“Ah, here you are, sir! Welcome back to F.S.B. I hope your travel did not pose too many problems? May I take your hat & your coat?”
That is Jeeves – always the gentleman. But don’t worry. My name isn’t Bertie Wooster. And this isn’t a P.G.Wodehouse story.
“Here you go, Jeeves! The place sure has changed, hasn’t it?”
“It sure has, sir.”
“Something seems different about this place, Jeeves.”
“Maybe it’s the reconstruction, or maybe…”
I paused to look at him. He returned a blank stare. Clearly, he hadn’t scored top honors during his schooling days for nothing. Nevertheless, I ploughed on.
“Tell me, after the fire gutted half the place down, they had to rebuild it from scratch, I suppose?”
“They did, sir.”
“But they never found out what exactly happened, did they?”
“No, they did not, sir.”
Things were getting curiouser and curiouser. Was Jeeves trying to avoid the topic? Why would he be so furtive about it? Wait a second, what was it that I had read about the fire? I racked my brains hard and –
“Wasn’t there some ruckus with the insurance company about possible arson?”
“Yes, there was, sir.”
“What was that all about? Can you tell me?”
“Surely, sir. The insurance company claimed that they found traces of a flammable substance in some of the burnt wood they examined, which later turned out to be turpentine. The management told them that all the wooden floors & doors were being polished & that mere presence of turpentine was no indication of arson. The insurance company found no other proof of malicious intent and finally paid the claims in full.”
I knew that wasn’t all. There was more to it than that.
“Look, I know the school was under heavy debt when the fire happened, wasn’t it?”
“Indeed, sir. It was.”
“Doesn’t that qualify as motive AND opportunity?”
“No, sir. There’s something else you don’t know. The debt was cleared in full thanks to a large sum donated by an anonymous well-wisher a few weeks before the accident happened.”
“What? The exact amount was donated by someone ANONYMOUSLY?”
There was a slight pause (or had I imagined it?) before Jeeves continued.
“Not quite, sir. Most of the money went into clearing the debt. The surplus money was being utilized for the upkeep of the school; for instance, some of it went into buying the turpentine for polishing the wooden floors & doors.”
To be concluded
I have always wanted to write a whodunit for a long time, but I am not very good with suspenses. To be honest, this one isn’t exactly a suspense, either. But it sure has a twist in the tale. ;)
The story concludes with the next part in a few days… :)