I came back out with the watch. “This brings back memories. His clothes in the picture remind me of the ones we wore when we were younger, when we had to help around the shop. The ones with the itchy collars.”
I could almost hear Kenneth’s mind working.
“If he wasn’t born in the slums, what’s a boy who can afford these clothes doing on the streets?” He murmured to himself. “Probably his family’s gone now and he’s supporting himself.”
Very nearly there. Kenneth was a good detective in his own right.
“You remember the watch I gave you for your birthday? I usually encrust small stones along the lining as my signature.”
“Do all jewelers and goldsmiths leave some mark of their own?” Kenneth asked excitedly. There it was.
“Often enough. Everyone has a technique they favor and watch-pieces are especially easy to work with.” I opened the watch and pried the picture away. In neat, cursive engraving, there was a small lettering of R. Bask, just as I suspected.
Kenneth peered at the engraving. “Do you know an R. Bask?”
“Rudolph Bask.” I said promptly. “The goldsmith a few blocks down, his is the house with the blue-chipped walls and the dying plant by the window. If this piece was specially made, perhaps he knew the family.”
“Excellent! A breakthrough!” Kenneth said triumphantly, plucking the watch and dashing off to fetch his hat. “You are my very own personal Watson, Raion. I always catch onto the most amazing clues after talking to you.”
My smile felt sardonic. I watched as he yanked the door in his enthusiasm and nearly collide with a woman just about to enter.
“Oh!” She gasped, taking a step back. “Beg pardon, ma’am!” Kenneth said in a rush, reaching out to steady her.
“I am so sorry, completely my fault. I was in rather a rush, I hope you’re all right.”
“Fine, just fine. Good day, Inspector.” Madeline Hastings laughed, a hand lightly placed against her chest to draw attention to the expanse of flesh on display. Kenneth did not disappoint.
“Oh. G-good day, Mrs. Hastings.”
“Off to break another case, I presume.” The most interesting vermillion colour crept up Kenneth’s neck as he heroically wrenched his eyes upward.
“Y-yes, well, I must be off.” He said in a rush, tilting his hat at her. “Good day, madam. I’ll see you later, Raion.”
I waved complacently at him, the both of us watching him rush off and nearly trip into a pole. “He is the dearest man.” She turned to me with a sly smile and a bitter look. “I wonder why he remains friends with you.”
“I sometimes wonder the same thing.”
Madeline Hastings, also known as the young widow Hastings ran a dressmaking business across the street. She was a remarkably independent woman, both by nature and circumstance. Her husband died a few years after their marriage, leaving her the business that she managed better than he did and a considerable amount of freedom.
Kenneth was absolutely smitten with her. Did I mention he was a horrible judge of character?
“Is the pearl necklace I ordered prepared?” She asked briskly. “Yes.” I bent down and fished the box out, revealing a choker composed of several strands of seed pearls, each one longer than the next and a large sapphire pendant in the middle. “Is this to madam’s satisfaction?”
“Beautiful.” She drew a light finger across the pearls, her gaze envious before she shook it away. “It will do just fine.”
“Thank you for your business.” I snapped the lid shut and handed it to her.
Madeline did not leave immediately, instead pausing in the room, waiting expectantly. After a moment, I conceded. “Was there something else you needed?”
“I was hoping you’d invite me for tea.” She smiled demurely, slanting her eyes. “It is early. And you know I cannot brew tea.” I pointed out blandly. She huffed a little. “You have no concept of socialization.”
“I do. When I need to.”