When we left him later, stuffed full with hot chocolate and cookies that Wilden gave us, we were in a good mood. After cutting away from the topic of murder earlier, Isaiah and Wilden had gone off on a discussion of what it was like being a friend of Grandfather and Uncle Marcel, both of whom were, no doubt, famous in Moorwalk.
“But you weren’t listening to us, were you?” he asked as we walked away from the clock tower. The rain had finally stopped, but the yard had shallow puddles of water quite large that I was nearly compelled to jump in them. “The whole time you were studying the clocks. What exactly are you looking for around them?”
“It’s a secret,” I chuckled.
“A secret? Must it be that way?” Isaiah glanced at me disapprovingly.
“Looking for fingerprints that might have been left behind,” I muttered.
His disapproval only grew. “That is…disgusting.”
“Is it not?” I simply smirked. “But we are working on a case that I no doubt may not receive a reward out of except permanent friendship from an otherwise tough-to-please friend.”
“Are you talking about Mr. Lindon?”
I frowned. “Well, he is an important person to me, as a brotherly figure. I grew up around him often before Grandfather died.”
“I’m sorry, but I fear him.” Isaiah dropped his head, observing his nails. “He rather appears controlling, was my first impression, so I’ve been trying to avoid him. Do you think he could have…killed…”
“Lindon a killer?” I scoffed sarcastically. “Sure, of course he’s got enough motive. And emotion to do so. But I do admit that Lindon is a bit strict and uptight. You might call him a douche, an arse, at a first impression. He wasn’t like this back when I was a kid when Grandfather was alive, you know. Hot-headed and foolish, maybe, but he was freer.”
Isaiah looked up and raised his eyebrows. “I find that hard to believe.”
“You would since you don’t know what he was like. Part of that change might have been because he got married too early. It was a social meeting where Lindon was looking for someone to get a loan from for a business project, a shipping company. The person who accepted it was Emily’s father, under the condition that they get married. A business wedding, then.”
“Is it…alright for you to just tell me about it without Mr. Lindon’s permission?”
“Of course it is. It’s a lesson, Isaiah: do not accept such a proposition if anyone ever tells you, even if it’s to take care of your siblings. A decision based on supporting your desires no matter the consequences sometimes doesn’t work out, in the same manner as what has happened today. Once Emily’s family hears of this story, Lindon will get into trouble. Especially for bringing his mistress over while his current wife was still alive.”
“That’s true…but do I really need that lesson?”
“You’re quite hot-headed yourself. How else would you end up with a string of robberies at your age? You’re even a few years younger than me, an age that someone like you should be in school.”
Isaiah made a sound that was a cross between a gasp of shock and a grunt of annoyance. Then again, his entire childhood had been spent robbing houses to provide for his family; frankly, no one was going to accept a boy with such criminal talent anywhere.
“Uncle Marcel is no different either, though,” I added thoughtfully. “He might be a wrinkled old man at this time, but he is still quite energetic. You just don’t see it.”
“You know, the reason he doesn’t want to know who the killer is is the same as mine.” When Isaiah looked at me, puzzled, I continued, “The people who live here, who are our suspects, are people who we care for: the servants, Wilden included. On the other hand, Lindon only cares to clear Amanda’s name. Dr. Jennings on the other hand, even if he is lying, is only an outsider. If I have to find out the killer, this means that someone we trust will be gone. Lindon will do the same like Uncle Marcel did with Aunt Kamillia: he’ll do his damnest to side with the woman he loves.”
“So where do we go from here?” he asked finally, as we reached the front porch of the mansion.
“Do me a favor and start preparing a lunch with the cook,” I replied.
“You’re going to investigate alone? Do you need my help?”
“No need. I’ll be fine. I’ll call you if I need anything.” I dug my hands into my pockets and pulled out the Spider Clock.
Seeing it, there seemed to be a look of understanding on Isaiah’s face. “Alright! I’ll go and help with the cooking. Yesterday’s dinner was delicious, and now that I think about it, thanks to the incident, we haven’t eaten breakfast yet, have we? Except for the snacks that Mr. Wilden gave us, which were great, but let’s have something filling for today!”
I watched as he eagerly went in the direction of the kitchen and marveled at how he somehow got used to the mansion’s interior while I was still get lost in corridors that didn’t lead to my usual guest room. And I have lived here frequently for a break out of the city.
When he was gone, I went up to the second floor. What I was going to do right now would be seen as absolute rudeness to the Lorrens, especially since it’s one of the things I remember being scolded for in my childhood: snooping around the house. Back then, I used to dig through people’s closets and then run around the mansion in an expensive coat – mostly one of Lindon’s – until someone caught and spanked me.
Still, the older they get, the more secretive my acquaintances seemingly get that the fight to stop looking through their rooms while they weren’t looking got harder. I doubt that Lindon would be happy if he found me in his room despite asking me to find out how Emily died.
There were many empty rooms in the house, except for the wing where the servants sleep when they weren’t here for work, like today. Guest rooms were plenty, but they would only be cleaned if there were guests present.
I passed through the many corridors I found myself on, starting from the row of guest rooms that included mine and Isaiah’s, then came to the servants’ wing, which was empty and quiet, cleaned rather well despite that all except the cook had gone to visit their homes.
Somehow or other, I came to a part of the house that was rarely approached. I’d been led here when I found the floor, thick with dust because no one was supposed to come here, decorated with footprints. They led to a particular room with massive wooden double doors with a carving of birds and roses, which were swung wide open, as were the windows, possible to air it out.
The furniture that used to be in the master bedroom here were all gone, except for the bed, unlike last summer when I came, and were replaced with newer sofas, a walnut dresser, and an elaborately carved room divider behind which was a stand with a pile of clothes.
The bed wasn’t the last of what remained of the previous room; the portrait of Mrs. Marcel Lorren, or Aunt Kamelia to me when she was alive, was one of two around the mansion, with this one showing her in a standing posture with a tea cup. The painting was done at a distance, so her full silhouette was seen in a blood-red dress. Her expression was indistinguishable, but she looked as proud as she always did. It was free of the cobwebs I had seen collecting on it from last year. The silver frame it was fitted in, which I brushed lightly with my fingers now, were polished.
Someone had either been cleaning this room out, and it was probably Lindon. Now that I think about it, Lindon moves the most around the house. Was he planning to move his things here? It would make sense since this was the bedroom of the owner of the castle, and it used to belong to Marcel – when Aunt Kamelia was still alive, that is. Uncle didn’t like coming here alone when she went with the stars.
I clicked open my pocket watch and light shone up as dots, like constellations. The constellations took on the shape of squares and a rough blueprint of the Castle appeared, with one dot standing out, which was my location. How I got here from my intention to reach Lindon’s current bedroom, I do not know, but then again, I never quite know why I always end up far away from my intended location.
For a moment, I felt a bit of resentment; if it was Lindon who killed Emily, then his motive was obvious. But that’s if she was actually really killed. But if she was killed, then this case would stink of some meticulous planning. For Lindon, who hid nothing when he lost his mood, a premeditated murder was impossible. If he killed her, it would be an accident, and remain an accident. And he definitely would not lie through it…
Or would he? Presently, he was planning to divorce Emily in order to marry Amelia, right? So is that not enough motive to lie? And in front of me, a frequent consultant to the Moorwalk Enforcers.
And then if I considered Amelia’s motives, were she the killer, she could share the same thoughts as Lindon, but Lindon could have told her of my reputation in Moorwalk. Was she the sort who would dare risk my revealing her as culprit as we never met before?
How irritating. Will this be the first time I start doubting my grandfather’s friend’s family?
In this manner?
Trash had been heaped in a corner, and I approached it out of curiosity. I wonder if I could ask Lindon later if I could take all this and bring it back to the airship. But what interested me more was the accordion sticking out of the mess, which I pulled out now.
The air bags were already eaten through by termites, so it was technically useless, except for the weight and the tiny trinkets I could salvage from the inside, so Lindon probably won’t want it. He was the sort that threw the rubbish out when he didn’t need it.
It gave me an idea, suddenly, and I jumped to my feet. Scouring through the rubbish again, I could a thin string and made my way to the foyer – yes, following my pocket watch lest I lose my way again – and reached the top landing of the grand staircase.
I tied the string to the accordion and then, with a strong swing of my arm, I lobbed it upwards and watched as the accordion dangled by the string on the chandelier. I loosely tied the string to the railing, then searched my pocket for a scrap of paper and pen.
“Master, where are you?”
I jumped when I heard Isaiah’s voice. He had exited the entrance from the dining room. “Lunch is finished! Come now!”
“Wait, wait!” I gasped. The dear boy blindly walked beneath the chandelier. “Run, Isaiah!”
By such bad luck, Isaiah did not run but instead turned to my voice, just as the string beside me snapped with a sharp twang. I felt my stomach clench as the accordion fell – and scuffed him in the head.
And he lay on the ground, comatose as a rock.