Audible gasps came from everyone.
"Alessa is not the murderer?" Allen Stone, the father, asked in surprise. "But then who else could have done it? And how?"
"Yeah, explain that Adrian," Cuthbert demanded.
"Very well. I'm guessing none of you left the room from the time I was called. If so, then you all know I talked with the inspector. He sent a constable to ask the owners of the restaurant you are in some questions. Constable, can you please tell them what you discovered?"
The constable stepped forward. "I was the one who was sent. Apparently, the switch connecting the main power line and the back-up was switched off. That is why the lights went out when the power to this region was cut."
"As you all know," the voice from my phone continued, "The part of the city you're in has been facing regular power cuts for the past two months because the power plant was partially destroyed in a terrorist attack. The restaurant was probably scheduled to have the power cut at eight o' clock this evening. However, an important switch was turned off so that the lights would go out at precisely that moment. The killer then used the darkness to his advantage to commit the murder."
"That still doesn't tell us how Alessa is not the killer," Cuthbert said.
"True. But Antei was the one who chose that particular restaurant and that particular table for the night while the murder was premeditated."
"Maybe someone accidentally turned off that switch. Maybe Miss Alessa happened to decide to murder at the moment the lights was turned off and her boyfriend was not with her," Ronald said.
"Well then, first of all, Alessa and Antei are not in a relationship. It's just budding (I had to clear that confusion). Second, tell me Mr. Ronald, how many people go around carrying potassium cyanide with them?"
"Cuthbert gave me the full details. According to everyone, the victim had the glass containing the pill in his left hand, am I correct?"
"Yes," Ronald replied.
"Alessa was seated on a table to the right of Mr. Jones. Darkness or not, you can never not notice a person stretching across the width of your body and drop something in your drink. It's next to impossible to carry that out without the person noticing. Also, it's too much of a risk."
"Makes sense," I said.
"And – this will shock all of you – Mr. Jones did not die by ingesting the poisoned drink in his hand."
There was a startled look on everyone's faces (perhaps, including mine). The victim had not died by ingesting the pill?
"What? Are you off your rocks Adrian?" Cuthbert asked.
"I'm not inspector. I have a perfectly reasonable and scientific explanation. You see, when a person ingests potassium cyanide, it reacts with the acid in the person's body. The reaction gives off hydrogen cyanide and, I believe, potassium chloride too (I'm not sure though). It is hydrogen cyanide that is really toxic and specifically responsible for killing the person (potassium chloride is poisonous too). As I have been told, the death occurred in seconds. Potassium cyanide kills a person quickly if the person has an empty stomach. It becomes easier for the poisonous salt to react with the stomach acid to give off hydrogen cyanide.
"If the person's stomach is full, it can take two to three hours for potassium cyanide to take effect. Mr. Jones died in a restaurant. I'm sure he was not sitting around on an empty stomach eating nothing was he?"
People turned to each other and muttered in agreement.
"I'm sure all of you understand what I'm getting at. If Mr. Jones had indeed drunk the poisoned drink, he would have died sometime now, about two and a half hour later, instead of back then."
"But then how was Mr. Jones killed? He was foaming at the mouth, his body had convulsed before going limp and his face was ruddy – all of them signs of poisoning," Ronald challenged.
"Is this Mr. Ronald again?"
"Yes it is."
"Cuth told me you noticed the victim take a sip before the lights went out. You again noticed him take another sip after the lights came on. You seem to have been specifically observing Mr. Jones. Now why would that be? Are you gay?"
I couldn't help but chuckle at Adrian's last enquiry (not that I had anything against gay people).
"Or is it because," Adrian continued, "You are the murderer."
Everyone's head turned to face Ronald in one motion. He just stood there, a shocked expression on his face. It took him a moment to regain his composure.
"You really are off your rocks like the inspector said. Fine, your theory that the victim didn't die by ingesting the poison is plausible. But how did he die then? And how could I, who was sitting two tables away right next to a family who neither saw me move nor do anything suspicious could have killed him?"
"How could they? You played your card in the dark and played it well," Adrian said, his voice calm.
"Explain Adrian," Cuthbert demanded.
"Of course inspector. But before that, I would like someone to check under the table again. Not smell it of course, you can hold your breath when doing it. There should be some traces of blood under the table."
This time, Cuthbert himself did as Adrian said. His head was under the table for a couple of seconds. I was beginning to think he had perhaps inhaled the poison under the table and was unconscious when he pulled his head out and took a long breath.
"Adrian's right. There are a few drops of blood under there. Heck, how'd you know Adrian?"
"It's all logic inspector. The blood you just saw there came from the victim. Just think. A world famous archer and three times gold medal winner from the Olympics is seated straight across from where the victim is sitting. We can all imagine how perfect his aim must be, to win three golds. To hit a target just two tables across is no big deal once you've taken and readied your aim, even in the dark."
"Hit? With what?"
"A tranquilizer dart. A tranquilizer dart filled with hydrogen cyanide. The deadly compound boils in a temperature slightly above twenty seven degree Celsius. It's summer time and all the restaurants have air conditioner fitted so that their customers don't feel hot."
"He's right," Allen Stone said. "There's an air conditioner right over there."
"The temperature of that room right now would probably be eighteen to twenty degrees, enough for hydrogen cyanide to remain in a liquid state. Fill a tranquilizer dart with that, load it unto a tranquilizer and fire unto a target just four tables away in a straight line from under the table. No one can miss such a big target. Specially not those who have a good aim like you Mr. Ronald."
"Oh yeah? Where's your proof? If I had fired a dart, it should still have been under that table," Ronald said.
"But of course, you removed it. Before you tell me you never knelt down to reach under that table, not without all those people noticing and blah blah blah, let me tell you that you simply used your foot to feel and find the dart under the table. You dragged it out, concealed underneath your foot and kicked it away. My guess would be under Antei's table. It's the nearest one."
"He's right sir, there is a dart here." It was the constable. He stood up holding a dart of finger-length.
"Mr. Ronald was probably hoping to remove it from under there when no one was looking. Who'd search under a table next to the table where a person had died by allegedly ingesting a poisonous drink?"
"That explains why some hydrogen cyanide was left over under the table. It must have leaked from the dart," Cuthbert said.
"Precisely. No one would notice it over the table. Anyone who caught the smell would've thought it came from the pill in Jones' drink. The hydrogen cyanide was leaking out slowly, harmless when it dispersed into low concentration in the air. But under the table, it was concentrated and still strong.
"You will find Ronald's finger-prints on that dark, I'm sure. Also, the post-mortem of the body should reveal the victim died by injection of poison directly into the blood stream and not orally. Ronald would have been caught eventually; it was just a matter of time. I'm glad he has been caught immediately and poor Alessa has been proved innocent and saved from a lot of legal hassles and other problems."
Anger was rising in me. So, this man, who'd accused Alessa of murder was the murderer himself! That filthy swine! Ronald was just standing there, a blank expression on his face. His face was red.
"But how'd you figure all that out Adrian?" Cuthbert asked in amazement.
"I talked to little Diana. You see, small children are always curious. Their eyes and ears are always open to everything around them. They are keen observers. I noticed how they hadn't been questioned because, I'm sure, you thought kids' account don't really matter as long as adults are around. But you were wrong Cuth. The little girl gave me a vital hint. When the lights went out, she heard a click. Isn't that right Diana? Are you there?"
I looked away from Ronald and turned to Diana. She nodded timidly.
"She is nodding Adrian," I said.
"So that – a click. Who's seated right next to her table? An archer with amazing aim. Who's sitting right in front of the man with great aim? The victim. That gave me an idea that Ronald had fired something at Jones. Something that contained the poison. Hence, Diana heard a click. Next I talked to Alessa. She told me she'd heard a grunt from Jones in the darkness. As if something had pricked him. My suspicion was confirmed. After that, I asked Antei to check under the table. Sure enough, there were traces of hydrogen cyanide which must have leaked off the dart when it fell to the ground while Jones went under convulsions. Further proof of my theory. After the lights came out, you rushed to Jones. That little bit about you seeing him sip his drink after the lights came on was made up, wasn't it. Once next to Jones, you dropped the pill in his drink, while reaching out to grab his hand to check his nerve, to frame Alessa.
"Now the police have even discovered the dart itself. Cuth, if you search Ronald, I'm sure you'll find a dart gun on him."
Then – "Yes, I killed Jones." It was Ronald. He was speaking slowly, painfully. "So what? My actions are justified. Six years ago, because of this man, I was disqualified from the Olympics. He doped my food with illegal drugs. I was discovered, disqualified and humiliated. He did that so that the other archer he'd bet a large sum of money on would win. How could I let this poor excuse of a man go?" He was pleading now.
"Justified?" I screamed. "How dare you say your actions were justified? YOU are a poor excuse of a man! You tried to frame an innocent woman for a crime you committed and you think that's justified?"
I pounced on Ronald. He made no move to defend himself as I repeatedly punched his face. I felt two hands grab my arms and pull me away from this devil, this fiend.
"Antei! Calm down Antei! Let the police take care of this! Don't drop down to this murderer's level." Adrian. From the phone.
I kept staring at the man, seething in anger as the police handcuffed him and led him away. As soon as he was out of my sight, I took a long breath and turned to Alessa.
"Oh Antei! Antei! I was so scared." She burst into tears.
I pulled her close to me and hugged her. "Everything's fine now. Everything's fine."
"Thanks for your help man," I said into the phone as I walked on the empty walkway, holding Alessa's hand in my own.
"Anytime and anything for a friend," Adrian answered. "Besides, I couldn't let your first date be ruined, murder or not."
I smiled. I turned my head to look at Alessa's face. She had her head on my shoulders and was staring into the distance, silent. She must have noticed my gaze for she looked up at me and smiled.
"Tell him I'm thankful too," she said.
"I heard that," came Adrian's reply from the phone. "By the way, does this mean you two are officially together now?"
"Oh shut up!" I said. He laughed. Alessa chuckled beside me.
"So, when are you coming back from this trip of yours?"
"It's a two night trip. I'll be back day after tomorrow."
"Once again, thanks a ton."
"Don't mention it. Of course, you could tell Peter and the others about it."
I laughed. "Will you ever stop bragging?"
"Hey I like it okay?" His voice disappeared for a moment. I could hear him shout something but couldn't discern what it was. His voice came back on the phone a few moments later. "Something's happened here Antei. I'll call you later okay?"
"Okay," I said and hung up – after two hours on the phone.
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