I sat alone in the bedroom, trying to muddle my way through everything we had learned that day. The name I had gotten from the vendor, Robert Kershly, had proven to be as fake as my Aunt Jeanettes smile. I sighed, because my only lead had been a dead end and Baret had smirked when we discovered this.

I rubbed my wrist where the cuffs had been and scowled. After we had talked in the street, Baret had practically dragged me through the streets and would have cuffed me to the knob of my bedroom door if I had not snatched the key from his pocket at the most crucial moment.

He honestly needed a beating, that man did.

I felt a slight breeze and shivered. Turning towards the balcony doors, I saw that they were open. I rose and walked over to close them. Reaching them, I looked out into the clear night and wondered if Alex was all right. Hugging myself, I silently admitted that I missed her feisty behaviour and saucy manner.

I had not heard from my family since I had been here, but Baret did say that they would be coming for the wedding (which, by the way, still wasn't happening). My mother and father I couldn't care a fig about, but I had expected Alex to respond to at least one of my letters.

I shrugged and looked down on the ground below me. A dark shape moving toward the house caught my eye.

I leaned toward the rail and studied the figure. Dressed in black (how obvious) the person was creeping toward the house, ducking behind bushes and hedges. I narrowed my eyes, trying to tell whether it was a man or a woman. Not being able to tell, I contented myself with the fact that I had spotted them and would be able to alert other people.

I turned, walked back into my room, closed the doors, and walked across the room to the main door. Opening it, I nearly jumped out my skin.

Baret stood on the other side of the door, his fist poised to knock. He lowered his hand, a small smiled touching his lips. I took a deep breath and crossed my arms, giving him a glowering look.

"Why" I asked, "am I not surprised that you are here?"

He shrugged. "If you knew I was here, why did you nearly faint in surprise of seeing me?"

I gritted my teeth. "Shut up Baret."

"If I do that, I won't be able to tell you what I learned from a friend of mine who works in shipping." Baret leaned against the doorway and his grin went from small to cocky. I felt my teeth grind even harder.

"Fine." I huffed. "If you tell me what you know, I'll tell you what I saw."

Baret raised an eyebrow. "What you saw?"

I raised my chin and an eyebrow of my own. "Uh uh, Mr. Declante. My curiosity will be sated before yours."

"May I come in? It may take awhile."

I nodded and opened the door further for him to come in. I checked the hallway before closing the door behind me. I turned and found Baret lying on the bed, eyes closed and pretending to snore loudly.

I shook my head. "Do you know how mature you look right now?" I asked sarcastically.

'Get used to the sight, my love."

I shoved the heel of my hand into my forehead. I should have NEVER let him in here. When will I learn?

"Get up and tell me what I want to know."

Baret rolled unto his side and pushed himself unto one elbow.

"Well, where do I start? I am fond of animals, particularly dogs and horses, I love taking trips to the country..."


He smiled again. "Oh, all right. My informant tells me that we had hired a new driver a few months ago, and those missing bushels had all come from his delivery routes."

I felt myself getting excited. The old lead had failed, but here was a fresh one ripe for the picking!

"Well, what in the world are we waiting for? Lets find him and make him talk!" I exclaimed.


I looked at Baret in surprise. "And why not?"

Baret examined his nails. "He's dead."

I felt my stomach plummet. So much for a fresh lead!

"Dead?" I squeaked.

"Deceased, decaying, the soul had fled, the grim reaper came to collect his dues, kicked the..."

"I get it, Baret! HOW is the man dead? He can't be!"

"On the contrary, it is quite possible. People die everyday you know."

I turned on him and stormed over to the bed. Grabbing a pillow, I conked him over the head with it.

"How can you possibly be so calm about this?!" I yelled. "The witnesses are dropping away from this investigation like flies during summer, and you make jokes?"

Baret rubbed the spot where I had hit him. I tried not to notice how his hair fell into his eyes and around his face in a shining mass. I took a deep breath and resisted the urge to reach out and brush it back from his forehead.

Baret glanced at me and smirked. He knew what I was thinking about somehow and I loathed him for it. I was starting to react toward him, and I felt my control starting to slip.

I nearly gasped when Baret grabbed my hand and brushed a kiss across my knuckles.

"I'm sorry," he whispered, 'but someone has to be slightly unserious in a mess like this."

I sat down on the bed, careful to keep some distance between me and him.

"How did he die?" I asked, trying to get my mind on my mission again.

Baret sat up and beside me, letting out a small chuckle.

"Its kind of ironic, actually." Baret looked at me. "Strychnine and tea."

My eyes widened and I stared back at Baret. I felt the connection click and gave him a small smile.

"Ironic indeed." I agreed.


I did not sleep that night, and no, it is not what you are thinking. Baret left after seeing to it that I was tucked in properly. Apparently being tucked in like a two year old is needed for a good nights rest.

Anyway, the reason I stayed awake was because my mind could not stop thinking. I thought about all the 'leads' we had recieved so far and deducted that as a bloodhound, I was terrible.

First the street vendor had given me phony information (he didn't know it, God bless him) and now the man who made the deliveries was dead. By poisoned tea no less.

The pieces where still shifting around in my mind when someone knocked on my door in the morning.

I rolled out of bed, wishing that my bloody head would stop that awful pounding, and went to open the door. Marta stood on the other side.

"I'm sorry ma'am, but breakfast will be served in a quarter hour. Shall I tell the master that you will be delayed for a few minutes?"

I shook my head and gave Marta a small smile. "No, Marta, I'll think I'll arrive at breakfast with my nightgown on." I winked at her. "Might put a bit of laughter back into this startling white house."

Marta giggled and moved over to the bed. She made while I went and changed into something more appropriate for the day.

When I came out of the closet, Marta was sitting on the bed and her face was downcast.

I frowned. "Marta, whats wrong?"

She lifted her head and I saw a single tear make its trail down her pale cheek. My frown deepened as I went to sit beside her on the bed. I put my arm around her shaking shoulders and turned her face towards mine.

"Marta," I said, "you can tell me whats wrong. Whatever you say is safe with me. Remember what I told you the first day I arrived?"

Marta nodded her head slowly. "You said that you were nothing like the mistress was, and that I shouldn't be afraid to talk with you."

I grinned. "So, talk!"

Marta whiped at the tears forming in her eyes and gave me a shaky smile. She wrung her hands as she began to speak.

"The servants are talking, ma'am, and they're all saying that the murderer is on the loose. This man has already killed the mistress and they haven't caught him yet? What if...oh, what if he comes after somebody else inside this house? What if he's looking to kill me? What if he wants to kill the master?"

I smoothed a hand over her back. "Marta," I whispered, "I won't let this person harm you. I promise that if I ever come face to face with that person, I'll do my best to make sure that no one gets hurt again."

"But what about the master? I mean..." Marta was cut off by someone knocking on my door. I rolled my eyes, got up from the bed, and went to the door.

As I suspected, Baret stood on the other side. Predictable? Aye, I would say so.

"Sorry for my intrusion," he said, "but I was wondering whether or not you were going to join us for breakfast."

I nodded. "I'll be ready in just a moment. Come in and then we can go down together."

Baret stepped through the doorway, giving me a cocky smile.

"Now you are inviting me into your room? This is a refreshing change."

"Just shut up and sit down somewhere before I make it so you can never sit down comfortably again." I growled.

Baret sat down on the bed beside Marta, who kept her face downcast and fiddled with the sheets nervously. Baret gave me a questioning look. I shrugged since I had no idea what was wrong with her.

I went over to the mirror, grabbed a few hairpins, and proceeded to wrestle my hair into a reconizable state. Baret started to talk to Marta, and I was sure to be quiet so I could hear what he was saying.

"Marta, are you all right? You seem a mite nervous."

"Y-y-yes, s-sir. I'm fine, th-thank you."

"How have you been since mother died? Have you been feeling ill?"

In the reflection, I saw Marta shake her head. The girl did not lie well I decided. She looked like she was about to lose her own breakfast.

I finished with my hair and walked back over to the grim faces. I took Marta's hand and gave it a reassuring squeeze.

"Are you ready?" I asked Baret. He nodded wearily and gave Marta a side hug before he stood up.

"Marta, will you be joining us?" I asked her, hoping for a yes.

Again, she shook her head no. "I have a few things to do up here before I go back downstairs. I'll probably meet with you again later, ma'am."

I nodded and watched as Marta's eyes lifted to Barets. Curious, I saw how Marta's eyes sort of glazed over as Baret told her to take good care of herself.

Chewing on her lip, Marta gave a quiet 'yes sir' and walked out of the bedroom ahead of us.

I clasped my hands behind me and gave Baret a once over.

"What exactly was your relationship with Marta like before I came?" I asked, hoping to be not too obvious.

His mouth quirked to the side. "Why? Jealous?"

"No." Liar.

Baret shrugged. "Marta and I were childhood mates. We didn't really mind the difference in our ages when we were young and we used to play together all the time. Nowadays I talk to her in the halls and I try to make sure she is taken care off. Especially since her mothers death."

I bit my lip. Her mother had died? Marta didn't mention that in the garden. Perhaps I should have deducted that, since I saw no one fitting the description of nanny, but a girl is bound to talk about a loved ones death with another woman.

I did notice a few things though. Like how fondly Marta always spoke of Baret. How she had been nervous around him. How her eyes looked when he expressed his wish for her to keep herself on her toes.

Marta was in love with Baret, and I'd be stupid to say that I didn't feel the same way about him too. Bollox!

A/N: u may NOT throw things at me! it HURTS! i kno that i said i wud update for Christmas, but honestly, i'm only..wat?...maybe a month and a half off? cud be worse u kno. i do have many excuses for not updating. honest.

The Devil her self: i agree with you. i'm trying to find it myself, but the old noggin is not wat is used to be. a result of spending many a day emersed in chlorinated water i suppose (i'm a swimming instructor).

Ariana: see? told u i wud update...eventually. this is kind of my birthday present to myself.