Chapter 09 - The Victim
In the silent hallway, covered by a blanket of the night, the quiet
click of a lock being forced into place reached the ears of the young man. He
pressed his back firmly against the wall, listening to metal clashing together
and watching her hand silence its sound. He counted the seconds in his head
before moving from his safe position, knowing what distance to keep in order to
In the late hour, the raging storm clashed against the glass windows. It seemed to cover her light footsteps perfectly as she glided through the hallways, with only the occasional flash of lightning illuminating her slim figure. He watched her place her hand on the door, opening it and entering the room.
He stepped before the closed door, tempted to peek inside, but he had to be patient for this to work out the way he wanted it to. Pressing his ear against the door, he could mostly hear the sound of rain with only a blunt click and the howling wind as a diversion to the storm. But he did catch unto the distinct sound of the moving rings of curtains. For minutes he kept this position, merely listening and closing his eyes in concentration to seek the low sound of a voice he was so familiar with.
Since the thunder kept roaring in the background and the small gap underneath the door remained pitch-black after a good amount of time waiting, he finally felt safe enough to place his hand on the silver doorknob. The gap he created was just large enough for him to see through. The room he was looking into was dark; with the curtains closed, he could only see the vague silhouettes of the people he was technically spying upon. The detective girl was sitting on the bed, her head slightly bend to the person she was quietly speaking to. Her short bangs fell past her face and it was too dark to see her expression when she whispered words he could finally catch unto: "…had the ability to get me into trouble…"
Millina was still lying in the exact same position they left her in, with only her moving lips visible as an expression of emotion. He had to focus completely on the lady's higher-pitched voice to be able to hear the soft whisper that left her lips. "…Ring." And even then, he wasn't sure if he heard it correctly… did she mouth Ring or Rin?
A short laugh, soft and guanine escaped the detective girl's lips. The youthful innocence alone made his heart skip a beat at it. "Silly nickname that was," the detective girl stated, before shaking her head softly. "No… silly nickname it still is…"
He could see the silhouette of a hand reaching out. The detective girl did not stir or move away, allowing herself to be caressed. And he could not help but furrow his eyebrows at the intimidate display of affection accepted by a person that would usually emotionally shut herself out. "Thank you," she gently replied.
And this caused the detective girl to lower her head. "There is no reason to."
Millina's hand did not move from its place. "You really are a kind person," she responded. A silence passed between the two of them as the lady combed through locks of hair that were dark-grey in the absence of light. "…How can you say that?" Rin muttered then. "I came here for my own selfish reasons."
"…You did not have to come back to apologize," Millina's words rang out.
"I owe it to you," the detective girl admitted in a low tone. "You know what tomorrow will bring. I can't protect you."
Placing his hand flatly to lean against the door that was standing between them, the young man stepped as close as he could to that door. No matter how many times he reviewed this in his mind, he could only conclude that they shared more than the simple relationship between a detective and a previous case acquaintance. And this was confusing in itself, since he had seen Rin react coldly to the lady before.
"…Will you stay with me for tonight then? Not… as a detective, but as my friend?" Millina lady had asked from her.
He could picture the detective girl's uneasiness at this question. "…I can't." Earlier on, he had been convinced that she could care less for the lady but how wrong he had been in his assumptions. "When I leave this room, our past will be of no relevance anymore. And this will be our final goodbye."
"If only I had been able to find you sooner…" The lady's voice held a hint of sadness. "I wanted to restore it all to you… the money your family's mansion made on the market, as well as the amount we inherited. You were entitled to it more than we were. When I think about it after all these years, I know that my father should have taken you in after Oliver –."
"It's fine," she interrupted. Len tensed at the sharp edge in her tone, recognizing it as an indication to close the topic. "It doesn't matter anymore."
"….I hired you because I missed you," Millina confessed. "I missed you… so much."
His vision was only slowly adjusting and by that logic, he knew that the detective girl's would too; at this moment she should able to see the vague contours of the furniture. He had an advantage by looking into a lighter room, but couldn't help but wonder how much time he has left before she would be able to see the darkness of an opened door.
"Both my marriage and my friendship turned out to be a joke," the lady then spoke.
Regardless of that, the young man was reluctant to move from his position, knowing that this information would not have reached him through the detective girl herself. And Len couldn't help but wonder how much else she had deliberately withheld from his knowledge. This wouldn't be the first time he had caught her telling him a lie.
Millina continued to whisper words that weren't directed at him. "I regret pulling you into the mess I have made."
Rin exhaled a breath. "I warned you not to leave the ballroom."
The words left the lady's lips in a low mutter, in a tone that didn't seem to suit the graceful and kind woman he had come to meet before. "…He never was happy with just me. He desired more than I could give him." It was such a clear contrast, that for a moment, he couldn't comprehend that her tone could carry such grief and bitterness. "In the end, I just hadn't been able to deliver."
He could feel his heart pound faster at the confession those words seemed to hint at.
The detective girl chose not to respond immediately, or perhaps she hesitated as well, because she did pull back to create distance between them. "Where is she now?"
He could see the lady shake her head. "We did not need her," she stated. "He did not need her. He should not have wanted more. If he had… settled with me, then this would never have…" The sound of a shaky inhale seemed to echo through the room and the quiet whimper that followed was something he could barely catch unto. "…I would never have…"
Thunder rumbled loudly, symbolizing the end of the conversation. There was a clear shift the detective girl's posture when she had torn her gaze away. For a moment of rain-clattering silence, her eyes travelled across the room. The tone of her voice, that had become stiff and business-like, was a familiarity that made him tense. "I will be going now," she stated and he took an immediate step back. The last sight he saw was the detective girl leaning closer to Millina, pulling the blankets around her form. That was when he carefully pulled the door towards to its frame and shut his visual image. And while he longed to confront the detective with what he had just witnessed, this was neither the time nor the place. That is why, even if it was hard to pull his feet from the carpeted floor, that he stepped back from all this and left the hallway.
Lightening, thunder and heavy rain fell that night. It was only until the morning that lighter clouds started to fill the sky. Rain turned into drizzle, making it another gloomy day in England. The weather seemed to grieve along with the residents of the castle. The gravity of the situation only now started to sink in. The master of the castle, Keaton Callisford had been murdered. Everybody knew it; even the maids had somehow caught unto this information. The next morning was stiff, for everyone was still on their guard. Maids tried to smile professionally, but the traumatic chandelier accident didn't help their jumpy mood. Every once in a while, the sound of broken porcelain rang through the halls.
When the detective girl opened the door to her guest chamber, the surprise nearly made her drop a cup herself. "Len?" she could only respond, gazing at the clothes that lied abandoned on the floor, to travel to the sight of bare shoulders and ankles, peeking underneath a thick blanket. And while there were no undergarments on the floor, she was appalled by the fact that he was using the blankets of her guest bed.
The young man cracked an eye open, gazing at her before burying his head back into the pillow. Before quickly shutting the door behind her, she only gazed back to reassure herself that no one else had seen the display of a scene she didn't feel like explaining. "Len, what are you doing?"
Not eager to respond, the writer's arms folded around the pillow and embraced it, groaning quietly in protest. He didn't seem willing to wake up just yet. This didn't affect the detective girl's will to interrogate him and she stepped deeper into the heart of the room before placing the half-finished cup of coffee on the small table. She approached the bed, but not before picking his blouse from the floor. And for a moment she paused as she held it up for observation. "It's damp," she noticed. This did stir a reaction out of the blonde youth, who turned his head to her and looked at her with tired, squinted eyes. "They were yesterday's, they're dirty," he answered lowly, his voice carrying the hint of an early morning. "I've been running in it."
She looked back at him with a raised eyebrow. "If that is the case, then why did you not change into your own room?" she asked him.
This gave Len enough reason to give her a foul look. "You know why," he grunted.
"Hm…" the detective girl mused, her eyes resting back on the white blouse. She tilted her head slightly to the right as she almost innocently worded her sentence. "Do I?"
In the ungodly early hour of the morning, the writer was all but willing to follow her in her game of pretense. He hugged the pillow tighter. "…Yes," he stated. "You do."
Apparently done with the piece of clothing, she tossed the blouse at the bed carelessly. "At least get dressed before heading back to your room to change," she ordered him. "I am willing to look past the fact that you have been entering and sleeping into my guest bedroom, since ours do look identical."
"Don't give me that," the writer bit back, grabbing hold of his blouse and taking that moment of anger to mentally convince himself to sit up. "You know that I couldn't enter my own room without you. I waited hours for you to come back here, but you never did."
Her eyes lightened up. "Ah, we're finally getting somewhere."
The young man's eyebrows furrowed and he tightened his grip on his blouse. Blue eyes accursedly stared at the detective girl. "Why did you lock my door?"
She gazed down, the edges of her lips stretching in an almost menacing smile. "Why weren't you inside that room to begin with?" she countered.
He narrowed his gaze at that, irritated at the questions she decided to raise. She knew exactly what kind of answers would lie beneath the surface. "…I didn't trust you."
Her smile widened. "Good," she exclaimed. "You are finally being honest with me."
The writer didn't seem as amused. "You seemed like the kind of mysterious person that would wander off in the middle of the night."
"Well-calculated," she had to admit. "You never went to your room to begin with. And I didn't trust you to stay in-doors for the rest of the night either, that is why I attempted to lock you in."
"I am still waiting for a good explanation for that," he told her.
The detective girl smiled mysteriously at him. "Aren't writers naturally curious?" she proclaimed, quoting his words back at him. "I simply wanted a private conversation."
He broke their locked gazes, unfolding the blouse to stick his arm through it. It didn't matter that it was completely wrinkled; it was only a temporarily solution. He could see her eyes watching him as he started to button up. "…Can you hand me my trousers?" he mumbled.
She actually complied, tossing him the piece of clothing. While he attempted to make himself a bit more presentable, she reached for the cup she had placed on the table before, taking another sip from the dark-brown substance. "Are we heading for breakfast?" he asked her, changing subjects as he stepped away from the warm bed to pick up the rest of yesterday's attire.
"This is breakfast," she commented dryly, raising her cup. "Do you want to share?"
He paused, his fingers absently folded around his left sock that only half-covered his foot. "…No," he objected. "Yesterday, you skipped dinner and you didn't get an ounce of sleep last night. You can't function properly like this." He reached for his shoes.
"Are you ever going to stop concerning yourself about my wellbeing?" she frowned.
He looked irritated at her. "Fine," he exhaled. "Then I can't function without a proper breakfast." He pulled the strings on his shoes a little tight, knotting it.
She pouted."We're only heading for the kitchen, I am not wasting my time at a breakfast table," she was willing to compromise. "But let us head to your room first."
He rose from his feet, the waistcoat and tie in his hand as he nodded, agreeing to this. When she turned to grab the door handle, he averted his gaze. "Have you found her?"
The detective girl stopped, her hand frozen on the handle of an half-opened door. Slowly, she turned her head back to him. "…Who?" she questioned.
His stance didn't falter. "The second victim," he stated.
Dazzling eyes, that had continued to pierce into his, had grown distant. With a click, she closed the door again. "…I did."
The writer tensed at the words he hadn't expected to hear just yet. "…You did?" he repeated. He watched her nod her head once and somehow, he found himself unwilling to believe her. Was she truly being honest with him?
"You heard the lady's confession last night…" Rin quietly concluded.
"Would you have kept it from me?" he asked her. "…Or would you have kept it from everyone?"
Her eyebrows knitted together at that. "I don't like what you are hinting at."
Blue eyes gazed into the different-colored eyes of the detective girl. "She is important to you, isn't she? Lady Millina Callisford-Vanquost."
"Not in the slightest," was what the detective girl answered. "I came to that room last night to get a confession out of the lady. Since we are past acquaintances, I used the bound that we had once shared in order to lure her into a false sense of security."
"…And that is why you went to her room by yourself?" he filled in for her.
Her frown deepened at the light tone of his voice. "…What?" she expressed.
"…I think I finally understand what you've been doing all along." He raised a hand to her face and she tensed when he gently pinched her cheek. He pressed his face closer to hers, softly speaking the words. "If there is one thing I have learned from my years as a detective, it is that people often wear masks. They try to hide their true feelings and emotions from others, pretending to be kinder, lovelier or politer than they really are. Aren't you the same… Rin?"
She narrowed her eyes at him.
"Every rude statement you have made, every cold shoulder you have given… weren't they just to protect yourself? Aren't you a lot kinder then the image you're presenting?"
She removed his arm. "Millina was my childhood friend," she bitterly stated. "Once. A long time ago. It will not affect me. I refuse to be show weakness like that."
His eyes softened, looking down at her with an almost distant expression. "We all have people we care about in our lives. It isn't weakness at all."
She averted her gaze. "I am ending this case with my own hands," she coldly proclaimed.
He nodded. He watched her as she opened the door once more. It was only in her nature to take a step forward instead of taking a step back. As her assistant, he was willing to follow her to wherever she wanted to go. Until they would finally reach the conclusion together.
"Are you sure that you can handle a murder scene a second time?" she coldly asked. He had been confused when she had dragged him to the third floor after breakfast, pausing before a door to a room they had not been before. And now, he hesitated as he could only imagine what kind of scene would await them. "I… will be fine," he breathed. He had already grabbed his notebook and pen when they made their way up. In curt words he had described the murder of Master Keaton and the suspicion of Lady Millina. He failed to do this yesterday in all the commotion, but he needed to write a story in the end. Sometimes, he needed to remind himself of that. "I have been preparing myself for Lady Gillium's death since she disappeared last night."
This caused the detective girl to turn her full attention back at him. "How did you ever reach that conclusion?" she boldly questioned him and this caused the writer's cheeks to redden. "…I had already known about the affair. I was told at the masquerade," he decided to tell her.
"I see…" she mumbled, turning to the door. "Well, you're not half-bad at this job." She shoved the key inside the lock, turning it around. He froze when the door opened. A muff smell came from a very dark room. The only visible light was peeking along the edges of closed curtains. It didn't take long for him to realize that they were entering someone's bedroom. The detective girl simply went ahead of him and stepped further into the room. Just like last night, his eyes needed to readjust to the lack of light. The large bed in the middle of the room certainly stood out the most and realization only started to dawn on him when he noticed the amount of stuffed animals that accompanied the small figure covered underneath oversized blankets. He felt his jaw clench. This couldn't be right.
The loud rushing sound of curtains forced aside, nearly caused him to flinch. Daylight, though mostly dimmed by the thick grey clouds, illuminated the room. He could now see the clear absence of a healthy pink color on that very pale skin. The hint of the color blue on her lips was a cruel sight to behold and he couldn't tear his eyes from the little girl in front of him. The little girl that was the second victim.
"But, how did this…" he could only bring out.
The detective girl stepped next to him, putting her gloves on. She lifted the blankets to reveal a small blue and purple neck. "Strangled, obviously," she told him.
It was a horrible sight. "How could someone do this to a child her age?" he exclaimed. She lifted her head, staring at him through half-lidded eyes. "I found her here last night, already too far gone to do anything about it."
He frowned at the corpse of the child. "…I can't even… Did Lady Millina truly…"
Rin's eyes narrowed almost immediately. "She did," she coldly stated.
The writer hesitated, glancing at her. "…Do you have any evidence? A motive?"
This caused the detective girl's gaze to harden. "She was the one who brought Julie Callisford back to bed and the last person that had seen her alive," she reminded him. "I did find actual evidence against her. Together with the evidence she left on her husband's corpse, I am sure that this is a closed case for the police. But I dislike closing it here. The motive for killing her husband is a lot more clear than her motive for murdering her only child. Even after our conversation last night, I am still debating whether she simply snapped, or if there is more behind the story. Things do not fit the way they are placed now."
The writer frowned at her. "You're saying that as if… this is only a puzzle you need to finish…"
The detective girl raised her eyebrow. "Interesting metaphor. I believe you've said something similar before. In a way, you could compare it like that." Her eyes travelled down to Julie. "However, this is a little more complicated. The pieces can fit in different ways and some pieces are merely trying to distract you. There are multiple ways of finishing the picture and the end result will differ, depending on how you've placed the pieces." She glanced back to see a bewildered expression. "Ah, perhaps that was a little too cryptic," she had to admit.
"The way I see it, the only thing you're missing is a clear confession out of her," he thought out loud, turning away from the lifeless body of a once bright and polite young girl. He shook his head, his blue eyes travelling back to the detective girl's expression. This should affect anyone that knew compassion; witnessing the mangled body of a brutally murdered child. But like at the crime scene of Keaton Callisford, the detective was completely calm. Now knowing that this was no indication of her emotional state, he decided to express his concern for her. "Are you alright?" he couldn't help but ask. "…I can't image that this doesn't affect you."
She gave him a dangerous look. "My judgment isn't affected," she stated, the strict tone of her voice holding no room for debate. "I know exactly what is going on."
He heaved a breath, knowing that she had taken his words the wrong way yet again. He wasn't mocking her ability to stay rational, but knew that she would get defensive if he would try to explain it to her. "…Are you going to investigate her right now?"
"No. I already did all the work last night," she answered. And while he could easily question her decision to investigate a murder scene in the pitch-black darkness of the night, he wouldn't. He knew that the detective girl was capable in her work and she seemed extra determined to prove this fact after she realized that her conversation with her childhood friend hadn't been private. "Then…" the writer quietly asked. "Can we leave?" The blonde girl met his gaze for a moment, studying his expression. "Just… can we please leave," he breathed, averting his gaze.
Trading the bright bedroom for the dimmed hallway, the detective girl locked the door behind her. The writer bended forward almost immediately, his hands resting on his knees while long bangs covered most of his face. "Just… need a moment," he explained to her, leaning against the cold wall.
"Naturally…" she absently replied. The writer sank through his knees at her consent and took a deep, shaky breath. Rin did not say anything in the passing moments that followed and he realized that she was purposely keeping her distance. She did not comment on the pathetic scene, she did not call him weak nor ask him if he was alright. She merely waited for him to pick himself from the floor.
They both hadn't anticipated the appearance of a young maid, looking at the both of them in surprise. The young girl with short, red locks of hair carried a small tray with a steaming cup of tea and a small sandwich. It wasn't hard to figure out why she had come here. "Oh my… Sir, are you alright?" she asked Len with a soft, gentle voice.
"He's fine," the detective girl monotonously answered for him.
The writer nodded, slowly taking the moment to rise from his feet. "I'm fine," he reaffirmed. "I will be fine."
Rin's gaze shifted to the writer, before resting back on the maid. "Please take your tray and turn around," she ordered her. The young girl looked bewildered, her golden-colored brown eyes widening. "Madam?" she asked, hesitating for a moment. "Julie – "
"Julie Callisford's room is forbidden to enter from this point on," the detective girl stated, cutting through the air like a knife. "Take your tray and turn around."
The young maid's lips parted and closed again, torn between her morning duty and the need to follow the orders from an authority figure. She took one glance at the closed door, before nodding. "…I understand," she said, before turning away. Her steps were dim on the carpeted floor and the detective girl watched her retreating figure turn the corner.
"Have you calmed down?" she then asked him.
Len stiffly nodded. "Yes," he breathed.
He could see the skepticism in her eyes, but she pulled herself away from the doorway nonetheless, keeping her opinion unspoken. "Then, there is only one thing left for us to do," she proclaimed, giving him a small smile while stepping further into the hallway. "We are heading to your room next, Len."
He followed closely behind her. "What would you need there?" he asked.
"Now, we can't be rude. It is only policy to return something borrowed." The edges of her lips spread and a glister of amusement was visible in her different-colored eyes. "You didn't want to keep that dress, did you?" she chuckled.