Layton sat on the other side of her messy desk as she laid down the tea tray. Layton gingerly picked up his piping-hot cup and took a long, slow sip. "Lovely tea, madam. A Rooibos blend from South Africa, if I'm not mistaken? And a tea set made from 17th-century Ming porcelain, no less."
The woman lifted up her wide-brimmed hat to meet Layton's gaze. She smiled, accenting her already-prominent jawline, as she poured herself a cup. "I'll thank you, Detective, not to insinuate that my worldly possessions are the product of theft." She sat down.
"So what in the world can I do for you, Detective?"
"'Professor,' madam, if you please. I'm here investigating the disappearance of Dame Perdita Mortum. Are you familiar with the name?"
"Sorry, Professor, old habits die hard. All you crime-fighting types are detectives to me." She smiled again; he did not.
"And yes, I might be provide some assistance in return for yours. You see, I've been stuck on this puzzle for ages, but I'm sure this will be no trouble for you."