Death in an Ivory Tower (Dotsy Lamb Travel Mysteries) (9 page)

BOOK: Death in an Ivory Tower (Dotsy Lamb Travel Mysteries)
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We turned back, sticking to the walkway that skirted the east and south wings of the building. “Mignon, was Bram conscientious about watching his blood sugar?”

“Absolutely!” The fat under her chin shook for emphasis.

“I know he took insulin, because his supply is in the same little refrigerator where I keep mine.” I responded to her next question, the obvious one, with, “Yes. Type one. I’ve been dealing with it my whole life.”

“Bram was only diagnosed about five years ago, I think. That would be type two?” Climbing the stairs ahead of me she wheezed, “Bram always tested his blood sugar first thing every morning, then he ate breakfast, then he gave himself a shot of insulin.” She paused on the first landing and caught her breath. “He tested again before lunch, and after lunch he’d do another injection.” She forged ahead, up the next flight. “Before dinner he tested again but after he ate he didn’t take more insulin unless his numbers were too high.”

We had reached the door to room four. Mignon inserted the key and opened the door. “Before bedtime he always tested again. Always.”

“And if the number was too high?”

“He’d take more insulin, I guess, but that never happened. If it was low, he’d eat a snack.”

I recalled the Chocolate Kream Biscuit wrappers, the used tea bags, and the empty sugar packets I’d seen in Bram’s room earlier. It made sense that he would have tested his blood, found his number too low, and eaten something to raise his sugar level before he went to sleep.

Bram’s room had been cleaned. The mattress was back where it belonged, with pillow and covers on top. The floor, the sink, the trashcan, and the desk top were all clean and shiny. New supplies lay on the tea tray.

“Oh, bollocks.” Mignon’s pudgy hand slapped her own forehead. She stepped across to the cabinet that housed a short clothes rack on one side, drawers on the other, and opened its doors. “Where are his clothes? His clothes are gone.”

I had no answer.

Pulling the long drawer under the writing desk open, she added, “Everything is gone. When we came in here before, I took his phone and thumb drive out of this drawer but there were some other things in here. Papers. Chewing gum. Keys.

They’re gone.” She walked around the rest of the room, going, “Clean as a whistle. Gone.”

“You should ask at the porter’s station.”

She stood in the middle of the floor a long moment, and then nodded. “I’ll do that.”

“I love your barrette,” I said. “Did you get it at The Green Man today?”

Her head jerked back and her eyes widened. She touched her piled-up auburn hair and felt for the barrette. “Uh, no. I’ve had it for years.” She turned to the mirror over the sink as if to see which barrette she was wearing tonight.

“How do you know I was at The Green Man today?”

“I was there, too. I took a walk down the High and I saw some things I liked in their window. I went in, but all I bought was a card.”

“How do you know I was there?”

“You were in the back room. I heard you laugh. You have a nice laugh.”

“I do?”

“It’s musical.” Actually,
loud
would have been a better word, but Mignon took this choice of words as a compliment.

“It sounded like there was a party going on in the back room.”

“No, no.” Mignon’s face clouded. She turned the desk chair around and sat, sending yards of midnight blue velvet spilling onto the floor on either side of the chair. “I told them about Bram. They all knew him. We started talking about some of the good times we’d shared with him, and . . .” Her voice quivered. “You have to understand where we’re coming from—me and our friends. We believe only the thinnest veil separates this life and the next. We pass back and forth. Sometimes we return to this world in a different form, sometimes we return in the same form. We’ve all met and talked to wonderful people that others say are long dead. It doesn’t matter to us what other people say, we know better.”

“You mean your friends in Glastonbury?”

“Friends everywhere.” Mignon leaned forward and smiled at me. “Bram will be with us again, as soon as he completes his passage through the Star Gate.”

While Mignon was talking, I spotted a piece of paper on the floor of the otherwise empty closet. I wanted it. I stood and announced, “I need to get back to my room. Long day tomorrow.” While saying this, I let my room key slip from my hand.

“Me too.”

I let her close the door and started up the next flight toward my room. “Oh wait!” I called her back. “My room key must have fallen out in there. Let me have the key and I’ll return it to the porter’s station when I’m finished.” I took it from her and quickly turned away. “And I’ll find out what’s happened to Bram’s luggage while I’m there.”

“I can go with you.”

“No, no. You go along, now. It’s late. Big day tomorrow.”

It took me only a second to retrieve my key from Bram’s bed, grab the slip of paper from the floor of his closet, and return to the stairwell in time to hand the key back to Mignon, still standing on the third step down.

C
HAPTER
S
EVEN

A thin film of light spread across the floor beneath Lettie Osgood’s door. That meant she was up. I knocked. Lettie opened the door with a hair dryer, unplugged, in one hand and a brush in the other. Her feet were bare and her short, red hair was wet.

“Are you in for the night?” I said.

“I wish! I got a call from Lindsey a few minutes ago.” Lettie shifted her tone to petulant. “‘Can you come over right away? St. Giles wants me to go somewhere with him.’”

St. Giles was apparently the name of Lindsey’s latest love interest. A slightly pretentious name, I thought, but perhaps not in England. “Isn’t it a bit late for a date?”

“Indeed it is, and I told her so, but what am I to do? Leave the kids alone in that apartment?”

“It would be Lindsey, not you, who was leaving them alone.”

“Alone is alone.”

“Have you eaten anything today?”

“No, but when I get to Lindsey’s place, I can fix myself something. As long as I’m giving her free babysitting, she can at least feed me.”

“This guy. St. Giles. What do you know about him?”

“He’s extremely handsome, he’s a neurologist, and Lindsey’s so smitten with him she’s letting him walk all over her.”

“Her divorce problems aren’t making her any more cautious? I’d think she’d be a bit gun-shy right now.”

“Lindsey’s hitting the big four-oh in April. That’s part of it.”

Lettie plugged in the hair dryer, bent forward, and shook her head so the hair dryer and brush could work on the hair in back. We couldn’t hear each other over the dryer noise, so I pulled the slip of paper from Bram’s closet out of my pocket and looked at it.

It appeared to be a list. In a man’s scratchy hand and in ballpoint, it said:

1. Tor

2. bone 51.9 (× 2.6 + 65) = 2m

3. Sharpham Cromwell

4. TVRA 450 ce.

At first blush, this meant nothing to me, but I love a good mystery. Although the words
bone, Sharpham,
and
Cromwell
were written in cursive, TVRA was printed, as if those four letters might be an acronym rather than a word.

Now looking for her sandals, Lettie said, “I have to hurry. The bus stops outside at nine forty-five, and I think it’s the last one.” Sliding the heel strap of one sandal to its proper place, she grabbed the edge of her bed for balance. “What’s happening with the man in room four? Any new developments?”

“I went with Mignon, who’s Bram’s companion—
was
Bram’s companion—to room four a few minutes ago. Someone’s already cleaned the room. They took his body to the morgue and they’re supposed to do an autopsy tomorrow.”

“Where’s the morgue?”

“I don’t know. Does it matter?”

“You said there was something strange about his death. Knowing you, you’ve already figured out a way to sneak in when they’re doing the autopsy. With all that stuff they have to wear, you wouldn’t need a disguise.”

“Really!” I feigned resentment. “Now that you mention it . . .” Something occurred to me. “Do you think Lindsey could get me into the Radcliffe Hospital?”

Lettie blinked, then stared at me, wide-eyed.

“Not as a patient. I mean could she give me a tour or something?”

“And just happen to take you past the morgue where she silently slips away?” Lettie fluttered her fingers at me.

“No. What I want is to see where Keith Bunsen does his research. I have the idea it’s a lab on site but not actually in the part where the patients are.” I had to backtrack and tell Lettie who Keith Bunsen was and why I was interested in his research. Meanwhile Lettie finished dressing, shouldered her purse, and inched toward the door.

“I don’t know. Lindsey’s not exactly in the in-crowd at the hospital, you know. She’s a visiting physician.”

“I know, but could you ask?”

“So you can find a way to sneak into this lab and go through their files?”

“I just want to see where it is.”

“Gotta go. I’ll ask, I’ll ask!”

Where did that come from?
I stood in the middle of my room and wondered why I had just asked Lettie to get me a tour of the Radcliffe Hospital. Until I heard myself asking, I’d had no thought of going to the hospital for any reason. I must have had a reason; what was it?

Bram Fitzwaring might or might not have been a part of Keith Bunsen’s study, but I’d bet almost anything that he was. Keith might or might not have been telling the truth when he said he didn’t know. But Bram was dead, and I didn’t believe hypoglycemia had killed him. I’ve dealt with the problem myself, and the timing was wrong. The overturned furniture was wrong. The cookie wrappers and the empty sugar packets in his trash-can meant that he had consumed a good bit of sugar at some point. The scout on our staircase cleaned our rooms in late afternoon. She always emptied the trashcans, so Bram had consumed the cookies and tea after the scout cleaned the room. Had he realized he needed some quick carbs when he returned to his room after dinner? Did he realize he was acting strangely when he talked to me?

And like Mignon, Larry, and me, he’d had a stomachache after dinner as was shown by the position of his trashcan—right next to his mattress. But he hadn’t actually thrown up, had he? I recalled going through the contents of the trashcan, and if there had been any upchuck in it, I certainly would’ve noticed.

If it had been hypoglycemia, I think he would have died long before two a.m., the approximate time I was awakened by the noises that must have come from his room. Had the cookies and sweet tea staved off the sugar crisis until two a.m.? Then why did he wake up and start trashing the furniture? I needed to think about this some more, but it didn’t make sense. I felt sure Fitzwaring had entered the next world or, as Mignon would have it, passed through the Star Gate, with help.

When the results of the autopsy came out, would the police start looking for the helper? Who would be a suspect? I came up with four names and one of them was mine.

I gathered my shower supplies and placed the note from the floor of Bram Fitzwaring’s closet on my desk, anchoring it with my phone as if it were so important I mustn’t let it fall on the floor. Actually, I had a feeling it
was
important. Yanking my robe and nightshift off the peg on my closet door, I decided to wait and change clothes in the bathroom. A mental image of myself climbing up the stairs in a short robe and black heels convinced me to take my flip-flops in the unlikely event I’d run into someone on my return.

Walking down the hall outside my room, I heard the drums again. Thirteen beats then pause, I remembered from last night. I counted and found that tonight’s beat was different. It was seven beats, pause, four beats pause, then seven again. I descended to Mignon’s room and listened at her door. The drumming was louder here. It was obviously coming from within Mignon’s room. From this distance I heard another, higher-pitched, drum tapping out a rhythm between the slower beats. What I’d heard from above had been only the bass part of a more complex beat.

I descended another flight to the bathroom and tossed my towel over the shower curtain rod. A large bug had found its way into the shower enclosure and was now on its back, buzzing around in frantic circles near the drain. It couldn’t turn itself over or fly away. Probably the natural end of its short life.

I stepped into the toilet nook and grabbed a wad of paper, picked up the still-buzzing insect, cranked open the room’s only window, stuck out my arm, and released the bug. I didn’t notice whether the bug flew away or not because a figure, gliding smoothly through the gloom on the far wall of the quad caught my eye.

It was the Grey Lady again.

Draped in a dark, hooded cape, she moved as if pulled by an invisible string. My next move depended on whether or not I had already shed my shoes. I looked down and found they were still on my feet, so I ran. Careening off the far wall of the staircase in my haste to make a ninety-degree turn, I flew out and into the quad.

She was headed for the arched passage that led to the north gate. She. How did I know it was a woman?

I ran straight across the grass, now starting to gather dew. I shouted, “Hey!” as the heel of my left shoe came down on something hard. The shoe turned on its side and my ankle bent painfully outward.

The figure stopped for a split second, then, without turning to face me, took off in a more human-like sprint, her cape billowing out behind her.

I ran, too. My ankle screaming in protest, I dashed through the archway after her, tripping again on the uneven flagstone. This space was lit by one small carriage light that, if anything, made the path more confusing by casting odd shadows. She could only have gone left, because a right turn led to the garden entrance of the Master’s Lodgings. No escape that way.

I turned left. Ahead of me lay three solid walls, none with doors, and another archway on the right. I crept toward it, now wary, because I was certain I’d meet the Grey Lady attempting to open the door that I knew opened into Cobbler’s Lane. What I didn’t know was
how
it opened. I assumed it, like the front gate, had a touch pad that required a magic button. There was no illumination at all in this space except for a tiny bit of reflected college lights slipping in from behind me. I shut my eyes for a moment, to help them adapt to the dark more quickly.

BOOK: Death in an Ivory Tower (Dotsy Lamb Travel Mysteries)
8.49Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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