Sargent Patterson digitally documented the scene. The Bastings Country Home in upstate New York boasted a game room with a huge fireplace, pool table, bar, built in bookcases along two walls and big oversized chairs. His wife would love the books and fireplace. He loved everything else. Oh, to be able to afford half of this room, minus the dead body. Patterson closed the lens and slung the camera over his shoulder. “Three tours in Afghanistan without a scratch. Stabbed in the family home. That’s cold.”

“Finished?” Detective Andrews leaned over the body, picked up an ornate hair clip, and finished cataloging the body. Three stab wounds: heart, shoulder, and throat. No hesitation marks.

“Yes, sir.”

“Good. You interview the servants. Tell Brooks to make this room presentable. I’ll interview the family here.”

Patterson walked off with a grin. Much better to deal with the hired help than face this family of barracudas.

*****

Detective Andrews stood beside the chess table. The black knight was positioned to protect his queen. “Mr. Bastings, where were you when you heard the scream?”

“My study.” Aldrich, patriarch of the Bastings clan, appeared inconvenienced by his son’s murder. Being in the room where Kingsley was stabbed did not outwardly concern him.

Andrews nodded. The study was too far away for Aldrich to sneak into the game room without being seen by the extensive staff. “Did Kingsley have any enemies?”

“He was an adult. I no longer monitored his life.”

The detective pointed to the chess set. “Who plays?”

“What?”

“Chess. The board is still in play.”

Aldrich shrugged. “We done? I have a conference call.”

*****

The detective closed the door as Mrs. Bastings entered. “Where were –”

“Must we be here? In this room?” Tilly fidgeted with her hands while her eyes darted around, always returning to the spot where her firstborn died. Her proper British accent was at odds with her nervousness.

“I know this is difficult, but it won’t take long. Just a few questions.” Detective Andrews slid into compassionate cop mode. “Where were you when you heard Margaux scream?”

Tilly pushed her hair out of her eyes. “I lost my clip. I must look for it.”

“As soon as we’re finished. Where were you?”

Distractedly she glanced at the chess board. “In the garden. Roses need tending.”

Huge home, larger grounds. Andrews wasn’t sure she could have heard the scream from the rose garden unless the windows were open. Maybe not even then.

“Can you think of anyone who would wish Kingsley harm?”

“No. Everyone loved him.”

*****

“Where were you when your sister screamed?”

“The media room.” Digby, youngest of the Bastings clan had walked into the game room and dropped into a plush chair. The boy’s eyes darted to the location where the body had been. “I was online gaming with friends. They can vouch for me.”

Detective Andrews raised his eyebrows. “They were here?”

Digby frowned. “No man, but the media room has a dedicated line. I’m twice as fast in the game if I’m there.”

Andrews made a note. “Anyone dislike Kingsley?”

“Besides me? Don’t think so. Well, he fought with Dad, but everyone fights with Dad.”

“Why?”

“You’ve talked to him. Dad might be annoyed by Kingsley’s death, but that’s about it. And Kingsley was his favorite.”

“And your issue with Kingsley?”

Digby eyed the bar like he wanted a drink, even though he was a teenager. “Do you have a perfect brother? Great at sports? Academic overachiever? A brother everyone likes? I do… did. Nothing I’ve ever done matched Kingsley’s skill. Now Kingsley’s been cut down in his prime. A speech I will hear ad nauseam until I escape this mad house.”

Andrews pointed toward the ornate chessboard and pieces currently in play. “Do you play?”

“Nope. Only Kingsley and Dad play. Margaux and I aren’t worthy.”

*****

Detective Andrews helped Margaux to a chair. “Why did you enter the game room?”

Margaux, the only Bastings daughter, was visibly upset. “Looking for Kingsley. I wanted him to convince Dad to let me go to Avery’s for the weekend. Seems silly now.”

“Your father doesn’t approve of Avery.”

“What? Oh, Avery’s parents are out of town. She invited me over. Dad had a fit. Said we’d find trouble.”

Anderson nodded. Margaux was known for getting everyone in trouble. “You didn’t see anyone outside the room?”

“No, but in this house, that doesn’t mean much.”

“Explain.”

“Great-grandfather built this house during prohibition. This place is riddled with secret halls and rooms.”

“I see. Is there a secret passage to this room?” the detective asked.

“Should be, but will anyone tell me where they are? No.”

Anderson pretended to look at his notes. “Do you get along with your dad?”

“No one does.”

Anderson nodded and laid an evidence bag on the table. “This is evidence, but I’ll make sure it’s returned to you as soon as possible.”

“Not mine. Dad wouldn’t allow me to have a clip of diamonds and rubies.” Margaux walked out of the room.

Detective Andrews fingered the clip. It must be worth a fortune.

Interviews with the family complete, Andrews glanced at the chessboard again. It had been hastily cleaned, but blood was still on the pieces.

Perhaps the rumors were true.

Advertisements