Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 173
Claude whistled softly as he watched the viscount and detective leave. He had finally passed the ordeal. He had known he would be one of the suspects because of his father's death. He didn't think they would come so quickly though. He'd thought it would take at least three days.
He calmly thought back at what happened and after making sure that there were no holes in his performance and story, he returned to the office. It seemed that he ought not look down on the intelligence of people no matter what world they were in. Had he not intentionally cast suspicion on himself to lead the direction of the case elsewhere, he would've been arrested as the killer.
For instance, Detective Joseph was really calm. As Wenisk spoke to Claude, Joseph had his eyes trailed on the latter the whole time without missing a single shift in his expression. Fortunately, his business negotiations with his boss back on old Earth helped him develop the ability to act completely innocent and out of the know, allowing him to put up a convincing act.
Wenisk wasn't a simple person either. Even though he seemed quite carefree on the surface, he was collaborating perfectly with Joseph by trying to get more out of Claude. Yet, he didn't realise that gave Claude the opportunity to perform his skit in its entirety to convince them that he wasn't involved. Claude mostly spoke the truth, anyway. A simple check by them would reveal that there were indeed arrangements prepared to get Sir Fux to fail the election.
With a better revenge plot in hand, nobody would suspect Claude to be the killer. Claude had truly intended to execute that plan, but he no longer had any more time. He would have to leave for Kafreizit in a week to join Bluefeather. New recruits and officers alike wouldn't be allowed to go home to meet their relatives until their first three years of service was over per the kingdom's regulations.
Claude was worried that after he left, his plot would be altered. After all, Sir Fux did serve as the council member representing Whitestag for 24 consecutive years. Whitestag was his power base and while Morssen's suicide cast quite a shadow on him, the election was going to take place next year and there was still some time until then. People were forgetful and Sir Fux only had to toss them a few bones. The number of people who would turn on their own promises would be too many to count.
Should Sir Fux be elected again, even if Whitestag had two other councillors, they wouldn't be able to compete with the old bastard with all his connections. They would be too green, nuisances at most. He'd been pushed to make sure that would not happen, and now that he could not undo the man, he had to kill him. He could not leave him be with him gone and unable to protect his family.
Like Claude had told the viscount and the detective, he only had to sneak inside the manor and look for the old thing when nobody was watching. A few shanks with a blade would take care of the problem. But that way, Claude would automatically be included in the top three suspect list. Even if he had an alibi, he was only delaying the inevitable. The more detailed the investigation became, the larger his chance of becoming exposed.
Thus, the best way to commit the murder was to make it as complicated as possible to mislead the investigators. The flaws in reasoning would pile up one after another and the deeper one delved into it, the more pitfalls there would be. If they ever found out that they had been led on a carousel, a lot of time would've been wasted, and the initial impetus for finding the killer would've long been replaced by a political one, which would be ideal for the politicians. The presidential scandals of the leader of the free world in his previous life were such examples.
That was what Claude had planned for. After receiving Maria's letter that informed him about the new branch of the Watch in Whitestag in light of recent developments, he gave up on using magic to assassinate Sir Fux. Instead, he used a simple disguise to approach his target and finished the deed. Not only did that allow him to elude the fate of being pursued by the Watch, it also managed to mislead Joseph and remove suspicion from himself.
In the following days, news about Sir Fux's murder spread through town. Uncle Thomas was elated to hear the man's karmic fate. In fact, he believed he should've died long ago. As the ex-chief constable of Whitestag, Thomas wasn't the least bit hesitant to talk about his reservations for Sir Fux. He said that the old man had deep connections in the prefectural capital and any development project in town had to be passed by him first before permission could be requested from the prefectural capital.
Even though Claude already planned to pull the old thing down from the elections next year, Thomas wasn't quite that confident. He was worried that Sir Fux would sabotage his candidacy and cause him to be unable to participate. With the man now dead, a huge obstacle had been removed. It was truly far too lucky.
But after a few more days, the topic of Sir Fux's murder suddenly stopped being spread around as if it never happened in the first place. After Thomas found out what was going on, he told Claude secretively that Felidos and Wenisk found lots of proof of illegal dealings at Fux Manor and it was said to eclipse tens of thousands of crowns in value.
That was a stunning figure to behold. Even the royal capital no longer pestered Felidos to find the murderer, focusing their priorities instead on unearthing the back-door dealings. The archives in city hall for the past decade were frozen for auditors from the royal capital to check. The two people in charge of channelling the funds in the national bank had also been detained. What awaited them was endless interrogation until they confessed everything.
Claude breathed a sigh of relief at how the whole case no longer concerned him. Sir Fux and Wharf's sudden deaths had caused proof of those illegal dealings to be found. All he had to do was give a slight push to prompt Felidos and Wenisk to turn their attention to the manor. There wasn't anything more eye-catching for the royal capital than those dealings. That would help mitigate the consequences the navy would face for the murder of a council member.
His father had mentioned in a lesson for Arbeit that the eastward expansion of Whitestag was mainly spearheaded by Sir Fux. Some of the dealings didn't even have to go through the town hall and the negotiations were conducted in private with the few people in power in the prefectural capital. The funds would then be funnelled through the national bank into Sir Fux's personal account. How the profits were split, however, wasn't something Morssen could've hoped to know.
Morssen, the town secretary at the time, hated being summoned by the prefectural capital the most. That meant the negotiations for the expansion was already over and only Sir Fux's signature was required. He would be the supervisor of the project and be in charge of ensuring the quality of the work. Every detail about the nature of the expansion, the prices, its start and deadline were unknown. All Morssen could do was to relay what he heard at the meeting to Sir Fux, who would proceed to deal with the matters himself.
He had hoped that sending his son over to Sir Fux would allow him to gather some evidence to be used against him so that he could turn the tables in the town hall in the future should he wish. Pushing down Sir Fux completely was impossible as he had a huge network in the prefectural capital. Whitestag was but a mere small town under the jurisdiction of that place and the slightest rumour would no doubt enter Sir Fux's ear.
Fortunately, the old crook loved to swallow all the benefits himself without splitting any with the town hall. The eastward expansion was a complete black-box operation. The town hall only cooperated in a limited capacity to produce some superficial documentation. That was the reason Thomas and the former treasurer and some others weren't involved and could instead watch the shitshow unfold from the sidelines. Quite a number of people in the prefectural capital were apprehended and countless others were dragged into the maelstrom. The case had become the number-one corruption scandal of the southwestern area of the kingdom.
Fux Manor, the largest estate in Whitestag, had been thoroughly checked. All of Sir Fux's family members and relatives were either arrested or kept confined within the manor. One of Thomas' old coworkers who was involved in the investigation revealed when he was drunk how daring Sir Fux actually was. He had faked two small projects that cost around a thousand crowns without doing anything at all. That was all he did to siphon funds from the prefectural capital into his own pocket.
That wasn't the only thing. There were many deals that couldn't be checked in time. However, Sir Fux kept an account for all his dealings and profits as well as a name list. A few large figures in the royal capital were also involved, much to the shock of many.
But all that was no longer relevant to Claude. He took the old thing's life with his own hands and managed to get away scot-free. Now, the only other person he held a grudge against was the boss of Blacksnake, Butcher Bill. He wasn't sure whether the man was lucky or unlucky. He was now trapped in the camp at the stone outpost far away from Whitestag. Since there was no way Claude would go all the way there to kill him, he had no choice but to leave him alive for now.
Fortunately, Bidlir had lost all his influence in town. Blacksnake was no more and their territory had been taken by the navy. All he had now was his position in the garrison. If he played his cards right, he could be promoted. He would not get far, however. Felidos, an ex-military man himself, had no eyes for Bidlir because of his background, and would not let him rise too far.
As Claude's day of departure inched ever so closer and Viscount Wenisk had his full attention focused on the investigation of the corruption scandal, the plans of the naval base were no longer held back by the viscount. The plans were passed easily and Rodan hurriedly had the buildings in the western sector flattened so that construction could begin for real.
Claude had also finished all the work he had left at Normanley Real Estate. He was going to take two days off before leaving Whitestag to embark on his new journey.