Glassless Garden

a story
2013-06-14 06:46:11,
2013-09-19 19:25:28
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The Brass Doll

I 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.