The Heir of Archmond Pt 9
I spent the better part of my day freezing my tail off in the mountains today. It snowed up there and my job decided I should cover it. Without prior notice. Thankfully I decided to wear boots instead of sandals, but other than that, I was ill prepared to hang from a ski lift for an hour as snowy crosswinds buffeted me and my equipment.
That is all to say that I don't have anything clever to add tonight. I hope you're enjoying the story and I hope you stay warm.
“Do you think any of them will believe that? You're a convenient scapegoat for this whole affair, you realize that don't you?”
“I don't know what else to tell you!”
The troupe leader sat on the edge of the bed, her scruffy clothes and tanned skin standing in stark contrast to the light and clean linens that surrounded her. Tears threatened to stream down her cheeks as Lieselotte continued her interrogation.
“I want to know why you thought it was a good idea to be up here in the middle of the night. A woman has been murdered!”
“I would never do anything to Miss Dupin!”
“Then why were you here?”
Ingrid crumpled her floppy hat in her hands. “I... I wanted to see her picture. Just once more.”
“Countess Dupin. The real Countess Dupin.”
Lieselotte weighed the woman's words for several silent moments. “What affection do you have for the former countess?”
“She... she took me in. When no one else would, she gave me and my family a place to live and work. I was always so grateful to her.” Ingrid wiped her eyes along her dirty sleeve. “I know the other nobles didn't think highly of it, but she didn't care!”
“So you wanted to see the painting that Sariah had removed?”
“Yes. Wait, no. Not like that.”
“You were mad at Sariah for usurping the former Countess' place.”
“No! Well... I mean...”
“Or were you just mad at her for taking... Walther?”
Ingrid froze, her eyes opening wide. The tears halted, now slowly replaced with a cold sweat. When the musician didn't respond, the witch continued. “Everyone knows about you and Walther.”
“We... we grew up together.”
“Oh yes, I'm quite certain. And grew close.”
“Loved you.” Ingrid froze once more. “And he still does. Tell me, did it hurt to watch Sariah take him? To watch her treat him so poorly.”
“I... I don't know.”
“You do! And you're going to be on the hook for murder if you don't have a decent alibi. Now why shouldn't I believe that you killed Sariah Dupin?”
“I would never kill anyone!”
“Even for love?”
“Oh... that's it, isn't it? How romantic. The plight of your lover driving you to commit a heinous act-”
“I didn't do it!”
“Then tell me what happened. Every step.”
Ingrid shook with frustration, fear, and sadness. She wiped the tears from her eyes once more. “Once everyone went to bed... I snuck up.”
“There's only the one stairwell. You know it goes right past Sariah's room.”
“I know! But I didn't go there... I... I kept going.”
“This hallway... there's a door that leads up to the attic.”
Lieselotte turned and leaned out the door, scanning the hallway. “Where?”
Ingrid sniffled and pushed off the bed. She slid in front of the witch and pointed at the last door in the hallway. “There.”
The witch moved across the hall and tested the doorknob. It opened, revealing a wooden staircase, cast in shadows. “And the painting is up there?”
“Yes. I... I just wanted to see her again. I knew that Sariah would never let it be seen downstairs anymore.”
“And how did that make you feel?” the witch asked, turning back to the guest room. “Mad?”
“Mad enough to kill?”
“So far you have a sad little story, but no alibi. Did anyone else go with you?” Ingrid shook her head. “Did you tell anyone else where you were going? Your band mates?” Again she shook her head. “No alibi. Multiple reasons to hate Sariah. It doesn't look good for you.”
“How do you know it was me?” she cried, turning back to the bed.
“I don't. I just know that the Viscounts will be checking with you soon, and they aren't going to like the loose ends. Maybe you know something? Something that might incriminate someone else?”
The musician thought for several moments, trying desperately to come up with anything that might shift the blame. “Well, er... no.”
“Did you see anyone else on your way up here?”
“You have motivation and opportunity.”
“Wait! How was she killed?”
“Don't you know?” Lieselotte asked.
“No! And... and I don't have any weapons or anything. I couldn't possibly kill her with my bare hands!”
“Maybe, maybe not,” the witch pondered, taking a seat beside her on the bed.
“So... without a murder weapon, there's no way to blame me, right?” The witch looked down at the young woman's hands, studying them for several moment before Ingrid followed her gaze. “What are you looking at?”
“Your hands,” she said, lifting the musician's right hand up. “I suppose you get these marks across your fingers from playing, yes?”
“And, you wouldn't happen to have extra string for your mandolin?”
Ingrid pulled her hand free, trying to hold back another wave of tears. “Not on me,” she muttered.
“Well, at least you have that going for you. Good luck with the Viscounts,” Lieselotte said, stepping away from the bed and into the hall.
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Keep your eyes open for my debut novel, The Paladin.