The day was not too hot, nor too cold, so Vlad could walk about in his coats without a second glance. The breeze was brisk and pleasant so the scarf that he used to cover the most of his face didn't seem out of place too. Today Vlad was going to begin with observation of his next target, the barber of Elmleigh, Jack Goodall. Earlier in the morning a figure as shadowy as he, had turned up at the gates with nothing but a very elegant note describing what had to be done and a Hessian sack full of pieces of the finest golds and precious gems. That was something you didn't argue with, something you sent one of the very best assassins to complete. The master of the guild had answered the gate and called me as soon as possible, this didn't seem difficult at the outlook but for someone to pay this and be as secretive as they are being, it could turn nasty.
Vlad finally came to the wooden gateway of the town, it was quaint and served no real purpose, but he supposed it was something historic that people liked. Ha! That made it sound like he wasn't a person like other people, he was distanced from them - so much so he wasn't the same species though? The rose vines twisted in the trellis of the gateway and along the tops of the fence that continued as far as the untrained eye could see.
Elmleigh was one of the larger towns near Grittenogh Castle and the tiny surrounding hamlet of Grittenogh. It was bustling with market stalls along the grubby streets, full of colors, entertainers with painted faces, beautiful fabrics, produce of great size, trinkets and jewelery that looked precious but were of a relatively cheaper metal. One could secret oneself among those stalls and not be spotted if you could be still enough. In fact, many thieves and pickpockets, hustlers and pad-foots patrolled the markets for potential 'customers'. It was fair game really, they let themselves in for it. Vlad moved with the people, it was like a dance and Vlad appeared as merely an extra in the piece. He passed a seller he recognized yet for the life of him, a name escaped him. He passed on, traveling through the streets he knew so well until he reached the south of Elmleigh, the residential district.
He found the street he needed and set himself in the shadows of a willow tree. He observed as his subject, the barber Jack Goodall leave his house; he kissed his wife, a small ginger woman with heavy curves and a yellowing apron tied round her middle, which accentuated her figure more so. Vlad moved along in the shadows following and watching as Jack went about at his business.
It was soon quite late, Vlad's pocket watch announced that it had been five o'clock half an hour ago and the barber should have left then as his sign proclaimed. He was still inside, pottering about with bottles of perfumes, soaps and brushes, making them meticulously clean and ready for tomorrow. Not that he'd see tomorrow. Vlad entered the shop and quickly placed his hand on the bell above the door, silencing it. He walked softly along the wooden floor to the humming man. Jack turned around.
"Oh hello sir, didn't hear you come in, do you need a shave and cut?" He was as softly spoken as he looked, his watery eyes were lined and his hands were aged with the soap and water of years past.
"Oh, no. I was looking for someone." Vlad removed his top coat, his scarf but not his gloves. Most people found this to be a sign of friendliness on his part.
"Well maybe I could help." He put the jar of hair wax on the counter.
"I suppose. Do you know of a Mr Goodall, first name Jack." This could be easy. Vlad was playing it safe though.
"Now would you be looking for me or me father?" The man smiled, he was obviously at ease. Who would want to kill him? Why?
"It was the younger. I was told." 'Still treading carefully'. Vlad thought to himself.
"So what you need stranger?" He seemed so naive, it was saddening, only for a second, yet still painful for Vlad to watch how this man didn't know anything.
"Oh I am here to ask you a few questions, on the behalf of Mr Haligan up at the university." Vlad needed a bit more for the entry and although this was almost cheating, it wasn't as if anyone but the readers of the volumes in the western tower would know. Beside that, he needed to know why from the horses mouth.
"Oh?" Jack paused a moment. "Isn't he the one who takes over from the police in those weird murders? I'm telling you now, I didn't do squat!" He was suddenly fearful of this stranger in his shop and picked up a cloth for what seemed like comfort.
'Time to calm again, twice the sense of security and he'll remain that way' Vlad wiped a willow leaf from his lapel. "Heavens no! We thought you'd know anything about the man, and we're also concerned for you."
"Jesus H Christ. It's John Fuller, he's finally gone and done it, he wanted that poor boy in Farley gone and now he's gonna get me too!" The man held himself close to Vlad. He could smell the sweat that was beading on the man's brow.
"John Fuller you say? Why would he want to hurt you?" Vlad remained calm and collected.
"Look, ya gotta hide me! That man, they say he's taken down wolves without anything but his bare hands, I want to live Mister, I really want to!" His voice had become high and his fingers dung themselves into his shirt collar, whitening the knuckles.
"Calm down sir, all I ask is why he'd want to hurt you." Vlad pushed the man down onto his chair.
Jack put his head in his hands. "I suppose it could be that I slept with his wife and got her pregnant." What! He was calm now! Vlad didn't allow the shock to show on his face. But, this man! This graying, lined, calm, naive man? A philanderer? It didn't seem possible, and Vlad was one of the best judges of character.
"Now look at you Mr Goodall. You're a state, let me do your hair for when you get home, shave your beard. I used to be a barbers apprentice when I was a scamp." Vlad saw his opportunity and took it. The sky outside was darkening rapidly and no-one was outside.
"Yeah... That could be wonderful. You're brilliant you are Mister... mister?"
"Just refer to me as, angel."
"Ha, is your surname Angel?" Jack seemed to forget his previous woes and laid back into the chair.
"Yeah. I'm surprised you got that, you're quite the thinker."
"Well, I don't like to brag."
"So... Mr Goodall. Jack...." Vlad wiped his gloved hand across he blade of the straight razor. He put it down and pulled the small dagger from his breast pocket. "Did you think about how you'd die?" He pulled it quickly to mimic a razor along his cheek.
"I don't get it. And you've not put any shaving balm on..." And those were his last words. Vlad pulled the blade deep along his throat silencing him forever.
"I didn't need any." Vlad wiped the blade on the corpse's shoulder, put his coat and scarf back on to cover the tiny blood splash on his sleeve, and sneaked out of the shop via the back door, disappearing into the night.
He returned to Grittenogh Castle not a minute past seven o'clock. Changed his clothes and went to the tavern going to the barkeeper employed there and ordered one tankard of cider. He sipped it quietly, chatting to a few students and a few 'teachers' who all knew what he'd been employed to do that day.
A man in uniform came in through the door, he ordered silence with his mere presence. "The barber of Elmleigh is dead. I need your best scholars in crime detection as soon as possible." There was a drunken roar of general 'who's' and 'oh no' along with a few expletives.
Vlad piped, standing up in a mock drunken gait. "Mebee we sh-sh-should wait 'til the moooornink?" He slurred his words to sound perfectly acceptable as drunk. The smell of cider on his lips was enough to confuse the officer.
The policeman stood dumbfounded for a second, "Maybe we should wait, it seems you're all a bit, well pissed to say the least." He walked to the barkeep and whispered. Vlad listened,mock-nursing his cider. The policeman was to stay the night and in the morning scholars would be escorted by him to to scene.
Well. It had been a long day. Vlad mock-drunkenly stumbled to his bed. He slept easy after a day like this. It was disturbing yet he was thankful for it.