In Episode 3: Mark Masters and Sunni De La Croix return to the library to discover someone has broken into the safe. Sunni, based on a warning by her late father, had replaced the valuables with rare books and a note in anticipation of this intrusion. We now fine the two escorted by a police officer back to the grand ballroom.
“Where have you been?” Celia greets her sister, Sunni and Mark when they return to the ballroom.
“I’ll fill you in later when we’re alone,” Sunni watches as the emergency medical team wheel Monica’s body out of the room and out of sight.
Police Commissioner Robert Romans approaches the two debutant sisters. He starts to speak but hesitates with a glare in Mark’s direction. Mark starts to excuse himself but Sunni stops him by tugging at the first piece of tuxedo she can grab. Celia watches with a hint of doubt in her eyes, but then nods approval.
“We’re going to dismiss everyone for now as long as you can assure me you have a complete list of guests,” Commissioner Romans who is one of the guests reaches out and gently clutches one of Celia’s and Sunni’s hands.
Sunni assures him that they have a list of the guests, “But the service help was entirely up to the caterer.”
“We have them assembled in another room and they are all being questioned as we speak. Although we do not see any indication of foul play, we are being cautious without causing too much alarm.”
“Well, in the library…,” Mark starts to speak of the safe but Sunni jerks hard on the piece of tuxedo she still possesses.
Mark stops mid sentence to watch Sunni shake her head in short, quick strokes with her teeth bared and gritting.
“What’s that, Mark?” Commissioner Romans asks.
“Silly Mark. I caught him trying to borrow a rare book from the library,” Sunni improvises the first thing that pops in her head.
Romans stands silently for a second, his eyes darting back and forth between Sunni and Mark. He scans their faces as they share random glances at each other.
“Do you wish to press charges, Sunni?” Romans smiles and finally releases Sunni’s and Celia’s hand.
Romans, Mark, and Sunni all feign a chuckle. Celia glowers at Sunni.
Commissioner Romans excuses himself and addresses the crowd of guests. Some are frustrated, some fearful, some continuing to finish their drinks and chat with the others. He tries to assure them there is no need for alarm or panic.
“I recommend that we all consider the De La Croix sisters and dismiss ourselves to give them some time alone,” Romans turns his attention back to Sunni and Celia.
Some of the guests grumble as they realize that Roman’s words mean the party is over. The rest are relieved that they are free to go without the bother of interrogation. A few of those truly believe there is no valid reason to be alarmed.
Romans once again takes Sunni’s hand in his, “You have my heartfelt condolences. If there is anything you need from us personally, don’t hesitate to ask.”
Then, Romans signals for his wife to join him as he takes Celia’s hand in his, “I am so sorry this has happened on your very special birthday.”
Romans turns and takes his wife’s hand and leaves the ballroom and the De La Croix mansion. The other guests soon follow his lead. Minutes later only Tina Majors and Gina Franklin and Mark remain.
Monica’s two closest friends, Tina Majors and Gina Franklin are both wives of men who are prominent members of the community. They also helped organize the cotillion.
“I still can’t believe she is gone. One minute vibrant, caring, passionate and then… gone,” Gina throws her arms around Sunni’s neck so voraciously Sunni’s head snaps backwards.
Tina stands chin touching her chest, solemn but no tears, “I think the cops should have done more.”
Celia glares at Sunni, “Why didn’t the police do more, Sunni?”
“Yes, Sunni, why? I’d like to know that myself,” Mark had retreated a few feet away to let Tina and Gina have a moment with the sisters.
Sunni scowls back at Celia and Mark, “I will explain later. Now, is not the time.”
“Is there something we should know?” Tina’s words nearly jump from her lips like a Kentucky farmer spitting the dregs of his chewing tobacco, “Monica is … was our best friend.”
“Now, is the time for mourning the loss, not discussing business,” Sunni’s words were chosen carefully knowing Monica’s two friends abhorred talking business.
“Celebration of life! I think Monica deserves and would want us to plan a celebration of life for her passing,” Gina smashes her hands together startling nearly everyone in earshot.
Tina lovingly wraps an arm around Gina, “Yes, dear, but not now.” She addresses Sunni and Celia as she carefully escorts her friend toward the exit, “You two needn’t bother with this mess in the ballroom. I’ll be back with a crew tomorrow.”
Sunni and Celia are both inwardly glad to see who they jokingly call “the Inas” leave. Outwardly, they both smile and wave politely like sweet debutant Kentucky girls are taught to do.
“Now, fill me in, Sis, before I have to bite, scratch and claw it out of you,” Celia raises both hands in a mock claw-like gesture.
Mark is the last one to pay his respects and believing it the right thing to do, starts to leave. Celia grabs his arm before he can get too far.
“I want to know what you two know,” Celia tugs Mark’s jacket sleeve and then turns to point a long, well-manicured finger at Sunni, “and why you didn’t want it shared with Romans.”
Sunni shares their father’s warning and how Sunni switched the contents of the vault in the library with the items she put in an envelope.
“So, where’s the envelope?” Celia places her hands on her hips just like their mother used to do when interrogating them about some mysterious domestic mishap.
Sunni signals for Mark to move closer. As he does Sunni reaches inside his jacket and pulls out an envelope. As she does, a detective appears in the ballroom from the direction of the kitchen.
“We’ve finished questioning the catering staff. We’ll see ourselves out and leave you folks alone,” the detective stops just inside the doorway, one hand in his pocket.
“Why were you questioning that staff?” Celia moves quickly across to the other side of the ballroom where the detective stands.
“Routine, Miss. We didn’t find anything there to give you folks alarm. Just an awful natural tragedy,” the detective turns to leave.
Celia picks up her pace and the pitch of her voice raises slightly, “Then, why not question the guests?”
The detective glances over Celia’s shoulder to where Sunni and Mark are standing, his eyes fall heavily on Mark, “Caterers hire all kinds of folks whatever they can find some times. Your guests are respectable people.”
Mark understands too well the underlying message in the detective’s explanation. Teachers, interviewers, and even close acquaintances have spoken in similar coded language when they learn his mother was a negro.
“Besides, it looks like all your respectable guests have left,” the detective stares point blank at Mark emphasizing the word “respectable.“
“We’re here. Wouldn’t you like to question us?” Celia raises one eyebrow as she recognizes the target of the detective’s glares and watches his jaw tighten.
“The Commissioner’s orders were to leave the guests alone,” the detective stuffs his free hand into a pocket leaving both hands in his pant pockets.
“We wouldn’t want you to go against the Commissioner’s orders,” Sunni scowls at Celia before smiling her sweetest smile at the detective.
“No, that wouldn’t be good for me since I just made detective a few weeks ago,” the detective nods at Sunni and tosses a mock salute to Celia before whirling around on his heels exiting the doorway behind him.
Sunni approaches Celia and they meet halfway nearly in the spot Monica collapsed. Mark remains. He wants to leave. He also wants to know what’s in the envelope. He waits.
“What are you doing, little sis?”
“Don’t pretend with me, Sunni,” Celia shakes a finger in Sunni’s face, “you can’t believe Monica’s death is from natural causes.”
“Of course not,” Sunni flashes the envelope in front of Celia’s face, “but this needs to stay here with us, not the police, not the respectable people.”
Celia stabs her well-manicured appendage at the air in Mark’s direction, “What’s he got to do with it?”
Celia turns to face Mark, cocks her head oddly, and presses her mouth into a strange little pout. Mark feels the disappointment starting in the pit of his stomach and rising up toward his heart where it matures into a pain similar to betrayal.
Sunni checks Celia‘s face which remains unchanged in her cold determination. Sunni shrugs her shoulders. Celia raises both eyebrows and shakes her head side to side.
“We thank you for your help, Mark,” Sunni waves.
Mark searches for a valid argument for why he should remain, but any that quickly come to mind seem to fall short of convincing Celia.
When Mark disappears from the ballroom, Celia signals Sunni to open the envelope. Celia tries to snatch it from Sunni feeling Sunni moves too slow. Sunni fights her off and wins.
Mark stops just outside the ballroom and strains to hear the sisters fighting over the envelope. Soon, he hears the sound of the crackling of paper.
After an irritating silence, Mark hears Celia gasp, “What the….”
He draws closer to the doorway pressing against the doorframe on the outside of the ballroom, but he detects no more comment and no movement. He debates whether he should leave, stay, or go back inside.
I write about what I'm thinking or what I've imagined in an effort to regain that childhood imagination and marry with my many years of real experiences. I'm getting better at it the more I write.I am a published author of two romantic intrigue novels.My books can be found at Amazon.com or if you want a personalized copy, by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.