IN THE LIBRARY
"My assistant is very much alive," I say, exhaling smoke in small rings to amuse myself.
"May I see him?" the agent asks, eyes boring into mine.
"Charles is...spending time in the library getting to know my husband. Is it necessary to disturb him? The last agent on my case didn't intrude on my work."
The agent laughs and checks his wristwatch. "The last agent proved corrupt and incompetent. I shall not repeat his mistakes. And, yes, I do insist on seeing Charles. In the flesh."
Pulling a paper from his suit, he slides it across my desk. Opening the seal, I scan the warrant granting the agent right to search the mansion for Charles.
"I don't understand."
"Charles Smith, a resident of Las Vegas, was reported missing two months ago. Some suspect foul play."
Crushing my cigarette into the ashtray, I reach under the desk and press a button. In moments, George enters the study. "Please escort us to the library."
The agent opens his mouth, but does not respond and instead follows George from the room in silence. Hurrying to catch him I walk along side the agent, my heels echoing in the hallway. George opens the door with a flourish and stands aside, allowing us access to the library.
Charles sits at my writing desk reading a manuscript and looks up in confusion when he notices our presence. The agent squints at me before approaching the desk.
"Charles Smith?" he asks.
"Yes. May I ask your name?" Charles tilts his head to the side, not understanding the intrusion.
"I'm with the FBI, Charles. Place your hand on this screen," the agent says, producing a phone type gadget from a pocket and holding it out for Charles. Following the agents instructions, a few moments pass. A green light blinks and a bell sounds. The agent shakes his head and places the contraption in his pocket. "Are you being held here against your will?"
"Against my will?" Charles repeats. "I am paid quite well to be Ella's literary assistant. I don't understand..."
Spinning his head round, the agent scans the library and finally turns his attention to me. "Where is your husband?"
"Husband?" Charles answers for me. Holding the manuscript out for the agent to peruse, he makes a circular signal with his index finger as if to suggest the FBI man might be crazy.
The agent reads a few pages of the book, flipping through with obvious irritation. "You said he was getting to know your husband in the library."
I can't suppress a laugh. "In a manner of speaking, that's what he's doing. He's my literary assistant. I pay him to read books and critique those books. Do you need me..."
He interrupts me with a wave of his hand, a hint of red anger rising on his neck. "Where is Ray Holden?"
"In the crypts below Holden Farms where his body has been interred since his death many years ago," George says, approaching with a tray. Handing me a martini, slightly dirty, he squeezes my hand and makes a thin smile.
The agent places the manuscript on the desk and adjusts his suit. "I'll see myself out. Good afternoon, Miss Thomas."