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No Respect for the Holidays

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It was eight a.m. on a Sunday morning and Robert Templeton was in a foul mood. Two days before he had travelled up to Edinburgh to indulge in a spot of sightseeing interspersed with wholesome pastimes such as rambling through the Scottish countryside. Like any Londoner, he loved the city, but knew equally well that such loe is best cultivated by spending time away from it at regular intervals. But before any of his holiday plans had come even close to fruition, they had been cut short - naturally, by the arrival of a dead body. A gentleman staying at the same hotel as Templeton, and moreover, in the room next to the amateur detective, had been found in the morning with his throat cut, and Templeton's reputation, which had evidently preceded him, had done the rest, and so he found himself in his present situation: staring into a dead man's face before breakfast or even a chance at a cup of coffee. Yes, the police would be called in, but would he mind, given the situation...?

He did - mind, that was, but if there was on person in the hotel who was having a worse morning than him, it was the deceased's fiancee, who had been sleeping in the same room; the same bed, even, and was currently in no fit state to speak, though she had been adamant there was no reason whatsover that her intended could have had to make away with himself.

Having no defense against this power of female emotion, Templeton did what he was best at.

It was not a pretty sight, but Templeton, who had seen enough corpses to last him several lifetimes, was more perturbed by his own lack of nourishment. Apart from him, there were several hotel attendants in the room.

The man, or what was left of him, was lying in the hotel room's bathtub. His shirt might have been white at one time, but now bloomed in shades of red, pink and crimson. His throat had been cut from one side to the other. Templeton crouched down and stretched his long arms to gingerly touch the flesh - no rigor yet. He looked into the dead man's mouth, then ran his fingers over the gash in the throat - an action that made the attending hotel staff flinch. It was not a deep cut, but the jugular had been expertly severed. Without medical attention, the man would have died within minutes, and even had such help been available, it would have been a close call. Templeton rose.

"So if not suicide," he pronounced, more for hs own benefit than anyone else's, and thought about the fiancee and how he would have to interrogate her later. There was a fleeting a pang of fellow feeling in his chest. The loss of a companion was never easy, and by his own hand too... Except, of course, it wasn't so simple as all that. The direction of the cut was one clue - the fact that no one had been able to find a razor in the room was another. The biggest oddity he had so far observed was an unfinished letter on the writing-desk and the open Waterman pen beside it. If this were a suicide, it would be the first to Templeton's knowledge to be completed mid-note. Unlikely, yet conceivable, but if you considered the subject matter of the letter being the enjoyability of the holiday, it became much less so.

"Thank you," he said and stepped outside. He pulled out his notebook, a constant companion on murder investigations, and started pencilling his observations with unusual ferocity.

He finally put notebook and pencil away and considered. In all likelihod, this would be a long day of questioning witnesses and squabbling with police. He needed something to set him up for all that, but he didn't like to show his face in the hotel bar and be questioned just now.

However, given the hour and the fact that it was Sunday, there was nothing for it. Templeton sighed. Maybe if he sat in the farthest spot from the doors, he could avoid making a public spectacle of himself. He entered the breakfast room, where the staff, much like theatrical people, served food obeying the motto that the show must go on. He piled his plate with toast and scrambled egg and had just sat down when - "Robert?"

He rolled his eyes and turned to where the voice had come from, ready to deploy a remark about leaving strangers to eat their meals in peace, but found he didn't have to, for the voice was not that of a stranger, but the pleasant features of Jack Montgomery, his companion of old and help on several cases.

"Jack!" Templeton smiled. He had not seen his friend in a while. "What brings you all the way to Edinburgh? Come, come, man, sit." He waved in the direction of a chair across from himself.

Jack did as told. "I could ask you the same," he said. "Some criminal investigation no doubt?"

Templeton grimaced and heaped scrambled egg onto his toast. "Not initially," he said.

"I'm terribly sorry," Jack said and speared a piece of toast.

"Oh, you weren't to know," Templeton said with a wave of his hand. "It's fortuitous we should meet, Jack, so I don't have to face the whole sordid business by myself."

"I'm staying till Friday," Jack said, pre-empting the question.

"Right," said Templeton through a mouthful of egg. "Shall I bring you up to speed then, or would you rather go about your holiday undisturbed?"

He had already seen the glint in Jack's eyes that meant that the younger man was up for what he probably perceived as a ripping adventure, but waited for verbal confirmation, which Jack made eagerly, until he filled him in on the morning's proceedings so far.