Pale Hunt (Editing)

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Chapter 7

After many unfruitful attempts at locating Jane’s missing necklace, Briar and Rena had given up most of their hopes. Briar feared her theory might have been wrong. Who was to say the killer actually sold the piece? They could have thrown it in the nearest bin for all she knew. If he was well dressed enough to slip past unnoticed he wouldn’t be in need of the money the piece could offer.

As they entered the last shop that could hold some answers, Briar’s mind returned to the man that had been after Dante. He had been well enough dressed to not catch anyone’s eye. She wondered how he was involved and why he claimed to be Dante’s friend.

The shop’s bell rang behind them, announcing their presence. An older man appeared from the back, grinning widely at the two. His shop was small, littered with little trinkets on shelves and tables. They all had a little tag with a price, but Briar doubted it was set.

“Good afternoon, how may I help you two lovely young ladies,” the shop owner said, his voice as shaky as his hands from age. As he blinked, the movement was barely visible through the wrinkled skin that covered most of his lids.

Hope had already left Briar, knowing that even if the killer sold his items here, the old man couldn’t provide an accurate description.

Rena spoke up instead. “We are looking for a jewelry piece. A friend of ours lost it and we were hoping that someone might have found it and sold it.”

“You’re in luck.” Briar’s ears perked, her gaze following the man as he disappeared once more into the back room. He reappeared not long later, holding a chain gently between his wrinkled fingers. “A young man came in yesterday. He did not mention where he found it, but he was eager to get rid of it.”

Rena took the chain, inspecting the piece that hung from it. Stepping closer, Briar did the same as she looked over Rena’s shoulder. The familiar silver that encircled the stone greeted them, catching the light as it turned on its own.

“It’s hers,” Briar whispered into Rena’s ear before turning back to the shop owner. “Can you tell us anything more about this young man?”

Rubbing his chin, he thought for a moment. “He gave his hat as well. Let me get it for you.”

Once more, he disappeared. Briar and Rena shared a look, the necklace dangling between them.

“Do you think it was the man on the train,” Rena asked, her voice hushed, “the one who accompanied Dante?”

“I can’t be sure—” Briar’s sentence was cut short as a familiar top hat appeared with the shop owner. Swallowing, she nodded. “It was him.”

“Do you remember what he looked like, Sir?” Rena leaned forward on the counter, smiling as the shop owner took a step back. “We wish to thank him for keeping the necklace safe.”

Accepting the excuse, he sighed and placed the hat on the counter. “I’m afraid my sight leaves much to be desired. I can only tell you that he was a tall fellow, dressed mostly in black with brownish hair.”

Expecting as much, Briar nodded. The killer had chosen this shop specifically for a reason. “Thank you, Sir. How much for the necklace?”

“Take it, both of them,” he said, waving at both of the items. “I did not pay for them, so neither should you.” He gave them one last smile. “Good luck in finding him.”

Briar turned to leave, unsure if she should grimace or laugh at the old man’s cluelessness. If he had known who he had been talking to the day before, would he still wish them the same? Tugging at her gloves, Briar took a closer look at the top hat as they stepped out of the shop and onto the street.

“It isn’t much,” she said, glancing at Rena, “but it is a start. Perhaps we can take it with us when we question the passengers.”

Rena put Jane’s necklace in her dress pockets before she wrapped her arms around herself in an attempt to protect herself against the cold. “It’s worth a try, it might trigger a memory.”

“Exactly.” Looking up from the hat, Briar furrowed her brow as she noticed Clyde approach them. He shot Rena a curious look as he got closer, raising a brow. “Detective Graveward.”

“Please, Clyde,” he said, returning his attention back to Briar. “What a coincidence we run into one another once more.”

“You’re the new detective?” Rena asked, frowning.

“I am.” Confusion was clear in Clyde’s voice. “And who are you to judge?”

Rena took her time to look him up and down, being as subtle about it as a horse entering an antique store. “Aren’t you an interesting combination of genes.”

“One of your friends dies and this is your best replacement?” Clyde pointed at Rena. “If I had known you were this desperate for company I wouldn’t have left so early.”

Pinching the bridge of her nose, Briar sighed. “What is it you want, Clyde?”

“I simply came by for a friendly hello, yet I’m left uncertain if I should feel flattered or insulted.” Clyde’s eyes fell on the top hat, and with a swift move, he took if from Briar and put it on his head. “Looking for a tattered hat to match your father’s coat, Miss Blakewell? I have to admit the design is very elegant even in its worn state, but it is a bit of uncostly choice when it comes to presents.”

Rena tried to snatch the hat back, but Clyde held it out of her reach. “That doesn’t concern you.”

“Well hello there, aren’t you feisty?” Clyde grinned down at her.

Putting a hand on Rena’s arm, Briar came to stand beside her, holding out her hand for Clyde. “We believe it to belong to the real murderer.”

The grin fell from his face, being replaced with a serious glint. “Dante is our killer.”

“We both know that not to be the case.”

Clyde placed the hat back in her hands, straightening out his jacket. “You’ll see in time what kind of man he is, Miss Blakewell, and then you’ll be turning him in willingly. The only reason I let you off the hook last night was so that you could lead us right back to him. Until proven otherwise, Dante is guilty of Miss Jane Morris’s murder.”

“Then I suppose it’s a good thing I do not know where he is either.” Narrowing her eyes, Briar took hold of Rena’s hand. “Now if you’ll excuse us, we have a lead to follow up on.”

Clyde leaned back on his heels. “Amuse me.”

“We’ve concluded there might have been a witness to the murder,” Briar said, tugging at Rena’s hand as she stepped around Clyde. “The actual killer was interrupted before he could finish drinking.”

Briar continued to walk, noting that Clyde was neither following nor responding. After what she decided to be a reasonable distance, she glanced over her shoulder, seeing Clyde still standing on the same spot. He waved at them when he caught her looking. Scoffing, Briar turned her gaze back to the road before her.

“I don’t trust him,” Rena said, squeezing Briar’s hand. “There is something off about him, I didn’t feel comfortable.”

Briar huffed. “That was not what it looked like.”

“Briar, be serious.” Rena laughed, nudging Briar’s shoulder with her own.

Smiling, Briar squeezed her hand in return. “I’m joking. I understand what you mean. Even I wouldn’t lure him into a kiss in his office.”

“He has his own office?” She raised her brow, a suggestion that Briar was all too familiar with in her latching onto her tone.

Briar’s smile turned into a grin. “Oh yes, it even has blinds that can be shut for a moment of privacy.”

Jane might not have enjoyed Briar’s occasional rendezvous, but Rena could simply not get enough of the stories. The occasional jab at the subject never failed to lift their spirits. Though, it made Briar wonder if Rena ever got the courage to follow the path she so eagerly listened to.

“His lips did look quite appealing,” Rena said, followed by a soft laugh, “or was it only me who thought so.”

Briar squeezed her arm, leaning closer. “You were the only one close enough to notice. Did he smell of roses as well?”

Rena continued to laugh, her cheeks reddening. “Enough!”

Entering the station, Briar wasted no time seeking out her father in his office. His secretary did not even bother to look up from her work as she passed her. Pushing open the slightly ajar door, Briar put on a sweet smile for her father. She could still not forgive him for what he had said to her, but she could put on a convincing act to still get him to help her with the case.

“Father,” she greeted him brightly.

“Ah, Briar, there you are.” Standing from his chair, he took a folder that lay on his desk. “Here are all the passengers that boarded that day.”

Taking the folder, Briar noticed the slight resistance her father offered before letting go. “Thank you, Father.”

Putting a hand on her shoulder, he gently squeezed it. The skin around his eyes wrinkled into a saddened expression. “I hope this can finally put your mind to rest.”

Releasing some tension from her shoulders, Briar nodded. “I hope so too. Do you have a lead on Dante, yet? Where he might have gone?”

Letting go of her shoulder, her father clasped his hands behind his back as he rounded his desk. “Not yet, Clyde and a few other officers are out looking for any sight of him now.”

“He must have been more powerful than we expected.” Briar lowered her voice, fiddling with the folder close to her chest. “You know how I can’t help but doubt everything, but it seems my doubt was unneeded.”

“I know how deeply you cared about Miss Morris, it is only natural that you question it.” Sitting back down in his chair, he leaned back as he watched her with a look of pity. “But sometimes things are as simple as they seem, even if you don’t want to believe it.”

Briar gritted her teeth but kept her smile in place. “I’ll be staying over at Rena’s again tonight, she’s still having a hard time.”

“Of course.” Nodding, he dismissed her.

Briar closed the door behind her, letting out a long breath.

“Still falling for it?”

Briar looked at her father’s secretary who had spoken while still busing herself with her paperwork. Shaking her head, Briar started for front doors where Rena was patiently waiting with the killer’s hat.

“It’s almost too easy.”

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