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Paul Temple and the Xavier Mystery

Chapter Text

oOo

"Steve, wasn't Beverly Kingston a friend of yours?" Paul Temple asked from behind the newspaper he was reading. He and his wife Steve were having a late breakfast in the dining room of the Laurent Hotel in New York City, where they had been staying since their arrival in the United States two days ago. Paul was scheduled to do a lecture tour at various universities along the North-East coast of the US and despite his best efforts to dissuade Steve from accompanying him, arguing that it would be terribly boring for her, she had insisted on traveling with him.

Steve put down her coffee cup. "Beverly Kingston?" she said with deliberation as if trying out the name. "No, I don't think so. Why? Who is she?"

"Apparently, she is or used to be an actress. Kingston is her married name, her maiden name is Beverly Lloyd."

"Ah, of course!" Steve exclaimed. "Beverly Lloyd! I knew her in Cape Town. But that was ages ago. She was an aspiring actress back then, always looking for her lucky break. We lost touch when I left for England. I remember reading her name in the gossip columns a few times. It seems like she married an American, Patrick or something or other..."

"Patrick Kingston," Paul supplied with a smile.

"Anyways, she finally had her big break and even starred in a few Hollywood films. But I haven't heard her name in years," Steve said with a frown. "What makes you mention her now, Paul?"

"Well, she's in the paper. Or rather her husband is. Apparently, he died several weeks ago and there is some question about the inheritance. Or at least that's what the gossip pages say, but you know how they are."

"Let me see, please," Steve demanded with urgency. Paul also noticed that his wife had suddenly gone rather pale. He carefully folded the newspaper and handed it to Steve.

"What's the matter, Steve?" he asked, careful to keep his tone casual.

Steve appeared startled by the question. "Oh, nothing." Then after a pause, she added. "I'm just surprised, that's all. Patrick Kingston couldn't have been much older than me or Beverly." She unfolded the copy of thew New York Ledger and quickly flipped through it until she reached the society gossip column.

For a while, neither of them spoke. Steve seemed completely absorbed by the newspaper and Paul was finishing his last piece of toast. Once done, he glanced at his watch.

"It's gone nine already," he remarked. "We best get going. The university is sending a car round for nine thirty."

Steve put down the newspaper. "You go ahead. I think I'm going to skip this one."

"Oh, you are?" Paul was surprised. "You haven't even heard my lecture yet."

"Yes, I have. Or do you forget all those practice runs I sat through on the voyage?" Steve tossed back playfully.

"There is nothing wrong with being prepared," Paul said with mock indignation.

"Of course there isn't, darling. But I'll have plenty of opportunities to listen to your lecture while we're over here."

"Sure. But don't complain to me if you get bored sitting around at the hotel all by yourself!"

"Who said anything about staying at the hotel? Besides, I doubt you could get bored in this town," Steve laughed.

"I can see the new hat already," Paul groaned good-naturedly.

"Besides, I think I'm going to give Beverly a ring." Steve said, now serious again.

"You do that, I have to get ready. I'm going to have lunch with some people from the university but I should be back here by three at the latest," Paul said and got up from the table.

"I'll see you then, Paul," Steve replied. She watched her husband thread his way through the tables and leave the dining room.

Frowning, she returned her attention to the newspaper article. It wasn't so much the article that had unsettled her, but the memories it had awakened. Her acquaintance with Beverly dated back a time of her life she had long since put behind her. Or at least so she had thought. She knew that it was unlikely that Patrick Kingston's death had anything to do with what had happened in South Africa, but there were too few details in the newspaper article to tell. She needed to be sure. For both her sake and Paul's. Steve folded the newspaper and got up. She had a phone call to make.

 

oOo

"Could you at least ask her if she's available?" Steve asked. Finding Beverly's telephone number had been easy, she was in the telephone directory under her maiden name. The hard part was getting past her maid. It felt like they were going in circles. "My name is...Louise Harvey." Steve hadn't used her given name in years. She had stopped thinking of herself as Louise Harvey. Even before her brother had been murdered, she had already been calling herself Steve Trent.

"Miss Kingston is unavailable, I'm afraid," the maid repeated.

"Please tell her that's important. Tell her that's Louise Harvey calling and that I need to speak to her about Cape Town."

"I don't think..." the maid began, but Steve cut her off.

"Just ask her, please," Steve pleaded.

This time she was successful and the maid excused herself to inquire whether her mistress would take the call.

Less than two minutes later, another voice came over the line.

"Louise?" the familiar voice asked. "Is that really you?"

"Yes, it's me, Beverly."

"Where are you calling from?"

"The Laurent Hotel, in New York City," Steve replied. "Listen, I really don't want to intrude, but I read in the paper what happened to Patrick."

There was a long pause.

"It's good that you've telephoned. I would have contacted you, but I had no idea where to find you. I think we should talk. Can you come and see me?" Beverly asked.

"I'm free this morning. Would that be convenient?"

"Yes, that would be quite all right." Beverly proceeded to give Steve the address of her flat in Manhatten and they agreed to meet there in half an hour.

 

oOo

Beverly had certainly done well for herself, Steve though as she climbed out of the cab at the address Beverly had given her. This was a far cry from that small flat that had shared in Cape Town before Steve had gone on to live with her relatives. No wonder that there was disagreement over who would inherit her husband's fortune. It had be enormous. Maybe this wasn't at all what she thought it was, Steve considered, maybe she was making mountains out of molehills. But then again, the way Beverly has sounded on the phone, she had been scared. But all the pondering in the world, wouldn't solve this, Steve decided and pulled open the door to the lobby.

The building looked even more luxurious on the inside.

Steve stepped up to the porter.

"What can I do for you ma'am?" the elderly man asked.

"My name is Louise Harvey. I have an appointment to see Beverly Kingston." Steve explained, trying hard to quell her nervousness.

The porter consulted a book laid in front of him, then nodded.

"Of course, ma'am. Mrs Kingston is expecting you. The elevator is to the left."

"Thank you."

oOo

Following the elevator attendant's directions, Steve stepped off the elevator, turned left and headed down the corridor. Passing flats number 3A, 3B and 3C, she stopped in front of 3D. Steve anxiously pressed the bell. She could clearly hear it ringing inside, but there was no other sound issuing from the flat. Steve raised her hand to knock and the door, calling out Beverly's name, but as soon as her hand made contact with the door, it slid open a fraction.

"That's strange!" Steve exclaimed to herself. "Beverly? Are you there, it's Louise!" she called out once again. When she received no reply, Steve pushed the door open all the way and peered inside.

A thickly carpeted hallway stretched out in front of her. She hesitantly took a few steps inside. Surely Beverly wouldn't just leave her door open like this, she wondered. Steve advanced along the corridor, walking all the way up to the door at its far end which stood half-open.

Calling out again for her old friend, Steve opened the door fully. Beyond it lay a spacious sitting room with large windows with the curtains drawn, shutting out the mid-morning sun and leaving the room in near darkness. Steve almost turned back, when she caught sight of a shoe out of the corner of her eye, peeking out from from beneath one of the curtains. Rushing across the dim room, she pulled back the curtain. Huddled on the floor in the window recess, was a woman. Her friend's name dying on her lips, Steve knelt down next to the figure.

Blood coated the side of her head which was visible, her sightless yes staring ahead. There was no question that she was dead. It wasn't Beverly, but Steve recognized her all the same. It was a face she hadn't seen in years, but there was no mistaking the freckled features and flaming red hair of Winney Morris. Steve couldn't explain the woman's presence here, the last time she had seen Winney had been in Cape Town, but there was no denying the fact that she now was here and that she was dead.

Murdered by the looks of it. First Patrick, now Winney? What was it that the paper had said about Patrick Kingston's death? An accident involving drink, but the details had been sparse. No doubt the press had covered the Broadway producer's death in all its gory detail after it had happened, but according to what Steve had read this morning, that had been several weeks ago.

A phone, she thought belatedly, she needed to get to a phone and call the police. She had barely finished that thought her head exploded in pain and she knew nothing more.

 

oOo

Paul Temple was pleased. His lecture had been exceedingly well received, judging by the wealth of interested questions he had been asked by his listeners after opening the floor to questions. Although the lecture had officially ended almost ten minutes ago, no one seemed anxious to leave. Paul was busy answering a young redhead's question that he never noticed that middle ages man wearing a coat who'd slipped into the room and was now discreetly standing near the wall. He was fidgeting impatiently, glancing back and forth between Temple and the listeners.

"Well, this seems as good a final question as any," Paul was just saying, "We are getting on, and I'm sure you are all more than anxious to get to lunch. It was a pleasure to be here today and I thank you all for listening."

An appreciative murmur went through the lecture theater and within moments the first people had gotten up from their seats and were heading toward the exit. Paul was gathering up his own notes, a smile still on his face, when he heard someone calling his name.

"Mister Paul Temple?" The voice sounded older than the typical student. Perhaps one of the lecturers, Paul thought, there had been a few in the audience.

"Yes, that's me," he rejoined and looked up to see a middle-aged man with salt and pepper hair standing in next to the lecture stand. "What can I do for you?"

"My name is Harrington, I'm a detective with the New York Police Department."

"I didn't think my lecture would be of any interest to the professional investigators," Paul said jokingly.

"I'm not here for the lecture," Harrington replied somberly. Paul only know fully took in the detective's grim demeanor. Alarm bells were going off in his head.

Harrington didn't wait for Paul to answer. "I'm afraid I have some bad news for you, Mr Temple," he began.

"Is it Steve? Has something happened to my wife?" Paul asked. His pulse was suddenly racing with panic.

"Your wife was found injured earlier this morning."

"What happened? How is she?" Paul interjected before Harrington could continue.

"It appears that your wife was shot. They have taken her to Mercy Hospital, but I'm afraid, it didn't look good."

Shot! But that didn't make any sense. A car accident yes, perhaps, but who should want to shoot Steve, here in New York of all places? Paul's mind was reeling with the news.

"Mr Temple? Did you hear what I just said?" Harrington's urgent voice suddenly broke in on the whirlwind of his thoughts.

"Uhm, sorry, I didn't..." Paul was, for once in his life, completely at a loss for words.

"I can drive you to the hospital, if you want, Mr Temple." Harrington offered.

"That's not necessary," Paul replied with some effort. "I can just as well take a cab."

"I'm going to there anyway," Harrington said. "No need for you to be hunting around for a cab at the time like this."

Paul nodded gratefully.

 

TBC