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Harvard was right, it was a damn good bakery. The warm, tantalizing scent of proofing dough and melted chocolate shrouded the bakery. We both ate two croissants and one doughnut each and bought some doughnuts for the team.
“What is the plan today?” I asked as we both jumped in the Lotus Evija.
“Depends on when the forensic team wishes to trade the reports for the doughnuts.” He said.
“So we are just gonna sit here waiting?”
“It's like you don’t know me.” He started the car and started driving it, “Why don’t we meet up with Miss Seymour?”
“To find out more about Leyla Gardner?”
“Almost. I am more interested in finding about people close to Leyla Gardner.” He said, “Odds have it that she was poisoned. Who would have the opportunity to poison her? Someone in close quarters. That makes everyone close to her a suspect.”
“And how did you deduce Miss Seymour is not a suspect?” I asked.
“Oh! I didn’t. I am gonna take every word she says with a massive grain of salt.” He said, “By the way, could you do the talking while I take notes.”
“Not a problem.”
“Miss Seymour, could you please tell us all the events that took place at the party?” I asked.
We were sitting in Miss Seymour’s library. Its floor was covered with a grand blue rug and five shelves of books extended both left and right. The area we sat in was where our host, Elisa Seymour, usually did her writing, a rustic fireplace with a desk facing it. The window above the fireplace opened to the well-maintained garden outside.
Elisa wiped her sobs and started, “Leyla has such parties every month. Only a handful of people are invited, it's like a writing circle followed by a house party. We all share what we wrote that month and then we proceed to the partying.”
“Yesterday, no- It was the day before yesterday, We had a smaller party than usual. Only a very close-knit group was invited, and most left early.” She told.
“Could you recollect who all were there?”
“Don’t take my word on this one, I have a horrible, horrible memory. However, if it serves me in this case there was Keith, Leyla’s husband and...”
Harvard interrupted, “I am sorry to interrupt. When did he leave the party?”
“He left immediately after the writing circle was done. He had a flight to catch.” Elisa replied.
“The flight was headed to San Fransisco. He had an interview on some talk show.” Harvard noted all of it down. “Please continue with the rest of the guests.”
Elisa continued, “Then there was our literary agent, Josh Nikolson. He actually planned on staying late to help me craft a book deal, but he postponed the affair and left early.”
“Why?” I asked, beating Harvard to the post.
“I think he and Leyla had a disagreement.” She saw Harvard noting it down, “It was nothing major. Nothing worth killing for. Josh and Leyla disagree over something or the other every second week, and yet Leyla has been represented by Josh for the last 12 years. It’s never a big deal.”
“And does Mr Nikolson write?” Harvard asked.
“Under a pen name.” Elisa shared.
“Let’s move onwards. Who else was there at the party?”
“I remember Dr Clifford being there, after all, he joins us very rarely.” Elisa recounted, “One time a lady, an unhealthily obese lady, was in labour and, as he described it, the baby had its shoulder stuck in the vagina. He called it something like shoulder dy...”
“Shoulder Dystocia” Harvard completed, from across the room. “It's a type of obstructed labour.”
“Ah! That’s it. That’s exactly what he said. Once a lady’s cervix got covered by some ‘placard’ thing.”
“It’s 'placenta'.” Harvard corrected.
“That’s what Clifford had said. He said it became a very complicated situation and he was not able to come that night.”
“Ma’am, could we come back to the matter on hand?” I interrupted.
“Sorry officer. I went off a tangent, like I was saying, yesterday Dr Clifford joined us for the party. His pieces are extremely intriguing and thought-provoking, and that day was no different.”
“Elisa, could you please tell us when Dr Clifford left?” Harvard asked.
“He had a call from the hospital just before we were about to break bread. He ate in a hurry and left soon after.”
“Were there any more people present there?”
“We had Mr and Mrs Witherson who carpooled me on their way out.” She said.
I asked promptly, “Anything else you want us to be informed about?”
“Nothing. I have told you all I know.” Elisa said wiping her tears, “I can’t believe Leyla is dead. Like actually dead. Nor can I believe, I refuse to believe that any of the people I mentioned was responsible for her death.”
“What makes you say so?” Harvard asked.
“With the exception of the Withersons, I know all of them closely. We writers are mild folk. We can only kill characters in our stories, that too with great effort. However, killing an actual living being, that is not possible.” Elisa’s voice was filled with despair as well as angst, “I can’t muster the courage to say it but-but the only possible explanation for this must be that Leyla might have killed her...” Elisa’s voice ceased. She gestured at her neck, she was unable to breathe.
And then she collapsed on the floor.
[They Do It With Lenses will be continued next week.]
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Text (c) 2022 by Arjun Agarwal.
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great to find you on "On Substack"...congrats!