I barely had time to finish my second cup of coffee and my thoughts on Fitz Roy Junior when the door swung open. Eva came charging in on a tear: "There's an uptight broad outside by the name of Francis Dillwood. Said she needs to see you. Won't say anything else.Real pleasant." She belted that at the top of her lungs then rolled her eyes.
"You got an Irish whisper, you know that?" I said.
"And a German fist. What's it to ya? Should I send her in?"
I lit a cigarette. "Yeah and try it nice this time."
"Ha!" She turned around and went back to her desk."You can go in, Sister Francis. Mr. Finch will see you."
In less than a heartbeat a middle aged woman in a simple gray dress came in clutching her over-sized purse. If I didn't know any better, I would've thought she was afraid Eva might rough her up for it. She was scowling even as she walked in. Her hair was a fiery red, and to make matters worse it was pulled up into a tight schoolmarm bun. Everything about her read Christian missionary.
"Honestly, that woman is a brute, Mr. Finch."
I stood up and shook her hand. "Please, Miss. Dillwood, take a seat and don't mind Eva, she just had her little heart torn to pieces by my last client."
She sat. "How anyone could even think of loving that girl is beyond me."
"She has a couple of fine qualities."
"Such as?" She was still clutching her purse.
"She's good in a fight." I smiled hoping she might return the gesture. She didn't. "What can I do for you today?"
"Mr. Finch, I'll be plain with you." She didn't have to work hard at that. "I'm Franny. The one who sent you that key early this morning."
"Well so you are." She looked as far from a Franny as a Randy did to a Randolph.
"You've never met me, but I am," she cleared her throat correcting herself, "I was Mr. Fitz Roy's secretary. He told me just last week that if anything were to happen to him, I would have to deliver that key safely to you in the utmost of secrecy."
"It's a shame you delivered it to the one woman who would broadcast it all over the damn town."
"I assume you're referring to that brute of a land lady who intercepted my brother."
"What can I say, I associate with rough women." I smiled again hoping to get to her. No dice. I pulled out my pack of cigarettes, "I've been rude. Cigarette? Coffee?"
She winced at the thought of either. "No. Thank you."
"So you mind telling me what the key is to?"
She frowned. "I figured you would know."
I smiled. "Well damn, I figured you would know." I actually didn't figure she would know, but I thought it was worth a shot. "And why the secret delivery?"
"Mr. Fitz Roy was under the impression that whoever would attempt to take his life would do so for the key which, was always on his person. I had to disguise its delivery. I asked my brother to bring it to your boarding house so I wouldn't be associated with the contents, and in case it was intercepted, which it was, I wanted it to look like a love trifle."
"A love trifle?" This whole thing was starting to stink like moldy chestnuts to me.
"The key to my heart, or some ridiculous school girl babble," she said clearly not speaking from experience.
"Let me get this straight, William Fitz Roy is shot in cold blood last night and I have, in less than 12 hours, been visited by his son and secretary with very precise orders on how to carry out his wishes should he make the midnight bus to the Great Beyond. And it just so happens, he did. Do you want me to believe this suit was just waiting to die because of a key and some stolen collectible?"
She turned three shades paler which I wouldn't have thought possible, "Will has been here?"
"Yeah, about a half hour ago."
"On orders of that whore of course," she spat through her pursed lips.
She raised her one eyebrow, "I'm not at liberty to say. There are so many."
I heard a deep snorting laugh come from Eva outside who had the biggest ears in town.
"When the item of great value was stolen from Mr. Fitz Roy he called on all who were close to him and informed us that he was in grave danger."
"Funny, he hired me to find this item of great value and never once said he was going to be taken out like the garbage."
She started scowling at me, "I am only telling you what I know, Mr. Finch. And now that I have come to see you in person, I am delivering this letter to you from Mr. Fitz Roy."
"Yes, not the impostor who will take over his business."
"Don't like the kid?"
She clutched her bag tighter, "I tendered my resignation this morning. Delivering this letter was my last act as Mr. Fitz Roy's secretary." She didn't seem all that broken up over it.
"Why not deliver this with the key?"
"The key had to go to you immediately according to Mr. Fitz Roy, the letter was to follow separately and be hand delivered by me to you. It is for your eyes only."
"Do we do the hokey pokey and turn ourselves around?" I thought the comment was cute. She didn't agree. She stood up and gathered herself ready to leave. Francis Dillwood was done with me for now.
"Mr. Finch, Mr. Fitz Roy held you and your services in high regard. Please don't let him down. Good day." She turned to leave.
"One more thing, Miss Dillwood."
"If the key was always on his person, how did you get it from him after he was murdered?"
She looked blankly off into space as if she was looking at the ghost of Fitz Roy himself. "He gave me the key every night when I left the office. It was a diversion." I could tell that was a bold-faced lie.
"You guys had this planned out nicely."
"We were very thorough."
"So thorough you could couldn't prevent his murder?"
The expression on her face didn't change. "I wasn't a bodyguard, Mr. Finch! Good day and good luck."
As she walked out of the office, I heard Eva snarl at her, "God bless, Sister Francis." Less then 10 seconds later my gal Friday was standing in front of me.
"I don't like her. She's a nasty prude and she's hiding something."
"I agree with you on both counts. Did you shake her down for a telephone number or address?"
She smiled wide, "I got you both. Told her she had to fill out this card to get in to speak with you."
"Good work my little bulldog. If that dame thinks she's through with me, she's got another thing coming. She just made herself a prime suspect."