Detective Ralph Brady stooped near the fireplace, his sharp gaze scanning the smoldering ash.
Ah, there it was.
He smiled and turned his attention back to the crowd gathered around Lady Manchester and Jeffrey Monroe.
Charles scrutinized the stamp in his hand, adjusted his glasses, and stared some more. Suddenly, his face paled. “He’s right,” he whispered. “It’s a fake.”
“What!” Lady Manchester exclaimed. She grabbed the stamp in question and brought it almost to her nose. “It can’t be!”
A soft roar erupted from the bidders gathered around the room. Calmly, Detective Brady grabbed a fireplace poker and scrapped a bit of paper from the ashes. The remnant secure in his hand, he rose and faced the room.
“Ladies and gentlemen, if I may have your attention.” The buzz continued. He cleared his throat and tried again. “Lady Manchester, please!” Still no one heard. Drawing a deep breath, he said, “Jeffrey Monroe is under arrest.”
The room fell silent and all eyes swung to him.
“What?” Lady Manchester said.
“What?” Jeffrey repeated.
Confident, now, of their attention, Detective Brady crossed the room to stand before Jeffrey. “What did you intend to do, Mr. Monroe? Forge a new stamp after you’d destroyed the old one?”
Jeffrey’s eyes widened. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Oh, I think you do,” Detective Brady said. He took the fake stamp from Lady Manchester’s limp fingers and waved it in Jeffrey’s face. “I think you created this clever fake knowing Rochester would be able to discern the difference between this and the original. I also think you intended to profit from the affair by announcing to the world that it was you who discovered Lady Manchester trying to peddle a million dollar counterfeit.”
Tugging at his tie, Jeffery cast a quick glance at Lady Manchester. Daggers shot from her steely gaze.
“I also think,” Detective Brady continued, “that you planned to sell a newly printed forged stamp to a collector. You were banking on the idea that you’d be able to find an unscrupulous buyer regardless of the fact that they’d never be able to show the stamp in public, which is why you went to the fireplace and dropped the real stamp into the flames.”
A loud gasp went up from the onlookers in the room.
“Y-you’ll never be able to prove that,” Jeffrey stammered. “You have no proof.”
Detective Brady held up the partially burned bit of paper, his lips curled into a smile. “I have proof, Mr. Monroe. Right here. All the proof I need."
Stay tuned next week for a brand new Short Story Mystery!
For Discussion: Did you figure out Jeffrey's plan?