"Yo man, wazzap!" was the first thing Adrian said after he picked up.
"Adrian! Thank god you picked up. I need your help!" I burst out.
"Whoa whoa fella! You sound abnormally uptight for a person on a date. What do you need my help for?" His voice dropped to a whisper. "Don't tell me Alessa dumped you before you even asked. Chill dude!"
"Damn it Adrian!" I exploded. Cuthbert, who was standing next to me jumped up in a start and all the other people turned their attention to me. I looked down to avoid their gazes. "Adrian, please. I'm serious. I need your help."
Adrian must have realized that something was wrong from my sudden burst of anger for his voice took a serious tone. "What is it Antei?"
"There's been a death here at the restaurant where I was dating Alessa. And … Alessa has been accused of the murder. Please, can you come here? Only you can help."
"I'm sorry Antei but I can't. I'm on a cruise ship in the middle of the ocean right now."
My hopes crashed when he said that. What was I to do now?
"Who's the inspector there?" Adrian asked.
"It's your friend. Cuthbert," I answered sullenly.
"Well, that's good news. Pass the phone to Cuth," he said. My hopes rose again. Of course, he could still talk with everyone and communicate. I was such an idiot. This recent death had my head spinning and I wasn't thinking properly.
I passed the phone to Cuthbert.
"Hello Adrian? Yeah it's me Cuthbert. Yeah … so you want me to give you all the details? … Uh-huh … okay … well, according to the eye-witnesses here …"
I went and sat on a chair, waiting for their conversation to end. I saw Cuthbert approach a constable and tell him something. The constable nodded and left the room.
Finally, after ten minutes, Cuthbert approached me and handed me the phone.
"I'm here Antei. Cuth just gave me a rundown of what the witnesses said. I must say, your date is in a pretty tight spot at the moment. But I'll see what I can do."
"So, you think Alessa is the killer?"
"No. But I can't be sure until Cuth does what I told him to do."
"What did you tell him?"
At the moment, the constable entered the room. "I talked with the owners, sir. They said the switch connecting the main power line to the backup power line was disconnected. That's why the blackout occurred."
"Hello? Antei? Why are you quiet? Hello?"
"Yeah Adrian. Sorry, I was listening to this constable who just came into the room."
"He's back? What'd he say?"
"You sent him?"
"I asked Cuthbert to send him. Now, what'd he say?" I told him what the constable had said. "Well," Adrian said cheerfully, "That proves Alessa is innocent. Don't get too excited. The killer is still in your midst. Cuth said there was a family there. Are there any children?"
I couldn't understand why Adrian would be interested in children at this moment. "Yes there are. Why?"
"Can you pass the phone to one of them? A young one will do."
"I'm not a pedophile. Just trying to solve the case. Now will you please pass the phone to one of the kid?"
I shrugged. I never knew what went on in Adrian's mind. I approached one of the kid. The mother instinctively pulled the kid closer to her. "What do you want?" she asked, not rudely but with a hint of caution.
"My friend, he's a detective. He says he wants to talk to one of your kid."
"Talk to my kids? What on earth for?"
"I dunno ma'am. But will you please let him do it? He can help solve this case."
The mother nodded. I walked to a little girl. "Hey there," I said, trying to sound as cheerful as possible. "What's your name?"
"Diana," she replied.
"Well Diana, my friend is a detective. Do you know what detectives are?" She nodded. "Well, he wants to talk to you. Don't be afraid and answer any questions he asks, okay?" She nodded again. I handed her the phone.
"Hello? … I am fine … Diana … Yes … I study in the fourth grade … Yes, mommy and daddy brought us here … Yes, I was afraid … No … There was this clicking sound … Only once … It was very low … Yes … Okay, bye sir!" She handed the phone back to me.
"So, what did you ask her?"
"Not important at the moment. Give the phone to Alessa."
I wanted to swear at his abruptness. Muttering curses, I did as I was told.
"Y…yes?" Alessa stammered. "Yes he has told me about you … An interior designer … Um … well, Antei was gone only for a minute … not really … he did grunt … yes … a short grunt … yes … okay." She extended the phone to me.
"Now can you tell me what you've been asking and what for?"
"Not yet. Go to the table where Mr. Jones was sitting. Smell under the table, right beneath the chair where Mr. Jones sat. Just a quick sniff okay? As soon as you smell something, move to the window and take a breath of fresh air."
"Just do it, please. I am trying to prove Alessa innocent."
I moved to the last table of the second column. I was aware that everyone was watching my action. I wonder what they thought of me when I pulled up the table-cloth, poked my head down under and took a sniff. A strong bitter almond smell lingered in the air under the table. I suddenly felt dizzy. I remembered what Adrian had said and quickly moved to the window next to the table and poked my head inside. Even after a lungful of fresh air, I still felt weak.
"Antei? Antei? Are you okay?"
The policemen must have seen me staggering for they had rushed to my help.
"Hey son, what happened? Are you okay?" It was Cuthbert.
"Sir his face is red," another was saying.
"You, search what's underneath that table–"
"No!" Adrian's exclamation was so loud that Cuthbert heard him clearly from the speaker although the phone was in my hand and he was a few paces away.
"What?" Cuthbert snatched the phone from my hand. "Adrian, this is Cuth. What did you tell Antei to do? … You what?"
He turned to the other policemen. "Men, Adrian says there's poison underneath that table. Hydrogen cyanide."
Hydrogen cyanide? So that was what I'd smelled? I grabbed the phone from Cuthbert's hand. "Hydrogen cyanide? You asked me smell that?" I asked angrily.
"Hey, I'm trying to help okay. Besides, I told you to take a very short sniff and move to a window immediately. I'm glad you're okay. Still, go to the hospital immediately after this for a check-up, just to be sure."
"But how'd you know there was that under there? And why ask me to smell it?"
"I didn't know. I suspected. I needed you to confirm my theory. Which you just did. Put me on loudspeaker."
"Hello? Cuth? Can you hear me? Can everyone hear me?"
"Yes we can Adrian," Cuth answered.
"Well, I wanted to tell you that this case is solved. Alessa is not the murderer. The murderer is one of the person among you. And we're going to find out who, right now."ns18.104.22.168da2