The worn expression that Miss Mary carried with her spoke of her own sleepless night. Though, I am sure her sleepless evening had nothing to do with waiting for an answer to a note that was sent out.
Cross came to sit at the very edge of my sofa, as close as possible to our visitor. “Miss Adell,” he began, a softness in his voice that I had never heard before. “Thank you for coming at such short notice.” A sincere and apologetic smile did enough, in my opinion, to convince Miss Mary that he had no ill intentions where she was concerned.
“As you say, Mr. Cross, it was short notice. But, how could I truly stay away when I received your note.” She pulled a folded bit of paper from the inside of her left glove. “I had to know what it was you wished to share with me and what this—how did you phrase it—important information regarding your safety, life and freedom.” She pushed the note back into the lining of her glove. “Such ominous words must surely be meant to attract attention and you most assuredly got mine.”
Cross leaned forward, placing his face squarely in line with Miss Adell’s. The smile dissolved and a stern expression of analyzing concentration swept his frame. “Tell me, Miss Adell, do you know what it was that killed your first fiancé, Corbet Adams?”
There was little change in Miss Mary Adell, so little in fact, that I wondered what Cross might be able to make of her. I, for my part, saw nothing. Her expression wasn’t cold, it wasn’t sympathetic, it most certainly wasn’t distraught. It was nothing, not even surprise at Cross’s question.
“I believe at first the death had been ruled suicide by gunshot, but, that ruling was quickly overturned by your own insistence that he had met his death by other means,” the only change in Miss Mary’s expression was the opening and closing of her mouth as she spoke, the lack of change was quickly became disturbing. “African Milk Plant, wasn’t it?”
Cross nodded, “The coroner even found a piece of the plant in Adams’s pocket.” I could see that Cross was holding his breath as he watched Miss Adell. “I wonder, who would go to such trouble to murder someone with the intention of having it look like a suicide—who was careful enough in all other details—but, who intentionally or unintentionally left a piece of the murderous plant to be discovered in the pocket of the victim?”
“Surely, no one.” I blurted, before I realized what I’d said.
Cross clicked his tongue, a quick smile flying to his lips and then disappearing just as quickly. And, for the first time since her arrival, a change came over Miss Mary. Her breathing, which had been so focused and calm, was now shallow and quick.
“Ah,” a blinding realization came from Cross’s question. “The piece of poisonous plant was deliberately tucked into Adams’s pocket. Someone wanted it to be known that his death was no suicide.”
“Exactly,” Cross focused his attention back on Miss Adell. “Someone wanted it to be known that he had, in fact, been murdered.”