Friday, May 30, 2008

Chapter 2.6 'Murder in the Alley'

From the Journal of Misteline

Interrogations and Conclusions:

Drake was working in the Apothecary for much of the day, trying to identify the poison and find an antidote for Augustus Marrow.
Rufus was scowling around outside, fondling the grip of his blade.

We found ourselves with 4 suspects in custody, awaiting interrogation. Actually 5, as Rufus observed an old man lurking near the Apothecary, whom he captured (unlike the tramp, he was someone worth questioning).
The suspects were kept, as far as possible, so they could not communicate.

§The Southern Mercenary Captain, who had already agreed to help Captain Leander Quartermoon in exchange for his life and possibly freedom.
§ Augustus Marrow, who may well by dying.
§ Captain Dogmoss.
§ Tomas Fennel.
§ The old man, who (eventually) proved to be Bartholomus Pyle's assistant.

Silas and I agreed that he would assume the rĂ´le of a ruthless investigator, and that I would offer a more lenient option to one who would talk.
We also agreed that we would question Tomas Fennel first, as he, a slight man, was not the murderer, and yet he knew things. Furthermore we could hone our technique on someone who doesn't really matter.
We dragged him across to the torture chamber in the basement of the Banker's house. The idea was to scare him, and it was far too successful as the wretch broke down and babbled incoherently; he had seen Captain Dogmoss wearing a shirt that had come from Sandy, and had drawn the obvious conclusions.
These were not definite, however. The Captain had one of Sandy's spare men's shirts, which suggested that he had borrowed or stolen it, and that he had seen her soon before her death. This put him under suspicion as her murderer, and since her murderer was probably trying to silence her, it put her under suspicion of being Captain Murder and Marius Coppercup's murderer as well.

I was trying to calm Tomas down, and extract more concise answers from him, when we were interrupted with the urgent news that Captain Dogmoss had hung himself in his cell, but was alive, though possibly dying.
We rushed over to see him.
As it was, although he had hurt himself and thought that he was dying, he had not broken his neck. He would not talk however (although he indicated that he would talk to a priest of the Church of the Holy Law). I asked Drake to mix a draught that would deaden his pain and loosen his tongue, and went in search of a talented actor with empty pockets and few principles.

Meanwhile Drake had established that Bartholomus' poison was a mixture of many things, that Augustus would inevitably die, and that there was no possible antidote... but that it would be possible to prepare something that would make him feel better for a short while.
Drake did so, and he and Silas questioned him.
The antidote worked, but the interrogation was only partly successful.
When Augustus Marrow felt his condition (apparently) improving, he cursed the Apothecary and his ineffective poison. He refused to talk, however, and cursed (and tried to spit upon) his questioners.
Silas produced equipment from the Banker's own dungeon, but would not use it as Drake is a fine man of high morals and great heart.
He did, as delirium overcame him, rave about the Black Rock; Beware the Black Rock, Could have done it but for the Black Rock, and what sounded like Why did she leave me? His ravings descended to inane babblings about Demons, then he died.

I had found some actors, including Julian Prodworthy, who agreed (for a fairly generous fee, I might add), to take on the character of Father Goatstussock, a (completely fictitious) priest of the Holy Law, to hear Captain Dogmoss' deathbed confession, to use his trained actor's mind to recall it to us, and to keep such matters to himself (at least for a while).
I dribbled Drake's drug into his mouth and assured the Captain that it would ease his passing, and that a priest was on his way.
Captain Dogmoss confessed, in detail and at length:
Decades ago, in the Pirate War, he had been a Struggler, in league with Captain Murder.
He had let pirates into his part of a citadel, betraying his own men.
Later, over the years, he had, in the course of his work, knowingly sent innocent people to punishment.
Then, he met Captain Murder again, and the pirate had tried to blackmail him.
He killed the pirate in a fit of rage, but noticed that he was observed (by Marius Coppercup), whom he also killed.
Seeing that he would have to pass a guard in the doorway to his tower, he fled to the arms of Sandy the prostitute (we had misread the time of his entry to the brothel).
Next morning Sandy saw that his shirt was covered with blood, and he was forced to strangle her in order to preserve himself, he then took a spare shirt (embroidered with roses) from her cubbard, returned to his room and disposed of his own shirt.

Tomas Fennel later realised Dogmoss had killed Sandy when he saw the embroided shirt and locked eyes with the Captain. At that moment he knew, and saw that Dogmoss realised that he knew.

Captain Dogmoss was quietly hung by the guards soon afterwards.
Julian Prodworthy and his troop accepted a commission (from Adriana Wormpole, at my suggestion) to tour away from the city. So far as I know they never returned.

This left us with the Apothecary's Assistant.
Bartholomus Pyle had been a pederast, whom the Assistant had supplied with boys from the street. Of late, his apetites had waned and he had sent boys away again untouched.
He had been seeking an antidote to the blistering, without success (this was probably caused by the Black Rock).
Food had been cultivated in the Apothecary's garden to feed mercenaries for a few days.

Captain Quartermoon questioned the Mercenary Captain, and compiled information from other conspirators:
There were to have been 18 assasinations, but all the targets were protected.
The conspirators were mostly a coalition of merchants, rivals to the Wormpoles, although the Coppercup family itself was not implicated.
Most were captured (eventually) or killed, but 2 escaped; the leader, known as Rena Koster or Renas Koster, and Aurore Marrow.
These were tied into a cult, which worshipped shards of a Black Rock; and became suggestible, sometimes insane or impotent, and usually blistered (I am not wholly convinced that these are effects of the shards themselves, as, in my experience, the supernatural is so often mere hearsay). The material is dense, but pocked like a cinder.
Bartholomus had supplied the shards, which he had obtained from Slapershaven.

A few days later we interviewed Albrecht di Spear. He recognised his notebook, which he claimed to have lost in a library, over a year and a half ago.
They were not architectural plans, but notes relating to The Old Royal Enigma, and a structure that had been thought to lie beneath the city, but that Albrecht was certain lay outside (though underground). It was the resting place of the old kings, and was linked to a secret society, perhaps of knights. There appeared to be complex coding of symbols within these illustrations (a fascinating subject in itself), and depictions of a mysterious plant, flower or tree (not the ones cultivated by Aurore).

So, as we had suspected, there had been 2 crimes:
Captain Dogmoss had killed Marius Coppercup, but merely because he had been there. He had also killed the pirate and the prostitute. This case was closed, and justice, of a sort had been done.
The conspiracy was another, greater matter, and although it had been thwarted, there were loose ends; Renas Koster (and Aurore) remain at large, and the Black Stone has not been located.

A few days later, I received another commision from Adriana Wormpole (250 crowns including expenses); to locate the source of the shards, and perhaps the origin of the conspiracy.
With no reluctance I gave the shards into the custody of Takshendal's shadier authorities.

No comments: