In the weeks following the Corbet Adams’ incident, I little thought of Donaghey Cross, or even Corbet Adams for that matter. My mind was turned to thoughts of my professional training. It had always been my family’s intention that once I completed my general university studies that I should follow the path of my father’s fathers. But, the last thing, in my mind, that the world needed, was another solicitor.
I did manage to stay in my families’ good graces, marginally, by assuring them of my intentions to pursue a professional career. Though, I doubt my aspirations of a degree in animal studies would hardly reassure them of anything. And, as such, my mind had been absorbed in the different ways I might inform my family of my intentions, with each way as equally distressing as any other.
So, the reappearance of Donaghey Cross in my life was not only unwanted, but unexpected.
“You know, I think we nearly have all the answers to the Corbet Adams’ murder!” The door to the lab I had reserved for study flew wide and Donaghey Cross strode across the threshold as if the very school belonged to him.
My concentration shattered and the test tube I had held, now shards on the countertop, I made no effort to hide my frustration and my disapproval at being disturbed. “Excuse me, but I am trying work.” I could feel the twinge of a headache growing in my left temple.
“My dear, Mr. Martin, I thought you’d be interested in hearing all the facts that have been discovered concerning the Corbet Adams case. You seemed interested before, when you first found out that Adams’ death was by poison and not by his own hand.” Cross moved across the lab, raised the blind and stared intently at the passing students and professors.
“I will admit to being surprised that his death was not suicide as it seemed. And, I will admit to being surprised that you saw his death as more than the obvious suicide. But, as to my desire to hear any other facts concerning that unfortunate circumstance, I have none.” I swept the pieces of my former test tube into the lab’s waste bin, taking care to disinfect the exposed countertop. It would not do to infect my fellow researchers, or worse, to contaminate my other samples.
Donaghey Cross continued to stare from the lab window, either unconcerned by my statement or completely deaf to it. “You know, this is a wonderful spot to observe the comings and goings on about campus. I dare say that little could happen around here without some traces of it passing under your very nose.”
“Please, Mr. Cross, I really do have a lot of work to do before the end of the day. I would appreciate it if you would leave me to it.” The twinge of a headache had moved from my left temple to rest firmly behind both eyes. I pushed the frame of my glasses off the bridge of my nose, hoping to massage away some of the strain.
“Did you know that Corbet Adams had once been engaged to Mary Adell?” Cross asked it in such an off-hand manner that I wasn’t sure if he wanted a response or if he even cared for a response. His attention never left the window, his sharp eyes flitting from person to person. “And, that she broke that same engagement a mere week before their wedding?”
“You say this as if it were of some importance.” Clear as it was that Cross had no intention of leaving me to my studies, I continued to my next sample.
“Some importance? My dear fellow, it is of the greatest importance!” At this, Cross turned his piercing eyes to me. So sharp was his gaze that I shuttered at how unsettled I was by it.
“When you take with it, the fact that Corbet Adams refused to let her breaking of the engagement keep him from her and couple that with a new, powerful suitor, who had even more powerful connections to handle undesirable situations, you have a rather sticky state of affairs.” Cross moved to stand on the opposite side of my work bench.
“But, what has this to do with African Milk Plant poisoning?”
Cross began to pace along the workbench. I sat aside my working sample, accepting now that my work for the day would not be completed.
“When you have such powerful connections, as Mary Adell’s new suitor, it is of little effort that such workings can be arranged. It would be nothing for a poor, but nuisance of a past suitor like Adams to be disposed of without so much as a by the by.”
“So, they could poison him, and then create a suicide scene to cover the crime?” I was suddenly aware that all traces of my headache had disappeared.
“Now, you come to it.” Cross’s sly thin-lipped grin turned toward me.
“One thing, though. If it were their intent to make his death appear a suicide, why would they allow a piece of the poisonous plant to be found on his body? Surely that does nothing but destroy the illusion they were trying to create.”
Cross moved around the workbench to stand before me, his sly grin moving from his lips to his piercing eyes. “The answer to that question will determine whether the guilt of Corbet Adams’ murder lies with one person or two!”
He slid past me, an enthusiastic skip in his steps. “Come, my dear Martin, we have work to do!”