The Heir of Archmond Pt 8
I hope you're enjoying the story so far. Here comes the first round of investigations. Again, this is my first foray into the world of mystery, so I really hope everything makes sense. Like I said, this is just a fun story I made for a friend that I wanted to share with everyone else. If you like this, The Paladin is way better. If you hate this... The Paladin is way better.
This was Lieselotte's chance. Not counting the Count, who her new friends would tend to, she had four suspects to account for. The handmaiden crying just feet away, Genevieve, the former "stewardess" of Archmond, Charlotte, her little sister and artist, Marie, and the troupe leader and apparent former lover of the Count, Ingrid. Turning her gaze to the weeping servant, she supposed there was no reason not to start here.
"You can relax," Lieselotte said, placing a calming hand on the woman's shoulder. "The nobles are gone. Just us peasants."
Genevieve wiped tears from her face and nodded. "I don't know what happened." She wrapped her arms around her knees. "I... I came to check on her."
"Check on her? Is that part of your duties?"
The servant nodded. "I have to check on all the members of the house before I can retire for the night."
"Seems a bit late to check on them. They must've retired an hour ago."
"Yes, but I had to prepare the rooms. For the guests."
Lieselotte nodded as she parsed the woman's words. Tears still stained her cheeks as she looked over at the body of her former mistress once more. "So you prepared the guest rooms... then came directly here?"
The servant hesitated. "Well... first to the... to the other members of the house hold. Their rooms are on the way."
"So Sariah was your last stop for the night? Then where?"
"Back to my own room."
Lieselotte stood up and moved to the open door, peering into the hallway. To her left was the stairwell. In front of her, Charlotte's room. Down the hall, Marie's. Past that, the hall curved to the guest rooms. "I assume you checked with Marie Dupin, first?"
The servant nodded.
"How was she? Did anything seem strange?"
"Strange? No, not for Marie."
"She... well, she likes to paint. So it's important that I remind her to get some sleep." Genevieve turned herself away from the body of Sariah, forcing herself to her feet. "I.. I've found her passed out at the easel before. Paint all over her."
"An intriguing girl. And then to Charlotte's room, I presume?"
Genevieve's eyes widened. "Y-yes."
"Is there something wrong?"
"I just...er... what's going to happen now? Miss Charlotte's been running things in the county until now."
Lieselotte turned, drawing closer to the servant. "I heard something of that nature from the Viscounts. Are you afraid she might be accused?"
"N-no! I just meant.. she's not ... she didn't do this!"
Lieselotte studied the panicked look on the servant girl. "Then who did?"
Genevieve pointed at the hallway. "Sir Walther! Th-the Viscounts said-"
"I'm aware of what they said. What makes you so certain it was Walther? You served him for years, didn't you?"
"Then why so quick to accuse him? Tell me, Genevieve, what happened when you came in here to check on Miss Sariah?"
"Y-you... you think... I..."
Lieselotte turned her back to the servant, looking over the still body of Sariah Dupin. "It's not what I think, Genevieve. Those Viscounts, they love a good mystery. I'm certain they'll want to explore every avenue. If you don't have a good alibi, I'm afraid I don't know what conclusions they might leap to. After all, a noble killing his wife? It would bring shame on the whole house. But if it were a servant..."
"It wasn't me!" Genevieve cried.
"Tell me what happened then."
"I... I finished my work with the rooms."
"Yes. Then checked with Marie and Charlotte?"
The servant visibly shuddered, cradling her arms across her chest. "Y-yes. And then here."
"Why Saria last?"
"I... Just habit, I suppose."
"I... I knocked... but there was no answer."
"And yet you still entered?" Lieselotte asked.
"It's my duty!"
"And what did you see?"
"It was dark. I used the light from the hall to guide me inside."
"If it was dark, why bother? They were clearly asleep."
"Miss Sariah has chastised me for not checking on her, even when she has fallen asleep. I... I didn't want to be..."
"I see... go on."
"As I moved inside I ran into something... I nearly tripped."
"The Countess' body?"
"Y-yes..." Tears welled up in the servant's eyes once more. "I knelt down to see what it was. When I turned her over and the light hit her... I... I screamed."
"And that's when we found you. Tell me, did you see the Count anywhere?"
"No ma'am. Not until I screamed."
"Where was he?"
"In bed," she said, pointing to the large four poster bed. "I... I think he was in bed. He came toward me, but he stopped... he just stared at her."
Lieselotte turned to the door as two loud voices echoed in the hallway, the Viscounts LeBlanc and Conan appearing moments later. "Ah, I see you have managed to calm her," Conan observed.
"Yes," the witch replied, "I suppose you're here for the body?"
"Indeed. We can't leave her."
"Wouldn't the Constable want to see her where she lays?"
"I can't imagine why," LeBlanc added. "We have the murderer."
"Perhaps. But the Constable won't be here until morning at best. I just presumed that -- oh never mind." Lieselotte turned her gaze from the men, waving the thought away.
"What is it?" Conan insisted.
"Well.. you seemed so... intelligent in the parlor. So dutiful. It was my misapprehension that you'd want to tie up the loose ends for the Constable, make sure everything was ready for him when he arrived so this whole debacle could be put behind us."
"It will be quite the scandal when word spreads," LeBlanc noted. "She may be right."
"Of course she is," Conan noted with a smile. "She's quite the bright one. For a woman. We will leave the body for now. Allow the Constable to see that our conclusion is valid."
"And the others?" LeBlanc asked.
"Obviously the good Viscount is considering interrogating them all," Lieselotte suggested. "Again, to save the Constable time and show your obvious dedication to the county. It's quite clever, actually. I'm sure the Duke will take notice of your actions tonight."
Viscount LeBlanc turned silently to his companion, as if verifying the witch's words. Conan, parsing her speech, smiled. With a nod he clapped LeBlanc on the back. "My good man, with all the chaos erupting in this house, don't you think it would be wise to position yourself? If, God forbid, the house should temporarily lose control of the county, viscounts will be asked to step up."
A sly grin crept across LeBlanc's face and he turned to the witch. "Yes, yes. I see. Then we should begin the interrogations at once!"
"Indeed, gentlemen. I suspect you'll want to interrogate the would-be Count before he has time to concoct his lies."
"Quite so!" Conan replied. "We leave the young servant in your capable hands."
With grins and inflated egos, the viscounts disappeared into the hall and down the stairs. Lieslotte turned once more to the servant, presenting a soft smile.
"I think it's best if we take you to your room for now. The Viscounts are going to be combing every inch of this place."
"But... you told them-"
"Come dear," the witch said, pulling the servant's hand into her own. "It must be such a task tending to this whole family alone."
"Well...er... there's Mr. Tuttle," Genevieve replied as the pair began down the stairwell.
"Yes, but he seems to delegate more than anything. You... you get your hands dirty." Lieselotte paused as they stepped onto the second floor landing, examining the servant's nearly immaculate hands. "So to speak." There wasn't a speck of dirt on them and they smelled quite nice. "Such a lovely fragrance, dear."
The servant girl blushed and hid her gaze, so Lieselotte continued their short march, Genevieve pointing out her room. Her chambers were small and located very near the stairwell, likely, Lieselotte concluded, to allow her to service the family at night with relative haste. The same scent that clung to the servant's hands seemed to be in the air within her room. She released the girl's hand and examined the room.
"Such lovely little quarters."
"Miss Dupin is kind to me."
"I suspect they all are, no?"
"Well... of course," she fumbled. Lieselotte noted the flustered servant's momentarily screwed face and turned her attention back to the room.
"So... I don't believe I heard for certain but after Marie, you checked on Miss Charlotte?"
Genevieve wrung her hands, stealing glances at the open door. "Well... Y-yes."
"And how was she?"
"Lovely as ever."
"I was inquiring as to her physical state; was she asleep, dear?"
"Oh! Yes, of course."
"So you doubtless peeked in and then left?"
"Well... more or less, yes."
"I see." Lieselotte, wearing a large grin, dropped onto the servant's bed. The scent of lavender and vanilla erupted into the air around her and she ran her hands over the smooth, silk sheets. "Your mistress is kind."
"I... Is there anything else you need, madam?" the servant asked.
"Well," Lieselotte sighed as she pushed off from the bed, “I suppose one question: does Miss Charlotte wear corsets?” The maidservant grew quite flustered, but Lieselotte stopped her before she could answer. “I only ask because of those poor hands of yours.”
“My... my hands?”
“The draw cords on her corset have left such marks across your fingers.”
The servant stared down at her palms, a faint line drawn across them. She searched the room as though an answer might present itself, but none came. Lieselotte simply bowed and closed the door behind herself as she stepped out onto the second floor landing. She waited a second, listening for the servant's paranoid movements, but the only sound audible was the Viscounts on the first floor, still interrogating Walther. Their shouts, both from the accused and the accuser, foiled any attempt she might have of listening for signs of Genevieve's guilt. It mattered little, however.
"Having second thoughts?"
The witch started up the stairs again without so much as a flinch. "About what, Grin?"
"About the mystery."
"It's barely begun, you can't possibly think I'm stumped yet."
“Yes, but I can already see that it's proving a more difficult task than you expected.”
“Your attempt to antagonize me isn't going to work, Grin,” the witch replied as she stepped up to the third floor corridor. “Now, who's next?”
“The stewardess? Her room's right here.”
“No. Charlotte brought me in only to antagonize her sister-in-law. She holds no respect for me. I'll wait until the Viscounts are done threatening Walther.” She continued down the hallway, pausing briefly at Marie's door before continuing down the curve to the right. “I want to see why that mop haired musician was up here.”
“That's right! Show the peasant girl where she belongs,” Grin laughed and drifted in the air behind her.
“Joke all you want, but I don't give a damn about any of them, Grin, the nobles or the nobodies.”
“Not even that servant girl you saved?”
“Do not mistake disdain for vile creatures like that guard for love of his victims. She's a pawn, nothing more. I have little sympathy for those who allow themselves to be controlled as such.”
“Yes, it would be a shame if you were forced into work you hated, controlled by the whims of your superiors, doing the most menial, degrading work without any agency of your own.”
Lieselotte spun on her heels, teeth bared and fists clenched, but her spectral companion was gone. She scanned the walls and ceiling, trying to calm her breath. With a frustrated grumble, she turned, pounding on the musician's door, perhaps harder than she intended.
Moments later the door cracked, the reddened eyes of Ingrid peeking out. “Yes?”
The witch forced the door open the rest of the way, eliciting a small squeak of surprise from the band leader. “We need to talk.”
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Keep your eyes open for my debut novel, The Paladin.