The wind rushed and battered their fleeting forms. Birds leapt like tortured souls from their homely roosts, fluttering about with vast intensity. The men and women rushed as fast as they ought with the Forrester at the lead. Fields made way to sparse woods till they submerged themselves in the shade of the trees on either side in an oppressive mess of bark. The trees bent to the right along a large stretch of road. At the end where it turned left once more, there was an opening, clear of any view of more trees where the view struck them. The sun now midway in the sky cast a bright show of sunlight over a large glistening lake. Great, yawning pines and oaks and other such flora surrounded distant pathways that slit the green landscape. The area was surrounded by all manner of plants and trees, from large, impressive birch trees to willows dressed in their frilly hats.
The forrester stopped at the edge and held his nose with one hand, the other deftly making the sign of the cross. Once done he stared morosely at the others and pointed over the edge. With a great sigh, Mr Lord went first and glanced down. He slapped his mouth and held it there before looking at the rest agitatedly. Brakken stepped forth with Whitely. he glanced impassively outwards, to where a crag jutted out from the cliffside. Quite a fall. He shrugged, turning away. Whitely fell to his knees, the immense weight of grief slowly rising above the shock. His whole body jerked as he was racked with dry sobs.
The Lady stepped forward.
"No!" the Forrester yelled.
"Carpenter, I will see the body, you shall not stop me," she growled, determinedly.
"It is not the sight for a Lady, I would not wish it upon anyone."
Even from behind her, the Landlord spoke out, "I am inclined to agree," he choked, but she pushed the Forrester and peered out. For a moment she saw only a rock. Then with closer inspection, she noticed the body. She gasped, then panted heavily with hysteria.
"Oh my," she held her hands to her lips and shook her head.
"Twas only to be expected," Brakken said, "I do not see why you all look so shocked and sad."
"How could you say such a thing? Have you no compassion?" the Lady argued.
"I have a mind of logic, compassion is only an obstacle that is unnecessary. In answer to your first question, his death was one I long foresaw," with that Brakken glared at Whitely,after all, your dear friend Mr Ward was actualy 'In-inspector Ward'," he half smiled at his little joke which soon became a look of smugness at Whitelys tortured face, "I am right aren't I, oh please tell me I'm right," Brakken begged mockingly.
"You dare joke now?" Whitely stood up, clenching his fists, "I'll kill you-"
"Oh but William, that is not your forté is it?" Brakkens voice dripped with implication, with venom.
"For you, Mr Whitely, are a criminal. With this tiresome, flitting eyes of yours, you are undoubtedly a dirty, rotten thief-"
"SHUT UP!" Whitely leapt at him in pure anger. He made to punch his face but Brakken merely sidestepped causing him to miss and tumble to the grass.
"On the floor where you belong," he sneered. The Forrester, who had been comforting the Lady now stepped up.
His face chalky white, he went to Whitely's side and faced Brakken. Ready to defend Whitely.
In the shadows of the trees, more bent and ominous than ever, two squirrels, one red and one grey, fought. The latter pushed the grey squirrel back till it was cornered. Deeper down, two stags clashed antlers. Birds knocked into each other and bats stirred, glimpsing into the light of day. Nature was restless.
"That's enough now," his voice was quiet but forceful, "I think we should pay our respects to Mr Ward and leave."
"I have just the thing!" Mr Lord grimaced, half-heartedly. He pulled out a match, drew a deep breath and lit it before tossing it down. They watched the orange flames lick the boulder, burn the body till it was no more than ash that drifted across the afternoon breeze, "may his soul rest with God now that it is free from it's earthly chains."
The others nodded and made the sign of the cross. A tear fell from Mrs Lord's eyes.
As he stood, looking out and wishing he were doing something productive, Brakken stirred. Was it a sound? A mere feeling he'd had? Some sort of instinct warning him of danger? He turned and peered into the darkness behind the trees but there was little more than a flash of a shadow.
Eventually, as the sun began to sink into the depths of purple and pink and the winds picked up, fluttering the bony branches, the group made its way back. More leaves fell from the trees as teeth from an old man and the mud squelched sickeningly underfoot.
Night was swiftly arriving as the party drank, drinking spirits high but mental spirits once more low. One patron began an old County song in rememberance of the Inspector and soon more were joining in. As the solemn merriment reached it's peak, Brakken slipped from the room and up the stairway. Once at the top, he entered the first room.
It had the appearance that it had been previously inhabited, and yet something about it seemed decaying and old creating the effect that things had been left a long time ago, half finished. The chair of the desk was slightly out of place. There was a candle now burning low and a plate of cold meat untouched. There were clothes on the wrinkled bed, the quilt pulled back and the pillow halfway down the feathery mattress. The wardrobe door was closed.
Brakken first went to the desk and opened the first drawer. There were sheafs and sheafs of parchment inside of scrambled writing almost illegible, yet several small images and symbols caught his attention.
Before he could take a closer look, the door behind him creeped open. It was a noise almost to quiet to detect. He heard a rush of air and leapt to the side. Turning round he saw a figure hug the air as if he had tried to grab him. It was Whitely.
The man shot a piercing, eye bulging stare at Brakken and advanced.
Brakken held out his hands, still on the ground.
"Wait," he called up, "I can explain," Whitely stopped and Brakken took this as an invitation. He scrambled up and dipped his hands into his breeches pocket. He pulled out the crumpled piece of parchment and handed it over. Whitelys eyes quickly scanned it. He collapsed onto the bed and dropped his hand. He didn't move or speak for some time.
"That is why I am in here," he spoke meaningfully, to appeal to his friendship with the deceased man, "and that is why I need you. You knew the man better than most thus you would have known the situation I should think." Brakken sat next to him, in a hope to comfort him and thus gain the information he desired, "your chance at redemption," at these words, Whitely looked up, "tell me whatever you know and I will make sure that the demon pays," Brakken smiled, something he had not done without his usual sarcastic twist or sadness in a long time.
Whitely looked at Brakken, "why did you insult him... his memory, then? What happened?"
"I am a complicated man Mr Whitely, this morning I received the letter under my door and went downstairs to find out what happened," Brakken explained, "at first it came as quite a shock, then the anger hit me and I took it out on the one man that could not fight back," Brakken lied, "but now... I feel a calling, his letter has stirred something inside of me that I must see to the end.
Whitely sighed, "Then I'll tell you about me first, that's where you'll see just how special the Inspector was."