The mystery is almost up. Do you have a guess? C'mon, you have to have at least an idea of who you think did it. Well, either way, the story comes to a close very soon, so enjoy these last few installments of The Heir of Archmond. I know I loved writing it.
Be Excellent to Each Other
“Well, I think it was the little troupe leader,” Viscountess Christie announced. “It's clear she had something to hide, and most importantly, a personal grudge for Sariah taking away her lover.”
“No, Madame,” Viscount LeBlanc countered, “it is Marie.”
“The little one?”
“But of course! It's such a clever, twisted plot. She clearly engineered the entire affair down to the smallest detail. She set everything up to force Charlotte into killing Sariah, thus putting her in the clear.”
“There is no evidence for that,” Viscount Conan interjected. “We saw the marks on her neck, clearly it took some strength to throttle her.”
“Perhaps a poison,” his wife added. “and the strangulation happened afterward to throw us off the trail.”
Lieselotte sat quietly at the opposite end of the room, enjoying the last of the Dupin's brandy that Tuttle offered. She ignored the Viscounts' vapid prattling, putting the pieces together in her head. There were clues, she just needed to bring the right ones together, then somehow let it slip in front of her little puppets.
“I think I need some air,” she announced before stepping outside the parlor. Free from their ceaseless chatter, she pondered the night's affairs. Her gown rustled with each step as she considered each interrogation. Had Grin not provoked her she would've been happy to simply ask Sariah who killed her, but this, this challenge, was simultaneously invigorating and frustrating. Invigorating in that she could finally put her skills to a reasonable challenge, but frustrating that Mr. Grin was behind it.
Let's start from the beginning, she thought. Genevieve. Potential. No motive on her own but clearly ready to do anything asked by Miss Charlotte. Although nearly being raped and murdered for Sariah's grapes may tilt her toward revenge. Clearly not strong enough to throttle the woman, but if a garrote of some sort were used, perhaps. The necklace? An obvious choice. And the marks on her palms didn't help.
Charlotte? Clear motivation from the usurpation of power. Would she frame her brother, though? And what was going on between her and the servant girl? Clearly more than either would be willing to admit. Seeing as how the necklace was Charlotte's, it seemed only natural as the weapon for either her or her servant.
Marie? The youngest Dupin was a bit of mystery. She was clearly hiding something. Was her dreamy, distant character just a facade? Was it all a performance to deceive the rest of the family or was she truly uncaring and unmoved by the world outside her bedroom door? What opportunity would she have to commit the murder?
And what of Walther? True, he would be quite capable of throttling her without the need for any tools, but is that what happened? Had she finally broken him? He seemed insistent that he was innocent, enough to immediately implicate the servant girl. Perhaps it was just a crime of passion committed in the heat of the moment. She knew she would've been tempted to throttle that woman in Walther's position.
And lastly, Ingrid. That messy, freckle-faced musician. Sneaking up to admire the painting of the Countess one last time? Lieselotte was familiar with nobility and there was rarely anything worth admiring in them. She was somewhere she shouldn't be. She certainly had access to wire that would do the job.
She briefly considered the idea that perhaps all the suspects were in on the murder together, each playing a small part in bringing an end to a despicable person that plagued each of their lives, but this was obviously rubbish. No, there was a single murderer tonight and she only needed to weigh the evidence to decipher who.
“I see you're still up and about. Have you told your little Viscounts who to blame for the murder, yet?”
Lieselotte smiled ever so slightly as she turned to face Charlotte. The Stewardess of Archmond was still in her evening attire, but had apparently decided that waiting for morning was not an option for her. The witch bowed her head respectfully.
“I'm still trying to decide, actually. There's a lot to consider.”
“Well consider this,” Charlotte replied. “When the Constable arrives in the morning, it will be much more difficult for you to leave this place without manacles once the Viscounts know you're a witch.”
“A witch, Miss Dupin?”
“Do not insult either of our intelligences. I'm aware of what you do and what you sell in that little mill. Genevieve had quite the look around while you dealt with that guard.”
“Mmm... I knew I shouldn't have let that girl in,” Lieselotte replied, her smile only growing wider. “Nothing but trouble comes from helping others.”
“Help yourself tonight. Let the Viscounts believe my brother is the murderer.”
“I've no idea, nor do I care. I've no quarrel with any of the other suspects.”
“Indeed. In fact, you're rather close to some of them, aren't you?” Lieselotte replied.
Charlotte's eyes narrowed. “Watch what you say, witch.”
Keep your eyes open for my debut novel, The Paladin.