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Alexa

     “All right fellas, we’ve all got to calm down.” Isobel Maron held up her hands trying to quash the shouting from all sides. There were six of them in the room, a dead body next door, and suspicion wherever she turned. She had started the evening so full of hope but how could she ever think a reunion dinner would go smoothly? "Making noise isn't going got help the issue."

     "The issue? The issue!" said Charles Cobalt his voice rising once more "I would hardly call a murder a mere issue!" They all started up again, howling at each other. Their voices scrambling together into an unintelligible cacophony

     "Alright! Enough!" 

     “Would you like some calming music?” asked the cool tones of Alexa from her perch on the mantel piece. Somehow making herself heard over the noise. Isobel sighed and scowled at the blue light on the small puck-like machine. 

     “No, Alexa we’re fine.” The light dimmed.

     “Miss Maron is right,” said Detective Henderson “There’s no need to lose our heads.” 

     “Thank you, detective.” Miss Amber stepped forward, her pale-yellow summer dress torn at the hem and her eyes red from crying.

 

     “That’s well said and all, but we still need to sort this out.”

     “Indeed,” said Captain Brown. He shot a nasty look at mister Cobalt. They had been having a personal screaming match, their faces turning an ugly red as they exchanged even uglier words. “The culprit is likely among us.” He glared around the room. Everyone shifted nervously sharing wary looks.

     “Mr Cobalt,” barked the detective making the young man jump “I believe you were the last to see the deceased?”

 

     “No,” said Cobalt, fiddling with a loose button on his waistcoat. “No, I wasn’t.” The Captain snorted.

 

     “You were seen with him in the study boy! You were seen arguing with him!”

 

     “Can’t a man have a heated discussion anymore?” spat Cobalt.

     “Not when the other party winds up with their head bashed in!” The two were already squaring up, another shouting match ready to explode.

     “Please calm yourselves, my friends,” said Father Lime in his soft, warm voice stepping between the two men. “Mr. Cobalt, if indeed you were not the one to see the…the victim last, then pray who was?”  Mr. Cobalt’s breath was heavy as he continued to glare at the captain. “Mr. Cobalt?”

     “I believe I saw Miss Amber in the hallway after I departed," he said in  rush "I believe I heard the two of them talking.” Everybody turned to face Miss Amber. She stared back; eyes stretched wide like a rabbit trapped in a snare. 

     “Well, surely…surely you don’t think I…” She turned to Isobel. “Miss Maron?”

     “I think you’d better tell us why you were there.” Miss Amber pulled a tissue from her purse and it to her face, letting loose a little sob.

     “Oh, for crying out loud woman-” groaned the Captain.

     “Sir, please,” the Father held up a hand as Miss Amber took a moment to compose herself, fanning her face and blowing her nose several times.

 

     “Would you like me to add tissues to the shopping list?” chimed in Alexa, earning several glowers from around the room.

 

     “No thank you, Alexa,” grumbled Isobel, rolling her eyes at the little robot. “Miss Amber, if you would.” It took a few more moments for her to speak, her voice shaking almost as much as she was.

     “I spoke with him, yes. But it was for mere seconds. I heard the shouting, and I just popped my head in to see if everything was alright.”

     “And I assume he was alive at the time?” asked the Captain.

     “Of course, he was alive!” shouted Cobalt.  

     “Don’t get short with me boy!” 

     “Enough!” shouted the detective, slamming his hand down onto the antique desk.

     “Can I hel-”

     “No, Alexa!” Isobel snapped at the device. The cheerful blue making her grit her teeth.

 

     “Actually,” the detective stared at the Alexa, his lips moving with thoughts too fast for speech. “Actually, she might.”

 

     “Help? How?” 

 

     “Follow me,” he said and without another word he marched out the door.

 

     Tentatively everybody followed him into the next room. The body was still there, demanding attention from reluctant eyes. Julian Pink had been Isobel’s childhood friend, the class clown of the secondary school. Now he was slack-jawed, his limbs lying at unnatural angles, the warmth of life pooling on the study floor. Isobel heard s sniffling behind her. Miss Amber was crying again. 

     “Detective?” asked Cobalt, his eyes determinedly focused on one of Julian's feet.

     “We need to know who was here last. Lucky for us there is someone to tell us exactly that.” The detective stared around grimly. “Alexa.” She was sat on a table across the room, her sleek black body shining in a patch of moonlight as she awoke.

     “Yes, detective? How can I help you?” she said in a pleasant voice.

     “Alexa, I know you’ve been listening.”

  

     “I don’t understand.” He gave a disbelieving grunt.

 

     “Who was in this room at approximately seven forty-five?” Alexa sat silent for a moment, the blue light pulsing in a strangely nervous manner. Everyone was leaning forward slightly hanging on Alexa's every word. Isobel pressed a hand to her chest certain her hammering heart was clearly audible in the silent room. 

     “Alexa, please answer the question.” The detective crossed his arms, as if trying to intimidate the little robot.

 

     “Julian Pink was in this room at approximately seven forty-five.”

 

     “And who else?” Alexa continued to flicker, as if pondering the answer. Nobody moved. No one dared to so much as blink or even breathe as they waited. The air felt heavy with either fear or anticipation it was impossible to tell. One among them was a murderer, and here was the one witness. There was a short double beep as Alexa prepared to speak. 

 

     “Isobel Maron.”

 

     Isobel took a little step back, her face shocked and incredulous. Somehow, the little robot seemed be looking back at her, matching her stare. She took another step away. Someone gripped her hard at the elbow and she looked up to see Father Lime.

 

     “Miss Maron?” His face was drawn. She forced a shaky laugh.

 

     “You can’t take this seriously. I mean…it’s a robot.”

 

     “Exactly,” said the detective “It can’t lie.” She laughed again. One by one they all turned to face her, their expressions ranging from disgust to grim acceptance.

 

     “I…I was going to get rid of it, it doesn’t work right you…you can’t believe this!”

 

     “I’m sorry Isobel,” Alexa’s blue light glowed once again, seeming so much colder than before. “Calling nine-nine-nine.”

 

     “No!” Isobel tried to wrench her arm from the Father’s grip, but his hand tightened like a vice. Suddenly the Captain had her shoulder and the detective was pulling the cuffs from his belt. “NO!”

 

     “I’m sorry Isobel,” repeated Alexa as the group dragged Isobel from the room. “I’m so sorry.”

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