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Half a Clue--Part 4 (RD)
The Professor’s quick, darting glances about the room appeared more inquisitive or habitual than nervous. He was a man used to assessing strange situations.
“You are Professor Ethelbert Plum?”
“But of course. Professor of Egyptology at Flamborough University in —.”
“And how did you come to be part of this house party in —?”
“Black and I go way back. Old school ties and all that. I spend most of my time in Egypt, so I don’t maintain a house, just a room in College. Black’s been most kind in allowing me to stay here at need. In the Vacs, you know.”
“You have no family?”
“No!” He answered with curious emphasis. “I consider this my home,” he added.
“I see. So you are well acquainted with the Black family and their friends.”
Professor Plum’s eyes darted for a moment to an odd stone god on the desk, as though seeking oracular guidance. “They are, for the most part, known to me,” he acknowledged.
“What is your opinion of young Peacock?”
“An intelligent young man, well-brought-up. Too sure of himself, perhaps, but he’s done well in difficult circs. Some over-confidence may be called for when climbing out of the hole one’s father has dug.”
“I see. And you knew the Colonel?”
“Yes. A neighborhood nuisance. Usually drunk, and full of outdated opinions. But harmless. I cannot understand this!” he added with uncharacteristic agitation. “The man was merely annoying. There was no logical reason to kill him.”
“And yet, someone did kill him. I understand young Peacock fought with him at dinner?”
Plum waved a dismissive hand. “Not a fight. They disagreed about their assessments of the Hun. Bah! Nothing to agitate one. Though Mustard did get a bit abusive, Russell handled it well. Never so much as raised his voice. No,” he added with renewed confidence, “he’d not shoot a man for being a loud-mouthed idiot.”
“Thank you. That will be all for now. Could you please send in Miss Black? And if someone could be sent to Peacock’s home, I would like to speak with the young man.”
“He is in the Drawing Room now, conversing with Miss Scarlett in a corner. She has no doubt told him of the tragedy.”
“Very well. I will see him after I speak to Miss Black. Please do not discuss our conversation with anyone.”
Plum went out, leaving Clueso to wonder what Miss Scarlett might be telling the soldier. He took another look at the evidence bag in his lap. The small, ornamental stone knife might be Egyptian, he supposed. Certainly it was not part of a soldier’s kit. But most probably it belonged to the house, whoever had used it. A dark stain outlined the carvings, highlighting the leering animal god on the hilt.
Across the room, Harris folded the paper and took up a book instead. He settled back and more or less vanished into the upholstery as the door opened.
This story segment ©Rebecca M. Douglass