4.8 The Key

by Matt P.

Everyone in the room looked in quiet shock between the two women who had just been declared as sisters, so Walter felt better that he hadn’t known. The small conference room echoed with the silence of people comparing faces for similarities, looking for differences.

Tania Summers wore a grin that suggested felines catching small yellow birds as she positively flounced over to her sister to embrace her ostentatiously. Morgan returned the hug with a wry amusement that covered her exasperation.

With their faces so close Walter could see the resemblance. They both had delicate features, and slight frames. Their was a similarity in the smirk-y smile Summers wore to the one Walter had seen on Morgan’s face before, like when she was teasing him about the smoking. But there were differences, too. Morgan’s hair and eyes were darker, and Tania’s skin had a tan—although it was impossible to tell whether the tan was natural or purchased. But at such a close range he couldn’t deny the family resemblance; and if the others hadn’t known, that had meant they had not often seen them close together.

“Not that we don’t appreciate the Doctor’s presence, Ms. Summers, but why did you request she be here for this?” Marshal Alexander asked, somewhere between annoyance and morbid curiosity.

“Oh no reason, really.” Tania answered, drawing the beginnings of a scowl from the Marshal before she continued breezily along. “I just wanted her here. And if—if, mind—I decide to be helpful, I may need something from her.” Summers explained cryptically. Alexander looked like he might ask more, and Morgan’s mouth had gone into a sour little moue, but Summers kept going and waved languidly to her attorney.

“Gentlemen, Marshal Alexander, what can my civic minded—albeit occasionally litigious—pillar of the community client do for you today?” Locke asked pleasantly and directly.

The Marshal gestured and Walter sat down again with a file in his hands. He pulled a picture out and set it out where everyone could see. It was the victim in a carefully cropped photo, arranged so none of the horrific wounds could be seen. In the photo, with his eyes closed, the victim could almost be resting peacefully if you didn’t know what to look for. Summers looked at it with a trained eye, and Walter wouldn’t have bet she didn’t know what to look for.

“My client won’t answer that question until she knows why you are asking.” Locke interjected before his client could even open her mouth. She raised an eyebrow and looked at Walter with a knowing gaze. Apparently she wanted all forms to be observed even though she had secured everything but notarized affidavits from them in their assurances that she wasn’t a suspect.

“He was unfortunately killed recently. We identified him and at his residence we found a note implying he had passed you some information.” Walter answered. “We are hoping to confirm our identification and find the information that he gave to you.”

The attorney and Summers shared a look, and the amusement was suddenly gone from Tania Summers’ face like a mist burned away by the sunrise. “That is Arthur.” The tycoon answered, turning her gaze back to Walter. “He was a freelance writer and investigator. I used him for special projects at the Herald. I am also the executor of his will, and will be checking to make sure certain family valuables were not disturbed.” She said, perhaps a bit defensively.

“I assure you,” Alexander commented, “the search was based on exigent circumstances and we were respectful of the property, Ms. Summers.” His voice was dry, as if not unused to sparring with the woman, Walter noted.

“Mmm.” She offered non-commitally. But after a moment she nodded and continued. “Arthur was working on a project for me, and had recently made a break through.” At that the investigators, and interestingly the Doctor as well, leaned in eagerly. Walter thought perhaps she was just feeling the room of the mood.

“A breakthrough in the Three Stripes killings?” Walter asked. “An identity?” He tried, but only partially succeeded, at keeping the eagerness out of his voice.

“Killers, you mean.” Tania Summers said with the smirk of a know-it-all reveling in her superior knowledge. The room once more fell in to silence as the group processed what she had said. Once again they were stunned, and it took Walter a few heartbeats to ask is follow up.

“What do you mean, killers?” He ventured into the shocked quiet.

“Arthur believed he had evidence—firm evidence—that there are multiple killers.” Tania said. “He believed there might be as many as four or five.”