Seymour stepped back a pace in alarm. “That is most certainly a most interesting development.”
“You must track her down! Surely that is the key to the recovery of my fortune!”
The Aechyed frowned. “You believe, then, that it was she who stole it?”
“Of course I do! Why else would she run away?”
The detective laughed mirthlessly. “For innumerable other reasons. Perhaps she was threatened by the real burglar. She did not strike me as a pleasant person, but neither did she seem to me a thief. But I’d best have a look, anyway.”
He stepped inside the door and immediately froze, a peculiar look upon his face.
“What is it?” asked Caligard.
The Aechyed sniffed the air like a hound on the edge of a scent. Then he looked down and met Caligard’s eyes. “Something is very wrong here.”
“Well of course it is—!”
“My good sir, no offense meant, but please cease your bleating.” Seymour brushed past Caligard and strode down the corridor that led to the kitchens. Uncertain how to react, Caligard fell silent and trotted along behind him.
They came to a halt in the middle of the kitchen, facing the place where the four boxes of potatoes had been upon the occasion of his last visit. There were only three there now. Swearing vehemently, Seymour lunged at them and began prying the lids off of them. They all still only contained potatoes, but it was clear that the potatoes from the missing fourth box had been evenly distributed between the remaining three, for they were entirely full. And something did not seem right about the potatoes themselves. He held one up and inspected it. The skin was splotched with strange dark stains that had not been there before. He touched the tip of his tongue to the rough surface. Blood.
He looked about. The floor was dirty, and there were marks upon it that could only be made by a broom. He saw the object in question leaning against the wall beside an empty fireplace. But why would someone sweep the floor if to leave it still in such a filthy condition? To obscure a trail, of course. And where would they leave the broom? At the end of the trail. Seymour leapt to the fireplace and craned his neck to look up the chimney.
“Mr. Caligard,” he called, his voice echoing in the chamber.
“What is it?”
“Your maidservant did not run away. She was murdered.”