Disclaimer: There is a loving committed same sex relationship in this story. There is some violence but only as much as is in a good mystery. This story dedicated to one of my favorite fictional characters and how he would interact in the Uber world. All rights for the characters of Agatha Christie belong to her I'm only borrowing them. All other characters are my creation though there is a bit of a resemblance between our heroines in this tale and certain couple of ladies we all know and love. I would like to thank my friends Larisa and MJ for suffering through the birth of this tale. Enjoy J
Hercule Poirot entered the small dinner theater with his friend and companion Arthur Hastings. They had been entreated to do so by one of his neighbors. He couldn't resist the sweet urgings of the pretty blonde with the big green eyes.
Clemintine Brighton was the author of the play that they were about to witness and she was going to perform a small part in it.
"Oh please Monsieur Poirot. It is my very first performed play by professionals and I would really like you to be there for support. My best friend Cleo and I are both in it. You've met dear Cleo and you know how wonderful an actress she is, pretty please I know you'll enjoy it."
Hercule smiled at the sweet excited woman practically jumping up and down in front of his desk. "Oui Mademoiselle Cleo has the excellent reputation. I would enjoy seeing both of you together. I had no idea you were best friends Mon petite."
"Oh yes Monsieur, we were in RADA together she was two levels above me there and mentored me. We've been rooming together ever since. She is the most wonderful person in the world." Said Clemintine full of enthusiasm.
Cleopatra Thomas, Better known as Cleo by everyone that knew the tall striking brunette was a well known, up and coming actress. She had already been in several West End parts and featured roles. Poirot was pretty sure the only reason she was working in this small theater was because of her sweet friend.
"That is true, I have seen her before and I agree you do not have to convince me of her talent. I have witnessed it myself. Ok Mon petite, Hastings and I, we will come to see your debut."
"Oh great. Cleo will be so happy. Thank you."
Poirot smiled as he opened the mimeographed program and looked at the stunning face of the lead actress. They are so different; these two devoted friends, Thought Poirot as he turned the page to look at the small blonde's picture. Yet I feel in these old bones such an incredible connection between them.
*** *** *** ***
The play had been wonderful the two friends had really enjoyed themselves and were happy that Clemintine had talked Poirot into it. They made their way to the back of the theater to congratulate their young friends.
"Poirot, It was a pretty good play, don't you think. The young girl has a lot of talent." Said Hastings as they fought their way through the crowd to add their congratulations to their young friends.
"Oui Hastings, It was indeed an excellent play. I think Mon petite has quite a bit of talent. Cleo was an overwhelming good performer and it inspired Clemintine I believe to shine. It was a very good script too I am looking forward to telling them so." Said the little detective with a wide grin.
"Yes indeed, There are the two of them, look as thick as thieves."
Clemintine and Cleo were standing side by side the tall woman had her long arm draped over her friend's shoulders. She was looking down at her with deep affection at that moment, as they were both being praised by a couple of overly enthusiastic men. Clemintine looked up at her with a devoted look and received a wink from the striking brunette.
Poirot and Hastings were just reaching the friends as they heard two people screeching at each other across the room.
"Margarite I will not be still and I am not drunk! I don't know why you agreed to produce this rot. What's worse how you got me to direct the trash!" Said the tall balding man swaying in the archway of a dressing room. He was being held back by a huge woman with bleached blonde hair.
"Because little Clemy is talented and Cleo would only appear in our theater if we do her best friend's play," She yelled back she didn't appear to be drunk only very angry.
"Talented my arse..."
Pale blue eyes lost all their warmth as she looked across at the offensive man in a deep throaty voice Cleo yelled back, "Archer get the hell out of here before you regret it. I will not have you abusing Clemy like this!"
"Well oh mighty princess I'm going to close your piece of tripe..."
"Oh no your not, Archer. I may be your wife but I'm the producer and it's my money," said the angry woman.
"I directed it..."
"So what..." There was a loud slap that echoed across the now silent room as Archer hit his wife across the face.
"Shut the hell up Marge you fat cow!"
"That's it!" Said Cleo she removed her arm gently from Clemintine and started to head toward the abusive man. The wrist was grabbed by a small hand and Clemintine pleaded, "No please Cleo..."
Hastings also angry with anyone slapping a woman said to the tall woman, "Allow me Cleo," and he marched across the room and took the man by his collar escorting him out of the theater into the street.
"Oh Monsieur Poirot, I am so sorry you had to see that." Cried the small blonde to her friend who had made his way to the young women.
"I am not Mon petite, He was a disagreeable man I agreed with both Mademoiselle Cleo and Mon ami Hastings. He needed to be removed from such a happy environment."
"He sure did," agreed Cleo through her teeth.
"Mademoiselle Cleo why was the disagreeable man so crude and loud at..."
"He was angry, Monsieur Poirot. You see my brave sweet friend told him a few minutes before she went on stage what he could do with his proposition. I was already on stage when it happened so I couldn't protect her so he attempted to seduce her and when it failed he got mad at Clemy." Said the still angry dark woman holding her friend around the shoulders again.
Clemitine's arm went around her best friend's waist and said, "Shh, it didn't matter Cleo..."
"The hell it didn't Clemy the man is a viper!"
"Well he certainly is a rude devil," Said Hastings returning to his friends no worse for wear.
"More then that Captain Hastings. He propositioned my friend, He was black mailing my poor leading man, and He has tried to kill poor Margarite several times. He tried to destroy our costume designer because she turned down his disgusting propositions by saying she steals all her designs, he's a scourge..."
"Shh Cleo he's gone now. Calm down...please calm down." Said Clemintine stroking her back.
The tall woman took a deep breath and looked into her friend's eyes saying, "I'm sorry Clemy."
Poirot smiled and said, "I understand why don't like him, Mademoiselle Cleo. Did this viper try any of this on you?"
Cleo looked at the little detective with a feral grin, "No Monsieur Poirot, he wouldn't dare."
Poirot smiled back nodding, "Oui that was my impression."
*** *** *** ***
"I like those two girls," said Hastings to his friend, "Don't you?"
"Oui Mon ami, I do indeed," said Hercule as he put his hat down very precisely on a hook by the door. He walked to his favorite chair in the lounge and sat down looking with amusement at his friend on the couch.
"What did you make of that director? Bit of a bounder from what Cleo was saying."
Poirot looked at his friend with a speculative look, "That he is both a dangerous man and a man who is danger. Though he is far too egotistical to realize it."
"A man in danger? How?"
"Did you not hear the list of evils he has done in this world? He is a man most reviled. Every member of the cast and crew had reason to dislike him. He is a despised man deservedly so."
Hastings nodded and said, "Yes he definitely is that. Poirot you don't think?"
"The little gray cells must rest now Mon ami go home and we will discuss it in the morning. Bon Nuit."
"Night old man," Said Hastings with a smile as the left the apartment.
*** *** **** ****
Clemintine entered the dark spooky theater to meet the costumer Anny. It seems that the pain of a director hated her dress in the last act and wanted Anny to make several changes.
From the door way Clemy looked out and called slightly nervous, "Anny...Anny!"
"I'm right here, sweets," Said Anny next to her.
Clemy jumped her hand to her chest when she felt the hand on her shoulder. "Oh my God, you scared me." Said Clemy breathless.
"I was down in the stacks the door is right there," Said Anny pointing to a metal door just out of the light to the right of the stage door. "I didn't mean to scare you sweets. Where's your tall gorgeous shadow?"
"Well she is always with you," Said Anny her voice amused.
"She had an interview and will meet here in an hour."
Anny smirked and nodded, "I see. Anyway I'm sorry I scared you."
"It's ok, I've never been here this late its spooky."
"Well you know what they say about old theaters they are full of ghosts. Come on lets get those changes done so you will be ready when Cleo comes to pick you up." Said Anny leading Clemy in the semi dark theater to the sewing room at the side of the stage. Their progress was impeded when they came upon a curtain in the middle of an aisle all bundled up.
"What's that there for?" Whispered Clemy.
"I've no idea luv lets look," said Anny as she reached down and pulled at the end only to discovered the bashed in head of Archer Trund. Both woman screamed and Clemy fainted.
*** *** *** ***
Cleo was holding a hysterical Clemintine tightly in her arms. She was gently stroking her hair and whispering comforting things into her little ear.
Chief Inspector Japp of Scotland Yard and Poirot came up to them quietly.
"Miss Brighton?" asked Japp respectfully.
Red rimmed green eyes looked up at the tall man, "Yes."
"Miss, I need to ask you some questions. Did you know that the victim would be here?"
"No sir. Anny and I were suppose to be all alone in the theater."
"Yes Miss Simpson said that as well. Who discovered the body?"
"We both did. Anny was leading me in the dark to the sewing room. I was nervous in the dark theater because there was only two tiny lights on. One of them was shining on the curtain in the middle of the aisle."
"Anny led the way, she was here first. She knew the theater better then any of us because she's worked here for years. My Clemy has only been here a few weeks so why don't you question Anny and leave My Clemy alone," Said the angry brunette holding the still crying woman close.
"Miss Thomas I have, I am not accusing your friend I'm merely following a line of inquiry..."
"That may be true but it sure sounded like you were being accusing..."
"Mademoiselle Cleo, The Chief Inspector is my friend and I do trust that if he says he is not accusing Mon petite then he is not." Said Poirot softly putting a gentle hand on the angry woman's shoulder.
Cleo's cheek was now against Clemy and she looked at the detective her upset blue eyes meeting Hercules kind gray eyes as she said, "I do trust you Monsieur Poirot. Its just that when it comes to Clemy I'm....well I...."
"You care deeply for her, no?"
The pale blue eyes sharpened and bore into his eyes searchingly, the blue eyes widened as she realized he knew their secret, "Yes very much," She whispered.
Poirot nodded once and then turned to Japp.
"I think Mon ami that it is very late and they are both very tired. Can we resume this inquiry tomorrow morning?"
Japp looked at the two very upset woman and then his friend and nodded.
"Yes, I believe a bit of sack time would do us all some good."
"Then sack time it will be." Said the Belgium with a smirk.
*** *** *** ***
Cleo was brushing Clemy's long blonde hair in their room. Sad green eyes met compassionate blue, "He knows doesn't he?"
"Yes, but Clemy Sweetheart, I think he's a good man and he's not judging us."
Clemy nodded, "Stop nodding Clemy do you want me to yank your hair out? Its far too pretty to be in my hand you know? Now keep still," said Cleo with a smile as she leaned over and kissed Clemy on the forehead.
"Wouldn't you say my hair is well brushed? I'd love for you to repeat what you just did but a bit lower this time." Said Clemy with darkened green eyes.
Cleo's smile broadened and her eyes darkened as she put the brush on the end table and gathered the smaller woman into a deep embrace, "With pleasure," she said as she kissed her passionately.
When they ran out of breath they pulled apart and Clemy said, "I love you so much Cleo, thank you for being my beautiful Knight in shining armor."
"You're my light, Sweetheart what else was I suppose to do?" She asked as she rolled them both onto the bed and started to taste all the delights of the woman in her arms.
*** *** *** ***
Poirot listened patiently to the ramblings of his friend's theory of what the girls were hiding. He shook his head as he leaned back in his chair in mild amusement at the man's assumptions.
"I know you like them but I think they are hiding something and..."
"You would be right Mon ami, they are..."
"Well then don't you think you should get right on the horn to Japp and let him know what it is?"
"What they are hiding is not any of our friends business."
*** *** *** ***
Poirot knocked on the girl's door the next morning. Cleo answered it and smiled shyly at the diminutive detective.
"Good morning Monsieur Poirot."
"Bon Jour and how are you on this beautiful day?"
"Not very well...um I'm very worried about Clemy. She is innocent and..."
"And you love her?" Asked Poirot sweetly.
"Uh...come in please sir," Said Cleo nervously ushering the small man into her apartment as quickly as she could and closing the door.
"Well Mademoiselle Cleo?"
Cleo leaned against the door and looked down at her shoes.
Cleo sighed and looked back up meeting understanding kindly gray eyes, "Yes I am deeply in love with her..."
"And I am head over heals in love with my Cleo, Monsieur Poirot." Said Clemintine from the door to the bedroom looking only at the tall dark woman.
Cleo swiftly crossed the room to her and swept her into her arms in tight embrace, "Love I'm sorry...I uh..."
"Shh, its ok I do understand," She looked over Cleo's shoulder at Poirot and asked, "Monsieur are you going to tell..."
"No Mon petite, I will not. I can keep my mouth shut as they say. The Chief Inspector saw only that you two were hiding something, I Hercule Poirot saw what that something was and knew it had nothing to do with the case. Mon petite I know that you are innocent. One pass at such a pretty girl does not lead her to kill...but Mademoiselle Cleo you do worry me."
"I?" Said Cleo with wide amazed eyes.
"Oui, you have the temper. You are fiercely protective of your amore. You are a woman formidable, who has the agility and the ability to take on such a big man. I must ask you therefore do you have the alibi?"
Clemy was shaking her head, tears burst from her pained green eyes as she said pleadingly, "No Cleo could never do that! She could never hurt anyone..."
Cleo pulled the upset woman back to her and said quietly, "Shh Sweetheart. Monsieur Poirot is quite correct in his assessment of me. I am a very likely suspect. I love you intensely and I am fiercely protective of you my love. I hated that slime with a deep passion so he's right I could have done it. I didn't but I am someone that the police might focus on."
"They will focus on you. I assure you of that Mon ami. You noticed that I did not ask you if you did it I know that you did not. I merely asked if you had an alibi for my friend the Chief Inspector."
Cleo smiled at him and brought Clemitine's head against her shoulder. She stroked her hair and kissed her forehead lovingly. Then she said very quietly, "I guess I am very lucky that I do, huh? I was at the Plaza being interviewed for a big magazine. It's a fashion lay out and the man was taking my bio information to go along with the pictures. I can give you his name and I'm sure some of the people at the hotel would recognize me, we were there about an hour."
"I know they will remember you Mademoiselle Cleo, you are unmistakable."
"Yes she sure is," said Clemy smiling brightly at the small man.
"So what do we do now, Monsieur? You know it's not us, so how do we proceed to check out the other suspects?" Asked Cleo with a raised eyebrow. Cleo was still running her fingers through the long blonde hair and Clemy was practically purring in pleasure from it as she nuzzled Cleo's neck.
Poirot smiled in the face of such love but he gave Cleo his patented stare as he replied, "We?"
"Well yes sir, This murder happened during my loves play and I'm going to help solve it...um we are going to help solve it," she corrected feeling a swift slap on her nether regions.
"Mmm, well I never saw two detectives as pretty as you are that is to be sure. All right my young friends you may help Poirot, I do have few little ideas...
*** *** *** ***
Clemintine and Cleo knocked on the door of a flat on the West Side of London. The door opened to reveal a tall man handsome man in his mid twenties who smiled charmingly at them.
"Cleo and Clemy, How delightful! Come in, come in," He said sweetly ushering the two women into his tasteful art deco rooms. They smiled at him because they both knew him well and liked him. He gestured toward a brown leather love seat and he sat down on silver and black chair. "Its wonderful to see but it is a bit unexpected, what can I do for you?"
Cleo and Clemy had both gotten comfortable on the couch and Cleo looked her old friend in the eye. She looked deeply into the clear hazel eyes trying to read the man through them. "We wanted to ask you some questions on a disagreeable subject." She said quietly.
"Oh? I can't think of anything you two could say that would be unpleasant."
"Carl you are our friend. Like myself you took the part in this play solely for our Clemy, we have known you a long time and we trust you. At the academy we all confessed our preferences to each other in the knowledge it would never leave the room. We know that your secret is the same as ours..."
"So? I don't understand what your point is Cleo. Friends don't judge friends we support each other. That's a given. What do you have on that brilliant mind of yours?"
Cleo put her arm possessively around Clemy's shoulder's bringing her close. "We know that you know we love each other deeply and passionately. You have never betrayed us and for that we are grateful. In return we know that you are a lover of the male form. It was very obvious when we were in school. You have learned to hide it better in the real world. Was that rat bastard black mailing you? Did he find out?"
Carl stood up and paced. He took a deep breath and then finally nodded his head yes. "Yes, I don't know how he found out but he did. He was trying to get me to do a despicable thing to an elderly friend of mine. I could never do what he wanted. She is such a good woman. She is rich and she dying and she is very fond of me. I have known her since I was child. He was trying to blackmail me into getting her to leave her money to myself and then give it all to him. He said if I didn't he'd tell all...Do you know what they do to a homosexual? Do you remember the Oscar Wilde case? I couldn't take hard labor....I'd die..."
Clemy was crying against Cleo's shoulder as she asked, "I know it goes against everything you stand for but did he...did you...?"
"No my sweet child, I did not kill the bastard. Some nice person beat me to it. I can't deny I was thinking of it...but..."
"Enough Carl. Don't say anymore," Said Cleo drying her loves tears she had some within own her pale blue eyes but she would not allow them to be released. She had to stay strong for both her friends; "Do you have an alibi?"
The man nodded as he sat back down, "Yes I do. My friend, The older woman Adele had taken ill and I stayed with her all night. Both Adele and the doctor can verify it to the police."
"Thank God," cried Clemy in a breathless whisper.
Cleo kissed her cheek and brought her closer as she smiled over her loves shoulder at their old friend, "Yes thank God."
He took a deep breath and smiled at his two friends, then in a voice of false cheerfulness he asked, "So would you girls like to share some tea with me?"
*** *** *** ****
"Well this a great honor," Said Margarite as she showed Poirot and Hastings into her office inside the theater.
"You are too amiable, Madame," Said Poirot as he sat down in one of the large leather guest chairs in her office. Hastings sat down in the chair next to his.
Margarite went to her chair behind her desk as she said, "It is the truth. You are a very formidable man," said Margarite with charming smile as she sat down.
"And you are a very intelligent woman so may one ask why you would marry such a..."
Poirot smiled slightly and shrugged as he replied, "I was going to use a softer term, Madam."
"Monsieur Poirot, there really is no softer term."
"That may as be, but you are circumventing my question, Madam. Why did you marry such a distasteful man?"
Margarite sat back in her chair and sighed, "I was left with this theater and money but the knowledge of how to run the theater was something I didn't have. Archer was a director had gone to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. He was talented and he had really fantastic connections. He knew everyone but..."
"He had no money?"
"Yes, so we agreed to pull our resources together. We married for our mutual protection. As I grew in my knowledge and he grew fonder of the bottle and other women. We became more and more adversarial...till...he...."
"He constantly threatened and resorted to slapping you around most brutally, as they say?"
"Exactly, but I didn't kill him."
"I didn't accuse you, Madam."
"Isn't that why your both here?"
"Poirot and I are here to gather information, simply that," said Hastings quietly.
"Madam, what I wish to know is what drove your late husband. He was very violent, disagreeable man that is obvious to Poirot on my first and only occasion to observe him. But Madam, as his wife you knew him well I need to know why he did what he did? Why did he create such hate all around him? And if you would be so kind did you have the alibi?"
Tears came to the large woman quickly as she leaned back in her chair sobbing into a handkerchief she had pulled from a drawer of her desk. "Oh Monsieur, I don't have one. I was asleep in my bed at the time. I know that Inspector Japp is not being unreasonable because of all I gain by his death but..." suddenly great heaving sobs suddenly poured from the big woman.
Poirot glanced at Hastings who looked alarmed he shook his head indicating that he should remain where he was. "Shh Madam, Inspector Japp is not an unreasonable man..."
"Yes, I know that, Monsieur. There is a lot of evidence to support a theory of my guilt. I am the only one to gain financially. I am the one he beat up regularly, and he abused and cheated on me regularly. I know I am a prime suspect but I swear I was asleep I didn't do it. I didn't do it," she broke down crying again.
Poirot eyes narrowed but his voice was soft and soothing as he said, "Madam, Things are not always as they appear. I assure you if you are innocent as you proclaim you will not be arrested."
"If only I could be sure..."
"Madam, if you will answer some of my questions it might help you in your efforts to clear yourself."
*** **** **** ***
Cleo was cleaning Clemintine hair in the sink. Clemy was purring as the long strong fingers ran through the sudsy hair. Massaging the scalp with delicate scrapes of her blunted fingernails.
"Ok Sweetheart, lean forward so I can rinse it," She said softly with a sweet expression on her face.
Clemy complied as Cleo poured warm water over the soapy blonde hair. Then she gently made sure all the soap was out of it. When she was sure that the beauty's hair was squeaky clean she kissed her love on her neck and whispered, "All done." She took a towel from beside her and wrapped her loves hair in it. Then she pulled her into her arms and kissed her beloved deeply.
They pulled back when they ran out of air and Clemy reached up caressing a soft cheek, "Thank you."
"My pleasure," purred Cleo. She was about to bring her back for another kiss when the phone rang. She kept the smaller woman close in her embrace as she answered, "Hello," her voice polite but impatient. "Oh Hello Miss Lemon," She said her voice changing to surprise. "He does? Ok...sure, we'll go there in about an hour. Yes...no...sure, thank you. Bye." She looked at the inquisitive green eyes and smirked at her loves eager need to know. "It seems we have a new assignment from our sweet little detective."
"Yep, Come on my sweet we need to dry that beautiful hair and get dressed."
"Who are we going to see? What are we going to wear?" Asked Clemy her voice full of curiosity.
"Miss Lemon says we need to dress in something sophisticated..."
"Well that's easy for you, but what about me?"
"Oh my Love don't worry he'll find you enchanting."
"The famous agent?" Clemy squealed.
"That's the one."
*** *** *** ***
"Ah Mademoiselle Anny, May my friend and I speak to you for a few minutes?"
Anny looked nervously between the two men and said quietly, "Yes, Of course sirs, come on in."
"You and Mademoiselle Clemintine discovered the body but were you not here earlier?"
"I never left the theater. There was a lot to do after the opening. They had ordered several changes in wardrobe and wardrobe cues that I had to work on. Cleo ripped her evening gown in the opening scene so I had fixed that. I had to redo the whole panel on the back of her dress cause Carl stepped on it accidentally and ripped that whole panel down the middle. The bastard also decreed he hated Clemy's dress in the last act. So I had to redesign it..."
"Mademoiselle, you told Mademoiselle Clemintine and Chief Inspector Japp you were in the stacks when she arrived. What exactly is the stacks?"
"It's the basement where everything was stored. There is everything I need in materials down there. That's also where they stored all the props for the theater. It is like a warehouse down there."
"Ah, that is most logical. So may one ask what it was you needed?"
"When Clemy came I had put something back, I had gone down to get a bolt of cloth for Cleo's dress. I returned the bolt and when I came back up Clemy was just coming in, in fact I scared her to death because she thought I suddenly appeared." She said with a slight smile.
"Did you hear anything in the theater down there the second time you went down to the stacks?"
"No...wait I heard a kind of a groan..."
"Like a person?" Asked Hastings excitedly.
"No sir, Like a piece of machinery."
"I see, do you recall what time you went down on the occasion before?"
"No sir, I don't wear a watch."
"Did you pass through the same way on both occasions?" Asked Hastings curiously.
"No sir, The first time I went the same way but the second time I was in the flys above the theater checking for costumes so I didn't go down the center aisle. I went from the balcony to the entrance straight down to the stacks."
"So mademoiselle, someone could have been in here from the time you left your sewing room to bring the bolt back and also during the time you were up in the flys and down in the stacks? That would be several opportunities to enter or leave."
"Yes that's right sir."
"And what did you think the groan was?
"The curtain for the stage being moved."
"And when did you hear it exactly?"
"While I was down in the stacks, sir."
"Thank you Mademoiselle Anny you have been most helpful."
*** *** *** ****
Cleo and Clemy entered the elegant office of one the biggest agents in Britain. Cleo opened the outer door and let Clemy in admiring her loves simple suit. She looked so adorable that Cleo had to remind herself that they had serious work to do here.
Cleo walked in behind Clemy looking elegant in a sleek black dress with a set of perfect pearls around her neck. She smiled brightly at the secretary and said cheerfully, "Mr. Prichard is expecting us, I'm Cleo Thomas and this is Clemintine Brighton."
The woman looked at her book and nodded. She picked up her intercom and said, "Sir, Miss Thomas and Miss Brighton are here for their appointment. Yes sir, right away." She got up and smiled at them, "This way ladies," leading the way to the door to the inner sanctum of the great agent.
It was a huge office with wood paneling and brown leather furniture. The broad shouldered man smiled and gestured that they should both take a seat.
"It is truly a pleasure to meet you both. I was surprised when your manger's secretary said you were coming in, Miss Thomas. I am..."
"My manager's secretary?" Asked Cleo slightly confused.
"A Miss Lemon..."
"But she..." a gentle squeeze on her arm made Clemy look at Cleo who telegraphed to her love not to continue. Clemy's eyes widened and she excused herself saying, "Never mind sir, I don't know what I was thinking of..."
"You're the playwright, are you not?"
"An excellent playwright," Said Cleo proudly. Clemy smiled at Cleo who winked back at her which made the blonde blush slightly. "Your so pretty when you blush," whispered Cleo with a huge smile. Then she turned toward the agent and said, "We actually came here to ask you a few questions about the late director of our play."
"Oh? What sort of questions?"
"Did he have any new career opportunities? Have you heard any reliable rumors from your colleagues?"
"That's strange that you would ask that. It was of late that I heard he was about to direct a West End play."
"Your kidding?" asked Clemy stunned.
"Yes, Clemy is right that is a shocking statement to us. The man was a drunk."
"Well apparently he had a backer. I don't know who but he was starting to initiate a production. He even came to me about casting."
"Did he? Anyone in particular in mind?"
"Yes, as a matter of fact he was thinking of you Miss Thomas."
"I?" Asked Cleo totally stunned. "After all he has put us through how on Earth would he think I would work for him again?" She asked the man squeezing the little hand in hers out of sight of the tall agent. She knew Clemy would react and was trying to forestall it.
"He seemed to think he had the means to persuade you. You too Miss Brighton. He had started to initiate one of your plays that you did when you were still a student at the academy..."
"But how could he do that?" Asked Clemy shocked and looking frantically into Cleo's calm blue eyes.
Those blue eye narrowed as she asked the agent, "An excellent question, sir?"
"I have no idea Miss Thomas, It is what he said to me. I do not know the answer to your very reasonable questions. I do have a question for you though."
"Would you both consider having a new agent, a much better one then you probably do?"
Cleo met Clemy's shocked green eyes her blues ones were filled with warmth as she winked at her love saucily.
*** **** *** ***
Bon magnifique Mademoiselle, Oui I will inquire at once. All the information you have acquired is most helpful to our inquiry." Poirot looked across his desk at Hastings and Miss Lemon with wide smile and twinkling eyes.
"Oui, that is all for now. I am most grateful for your assistance, Mon ami. Bon Jour." Then he looked at Miss Lemon and said quietly, "Miss Lemon I have a small task for you to perform at Somerset House."
"Somerset House?" Asked the bright woman very surprised.
"Oui, I need you to find out several things there. You will be in the certificates of Marriage section for quite a while I am afraid. Oh and Mon ami I need you to go to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts and make some inquiries as well."
"What will you be needing from RADA?" Asked Hastings confused.
"Much." Said a worried looking Poirot.
Miss Lemon and Captain Hastings looked at each other and then at the concerned man in astonishment.
*** **** *** ***
Cleo walked into the dark theater straight to her dressing room. She pulled out her costumes and set up her make up kit on her dressing table. The powers that be had decided to be true show biz folk and the show would go on tonight.
Cleo was always early she liked to set up and then meditate in her room before anyone else showed up on a performance day.
"Well Cleo, I guess we will perform the old adage, huh?" Said Margarite with a smile.
Cleo turned very slowly and met the cold brown eyes of the older woman with icy blue. She very calmly said, "So it would seem. Why are we going on anyway? It's your theater."
"Well I'm not going pretend to be the grieving widow. I hated his guts and you know it. Everyone does. I invested heavily in this play and I fully intend to see my profit."
"I see. I heard that Archer was going to pull out of this and go to the West End." Cleo said conversationally as she turned away from the big woman to brush her long black hair.
"I heard you two were making inquiries that's why I wanted this little chat with you."
Cleo silvery blue eyes met the brown ones in the mirror, "Oh?"
"Yes, Why were you asking questions? Your not a detective you're an actress."
"Why not? It was something that interested me." Cleo replied nonchalantly.
Margarite stormed over toward her and turned her chair around so she was face to face with her. Cleo looked up into the angry brown eyes and saw what she had hoped she wouldn't. "My you are strong, Margarite, aren't you?"
"Listen you Bitch, What do you know?"
Cleo's lips curled into a feral grin and said very calmly, "Enough."
Rage stormed in the brown eyes and now Cleo saw there was touch of madness there as well, "Are you thinking of blackmailing me?"
"No I am not your husband."
"So what's your game?"
"My only concern is to protect Clemy," said Cleo honestly.
"And your upset because Archer took an option on her play without her knowledge?"
"How did you know that?"
"That doesn't matter..."
"What matters is how he was getting all that money, right?" The strong woman pushed the big woman away from her. The bad breath against her nose was beginning to get on Cleo's last nerve.
"I think you already know the answer to that," said Margarite trying to crowd the tall woman again.
"Blackmail. Yes, I do know that. My question is who?"
"That guttersnipe Anny's husband is an Earl out in Sussex. It seems they never divorced and since he recently remarried he was committing bigamy. Anny the idiot was drunk a while back and spilled the whole sad tale while they were both in their cups..."
"So why did you kill him?"
"Yes, who else could have? Why?"
A cold insanity came over the older woman's face as she said, "How do you know its me?"
"You know this theater like the back of your hand. You are the only one with keys to the curtains who else could have moved it, not Anny. You gain the most by his death and you have no alibi at all. So Why?" Said Cleo still very calm leaning back in her chair and looking at the mad women with narrowed blue eyes.
"Because the bastard found himself a new pot of gold and was going to take my money and my theater and leave me with nothing." Margarite once again tried to advance on the woman in the chair, saying with a mad gleam in her eye, "Now I am afraid I will have to find myself a new leading lady..."
She pulled a large pipe from her coat; it was covered in dried blood and tried to hit Cleo. Cleo struck out with her fist and knocked the pipe right of the woman's closed fist. Then she got up and struck the woman with a karate chop to the neck so quickly that Margarite couldn't even react to it. Then she swept the big woman's feet out from under with a sweep of her leg and called out, "Inspector? Monsieur Poirot are you there?"
They and a fleet of police came tearing into the dressing room. Japp took in the woman lying flat out on her back and eyed the tall woman with amused annoyance, "Miss Thomas, you were only suppose to call us not take her out yourself."
Cleo shrugged as Japp's men took the screaming woman out of her dressing room, "Sorry Inspector she moved quicker then I thought she would."
"Mon ami, Mademoiselle Cleo should be congratulated not scolded. You did an excellent job." He said smiling at his young friend.
Cleo smiled at the detective and said, "Thanks."
"I was only concerned for Miss Thomas's safety..." said Japp sheepishly.
"But of course, Mon ami. It is as I told you when I set up this little exercise Mademoiselle Cleo can take care of herself. She is a woman formidable is she not?"
"Indeed I can take care of myself," said Cleo with a wink.
Poirot looked at the young woman with affection, "Well Mon ami come we have time for the leisurely dinner before our pretty friend's performance tonight." He winked at the tall woman as he led Japp out of the dressing room. Cleo laughed and shook her head. Then she looked into the mirror with suddenly nervous blue eyes; "Clemy is going to kill me."
*** *** **** ****
"Sweetheart, it all worked out..."
"You still should have discussed it with me first..."
"But I didn't have time. You were out and Monsieur Poirot needed me to help him as soon as I could and..."
"You actually fought her, I thought that the Chief Inspector was supposed to..."
"It was pure instinct, Sweetheart."
"I could have lost you," replied Clemy finally crying she had been trying not to but couldn't seem to stop it now. Cleo ran to her love and gathered her into her arms kissing her all over face. She pulled back and gently wiped the tears; "You'll never lose me I'm yours forever..."
"Forever," said Cleo as she kissed her love deeply.
*** *** *** ***
There was a party after the play at Monsour Poirot's apartment.
"Could please explain to us how you figured it all out?" Asked Clemy sweetly cuddled against Cleo who had an arm possessively around Clemy's shoulders. Cleo looked at Poirot interested in all the details of how he put it together.
He looked at the two young women that he was now so fond of and nodded, "Oui, I will explain all. First it was most obvious that he was breaking off ties with his wife. I ascertained that she had no alibi and knew her theater very well in our first interview. I also saw she was trying to persuade me of her innocence with how you say the crocodile tears. He was taking money from Madam Margarite and coming on to any young woman in a skirt that is a man who is asking for trouble. Then after you two spoke to the agent it was my intention to figure out where he was getting the money to get this new stolen production underway." He sat down beside Clemy and smiled sweetly at her.
"It would seem Mademoiselle Anny was not in the best of states as she told of her husband. And the unscrupulous man had found out that his lordship was a member of the board of RADA. He was not only blackmailing the man for money but he got him to give him full rights to your play, Mon petite. It became his lock, stock and barrel. Because it was an assignment from school it belonged to them and so he knew you could do nothing to stop him..."
"That rat fink bastard!!!" Spat Cleo angrily. Anny sat across the room crying quietly and said, "I'm sorry Clemy I didn't have any control of it."
"It's not your fault, Anny," Said Clemy as she was gently rubbing her angry loves back to try and calm her.
"Then Mon ami Cleo he was after you so he flirted with Mon petite to rile you into anger. If he succeeded in getting you to strike out at him with your Martial Arts training he could have had you arrested for assault with a deadly weapon. He could have offered to let you out of those charges if you did his play, is that not so?"
"He might have thought that but I would have readily gone to jail instead of giving in to him."
"Yes I do believe that you do have the resolve to do that. I also believe that Mademoiselle Clemintine would have been able to talk you into doing just this one play to avoid jail. She loves you dearly and she has a very persuasive tongue. You would have done so, would you not, Mon petite?"
Clemy's head dropped and she said very quietly, "Yes, he's right Cleo. I would have done anything to keep you by my side. Even letting him blackmail us into you being the star of my stolen play. I'm sorry..."She broke down.
"Shhh, Clemy come on...Shh, it didn't happen. Oh please stop crying...Monsieur Poirot," Pleaded the blue eyes into the understanding gray.
"Shh, She is right Mon petite. Do not cry it is not necessary. Madam Margarite had much bigger problems then the two of you did, I assure you." Sad green eyes looked at him and he smiled at her sweetly. "You see you were protecting your best friend and of course visa versa. I knew you were both innocents from the evidence and my gut instinct. Anny and Margarite were my prime suspects. I was immediately struck that the one who had the most to lose by her husband continued living and the most to gain by his sudden death was Madam Margarite. He was pushing away the night of the opening; He wanted to close the show. You saw he was in control and that the Madam hated it and him. He struck her in front of all those people and I saw for a fleeting moment rage and hatred. It was quickly cover but I of course miss nothing. I had all I needed motive, opportunity, intimate knowledge of the theater and its workings and no alibi. However it was all circumstantial so..."
"So you arranged for Cleo to stick her pretty head in the lions mouth," Said Clemy a bit angrily.
"Mon petite, I knew that she could easily handle it. We were right there the whole time and I would never allow my friends to be hurt..."
"I can take care of myself," Said Cleo defensively.
"Oui Mademoiselle, I know that. So does Mon petite, this does not stop us from worrying about your safety or caring about you," said Poirot quietly.
Cleo looked from his knowing gray eyes to Clemy's upset green, "I see."
"The point is that we got the killer and you just had a triumph. Now I suggest before the guests arrive to see this great cast and crew you use my bathroom to clean up a bit." He gestured down at the hall where the bathroom door was open.
Cleo got up and held out her hand for Clemy. Clemy took the large elegant hand into her own and allowed the tall woman to pull her up. Then Cleo led them to the bathroom as soon as the door was closed she embraced her in a warm hug whispering, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I am so sorry..."
Clemy pulled back slightly and said, "Shh, No I am so sorry. I was one second guessing you."
"No, I want you to care about me and that means that you worry. When you worry it shows me that you love me and believe me Sweetheart I worry just as much about you. It's the only thing I fear, something happening to you."
"It's mine too. I love you so much Cleo."
"I know, I love you too" She kissed her little one passionately till they ran out of breath.
"I just want you by my side, forever." Whispered Clemy.
"I will be, I'm yours forever, I promise." She kissed her again then when she pulled back she gently wiped her eyes. "Monsieur Poirot is right we need to clean up. I mean look at us we're a mess." Said Cleo with a smile.
"Oh well, Its for a good cause," Said Clemy back as she looked up into sparkling blue eyes as they came closer for another loving kiss.
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