“Oh good,” I said. I stood up and approached Jade. She sat on the floor, her hands still tied to the marble statue. She was oddly still. We had her completely immobilized, helpless, but she didn't even try to struggle. I felt a drop of sweat trickle down my forhead. I crouched down to be on the same eye level, and I heard Ashley do the same and crouch next to me. Her freckled face, previously in a twisted grimace, was now turning into a smirk.
“Wow, you guys really do make a cute couple,” she snickered. I saw Ashley raise a finger and take his breath in. I stopped him mid-protest, blocking his hand with my own, and just stared down Jade, as Ashley's face turned red from the pent-up emotion.
“Nice to see you in high spirits,” I said. “So, why'd you kill Van and Wei?”
“Excuse me?” Her eyes widened in what looked like genuine surprise. After that little stunt, I knew better than to trust her.
“Jade, sweetie,” I said. My tone just suddenly shifted to something weird, smooth, confident. Which was a bit surprising, considering I'd never felt so afraid in my entire life. “You just tried to slit my throat. At the very least, I know you're no reporter.”
“How perceptive, Rammy,” she said with that smirk on her face. She hesitated for a second, rolled her head, and gave a heavy sigh. “Fine. I'll tell you all about me. But know that I didn't kill them. I didn't even know Wei was dead until you started screaming like a maniac with your junk out in the open.”
“Okay. Let's hear it then,” Ashley said in a barely audible tone. I was alomost as scared of him as I was of Jade.”
“I'm not a reporter, you're right. But I came here to gather information. And maybe even more.” She stopped for a second and flipped her brown curls off her face. “I work for an organization that lives off... acquiring valuables from opulent individuals.”
“So you're a thief,” I said.
“If you want to be blunt, yes. That's exactly what I am. I steal really expensive stuff as part of a trained group. I used to be a spy, actually, but this kind of thing is far more exciting.”
“And you're telling us all this just like that?” Ashley raised his eyebrow. Soon his face turned red again as Jade went into a fit of ugly laughter.
“And why the fuck would I care? No one's gonna believe you anyway, and I'll be far away from here by sunrise.”
“Don't think we'll let you get away,” Ashley growled. Jade cackled once again.
“You're adorable, Ashley. I like that. But sorry. While I appreciate the occasional ginger, I'm not that into pale guys. I prefer them brown and scrumptious like dear Rammy here.”
I was this close to doing something drastic. For some reason, she knew exactly how to push my buttons. “Okay,” I said in as neutral a tone I could possibly muster. “So why are you here? Anything special about Bauer Island?”
“Well,” she balanced her head from side to side. I wasn't sure if she was just trying to relieve neck pain or preparing to do something unpredictable. “I was sent to find the crimson jasper.”
“There's that word again,” I said. “What the hell is a crimson jasper?”
“Honestly?” She cocked her haid to the side. “I have no idea. Apparently it's some treasure from far away that's worth a fortune. And Francis Bauer has it. Really, if I'd known things would get this ugly, I'd just look for some other treasure.”
“Yeah, well,” Ashley stood up, his fists shaking. “This really doesn't matter because I don't think there's any proof you may have that will clear you of suspicion. For all I know, you're the killer.” He stormed off.
“Ashley, wait!” I bolted after him and managed to stop him as I grabbed him by the arm. I put my face closer to his and made sure Jade couldn't hear me. “Hey, I know this is all hard for you-”
“Thanks, Sherlock!” he snapped.
“Hey,” I said as I flicked him on the forehead.
“What the fuck, AGAIN?” he growled, but as soon as I put my finger to my lips he went quiet.
“Good. Now, listen. We need to be level-headed about this. She's far from the only suspect. Let's just take her to De Silva so he can question her.”
“Oh, sorry guys, I kinda overheard your conversation,” Jade said in a jovial tone. “But there's something you should know. I know who the killer is.”
We both turned our faces to her. For a moment, time stopped, and we just stared into her smug face. We then looked at each other and sprinted toward her.
“Why should I believe you?” Ashley asked, pointing his finger at her, as if he were somehow trying to threaten her with it.
“Simple, really. I saw the murder happen, didn't I? Or at least, I saw the body arrive. Anyway, you'd be surprised how loose people's tongues turn when they think you're in shock and have no idea what's going on.”
“Tell us, then,” I demanded.
“Oh, I will, Rammy dear,” she said with a wink. “I'll do even more than that – I will help you apprehend the killer. I've got some nice techniques learned from my spying years, though I really don't think our perp is quite as sophisticated to require that. And I'll do even more for you, Rammy.”
“That's fine,” I said. “Where's the catch?”
“Oh, there's no catch, really,” she sighed theatrically. “You just have to untie me.”
Helpless, I glanced to my side, to take a look at Ashley, hoping he could help me decide. His stern face, illuminated in the dim light, gave me a very clear idea of what his decision was.