(What was waiting for the three of us at the end of our deductions…)
Standing behind Robbie, watching the security video over his shoulder for the umpteenth time, the lump ice dwelling in the pit of my stomach started making the bologna sandwich feel like a bad idea. Uncle, who’d declined an additional screening, sat at his desk hands steepled together deep in thought. Pressing the touchpad on Beatrice’s laptop Robbie skipped backwards in the footage and watched the entire episode again.
When he rewound it for a third consecutive viewing, he climbed aboard the same train of thought Uncle, and I’d already taken a whirl on. Restless, I got up and started to pace around the perimeter of the room.
Robbie (eyes glued to the screen): “You’re sure there was no one else in the building?”
Me (tracing my finger over the spines of the books): “I cross-referenced the video feeds with time punches, everyone had left for the day.”
Robbie (his leg bouncing like mad): “Someone not scheduled could have stopped by? Or a salaried employee could’ve stayed late…”
Me (looking across the room at the back of his head, I shook mine): “All accounted for, and the alarm report and entrance logs both agree that no one else was in the building by this point.”
Robbie (turning in his seat to look at me): “Would you mind if I double-checked?”
Uncle (rising from his chair): “Another set of eyes never hurt.”
Passing the laptop over to me, as I’d finished my revolution of the room, Robbie got to his feet and joined Uncle behind the desk. Listening with half an ear to Uncle’s summation of each report Ira included in his envelope, I sat down and cued up the video.
Pressing play, I watched the empty lobby for a few seconds until the Judas, the Brutus, the veritable Peter Pettigrew of Nevermore, strode into view.
Walking over to the alarm panel, Sarah punched in her code (according to the alarm activity report – disarming it), then unlocked the adjacent door and let Laney inside. They spoke for a few minutes before Laney handed over the books she’d borrowed after which they exchanged hugs, Laney left (to join Beatrice, Wood and I for dinner, ducks and pirate-themed fun) and Sarah relocked the door.
It’s at this point in the footage where I wish the video contained audio because after she stops waving at Laney – Sarah pulls out her cell and makes two calls.
The first, significantly longer than the second, prompted Sarah to pace in tight figure eights in front of the main entrance while jerkily gesturing to the person on the other end of the line. Following her conversation with whomsoever, Sarah stood stock still, head hanging for a few minutes before dialing the next number.
Four minutes after the second conversation ended, Sarah unlocked the doors again. Only this time, Little Ben walked in. Six minutes later, according to the night watchmen’s log, Little Ben called to request extra security for Nevermore.
Me (stopping the video and looking over at Uncle who’d swapped seats with his son): “Didn’t Sherlock Holmes warn us that there’s nothing worse than an obvious fact?”
Uncle (holding the mouth of the potato chip bag towards me): “Actually, he said there’s nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact.”
Me (declining his offer of delectable fat-soaked starch): “I like mine better.”
Uncle (nodding sagely): “I know.”
And let me tell you how I’d kicked myself for not seeing this sooner….
Sarah had known most of the details of The Brace Affair because she was there when we’d hatched the plan. Between Sarah’s foreknowledge and her friendship, I bet that’s why Laney didn’t count her as ‘anyone’ when I asked if she’d told anyone about our plans that night.
Robbie (massaging his temples): “Okay, I agree it looks like Sarah ratted you out. But I still don’t get why? She’s your friend.”
Me (shaking my head): “Technically, she didn’t rat us out. She only told Little Ben someone was coming. I spoke to him afterward, he had no clue who he was chasing.”
Robbie (looking relieved): “So it’s possible she was skating the line between being a good friend and a good employee.”
Me (shrugging): “Maybe.”
Robbie (waving his hand over the papers): “Have you tried talking to her about this?”
Me (smiling sadly): “Nope.”
Robbie (disbelief evident): “Why not?”
Uncle (heaving himself up from the chair, taking Beatrice’s laptop off my lap): “Probably for the same reason I wouldn’t.”
Robbie (looking towards Uncle, confused): “But this whole thing could be just a huge misunderstanding.”
Uncle (waving for Robbie to stay put, he set down the electronic device on the desk): “Your right it could. However, neither your cousin or I believe Little Ben was the first person Sarah told about the impeding pirate landing. That’s what was bothering you about the video, isn’t it Phoebe?”
Me: “That’s part of it.”
Robbie: “Wait, how did you guys get there?”
Uncle (tapping the trackpad): “Watch the video again……..See how Sarah stares out the glass doors after the second call, and she unlocks the doors a good minute before Little Ben walks thru them.”
Robbie (squinting at the screen): “She was waiting for him.”
Uncle (using his teacher tone): “Correct. Now, watch the first phone call again.”
Robbie (leaning forward): “She’s arguing with someone?”
Uncle (pointing at the screen): “She loses an argument with someone, watch her deflate, she’s staring at the floor, not out the door.”
Robbie (glancing between us): “Okay, I admit it looks bad. But, playing devil’s advocate here, all you really have is evidence she made a call.”
Unfortunately, due to Aunt Pearl deciding she could no longer countenance our absence from the kitchen burst in to retrieve us. I didn’t get a chance to tell Robbie my suspicions were based on more than just one call.