It was barely light when she heard her phone beeping with a text message. It was too early to wake-up she thought. Surely nothing was more important than her sleep. She turned over and snuggled down deeper under the doona.
A few minutes later, another message came beeping through. This was starting to become annoying. She was so tired, she just wanted another half hour of sleep, even ten minutes would do, surely everyone knew that.
No sooner had the phone stopped beeping with the second message, than it started to ring. Now she was really ticked-off. Obviously there was no chance of sleeping in today. With her head still buried under the covers, she felt around on the nightstand for her phone. Her fingers finally located the cause of her early morning annoyance and dragged it under the doona with her, checking the caller ID. It was Alex.
"Alex, what's so important that you have to…" She grumbled in a croaky voice, cut off mid sentence.
"Have you heard?" he blurted excitedly.
It was too early for her to be interested in gossip. "Heard about what?" she asked curtly.
"The monk. He's dead. They found him an hour or so ago, murdered on the University grounds." He spoke so fast it took her a moment to process the news in her sleep deprived brain.
There was dead silence on both ends of the phone for the longest seconds.
Suddenly she was fully awake as she realised she was probably the last person to have seen him alive. Her mind flashed back to the three people she saw in the court yard. Jarvis was one them and she knew he was dangerous enough, but could he be a murderer?
"Meet me at the Uni in thirty minutes," she implored, hanging up the phone before he had a chance to reply.
In a daze she dressed, her mind swam with the facts she knew and the possible scenarios surrounding them.
A little over thirty minutes later, she arrived at the scene of the crime. A cacophony of people hovered around behind the taped off police line, debating between themselves how his body was found. One said his throat was ripped out, another said he was decapitated. Then the rumours began about why he was murdered, each story more ludicrous than the last.
Despite the large crowd that gathered, the police almost outnumbered them, buzzing around the perimeter of their marked-out territory to ensure crowd control and encouraging people to move on. His body lay no more than fifty metres from where Cassie stood and no more than one hundred metres farther than where she'd seen him walking last night. He was covered with a khaki sheet, most likely donated from the Department of Medicine or Biology she suspected. Dark patches of blood pervaded the cloth in the region of his head and neck. It was a very sobering thought knowing that he most likely died only minutes after she saw him, going by where his body lay now.
Alex made his way up beside her in the crowd. His affect was sombre and his eyes darted about nervously. According to the cop shows, which he probably watched a little too much of, the murderer often returns to the scene of the crime to watch the drama unfold. It occurred to him that if Cassie had seen Jarvis here last night and he had recognised her, and if he was the murderer, then maybe he'd be after Cassie next. Until they can get to the bottom of this, he intended to stick close by her, day and night whether she liked it or not. She was fiercely independent but he was every bit as pig headed as she was and he wasn't taking no for an answer.
Her attention was so absorbed in watching the coroner putting the monk's body in the bag, she jumped when Alex tapped her on the shoulder, completely unaware of him beside her.
"Hey kid, how're you doing?" his concern barely masked in his voice.
"I keep telling you not to call me that," giving him a feeble back hand into his stomach as reprisal, but attempted to grin at him all the same. "I'm tired. Thanks for asking," yawning almost on command.
"I guess that would explain your clothes. Nice look by the way." He said, tugging at the sleeve of her top.
"What are you talking about?" Looking herself up and down, quickly noting matching socks and shoes, jeans and a top. She touched her hair which was up in a ponytail, no stray hairs flying about. There was nothing out of place that she could see.
"Your top is inside out. Didn't your mother teach you how to dress when you were a kid?" he jested. It was then that she noticed her miss managed effort in dressing, the seams of her top clearly exposed on the outside.
"Hmm," her brows knitting together in mild annoyance. She really couldn't care less at that moment in time how she looked, but since Alex's was likely to be the first of several comments regarding her attire, she figured she should save herself future aggravation in explaining herself and rearrange her top sooner rather than later.
She moved her way through the crowd with Alex hot on her heels.
"Where are you going," he enquired, having assumed the role of her minder.
"To the Ladies room to fix my top. Where are you going?" she asked, giving him a suspicious look.
"I'm going with you." His eyes sparkled and a cheeky grin emerged, spreading from ear to ear. The idea of going into the Ladies room was very appealing. He'd always been curious what it looked like. Since women seemed to spend so much time in there, it must be fairly impressive. To Alex at least, the possibility of seeing half naked women was impressive. Reality didn't enter into the equation, his imagination was far more titillating.
"That's what you think. I know you're worried about me but I think I'm pretty safe with a few hundred people around." She called back to him, already a few strides ahead as she reached the building's front entrance. "Stay here. I don't need you to help dress me," admonishing him for his mischievous thoughts clearly painted on his face. "I'll be back in a few minutes."
Standing outside the front door to the building, Alex dropped his bag on the ground in front of him and crossed his arms, leaning his back forcibly against the wall, raising his knee and resting his foot against the bricks, tapping it on the wall in defiance. "I'm coming in after you if you're not out in ten minutes, pointing at his watch to emphasise his resolve.
She gave a pained sigh and entered the building.
The Ladies room was at the far end of the corridor. As she neared the Faculty Office half way along, the Professor's door opened and two police detectives exited. One of whom handed his card to the Professor on his way out. His charcoal black hair, although neatly cut, hung limp about his face. Even from a distance, Cassie could see the silky sheen to his hair.
Lilith appeared from the office offering to escort the Police Officers from the building, smiling sweetly at the raven haired officer.
"Thank you detective." The Professor said, shaking his hand.
"If you think of anything that could help us with the investigation please call me," he pointed to the card in the Professors hand.
"Yes, um, certainly, ah ,…Detective Renkin," he replied, reading his name from the card.
"Bill Renkin. I'm available on that number 24/7," the detective affirmed, turning abruptly to leave. His fellow detective, a shorter red headed fellow making a dash to catch up with him.
As the detectives approached Cassie could see the dark haired one was around Alex's height but more solidly built. His trench coat flared around him as he walked, forcing her to take a step to the side. As he passed, he looked her up and down, eying her off in the same manner you would a lab rat about to be dissected. His dark eyes were emotionless, hardened by years on the force, not that Lilith seemed to notice, flashing her brightest smile at him.
The Professor stood in his office doorway for a few moments staring at the card in his hand, fingering one of its corners, looking at it but oblivious to the details. His mind was elsewhere, deep in thought.
The monk had obviously been his friend by the way they greeted each other yesterday morning. Cassie recalled her feeling of distress when she first saw him, the memory washing through her, giving her goose bumps. She'd known he was here for something important. It was obviously something important enough to die for.
Even if she was reluctant to admit it aloud, she was rattled by his death and needed to share her thoughts with someone, and who better than the Professor. She called out to him.
The Professor looked up, his trademark smile automatically falling into place. "Ah, Miss McLennan, I trust you have something for me," he stated in his well rehearsed teachers manner.
"Well, actually no. I forgot the assignment, but believe it or not, I did finish it," grimacing slightly, anticipating his chastisement and lecture on fulfilling a commitment and responsibility, yada, yada, yada. She'd heard that one before, more than once. But, there was nothing, not even a frown.
"Professor, if you have a moment, I have something else I'd like to talk to you about. It's about the monk who was killed last night, Anil Norgay. I have some information that might be of interest." Instantly she had his full attention.
"Please come in and sit down," ushering her into his office, checking the corridor was clear in both directions before closing the door.
"Tell me what's on your mind Cassie," addressing her informally for a change. He watched her expectantly as she fidgeted nervously, searching for the right place to begin her recollection of events. She deliberated, inhaling a deep breath and slowly letting it out again. A Yoga technique she'd learnt to deal with stress.
"On Friday night, Alex and I went to the new nightclub, Phoenix. While we were there I was approached by this really creepy guy who had this whole Charles Manson theme going on. He told me his name was Jarvis. Anyway, a long story short, another man stepped in and got Alex and me out of the club before Jarvis could do anything to me," pausing to see if she had his attention, which she did. The Professor sat forward in his seat with his hands beneath his thighs on the chair.
"The guy who rescued me gave me strict instructions not to go out after dark for at least the next week," stopping again to take another deep breath, she fidgeted nervously, aware that the Professor was watching her intently.
"Yesterday morning when you had your meeting with the monk, Anil Norgay, Alex and I stayed outside and listened in. We overheard you discussing a cup that was entrusted to the Delhi Lama was stolen." Expecting him to be annoyed with her for eaves dropping, she paused again steeling herself for a reprimand which yet again didn't come. Instead he asked her to continue.
Feeling a little more confident that her information was obviously important, she spoke with more animation, eager to get it all out.
"After class yesterday, I went to the library so I could get my paper finished. I was there until it closed. When I was leaving I saw Anil Norgay leaving also. I followed him as far as the courtyard next to the gardens behind one of the Colleges, when I heard voices. I hid behind some bushes out of sight. I thought I was well hidden but when the three people came into view, one of them seemed to know I was there. It was the same man from the Phoenix nightclub, Jarvis." Her breathing quickened, as she relived the stress of seeing him again. "The other two followed Anil Norgay. His body was found only a one hundred metres from where I last saw him," she finished up in a rush of words.
"Are you sure it was the same man from the night club?" he asked, sitting even further forward in his chair, his hand placed over her clasped ones in her lap.
"Yes, I'm certain." She replied. "He followed me to the bus stop. I got a good look at him."
"Well, this is very important information indeed. If you wouldn't mind doing me a favour, I have someone who I'd like you to speak to about this. Unfortunately it would mean a trip out of town this evening, but I do believe it is very important to tell him everything you know." His concern left her with no doubt that she should agree to go.
"Okay, but I don't have a car." A minor detail that was bound to make a trip to the country more difficult.
"Don't worry about that, neither do I," he chuckled. "Fortunately I have a very good assistant who like myself, doesn't have a life outside of work. It will be a very pleasant trip for the three of us. Fortunately it's not too far, only an hour or so," patting her on the knee in a grandfatherly fashion.
"Trip. What trip?" announced Alex, flushed and flustered in the doorway. "I told you I'd come looking for you if you weren't back in ten minutes. What trip?" His facial expression was stern and his stance commanding, in military fashion, ready to give her a rendition of his disapproval if he didn't agree with her answer.
"Mr Delgado. It's probably a good thing you're here," the Professor said, waving him in.
"I've just told Professor Cohen about the nightclub and what I saw last night and he's asked if I can talk to someone he knows about it later this afternoon." She explained.
"Why not tell the police what you know. They're running the investigation." Alex enquired, speaking to Cassie but looking directly at the Professor. His priority was Cassie's safety and a request like this made him suspicious of even the saintly Professor.
"Normally, I would advocate the police being informed," he replied. "However, in this case there are some very delicate matters to be considered which are far beyond the capabilities of the police." Placing his hand over his heart he continued. "If I could hand all the information over the police I would, but it's just not that simple. There is a lot more at stake here than the death of one monk and I fear that the two of you," looking at both Cassie and Alex, his eyes saddened by the knowledge that was still unknown to them, "have inexplicably been drawn into something beyond your present understanding, either by chance or by design, I don't know." He pressed his forefinger against his pursed lips at the end of his speech, as if it were necessary to stop himself from telling them any more. It was clear to both Cassie and Alex that there was a lot more explaining to come and their list of questions was growing.
What was that expression? Oh yeah, curiosity killed the cat. Neither of them had a death wish but they were both eager enough to get some answers and if they had to use up some of those hypothetical nine lives to do it, then so be it.
Alex cleared his throat and moved behind Cassie's chair, placing his hands on her shoulders. "I don't know what's going on, but if Cassie is going anywhere, then I'm going with her." Shifting his gaze from the Professor to Cassie, giving her ponytail a light tug to get her attention, adding a clause. "But in all honesty, I can't be seen in public with you until you dress yourself properly." An expression of mirth, earning him another back hand to his stomach.
"See how she treats me. I'm her willing slave, her bodyguard, ready to protect her from all the low life's out there, and she beats me up for it. Sheesh," quickly placing his arm across his stomach expecting yet another back hand.
Cassie rolled her eyes and stood to face him, placing her hands on her hips. "You're just lucky I've put up you all these years. How many situations have I rescued you from, Huh."
"We're not keeping score here." He argued.
"Now, now children. You can leave your squabbling for the playground." The Professor said, becoming a little exasperated. Normally their performance would've gone unnoticed but today he seemed to carry the weight of the world on his shoulders and he just didn't have the energy for any petty childish behaviour.
Cassie excused herself to go and fix her top, turning to flash Alex the evil eye in the doorway, nearly bowling over Lilith in the process, dutifully carrying in the Professor's morning coffee.
Lilith gave Cassie here own evil eye as she brushed the few drops of coffee from her skirt which had escaped the cup in their collision. Apologising profusely Cassie, grabbed a couple of tissues from the box on the desk and helped wipe the coffee stains from her skirt.
The Professor quickly removed the coffee from Lilith's hands, gratefully taking a sip. His morning coffee not only settled the rumbles in his empty stomach but had the comforting affect of ritual and normality that served to reduce his stress level a fraction.
Alex looked longingly at the coffee, realising the he hadn't appeased his own addiction for caffeine yet this morning and made a mental note to make his next stop the coffee shop.
Professor Cohen related to Lilith what had been discussed in her absence. He didn't hesitate to disclose to her any of the details. She had been his trusted right hand, so to speak, for the past ten years. There wasn't much she didn't know about him either personally or professionally. Sometimes he thought she knew him better than he knew himself. She also had an amazing insight into his work which he had come to rely on.
"No doubt you need to see Mr Neumann. I'll call and arrange a time to meet with him. Should I ask him to come here?" she asked, hopeful of seeing him again herself.
"Ah. No. I don't think it would be wise to ask him to come here with all the police around. We'll need to go and see him." he replied.
Lilith beamed an excited smile. Even better she thought.
Focusing his attention again on Cassie and Alex he gave them instructions that they meet back here in his office at 4.30pm after classes.
"In the meantime, do not", emphasising his words carefully, "speak a word of what you've seen or what we've discussed, to a single soul. Promise me." To which both replied emphatically in agreement and left his office to go through the pretence of a normal day, although their minds weren't focussed on anything considered remotely normal.