Chapter One / Birds, a Woman, and the End of the WorldMature

            “You know, de Winter,” said the inspector, “I appreciate your enthusiasm, but if you’re serious about being commissioned to the Brysail Police Force, you may want to reconsider responding to ‘murder’ with ‘wonderful.’”

            Seymour set the kettle down and waved the nuance aside with a fin-like hand.  “Pshah. Who says I don’t want to be a freelancer for the rest of my life?”

            “You did,” Crowlinger replied.  “Last week, if I remember correctly.”

            “Hmm.  An unreliable source, I’ll have you know.”  He took a pitcher of water from its place on the windowsill and emptied its contents into the kettle.  “But tell me about this ‘development.’  Anything on the victim?”

            “A royal guardsman by the name of Hector Wilsby, who was stationed last night at the garden’s western gate.  He was found at his post early this morning, impaled upon his own pike.  It was quite the spectacle.”

            “And we know this is connected to the previous incidents involved in the so-called ‘Royal Gardens Case’ how?”

            “Well, I suppose it isn’t necessarily linked.”

            “Then why is it considered a development?”

            “There isn’t any evidence to suggest otherwise, as of yet.”

            Seymour set the tea kettle on the woodstove and lit the fire beneath it.  “Suspects?”

            “One, in custody.”

             “Already?” the detective said, raising his eyebrows.  “Who?”

            “Mr. Wilsby’s partner—”

            “Hold.”  Seymour raised a finger to stop him.  “Partner or partner partner?”

            “The other guard stationed at the gate with him.  Rezyn, de Winter!  Not everything’s about sex.”

            With a shrug, Seymour sat down on the opposite side of the kitchen table from Crowlinger and crossed his legs.  “I’ve spent the last five years of my life as a private detective, Inspector.  Most of my cases involve domestic disputes.  I just want to know what I’m dealing with.”

            There was a beat of silence.

            “As I was saying,” Crowlinger went on, eyeing Seymour as if daring him to interrupt again. “The suspect we have in custody was Mr. Wilsby’s partner, one Mr. Boris Cawker, who—”

            Seymour swallowed his grin, but not before Crowlinger noticed it.

            “Is something funny, de Winter?”

            “No, no,” Seymour said, attempting to mold his face into a picture of innocence.  “Carry on.”

            “—who was with Mr. Wilsby at the time of the homicide and fled the scene.  We found him hiding in a barn, gibbering mad, a few blocks away.”

            “Have you further evidence against him?”

            “Not as of present.”

            “So he could very well have merely witnessed the murder and fled for his own safety,” said Seymour.

            “That possibility remains on the table.”

            The merrish detective adjusted one of the many piercings that adorned his pointed ears.  “Has Mr. Caw…has the suspect been interviewed yet?”

            “An interrogation was attempted.”

            “And…?”

            “All we got out of him were various strings of nonsense involving birds, a woman, and the end of the world.”

            “Oh, dear.”  Seymour frowned contemplatively.  “That isn’t a promising start.”

            “You’re still welcome to have a go at it if you think it could be of any use.”

            A black shape appeared momentarily outside the kitchen window, drawing Seymour’s focus away from the conversation.  Then it was gone, and he realized that Crowlinger had asked him a question.  “Hmm?”

            “I said, you could do Cawker if you’d like.”

            Seymour blinked and raised his eyebrows.  “Can I take him to supper first?”

            “What?”

            “You said—oh, never mind.”  He exhaled through his teeth.  “Yes, of course I would like to interview the suspect.”

The End

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