Vilma Banky – Wikimedia
The Pink Cloche Murder
It was the 2nd of June of 1998. She’d come to my office with a peculiar problem, someone had made off with her pink cloche at a cocktail party. Her name was Madeline Grainge, a feisty socialite, heiress of George Grainge. She wanted me to find her hat, saying that it was a family heirloom. It had been her great-grandmother’s who’d been found with that hat on her head after being strangled back in ’35.
I told her that my fee would be € 200.00 a day plus expenses with a retainer of €1000.00. She didn’t even bat an eye, she just wrote the check. I would have thought that was a bit much to spend myself for an old hat, but hell, she accepted so I’d found myself with a job.
You might think that high society is something special, but you’d be mistaken. They are people just like you and me with all their quirks and meddlesome neurosis. To tell you the truth, sometimes I think they’re a little stranger than most of us, but then that’s just my opinion.
We decided that I’d take a stab at her circle of friends at the Hotel Royale for aperitifs in the evening. I walked across the main hall, went through the cocktail lounge and onto the terrace. Madeline had been primed on how to introduce me to her clique. She jumped up from her seat when she saw me with open arms smiling as though we were old, long lost friends.
“Ah, MarieAnge! Dear, it’s been an age!” she gushed. “Come, sit here next to me! Let me introduce you to my friends.”
It was a strange mix. There was her fiancé, Gabriele DuBois, famous for his tennis skills, horse back riding and general debonaire charm. Blonde, blue-eyed and fantastic physique, I noted mentally. A bit of nice eye candy any girl could admire. He stood up and brought my hand near his lips in the typical genteel non-kiss of the hand of the upper class.
“Enchanté, MarieAnge, I’m surprised we’ve never met, but this is a great pleasure!” he said almost cooing.
Next to him was his grandfather, Michele DuBois, 98 if he was a day, but looked no more than maybe 75. It’s a miracle what medical science can do when there’s enough money to pay all the magic. Tall, handsome with pure white hair and steel-blue eyes he had an air of fascination that his grandson could only envy.
There was M. DuBois’ latest “flirt” a TV soubrette of 25, all legs and proud tits…with no class at all. A few other socialites, a tall young man of around 35 whose name happened to be Steven Briggs the American artist and Kurt Heize the famous Ferrari car racer.
We sat around drinking our aperitif and eating hors-d’œuvres, just talking about sweet nothings when I decided to bring up the pink cloche. Everyone had known that Madeline wore that hat just about everywhere. It was a sort of fetish with her.
“Ah, Madeline, I see you’ve finally given up on that pink cloche! It was really about time!”
Silence settled on the table like a deep fog.
“No, I haven’t given it up. Someone stole it last week-end when I was at a party!”
“I’m sure it must have been one of the servants.” Gabriele added.
“What ever makes you say such a stupid thing Gabriele!” Madeline said testily.
“I myself am d’accord with your friend. It is long past the time when you should have given that hat up.” Said Michele DuBois “It’s morbid that you wear it, you know that your great-grandmaman was wearing that hat when her body was found.”
“I didn’t know that the hat had such a history!” I said looking at Madeline pretending surprise.
“Yes, it happened in 1935. She was found in a courtyard near a rack of bicycles. The police never found the killer, though they had many suspects to choose from. Including you M. DuBois, n’est pas?” There was a catty undertone to her voice.
“I was in love with your grandmother, we were to be married, but then, alas, she chose someone else. For the police, that seemed to be sufficient to make me a suspect. What do the police know of love!” the elderly gentleman said sadly.
“I’m so sorry. I’ve been a monster!” said Madeline, “It just irritates me when I think that she should have died so young. And my mother, still a tiny baby.” I had a feeling there was something else behind all this, but she hadn’t given me any info.
Jeanette, the TV soubrette decided she had to go powder her nose right about then and I followed her. When I got back, Madeline wasn’t there any more. I was surprised as this hadn’t been a part of our plans. We were supposed to stick together the whole evening and all have dinner together.
M. DuBois excused himself saying that he was tired and took Jeanette with him. One by one the other’s excused themselves for one reason or another. All, except Gabriele DuBois. He invited me to have dinner with him. I accepted, but I said I’d take my car to the restaurant.
In the car, I tried to get hold of Madeline but she didn’t answer her cel phone.
We had a lovely meal, ruined only later on when he tried to make a pass at me. I reminded him that he had a fiancé and left him and the restaurant getting into my Mercedes, and tried to call Madeline again. Again no answer, it was around midnight, when I tried to call her the last time.
The next morning at 6:45, the call came. She’d been found strangled in a courtyard near a rack of bicycles, a pink cloche on her head. I went immediately to the address I’d been furnished by the cop. When I got there an inspector who I’d met before came up to me.
“She was your client,” the policeman said “We found your contract in her purse.”
“Obviously, she wasn’t robbed. Does the M.E. know when she died?” I asked.
“No, not yet! What did she hire you for?
“To find that hat that’s on her head. Now I guess I have to find a killer, she was my client.”
Feisty, adjective: Spirited, spunky, plucky, gutsy, gutty, ballsy.
Meddlesome; adjective: Interfering, meddling, intrusive, prying, busybody, nosy.
Stab, verb: Knife, run through, skewer, spear, bayonet, gore, spike, stick, impale, transfix, pierce, prick, puncture; literary transpierce; lunge, thrust, jab, poke, prod, dig; noun: Knife wound, puncture, incision, prick, cut, perforation; lunge, thrust, jab, poke, prod, dig, punch; twinge, pang, throb, spasm, cramp, dart, prick, flash, thrill; attempt, try, effort, endeavor; guess; informal go, shot, crack, bash, whack.
Written for: Three Word Wednesday :3WW CCCLXX