The Brass DollI wasn't always a detective, you know. Alone, cast out, on the run. There was a time I was like anyone else. There was a time I was content to stay in my beloved city of Argenstrath. There was a time before all this trouble.
Let's just say that there was a time where water was scarce but law was final. Where every man had a chance to excel. There was a time where all I wanted to do was live to see the next day. There was a time where Kent Nicholas was just a name on a desk... and a man in an office.
The year was 1880. I was a book keeper of sorts. His Majesty had proclaimed the Railroad to be the 'Antifordian way to travel' and small, Vibranni powered Trollies were going to be the future of inner city travel. So railways and railroad technologies were the business to be in. With the rapid expansion of an already popular form of travel, cities expanded. Population rose. This was a time before Air Travel was as greatly un-unified as it is today.
When Argenstrath got wildly connected, with more train cars then people at one point, travel around the city became increasingly difficult. Some man decided he would rather build a bridge over the tracks then have to make his way to the nearest crossing and... well... there you have it. The bridge business took off, with wealthy businessmen, communities, or even small time paupers looking to make some ciams; they all took to building bridges over the tracks and over the dips in the tracks. Well, some of these new businessmen needed to earn a living with these bridges. Thus, the idea of tolls was resurfaced from Paorean times.
I was a toll keeper... uhm... of sorts. You see, I was smarter then the average Mack. Mr. Hemingway was a wealthy man who did not have time to deal with the actual toll keepers. So I was hired to keep them in line. Collect their hourly take, and insure that all the books and paperwork for the bridge met his majesties terms to the letter.
Every day I walked from my small apartment through the Wealthy Housing district to get to the Bridge and the small office nearby where I would spend the twelve hour day ahead of me. When I was finished, which was quick enough, I headed home back the same route. Throughout the day I spent my time counting, recounting, doing paperwork... and then nothing. I watched the people pass. I watched as the toll keepers went about their jobs. I watched the rich leave their homes and cross our bridge to go into the inner city for a day of fun. I watched the lords of the households leave in the morning to earn their wage, and return in the afternoon.
Well, I remember it clearly. This day in time. It was Dodar, in the month of Gornuary. The year, as mentioned above, was 1880. Reisday morning.
I was walking my usual route on my way to work. I was once again passing through the many, multi-layered houses of the well-off when I noticed a large crowd. Men and women who were dressed as if from the area and a few who looked like public servants (water suppliers, newspaper boys, etc) were all gathered outside one of the houses. I decided that I had nothing better to do, and the job could wait a few extra seconds, so I joined the crowd and tried to see the commotion.
That is when I spotted the police constables. They had already set up metal barrier that aided in keeping the nosey at bay, but a few police officers of the law were still at the edge of the crowd, warning people to keep their distance. I recognized that a few Police Constables and some detectives stood out front of the door. The detectives did not wear standard police uniform, but instead wore their badges pinned to their chests. The copper badge could bee clearly seen from the street.
I inquired as to what happened. The Police Constables by the barriers just pushed me back. However, one of the men in the crowd seemed to be more helpful.
"There was a break-in," he told me, "Mr. Scarlet was murdered last night."
My heart jumped. Murdered? How terrible. Another in the crowd gestured from the street to a broken window on the second floor of the large home. I moved around the crowd to the side of the barrier. Adjusting my bowler hat, I gazed up at the window. The window was, indeed, shattered. Through it, I could see flashes of a photographic "camera" and a few policemen walking about the room inside. These photo-cameras were fairly new, and to see them used in a police investigation like this meant that this was a serious case.
I looked around the ground outside of the house. It was a rich house. They had only the finest sand imported to fill its space, and I could see it had been freshly raked and groomed. They also had bushed imported to make their lawn look more lavish. The desert plants had scraggly branches and freshly budding red roses that stood out against the tans and yellows and reds of the lawn as well as the white of the houses.
A glint caught my eye. In one of the neighbors yards there was a shiny metallic object in the plant. I walked over to it, for it was outside the area of the crowd, and I picked it up. It was a brass doll. It's copper wired hair and painted smile looked expensive, and brass dolls were rare for children, but not unheard of in rich communities like this. Looking over at the commotion, I decided I had been curious enough and I walked up to the house next door to return the doll whom I suspected of belonging to them. On my way over, I noticed a few shards of glass in the neighbors lawn, and shook my head. Some servants were better then others, I supposed.
Upon speaking with the neighbors, whom their servant answered the bell, they informed me that they did not own any children, and odds are it belonged to the Scarlet's daughter who lived next door. I found this odd, seeing as a child with such a rare gift would surely not be as forgetful as to leave the toy in the neighbors bushes.
After striking up conversation, I decided to inquire as to the happenings next door. The servant was only to kind to inform me of what happened.
"Well, there was a break in last night, and the police say it was a break-in. Or at least that's what the Misses was hollering about last night."
"This happened last night?" I asked, "That explains why the cleanup was so quick."
"Oh, no," said the servant, "They haven't even begun the cleanup yet. The investigators are still questioning everyone and looking over the house. I'm sure they'll be over here in any minute."
"They where did all the broken glass go from the break in?" asked I, gesturing to the window.
"Oh, I can't say, sir," said the servant, "The break in, however, was through the back door!"
"The back door?" I asked, "Then why the broken window?"
"Again, sir, I can't say for certain," said the servant, before looking both ways and leaning closer, "However, there was an awfully big fight last night. We even could hear glass break. However, It's not proper to discuss their private affairs."
"Alright then," I nodded, taking my leave, "Take care of yourself."
I pocketed the brass doll, and begun my long walk to work. As I passed the house for the second time, I managed to catch one of the constables making his way to the Police wagon nearby. I caught up to him and inquired about the incident.
According to him, the lord of the house, a man named Charles Aiden Scarlet, was murdered the night before. It looked as if his head had been bashed in, and he had died of loss of blood. Seeing as his wife had left the house to call for the police due to a break in, he might have been attacked by the burglar after she had left.
After answering my questions, he sent me on my way. I had made myself late enough as it was, so I figured I should whisk myself away to my desk and begin my day of work. I arrived at the same old dreary office. It felt like it was stacked to the ceiling with paperwork. However, once I was in the swing of things once more I found myself almost halfway through my days work in a matter of an hour.
Starring at me from my coat pocket was that darling brass doll. I could not get it out of my head. I must have forgotten to give it to the girl next door. I retrieved it from my coat and sat it at my desk. I kept thinking about the tragedy. A fight, a break in, the window. It was terrible. The loss of a rich man like him.
Well, the police would get tot he bottom of it, wouldn't they? I sat at my desk and the thoughts expanded. There was no glass in the sandy yard. There was no glass in the trees. However... this loan brass doll was left outside. Well, it made sense to me. A break in would have meant the glass would have shattered into the office. However, the neighbor had said a fight and smashing of glass was last night. What if the burglar didn't enter through the window... or out of it. What if that was the smash? Then why would they clean up the glass and forget the doll?
I began wondering about the case. Bashed in head. Wife was gone... who would want to kill Mister Scarlet, and why?
Before I could help it, I had paper set aside as I began to write notes. I was thinking of everything. Scandals. Betrayal. Murder. Neighbors. Finally, I had decided. I did what I could to finish my paperwork early, and decided that tomorrow I would take some extra time to try to learn what progress the police had made, and put to rest my raging curiosity.
However, my new drive had my finish my work ahead of the toll-keepers. I decided I would get caught up with their stuff tomorrow, and my boss would not mind the delay. I set up shop, vowed to return at the night to lock up the final days take, then I headed out, to learn what I could.
So, it didn't take me long to catch the gossip and the facts surrounding the case. The Scarlet murder had already been heard across Argenstrath.
Charles Aiden Scarlet was a man known across town. He was one of the up and coming lawyers in Argenstrath, and many thought he would make himself one of the most famous in all of Antiford by the end of his career. He was ruthless, and known for getting really into his cases. In fact, it was no secret he was undertaking one of the largest cases of the month for the crown against a Water Condenser ring leader named Ryan Holme. Ryan Holme had been rumored one of the most notorious criminals in Argenstrath, and had evaded the crown on several occasions. He was also a smooth talker, and a smart man. His operations had been known to be impenetrable and hard to crack.
However, when he was caught a few weeks ago, Scarlet had the strongest case against him, and it was turning out that this time, Holme might be sent to Pleasantville for sure. Or worse... beheaded or fed to the Goblins as an example by the crown.
Scarlet was also a distinguished family man and avid socialite who attended many of the richer parties in Argenstrath. His wife and daughter were also known. Scarlet Jones Scarlet, his wife, married him years before after a fling to avoid a scandal and, reportedly, had been happily married ever since. Scarlet Scarlet? Yeah, I'm sure she didn't regret that decision. Their daughter, Millie, was their eight year old who was being groomed for the political spotlight. The brass doll I know held? It was most definitely hers.
Such a high-class target, it's no wonder his house was broken into. However, when I made a stop by the police offices to inquire about the case, they informed me no items were reported stolen by the wife. This made me wonder. That insinuated the break in was for no other reason then to kill Scarlet. However, it was so sloppily done that I had my objections to it. With this information, I felt my resolve strengthen that I needed to get to the bottom of this mess.
So, I awoke the next day and found myself down at their offices. Large, thick, and made entirely of stone, the Royal Argenstrath Court Offices stood out as being a strong symbol in the city. I managed my way inside easily and found Scarlet's offices.
It was a surprisingly small room. And inside were only two people. One young man leaned over the receptionists desk and batted his eyes and flirted with her.
The receptionists held a wet handkerchief that had been used to cry in earlier. However, she was laughing and smiling despite her worn red eyes had not recovered. They both finished whatever joke or line was being said before noticing me shutting the door behind me.
"Im sorry, sir," said the receptionist, trying to hide her embarrassed smile, "The offices will be closed for a little while. I'm afraid we won't be accepting any new cases for some time."
"That's alright," I said, slightly embarrassed myself, "I've come about Scarlet. I had a few questions."
"Certainly, ol' boy, come in," said the young man in a load, vibrant voice, "It's such a great shame, isn't it? Wait, you aren't press, are you?"
"Oh, no sir," I stated, "My name is Kent Nicholis."
"Ah, good, Police again," said the man, rolling his eyes, "It's alright, ol' boy. I'm Morris Harker. Scarlet's partner against crime."
The man's large smile returned, and he winked at me as he shook my hand, "I'm just so distraught at all the news. During the case of our lives, too."
"How sad," I said.
"If you don't mind, I am grieving terribly," said Harker, I remember him winking at the receptionist once more, "I'll be seeing one of you earlier tonight. Excuse me!"
He walked past me and pretended to blow into a handkerchief. He shut the door rather hard as he exited the room. The receptionist apologized for his actions, and I was quite alright with it. He gave me the guise of the police, and as long as I said nothing I decided to keep it to myself. The receptionist sat me down and agreed to a few questions.
I learned from her in an instant her "side" of the story in the days events, and about the troubles of the case and whatnot. I decided to ask about his schedule or planner, and she said that he was a very up tight man, and had every action of his day scheduled and timed to a science and kept on record. Always the lawyer, she joked. With a simple request she retrieved his schedule for the week and handed it to me.
"So, not much of a mourner, that one?" I asked, thumbing at Harker's desk.
"He really is quite sad about it," said the receptionist, nodding her head, "He's just really upset still."
"Still?" I asked, shaking my head, "Seems like he was never quite upset."
"No, from their fight," said the receptionist, bringing her voice down to a whisper, "You see, Cielday, Scarlet announced some new evidence against Holme that he was going to bring to the next court date. He said he had documented proof of forged Water Condensing licenses by the crown that would destroy Holme's case and insure victory. However, after the announcement, there was a huge fight with Harker."
"That is strange," I commented, writing in the fight on the schedule she had given me, "What time was this you think?"
"Before he left for lunch."
"Strange thing to argue about," stated I.
"They argued alot that day. Even during the court session that day. They argued and left on bad terms. He's probably still upset about it."
"I wonder why," I questioned, "Do you remember exactly what it was about?"
"Not really," she answered me, "But as weird as it sounds, I feel it was about the new evidence, the papers, being used in the case."
"That is strange," I agreed, "Thank you for your time."
"Wait," the receptionist had stopped me, "I think it's important to mention that there are some... rumors."
"Rumors have surfaced surrounding Mister Scarlet's lunches," said the receptionist, "They say he was seeing someone. An affair with some young lady. If the misses found out, that could've ended badly!"
My mind immediately jumped to the neighbor talking about the argument. I nodded my head and thanked her once more. I made sure to pick up his detailed schedule as well as the publicly available case notes and her statement before leaving.
After leaving the offices, I decided to check his schedule. It was almost lunch now and maybe I could figure out more about this mystery woman. An affair would almost definitely would be motive for murder. I was late for my work, so I decided to research about this famous case as well as his schedule while back at the bridge.
I quickly made my way to my employment to get caught up on work and think more about what information I had gathered. Looking over his schedule, it occurred to me that he ate often at a place near the new medical school in Argenstrath. I began to think maybe the person he was meeting with was unaware of his demise, and might want to keep their appointment. Either way, the workers at the restaurant might know where to go from there. I decided it would be worth my time to check on that for my own lunch.
So, I finished up my work as best I could and decided to take my lunch.
Lunch BreakArgenstrath was home to Antiford's most prestigious Hospitals and Universities. So much work was done to research, catalog, and understand the human body. Such work even began to leak into police work.
That day I found myself looking up at one of the newest, and biggest, academies, built by order of the royal family themselves. I knew the truth. The more doctors and medical people in Antiford, the more people would know. Therefor, the royal family would have better doctors who would keep them alive forever. With a school practically overlooked by the king himself, all the newest and brightest medical surgeons would be at their beck and call.
However, the city was bustling around the school due to all the students and surgeons around Antiford who traveled here to brush up on their knowledge and share what they know. As I looked around the street, I saw many promising new shops and patrons strolling along.
There it was. A small restaurant right between a shoe store and a hat shop. Quite fitting, I figured. Top and bottom covered, then go get something for the middle. As I made my way across the street I stopped by a fruit-stand where a hopeful boy with a bright, big smile was selling his wares. I bought some fruit for home and then continued to the restaurant.
The restaurant was smaller then I had expected. One of the smallest insides I have seen, with three or four staff workers were all that were working. Looking around, I noticed only one or two students studying and reading books. I ordered some bread and sat down, looking over Scarlet's Schedule. Scarlet was a man who did everything very pristine. He had everything planned out, even a few blocks of time here and there labeled as "free time". I looked it over, and decided to look into a few notes I had taken about this big case.
Scarlet and his Partner, Harker, had made great leeway on the case. However, why would they be arguing about such minute details so late in the processes? From what I got from the case file, it appears they were in the perfect position to end his entire racket, his career, even his life if the King saw fit. There was enough in the damn file to make them both rich, to make them famous. Hell, I wouldn't have thought twice about it if I heard they were going to get knighted. To my eye; jealousy, money, even competition had nothing to do with it. Maybe the argument was nothing. However, it didn't seem like either of them would get the short end of the stick, and it didn't seem to me that any small friendly dispute would make a man so happy to see his friend and partner die. I didn't like Mr. Harker the more I looked into it.
I was tired and probably needed to return to work for the day. My entire time there I had only seen four candidates for an affair. Two students who did nothing but study the entire time, one woman with long, blonde hair and large, thick sunglasses who waited around for forty-five minutes looking around before leaving and another red-headed woman who did the same thing until a man in a black coat and top hat came around and called on her.
Seeing nothing of interest, I decided to head back to work. Awaiting the day to end so the final totals could be tallied, I kept feeling like there was something I had missed. Reading over the papers again, I saw a massive wake and burial was to be held the next day. The more I considered it, the more I decided I would need to see the scene of the crime. Maybe there was something I was missing... maybe some piece of information the police had that I did not. I decided that I needed to get into that house. I needed to know more then I did.
As the day came to a close, I decided that I was going to get into that house during the wake when everyone was away.
Breaking & InvestigatingThe funeral procession had just begun. The widow and daughter at the lead. Never has a river run through Antiford that only brought sadness. However, this black dressed river of tears did just that. Even the casket was darker then the desert's night.
And there I was, in the neighbors yard looking at the back. The police lines and wooden barriers were still up, forgotten to be taken down in all the excitement. I adjusted my clothes. I didn't have very fine clothes, or make much money. However, my father did leave me one good thing, a black suit he wore to work often. I only took it out in special cases. That morning I had taken from my savings enough for a fine new bowler hat and new identification papers. I had to insure that I looked as important as I could in order to get out of any jam I would find myself in.
I leapt over the small fence that separated the desert yards and I made my way across the back lot. As I approached the house I saw some outlines the police had made. Certain shoe-prints had been outlined in chalk. Despite them being mangled in the sand, I could tell they were of decent size, and probably a man's size. When I approached the back door I saw definite signs of a break-in. The door jam was damaged and wood chipped off as I examined the door. Obvious signs of someone having broken the lock as well. They weren't trying to hide the fact that they were breaking in.
It was easy to open the door now, with it broken. I don't even think they attempted to lock it or bar it. I just opened it up and entered the residence. Inside, I found myself in the kitchen. Food and dishes and pots were laid out. Someone was preparing food. I also spotted a child's play tea cup. I looked around the kitchen and in the cubbords. Nothing out of the ordinary. Food, canned goods, dehydrated fruit.
In the medicine cabinet I found mostly normal things. Cough syrup, diet pills, laxative leaves, even some home made bottles that were unmarked. However, I found one medical grade prescription. The label on the bottle was for a Mrs. "Scarlet Scarlet", the wife. Pretty powerful medical stuffs, some sort of high-dosage of pills for "mental unrest" it said on the bottle. That could've meant anything. Paranoia, scitzo, even her just getting quick to anger. Lots of people took such questionable medical mumbo-jumbo for "mental unrest". However, I wasn't so sure that spoke too much for her innocence. The bottle said she was due for a refill next week, however the bottle was much too empty to last. My mind jumped to an addiction. That could certainly raise tensions in the family.
Putting the bottle down, I decided to sneak out of the kitchen and check the scene of the murder. I poked my head out and gazed around. In the sitting room some servants were enjoying a small break, eating bread and drinking some juice. However, none of them appeared to be the head servant. I looked around some more and decided they were too distracted to notice me. I quickly leapt from thee kitchen and ascended the stairs to the second floor.
Deciding I hadn't been followed, I decided to leisurely look for the office or study I had seen from the street. I knew I was close. The only rooms I had happened upon were a room painted a bright blue with a small desk, four poster bed, and drawings and books covering a small bookshelf. An old, unused toy box was pushed into the corner. I nodded, assuming that this was the room of the daughter. A small table with stuffed animals and a tea set verified this for me. The table was missing two seats. I smiled. One for thee daughter, one for the brass doll... which I had forgotten to bring along with me.
I continued along the corridor. I ignored the Water Closet as I passed by it, and instead was more interested in the large oak door with a police notice for no entry. I pushed the door aside and took a step into the room. I immediately knew I was in Mr. Scarlet's study.
A large desk made out of what appeared to be sturdy wood was the centerpiece of the room. Three, large, wooden bookcases covered the walls, with shelves on the ones that were vacant. Large volumes could be seen filling their space. A few artifacts and certificates also decorated the room. Three, large armchairs also filled the floor space. Two were in front of the desk while the third sat by the large fireplace that was along thee far wall. The desk held an inkwell, some lead pencils, and paperwork and trinkets. I also spotted a filing cabinet on the far wall.
I made my way into the room, eyeing the scene. I could tell there was a pool of blood on the carpeted floor in front of one of the armchairs. I knelt next to the pool stain and looked it over. I could tell the body had laid there for some time. I looked over the floor and furrowed my brow. There was a good amount of blood here, and it stained the carpet irreplaceably.
However, I remembered my cousin's death. I was the closest relative when it happened. He had been killed after losing too much blood in a mill accident. Even after arriving hours after he had died, the amount of blood was three times, four times larger then this. I just figured, in my mind, it was odd that he would bleed so little and yet die. Sure, maybe there was more at stake, but I just couldn't see it.
I looked around the office. A spot caught my eye on the desk. Getting up, I realized that it was blood on the desk. I smiled. He must have hit his head falling on the desk, and fell to the ground, where he lay dead. I crossed my arms.
That explained the blood loss and fall, but I still had issues believing that was the cause of death. I decided that I wanted to figure out the cause of the break in, the reason the wife left the house.
I examined the desk. Legal paperwork and bills concerning water payments littered the desk. I didn't see anything unnatural with that. A Tea cup lay on the edge of the desk, half full of now cold tea. The quill and pencils seemed to be in their proper place, suggesting he wasn't writing when the killer entered the room. My eyes browsed to the filing cabinet. The bottom file was left slightly ajar. I walked over to it and opened. it. I frowned. There was a great deal of files and paperwork inside, but it all looked... unnecessary to keep. Tons of old receipts, pamphlets and fliers probably picked up from around Argenstrath, even a few pages that appeared to be torn from books. This entire cabinet appeared to have no rhyme or reason for storing these files. I opened the other two, but they all held legal documentation and family records and made sense.
I decided to remove a few of the files for closer inspection. After removing four or five, I noticed a small box on the bottom of the cabinet. I retrieved it immediately, and noticed that it was locked at one point, but thee lock had been forced. I opened the case and found it empty. I frowned. A hidden lock-box is already rare and incredibly interesting enough. However, I didn't like the idea of a bunch of missing items from it. I stood and put my hands on the hips. I looked around the room again. Walking up to the window, I examined the break. Would an item that was stolen be tossed out of it? What if there was a struggle?
I walked over to the fireplace and looked at it. There was no firewood, ashes, utensils, anything. I frowned and knelt over the fireplace. Something must have been burnt here, or the police would never have taken it. I decided to reach up the chimney and feel around.
My hand came across several things of paper. I brought it out and examined it. Three or four pieces appeared to have been from paperwork. I looked them over, but I was more interested in the one piece of paper that survived the flames. Even through the discolored paper and burnt edged, I could read most of the writing.
From what I could put together, it appeared to be a piece of paperwork for a permit for an airship. Down at the corner of the page, it even had the royal seal. In fact, I blinked and had to check it again. Surely, it looked real, the royal seal shining brightly on the page. However, I noticed that it wasn't popping up from the page. Running my fingers through it, I frowned. It appeared to have printed onto the document itself. That wasn't standard from what I thought. Folding it up and putting it into my pocket, I decided odds are the paper was a forgery, but I had some new questions. Why would it be burned? What other papers could have been burned with them? Why would Scarlet need an airship?
I rose from the fireplace with many questions in mind. I turned to continue examining the room.
In the doorway stood a man dressed in a black suit with white gloves. In those gloves were two barrels of a blunderbuss that were leveled at myself. Both the triggers were cocked back. His face was stone and showed no signs of emotion.
I had no choice but to raise my hands.
"Who, are you?" asked the man, "And why do you burgle the late Master Scarlet's Office Chambers?"
"Burgle? No... I'm not a bugler," I stuttered, unsure of what to say.
"Then who are you," said the man, "Speak quickly."
I thought quickly. Remembering my hat and new ID, I decided it was now or never to use my disguise.
"My name," I said, trying to steady my voice and sound in control, "Is Kent Nicholas. I am... investigating this case."
"Are you, now?" said the man, "Why wasn't I notified of your presence within these walls, sir?"
"Because," my mind was darting around, and I was looking around the room, "I... needed to check this room, undisturbed," seeing that this was not winning me any points, I decided to turn the tables, "Because... we are investigating... you."
"Excuse me?" said the man, showing the first emotion he had in our conversation.
"Yeah," I said, dropping my arms and grabbing my papers.
This made him tense, but I flashed my new identification papers and re-pocketed them and that seemed to make him feel uneasy. I pointed at thee gun, and he lifted up and away from me.
"So... What do you have to say," I asked.
"This is Master Scarlet's," said the man, "I have a history from the Antifordian-Titanian Conflict of 1846."
"You... don't look that old," I said, "How about we start with your name and occupation."
The man was really uneasy, I could see he was arguing with himself about whether or not he could trust me. However, he fumbled with the gun uneasily and just kept stealing glances at me.
"I'm Phillip Stark, head servant of these residence," said the man, "I was hired years back to train and bring a sense of class to the... sub-human servants that may be hired."
"So you knew the family," said I, beginning to feel comfortable.
"Every day since being hired," said the man, "More or less."
"So do you know what really happened here that night?" I asked.
The man blinked, and looked around, "I... I couldn't say, sir," he stuttered, "I have come back early from my holiday in order to assist the family with the... changes"
"Oh? How convenient," I said, Mister Stark practically having a heart attack at my comment.
"Why don't you tell me what you know about it," I said, "Just so you get your facts straight, eh?"
"I was informed that the Scarlet's were at the Opera or the theater the night of the event," Stark said, un cocking the blunderbuss, "When they returned, the back door had been forced and the Servants no-where to be seen. When Mister Scarlet sent Madame Scarlet to fetch the constable, he was alone in the house with nobody but himself and Madame Vermilion. When Madame Scarlet returned, her husband was dead on the ground."
"How interesting," I said, crossing my arms, "Sounds exactly like what the police would've said... or the press would've gotten ahold of. I'm not convinced."
"Please, sir," said Stark, looking as if he was truthfully hurt, "I had nothing to do with this incident! I told you what I was told."
"What about the other servants?" I asked, pointing my finger at his chest, "Mighty suspicious that they were all gone at the same time when a burglar was in the house!"
"Not at all, sir," said Stark, he seemed reassured suddenly, "It is not like the Master's of the house to wish them to be around late in the evening. They finish their duties and insure a meal is ready to eat and then they would leave the house, presumably locked up."
"Alright," I said, thinking hard, "How interesting... Ok, so let's talk about them. Was Scarlet acting in any way... out of character?"
"Again, sir, I was beginning my holiday and wouldn't know," stark said, resuming his emotionless manner as I calmed down, "However, you are free to question the servants before the lunch and mourning party arrives."
So he led me downstairs, where the two servants from earlier were still sitting. I tried to question them on the events again, but most of them told me exactly what Stark had said, that they didn't know much besides what gossip was getting around. I sighed, and decided I needed to get more information before the funeral party got back.
"So," I remember saying, "Tell me about Scarlet. Was he an abusive man?"
"He was a young man, sir," Stark said to me, defiantly, "And he got angry, but he was not a violent man."
"The neighbors tell a different story," I said, crossing my arms, "They said there was a big fight the night before the murder. Even heard glass breaking."
"We don't know anything about that," said Stark, "Again, we are not often here at night."
"And there was no glass to be cleaned the morning of, sir," said one of the maids.
So, Scarlet must have cleaned up the glass himself... or the family did. But Why? To keep the fight quiet? To avoid an affair?
"So what about the wife," I asked, crossing my arms, "Misses Scarlet? She an antagonist?"
"No, she wasn't," said one of the maids, "She's been alot better since seeing the doctor."
"Seeing the Doctor? What for?" I asked, pretending to be unaware.
"Misses Scarlet Scarlet saw a doctor a while back," said Stark, being sure to speak loud in a warning tone for the other two servants to be quiet, "She was quick to anger and often very stressed for little reason. She began to frighten the child. So, the good Doctor saw to it to check her out. However this is no longer of concern, Mister Nicholas. She has been wonderfully fine since receiving her medication."
"And this medication... she still takes it often?" I asked.
"I dare say she does, so to speak," Said Stark, "She takes a pill a week, or one when she feels like an attack is to ensue without reason or provocation. I believe she had a refill recently."
I smiled, "So does she have any bad habits? Maybe opium or snuff? Maybe she is a little too spendy with Scarlet's Purse?"
"Nonsense, she was a lady!" said Stark.
"Alright," I said, "I just have another line of inquiries. Uhm... did you know anything about Scarlet showing interest in registering an airship with the crown? Or maybe having purchased one recently?"
Stark seemed to be legitimately confused for some time, unsure as to what to say. The other servants just shook their heads.
"That sounds... preposterous," said Stark, finally, adjusting his suit, "He had no need for one, and on his current salary the family would have had to go through great pains not to notice the loss of that kind of money."
"Huh," said I, crossing my arms, "Because I... we retrieved this from the ashes we took."
After showing him the paper, he looked it over, and shrugged.
"I am unaware of anything Scarlet could have been doing with this," said Stark, before smiling, "Well, besides burning it."
I was about to roll my eyes at his poor joke when there was a knock on the back door by the kitchen. All three of the servants stood and made their was to one of the windows in the back of the dining room.
"It's her!" cried one of the women.
"It's that tramp again," said the other, "Aw, doesn't she have any class or anything?"
"Stay quiet and calm," spat Stark, shooting a firm glance at the girls, "I'll go see what she wants. If you would excuse me, mister Nicholas."
Stark bowed and walked from the room. I tipped my hat to him, but I was afraid the gesture was lost in all the hubub. I was going to ask some more questions to the other two maids before leaving when I looked out the window at the person who was standing in back of the house.
I recognized her! It was that woman, from the restaurant, who waited around before leaving. She was wearing a hood and cloak and was recovering from crying but I could still remember her young face and the look she had as she shot glances around her. Stark was talking to her in his emotionless way and was urging her to leave.
"Who is she?" I asked out loud.
"Rumor has it she was Mister Scarlet's Mistress," gossiped one of the maids.
"Every so often she would come around asking for Master Scarlet," said the other, "Sometimes he would even leave with her. Sometimes."
"Not anymore," I said, crossing my arms, "She got a name?"
"Nope," said the Maid.
"Doubt it," I said, smiling, for I just watched her give a card to Stark.
By the size and shape of it, it must be some sort of business or calling card.
Doctor's NoteIn hindsight... I really should have known better.
I sat at my desk and searched through the paperwork I had. I had set up the brass doll to hold up the Airship Document I had taken as I tried to sweep as fast as I could through my work. It was slightly easier, as that night a sandstorm was to bear down on Argenstrath. It also gave me a much needed excuse to not be interested in going home for too long.
I finalized some paperwork and filed the days pay and prepared the deposit for the banker's Paddy Wagon which would come for it in the morning. While filing it away, I noticed that a new batch of paperwork had taken its place. I gasped and groaned in pain. The biannual tax collection had come early this year. I grasped the documents and laid them out on my desk. The King saw fit to take more this half. I frowned, my employer would not be happy.
I began to fill out the necessary paperwork in order for the King's Taxmen to take the amounts from his account when I noticed the royal seal. I frowned, before grasping the paper I had found. Indeed, the seal on the royal paperwork was bulged out, had been added after the paper, and was much more detailed and embossed then I had remembered. Looking at the slightly burnt paper I found in Scarlet's house, I could tell right away it was a fake. 100% a forgery.
I placed the paper down. How on earth did I miss it with such clarity last time. I should have known better. I even examined it. I crossed my arms, frowning. So Scarlet had, in his possession, forgeries. So... why was he burning them? Were they evidence for his case?
I frowned, if they were evidence why would he burn them? I nodded my head and smiled. If the burglar wasn't a burglar at all, he could have burned them. Destroying evidence and, therefor, the case for Scarlet. However, I didn't remember there being any mention of Holme having an Airship ring or something of the sort. Besides, I don't remember seeing forgeries being on the list of charges. They were in the list of evidence, though.
I leaned back in my chair, rubbing my tired face. How was it already almost Mellday. Time was going by so fast!
I picked up the calling card and frowned once more. Liane wanted to meet with Scarlet tomorrow morning at a breakfast dinner near the School again. I should meet her instead. Stark should have informed her of Scarlet's death. I was so mad at him. if that crew of policemen didn't come in at the time I wanted to ream him a new one I would've, but I had to make a slick escape before they could question me. Not sure, now, whether or not I am in too much trouble.
However, they were just coming back for a "second look" before the family got back. Maybe they weren't as far ahead as I thought.
The next morning I found myself at the doors of the small restaurant on the other side of the newly-being-built school. Looking into its door he could see only blackness. I decided to step inside. The gloom cleared in a manner of seconds, and I saw that the woman from yesterday was the only person in the restaurant. She looked up immediately and her face went cold as she saw me.
I walked up to her and removed my hat. I checked the calling card again and placed it on the table in front of her. Her face went stone cold and she looked at the card, not at me. I sat down and introduced myself, again deciding that using the cover as a police detective to convince her not to run. I sat down with her.
"Let's start with your name," I said, smiling, "Miss, Liane?"
"My name is Liane Wilson," she said, fighting back the tears.
"You from around here?" I asked.
"Astam Junction," she said, sniffling, "I came here a few years ago"
"How about your interest in Mister Scarlet?" I asked.
"Did his wife hire you?" she asked, looking up at me, "Is it against the rules to know a guy?"
"It is when that guy shows up dead," I said, leaning back in the chair and sighing, "Miss Wilson, Scarlet was murdered a few days ago."
It was... horrible. I don't know how to describe it other then that. She cried for at least thirty minutes. I tried to soothe her as I could, but she didn't want me to help.
I highly doubted her involvement in the matter, however as I convinced myself to leave, a small bit of me in the back of my head snapped me out of it and reminded me that she could be putting on a huge act. I needed to press on.
"How did you know him?" I asked.
"It's not your business," she sobbed.
"Ma'am," I said, putting my hand on her shoulder, "I am just trying to help..."
"Sure you are," she said, crossing her arms, "Did the wife send you over here? Is she to do about this?"
"Can you just answer me how you know him?" I said, getting angry at her continuation, "Were, or were you not, his mistress?"
She looked at me. Wiping her tears away with a napkin, she pushed away from me and sat up straighter.
"It's not easy for me, a poor girl who can barely afford an ounce of water," she started, sniffling, "When I got here I couldn't find a job, I couldn't survive... I even slept on the streets like some sort of house pet, I quickly had to learn that my schooling meant nothing to what I was born with. My body... nothing could be worth more to me, and nothing paid better. Next thing I know... I was thighs-deep in prostitution in a place called the 'Badger's Den'. I didn't know what I was going to do."
"But then," she continued, "But then a man came in. Sure, he liked me, but after spending some time talking, I realized he really 'got' me. It was Charles. Charles came and he listened to me. It was through him that we discovered my love for the medical field. He gave me the idea to go to school to learn how to be a nurse."
"A nurse?" I asked, scratching my head, "And you made enough to do that? Go to school?"
"Well, sort of," she continued, "I tried my best to pay for it myself, but I wasn't doing to well. I couldn't keep up with the 'demand' as well as study for my classes and pay my bills. Balancing it was a full time job. However... he came down and saved me. He told me he would pay for it, all of it. So I could go be successful. He called it an 'investment for my future'."
"Wait, he was paying your way through University?" I asked, shaking my head.
"Two years worth, paid in full," she said, smiling, "Oh, he was so kind. He didn't even come for me often after that. When he did... he expected some, but mostly he was ensuring that my grades were keeping up."
"And now that he is gone, what will you do?" I asked, "I mean... he can't very well keep paying you."
"No, but I got some sort of royal grants or something," she said, smiling, "Becaause of my grades and his backing, I was chosen to be trained for the royal court's nurses. I might not get it, but from here on in all school-related costs will be free, paid by the crown."
She smiled, "I'm going to be ok."
I nodded, smiling for her, "Sounds great, but what about Scarlet? What was his plan? Where on earth was he getting this sort of funds?"
"I'm not sure," she said, shrugging, "He told me not to worry about it. It was a side project that he and Morris were working on. He said no one would ever know he gave it to me."
"Morris... Morris Harker?" said I, blinking, "You mean his partner, Morris Harker? What were they doing?"
"I don't know," she said, blinking, "I just know they met up alot, and Morris knew about him and me. They met alot at Morris' place as well as alot of restaurants. Every so often they would go into the city."
"At Morris' House?" I asked, scrambling for a napkin to write on, "Do you know the address?"
She gave me the description and street of the house, but she did not know the address. I figured I could find out from the office if I asked nicely. A side project making loads of money? Sounded like something I was interested in.
"So, was he going to leave his wife for you?" I decided to ask, already knowing there was some bad blood between them, "You were seen at their house a few times, and you don't seem too happy. Could the misses have known?"
"Oh, at one point, maybe," she said, almost laughing, "But there comes a time where all you can see is a father figure. And once my need of his funds ran out, I told him I didn't want to break up his family. And I didn't. I don't. I told him I didn't want his funds, and I wanted to start paying him back. But he said not to worry about it. In fact, recently he admitted he didn't want to... be with me again. He was legitimately interested in my well-being."
She paused a second, wiping away more tears, until her demeanor changed, "But that woman... she was never told. She must have been told or found out about me. She came up to me and got all upset. She threatened me, and said I would be arrested. She did this on Tamarusday."
"That was the night of the fight," I said, putting two and two together, "I see. And what did you say?"
"I tried to tell her what was what, but she stormed off," said Liane, "I never thought of it again."
I didn't know what to say. After a few more lines and me trying to fruitlessly pry information out of her, I gave up. She was spouting into crying spells and tearing up more water then she could've ever afforded to drink. I knew this was worthless. I paid her bill and left her there, tucking the napkin of new information into my blazer pocket.
I knew my next stop would HAVE to be the partner. So I decided to track him down before it was too late.
Partners In Crime
Lieday Morning I was up and about. For the first time in what felt like forever a surprise rain shower had overtaken the city. I was unlucky enough to miss it, as many were out on the streets trying to double their wealth. However, the rain was short and it was more like a short drizzle. Those who missed it now had to suffer the horrifying humidity of the day which beat the intense heat and lateness of our efforts into us all day!
I put on my brand new bowler hat and affixed my nicest clothes once more and battered down for another day at the office. However, I was delightfully surprised that my employer was thinking about widening the bridge, and hiring a second book keeper to keep up with the increased demand. With that, I managed to talk him into allowing me a Holiday and he even agreed to half-pay it. So I took it and decided to work more on this case. Brass doll and paper in hand, I made my way into the city to try and find out where I could find Morris Harker.
I made my way back to their office, and, not surprisingly, Harker had taken the day off. He had been named the sole Prosecutor on the case, which was taking aa momentary leave of absence due to Scarlet's death. According to their secretary, Harker decided to 'grieve' and 'prepare for the undertaking' at home for at least a day before continuing work at their offices. It only took me some smooth words and a stern look to convince her to give me his home address so I could track him down.
So, without any hesitation, I collected my notes and prepared to head out to question the partner. I found myself in the residential district closest to the city, so tightly compacted houses without sand lawns were the norm. It took me one or two times to find the place, but I eventually found the house number and the mailbox Harker belonged to.
I took a deep breath before knocking on the door and pulling the bell cord. It took only a second or two, but Harker answered the door. He was sweating and seemed very nervous, his eyes darting around. I smiled my best despite this, thinking it would put him at ease. He barked at me to go away, however I held the door open.
"Sir, my name is Kent Nicholas," I said, "We spoke at your office? I need to ask you some questions."
"Oh, I remember you," said Harker, a big smile spread on his face and he stretched and opened the door a little more, "Yes, I remember you. The... man. With questions. Yes."
"I need to ask you some questions," I repeated.
His eyes shifted around and he smiled a forced smile, "Well, now really isn't a good time, chap. Why not come back later? Hell, I'll even take you to dinner. How's that sound?"
"To be honest, I haven't the time," I said, standing straighter, "I need to question you about some facts concerning the murder of Scarlet, Mr. Harker."
The man looked around once more, sweat showing on his face and hands. However, his eyes narrowed and he frowned, before taking a step into his door to block it and he leaned forward towards me.
"Hey, now," he said, his eyes peering into mine, "Who are you again? Are you even part of the Police Force?"
I could feel sweat bead on my head, now. My heart began to pump. I had never been questioned before. I was unsure how to handle it. I thought I saw the realization come across the man's face for a second, before he began to sniff. His eyes widened, and he sniffed the air. I did the same, and I could tell the heavy sent of smoke and soot filled my nostrils. The odor was coming from inside the house.
"Sir, is your house on fire?" I said, pointing, "I think you have an under controled fireplace!"
Harker wasted no time darting inside the house, yelling "No, no, no," the whole time. I decided to take this opportunity to rush in behind him. His house was very lavish, actually made me feel out of place inside it. Highly decorated with fine woods and marble, which were not common in Antiford, as well as owning many of the newest inventions of luxury.
I followed Harker to the sitting room, which he promptly pulled aside a book case which had been mounted on wheels and a hinge to act as some sort of hidden doorway. Behind was a small office. A large oak desk sat inside, as well as many book cases and filing cabinets. On the floor, however, was a metal waste tin which was currently spewing fire.
I ran forward, taking in the scene. Harker reached for a fire extinguisher next to thee desk, and used it to blast fine sand into the bin, throwing up debris and smoke alike as he tried to kill the fire. When he was done, he gasped for air, leaning against his desk. Papers and soot from whatever he had been burning filled the air and fluttered to the ground. I caught a few, and frowned, looking at them.
They were papers, royal decrees and papers for registering water condensers. I frowned, looking up at Harker, who had just barely noticed my being in this room.
"Leave," he yelled, pointing behind me, "You will leave my house this instant, sir!"
I looked at the papers once more, and saw one where the royal seal, another obvious fake, had not been burned. I smiled, turning over thee paper and tapping it for Harker to see.
"Mister Harker," I said, smiling, "I have some questions for you. Questions you better start answering. Trust me, sir, I have enough here that you don't want me to leave just yet."
Morris Harker sat, defeated and upset, in an armchair by the fireplace in his grand sitting room. His sweat and shaky demeanor had turned into tears, and the color was washed from his face. While he had his mental breakdown, I went through this secret office.
He had been burning a mass amount of papers. He had more lined up, most for water condensers and for Airship registrations. I walked back out to the sitting room, shaking my head.
"Burning evidence for a major case," I said, crossing my arms, "Looks really suspicious. Especially since even with your partner dead you still stand to completely dominate that court case and make a name for yourself. So teell me, why are you doing it?"
"Evidence? Court Case?" said Harker, lifting his head, "No... that's not thee evidence, the evidence is at the Court. Once it is brought forward as evidence it is no longer in our hands!"
"Then why are you burning these?" I asked, thrusting some of the papers at him, "Actually... why do you have these? Why so many?"
"They are... forgeries," Harker said, putting his head in his hands, "They are all fakes."
"I know, I could spot it a mile away," I said, leaning against the wall, "My issue is that I walk in and you are burning them in a secret room as if-"
I stopped, a gasp coming to my mouth. I pointed and stepped away from Harker.
"It was you," I said, "You killed Charles Scarlet!"
Harker was on his feet in a second. However, he immediately dropped to his knees and pleaded.
"No, it isn't true, I'm innocent," he yelled, fresh tears threatening to spew from his eyes.
"You broke into their house," said I, taking out the Airship paper I had from Scarlet's house, "You were burning forgeries at his house!"
"Yes, I admit, I confess, it was me!" he said, "But I promise you, I didn't kill him. He wasn't even there when I came over!"
"You and he had a fight that day," I continued, "A row which carried throughout the day and even after his death. You better start talking."
"I can explain," said Harker, "The forgeries are ours!"
I almost couldn't take it. I had to blink. Harker was a mess, but he began picking up the papers and showing them to me as if that would help make it clear.
"Charles and I made them," he continued, "I have a printing press in my basement and thee secret room holds transactions and money and bill of sales!"
"Wait... what?" I asked, blinking confused, "Why did you guys need Airships? Water Condensers I get, but Airships?"
"No, you don't understand," said Harker, standing, "Charles and I made illegal representations of royal registration certificates. We sold them to buyers throughout all of Antiford!"
"You... you ran a counterfeiting ring?" I asked again, scratching my chin, "That's where all the extra money was coming from... How he could pay Liane's student bills."
"I never asked, or cared, about them," Harker said, sitting back down in his chair, "What he did with his share was his business."
"Then why break into his house? Why burn all your work?" I asked, before deciding that the wonder in my voice might give it all away, "Why did you KILL him?"
"I didn't kill him," Harker said, putting his hands together, "Look, Scarlet and me didn't see eye to eye on some of HIS decisions. That chap was going to use our OWN god-damned documents as evidence against Holme in the case."
"What?" I said, sitting in the sofa across from his armchair, "I didn't know he was a slave to justice like that."
"No, no," said Harker, shaking his head, "We are the ones that sold Holme the counterfiet certificates for his ring. He was going to announce a new witness in the trial, one we knew he had muscled into doing so. Scarlet didn't want there to be any way he had a chance of slivering out of a one-stop ride to Pleasantville. So he checked the records and decided to nail him."
"Isn't that a bit dangerous?" I asked, "Didn't Holme recognize you?"
"We never did business face to face with clients, chap," said Harker, his head in his hands once more, "But if anyone ever found out, or looked too closely into it, we were doomed! Holme is a really bad and dangerous guy! He's a nutcase! But he's smart and has eyes and ears everywhere. There's never been a criminal like him. He runs the place like some sort of secret order. If the crown or him could link us to the forgeries, then we are dead. Treason from the crown, and a Goblin vacation from Holme. We wouldn't be given a chance to scream either way! Scarlet assured me that wouldn't happen, but what does he know?"
"So... you killed him?" I asked again.
"Aren't you listening, I didn't kill him," said Harker, "He was going to end us, and once the evidence was out there we needed to begin covering our butts. He wouldn't listen, he was adamant that it would all be ok. So... He told me he was heading to the Opera. So, I broke into his house, found our stash of gear and emergency papers we kept there, and I burned them, right there in his fireplace. I returned to work that night and did the same at the office. The next few days I planned to completely wipe out our current operation and wait out this whole mess."
"So... what did you do when Scarlet came home?" I asked, "What happened that night?"
"Couldn't tell you, mate," said Harker, shaking his head, "I was out of there as fast as I could go. I didn't want to be caught in the act. I didn't even wait for the papers to fully burn. I let it stay lit and I ran."
"You ran?" I asked, frowning down on him, "That doesn't seem like a likely story of an innocent man."
"No! It's true," said Harker, his eyes quivering with tears, "I broke the locks, left the back door wide open. Anyone could've snuck in. Anyone could've killed him. Look around, I don't have a murder weapon. I couldn't have beat down my own partner. I was upset and scared, not angry and murderous."
"That's not for you to decide," I remember saying, frowning, "In fact, that's not for either of us to decide. A royal judge needs to hear your case."
"But I'm innocent, honest!: yelled Harker, "You can even ask the people at the tavern down the street here. I was so distraught I was there all night."
"Doesn't prove anything," I said.
"It does, I promise," said Harker.
Harker began to weep once more, highly ungentlemanly. It took some urging, but I convinced him to stay in town. It wasn't like he had much choice. I told him that because of the gravity of the case he was now in charge with, I would with hold the information I knew from the police. However, if it were to come that I found more evidence against him, there was no place in Antiford he could hide. I decided to look around his house and leave him sniveling in the common room.
Looking around his place, I couldn't find a weapon of any sort, and I could not find anything further to incriminate him. His house was larger then it appeared, and very lavish. It was no doubt he had truly made a little side money then his royal payment as a Lawyer. I finally took my leave, heading down to the tavern. Once there, they confirmed that he was there all day. I felt almost cheated.
However, on my way back, I found Harker breaking his promise and packing, trying to hail a cab with an assorted bag of knick knacks and clothes and stuff. I shook my head, and began running towards him. He threw up his hands, and began to yell.
"I can't do it," he said, "I can't stay here. Not when Holme is still alive. I'm telling you, he killed Scarlet. He's too powerful. I can't take it, and I will not stick around. Do what you must, but I won't stick around!"
I couldn't do anything, but I decided that as soon as I got a chance I would mail the police what I had and, hopefully, they would pick him up and hold him until the case could be solved. However, I have to admit, Harker packing so quickly and hastily made me rethink everything I thought. I still believed he had ample opportunity and motive for killing Scarlet. However, I think it was time to see what all the hub-bub was about on this Holme fellow, and relook at my case notes. Maybe this Holme was really as dangerous as everyone said he was.
The New Home of HolmeLooking back into the case, I had no choice. I was concentrating on a lot of different aspects of Scarlet's life, but from what I could put together I'd been missing the biggest and most obvious answer. Holme. Ryan Holme was a very interesting man. For the rest of my day I did as much research as I could and I found nothing on the man himself. Everything seemed to have been surrounding this case and recent events.
He was a wealthy man, who was fond of rising opera stars and unheard of artists. However, he stayed in the shadows, and his wealth was as mysterious as he was. Until his sudden arrest, he appeared to have no public view what so ever. He was arrested on suspicion of espionage, and after the crown got a hold on his operation, they have been doing everything they could do insure that he wasn't only shut down, but he was also made an example of. Charles Scarlet lead the investigation and prosecution himself. This case was proving Scarlet one of the most dedicated lawyers the crown had at its disposal, and his ability to find and connect evidence was proving increasingly useful.
And the more I looked over the case file, the more I had to admit that he might be the obvious killer. Maybe not directly, but he had everything. If he found out about the new evidence and that those papers were sold to him from Scarlet and Harker themselves, he wouldn't waste a second to find them and kill them. The crown already had to have armed guards against witnesses who would give a royal testimony, and even then two of the largest had already fallen due to rotten food.
Holme had been moved from his luxurious house in Astam Junction to face trial in Optilocus. He was currently being held in the Optilocus prison, having sweet talked his way out of anywhere more fortified. I decided it was time to do some look into him. I got onto the 4:20 to Optilocus and settled in for a full day of research.
The Horn District. Large, upscale buildings. The Palace. People who are dressed much better then I was. I felt incredibly out of place. I made my way to the small prison. A handful of guards were on duty, and the rest appeared to be secretaries and other office men. I frowned, this wasn't what I was expecting to see at all. I figured a man with one of the largest cases against him would have a little more security then this.
I walked up to the front desk, where a woman in a tight blue dress was, apparently, falling asleep. She lazily looked at me, and spouted some weak excuse for a greeting. I frowned, but decided to be up front with her. I was in a police station, after all.
"I was wondering if it would be possible for me to see mister Holme, please," I said, trying to keep my voice from shaking, "I just need a quick interview with him."
The woman made a show of rolling her eyes and giving out an enormous sigh, "Ah, great, another one of his lawyers. Thanks to him we're busier now then we've ever been, look at all these people!"
I looked around. I didn't feel like this was an unreasonable amount of people... and I didn't feel nearly as safe as I would've if there were some more guards around. I said nothing, however. Whoever she thought I was, I would let it pass if it meant an actual interview with Holme. I just nodded and sniffed, rubbing my nose.
"Alright, follow him and we'll let you in," said the girl, puffing and turning away from me.
I decided it was best if I just went with him and said as little as possible. He brought me back through a series of cramped desks, papers and folders of different sizes making it impossible to distinguish anyone apart. Looking around, I saw many wanted posters and artist drawings of wanted people. The signature police helmets lined a single wall, and small batons were hung beneath them. All this was covered by people standing or rushing around the station.
The guard I was following reached the far wall, and he unlocked a door labeled "Hold" and opened it. He nodded at me and Opened it to allow me to pass. I began to step inside, but instead the Bobby pushed me inside, and shut and locked the door.
I couldn't see a thing. The large room I found myself in was pitch black. I blinked, and realized that there were four, large windows lining one of the walls, but a combination of bars on the outside and metal blinds blocked out a great deal of light coming in, and only a single candle that seemed to have been burning for some time sat on a table. Otherwise, the room was cast into darkness. It took me some time to allow my eyes to adjust to the sudden darkness.
After some time, I could not bear the silence, and luckily my eyes began to adjust. I could see five to seven bobbies who lined the room, some even position inside opened barred cells. They were dressed, from head to toe, in full bobby uniform. Helmets on tight, weapons ready to go. Many of them wielded shotguns and Rifles. Not a single one averted their gaze to look at me as I entered the room. However, they all stared and watched, closely, a single cell in the center of the room.
I began to walk into the room, and looked around nervously. None of the guards moved, and I suspected I had made a huge mistake. However, out from the darkness, I could hear a small chuckle, then silence once more. The center cell was my target.
I approached the cell cautiously, looking towards the guards for both signs I was doing wrong but also to insure they were there to protect me. A single chair was in front of the cell, so I decided to stand by it to signify my intent to speak with him. Right before I reached it, the cool, suave voice of the cell's inhabitant came out of the darkness.
"They are more there for looks then anything else," said the voice, almost making me jump, "We have an agreement... but don't think they will move for you in a snap of your fingers."
With that, I heard thee sound of a snapping finger. One of the guards gulped audibly and walked forward. He extended a wooden pipe into the bars, which disappeared into the darkness. A single match was the next thing the guard handed him, then he extended his hand. Out of the darkness, the match was struck and his face was illuminated.
Ryan Holme stood before me, in the back of the cell most obscured with shadows and darkness. He wasn't a very thin man, but his entire demeanor seemed to give the impression of being very thin and very precise with his movements. Even as he lowered the match into the pipe, his beady eyes never left mine. He bore down into my body, even into my soul, with that gaze. The light dimmed, and only his beady eyes looked at me through the darkness, and even then it was slowly eaten up by smoke. My heart chilled, and I felt as if I was looking into the eyes of a Demon.
A charred, used match was dropped into the outstretched hand of the guard, who promptly backed away nervously. I straightened my clothes, and stood a little higher. I decided not to reply.
Another minute passed until I could hear footsteps, and Holme moved to where he was standing just outside of the shadowed portion of his cell.
"Very good," he said, his words being pronounced and said with absolute meaning, "Proper stance. Silence. You are here with purpose. However... I don't know you."
"My name..." I stopped, maybe I shouldn't give it to him, "Is not important. I'm here to talk to you about Charles Scarlet."
"You are not one of mine," said Holme, deliberately, "And you are brave to talk to me. So tell me, chap, what brings you to my lovely abode."
"I have some questions about Charles Scarlet," I said once again, trying to sound tough but coming across as senile, "Mainly, about his murder."
Holme made a sound that cannot be described, but he straightened up like a board and he looked around himself, his eyes darting from person to person before resting back on me.
"Repeat yourself," he said, his voice not reflecting his apparent mood.
"I want to ask you some questions about Scarlet's Murder?" I asked, hindsight telling me I shouldn't have sounded so unsure.
"Charles Scarlet, the prosecutor, is dead?" Holme asked, I could almost hear his eyebrows raising.
"Murdered," I said, "And I am investigating-"
"Silence," he said, his voice not raised or barking, but it chilled me into silene just the same, "Do you have ANY idea how much a pay a man to insure I know as much as possible as soon as it happens? When, might I ask, did he die?"
"Cielday Night," I answered.
Holme stepped out of the shadows and into the little bit of light that was offered. I got a more pronounced look at his amazingly crafted velvet suit and well groomed hair and face. He walked right up to the bars, before snapping his fingers once more. Two guards from behind me rushed forward, pushing me aside. They had a table and a new unlit candle, which they placed next to the cell and lit the candle. The light now illuminated a little more of the room, and I could spot a similar chair on the other side of the bars, in which Holme sat. I decided to sit as well.
"You have done me a kindness, even if by accident," Holme said, a keen smile spreading across his face, "So I will play along with your investigation. Let's start with your questions."
I shrugged, I could feel my body wanting to shake with fear, so I figured I'd get right to the point.
"He had you in a corner," I started, "He was the prosecutor on your case. Life and death situation, and he had you by the balls. Why wouldn't you want to kill him?"
"Logic would sense that," smiled Holme, smoking his pipe calmly, "But nobody even comes close to me. He announced some new evidence... but he has no proof."
"He had falsified Water Condenser paperwork, and they were real," I said, before looking cautiously around, "Real as in you signed them."
"No way he has those," said Holme, "The chap just thought he could pick that up. They have no proof of my guilt. Whatever they are going to show, it won't be anything of significance."
"Are you sure?" I asked, crossing my arms, "Because the way I see it, you got scared. You knew that they were the ones that sold you those documents in the first place and when they turned to use it against you, you were guilty!"
"What?" said Holme, "What are you blabbering about? Scarlet sold them to me?"
"You knew Scarlet and Harker were running their little forgeries on the side," I spat again, leaning forward, "And that they had you, and that you had to deal with him. So you used your mystical powers to have him killed! Didn't you!"
Holme now showed a look of complete and utter surprise, something that took me off guard. He puffed a few times on his pipe, but his eyes were as wide as they could get and he stared off into the distance. It seemed like an eternity as he stayed silent.
"You know," said Holme, after a long pause, "I am legitimately stuck on how to proceed. If what you say is true, then this is the second time you have aided me today. If you are lying to me, then you are a brave and stupid man whose allegiances I can not easily see."
I had to hold back a gasp. I realized, then, that I believed his story, and that he was telling the truth that he did not know about any of it. I took out of my pocket the forged Airship paper and handed it to him, which he took and examined closely.
"I found that trying to burn in Scarlet's Fireplace," I said, crossing my arms, "His partner broke into his house to destroy the evidence."
He looked over the paper, and an angry look came over those beady little eyes. Holme tossed the the paper through the bars and rose, puffing his pipe more vigorously.
"Do you know what true wealth is?" asked Holme, turning away from me.
"A waterfall?" I asked, smiling, "No, I got it. A plethora of friends?"
"A Waterfall can be blocked up," said Holme, un amused by my jokes, "water itself, in which our pathetic little establishment of currency is based, dries up in the sun and gets soaked into the dirt and the sand. Friends? Friends can die, friends get angry and leave. Friends, my dear chap, are the reason that people get stabbed in the back! Not because we had our backs turned, oh no, but because they knew just where our back would be at the time of the stabbing. They know too much. Well... you can never know too much."
"Is there a point, sir?" I said, quickly.
Holme turned around, his look had not changed. He eyed me wearily for a moment, before cracking an incredibly unsettling smile and he began to pace once more.
"The 'point' is that true wealth cannot be in something so feeble as water. It falls from the sky, sir," At this point, he had positioned himself theatrically, placing one foot on the stool and reaching up into the dim rays of sunshine, "and his majesty attempts to control it? To keep it from the people? No! Sir, proper wealth, TRUE wealth, is knowledge. Knowledge is key. What we know, what we've seen, done, experienced.... nobody can take that away. Nobody. That is what I deal in, good chap, is knowledge! Information! I want to know... I want to know more then you, I want to know more then the next guy, I want to know more then the king and all his men!"
"How interesting," I said, "So you needed to know how to make a ton of money off of illegal water condensers? You needed to know how to kill Scarlet?"
Holme stepped down, and his eyes narrowed, "Cease your speaking, sir."
I once again felt the chill, and I clasped my hands together and my eyes shot to the floor in embarrassment.
"You have brought me two major items of information I did not know before," said Holme, straightening his suit and composure, "In that respect, I am in debted to you. So, unnamed sir, I offer you two gifts. One, your life. Trust me on this one, you have earned it... for now. The second, information in return. So, Scarlet is dead. Tragic. However, old chap, I didn't kill him, or have him killed. So there."
"And I'm just supposed to take that at face value?" I asked, almost in a laugh, "How can I believe you?"
"Don't believe me, sir," said Holme, "Belief clouds the mind. No... understand me. I am not the man you are looking for. Come, give me more information. facts."
"I'm not sure it is a good idea."
"Sir, it will be a much better idea then walking through that door with no more of a plan then trying to get me to confess to anything."
So, there a sat, looking at one of the scariest men I had encountered. So I stood, and crossed my arms, leaning towards the cage.
"As I said before," I began, "Harker was incredibly upset Scarlet was using their own papers and the trail they had left as evidence in the case, believing that either they would be found out or Scarlet would through him into the tracks. He began destroying the operation from the inside out, starting with the most obvious things. That night, he broke into the Scarlet residence to destroy information while the family was at the Opera. However, he was scared, and left in a hurry before they returned. The broken door in the back is an easy way for anybody to get in the house, or the broken window to the study. Scarlet got home, sent his wife for the constable, and BAM! Your man jumps him in the study. Scarlet gets bludgeoned across the head, BAM, into his desk and on the floor. Good-evening, sir!"
Holme said nothing the entire time. He just nodded his head and tapped his nose, listening. I realized I had gotten a little excited in the retelling, so I straightened my clothes and tie and cleared my throat.
"When he anounced those papers as proof, you were shocked and amazed that he would have them. They are guaranteed to bring you down. So you planned to take him out after doing research into who talked, or who gave them up, or how they got them. You then 'learned' that it was Scarlet and Harker themselves!"
"Stop," said Holme, raising his hand and silencing me, "You are very good, but wild and sporadic. I'll take no more of this. Listen very closley, sir, because my patience with you is almost done and my ears are beginning to dry up. I did not kill him, or have anything to do with him being killed. Sound? Now... I will tell you right now, I had nothing to do with his murder. I didn't have him killed, or anything. Lord knows I had better ways. No... come closer, sir."
He stood and walked to the bars, I decided to take a few steps closer myself. When Holme spoke, his voice was an eerie whisper, but every word carried as all the others before them had, and at certain points he even managed to shout as if it filled the cell but it only managed to travel a few feet at most.
"If I had done it, old chap, he would be dead," he began, "He would be mugged on his way to work. He would've been ran over by a carriage. He would drowned in the salt water rivers of the world. He would disappeared. He would have been scandalized and been forced to suicide. He would have ever been killed by a bloody airship crash. If I had killed his, sir, there would be undeniable proof that I did NOT kill him. In no way would me, or anybody under my employ, have kicked in the door, hid upstairs, and bludgeoned him to death. Nor would we allow it to look that way. So I say again, sir, I had nothing to do with that man's death. I did not even know of it until now. Some papers? Some proof? he had nothing! I would've laughed. No, if I knew about them selling us the papers I would have still one the damn trial, then I would've found them afterwards... and congratulated them on their VALIANT efforts like a good sport!"
Holme reached out of the cell, grabbing me and pulling me close. Immediately all the guards in the room sprang up. Rifles and shotguns were barred, batons drawn, and angry looks and scared faces were strewn about them. Holme smiled, and even began to chuckle. He let me go, and I took two involuntary steps back. He raised his hands, taking a step back from the bars.
"Bobbies through and through," he said, smiling, "So what do you think he was killed with? Harker and himself were sportsmen on their time off. Something used in sports? What about his affair? Maybe the old wife got him with a pan? What about the Mistress when she found out that she was being cut-off?"
"No... it couldn't be," I said, "I mean... I..."
"What was he bludgeoned with, chap?" asked Holme.
I shook my head, raising my hands, "I don't know. I'm not even sure that is what killed him. The amount of blood... I just..."
Holme began to laugh, attempting to smoke his pipe, but failing as it was all burnt out, "It sounds to me, old chap, that there is alot of information you are lacking on this case... shame you can't just ask the police for it."
"They would point me to you," I said.
"Once more, sir," said Holme, "I did not do it. If I did it... He would've killed himself. Drowned. Fell off a building. Railroad accident? Maybe an Airship Crashed into his train car, killing him? Maybe... he just dissapeared all together. If I killed him... I wouldn't have killed him, sir."
Holme turned away from me, walking into the darkness. I could hear is chuckle as he once again dissolved into the shadows.
"You are dismissed, sir," said Holme, "I grow weary of our talk. I have much to think about."
I felt betrayed, like I had been cast aside after giving so much information and receiving so little, and such dicey, information at that. However, my feet saw fit to lead me towards the door faster then I wanted to admit.
A Brass Doll's SmileMy candles were lit and the night threw its blanket over my office. I was feverishly working to catch up and get ahead on my work. The case also bothered me, bothered me so much I had "borrowed" a stack of paper and hung it on one of my many blank walls. I wrote the case notes on it, and decided it was time to think about my options. In a bin on my desk sat my evidence, forged paperwork and holding them down was the Brass Doll. I made myself a cup of tea and sat down, starring at what I had created.
One side was dedicated to the still frightening Mr. Ryan Holme. I had a list of motives, and he had ample opportunity to kill off Scarlet. From my meeting with him I knew he was also a scary man who was more then capable to bring people to his demise. But without more proof about how Scarlet was killed, I couldn't assume I knew it was one of his men. Besides, doing research into Holme and his operation sounded really too big. On top of that, the more I thought about it the more I could tell it made sense information was kept from him, since the more he knew the more powerful he could be.
In the center lay Morris Harker. He admitted to breaking into the house, and, to be honest, had the motive. He even packed and was planning to leave town after I confronted him. Any number of thing could've been used to bludgeon Scarlet to death. The police probably took them as evidence. If I had those photographs then I would know what was in the room and where before they messed with it and took everything out.
Then I had the Women. On the far side of the board I put down Liane and Scarlet Scarlet. I knew too well that jealously and mistresses were the cause of many high-class news stories that appeared in the royal paper. Liane seemed to have known about Scarlet, and Scarlet was taking some serious medication that could've caused her to over react to a mistress. Now that I thought about it, there was surprisingly little contact between the mistress and Mrs. Scarlet. I began to wonder if this was by choice or if I was not being given the whole story.
I frowned, twirling in my chair. I couldn't figure out what he was killed with. There wasn't a blood spatter that I could remember seeing. If you hit someone across the head, wouldn't it spatter alot more?
I rose and went to the small cupboard which held what food we had. I frowned at its contents, until I spotted the small amount of fruit I had purchased a couple days earlier. This caused me to smile as I took them out, and then looked around thee room for some sort of bludgeon. In the back of a cabinet was someone's old cane that had been there for years. I smiled and picked it up, welding it like a sword and smiling wildly.
Placing the first fruit on a stack of books, I took aim and then swung. The cane cleaved the fruit perfectly, sending remnants of it across my office. A large portion splatter all over the wall, and I took a step to examine it. Much too much... no way that could've been missed. Blood would have been everywhere. I frowned, but decided that that would've been a pretty heavy blow to the head.
I picked up another piece, placing it on the stack. I paced the room, trying to think up how I would approach a surprise attack. When the fruit was not looking, I swung the cane once more, trying to strike down on the fruit. The splatter was different, and much less, but I still could not believe that such a splatter would have been left unnoticed in the room by myself or detectives. I crossed my arms, frowning.
I had lost two fruits to my experiments and my office was drenched in juice and fruit pieces. I picked up the last fruit and sat at my desk. I decided that maybe a cane was the wrong thing used, and maybe the killer used some other means of killing him. I shouldn't have ruled out a gunshot, or maybe some sort of knife. Starring at that Brass Doll, I decided to toss the fruit at my desk. If it the edge of it and fell off. The splatter of fruit juice and pieces looked eerily close to the blood splatter on the desk, and even the pieces and juices beginning to pool on the ground looked eerily close. I decided that I could 100% say that he hit his head on the way down. But how did he fall down?
I couldn't even begin to make a choice on the matter. If he was battered in the head, then there would've been more blood. That's final. So how did he die? I had been operating on the idea that he had been bludgeoned by the burglar for days. Maybe it was time I figured out by what, or even how he died.
I was going to need to see what the Police had found. What they had taken out of the crime scene. Maybe even what they had found from the dead body. I might even need to see the pictures of the corpse. I closed my eyes and I frowned. I don't think they were going to let me just walk in and see it. What would I do?
I grabbed my bowler hat and wielded the old cane along with me. I headed out into the dark of the desert night, against the chill, and decided to head to the medical district. The Royal Police would have kept the evidence together, I would think. Asking around at the Argenstrath Jail might allow me to know where some of that information was being stored.
Detective NicholasThings... have gotten so much harder. I regret my next decision. What would have happened? What could have happened? Would the Scarlet family ever really got justice? Was what I gave them justice? Is this the decision that could've ended so much pain. Was all my years that followed worth it?
I can still remember the smell of it. A strange dry burning of the Lightning as it shot across the sky. It was a desert thunderstorm... and the lamps of Argenstrath did nothing compared to the flashes of lightning that lit up the city as if it was daytime. And there I stood, under a street lamp, looking at the Argenstrath Police headquarters. I pulled down my bowler to attempt to cover my face and I walked into the station.
The view was similar to the one I had been in just that day, but this one was far smaller. There was no registration desk that I could see. In fact, looking around, I did not see many people at all. A few bobbies here and there sat and scribbled at desks. Only a few secretaries could be viewed from my position and nobody seemed interested in me.
So, I straightened my tie and decided to act like I belonged. If nobody questioned it, I may be able to disappear without stating my business. I kept my chin up and decided to just march in. I walked right passed one bobby at his desk and made my way through the sea of desks. I was almost at the back wall when I realized I did not know where I was going. Where would these items be? I frowned.
Looking around, there were many doors lining the walls of the small building. However I quickly spotted the "Evidence" door on the far wall, and from what I learned from studying the Scarlet case, that might be where they keep the items of interest related to their case. Maybe the Scarlet Murder evidences were still being held there.
I straightened up and walked over. As I approached the door, I noticed a padlock and latch on the door, and I almost cursed. How was I supposed to get in when it was locked? However, I almost laughed when I got closer and saw the lock was left unlocked and was just hanging on the door for looks. Taking off the lock, I opened the door and peaked inside. Seeing nobody inside, I stepped inside and shut the door behind me, careful to check to see if I had peeked anyones interest in doing so.
Inside, it didn't take me long. There were weapons and items strewn about in buckets and cases. However, one entire shelf was clearly labeled "Scarlet Murder" and had been set up almost as a display to show items and noted on the shelf. I walked up and examined it all.
There were many photos of Scarlet's study, which I had been in days before. His chairs, his fireplace, now filled with ash and obvious burnt paperwork. His filing cabinets. Then there they were. Right next to the pictures of the back door and the ground surrounding it, were pictures of Charles Scarlet. My stomach turned as I looked at the anguished displayed on the dead man's face. His hand was extended out, as if to reach for something. His head had a nasty gash in it, but it didn't look like his head or face had suffered a terrible beating. It looked like he knocked it on the desk. The gret pool of blood surrounded his head and was beginning to congeal.
I looked over the noted and evidence. I couldn't find anything labled as a weapon. No markings on bullet holes, no anything. The pictures were all things I had seen when I was there. The fireplace, the room, the chair, the desk, with the pencils, tea cup, and paperwork strewn about. I found the bucket of ashes labeled as "disposed Holme trial evidence" which I almost chuckled at.
I was about to exasperate my search and leave in anger when I noticed a note that said "Autopsy Report" and when I picked it up, it was blank. Written in crappy handwriting was a note that said "Talk to Doctor Grimtion about his findings and confirmed C.O.D.". I looked around, pocketing the paper and deciding I had to figure out what he had found. I was about to head out the door again but I heard voices outside, and several of which were looming just outside the door. I heard keys jingling, and my heart stopped. Turning around, I looked around the room and decided to hide. There was no escape the room. I jumped behind the shelves and decided to hide. Walking in were three gentlemen and a bobby. They were talking in hushed, but upset voices. I crept behind the shelves and waited for them to head deeper into the room.
"I don't remember where the lock went, "I remember one of them arguing about, "Why is there nobody in here?"
Before the door shut, I had made my way back and I reached out for it, opening it again, I went to leave the room before being noticed. However, I heard a gasp from behind me and turned to see all three men staring at me.
One of them with a large and elaborate mustache pointed at me and yelled, "Bowler hat man!"
I slipped out of the room and shut the door, ignoring the call of my name and their pleas for me to halt. I shut the hatch and slammed the lock onto it, locking it. The men inside began to bang on the door and yell for me to let them out, I turned and examined the office. Wondering how I would escape.
Nothing had changed. Despite the banging and yelling from inside the evidence room, everyone outside seemed not to care, at all. They went about their jobs as they had earlier. As I walked out, trying to keep my calm, I decided to test my luck and stop by one of the Bobbies desks.
"Excuse me, sir, I have a message for a Doctor... Grimtion? I was told he works with the police and I could find him here?" I asked.
"No, sir," said the Bobby, seemingly oblivious to the banging on the door, "He usually hangs down at the morgue while we are building the Royal Police Morgue. He's working all the time down there."
"Thanks, good sir," I said smiling, "I'll take it from here."
I couldn't get out the door fast enough when I noticed a few bobbies and a secretary walking towards the commotion on the evidence room. I was down the stairs and into the streets within a second. I like to look back on this as if I was some sort of ghost. A Flash of lightning, and I was running in the street. The next flash, and I managed to duck behind a trash receptacle in time for a group of angry detectives and bobbies to spill out into the street and start cursing my name.
The lightning lit up the hallway, and I could feel my stomach turn with the nerves of the night. I had been running too long on too much excitement. But even if I went home, there is no way I could sleep. I took my steps easily down the hallway. Up ahead, I saw one office whose light was still on, it cast its rays into the darkness. As I got closer, I could see it belonged to Doctor Grimtion. I took a breath, and decided that it was now or never.
I grasped the doorknob and opened the door. I stepped into the well lit office. One gas lamp was lit, hanging from the ceiling to light up the room. Around the room, several candles were still burning, giving extra light over desks with books laid open and over a large examining table. The table was empty, but photographs and notes were laid over it similarly to the evidence room. As I continued into the room and shut the door behind me, I noticed an older Gentleman sitting in a chair by the wall, observing the photographs spread out in front of him. He was already looking up at me, hands folded in front of him.
I walked in, a little more confident now, and shut the door behind me. He smiled when I took off my Bowler hat, and he pointed at it.
"So, you are Remming's mystical 'Bowler Hat Man', eh?" laughed the old man, "He's been chasing you for some time now, he's convinced you are the culprit."
I didn't know what to say. I couldn't think of a response for him, so we stood in silence for some time. This seemed to wipe away the old man's smile, and he shifted uneasily.
"So what now, sir," he questioned, "Are you here to kill me? Or are you here for the evidence?"
"Kill you," I sputtered out, and I raised my hands, "No, not at all! Sir.... I.... umm... My name is Kent Nicholas."
"Oh, good," said the old man again, smiling, "So, do tell me, why are you here?"
"I'm investigating the case," I said.
"No you are not," said the man, "Remming is. I should know... I've been working it too."
"Doctor Grimtion," I said, "I need to know what an autopsy is... and why it is important to the case."
"What?" he blinked at me, confusion showing on his face, "An... Autopsy? Its the post-examination of the corpse. I check it over, insure that there was no physical examination missed, inside or out, and determine the true cause of death."
I nodded my head, "Great... so you finished with Scarlet's?"
Grimtion nodded, a smile forming on his face, "Interested in it, are we? Why should I give it to you? Hmm?"
"Because I am stuck," I said, fiddling with my bowler like a child, "Scarlet and Harker, his partner, were involved in an illegal counterfeiting operation in which they were making official royal registrations for a multitude of items and selling them to whoever would pay. Scarlet was going to use the records and proof that Harker and he sold to Holme as evidence in their case so that he would be in a losing situation and they would win the case of the year."
The smile on Grimtion's face went away, and he watched me in awe as I continued my ramblings.
"The partner, Harker, was so upset. Fearing that either they would be found out or Scarlet was going to double cross him, he broke into their house while they were away and burned all the evidence of their operation and stole what couldn't be burnt so he could get rid of it at a later date.When I interviewed him, he got scared and jumped tracks, leaving under the assumption that Holme killed him. HOWEVER," I took a breathe as I was about to fall over, "Harker claims he didn't do it either because if he would've done it it would've been amazingly well thought out and there would've been no way anyone would've even suspected murder. SO! I need to know how he died."
I took a few breaths before something crossed my mind and I continued, "Oh, and I have my doubts about the wife and the Mistress. Scarlet was seeing a Mistress who use to work at the Badger's Den but he started paying her way through medical school with the money he made on the side and the wife may or may not have found out and needed to take pills to keep calm about it. She could've gotten jealous and killed him before leaving for the police.... because they had a large scaled argument the night before which the neighbor heard."
Grimtion waited for me, but I just shrugged after some time. He smiled, and shook his head.
"What have you been up to, good sir?" he asked, "The secretary at the office, the reports of fire and yelling at Harker's place, the mysterious bowler man who visited Holme... and the break in at the Scarlet Residence... you sir have been very busy making yourself look like one of Holme's agents."
I almost gasped, not knowing what to say, "Then I did not help with my break into the evidence room this evening..."
Grimtion almost laughed out loud, his snickers barely being kept back my his lips. He got up from his chair, grabbing a cane for support, and he walked over to his photographs and notes. All the photographs were of Scarlet's naked body being laid out on the very table the pictures were now laid out on. I looked away, nervously.
"Tell me what you think you know of his death," said Grimtion.
"Well, I saw the room," I said, "It looks as if he fell somehow, and banged his head off the desk. He bled on the carpet, but there wasn't too much blood, in my opinion. There weren't any blood spatters anywhere else, so I highly doubt he was bludgeoned."
"Very good, sir," said Grimtion, smiling, "You are correct. His head was a wound sustained as he fell, most likely by the desk. I can see it in the Photographs but the so called 'investigators' missed the fact there wasn't enough blood for him to bleed out. In fact, he fell because he was in the process of dying anyway. The bang on his head did not help at all, good sir. Whether or not he could've survived if not for that bump, I don't know. The fact is, his official cause of death?"
I waited at the edge of my seat. I couldn't wait to know.
"Poisoned," said Grimtion, nodding his head, "He was poisoned, good sir."
"Poisoned..." I said, "That is, terrible."
"It is no known poison to me," said Grimtion, "Which led me to-"
"He was assassinated," I said, smiling and jumping up, "So it was Holme all along!"
"Hold back on your reigns, lad," said Grimtion, smiling, "I naturally figured so, but there's no sign that he was plucked, pricked, stabbed, shot, injected, or scratched with anything that could've done this. So, my next move was to see if he had ingested it."
"Ah-ha!" I smiled, "He did have a night out at the opera, maybe one of his agents got him at dinner."
"Hold your reigns, son!" said Grimtion again, almost laughing, "So, I did a test. He showed signs of ingesting a poison, but his food had been digested at a reasonable rate and I held no known traces of any know super-poisons that would've sat as long as it would've in his system. So... I decided he must've ingested it rather recently to his actual death. Besides, Kent, was it? Besides, all his signs of poisoning points me to an overdose of medication rather then an actual poisoning."
"What?" I asked, my eyes widening, "Medication... like... experimental medication that the wife was conveniently taking to help her mental issues?"
Grimtion's eyes matched my own in a matter of seconds, and we both were smiling at each other.
"Does the detective guy know about this?" I asked.
"The Autopsy report was due to be sent over in the morning," Grimtion said.
"Don't wait," I said, putting on my hat and preparing to head out the door, "Head over there, now. Tell him to meet me at the Scarlet's place. I know who the killer is!"
I through open his door and shot out of it, running down the lighting-lit hallway on my way to my office.
Crimson EvidenceI was waiting on the steps of the house when the Paddy Wagon pulled up, a team of three bobbies stepping out of the back along with a few men in suits. The marched up the walkway path, glaring at me. They pulled out their copper badges and flashed them at me, the scowels not leaving their face.
"I am Police Constable Maurice Titanly," said one of the suited men, "Soon to be Police Chief Lord Titanly. Don't run, or attempt to escape."
"I'm Detective Nigel Remming," spat the man in the center, his eyes burning into mine, "You called me here, sir, you better have a good reason because I'm looking to decorate you in shackles!"
"Calm down, Detective," I said, a smile aboard my face, "Today, I aim to bring you the murderer of Mr. Charles Scarlet."
"Impossible," said Remming, "I see to it you did it, you street punk."
"I am no street punk," I exclaimed, "My name is Kent Nicholas. I work at the toll bridge down the street, there. I took an interest in the case after realizing the Scarlet's had broken a window in a fight and cleaned up the glass by themselves to avoid suspicion. And now... I have solved Scarlet's murder!"
I turned, knocking hevily on the front door. It did not take long for Stark to open the door, his eyes narrowing at me, but widening at the site of all the policemen.
"Kent Nicholas," I said, flashing my identification once more, "You remember me, sir. You shall awaken Lady Scarlet at once and have her meet us in the Kitchen!"
"The Kitchen, sir," blinked Stark, looking around, "Sir, it's nearly breakfast. Why on earth should I stir her at this hour?"
"Do it, sir," said Remming, showing his copper badge once more, "We have a long day ahead of us and someone is leaving this house in cuffs!"
We stood in their Kitchen, surrounding their little table which was used for preparation. I had rifled through their medical cabinet and had lady Scarlet's pills spread in front of me. It took a second, but Scarlet Scarlet came downstairs with her daughter moments later. She looked more scared then anything, but she kept her composure, even without being properly dressed.
She turned to her daughter, "Vermillion, play with your toys in the study. Mommy has to speak to police."
The daughter went into the next room, where I noticed her tea set and toys had been set up as I had seen them the day of my visit. Mrs. Scarlet then entered the Kitchen, crossing her arms and glaring from person to person in the room.
"We're sorry to disturb you, Madam," said Remming, "But we have a lunatic here who we need to question."
"Do you have that report, Remming?" I asked.
One of the constables handed Remming a folder, which was filled with the autopsy report from Grimtion.
Remming displayed it sarcastically before placing it on the table.
"Mrs. Scarlet," I said, "Was Charles an abusive man?"
"Please!" she said, immediatley getting upset and stepping farther inside the room, "Millie is just right there, how dare you!"
"What is the meaning of this?" asked the Police Chief, "This is ungentlemanly to bring up at this time!"
"Your neighbors, heard you fighting," said I, quickly, silencing the room, "The day before the day he died. You argued a lot, they even said you had bruises."
She rubbed her wrists in defense, and pulled her hair back over her neck, "That is unnecessary. Things were tough at work. He got upset, was all. He even took Millie and myself out to the opera to apologize. It was a fantastic evening."
"He may have apologized," said I, placing my hands on my hips, "But it had nothing to do with work, didn't it? You found out about Charles' girl. You found out about Liane and him."
The room was silent, but her body language spoke novels. I remember the pure rage... She glared at me and her eyes spit a thousand curses I would never know.
"Liane," she said, under her breathe, "Was done."
"You talked with her?" I asked.
"I talked at her," said Scarlet, her eyes like daggers, "Yes, Charles saw fit to help a gutter rat into something more. However, that little play-nurse was nothing for him. He loved his family. It was all Morris' fault! All he needed was to see reason and he would stop looking for approval from those Badger-Rats and start coming home more often to his family."
"So she wasn't willing to give up her money faucet?" I said.
"Ha! Like we had money," she spat, "In fact, she told me she was through. Said she didn't want to come between the family. That she loved Charles, but he had become a... 'father figure' more then a husband fantasy. Isn't that sick? Who would do that to their father!"
"But it wasn't enough?" I asked, "You fought about it... that night."
"Yeah, Charles was going through alot," said Mrs. Scarlet, whose voice was rising, "He was snapping at everyone. I understand work was tough but that doesn't mean I have to be so 'understanding' that I can throw aside the issues here at home!"
"He hit you?"
"None of your damn business," she spat, pointing at me, "And I told you, it's all settled. Nothing happened. We went out to the Opera, had a wonderful evening, and came home to a broken in house. I was sent out to get the police and when I returned he was dead!"
"I find that hard to believe," said I, holding up the pill bottle, "These are really interesting, don't you think? They are meant to settle your mental unrest, is that correct?"
"How dare you," Scarlet said.
"So what did you do?" said I, "Give him one or two? Slip it into his food?"
I spotted a tea cup on the table and I picked it up, pretending to take a swig, "Maybe a little in his tea, perhaps?"
"I don't need to take this," she said, turning to Remming, "Detective, take him away. I refuse to answer more."
"No," said Remming, a strange calmness in his voice.
This took Scarlet and me by surprise. Remming, and the entire room, actually, was watching her, carefully. Her eyes went big, and she looked from officer to officer.
"What does the Atopsee read about this?" I said, pointing to Remming.
Remming gave me a strange look, shaking his head, "The Autopsy," he said, correcting me, "States Charles was poisoned. An overdoes ingested by some sort of medication..."
Scarlet backed away, her hand to her mouth.
"How did that night, go, Mrs. Scarlet?" I asked, now calmly, knowing I had her.
"No!" I yelled for emphasis, I tossed the cup against the wall, it pinging off of it and clattering to the floor, unbroken, "tell us the truth!"
One of the constables bagan to chuckle, all eyes shooting on him. He stopped quickly and blushed, pointing to the cup.
"Didn't break," he said, trying to smile, "What kind of tea cup survives that, eh?"
"It's..." started Scarlet, shaking her head, "It's a kids cup... Millie's tea cup. Must've been left-"
Her eyes shot open, and she gasped, looking at the cup. I caught it, and looked from her to the cup. She caught my stare, and her eyes watered.
"I did it," she spat out, a little too loudly, and she shook her head, "Yes, I... poisoned him. I did it."
"What?" said Remming, "More clearly."
I bent down and picked up the cup, examining it.
"I poisoned Charles," said Mrs. Scarlet, throwing herself onto Remming and crying, "He... hit me. And that girl, that... GIRL! He would rather spend time with Morris or her then with his family. And he yelled at Millie and he was a brute. I had to!"
"Millie?" I asked, looking up and out of the room.
I could feel all of my life stopping. Scarlet Scarlet's eyes as she gazed at me. The officer's as they looked to one another. And Remming's gaze as he watched me get up and leave the room, entering the room next to us.
Vermillion Scarlet sat, playing tea time with her dolls and toys. She was missing a cup, and she had one spot open. I reached into my pocket with my other hand and plucked out the Brass doll that lay there. I walked the length of the floor, and I knelt next to her. Vermillion Scarlet looked up at me and smiled.
"Good morning, sir," she said, all little and proper like a lady should, "How can I help you?"
"Why, aren't you precious," I said, smiling, then I handed the doll to her.
Her face brightened slightly, and she reached up for the doll yelling, "Mrs. Clankston! You are home!"
I tried to smile, "Was she on vacation?"
"No, father had her thrown from his study," said Millie, an angry face replacing her glee, "Father was not to be disturbed."
"I'm sorry to hear that," I said, a frown on my face, "May I join you, madame?"
"I would be delighted," she said, over pronouncing each word.
I sat cross legged next to her, and I kept my cup, pretending to accept tea from her kettle and we sat, sipping together.
"This is very good tea, Miss Vermillion Scarlet," I said, smiling, "Have you ever made real tea? perhaps for your father?"
Millie frowned, nodding her head, "Yeah. I made him tea. Mommy said I shouldn't put real tea in my glasses, and he needed it in a real cup."
"So she helped you make it?"
Millie's face turned upset, and she put her hands on her hips, "No, I'm a big girl and a lady. I know how to make tea! Mommy had to go and find the police man officers because we had a visitor! Daddy had been unhappy, and he certaintly was feeling sad after the visitor came. So I made him a kettle, all by myself!"
"That's very adult of you," I said, nodding my head, "So... did you put anything special in his tea, Millie? Maybe... maybe some medicine?"
Millie looked away from me. I remember her playing with the doll. She nodded, saying nothing. I could hear and feel the thumping of my heart as if it was a distressed man trying to escape my chest.
"Mommy was sad and upset," said Millie, breaking the silence, "She was not herself. So we went to the Doctor and she gave her magic pills. Mommy was all beter after four day!"
"So... father," I said, feeling my eyes welling up, "He was not himself?"
"Not at all, Mr." she said, shaking her head, "He needed much more. He needed to feel better now."
"So... four days... four pills," I said, holding back my shaking voice, "You put the pills in the kettle?"
"The cup," she said, "I made him 'feel better tea'. But... but father didn't like it. He was smiling, he got better. He even kissed and hugged me again. but... then he got scared. He began coughing... then I left to get help. When I returned because I could not find Mr. Stark... daddy had hit his head... and he was dying."
"My gods," Kent said, his hand up to his mouth, "I... I'm sorry to hear that."
"Millie, no!" moaned Mrs. Scarlet from the doorway.
Millie began to cry, and when Mrs. Scarlet ran forward to cradle her they both sobbed together. I stood up, turning to the doorway where all the officers stood. Remming shook his head, a sharp look still thrown my way.
I walked from the room, unable to stand the sound of the two sobbing. As I left, Constable Titanly followed me outside.
I still, to this day, have a fogged memory of how long I tried to hold back my own sobbs outside that household.
Remming put a strong cup of tea into my hands, and we drank, heavily, the entire put within five minutes. I was once again in the police station, and my statement had been taken of my adventures of the past few days.
"So," said Remming, nodding at me, "You really needed a cup, eh?"
"I don't remember the last time I slept well," said I, smiling, "I feel this will help my jarred nerves."
"No, I am aware of what you need," said Remming, smiling, "However, our good King sees fit to not allow it on royal ground. So... You'll have to wait until later."
"How do you do that?" I said, "What was I supposed to do?"
"You did well, Nicholas," said Remming, "Even though it was NOT your place, and you are, by no means, a professional. You just... were able to bypass all the things we like to call 'rules and regulations' and completly almost got yourself shot."
"Yeah, sorry about the closet," said I, pointing to the evidence locker.
"Don't remind me," said Remming, his face going stone cold, "Besides, you're off the case for the this murder entirely. We found where Karker went and Holme denies ever knowing you. Not much we can do about that. And your employer agrees you used to work for him."
"What?" I asked, my heart jumping.
"Oh, that's right," he said, frowning, "Apparently he saw the counterfeit paperwork and something about fruit? Anyway, he says your fired and you caan expect your last wage in a week."
"Fine," I said, sighing, "I don't want to ever walk by the Scarlet residence again, anyway. Where did you find Harker?"
"Dead, actually," said Remming, laughing, "Can you believe it? An Airship crashed right into the man's train car. Killing everyone onboard. If he wasn't packed to leave down with all that paperwork and personal affects we would've never IDed him. We can't exactly say you were responsible for that, can we?"
I felt my stomach drop into my feet as I mustered up a smile to match Remming's. I stared down at my empty tea cup and swirled the dusty water which was left.
"So, what will happen?" I asked.
"Well, I don't know," said Remming, "But the King's Law is law. Odds are she will either be put to death or banished for-"
"What?" I yelled, standing up quickly, "Wait a minute, you can't do that. She's only a child!"
"Child or not, the King's new decree is all-imposing," said Remming, "Don't you read the Royal Crown Paper? He had an entire lot of children sent out to what's-it-called for being involved with that pick-pocket ring which caused the Mellday riots! The King won't care about age. She murdered her father who was about to lock away a very big and very deadly man!"
"But she's a child," I said, "She doesn't know what she is doing! We can't just behead her or ship her out to a Penal Colony! She'll die!"
"That's the point, Kent," said Remming, shaking his head, "Look, what do you want from us? She is involved in a murder case in which we have evidence against her and she confessed. There isn't much to be done, Kent. We'll do what we can but the King won't let it slide. She will be on a train or in an electric chair before sundown. There's a war going on, remember? According to him, more important stuff is happening."
Remming walked away from me, and left me there. I could not believe it. In another few minutes I was dismissed, and was led out of the station.
"Have you ever considered becoming a royal detective?" asked Remming, leading me out the front door, "As much as a pain as you are, you didn't do too bad on this one. You should think about it."
With that, I was left walking down the great steps of the building and out into the now bustling morning of the world. I felt in a daze, like the last week had been only a dream, and I would awaken at any moment, and head back to my terrible job. A paper boy yielded papers, slinging the headline: "Scarlet and Harker: Faking Evidence and Witnesses to get to the top. Ryan Holme's Innocence proven!". I shook my head and picked it up.
With that I sighed. And knowing a great breakfast place on my way home, I headed out, sleepily, into the street.
And I thought about a new life, and how I would ever manage to forget the Glassless Garden.