“He was visiting us for a week, just a friendly visit while he was on the East Coast.” A tear dropped from her cheek and ran down her cleavage. “He lives in Kansas, Mr. Steel, and doesn’t get much of a chance to see the family, what with his business and —”
“Just hold it right there,” I interrupted gruffly. “Let’s take this one step at a time. First of all, my mother calls me Mr. Steel. You can call me Trigger. And second, I need a name to call you by, too.”
“Bambi Smith,” Bambi said, smiling for the first time. She ran her velvety tongue over her lips, which somehow pouted even as they smiled, and said, “You can call me Bambi.”
“That’ll work just fine, Bambi. Now let’s get back to the case at hand. You said ‘visiting us.’ Just who is it exactly that the old guy was paying a visit to?”
“Well, let’s see.” Bambi gazed at the perforated tiles in my ceiling and tapped the desk with one rounded red nail. “There’s my sister, Candy; her husband, Englebert; and their son, Peter, and myself.”
I wrote the names down in my notebook. “All of you live in the same house?”
“It’s a big house, Mr. Steel.”
“I’ve asked you to call me Trigger. If this house is so big, you must have some kind of help to keep the place up.”
Bambi shook her head, working loose a strand of the woven gold that made up her hair. “Not really. Just the autoservants.”
“Mm-hm.” I scribbled a little more in my notepad — a doodle of a bunny in a top hat — just moving the pencil to maintain Bambi’s interest. “Cleaner, Cook, the usual package?”
“Yes. We’ve got a Maid XLc and a Butler 3200. And a dog, named Speck.” Bambi grimaced. “It seemed like a clever name at the time.”
I wrote the three new names down in my notebook and pondered the suspect list as I had it so far. Two years ago I had surgery to stop my facial hair at three days length so I could scratch my whiskers thoughtfully at times such as this. I slowly did so as I thought. After a while I scratched off the dog’s name as a possible suspect. “How old is this boy Peter?”
I scratched off Peter’s name, as well.
“This Granddaddy of yours,” I muttered. “Rich?” Of course he was. There are certain rules a good mystery case must abide by. But a little conformation always looks good.
Bambi nodded. “Yes, he is. He was, I mean.” Her lips trembled, and she sighed heavily. Her lips stopped trembling, and her chest stopped a half minute later. “The whole family is rich. Except for Engelbert, maybe.”
I glared at my notepad, pondering. The bunny stared back, mockingly. I normally aim for one small page worth of names and doodles as my meter. Too much info and I run the risk of solving the case before I’m properly dragged into it by the proper intrigue and noir. Two possible lines left to fill in, but that seemed like enough. At any rate, I was running low on metaphors. Gathering up the pack of cigarette butts I keep ready for traveling with me to crime scenes, I muttered, “Let’s take a walk, sister.”
Bambi looked up at me with those baby blues, questioning.
“Nothing left to do but visit the site itself,” I growled.
Bambi sighed, and I had to lean back to give her room to inflate.