Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Chapter 7

Deanna froze as she thought over the facts. Harriet had grieved, right?
She thought back to the moment when she first met her, and how she'd had tears in her eyes, and how she was trying to be brave. Was she really? Or was it a front?
What could she have to gain from killing her own father? It made no sense, but Harriet had to be questioned. There was no going around it.
Deanna dreaded that simply because of how she acted when Deanna suspected that her mother's knife was the murder weapon.
She walked into the kitchen, throwing a glance out the window at the starless night. This was not going to be fun.
                                                                   *        *       *
Herndon was sitting at one of the tables, playing with the glass in his hand, lost in thought, when the man found him. He was out of breath, and waited until he was acknowledged before sitting down.
"They bought it." He said, still trying to regain his breath.
Herndon smiled. "Good." Was his only response.
                                                                    *       *       *
Deanna sat at a table, discreetly watching Harriet for any sign of regret or remorse, but she was quite the actress.
She watched her wherever she went, carefully examining her features and her posture for some sign of guilt, but she was looking in vain.
Eventually, she cornered Harriet in the kitchen when she went to fix a meal for her mother.
"Why did you kill him?" She asked bluntly. Harriet stared at her in shock for a moment, before recovering and anger quickly took over her shock.
"Excuse me?! I know you did not just accuse me of murdering my own father." She said, her voice like ice.
"You heard me." Deanna said. "Now drop this charade, it's just you and me in here; now tell me why you did it."
"Listen here you interloping, nosy, little wench," Harriet said, every word dripping with venom. "For the last time, I did not kill my father."
She barged past her and back into the dining room.
With the contempt that Harriet had delivered that final statement, Deanna admitted to herself that Harriet wasn't the killer. She may not have been crying like her mother, but she was still grieving.
"Well damn, so much for that lead." She muttered before walking back out into the dining room.
                                                                *        *       *
"She's going to have moved on by the time we get these two so-called 'wagons' over to the town." Cadman complained for the third time in the last ten minutes.
"If you've got any other ideas, I'm all ears." Cayle told him from where he sat in the back of the wagon they shared going over maps of the area.
The other wagon pulled up along side and Alroy jumped down and moved to the back of it.
"What's wrong? Why have you stopped?" Cadman said, his tone suggesting that he was horrified at the thought of stopping, now that they were so close to their goal.
"We've got a loose wheel." Alroy told him from where he was examining it.
"What?!" Cadman practically screamed.
"You heard me." Alroy said. Cadman started cursing, his words getting more and more creative as he went.
"I didn't know that a porcupine's home could be described like that." Finn commented from where he sat on the other wagon, watching Cadman curiously as he cursed.
"Finn, don't listen to him." Cayle said as he climbed out of the back. "Cadman, will you stop already, it's not that big of a deal, it's just a loose wheel, we can tighten it again and then be on our way, no need to get that, uh, creative."
Cadman threw out a few more colorful phrases then fell silent.
"Thank you," Cayle said.
Alroy walked up from checking the wheel, and glanced at Cadman. "I see you finally shut up."
Cadman glared at him but said nothing.
"It's about time too, we do have an impressionable youth with us, and best not to taint him too much." He said it with a smile to try and take any sting out of his words, though his attempt fell upon deaf ears. Cadman glared at him before climbing into the back of the wagon.
"Was it something I said?" Alroy called after him.
Silence was his reply.
                                                                 *       *        *
Deanna paced around the barn, her mind thinking quickly through the problem as she anxiously watched the sun rise. Every moment that passed brought her pursuers that much closer to her location.
Krennan snorted loudly, startling Deanna back to reality and away from her thoughts.
She smiled at him and handed him an apple from the bin; she patted his neck as he ate.
"What should I do?" She asked him. "I already messed up thinking that Harriet was the killer. Who else could stand to benefit from the Inn Keeper's de- Oh!" She said. "Of course!"
She kissed his forehead and ran into the Inn, forcing herself to walk before entering. It took all of her will-power to not smile in victory.
Harriet was sitting at the table with her mother, comforting her, when Deanna walked in.
"Now what do you want?" She demanded.
"I know who the killer is." Deanna answered watching them carefully for their reactions.
                                                                 *        *        *
"Have you calmed down yet?" Cayle asked; he got a glare in response. "You know, you are taking this way too personal. He didn't mean anything by it, it was just banter; harmless banter."
"I don't like him." Cadman said.
"Just because he made a comment? Geez, aren't you touchy today." Cayle responded.
"No." Cadman said. "I don't like him, not because of what he said. And beside's it wasn't what he said, it was how he said it." The moment the words left his mouth he regretted them.
"Well, well." Cayle said, taking the opening. "Aren't you Mr. Sensitive; I'm sure back home you drive the ladies wild with your sensitivity. Do you cry too?"
"Shut up, Cayle." Was the response, and then, after a moment. "You couldn't have let just one slip by?"
"Would you have let that one slip by had it been me?" Cayle countered.
"No, probably not." Cadman said with a chuckle. "But really, I don't trust him."
"Now it's 'I don't trust him'? What happened to 'I don't like him'?"
"You know what I mean."
"Hey, are you two done yet?" Alroy called.
Cayle turned to talk to him, only to see the wagon carrying Alroy and Finn was stopped some feet behind his own.
"How did you get back there?" He asked.
"The wheel fell off." Finn said. "Some time ago, actually."
"But you two were too busy bantering to notice." Alroy said. "So do you think you could give us a hand?"
Cadman started clapping, getting a glare in return, while Cayle just started chuckling as he turned his own wagon around, heading back towards them.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Chapter 6

She walked downstairs into the dining room, where there were still plenty of customers, talking animatedly with each other, oblivious to the woman's grief upstairs.
Deanna walked over to an empty table and sat down, contemplating what she should do next. Should she be subtle about asking around for the knife that killed the Inn owner? Or should she be more blunt and ask directly, maybe she would be able to catch the murderer off guard and his start of surprise would reveal his guilt, or at least his surprise at having been caught. Then again, the murderer might not even be in the building anymore, in which case it would be pointless to ask these villagers about it. She sat there, thinking this over.
She would have to act soon, or else all the suspects would just walk out the door, and Deanna couldn't let that happen.
She stood and cleared her throat loudly, silencing the room and drawing everyone's eyes to her.
                                                                 *            *          *
They stopped for lunch a little before noon, the wagons finding a path through the trees to a small clearing where they climbed down from the wagons, Alroy having joined Cayle on one of the wagons to rest his horse, who hadn't fully recovered from his extended run.
They finished off some left-over stew that they'd had for dinner the previous night, and also for breakfast that morning.
After cleaning his bowl, Alroy leaned back. "That was good." He said appreciatively.
Cadman nodded as he stood and began packing up their lunch. Soon, they were on the road once again.
                                                                   *            *           *
Every eye turned to her curiously. "We're going to have to check your knives," She said loudly.
"Why?" Someone asked.
"Because we want to make sure you haven't contaminated anything," She lied. "There is a sickness going around and we want to contain it and make sure that it doesn't spread."
There was a loud echo as all the customers dropped all their knives on their tables at once and filed out of the door.
Deanna almost laughed despite herself at their reaction as she walked over to the tables, but she pushed the amusement aside and got down to business.
                                                                   *             *            *
"I don't trust him." Finn whispered to Cayle as they were watering the horses. Cayle glanced back and Alroy, talking with Cadman.
"I don't either," He answered. "He seems a nice enough guy, but there's something not quite right about his story."
"You think he's lying?" Finn asked. Cayle shrugged.
"I think he doesn't trust us." He said. "Let's just see how this turns out, he doesn't seem like a bad guy,"
"But he might be involved with bad guys," Finn pointed out.
"True, but that is why we're going to see how it plays out." Cayle answered, walking back to the others.
                                                            *                  *                   *
After checking all the knives, Deanna sat down, at a loss. None of them was the murder weapon. She'd already checked the kitchen knives, and the knives that the staff had, all coming up empty; she wasn't sure what to do, and she felt bad leaving the woman's husband's murder unsolved.
She was sure she was far enough ahead of her pursuers to be able to stay at least one more day, but she wasn't sure how she could solve a murder in that amount of time, and she wasn't used to leaving something unfinished.
One of the kitchen servants brought her some food and drink, and she mused on what she should do as she ate.
                                                             *                      *                   *
They pulled up outside of a village and Cayle climbed down while the others stayed on the wagons as he did the usual questioning, coming up empty.
He walked out, deep in thought as to where she could have gone. A man walked passed him and hit his shoulder, when Cayle looked up the man nodded to the alley-way and walked towards it. Cayle followed warily.
The man wore a hood, but Cayle could see the long, unkempt hair that hung about his shoulders, and the beard that threatened to take up his whole face.
"Your looking for the girl, yes?" The man asked in a throaty voice that sounded as though he had something stuck in it, and his accent made the words hard to understand, and he spoke in broken English. Cayle nodded. "I saw her, not two days ago, pass by here, she was on horse, and she stopped at the Inn, much like you did, and then she continued, not stopping for the night."
"But I questioned the Inn keeper, and he said he hadn't seen her." Cayle said.
"She went to the Inn at the other side of town," The man said. "She was very careful, and kept her hood up, but I recognized her from the wanted poster."
There was a pause as Cayle absorbed this information.
"Is it true she killed an entire village?" The man asked in a shaky voice. "I hear she did that and many other things."
"I doubt it." Cayle said absently, thinking back to his encounter with her in the forest. If she had done what everyone says she did, then why hadn't she killed him?
"Well, thought I would pass along information," The man told him. "Strange man told me you would be coming and that I should keep an eye out, and tell you what I saw."
He turned to leave, but something he had said had raised a flag in Cayle's mind. "Wait," he said, the man turned back to him curiously. "What man?"
                                                      *                   *               *
Deanna thought over the problem at hand. She hadn't checked the Inn owner's wife's knife, as she, like all villagers, carried one, because she hadn't wanted to add to the woman's suffering. But it would have to be done. She had already checked all the other villager's who had been there, but there was no telling how long the man had been dead, so he could have been murdered and then the killer simply slipped out.
Reluctantly, she stood and headed to where the Inn owner's wife was being cared for by her daughter, who was trying to be brave for her mother.
"Excuse me," Deanna said as she approached. Both women looked up at her, tears in their eyes. "But I have a question for you, and it's not going to be easy,"
"What is it?" The wife asked.
"I was wondering if I may see your knife," Deanna asked, dreading every second of this.
"My knife? Haven't you already checked all of them?" The woman asked.
"Not the Inn's knives.." Deanna said as gently as possible. She could see the realization of what she asking dawning in the woman's eyes.
"I didn't kill my husband." She said firmly. Before Deanna could respond, the woman's daughter came to her mother's defense.
"My mother would never hurt my father, and how dare you say otherwise." Her eyes were cold as ice.
"I told you that this wasn't going to be an easy question," Deanna said. "But I have to check every knife.
"I don't care what you think you have to do or not, but my mother didn't kill my father," The girl's words were laced with venom.
"Harriet, please," The woman said. "She's trying to help us,"
"I don't care," Harriet said. "She's accusing you of murder."
The woman stood and walked over to the staircase and started climbing.
"Mother?" Harriet called, running after her. Deanna sighed and followed.
She really hated this.
                                                         *             *            *
"What?" The man asked, confused.
"You said that the man told you to tell me what you saw, what man? What was his name?" Cayle asked.
"I'm sorry," the man said. "He did not give one."
Cayle thought for a moment. "What did he look like?"
"Tall, I did not see his face," The man answered. "Kept his hood up."
Cayle thought about that for a moment. The man looked expectantly at him.
"Sorry," Cayle said, noticing the expression. "Thank you for the information."
The man smiled and walked away. Cayle went back to the wagons, lost in thought. What could this mean?
                                                         *            *           *
The woman walked into one the room where her husband's corpse was found and, not glancing at the sheet which covered the man, walked into the bedroom, the two younger women behind her.
She walked over to a simple wooden dresser and searched one of the drawers until she found a knife. She handed it to Deanna wordlessly, who inspected it very carefully for any sign of blood, but found none.
She handed the knife back to the woman, who tucked it back in the drawer.
"Satisfied?" Harriet demanded, moving to put an arm about her mother's shoulders. Deanna nodded.
"I'm sorry, but I had to ask." She said. The woman nodded.
"I understand." She said with the voice of someone on the verge of tears. Deanna excused herself and left Harriet to care for her grieving mother.
Something struck her as odd as she descended the stairs, thinking over the problem.
Harriet didn't seem to be grieving.
                                                            *              *            *
"What is it?" Finn asked as Cayle climbed back onto the wagon they shared.
"She was here," Cayle answered. "And there was a man who wanted us to know.
"Who?" Finn asked.
"No idea," Was the answer.
"Who was the man that you talked to?" Finn asked.
"He said he saw her go into an Inn across town, and that a man told him to tell us what he saw."
"Thats odd..." Finn said.
"Indeed." Cayle agreed.
"So what now?" Cadman asked, walking over from where he had been lounging on his own wagon.
"We get moving in the same direction; we've got nothing else to go on." Cayle said.
Cadman nodded and walked back to the other wagon and climbed on, and soon they were off.
                                                           *              *            *
Back in the shadows of the alley-way, a man smiled, his hood up to keep out the rain. He watched them ride off, occasionally glancing irritatedly at the sky, before turning on his heel and walking away.