Clear as Tonic Water

This story was written for Pensitivity 101’s Three Things Challenge #330

Today’s threes Prompt’s are: Lemonade, Soda and Tonic

Here’s what I came up with:

Some of you will remember Detective Shelly Hobbs from her previous mystery Murder in the Menagerie. Do click the link to enjoy that wild case if you like. Anyway, will join her as delves into another peculiar case.

Clear as Tonic Water

Detective Shelly Hobbs stood staring at herself in the mirror upon the lift wall. She felt she looked good for thirty-five, no real wrinkles, a nice crop of shiny mahogany hair. Even her black suit trousers and white blouse fit her healthy frame. She turned sideways and looked again. She was just preening her tidy bun as the door opened.

  “There’s nobody to impress up here, Detective?” remarked Sergeant Jake Klass smiling at her. He was a young sergeant with a ruddy complexion, short blonde hair and a hard-working attitude.

“No, corpses never do appreciate a well-preened detective or officer, do they?” Shelly passed him into the white-painted hallway and glanced out of the window. At fourteen floors up, the view over Norwich’s square-shaped Norman castle and the surrounding city was dizzying.

“I don’t even have a corpse for you today.” Jake indicated an open door.

“Really, what made you call in a detective then?” Shelly followed him along the biscuit-coloured carpet and entered the apartment. The Westgate tower was built in 1959 but had recently undergone a lavish restoration. This apartment was one of four new penthouse suites. Right off the entryway, it opened into a wide room with a wall of triple-glazed panoramic windows, split by brock columns and a sweeping balcony beyond. The open kitchen-diner all in chrome and white was to the left. The lounge space filled the middle of the room and the two doors down to the right were the bedroom and bathroom.  

“We may be dealing with a murder. You see the owner Ms Clarion Seaman has vanished. Her boss made the police report, having missed her at work over the last couple of days. He couldn’t reach her, got worried and called us. The reception manager here; hasn’t seen her since Thursday either. He verified her car was still in the parking garage though. He let me into the apartment to see if she was here and — she’s not.” Jake slapped his hands to his sides.

“Okay, let’s see if we’ve got any clues.” Shelly pulled on some glove to protect evidence. “Right, this morning’s paper and mail are on the coffee table.”

“So, she’s been here today.”

“Looks that way.” Shelly entered the kitchen and drew open the fridge. “Hmm, no food.”

“It’s never had anything in it, has it?” Jake remarked.

“Doubt it.” The fridge was completely bare and spotlessly clean. Shelly opened all the cupboards and found the usual cooking and serving implements, but not a single shred of food or drink. Seeing a bin beneath the white counter she flicked the lid off. It too was empty leaving her frowning. “So, she’s here but eats and drinks nothing.”

“This is very bizarre,” Jake said scratching his head. A police chase was unfolding on his radio but he ignored that.

“No kidding.” Shelly passed the white marble-topped dining table and its four chairs. Curiously it had a fruit bowl on the surface but no fruit. Entering the lounge area, she noticed a small round smudge on the glass beside one of the pillars between the panoramic windows. She also noticed a chiller within the enormous floor to ceiling wall cabinet. It contained a bookcase with half a dozen romance novels upon it, several shelves displaying minimalist ornaments, a cupboard, and the chiller which Shelly opened at once. “Ah, ha! So, she does drink lemonade, soda, and tonic water then,” she announced while reading the labels on the posh little bottles.

“Some diet! I bet she loses a hundred pounds a week just drinking those and eating nothing,” Jake remarked.

“No, she can’t do that; she’d kill herself from malnutrition in days.” Shelly entered the bedroom. The red duvet was on the floor as if tossed off in the middle of a hot night. A look around revealed the black-teak wardrobe and drawers were stocked with the usual array of clothing and cosmetics among other things. “She must eat out.”

“Yeah, she has to.” Jake picked up a black-framed picture of a lady in a tiny red bathing suit. “She’s a pretty one, that’s for sure.”

“Put that down, Jake.” Shelly rolled her eyes and entered the bathroom. It centred on a lion foot jacuzzi bath with gold taps which matched the framing of the walk-in shower. Shelly opened the medicine cabinet and aside from sanitary items found it empty of medication and evidence

“So, come on then, master detective. What’s happened to her?” Jake pushed.

“Well, she’s not dead. I think she’s hiding.” Shelly crossed the lounge and unlocked the balcony door. Stepping out she admired the near 180-degree view of the city the balcony gave.

“Hiding?” Jake followed her out. “I don’t understand.”

“No food, no medication, only clear bottles of lemonade, soda and tonic water to drink. Ms Clarion Seaman was being threatened. I suspect somebody tried to poison her. As a result; she eats out to protect her food and only drinks clear fluids she can be sure are untampered with.”

“Very clever deduction. So, who’s threatening her and where are they both now?”      

“Thanks. Clarion was here when you arrived. I think the duvet on the floor proves she was in bed then. Hearing you at the door made her scarper.”

“Where? she had to pass me to get to the lift and fire stairs.” Jake leant on the rail. “My money’s on the reception manager. He lied about not seeing her, when he must have, right?”

“Maybe.” Shelly looked back at the lounge through the glass and then switched her gazed up the brick pillar and drainpipe, toward the blue sky. There was nothing but aerials on a flat roof above this apartment. “Clarion, it’s the police. Come down and talk with us so we can help you.”

Only the screech of a seagull gliding by answered her.

“Clarion! I know you’re up there. Come down please.” Shelly called again.

Jake’s mouth fell open as a woman wearing a tiny white silk nightdress appeared above the door.

“Jake stop catching flies and get her a dressing gown please.” Shelly approached and helped the woman down.

She was shivering, looked drawn and tired too. “How’d you find me?”

Shelly smiled. “Look at the window. She the smudge? You left me a toe print when you climbed up this morning.”

“So, I did.” Clarion smiled at Jake and let him help her into the dressing gown. “Thank you. You were right about my poisoning too. I discovered Cyanide in my carton of milk one day.”

“That’s awful. Any idea who did it?” Jake asked with his notebook out.

“No, I never saw anyone. That’s the problem.”

Shelly had started pacing the balcony thoughtfully. “Did you always by a carton of milk?”

“No, I used to buy a two-litre plastic bottle. They ran out that day.” Clarion looked scared. You think someone at the shop did it?”

Shelly shook her head. “Did you have it tested or was it just the smell that tipped you off?”

“Just the smell. I didn’t know what to do about it.”

“I think I know what happened.” Shelly took out her phone and flicked through a couple of websites. Finding what she wanted she zoomed her picture in and showed Clarion. “Is this carton familiar?”

“Yeah, that’s the type I bought.”

“Shame you didn’t check the label.” Shelly laughed as she zoomed the image out again. “You bought almond milk by mistake. Cyanide is milled from a type of bitter almond and that’s why it smells like almond essence. Almond milk uses safe sweet almonds but still smells similar. You weren’t being poisoned at all.”

“Well thank marzipan for that!” Clarion relaxed and burst into giggles of pure embarrassment.

“Another case cracked, Detective Hobbs,” Jake remarked. “I’ll go down to the supermarket and arrest the offending produce!”

The End.

Thanks for reading my friends. As always there are more stories to be enjoyed (I hope) in the Short Stories and Short Stories 2 tabs. There’s also poetry here in Poetry Corner

Have a great day!

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