“My household is small these days, you understand—my wife is no longer with us and my eldest child, my daughter, has married and gone, so it is only myself and my two sons remaining here. Both are grown and both are bachelors. The elder of the two, Frederick, has, of course, birthright and shall inherit this house, what fortune remains, and the family honor when I die. The younger, William, will be provided for as best as possible, and I do not wish to be unfair towards him, but he is irresponsible and not to be trusted with anything of value.
“My monetary accounts have been, unfortunately, in a bad way for some years now, since my company, Caligard Grain, went into debt during the Ten-Years-Drought. I was forced to use my personal wealth to keep it functional, and I have not yet had any return on my investment. Even more recently, at a most inopportune time, a small fire broke out in the kitchens here, requiring several thousand knamick worth of repairs. I fear that I may have to rewrite my will, and when I mentioned this to my sons, both became most distraught. That was several days ago, on Tuesday.
“I have kept , for decades now, my dwindling fortune in a vault beneath the cellar of this very house. I was certain that no one knew of its location save for myself and my lawyer (who is entirely free of suspicion), but this afternoon, I descended to it for to withdraw ten knamick with which to pay my maidservant, Mildred, and found it empty.”
Seymour de Winter regarded him unblinkingly. “Have you not gone to the police?”
“Everyone knows they are ineffectual.”
The Aechyed smiled, exposing two rows of sharply pointed teeth. “Indeed. That is their best and worst asset. But,” he continued before Caligard could ask for an explanation. “Let us return to the matter at hand. When you say you found the vault empty, was that the only thing amiss?”
“Was everything else as it normally is? Was the vault closed and locked? Was there any signs of disturbance in the general area?”
“It was closed and locked, and I did not notice any signs of disturbance.”
“Of course I will inspect it presently. When was the last time you had gone to the vault beforehand?”
“Would you name all of the persons that have been in this house between yesterday morning, when you last checked the vault, and this afternoon, when you found it empty?”
“Myself, my sons, my lawyer (Mr. Brighton), and my maidservant, Mildred.”
“I see.” He scribbled upon a scrap of parchment. “Could anyone have entered without your knowledge?”
Caligard frowned. “Perhaps, but none of the windows can open and the doors are kept locked. If someone entered, one of us would have had to let him in.”