Warning: This work has been rated 18+ for language, violence, and mature content.
The companions of Mrs. Johnson did not look so amused by Winslow’s theatrics. He had been in this situation before - multiple times - during his brief employment at the Department and many times while in the employment of the United States government. They were always throwing him into situations with hysterical significant others or screaming children or spouses who didn’t give a single rat’s ass about the scenario. And maybe there was a reason that Winslow had impersonated an actor in Hollywood, in New York, and in Paris, for so much of his career.
To everyone in the room, Winslow stuck out his arm and in a soothing voice said, “I apologize for my dramatic entrance, ladies. But I really was trying to do the job that no one else seemed to be doing.”
He took another sip from the glass in his hand, trying not to be rude and still trying not to make his head too foggy. There had been those events in his past too. And multiple points when the drinks had been dosed, with Winslow winding up in some alleyway or leaning against a radiator with his hands chained to a pipe.
The older woman, dressed in her crisp furs with an even crisper expression, struck across the short distance of the room. Her heels clicked sharply against the tile and Winslow noticed how the maid’s face wrinkled up in the slightest amount of fear. He had been watching how everyone engaged since the moment he had arrived here, and Winslow was not satisfied with what was going on. And definitely not once he heard what the bat had to say.
“Mr. Smith, I wish to know what pressed you to be here and interrogating Mrs. Johnson at a time like this.”
“Well I’m not actually interrogating her, ma’am, but I may need to take all of you down to the station. Do you have an alibi for the time of the murder miss?” Winslow flipped open his notebook and made the motion of taking a pen out of his pocket while he said this, thanking someone that she hadn’t asked for his badge number. Not yet.
The fur stole briefly landed on Winslow’s nose in a strike against his face. The assault was followed by a screeching, “How dare you. How dare you accuse me of murder?”
Mrs. Johnson’s crystal glass was set down on the counter top with a noticeable clink. Her stocking feet were silent on the floor, but she quickly raised her voice when talking to the fur covered woman. Queenie placed an arm around her companion’s shoulders, shushing her and saying, “There’s nothing to worry about, Mrs. Morton.”
She said the name with a purposeful intent, giving a slight wink to Winslow while guiding Mrs. Morton a nearby outdoor chaise. The lady collapsed into the padding, grabbing an offered glass of water from the waiting maid, and dramatically pulling her gold covered hand over her eyes.
Winslow pushed a sigh down in his throat. He brought his notebook back up to a prominent position to ask, “Mrs. Morton, who was your accompaniment to the party tonight? Was it perhaps Mr. Morton?”
The woman gasped once more, fury in her eyes as she said, “Mr. Morton is quite deceased and unavailable for parties. I went with my son, James.” She took a sip from the tumbler and continued, “He’s a lieutenant in the Navy, if you’d like to check on him former Captain Smith.”
He avoided a tasteless joke about sailors while adding the name to his list of witnesses. And even further, Winslow tried to ignore the joke in his head about mother’s boys - or really the assumption.
“I’ll be sure to check that out as soon as I can, ma’am. Just rest yourself for a bit and if I have any further questions, I’m sure Mrs. Johnson can tell me how to get in contact with you.”
He stepped away from the scene, leaving the fearful maid to tend to the rest pile of furs with Mrs. Morton peeking out in the turtle position. To think that Winslow had left a night of restless sleep to come tend to this mess. When he could have stayed at home drinking half frozen tomato juice and taking shots of bathtub quality clear colored something.
There was the soft padding of stocking feet after him - clearly Mrs. Johnson following him - but an obvious reason couldn’t come to his mind. Still, he couldn’t blame her for wanting to get away from whatever had just occurred. Winslow kept walking until he was in the parlor room once again, this time for an entirely different conversation.
“Detective Smith, I thought I should talk to you in private, rather than being in front of Margaret and Miss Lillian. I hate to make it sound like I’m a braggart in a time like this, but I’m much more aware of how to deal with dramatic and traumatic situations than they are.”
Mrs. Johnson became more and more curious by the second. Winslow took out his pack of cigarettes, taking one for himself and offering another one to the lady standing before him. She slowly took one from the pack, holding it out while he pulled a lighter from his breast pocket.
“Were you alone when you discovered your husband’s body?” He asked in between their duplicate puffs of smoke.
A tear dripped down from her eye as she said, “Yes, I was entirely alone and I know how terrible that looks.”
They smoked in the silence until their cigarettes finished, with Queenie rising from a chair Winslow didn’t remember her sitting in. The woman, who had been so honest and human just a moment ago, quickly stubbed out her cigarette and fixed everything about herself.
The work of art had repaired itself.
There was clearly nothing good that he could say in this situation and Winslow defaulted to say, “I’m sorry for your loss, ma’am. I think we can do this interview later.”
Winslow watched as she slowly padded away to the kitchen, shoulders rising back up when Mrs. Morton’s complaints started. He went back to observe the crime scene investigators, the patrol officers, and the junior detectives. As it continued, he picked up conversations with Norton and Morgan about their families and their continued holiday plans. Every so often he looked back on Queenie in the kitchen and slowly began to pick the case apart.