The crime scene: master bedroom of the Edwards chateau in Loire Valley, France. The victim: Émile Edwards, 27 years old, heir to the family’s estates at home and abroad. The suspect: renowned Scottish burlesque performer Gladys Ways, currently at large but due to perform in a Finnish club the following evening. The murder weapon: a bottle of Christian Dior Poison Girl perfume laced with the essence of two types of rose, beautiful on the skin yet lethal when ingested through, say, sensual neck kisses.
Inspector James arrives at the chateau nearly a whole day after the report comes to his Edinburgh office by telegraph. The page long document is stuffed in his single luggage, which carries also his evidence collecting gear and spare underwear. He knows that he will not find anything serious to link miss Ways to the murder, just a mutually agreed gut feeling, and expects to be on an airplane flight home by this evening after he verifies what the local authorities already suspected. As Gladys’s only living ex-boyfriend he knows her methods better than anyone else. She does not like to leave traces.
“Tea, inspector?” the help asks in English, and he declines. He is not a fan of French tea. The sheriff that collected him from Charles de Gaulle leads him to the master bedroom on the third floor, which has been taped off since yesterday. Immediately he notices that somebody had removed then reattached the tape since, as usual. “I’ll find you when I am finished,” he says to the sheriff. The older man does not know how to react, he feels like his toes are being stepped on by this young Scottish man. But he resigns and leaves the inspector to survey the scene as only he can.
It’s another classic Gladys murder. She dances for the young, rich men of the world, who then invite her to spend the night. She plays along until the last minute, when they realize that they are in grave danger. Inspector James knows this not only because he is responsible for documenting each of the last seven cases where Gladys was reportedly involved, but also because she tried it on him the night they met.
He can still see her now in his mind’s eye though he has been careful not to see her in person since he began investigating her. Tall and thin, but curvy in all the right places. Delicate, almost like she might fall off balance and need to be caught, held, caressed. Her hair is not raven black like the posters show; under the wig she is a manipulative auburn haired girl from a little town in the country. Nobody knows where she learned to dance, or kill.
Inspector James carefully looks for a strand of orange hair, or a forgotten garter belt. Anything that will allow the police to arrest her and put her behind bars for what she has done. But as before, there is nothing. Either she is the world’s most careful murderess or she has an impeccable cleanup crew. The sound of the tea kettle whistling in the kitchen below makes him jump. He stares at the white chalk outline of Mr. Edwards’ body on the bed. He could have been asleep, the way she had left him. The only sign that she was here is her telltale perfume.
Gladys reportedly gets her perfume directly from FragranceNet.com in New York for just $97.99*, retail price $139*. It is speculated that she has it specially altered to be extra potent, and clubs the world over are known to air out their rooms after she leaves. Poison Girl has a tendency to fill a hall like an invisible fog. Scandalously delicious, the floral notes waft with vanilla and almond to create a toxic sweet gourmand aroma that captivates. You cannot walk away from Gladys when she wears Dior, a dangerously yummy girl with attitude that outlasts the night.
The inspector takes a few final notes, picks up a tuft of velvet from the carpet that might have fallen from her outfit, and snaps a few more photographs for good measure. There is nothing to see here, and smelling her perfume brings him back too many memories. What was her motive this time? Did he pay her handsomely before he bit the dust? Did he sign his family’s riches away in her name? As he closes his briefcase, he notices a disturbance under the taut bed sheet, right under where Émile’s heart would have been. He carefully peels the dark sheet and gasps.
Gladys has written her note in red ink on a piece of card. His heart skips a beat.
Miss me? Keep chasing me and you’ll find yourself as dead as the others. I won’t let you get away twice. Love, G.
She knows that he is on her case, then. He smiles darkly at the card and tucks it into his shirt pocket. Not only is this priceless evidence, it confirms his suspicions that they are not finished yet. He might get to see her dance once more.
He storms down the grand staircase and bursts into the parlour, where the help is pouring hot water into the sheriff’s cup. “Ca va, inspector?” the mustached old man asks. He holds a tea biscuit in his hand.
“Oui,” Inspector James confirms. “Everything is fine. I need to return to the airport immediately, I need to be on the next flight to Helsinki.” He looks at the maid, a plump woman wearing a long navy dress and a white hat. She avoids his eyes as she sets the kettle down. “One more thing,” he says to the sheriff. “Arrest this woman for accessory to murder.”
To be continued…
*Prices true at time of writing.
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