Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Chapter 2.1 'Murder in the Alley'

Tracey (Drake), Rasmus (Silas) and Myself. Photo By Oleg Zacharov


From the journal of Misteline.

Some time on the night of the 11th Augustus, 2 men died.
It was raining, heavily, and few people were on the streets.
2 Bodies were found on the morning of the 12th, and soon afterwards rumours began to circulate that Marius Coppercup had been murdered.

13th Augustus 1622 - the Commission:

Because of the risk of civil unrest and the political repercussions of Marius Coppercup's killing, the City Council met in the afternoon.
Later in the evening I was approached by an agent of Adriana Arabella Wormpole. I have had commissions from members of the Wormpole family before. There are several objectives:

§ Find out who killed Marius Coppercup.
§ Do so discretely; report to Adriana (or her agents) first, but it is not, and cannot be a secret that I am investigating. On the other hand, I do not have an official status as such.
§ Do not publicise a result that makes the House of Wormpole look bad. I was assured that although the Wormpoles and Coppercups are bitter mercantile and political rivals, the Wormpoles were not responsible for Marius' death.

I was given a pouch of 150 crowns (a typical working wage is 4 / week) as compensation for my time and expenses, and the help of Rufus, a notable blade allocated to guard me.

As soon as I had accepted, my good friend Drake and I walked over to the area in which the corpse had been found.
As on the 11th it was a wet and stormy night. Few people were on the streets, and the shadows were deep. Actually, there were occasional islands of illumination; the doorway of the Eel and Spindle, the doors of the watchtowers (where from guards peered into the gloom) and such light as strayed from curtained windows. Few people could have seen, or heard anything.
We returned. The walk took far longer than I had anticipated, and I resolved to seek lodgings at the inn.
And so to rest.

14th Augustus - to the Inn of the Eel and Spindle:

My good friend Drake, Rufus and myself, together with a man to assist with our materials, arrived at the Inn around midday.
Drake and I shared a suite, whilst Rufus took a room on the second floor.

The Innkeeper is Trevick Featherlock, who appears to be under the thumb of his wife Magda.
The barmaids are Lucy, the prettier one who gets her bottom pinched, and Meredith, whom we didn't see until later.
Waldo Scuttlebut is our neighbour in the adjacent room over the back alley, a fine musician, though no longer a young man.

We ate at the bar, and learned that actually 2 corpses had been found; Marius in the alley against the windowless wall of the Inn (more or less beneath Waldo's room), and an unknown old beggar or drunkard in the unused ground on the other side of the alley (behind the house of Bartholumus Pyle).

Silas, is another investigator, claiming some official position. I am willing to appear to assist him, to allow myself more discretion, and indeed to share most information with him. He had already heard that an eminent man of medicine had examined Marius, but had not seen the official report.
A guard; Albert, had found him at dawn. He was the night watchman doing his rounds. Joe, the Milita guardsman who was on duty at the door of the Captains tower, had seen nothing as he had withdrawn from the heavy rain.
Marius appeared to have been stabbed, but clothes befitting his class were not in evidence.

3 other regular guests walked into the Inn:
Captain Woodrow of the Militia. Retired, and too fond of his drink, but he promissed to arrange for us to see the official / medical report.
Murdoch, one of Augustus Marrow's guards, the other being Merriweather.
Tomas Fennel.

I decided to examine the corpse of the unknown beggar, and to this end, Rufus, Drake, Silas and myself made our way through the afternoon drizzle, to the shorter of the 2 towers, where Albert, Joe and the other guards are stationed under a sergeant.
The sergeant didn't hold with our methods, but was agreeable after I compensated him for his inconvenience.
I recognised the corpse at once, as I had seen him some decades ago, it is Captain Murder the pirate. I fear that the others could not miss my reaction, but I resolved not to make this official, nor to tell Silas, until I have considered the political implications.
[This means you, Rasmus, I'm putting it in the write-up, but Silas does not even suspect this.]
There is also the matter of the 10 000 crown reward, which may never have been revoked, funds that I could well use for my philosophical endeavors.
On the other hand, it might be very difficult to prove that this was the infamous pirate. Beneath a stained cloth we saw the bloody corpse of a once powerful man, apparently well fed and healthy, but now old, and having obviously lived rough for at least several weeks before his savage death. He had been stabbed, by a dagger, some 50-60 times, during which he had attempted to fend off the assailant with his arms. The killing blow was probably one of several deep stabs to the neck or upper chest.
Many of the blows were angled downwards; this is the work of a dagger, not a rapier, and not, in the expert opinion of Rufus, in the hands of a skilled knife fighter.
Most were from the front; suggesting a single assailant.
There was no sign that Captain Murder had been armed, nor that he had attempted to arm himself with, for example, part of a fence. I wonder at this.
There was no sign of drunkeness, but I would not expect such after 3 days.
The corpse would be taken to a communal grave at the city's expense, in due course.

We also talked to Joe, one of the militiaman who had found Marius' corpse at first light.
It had been a dire night, and Joe had been stationed inside the doorway of the taller, officers', tower, peering out into heavy rain, but he had was somewhat sheepish about how many breaks he took. He could not have seen much, although he could have heard shouting, though he did not. Militia guards have been known to take bribes to turn a blind eye to minor matters.
Marius had been slumped against the side of the alley, against the Eel and Spindle, in a pool of blood.
Albert, the night watchman on patrol along the city wall road discovered the body and taking him for a drunk at first, attempted to kick him awake. He thinks that Marius may have been armed with a sword, or at least he had a scabbard (no dagger was mentioned).
Albert noticed a single wound to the chest.

On the way back to the Inn, we enquired after Captain Woodrow at the taller tower. He was not in his quarters, nor did anyone know, or even care where he was. I fear that the good Captain will forget to help us see the medical report.

Back at the bar, I partook of some of Magda's particularly fine pickled eels, but my companions did not eat.
We asked who had been in the Inn on the night of the murder. Apparently there was quite a party.
Magda Featherlock who left early.
Trevick Featherlock.
Lucy serving (not sure about the other girl Meredith).
Waldo Scuttlebut entertaining.
Tomas Fennel.
Bartholumus Pyle.
Captain Leander Quartermoon's man Marlowe.
4 other people who came in as a group.
Marius Coppercup, who seemed in good humour, scribbled a note (it is fairly common to leave such letters at an Inn) to Augustus Marrow earlier in the evening, and slipped out quietly fairly late. He was found in rough (outer) clothes, so what was he wearing in the Inn earlier, and where did he change?

Common practice at the Inn, is to piss in the back alley (pissing in the back yard is discouraged by Magda, as it is unpaved and muddy). On such a night, people would be inclined to piss just outside a doorway, under cover of the eaves.
People inside the Inn (I'll have to check where Magda sleeps, Meredith sleeps over the front corner) would not have heard shouting outside in the rain, or thought much of it.
Bartholumus was not at home for much of the evening, so I should check the other neighbours.

Meredith arrived looking upset. It was she who had found Captain Murder. I persuaded her to take us to the site.
She had been looking for a cat in the waste land between Bartholumus' house and a warehouse. The fence from the alley is broken (and there was plenty of debris, including, for some reason, numerous barrel hoops, from which a brawler could improvise a weapon).
My great friend Drake is a superb tracker, and he showed us his interpretation of events:
Captain Murder had a little bivouac under bushes towards the warehouse. The door had not been opened in years.
There was a scuffle in the open ground towards the middle of the waste land.
There were 6 sets of footprints, one of which was unaccounted for (probably the assailant), a clearer specimen was also found near Marius. It was a normal boot (not of a pauper, nor an aristocrat) of a largish man.
The Captain was dragged to the cover under some bushes.

Back in the Inn Silas asked for the letter as potential evidence.
In due course, we retired to our suite, and I opened and successfully resealed the letter.
I also examined the note for invisible ink, and with light split by a prism, though the light of the sun or moon are better for this sort of thing, but found nothing.
A transcript is below:

My Lord of the darkness within
I have your birds in my cage
Lets us not bicker over prices.
I assume you still want your prizes.
If not,then you know I have others who will offer
a fair price.

Several things spring to mind:
This has to have something to do with the Followers of the Dark Lord, an unsavoury cult that many thought extinct.
They were reputed to kidnap youths, and young people and children have been disappearing of late.

Marius was connected with something dubious, but just how is open to several interpretations.
We could keep the letter, or pass it on to Augustus (perhaps on the condition that he open it in our presence), and see his reaction.

I composed a letter to Adriana, to be taken by Rufus [as Palle may be late].

For the eyes of Adriana Arabella Wormpole only, this being a preliminar report into the death of Marius Coppercup, from Misteline, on the night of 14th Augustus 1622.

There have been two developments to which I must draw your attention.

Firstly Marius Coppercup had written a letter on the night of his death, of which I enclose a transcript. The seal has, by my arts, been reconstructed.
You may draw your own conclusions, but it seems clear that Marius Coppercup was connected with the Followers of the Dark Lord.

Secondly, there was another corpse found close to that of Marius Coppercup.
This was none other than that of Captain Murder, although this is unrecognised. It lies in the smaller militia tower.
I have not announced this, as the inferred connection with Marius Coppercup may have political repercussions that I am not in the position to judge at the moment.
There is also the matter of the price on his head. I will refrain from claiming it myself, but anticipate some recompense for this at a later date.
May I respectfully suggest that your ladyship send agents to take care of this matter.

Affixed with my seal [which is bloody complicated, artistic, cunning, and with built-in puzzles that few (actually, by no one except myself) appreciate]



Palle "Nybyggeren" said...

Where is it? Where is it?

From the guy who could not sleep last night, thank God it is Easter.

moif said...

I'm not at home at the moment...

Palle "Nybyggeren" said...

I forgot that:-(

Reading Dumas' Three Musketeers to get the mood though. I like Takshendale, nice setting.

moif said...

Next time we start on the evening of the 14th Augusta, with the PC's gathered at the inn...

Anonymous said...

Great work Moif, will be back to see how the investigations are going. Keep up the good work.