portrait by Benjamin Sullivan
"Thank you, Mrs. Hudson," said my friend, taking the telegram and leaving me to handle the tray of food. "More good luck," he said when he had finished reading. "Cheryl Eastap will call on us at four o'clock this afternoon."
"Is she one of the two attractive blondes Bucky suggested you should contact?" I asked.
"Indeed she is," replied the detective. "I know nothing else about her, or her connection with this case, but I am sure we will find out soon enough."
As usual, his prediction proved to be correct. Cheryl Eastap arrived shortly before four and introduced herself with a surprising statement. "I would have come sooner had I known you were interested in the case, Mr. Holmes," she said. "I am so thankful for your message."
"Please sit down," Holmes said, "and tell us, from the beginning, how you came to be involved in this case."
"It was through my work, sir," she replied. "I'm a fashion designer, and I teach at Central Saint Martins College. I knew Gareth Williams from the college. He was a part-time student there."
"I see," said Holmes. "Did Gareth take one of your courses?"
"No, he took two courses with me, sir," she replied.
"Both in the past year?" he asked.
"Yes sir," she answered. "The first one started in the winter and finished in the spring. The second began in early April, if I recall, and ran until late June."
"Tell me about these courses," Holmes said.
"They were short, introductory courses," she replied. "We would meet once per week for ten weeks, and that was all. Just enough to give the students a good overview of the subjects, and a chance to try some simple things themselves."
"What were your impressions of Gareth as a student?" Holmes asked.
"He was very talented, sir," replied Ms. Eastap, "clearly very interested, and quite well-versed, for a beginner."
"What subjects did you teach him?" Holmes asked.
"Fashion design and interior design, sir," she replied.
"Hmm, fashion design," he said. "Would it be fair to assume a rather large percentage of your male students might be gay?"
"I do believe that would be a fair estimate," she answered.
"Aside from open declarations of interest," he continued, "can you, perhaps, spot the gay men by the way they look at the young women?"
"Most of the time," she replied, "you can tell by whether they look at the young women."
"And in Gareth's case, would you say he was looking?" asked the detective.
"That is how it appeared to me, sir," she said. "If you're asking whether Gareth was gay, I can tell you I never saw any sign of it."
"Unfortunately," said Holmes, "in this case, the undercurrent of deviant sex will not go away. I am sorry to mention it, but I must."
"Yes, of course," replied Ms. Eastap.
|Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design|
"I am given to understand," said Holmes, "that you are unhappy with the police and their investigation."
Cheryl Eastap nodded and said, "Yes, sir. They came to see me not long ago, and asked all manner of questions about the courses, the assignments, and so on."
"Yes?" said my friend.
"They seemed especially interested in an assignment Gareth had completed which was called 'Living Spaces.' They even suggested that Gareth may have 'gone overboard' and locked himself in the holdall while trying to find out how small a space a person can live in."
"And what did you think of that line of reasoning?" asked my friend.
"It's not 'reasoning' at all, sir," replied the teacher. "There couldn't possibly have been any connection between the assignment and the young man's death. The police were simply trying to create a decoy."
"Are you certain?" asked the detective.
"Absolutely!" replied our guest.
"What makes you think," asked Holmes, "that the police were merely trying to establish a decoy?"
"What else could they have been doing?" she countered.
"They clearly understood the nature of the assignment?" he pressed.
"Yes sir," she said, "they most assuredly did."
"And it carried no risk of accidental confinement?" he continued.
"None at all!" she replied. "It was an interior design assignment, sir. It was about the spaces people live in and how we can make them more attractive. That was all."
"I'm sorry if you find this frustrating," said the detective, "but I must ask the questions, you see?"
"Yes, of course," she said, and seemed to relax somewhat.
"Do you have any idea," Holmes continued, "why the police might be trying to establish a decoy?"
"None at all," replied our guest. "I was hoping you would tell me."
"Unfortunately," he replied, "I cannot tell you anything concrete at the moment. But you have been most helpful, and I thank you very much for calling on us this afternoon."
"You are welcome, Mr. Holmes," she replied, rising to leave. "I wish you the best of luck on this case, sir."
"Luck has been running more with us than against, lately," he said as he walked with her to the door, "and perhaps it will continue to do so."
"I do hope so, sir," she said as she departed.