“Ah, quite so.” A soft chuckle left Cross’s lips. “I do apologize for the little deception, but, you see, it was necessary.”
Poised on the edge of the lounger, her hands still adjusting the dressing on my knee, Miss Adell’s tone hardened. “Why was it necessary? And how could you call such a lie, little?”
Cross, who had been standing just behind my head, moved toward Miss Adell. He took himself to one knee and met Miss Adell’s gaze. “It was necessary because you would never have spoken to us otherwise.”
So sincere was Cross’s own tone that the merest of trembles seemed to overtake Miss Adell. “And, I called the deceit little, for it was just that. True we may never have known Corbet Adams on any intimate level, save the occasional greeting as we passed on campus, but, we do, in earnest, seek answers to his untimely end as any friend would most likely do.”
“I see,” Miss Adell's trembles grew steadily as she fought to hold her composure.
“We thought, perhaps, that you might tell us about Corbet, how you knew him, or anything that you might think of to help us learn the truth.”
“But, why? Why do you wish to delve deeper into a tragedy that isn’t your own?” Miss Mary stood from the couch and moved away to the far side of the sitting room, her back, now turned to us.
“Because, we wish to see justice done.” Cross stood, but made no move to follow her. “We know he did not commit suicide by shooting himself, that much is clear. And, I am almost certain that the poisoning, which did take his life, was no accident, nor was it a suicidal attempt. For, no one carries a loaded pistol with them if they plan on committing suicide by poison”
Miss Adell swung around, an inscrutable look on her face. Cross took two steps toward her. “That, my dear lady, is the truth.” The fierceness of Cross’s eyes returned. “And, anything you might be able to tell us about Corbet Adams would be greatly appreciated.”
With no change in her position and no change in the expression on her face, Miss Mary Adell began:
“I’d known Corbet Adams for some years. He was one of those dear friends who always seemed to be near whenever he was most needed, for support, for company. When he did me the honor of asking for my hand, I was, of course, overjoyed. Though, I was also surprised, as we had never entertained the idea of marriage before.”
“And, the prospect was well received by both families?” Cross focused intensely on Mary Adell.
“Yes, we had been children together, becoming husband and wife didn’t seem so far-fetched.”
“Then why, when things seemed to be set so perfectly for you and for your future, did you call the engagement to an end, a mere week before the marriage?” Cross didn’t move and from what I could tell, he didn’t even breathe as he watched for Miss Adell’s response.
“My father, who is a formidable financial figure now, was not always a wealthy man. He spent the greater part of his youth, with my mother, trying to put together a sort of future they could be proud of. But it was a struggle that cost my mother her life, just a few months after my birth.” Miss Adell moved to the window and pulled aside the sheer curtain.
“Corbet Adams, though a wonderfully warm person, had aspirations of a life on stage. Hardly the kind of life that would have provided any sort of secure future.”
“So, it was your father who insisted the engagement end?” Mary Adell spun around to meet Cross’s gaze. And, in the few seconds they held each other’s gaze, no sound within the room could be heard until Cross spoke, finally. “Thank you, Miss Adell. I believe we have imposed upon your time long enough.”
Outside, once more, we made our way through the estate grounds as quickly as my leg would allow. “What a remarkable woman!” Cross observed as we passed out the gate, his mind, clearly wrapped in the words she had offered about Corbet Adams.
“Hmm.” My own mind wrapped in the effort of remembering the sound of those words as they left her lips.
“Come, Martin,” Cross began propelling me forward. “We must have time to think, this case grows more obscure instead of clearer!”