And we’re back to our Castle of Gears.
The clock tower had two entrances: one from inside the Castle on the third floor, which is a shortcut, and the second being the front door of the tower on the ground outside. Not far from where Emily died, that is.
Wilden, Isaiah, and I entered through the front door, wielding umbrellas to hide from the rain. I walked behind the other two as they talked about whatever it was – something about roses and stakes – but their knowledge of such things sound alien to me. Apparently, anything besides machines and mysteries is alien to me; I can never follow such things. Sometimes I wonder if I give Isaiah trouble with it since I hired him.
I glanced at the Castle. And there is the matter of the murder. Visiting the Castle to clean the tower clock was only just an excuse to check on Marcel and to tease Lindon and Emily, who, in their own way, raised me despite the latter not being that fond of it.
“I haven’t got the fire on so it may be a bit cold,” Wilden mused, walking over to his fireplace. Isaiah, having folded his umbrella, offered to do it. I looked over the room; it appeared the same as it always did since Wilden received his job as the gardener and keeper of the clock: a coffee table surrounded by a sofa and an armchair, a kitchenette in one corner of the room, a chest of drawers that no doubt contained clothes, and then boxes of books. Photographs lined the mantelpiece of the fireplace, pictures of a group that included both Uncle Marcel and Wilden himself, as well as Grandfather von Hald. In a corner opposite the kitchenette, there was a wooden cubicle with a simple yet neat network of ropes and pulleys. The walls were decorated with brass pipes whose beginnings came out of the floor, then ended up into the ceiling.
I figure we won’t be cleaning the tower at this time, not when someone’s died. I have the habit of screeching opera hymns while cleaning, out of the tediousness of the chore, but humor would not be accepted by anyone in the presence of death, would it?
“The storm’s gotten strong, didn’ it?” Wilden said thoughtfully as the fire sprung up and I hung the umbrellas on the coat stand.
“It seems like it will only be for today,” I said, listening to the loud rain outside.
“What’s that sound?” Isaiah had been twisting his head wildly, looking around. “Don’t you feel the tower – uh – breathing? I feel like it’s shaking.”
The brass pipes hissed and shook, with the sound of faint chugging.
“You remember that steam engine I told you about?” I reminded him. When he nodded, I pointed to the wooden cubicle in the corner. “There is a basement here that you can enter, and there is the steam machine. There used to be a staircase where the elevator is now, all the way up to the top floor, but Wilden rarely goes up there these days.”
“Bad knees, it hurts to climb,” huffed Wilden. “I can walk, but not climb. I had my fair share already in my youth.”
“The elevator…it looks relatively new,” muttered Isaiah thoughtfully.
“Last year, when I took Sinclair here,” I laughed. Isaiah looked pale for a brief moment; he’s had scrapes with Sinclair Wright, a friend of mine whose calculus and algebra abilities are beyond a normal person’s comprehension, and they weren’t his favorite times. “Sinclair built that, several nights working out a plan so Wilden doesn’t need to climb stairs anymore. It’s only up to the next floor above, or down into the basement; there are still the stairs from two floors and up to the clock room.”
“And that’s where I’d like you fellows to go to with me,” said Wilden with a laugh. “The elevator makes it so easy these days. I had expected it to fail shortly after you and Mr. Wright left, but it never broke down.”
“You shouldn’t expect less of Sinclair, though,” I chuckled. “What is it that you want us to come here to see?”
“I recently received a pocketwatch,” said Wilden as he trudged towards it. “I say, it feels as though they are cursing me! Come, let us go!” He laughed again.
“I’ll just wait down here,” Isaiah muttered.
“It’s only one floor,” I said. “Also, you don’t get airsick up there.”
“The floor may give way beneath me,” said Isaiah. “So, no.”
“Well, you’ve never seen how much there is up there,” chuckled Wilden. “And look at me! I think I’m heavier than you are! Come along, Isaiah. I’d like you to see it, too.”
Isaiah groaned, but in the end, he joined us on the elevator, clutching onto the railing. As it began to move upwards, it seemed as though all the blood left his face and what stood beside me was a corpse. Once the elevator stopped, Isaiah sprang off and into the room before giving a cry of surprise at the sight here.
An overwhelming number of clocks furnished this room, which was as large as the living quarters below. They ranged from rusting alarm clocks lining the shelves to cuckoo clocks crowding another wall, to two or three elegantly carved grandfather clocks. Not all were working, but those that did tick-tocked in a quiet symphony. There was only a single desk and chair, and Wilden began to light the gas lights, brightening the room. A large window looked over the rose garden, but it was blurred by fog and raindrops from the storm outside, making it hard to see anything there.
“W-what is this?” gasped Isaiah, staggering into the chair beside the desk, which, further, was littered with tiny gears and springs. “Clocks! Everywhere! It’s just like Master’s house!”
“I recall I told you not to call me ‘Master’,” I grumbled in offense. “And my house is a machine on its own, not a clock collection.”
“I used to be Dr. von Hald, Mr. Ethaon’s grandfather’s, assistant in my youth,” Wilden was approaching a shelf. “Aside from my reckless habit of climbing walls, I tinkered with clocks a lot. Mr. Ethaon, come here for a moment.” He reached over and picked up a tiny pocket watch.
I obliged and took the watch from him, startled. Scratches were evident on it, but it showed signs of having the bronze lid and bottom being polished frequently, but not recently. Wilden’s restoration of the collected clocks was only up to fixing them so they worked like brand new, not by looks. Had one been able to take a closer look, all these clocks are old, with signs of being dropped, broken apart, or grazed.
“The story behind that isn’t that bad like some of these here,” chuckled Wilden as he pulled a bottle of whiskey from a box underneath the desk and popped the cork. “The owner, Mr. Flemming, is a friend of mine at the bar in the city; he died three months ago, though. I bought the watch in memory of him.”
“I see,” I replied, squinting at the Roman numerals on the watch face. “Don’t drink too much tonight. It’s not a celebratory event.”
“I need this! A death on one of the days you pay a visit! It is distressing indeed!” Throwing his head back, Wilder downed a whole half of the bottle before bringing it to the table with a bang. “Care to have some, younguns?”
“No,” I replied.
“No, thank you,” said Isaiah. “I don’t like the taste. It burns my throat.”
“Why, but that’s exactly what I enjoy! I’ve never felt more alive than when I drink!” Wilden laughed whole-heartedly. He tipped back his head and drank another gulp. I was returning to observing the pocketwatch when he said, “Ethaon, I’m old right now, aren’t I?”
I raised an eyebrow, bemused. He was staring out the blurred window, but looking closely, one of his eyes was becoming clouded. “What do you mean?” I set down the watch.
“Well, look at me and the master of the House. We’ve lived beyond the age that your grandfather died at. We are living past the average age a man. I feel as though I might soon follow him.” He turned to me, and the supposed clouded eye became clear so he now looked earnest. “Listen here, if something happens to me, I’d like you to keep my collection.”
I returned the stare before sputtering, “T-the clocks? Is something wrong?”
“I don’t know, but I am quite aware that I do not have much time left.” Wilden heaved a sigh and carefully sat himself in his chair. “I’ve spent years tinkering with clocks that I can no longer part with them easily unless I die.”
“The one who will have to clean them will be Isaiah, since he does my housework,” I replied pointedly, and Isaiah pulled a face.
“Do you not suspect me of killing Lady Emily?” Wilden asked suddenly.
Isaiah snorted out a laugh. “But aren’t both you and Mr. Lorren not even counted as suspects? You both are old, like you say. I wouldn’t think you two can do anything.”
“When it comes to a planned murder, they’re both capable, even if their bodies aren’t.” I raised my voice a little as a warning, and Isaiah stopped.
“Grandfather aren’t friends with many normal people, otherwise he wouldn’t be called eccentric.” I shrugged. “If only I could turn it down.”
“You still could, since Mr. Lorren doesn’t want to know anything,” Wilden suggested.
“Lindon won’t let me go.” I chuckled wryly. “Uncle doesn’t care to know, but Lindon definitely will not let it go because of Amanda’s presence here. I don’t doubt that he hopes to clear her name because she seems to have the most motive to kill Emily. If returning home means he won’t mind going all the way into the city to pester me to solve this case, then it can’t be helped. I’ll solve it.”
“But you have not answered my question,” said Wilden pointedly.
“You’ve been hard of hearing recently, so I thought you might have thought that the sound of Emily falling to her death was your imagination,” I said. “But I do find it hard to believe that you’re her killer. I can’t imagine you being that type of person. And the fact that you would kill her in front of the place you live in is more a ploy to misdirect if the killer is smart.”
“If I were the killer, I would lie to you.” Wilden’s voice became soft, thoughtful.