My Plain Jane (The Lady Janies #2)(11)

She raised a pair of thick spectacles on a wand. “You must be from the Society! I recognized you by your mask. Everyone says people from the Society wear masks so the ghosts can’t discern what they look like. Is that true?”

“My name is Alexander Blackwood. I’m here to speak with one of your teachers.”

“Are you here about the murder?” she asked tightly.

“I could tell you about the murder,” said the ghost of Mr. Brocklehurst. “I was there, after all.”

“I’m here to speak with one of your teachers,” Alexander said again.

“Which teacher?”

Well. That one was harder. He hadn’t caught the teacher’s name. “I’d like to see all the teachers.” He was fairly certain he’d recognize the girl from the pub if he saw her again, although if he’d been asked to describe her, he wasn’t sure about her hair or eye color. She was small in stature, he recalled. And her coat had been gray.

“Shouldn’t there be another agent with you?” the girl asked, and peered around him as though someone might be hiding in the tall weeds that lined the walkway. “I’ve heard that you work in pairs.”

“I don’t need an assistant today.” He cringed at the thought of last night. Who tried to tackle a ghost? They’d almost failed the assignment because of that dunce.

“Interesting.” The girl traded her spectacles for a notebook and began scribbling into it.

“That’s Charlotte,” supplied Mr. Brocklehurst. “And if I weren’t dead, I’d—”

“Stop,” Alexander interrupted. He didn’t want to hear what kind of punishment would be dealt to the girl. In fact, he was rather coming to understand why someone might have wanted to murder Mr. Brocklehurst.

The girl looked up from her notebook. “Excuse me?”

“Stop delaying, I mean.” Alexander pointedly looked around her, peering into the foyer. “I’m on a schedule. Miss . . . ?” He had learned that her name was Charlotte, but of course it would be improper to address a young woman by her first name.

“Sorry.” She stowed her notebook and pencil and stepped aside so he could enter. “I’m a writer, you see. Charlotte Bront?, at your service.”

“A pleasure to meet you, Miss Bront?.” Alexander went inside, the ghosts of dead students trailing behind him. “What do you write about?”

“Everything,” Miss Bront? said. “But murder, lately.”

“A popular subject.” He looked at her more closely; murder (and the avenging of) was one of the topics he was most interested in, himself. “Have you been writing about this murder in particular?”

Her face went blank and her voice flat. “I suppose you could say that.”

“And what have you concluded?”

“That it’s generally agreed upon that we’re better off now that Mr. Brocklehurst is gone, so who cares who did it?”

“I’m standing right here!” cried Mr. Brocklehurst.

“Whoever killed him did us a great service,” Miss Bront? went on, not hearing the ghost, of course.

“I see. So you won’t tell me who you think did it?”

She shook her head.

He found that commendable, in a way, but solving the murder made an excellent excuse to gather the teachers together. He didn’t want anyone to get ideas about him coming to see a young lady he’d met at the pub.

“Very well. I’ll solve your murder.”

“It’s not my murder,” Miss Bront? insisted. “It’s our murder, in that it benefits us all.”

“Then will you please allow me to see the teachers?”

“Of course I want the murder solved!” Miss Bront? collected herself. “I mean, please follow me.”

“Miss Bront? thinks Miss Eyre poisoned me. I read her notebook over her shoulder.” Brocklehurst sighed. “They’re friends. Makes sense, if you ask me. They’re both ungrateful little liars.”

“You believe Miss Eyre did it, don’t you?” Alexander asked. To confirm the ghost’s claims, and definitely not because he enjoyed shocking people.

Miss Bront?’s face turned white. “Of course I don’t. Why would I think that?”

Alexander took out his own notebook. Student suspects “Miss Eyre” may have poisoned Brocklehurst, he wrote. And then, to Miss Bront?, he said, “All right, please gather all the teachers together.”

Miss Bront? lifted her chin. “I’d rather not do anything until I know whether you’re going to arrest my friend.”

Alexander frowned.

“You don’t scare me.”

Alexander kept frowning.

“Not even with that mask.”

More frowning.

“Fine. But remember, she’s my friend, and even if she did kill him, she helped the school. You have no idea how bad things were. It was self-defense.”

“I know about the burlap.”

“Daisy was allergic to burlap!” Miss Bront? pulled out her notebook and scribbled what looked like He knows about the burlap. “All right, go ahead and solve the murder, but don’t arrest anyone I like.”

He tried not to smile. “I make no promises, Miss Bront?.”

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