wore expensive French perfume. "It's a pleasure to meet you too, Inspector, Felicia has told me all about you too. I am very happy to meet such a talented man."
He looked down at his feet and licked his lips nervously, "Thank you," he replied quietly, "I must return the compliment, I enjoyed you at the Old Vic last season."
"A theater fan as well as a sleuth, wonderful. I think will enjoy hearing all your tales as well, Inspector. You wouldn't happen to have your phone number available, a card perhaps? One never knows when one will have to report a crime."
He felt himself melt into a puddle inside, wondering what the hell was wrong with him, he nodded briskly and pulled out his card case from his pants pocket. He pulled one out and handed it to her, "I certainly hope you will not find any crime here during your stay."
"Chief Detective Inspector Oliver Thomas Sullivan, what a nice name." She looked up at him her eyes searing into his and she purred, "Yes, a very lovely name."
Inspector Sullivan was very quiet during dinner, it wasn't that both Father Brown and Anna Roberts were not trying to engage him in their conversation but every time he could have entered it, he put something into his mouth. Sometimes he ate something he didn't even like to give himself an excuse to not to take part. He knew that it was not at all normal for himself to shy away from conversation, he was actually quite good at it, but Anna Roberts intimidated him.
Father Brown who had been at several dinner parties with the Inspector was surprised by his unusual behavior. So he began telling Anna of a case that they had worked together sure that the Inspector would jump in with corrections since he knew there were some argument about how they both saw the case at the time. Surprisingly the Inspector merely listened politely.
Sullivan left the table to use the facilities, Anna took the opportunity to turn to Father Brown, "Father?"
"Yes, my Dear?"
"Have I insulted the Inspector somehow?"
"Not at all."
"Then why won't he speak to me?"
Father Brown looked kindly at the upset young woman, "I think he is feeling a bit shy with you."
"With me? He didn't strike me as the shy type when I met him."
Anna played with her napkin, she was a bit heartsick, "Should I withdraw then?"
"No, my Dear, I think you should simply charm him. Speak directly to him, ask him what thought of the Old Vic and your play."
Anna smiled brightly at him and he could see why Inspector Sullivan was so struck by her, she was a very lovely woman.
"Thank you Father I will do just that."
Sullivan returned to the table and nodded politely to his two companions and as well as to his hostess. He sat down and resumed eating his meal.
Anna turned to him and asked, "Did you like our play at the Old Vic, Inspector?"
Sullivan smiled and nodded, "Yes, very much. You were quite good."
"Not too American?"
"To be honest I had no idea that you were an American. You played the part perfectly and you were very funny. I always enjoy Noel Coward, did you enjoy playing it?"
"Oh yes, he has such wit and style, I love all of his plays. I saw it on Broadway and I just had to try to be in it when it started it's tour. So I got myself an audition and played those wonderful parts for a whole season."
"I am so glad you did, you were just perfect in the one I saw, Blythe Spirit. Wonderful."
"Why, thank you Inspector, you could turn a girls head."
Sullivan looked down shyly and took a sip of wine. Anna saw a danger sign and plunged ahead. "Are you a regular theater goer?:
"Yes, when I am London or a major city, I am quite fond of it. Are you here for a play?"
"Yes, we start rehearsals in what you call a fortnight, I came early to spend time with Felicia."
"You two went to school together?" He was a bit confused about that, the age difference didn't really fit in his mind.
"Yes, well she came to California to be with her husband but she got bored and entered the same acting academy. We had a lot of scene work together and we became friends. She is really very good, you know?"
Father Brown had been eating and listening, he was enjoying it. They seemed to be getting on very well but he was surprised by the last statement that Anna had just made, "Really?"
"Well recently she auditioned for a part...and well...she wasn't...."
"Well maybe she would have been miscast in it? If your not in the right part it can be a disaster."
"Perhaps that was it," he replied diplomatically smiling at her. Sullivan smiled, he remembered that, she was horrible. Father Brown was being kind.
Anna's face lit up, Sullivan had smiled and it was the first real smile all evening, it lit up his face and made his eyes shine. "You are very young to be a Senior Detective Inspector, did you start on the force young?"
"Yes, I went to University for a couple of years but it didn't suit me so I applied for Constabulary I...."
"Inspector, I know your terribly busy and all but would be free to give a short tour of the area? " She moved close to him as she asked the question, she wanted it to be an intimate question. "Felicia is busy and I really don't want to drive myself, I am afraid of driving on the wrong side of the road."
"Here it is the right side of the road, Miss Roberts." Anna chuckled and her eyes sparkled and he knew what his answer would be before it left his mouth. "It would be my honor, Miss Roberts."
The next morning Lady Felicia and Sid joined Mrs. McCarthy and Father Brown at breakfast around the kitchen table in the Parish office.
"I hear the American actress conned our Inspector Sullivan into giving her a tour of our village," said Sid with an amused smirk.
Father Brown shook his head and replied softly while buttering his toast, "No, she didn't con him but she is charming, I can see why she could turn a young man's head."
Felicia looked delighted and laughed, "I knew it, I just knew he was Anna's type. I invited him because I thought they would suit each other perfectly. He is quite smart if you can get him to talk to you, and I sat next to him at a couple of dinner parties and realized how entertaining he could be if he allowed it. And poor Anna needs cheering up, she has had a terrible year. First her Father passing away and then losing that part in the movie because they said she wasn't thin enough..."
She was interrupted as both men spoke in anger and shock at the same time;
"What?" Said Father Brown stunned, he thought she was such a lovely young woman.
"Are they mad?" Said Sid angry because he though she had a great body.
"I agree, but the Hollywood Producer doesn't and she was very hurt by it. So she jumped at the chance to be in this play. Between the disappointment about the film and her father's passing she needed to get away. And knowing Anna, I thought the Inspector might be the perfect prescription to cheer her up. " Said Lady Felicia with a wicked grin.
"Oh I think it is mutual," said Father Brown with a smile as he bit into his biscuit.
After a drive through the village the Inspector pulled his car over by a glade close to Lady Felicia's estate. Anna had a nice picnic lunch packed and asked him to choose a pretty spot. Sullivan got out of the car, got the basket out of the boot, then he walked to the passenger side of the car and handed her out. She smiled up at him, took his arm cuddling in very close to him as they walked to an area he thought she would approve of for their picnic. He cleared his throat and smiled back at her.
Once they reached the spot he put down the basket took the blanket that was over his arm and they set up a cozy scene. After they were settled onto the blanket, Anna smiled at him saying, "This is a perfect spot."
Sullivan smiled and opened the basket taking out the plates and napkins, "Thank you." He answered quietly, she made him feel like a schoolboy.
"Now that we are all alone, may I ask you a question?"
Nervously he nodded, he was a bit worried what question she would ask him.
"Should I call you Oliver or Thomas?"
Sullivan let the air out of his mouth, he didn't even realize he was holding his breath. He chuckled and replied, "Tom, only my Mum calls me Oliver Thomas, and only when I have done something wrong."
Anna chuckled and nodded. "So Tom, why didn't take part in the conversation at dinner last night? You let Father Brown tell the story of your last case and I know from Felicia that you don't agree with him."
Anna saw that he had relaxed a bit, and was glad that she didn't make him even more shy, interesting that a man like him, so accomplished should be so shy with her. Sullivan smiled and shrugged, " He told the story very well and he was accurate to a degree, I just disagree with his methods not his talent for understanding human nature."
"Well you have been quite elegant as you gave me my tour."
"Well I know the area now, are you hungry?" He said trying to change the subject.
"Yes, I am starved." She dived into the basket and started to pile the food for both of them while Sullivan leaned back and admired her. She was dressed very American, Jeans and boots. A beautiful lace peasant top and a pretty head band through her hair that looked like spun gold through straight soft raven black hair. She was so beautiful to him that he could not stop staring. "I'm sorry that Lady Felicia stuck you with me, I'm sure you..."
"I am not stuck with you, Tom..."
"Tom, you were delightful once I got you to talk." She handed him a plate and then looked for the drinks and glasses.
"I...well I am not usually tongue tied..."
"I...well you...." He rolled his eyes and chuckled. "Sorry Anna, I think I am a bit overwhelmed, your a famous actress and I'm a mere copper..."
"Really Tom, there is no reason to feel that way. I am a theatrical actress in the states I am only known in New York, I am just like a copper anywhere else, believe me."
Sullivan laughed and shook his head, "Not exactly the same but I understand what you mean. Anna, you simply sparkle on stage."
Anna looked up and she could feel that she was blushing making her even more beautiful to Sullivan's besotted eyes, "Thank you. Your very kind..."
He shook his head and played with the napkin in his lap, "No, I'm not. You just glittered up on that stage and I can't wait to see you in your current play."
"I will make sure you have a front row seat..."
"No, you don't have to..."
"Believe me I want to," she handed him his drink. She had such an urge to kiss him, she had never been so forward as she was with this man. She moved closer to him and he automatically moved closer to her.
Suddenly there was the screech of tires hitting gravel, and footsteps, "Inspector, there has been a murder."
To Be Continued....