‘Hello, darling, I’m home!’
Hugo turned to see Theodore step into the sitting room. He tried to look surprised, as though Theodore had caught him in the middle of studying his cork-boards and hadn’t been waiting for Theodore to enter the moment he heard his heavy footfalls climbing the stairs.
‘Oh, there you are,’ Hugo said, and with as casual a tone as he could manage, added, ‘I tried telephoning you at the Hammam but they told me you weren’t there.’
‘Oh,’ said Theodore. ‘Sorry, darling. I was chasing a lead.’
‘Art remembered something about Tuesday night.’ He didn’t allow Hugo time to react to this. ‘It turns out he kept a detail from us, afraid it might get an innocent man in trouble, but I think what he saw may well have precipitated the murder. You see, I spoke to a regular at the Hammam who saw—or at least his lover saw—a very young man with wavy, blond hair and wearing a towel over his shoulders follow Jack into a changing cubicle. And Art described a very similar man who hit Jack upside the head after Jack made felt him up and tried to kiss him. I think there’s a very good chance that he’s our man.’
‘You were with Art?’ said Hugo.
‘Yes,’ said Theodore, trying to sound unapologetic. ‘He telephoned me, we had coffee, he told me what he saw.’
‘I see,’ said Hugo. ‘Who is Jack?’
‘Oh! Turns out Charles Parsons wasn’t the victim, it’s Jack Roe,’ said Theodore.
‘How do you know that?’
‘I spoke with another regular who knew him.’
‘Are you sure?’
‘Pretty sure,’ said Theodore with a shrug. ‘An Irish redhead with a horse tattoo on his hip.’
‘Hm,’ said Hugo. ‘Shall I cook dinner tonight?’
Theodore was disgruntled that Hugo didn’t seem more interested, though the kind offer disarmed him. ‘That’d be lovely, darling.’
So Hugo went off to the kitchen, while Theodore sat alone in the sitting room. He didn’t know what to do with himself and so ended up just sitting there until dinner was ready.
Hugo had made cod fillets with horseradish and served it in the dining room. The detectives sat together, quietly eating. They had to sit at one end of the table because Hugo’s clothes occupied the other.
After a minute or two, Theodore said, ‘What about you? Did you find this Keegan Doyle?’
‘I did,’ said Hugo. ‘That is, I found his wife.’
‘She told me he was a regular at the Hammam and that he was planning to visit on Tuesday evening. Only she hasn’t seen him since he left for work Tuesday morning.’
Theodore curled a finger through his moustache. ‘But he never reached the Hammam, right, if his name’s not in the ledger?’
‘I don’t trust the ledger. There’s at least one mistake in it, which throws the whole the thing into question.’
‘So what are you saying, there are two people missing?’
‘No, there’s only one victim. It’s not Charles Parsons, since I met him. And I can find no trace of Jack Roe. Therefore, Keegan Doyle is by far the most likely candidate.’
Hugo took a bite of fish. Theodore put down his fork. ‘What about the people I met who know Jack Roe?’
‘My theory is that Jack Roe is a fake name which Keegan Doyle used within the Hammam,’ said Hugo.
Theodore opened his mouth to respond but changed his mind. Instead he just said, ‘That would explain it.’
Not much else was said as they finished their meal.
They retired to the sitting room for the rest of the evening. Hugo took position at his desk, going over his many pages of notes, interrupting every so often to study his cork-boards. Theodore, meanwhile, sat on the sofa. He didn’t like to seem idle, only he didn’t have any notes to go over. So he simply sat and tried to contemplate his findings. He tried to remember what he usually did on evenings when they had a case.
‘So,’ he said, breaking the silence. ‘Keegan Doyle is married?’
Hugo made a murmur of agreement. ‘He has a daughter, too.’
‘Oh,’ said Theodore. ‘How old?’
‘Just a baby.’
‘Nothing,’ said Theodore, although he immediately went on to say, ‘It’s just, while I might believe a married man would be having affairs at the Hammam, it’s surprising that his marriage was consummated, isn’t it? If Keegan lusted after men, he clearly suppressed those impulses enough to think starting a family was a good idea.’
‘He could have changed his mind since then.’
‘So soon after the child was born?’
‘It’s not outside the bounds of possibility,’ said Hugo. ‘Perhaps he likes both men and women and prefers not to choose.’
‘How certain are you that Keegan Doyle is our man?’
‘I’m certain,’ said Hugo, firmly.
‘I mean what proof do you have other than he’s missing and he was planning to go to the bathhouse?’
Hugo, who was not known for having an expressive face, pouted. ‘I’ll get proof,’ he said. ‘His wife gave their wedding photograph to the police, but she told me there were two others, in his wallet and on his desk at his workplace. Where his wallet has gotten to is anybody’s guess, but tomorrow I’ll get my hands on the other. It’ll be him, I promise you.’
Theodore could only shrug. ‘If you say so.’
Some time later, the grandfather clock bonged and Theodore suggested it was time for bed. The detectives went through their nighttime rituals, changing into their nightclothes, taking turns to use the bathroom before getting into bed. As usual, Theodore took out his novel to read and Hugo reread his notebook again, even though he’d been looking at it so long the words were swimming in front of his eyes. He took off his spectacles and put the notebook down.
‘You want me to put the light out?’ said Theodore.
‘So Arthur suddenly remembered this detail about the man with blond hair?’ said Hugo.
Theodore blinked. ‘Not exactly. He was afraid to tell us last time in case it was irrelevant.’
‘What’s the harm if it’s irrelevant?’
‘He didn’t want an innocent person to be arrested.’
‘Why would they be arrested if they’re innocent? Does he have that low an opinion of our detective skills?’
Theodore closed his book and looked Hugo in the eye. ‘What are you getting at?’
It was several seconds before Hugo replied. ‘I question whether you treat Arthur with the correct impartially.’
‘You don’t believe him?’
‘He’s a liar, by his own admission.’
‘Other people back up his story.’
‘I believe in the blond-haired man, but this incident with the victim feeling him up doesn’t fit with my working theory.’
‘Oh!’ Theodore’s voice raised in both pitch and volume. ‘Well, if it doesn’t fit your working theory then it must be the evidence that’s wrong!’
‘He doesn’t even remember the victim’s name!’
Theodore was stunned. Hugo was surprised too. He never raised his voice.
After drawing a long, slow breath, Theodore said, ‘Why would Art lie about that?’
Hugo snorted. ‘Anything that will convince you to have coffee with him…’
‘Oh, now I understand,’ Theodore groaned. ‘O beware, my lord, of jealousy; It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock the meat it feeds on.’
‘Whenever I’m working on the case, you’re with him.’
‘I’m working too! It was your idea to split up.’
‘Was it?’ Hugo’s eyes flashed with a fury Theodore had never seen. Before he could react, Hugo had thrown off the covers and shuffled out of bed.
‘Huey!’ Theodore gasped. ‘Will you come back here and talk to me!?’
But Hugo had already marched out of the room. He headed for the spare bedroom but received a rude reminder of the smell before he’d even touched the handle. This was also the moment he realised he’d left his spectacles in the master bedroom, but he was damned if he was going back for them now. Instead, he stumbled through the flat until he found a blanket. Then he felt his way to the sitting room sofa and laid down to sleep, his arms folded and his back to the room.