“Well, what happened?”
He was so eager, Rand couldn’t stay still; adrenaline coursed through his veins.
“My goodness! Sit down, Randall. Explain it to us.”
“Um… of course.”
Rand pulled up a chair, but the second he did, he sprang back up. As though he was allergic to the cushion. He returned to pacing, scratching and clawing at his head for the right words.
“Southwark?” said Virgil, trying to fill in the blanks, “For the Knox-Dryden case?”
“That was libel, yes?” Overseer Drexel asked for confirmation.
Rand tried to speak again, “I was—”
“No, slander,” Virgil answered, “but I was under the impression that case was resolved. Dryden no longer sought recompense.”
“Correct—I was there tell Knox the good news. But…” he paused, “Overseer… Wendell Knox is dead.”
Appropriately, the Overseers hung their heads solemnly in response. And Overseer Virgil finally had to sit down. There was a moment of silence, but Overseer Drexel soon broke it with condolence.
“That is a blow, Randall. Truly. And you were his case worker, so it must hit you hardest of all. You knew him well. If you need time to grieve, I’m sure Overseer Virgil will allow you time to do so.”
Virgil shook his head, but continued to stare down at his hands rested on the table.
Then Overseer Drexel saw Rand about to speak out of turn, so he was quick to add, “However, as tragic as his death is, it was incredibly brazen and disrespectful to have barged in here. That is not the proper procedure in this court, or any other. You are fortunate that when you arrived, the mediation had already concluded.”
Rand nodded in agreement, “An impertinence. I apologise, Overseer. It will not happen again.”
“Nevertheless,” and Overseer Drexel rose, “a death in that setting, by one of such a profession is… unfortunately, a regular occurrence. Accidents happen.”
“Your grief is within understanding,” said Virgil. “Obviously your emotions are being affected by some chemical imbalance that ought to be rectified, but Overseer Drexel is right, Randall. You must have realised the circumstance of his death was not out of the ordinary. Rather than reporting to us with this misplaced sense of urgency, you should have contacted the mortuary.”
Rand sighed, “That’s the thing! From what I saw, I don’t believe Wendell’s death was an accident.”
“You mean,” asked Overseer Drexel, “that Knox somehow met his fate on purpose? That his death came about deliberately?”
The eyes of Rand’s superiors narrowed. It was clear to Rand, they did not believe him, or simply thought he was mistaken. Eventually, Overseer Drexel’s face turned sour and his tone rigid as he proceeded to give the junior mediator some advice.
“Rider... Your behaviour so far, while inappropriate is forgivable. And to exaggerate as a means to cope is peculiar and untoward but again, justifiable. Yet to lie is reprehensible and cannot be tolerated. Especially here. Is that quite clear?”
Without skipping a beat, Rand explained, “Quite, Overseer. And furthermore, I am not lying. I wouldn’t dream of it. There are indications that— or rather, a lack thereof— that Wendell Knox’s death was not an accident.” A smile could almost be seen on his face.
“A lack of indications?” the old man put his hand on Rand’s shoulder. “Randall, you are not a scientist. You are a mediator. A junior one at that. How—”
“I beg your pardon, Overseer,” Virgil interjected, “but Rider was not initially a mediator. Before he was placed in the Ministry of Mediation & Conciliation, his studies were in scientific fields. And if I may say so, he is extremely observant and intuitive. His claim may not be unfounded.”
“Is that so?” Overseer grinned with pride.
“It’s true, Overseer,” said Rand. “And that’s why I came here. To seek council, and to make sure. A second pair of eyes is all I would need to prove that what I saw is not just wild conjecture as you believe.”
Overseer Drexel wandered to the window with a hand on his chin. He muttered as he apparently mulled over everything he had been told.
“There would be nothing to lose if you were to confirm Rider’s suspicion,” Virgil added.
“Or disprove it, Overseer. I may be wrong after all.”
Then the head of the ministry turned away from the window and smirked at his underlings. “Foresight, gentlemen. Foresight… Virgil, what would happen if Rider is correct? What happens if the death is not accidental?”
Virgil replied, “well, if he…” His eyes widened as he came to the realisation that “… there would have to be an investigation.”
“Yes. Though more likely an inquest led by the Council. They almost certainly would not see the body for themselves, either. And assuming we came to some form of consensus, that we somehow agreed that Knox did not die by accident, that would most likely be the end of the discussion.”
“What do you mean?” asked Rand.
“The case would be closed, Randall. There would be no justice.”
“There would have to be. If a crime has been committed, we would owe it to Wendell and his family to find out how he died!”
“Easy, Randall. I'm afraid it's politics.”
“Politics aside, Overseer, we have a duty to corroborate with Rider,” said Virgil. He stood up and walked to the opposite side of the table alongside Randall.
“We do not. I am running late as it is. I have convene with the Council. If I’m late, it will be impossible to request an investigation go forward.”
“But we still haven’t proved Rider right.”
“Then you and Randall will have to hurry. Being that I am an old man, it shouldn’t be too difficult. When you find out, meet me at the assembly hall.”
“What if you’re in conclave by the time we arrive?”
“What if I’m wrong?” Rand asked pensively.
“If you hurry you may not have to find out.”
Randall and Virgil both looked at each other, before racing to the door, and down the hall.