Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 170
Fux Manor was rife with activity at sunrise the next morning. A few of the town's elites gathered as well. The servants moved about like busy bees and some of the guests, awakened in the middle of the night to rush there, couldn't hide their shock. The estate's owner and the only council member in Whitestag had been murdered along with his butler in his own study.
The new mayor, Felidos, was no exception. He stood there and stared at the two untouched corpses. The unkempt Viscount Wenisk had repeated his testimony countless times already, but did so again now.
"Let... let me say again I didn't send anyone to deliver anything to him! What business would the navy have to discuss with a councillor? We have nothing that concerns him! I don't have an aide called Abraham either. There isn't a single soldier in town by that name! This is a scheme! A scheme against the navy!"
Felidos was somewhat calmer.
"Nobody suspects you, Viscount. This must be a scheme, of that we are all certain. I doubt the navy is stupid enough to send someone on such a dirty errand dressed in their own uniform, even announcing his affiliation. It's obvious the culprit knows about your bad relationship with the councillor, however, and is using it to try to frame you. He must be someone who knows the inner workings of the bases' construction. He is not an outsider. He must be in the base right now.
"Another question. I heard from the servant and the maidservant that the killer wore a naval uniform that fit him well. He couldn't have just found one. He must be an officer, or have had enough time to find one. There's also the matter of his bearing. As they described it, he must have a cultured background."
Felidos stroked his chin.
"It has always been illegal to impersonate an officer. I doubt an honest man would be willing to make a fake uniform and would no doubt report it to the authorities immediately. The two servants said First Lieutenant Lunkard's uniform fits the description they gave. If the killer isn't someone from the navy, he is at least someone who pays attention to us. Otherwise, how could he know the details of our uniforms? We must work this from both sides. Investigate the naval base and all its staff. Find out if any uniforms are missing or reported stolen.
"I will look into the town's tailors and textile merchants for any suspicious orders. This will not be solved quietly. The murder of a councillor is no small matter. This is going to shake the kingdom and bring a mountain down on our heads.
"I already sent an eagle to the capital. An emissary should arrive within a couple more days. If at all possible, we must have the killer by then, or at least be close to catching him. Take the servants with you and interrogate them thoroughly."
Wenisk finally calmed down.
Two black-robed men with top hats pacing around the room ceased and walked to Felidos, shaking their heads.
"Apologies, Mayor, we sense no traces of magic. We cannot reconstruct the scene. The killer must not be a magician, or at least he killed without using anything magical. As such, this is not under our jurisdiction. We shall take our leave."
"Who are they?" Wenisk asked unhappily, "What do they mean by 'not under their jurisdiction'?"
"They are from the Watch. I had hoped they might find something, but nothing. If they had, we could have just passed this on to them. I have no doubt they'll stick around to enjoy the show, though."
Wenisk started at mention of the Watch. He shut his discontent away quickly, glanced at the corpses, and turned to leave.
"A moment, Viscount," Felidos said, "Detective Joseph is here. Let's wait for his report. He has more than two decades of experience as a detective in the royal capital and has solved many murders. The famous case of the seven corpses found in the sewers under Rotary Bridge was cracked by him. His home town is in Tordesass prefecture, and he was on the way there after his retirement and happened to pass through here. I stopped him and asked him to help the constabulary train some rookies. The moment I heard about what happened here, I notified him immediately. He has made initial checks on the corpses and let's hear what he has to say. Take him to the base later too. He has more experience, so he should be able to tell who's the killer better."
Detective Joseph was a bald old man with a stout figure. However, there was a natural grimace on his face and he spoke in a slow rhythm. But, his words always went straight to the point. He was a sharp-spoken man.
"The killer is a male around 25 years of age with dark blonde hair and a moustache. It's probably a disguise. His height is around 1.8 meters and has tanned skin, seeming of sailor stock. He has great strength, amazing close combat skills, and a mind of steel, seeing as he was able to chat with the maidservant Cerna so casually without the slightest sign of rushing. It can be seen that he has rich experience in assassinations. Perhaps he might be a contract killer. The one who killed Sir Fux might have been employed by some other party..."
Joseph hesitated for a moment before continuing. "There's still another variable in question. Beed the doorman said that his eyes were yellow-brown in color, but Cerna said it was a charming blue. The two of them couldn't be sure that their account was completely correct and they admitted that they could be wrong after hearing the other's story."
"I have a question," Felidos said, "Detective Joseph, how can you be sure that the killer had great close combat skills and strength?"
The detective pointed a the two corpses. "They told me that. Just look at the spot where they died and the cause of death. It's obvious that the butler was in the same room when Sir Fux was tending to a visitor so that he could attend to his need right away. However, Sir Fux died on the desk. That means that the killer was able to subdue Sir Fux, who was sitting behind the desk, swiftly after dispatching Wharf so that the latter won't be able to alert other servants, such as Cerna, who was just outside the room."
Joseph approached the spot on which Claude once stood. "Taking the 'urgent document' into account, the killer should've been standing here and handing the document to Sir Fux from here. That should've been quite awkward for him, because he would have to stand up and bend forward to receive it as if he was bowing to the killer. I think Sir Fux would get his butler, who was likely standing by at the entrance, to bring the document to him.
"That would give the killer an opportunity to strike. He could dispatch the butler first before attacking Sir Fux. Otherwise, the butler will alert the rest. If the killer attacked the butler first, Sir Fux wouldn't hesitate to pull the alarm bell on the wall behind him. Unfortunately, the killer's plan worked and both master and servant suffered the same fate.
"As for his skills and strength, the reason for that is simple." Joseph gave a slight chuckle. "Sir Fux and his butler died from a snap to the neck. Even though it seems easy to do that, it's far from the truth. If one isn't strong enough, there's no way the neck can be snapped in a flash. Any pugilist worth his salt would know a common fact like this. Snapping a neck requires far more skill and strength than snapping an arm."
Felidos clapped twice lightly. "Your analysis is spot on, Detective. I will need you to go with Viscount Wenisk to the naval base. We have to identify the killer, or at least the suspects, quick, so that we can provide a satisfactory answer to the ambassador from the royal capital."
Joseph nodded. "Got it."
First Lieutenant Nuit was roused from his sleep drowsily from the panicked cries of Minnieleis. He stretched his arms out to hug her and mumbled, "Why are you screaming so loud? Let's sleep. Here, come blow me for a bit."
The kitty tugged on the sheets and hid her body. "N-nuit... Someone broke in..."
"W-who dares to trespass in this place..." Nuit finally snapped out of his drowsiness, only to notice that his room was filled with people. There were four to five armed naval soldiers and his comrades, Captain Horic, First Lieutenant Bjard, Second Lieutenant Louis and a bald man. They were all staring at him and the girl beside him.
"W-w-what's going on?" Nuit began to panic.
What the hell was going on? He hadn't done anything wrong!
"Were you here the whole night?" the bald man asked.
"W-who are you? Why's it your business?" Nuit flared with rage. He was completely nude and exposed as the girl had pulled the sheets away to cover herself. Nuit turned to rage instead of embarrassment from being stared at naked by so many people here.
"Answer his question," bellowed Captain Horic with a stern look.
"Yes, Sir! I've been here the whole time." He had no choice but to shield his crotch with a pillow.
The bald man picked up the uniform piled up on the ground one article after another. He found some traces of alcohol, food stains and dust on the ground. It looked like it had been there for a long time.
The bald man poked his chin up and Louis brought two other people inside, a male servant and a maidservant with a stunning figure. They looked at Nuit and shook their heads. "It's not him."
After that, they looked at the uniform in the bald man's hands and shook their heads. The uniform the killer wore was clean and tidy, yet this one was stained all over with a pungent smell of alcohol. They could at least tell that much.
The bald man furrowed his brow and threw the uniform to Nuit, who pitifully put them on in a hurry.
"Were you drunk yesterday? When did you fall asleep?" the bald man asked.
"Ummm... I don't remember the exact time. It was really late, if anything. I went at it with her three or four times, I can't be sure. I think I heard the roosters crowing before I fell asleep. That's why I slept till this late and didn't even notice you lot coming in..." No man would admit to underperforming in bed with a woman, and Nuit was no exception. Given that he forgot things after getting drunk, he boasted like he would usually. The bald detective had perfectly figured out what was going on in Nuit's head.