From nearby, I watched as Lin-Xi and the other detectives flanked the head table, shooing any visitors away and addressing the remaining executives, their spouses, and the President’s wife. She informed them that they would need to be searched, and gave them the excuse that it was standard procedure. Each would be taken to a nearby room and searched by one of the officers, and once she finished she selected the MC and had him taken away.
I hadn’t told her who I suspected because I didn’t think she’d believe me anyways until I had proof, but I was pretty sure that proof would appear shortly if a search were conducted.
I watched as each member of the table was taken away by an officer of the same sex, and saw each of them return. When it was time for the President’s wife to go, I paid careful attention to see if she reacted at all, but the thin woman merely stood with a sad dignity and followed Lin-Xi to the area to be searched.
Now was the crucial time, and I’d find out if I was right.
It seemed like I had to wait forever, but after a few minutes she and Lin-Xi returned. Lin-Xi looked no happier than before, but now there was a slight pep in the step of Mrs. Lin, like she had found a new freedom.
She returned to the table with the others and sat down, reaching for her sunglasses and putting them on to cover her puffy eyes. The other executives at the table began to fawn over her, and the police apologized again for the bother. My girlfriend threw me a decidedly unhappy glance as she made her own apologies to this soon to be very rich widow.
My gambit had failed.
Still I watched her, this woman I was sure had framed her rival for the crime she had committed. It was she who Harold told me had added the music to tonight’s game to cover the sounds of her crime, and it was she who wore dark sunglasses under the guise of having a headache that would let her see in the dark the moment they were removed. She was also the only one to gain from the President’s death tonight, whether for money or revenge, I couldn’t say.
Now she was about to get away with it.
I could only imagine how that felt.
Then, as I watched, her sad, proud expression suddenly turned to one of worry and panic, and she leaned in to talk to the MC next to her, pointing with a trembling finger at the stage. The MC and another A-O Soft executive jumped to their feet and quickly moved to where two police officers had begun to inspect the prizes. At first, they were polite, but a moment later they were shouting at the detectives.
The shouting came to sudden stop when one of the detectives reached down behind the flat-screen TV set and came up with a powder-blue shawl wrapped neatly into a small flat square. When he unfolded it, he revealed two white gloves, the red stains on them bright enough to see even from where I was standing.
Mrs. Lin collapsed for the second time that night.
This time, there was no one to catch her.
Mrs. Lin later revealed during questioning that she’d known of her husband’s affair for some time, but had been content to let it go in the name of their children. However, shortly before the party she’d overhead him promise Melody that he’d divorce his wife once the company had gone public and money was no longer an issue. She’d also learned that the two of them planned to meet secretly during the contest by having matching butterflies, and that was the final straw.
She created a third butterfly identical to the ones they would both be wearing and had it printed onto her shawl so that she could lure her husband in once the lights had gone out. Then, she’d waited until the right time, taken off her glasses, and grabbed a knife from another table to make her move once the game started.
Once she’d found him and stabbed him while the loud music provided cover to any noise, she retreated to the stage to hide her gloves and shawl inside the back panel of the TV, which she believed the police would never think of searching as the no longer to be awarded prizes had no relevance to the case at hand.
The strange butterfly I’d seen during the contest had been her lifting the shawl off her neck, and the flying effect had been because it was on a moving fabric, not a hard button. She’d also made a mistake and lost one of the screws for the panel during the whole affair, which I’d found on the floor and which had led me to the TV as her hiding place.
After it was all done, she’d simply returned to her seat and waited, letting her rival have the secret rendezvous with the now dying President Lin, and making her look like the guilty party. Even without the blood or weapon, any witnesses on the floor would have seen two golden butterflies meet and the only two golden butterflies in the game were Melody and the President. Melody was as sure as convicted, whether she’d managed to find the President or not.
“I have to wonder why she did it,” Lin-Xi said as we were having breakfast at a traditional place in XiMenDing near her office the following week.
“Didn’t she confess?”
“No, not what I mean.” She replied. “Why did she make the third butterfly? All she needed to do was find him the dark and stab him, a third wasn’t necessary.”
I considered a moment. “I think it was a test.” At her raised eyebrow, I continued. “She probably wasn’t sure she could do it until she came to him and he thought she was Melody. Once she heard him say another woman’s name, that’s what gave her the strength to finally act.”
I laughed. “Only to someone as un-romantic as you.”
She snorted. “Still stupid, she’s in jail because of it, and her husband is divorcing her.”
It was true. President Lin had survived thanks to a combination of his wife’s lack of strength, his own fitness and Lin-Xi’s quick thinking. He was recovering in the hospital, and had his wife served up the divorce papers while she was still in jail. I didn’t know what would happen between him and Melody, although I suspected this whole thing might put a damper on their relationship. Still, there was some justice…
“I heard A-O Soft can’t go public now,” I commented. “After so much negative press, nobody’s gonna buy their stock. His golden payday is going to have to wait for a while, and their game sales have dropped as well, so it might never happen.”
Lin-Xi considered that over a fork full of Dan-Bing. “Does that mean you won’t be working there?”
I shrugged. “My contract ended at the start of the new year anyway, doesn’t matter.” Then I sat up. “Oh, but that reminds me, I got a text from one of my other clients- they’re having a Beginning of the Year Party and want me to come. You interested?”
She sighed. “What does this company do?”
“They’re a farm machinery company.”
“Oh, sounds boring.”
“Not really, they’ve got a really interesting theme for the party this year.”
“Oh, what is it?”
“It’s a murder mystery dinner.”
I ducked and ran off to pay the bill.
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