The Castle of Gears: Chapter 004

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.

“R-really?”

“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.

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Wind & Passing: A Short Story

Eh, I wrote a short story that I thought of after recently heading to the beach on New Years. It’ll delay The Castle of Gears chapter posting, but I’ll eventually get that done in a while. So here’s a little distraction.


The sound of the sea was surprisingly loud as it rolled over the sand, the silence, except for the hot wind, putting Akira’s blackened heart in tranquil.

She walked quickly, almost jogging, but still at a pace considered walking. A light trail of footprints followed her from the crowded area of the resort’s beach to a desolate part of the shore. It had been a long time since she had time alone for herself. Having held back enough anger before it exploded at her unreasonable father and pathetic brother, she’d taken control of her body language and left their hotel room until she was only a tiny dot in the eyes of the holiday goers.

But she couldn’t deny that she almost snapped that time. She could have probably tried to attack her father. In return, he might counter-attack, and the next moment, she would end up with the bruises she would have to hide again. Her father wasn’t the nicest guy; the only reason she accompanied him was as luggage, to blend in with his fellow colleagues who were also on the vacation with their own families. To show that their father was also a caring type, not a family tyrant.

There was a reason Hayato, her brother, recently had a mental breakdown after the police suspected that he might have purposely – in their own words – given their grandfather a heart attack that killed him. Hayato wasn’t right in his head anymore these days; he had been the topic of her disagreement with her father earlier before she left.

She didn’t notice that the anger had blinded her sight except for her intention to appear like a dot from the holiday goers that when she slowed herself to a stop, she stumbled over an unnoticed half-buried rock, sending her plummeting to the ground. Instinctively, she lunged out her other foot and stopped herself from planting her face into the sand.

She gasped; she’d been carrying an ancient Polaroid camera, a gift from her grandmother before her death. Like a charm, she feverishly cared for it and took it wherever she went. Had she hit the sand, she could have damaged it.

The Polaroid. Grandma it to her after retiring from her photographer job, the last of all the cameras she used to own. Neither her father nor brother knew it because it was her and Grandma’s secret, carried everywhere in a lunch bag that also carried muffins to cover it because she claimed her appetite was large.

Presently, she noticed her distance from the resort and sat down on the rock. Angling the camera, she aimed it for the horizon of the sea, which connected to the sky. She contemplated taking a photograph but changed her mind; the film she had was a precious amount; she should just continue searching for the things she really wanted photographs of.

Not that it would be easy to find that “something”. People were out of the question.

A figure had begun to follow the shoreline towards where Akira sat, and she eyed it warily, thinking it was either her father or one of his acquaintances. She was wrong; a youth in shorts and a plain black t-shirt, and what looked like a book in one hand, walking at a relaxed pace. A stranger, ignorant of the world – and her troubles.

Relieved, Akira turned away and plopped herself down onto the rock, stretching her legs and kicking off her sandals. She hadn’t put on any sunscreen so her skin was beginning to turn red. She’d rather keep her skin fair, but at the moment, could not get in the mood to get back to her feet to find a shade or go back to fetch the darned sunscreen.

Her brother. If he didn’t back down from their father just now about staying hidden and pretending the weather got to him just so none of the accompanying colleagues learned of his face and name, if he was still the strong-headed, admirable brother she always saw him as, her mood won’t have been this way. Sure, their father had some good sides, she supposed, but most of the time, he was cold to them, and her brother always kowtowed to him. Akira could consider herself less pathetic than Hayato was at this point. That anger in her, seething beyond her teeth, clawing at her chest, up her throat, had no doubt meant she could no longer trust Hayato to be the same strong person she saw him as.

Maybe the incident in which he’d been falsely accused of their grandfather, Grandma’s husband’s death had been the reason Hayato cracked.

“Say, take a portrait picture of me,” said a voice, and Akira looked up to see the youth who had been walking along the shoreline standing in front of her.

Alarmed, she sat up, stunned to realize she didn’t notice him when she’d been high on alert for anyone she knew who might find her. “What?”

“Take a photograph with that camera. You wanted to use it, didn’t you?”

Akira blinked, looked at the Polaroid, then back at him, turning wary. Men were dangerous, and especially to girls like her who are alone.

“You don’t need to give me a scary face,” the stranger chuckled, and he sat down on the sand at an acceptable distance from her. “I’ll give you my name, too: Rin.”

“What do you want the photograph for?”

“It’s just a request. Like I said, you looked like you wanted to use it. Why don’t you, with me as a model. Only, I’d like to request that I have the picture, too. And – a Polaroid, the black and white type of camera? Isn’t that rare these days? We use digital ones these days, don’t we? It’s interesting.”

Akira frowned at him.

“It’ll just be for one piece of film, right?” Rin, the stranger, chuckled.

She noticed that it really was a book that he carried, a book in a foreign language that she couldn’t discern. The sight of the book made her remember how much her brother, too, loved books. He might know the title of the book, maybe even the plot. Rin, as if waiting, flipped open the novel and began to read.

With a sigh, she said, “Fine, I’ll take the photograph. Let me tell you, though, the pictures in the film come out in sepia, not black and white.”

“Oh? I didn’t know that. I assumed that all old pictures would be black and white.”

“No, not all.” Akira got up with the Polaroid, then knelt on the sand in at an angle in front of Rin, who watched her with interest. “Okay, a portrait photograph, right?”

“Yep.”

She held the camera up and peered through the lens, shifted the angle of the camera with a frown. In the lens, Rin was still watching her, wearing a faint smile; it felt like their eyes met through the camera, the intensity in their look despite his statue-like stillness. Fingers trembling with excitement, she pushed the shutter. And a second time, this one by accident. Rin didn’t miss it, and his smile widened.

When she finished, she waited impatiently for the photograph and the second one to come out. She hastily handed them to Rin when it was done.

His scrutinizing eyes studying the photograph briefly then he cracked a smile of amusement. “Hey, not bad! We could imagine that I came from the past. Although…why did you take two?”

“An accident?” Akira retorted with a chuckle. “Also, you would look like you came from the past if it wasn’t for your clothing style.”

Rin laughed. “That’s right.” He returned one to her. “Keep that. So we could remember the day that you took the photo of a stranger on a beach.”

“Okay,” Akira looked at the photograph again, then watched as Rin continued on his way, returning to the shoreline and going on after the point she stopped at.

When she studied the photograph, she noted the grayish-brown colors and lines that traced out Rin, whose glance and knowing smile seemed to be looking beyond the rectangle of the photograph. If anyone could look so alive on a sheet of film, it was that guy, she supposed.

She glanced at the holiday goers and noticed a familiar figure among them starting this way. Hayato, her brother. Her anger at him and their father, his weakness and her father’s coldness dissipated. She looked in the direction Rin had gone; he was already really far, a dot himself among flat sand and rocks, book and photograph in either hand, his pace as lax as the wind blew around her.

She’d thought he was at unawares of her thoughts; she must have been wrong. He’d clearly approached her as if he knew she was in a bad mood.

Akira stuffed the Polaroid and Rin’s photograph into her lunch bag, slung it over her shoulder, then walked with a brisk pace back towards those holiday goers where Hayato waited patiently for her.