After they had finished their meal, the butler, Bernard, led the guests into a sitting room while Henry stayed back to have a word with the priest. Seymour contemplated being a nuisance and hanging about, but the anger smoldering in the young lord’s heterochromatic eyes frightened him a bit, so he followed the others out into the corridor. Whatever Henry’s grievance was, Seymour certainly didn’t envy that priest.
Feeling rather awkward and slightly lost, he sat down in an armchair slightly apart from the duke and his family. He wished now that he had headed straight back to his room rather than wandering on after them, but now that he was here, it would be weird to leave. All he could do now was hope that they would become so engrossed in their own conversation that he would be able to slip out unnoticed.
“Mr. de Winter!”
The Duke of Viarlieth beckoned him over to the group. Grudgingly, Seymour joined them by the hearth, seating himself as far from Sir Ferdinand as he could get away with.
“So,” said the duke. “I hear you’re in Carvil to take a look into the Edmund murders.”
Sir Ferdinand leaned back in his chair and crossed his feet upon the coffee table. “What’s the point of it? His lordship’s brother freely admitted to killing his parents. And there was no reason for him to confess falsely.”
“No reason?” Lady Alina interjected. “Charles Sigmund is mad. Madmen don’t need reasons.”
“Reason or no,” Seymour said, folding his arms, “Lord Henry believes his brother to be innocent. I intend to gather what evidence I can find and make my judgments based on that alone. Really, I shouldn’t be discussing it at all, if it comes down to speculation. I don’t wish to bias myself.”
“You oughtn’t go adding your opinions on issues you know nothing about,” Sir Ferdinand said to his sister.
“Excuse me?” she demanded.
Seymour rolled his eyes. “You’d be wise to take your own advice, mate.”
“Now listen here, grunie—!”
“Oh, dear, Sir Ferdinand. You’re bringing me dangerously close to mentioning the hand cream. Wouldn’t want that, would we?”
Face contorted with rage, Sir Ferdinand made to fling himself in Seymour’s direction, but his father caught him by the belt before he could get far. “Sit down, Ferdinand! For Rezyn’s sake. Can we not have a friendly conversation?”
“He started it!”
Seymour waved his hand, unfazed. “It’s fine, your grace. I’m not bothered. But no more gossip on the Edmund case, unless anyone here has a lead for me.”
“Very well. I’m sorry for bringing it up. And for my son.”
“No worries. Again, I’m not bothered.” He yawned, remembering at the last second to cover his mouth. “Pardon me. I do, however, have a matter I would like to discuss with you.”
“With me alone?”
“I don’t care particularly, provided that our conversation is not needlessly disturbed.”
The duke sighed. “Ferdinand, please go.”
“But I wasn’t—!”
Haughtily, Sir Ferdinand left, brushing past Bernard—who was coming in with a tray of tea—on his way through the door.
“Yeah, that was probably a good call,” Seymour said. “I don’t think he likes me very much.”
“So, what’s on your mind, Mr. de Winter?”
“I have another case that I’m working on—well, I hesitate to call it a case, really, since I’m not trying to solve anything—anyway, it concerns a young man arrested in Viarlieth. A nonviolent offender, a Sysaran national, and a minor at the time of his detention. It is my understanding that he turned himself in as a means of escaping a dangerous situation. Yet instead of releasing him into the custody of his relatives or even deporting him, as normal police procedure would dictate, Viarlieth officials had him transported to Waelyngar, where he was made to stand trial—in his own defense—for crimes committed on Sysaran soil. Is it common practice in Magramland, your grace, to try children for nonviolent offenses that were perpetrated in other countries?”
“I should think not.”
“Good, I was hoping it wasn’t. At any rate, this young man was convicted and is now a year and a half into a twenty year sentence. In Waelyngar Penitentiary, no less. He’s rooming with an alleged murderer. Do you find that troubling?”
“Of course! In Waelyngar…with a murderer…” The duke trailed off, concluding instead with a shake of his head and a hissed exhalation. “Rezyn.”
Seymour nodded. “I agree. His uncle has hired a lawyer and is prepared to sue for his release, but it would probably be best for all involved if he could be freed without going to court. The uncle does not wish to jeopardize his governmental position through association with criminal matters, the kid has been traumatized enough as it is, and the agencies at which the suit would be directed would certainly lose much less in a settlement than they would otherwise. Do you think you could help such a settlement to occur, your grace?”
“I’ll look into it. What is the chap’s name?”
“Seoc Andrew MacInnes.”
At the duke’s request, Bernard produced a pen, ink, and a scrap of paper. Viarlieth scribbled the name down and tucked it into his pocket. “Very well, Mr. de Winter. If I find the facts to align with your story, you can consider it done.”
“Thank you, your grace. I shall be in your debt. Should you ever have need of my services, don’t hesitate to write me.”