Bonjour à Paris!
I am speaking to you from the beautiful city of Paris. I am sorry that I have not been able to respond the last few days; I have been laying low in France as I understand this Hefner – or rather Sherlock Holmes as he now calling himself – is most keen on trying to find and disrupt me. I attempted to send a message to him by ransacking his apartment, but it was he who sent a message to me. How could I have been so stupid?
Yet let us not dwell on the past; with the help of a benefactor (who wishes my silence of him) made arrangements for me to come to the continent and solve a most intriguing mystery.
Comte Pierre de Cavaignac, a well-known French Aristocrat, was found murdered in a – as you say, ‘cocktail party’ (a strange name for these gatherings, for they do not usually serve a chicken’s behind at these sorts of function). He was stabbed in the torso six times and killed almost instantly, but he was found perhaps a surprisingly long time after he died. You see, he was going to make a special announcement and was presumed to enter late and with grand presentation, so when he did not show up people thought little of it. Moreover, the butlers and maids were given strict instructions by the wife Elise de Cavaignac to attend to the guests and not to Comte de Cavaignac. He was found in his study; anyone who slipped away for ten minutes would have had ample time to commit the murder and cover up their deed enough to last through the party. He was only found after the wife got anxious around dinner time that her husband did not show up, and went up to the study to find his body stabbed. Thus the announcement he was going to make that night was never made.
Initially everyone was a suspect in this murder, but I have taken the statements and narrowed down the possibilities. For starters, the maids and butlers were all very well accounted for by each other, so it is unlikely any of them could have done it. Which leaves the guest list of ten people, as well as the wife. I recount their alibis below:
- Elise de Cavaignac mingled at every minute and hour with the guests like a good hostess and was universally accounted for that night. She could not have gotten away.
- The advocate of the family, Jean Trudeau, was also invited to the party with his wife, Marie Trudeau; and while Elise was proven incapable of the crime for being social, Jean it might be said was disproven for being too noticeably asocial at every hour of the night – not taking to many people, feeling uncomfortable in conversation with anyone but his wife. They both stood in the corner of the lounge for all the reception, and did not have the time to commit the murder.
- François Chrétien, an old friend from their college among the Université de Paris consortium – Paris-1, Pantheon de Sorbonne to be exact – who is one of those charismatic aristocrats who are satisfied with their own ability to entertain with their personality. Almost as devout as the wife he was entertaining guests as well.
Some people also did not have an alibi for the entire night but they seemed incapable of the murder as well:
- Renée de Cavaignac, Pierre’s mother was also attending with her boyfriend Henri Beauregard (Pierre’s father died five years ago) and they both were claimed to wander around the residence. Renée is 75 years old and Henri is 80, and they both seem simply too old and senile to have committed the crime.
- Finally, for almost six months Comte Pierre de Cavaignac has been working with a writer named Joseph Laval, the former hiring the latter to work on his biography. Joseph Laval works as a reporter and he was recalled to leave the guests for a ten minute period to smoke a cigarette outside. He was not seen for a good amount of time and perhaps he had an opportunity but he only knew Pierre de Cavaignac for a few months – insufficient time to have a motive for murder; besides he was scheduled to get paid in segments for his work with a major bonus after the work was completed, and Joseph was barely halfway through Pierre’s college years. As a half clever man he would have waited for full payment before acting. Not to mention he would have had to climb up to the second floor of the house from the outside in a suit, and – by his report – terrible vertigo.
Therefore there are three people who had the capacity and opportunity to commit the crime, though I cannot necessarily discern the motive:
- Jacqueline de Geoffrey, his assistant at the company and set to be his successor upon his retirement or death. A very keen and ambitious businesswoman who played the part at the party in her white dress. She has the clearest motive of the three that I can discern.
- Hugo Vernet, like Francois Chrétien, was also an old friend from college but he more specifically had a harsh disagreement about a girl which ultimately poisoned their friendship; they hadn’t spoken for two years and even then it was only a brief engagement at their school reunion. Obviously their relationship was sour, but it does not seem enough for a murder, particularly as it seemed Pierre was extending a laurel with this invitation.
- And finally, Valérie du Bois, the girl that was subject of this disagreement, who had a strong passionate affair with Pierre, but it ended as soon as it began. She clearly also had strongly negative feelings about Pierre as a result but her description of it was vague; hers of the three is the most mysterious in terms of motive. She is a relatively famous socialite and very concerned with her image; she was perhaps the great head turner of the party with her red dress and short blonde hair.
I have little to go off of for the murder for it is very clean; the wounds are shallow and caused much of the bleeding to be internal rather than gushing. The knife was left in one of the wounds but had no fingerprints; whoever used it had gloves. And incidentally a pair of fancy brown leather gloves that belonged to Madame de Cavaignac went missing.
There is one piece of evidence that is interesting. First, Comte Pierre de Cavaignac’s desk in his office where he was murdered unusually clean for his reputation, with pens on the table aligned as if for some ceremony that a piece is missing of. Perhaps the murderer took the object of de Cavaignac’s announcement. And second, he had in his pocket a business card of a Swiss investor of some kind with some numbers scribbled on the back of it. What it means I do not know; I will contact this man shortly.