CHAPTER III: A WELCOME ARRIVAL

A SANTHARIAN DETECTIVE STORY

 
The Tale of Katya Dragonseeker   
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Introduction. The Captain of the Guards, an old friend of Calmin's, arrives at the scene of the crime. He determines where the killer was hidden. When the room is investigated, the unpleasant task falls to the two men to tell the widow about her husband's death.
 

silence descended in the room, one that could be cut with a knife. After a little while, most of the bystanders hurried away, not willing to be in the same room with a dead man for very long. Glandys had his work, of course. He needed to provide for the people who had witnessed the commotion, and explain things to those who had not – not an enviable job. Furthermore, he had to stop people from leaving, as the merchant had explained. Who knew if the murderer was still among them? It was not very likely, but who knew?

Calmin himself stayed in the room, thinking that someone ought to, even if the body was hardly in danger of being stolen. He turned his back to the murdered nobleman, partly to watch the doorway for the Captain's arrival, and partly so that at least for a little while he wouldn't have to think about this dreadful thing that had happened. Free now to let his mind wander, he recalled the dream he had been having earlier. He did not normally remember his dreams, but then he did not usually wake up quite so suddenly. It was starting to fade already. The only thing he see in front of him was the flamboyant young leader. His was a face he was not likely to forget, despite the fact that he had not seen it in years. He wondered why he would dream about that young man now, while he had tried so hard to forget that part of his past. He had even managed not to think about it at least for a little while, just a few short years, despite the quiet ache in his stomach. On the other hand, when he thought about it, those 'few short years' had lengthened into 'many short years'. Had it really been that long ago?
 

A creak on the stairs was enough to take him out of his reverie. He waited for a moment, and sure enough the Captain arrived. The two of them clasped hands. “Thanks for coming so fast, Wendon. It's been a rude awakaning this morning.” Calmin said to the Captain. Running a hand through is white hair, he became all business and told his friend what he had found until now. Wendon nodded, and looked around the room, much as the merchant had done just a little while before. He examined the dagger protruding from the chest, remarking on the ornate designs as he did so. Then he went to stand in the middle of the room, and looked at all corners from there.

“Where do you suppose the killer hid himself?” he asked Calmin, who was fairly sure that the Captain's quick mind had already worked it out. The merchant looked around as well. The bed had a board going down to the floor, so no person could fit underneath it. Since he was standing close to it, he bent down and knocked on the board – softly at first, then hard. It didn't budge, and it didn't look like anyone had moved it recently either. There was no wardrobe where one could hide, and other than the bed, which both he and the Captain had ruled out, he could not see any other hiding place – until his eye fell on the Wendon, who had moved in the direction of the door. He nodded his comprehension when the Captain opened it and stood behind it. Anyone coming in would not have seen the one standing behind there, unless they turned to close the door – and it was already too late then. Still, judging from the position of the body, the victim had walked into the room without seeing the murderer. Otherwise, he would not have gotten as far.

The white-haired merchant also moved to the door, but on the other side of it, as if he were the one coming in. With the door standing as it was, he was already a few steps into the room and standing close to the washing stand before he could really see the Captain, by turning his head. When he let his body follow, he surmised that he was standing more or less the way the victim had, judging from his position on the floor. Wendon stepped up to him and made a motion with his hand as if he was holding a dagger, aiming it to Calmin's chest. Then the two men looked at each other and nodded.

“Well, seems like he at least saw his killer in the face.” said the guard, scratching his beard, then combing his hand through his mop of brown hair. “That's something, I guess.” He examined the face. “Isn't that Vendai? He's a noble from around here. Or was. Got an estate some strals from Bardavos, close to the desert but with some kind of well that ensures its survival. We're going to have to tell his widow soon, but first my men and I have some questioning to do. Lets start with you.” The twinkle in the Captain's eyes betrayed his feeling: he did not really believe Calmin was the killer. But it was standard practice, and any extra information could be useful.

Quickly, the merchant explained how he had been listening to the performance of the famous Bard. He included everything that he could think of that had happened; from the drunk conversation to the guard that had spoken to him out on the street. Then he came to the scream he had heard and the things that followed before Wendon had arrived. The Captain listened attentively, and nodded his head as a sign that he had understood it. He thought for a little while, then said: “Too bad most of the people at that performance have gone home yesterday. Makes the whole interviewing people business a bit harder, doesn't it. And most of them won't know anything either. Problem is finding the ones who do know something.”

Having decided that there was nothing more to be learned from the scene of the crime, Wendon took the unpleasant task on himself to retrieve the murder weapon. It was valuable evidence. Then he ordered his men to take the body to the temple of Queprur, where it would be prepared for burial. In the warm atmosphere of the desert city, this was a hasty business, because the body had to be buried before it started rotting. The widow would have to be told about the tragedy before any more interviewing could take place.

It felt normal to Calmin to be going with Wendon, though it wasn't really, if he stopped to think about it. Apart from being one of the first to arrive on the scene of the crime when the body was discovered, his involvement in the whole thing was minimal at best. But because of his friendship with the guard, he still found himself seated on a brown mare and trotting towards the estate of Lord Vendai, to tell a woman that her husband had been murdered. As they rode, they passed what seemed to be fields of water. He wondered about that, and decided to ask his friend about it later - now was not a good time.

Just like the Captain had mentioned, the estate was flourishing. As the two of them rode up to the house, they passed green bushes and palm trees, planted in the garden. Whatever faults had given the noble his enemies, at least he knew how to get the most out of the well that was located here. The house itself, though not very big, was elegant and tasteful, looking rather inviting with its white stone that repelled the heat of the sun. Behind it, a cliff rose up, and it seemed to Calmin as though the house continued inside of the cliff. It was strange to imagine that a person who lived in such a nice house could acquire the kind of enemy who killed, for whatever reason. But then, did the house really mirror the owner? And the garden was rather big, so it would seem that he'd had money, in any case. Enough of it to make enemies? It was an interesting question, but not one that Calmin was going to try and answer right now.

They tied their horses to a pole that was standing there for that purpose, and were ushered inside by a cute blonde serving girl. Just before going in, Calmin looked back and was rewarded with a magnificent sight of the fields of water, glistening between the palm trees in the spring sun. After only a little time waiting in the nicely decorated hall, the mistress of the house approached them. Both men bowed, and then Wendon explained why they'd come. “I'm afraid we bear you ill tidings, my Lady. This morning your husband was found in an inn in town. He was murdered...” Calmin stood back and observed her. Her auburn hair was done up elaborately, her skin pale despite the environment that she lived in. Her clothing was a very dark kind of green. As she listened, she turned pale and pressed her hands together in front of her skirt, but otherwise she gave no hint of her emotions. When she answered, her voice was rich and deep, and very much like Calmin had imagined it would be.

“I thank you for coming to tell me this terrible news. Pray tell me, when can I start the funeral arrangements?” When Wendon answered that everything was ready, and that the body had been brought to the temple of Queprur, she nodded once – no more. Still, Calmin did not doubt that everything would be taken care of competently. It seemed to him that this woman, Lady Vendai, was one who had a tight control over herself, and over everything that she did. The merchant could not help but admire her for it. Still, there was something nagging at the back of his mind, a tiny voice that tried to let itself be heard. Something that had to do with her reaction.

They were not invited in for some refreshments, but then who could blame her? She'd just heard the new that her husband was dead. Wendon asked her if she would be moving to the town soon, but it seemed she would not. The well on the spring residence was big enough, she answered. Soon after arriving, they found themselves riding back to the inn. On the way back, Calmin looked at his younger friend and asked him what he thought of her. “Seems like a strong woman. I know enough women who'd have broken down crying – real or faked – at that kind of news. Not her though. A tight grip on herself, she's got.”

The elderly man nodded. “And I think a strong will not to let others too far into her life. I should think she won't even let her servants know how she really feels. Or at least, that's the impression she gave me.” Thinking about her made him remember that doubt he had felt, that tiny voice trying to attract attention. That was the voice of his gut-feeling, and he didn't particularly like it that he couldn't understand what it was trying to tell him. Over the years, he had learned to trust that gut-feeling. He decided to think it over when he had the chance, when there were no people talking to him.

The Captain shook his head. “Can't imagine her living up there alone, most noblemen in the estates around here go to town in summer because it's too hot and most of the wells dry up. She should come to town. I don't think she'll do that, though. Doesn't seem like the type to give up. Determination's written all over her face.”

Calmin laughed. “Yes, and what a magnificent face it is...”
 


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