Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 171
The bald detective didn't take Nuit's boasting seriously, of course. He didn't think Nuit was intentionally lying though. He had seen many men like him in the military. He'd looked up the lieutenant's background before coming. Though he seemed to fit the assailant's description best, he was evidently not involved.
He moved to the desk and casually looked over the things on it. His gaze paused on the bottle of whiskey for a moment. He lifted it up, smelt it, and turned it over. A single droplet coalesced on the rim, which he licked up and tasted. Nothing was wrong, he decided, and put the bottle down unhappily. He looked like an alcoholic to others, but he didn't care.
"I find something rather curious... How can you afford a bottle of 571 whiskey for a single night with your fling on your salary? This bottle is at least two and a half thales, that's nearly a whole paycheck for you, not to mention you wouldn't have gotten yours yet this month. You don't strike me as the kind to have free money just lying around either. Where did you get it?" the bald man asked.
Nuit really wanted to tell the man to shove it, but he didn't dare do so while his captain stared at him like that.
"I got it from Claude. I happened to bump into him as he was heading out of town. I begged him for a bottle from the crate he has in his office."
The bald man walked out without a another sound. Nuit grabbed Bjard as he was leaving.
"What's going on? What made you all barge into my place so early in the morning?"
Perhaps because Nuit had been investigated, and appeared to be free of suspicion, Bjard dropped his act.
"Don't you know? Somebody assassinated Sir Fux last night, and he did it after infiltrating the mansion in a naval officer's uniform.
"The mayor had me out of bed before sunrise and dragged me to Fux Manor. The servants said a first lieutenant who called himself Abraham had come to see the councillor late last night. None of the other lieutenants were out of base last night, however, only you."
"Huh? A councillor was killed? Wargod above, this is huge..." Nuit's jaw nearly broke the floorboard.
"I gotta go. It's fine now, take the afternoon and recover from your hangover, maybe bed your wench a couple more times. You're on duty tonight... Oh, and we broke down the door on our way in, so you better fix it."
"Wait a second, what's that old baldie's job? Why haven't I seen him before?"
"Beats me. I forgot his name. I think he's a famous detective from the royal capital or something."
Viscount Wenisk had put his anger at his lieutenant's poor showing to bed by the time he got on the carriage. He was rather conflicted. All of his lieutenants so far seemed innocent. Nuit was the only one that might cause trouble for himself.
Wenisk hoped the man was innocent; if he was guilty, it would ruin Wenisk's career and soil the navy's reputation. On the other hand, if he wasn't, then they had no leads so far.
Joseph joined him with his usual gloomy expression.
"Is it him?" Wenisk asked hesitantly.
"Who's Claude?" the detective asked.
"Can't be him. He's only 18. His father was driven to suicide by Sir Fux, but the debt's already been paid. His patron, Baroness Maria handled everything. He repaid his debt to her by helping out with Normanley Real Estate."
"His father was forced to commit suicide? Care to elaborate?"
"I only know what I do second ear, but I heard some six thousand people attended the funeral. No one in town is happy with Sir Fux, or... was. I don't know the details, all I know is it was apparently the councillor's doing. You should ask Captain Horic, he knows the town better than I do."
Horic had not been in town much longer than Wenisk, but he had worked closely with the townsfolk, especially Normanley Real Estate and, through it, Claude. He was their best shot at a clear recounting of events. He had told Wenisk a little about what he knew, though that was mostly focused on how the debacle would affect the councillor's future political prospects. They hadn't been good. A good portion of the town had already formed a coalition to ensure he was not re-elected.
Joseph's eyes brightened.
"Let's pay Claude a visit."
"He should be working in Normanley Real Estate's office," Wenisk said, "You don't suspect him, do you? He doesn't look like a killer at all."
"Let's just pay him a visit. We've cleared the navy, so now we move on to those most closely associated with it in town. This Claude is just that, and he has a motive for wanting the councillor dead. And you say he's a good hunter and fighter? He seems to fit the bill perfectly so far."
The carriage stopped in front of the company's three-storey headquarters a couple minutes later. Wenisk led the detective inside. He had the rest of the men wait outside, to Joseph's surprise. Wenisk merely mentioned that the company was owned by Baroness Maria and Joseph understood.
Claude's office was in the prime position on the ground floor. He was in the middle of reprimanding a designer for getting measurements wrong and ruining a design.
Looking at Claude's loose, brown-black hair, pale face and the shadow around his eye, Wenisk raised his eyebrow towards the detective. 'See? I told you he looked completely different from the killer,' he seemed to suggest.
Upon seeing Wenisk enter, Claude waved the designer away and welcomed the two apologetically.
"It can't be, Lord Viscount, are you here to rush me for the plans again? You're getting a little too impatient... I told you it'd be settled after you decide where you want the brothel to be. There are no other issues. I can't finish the designs until you decide. Look at my eyes. I haven't slept for days because of your plans..."
"Ahem--" Wenisk cleared his throat awkwardly. "--Um, Claude, I'm not here to talk about the plans. Detective Joseph wants to have a word with you."
"Detective Joseph?" Claude glanced at the silent, bald man. "Talk to me? About what? It isn't a background check for my admission to the army, is it? I don't recall such a thing. Doesn't city hall know everything already?"
"Good to see you, Claude," Joseph said, his eyes fixed on the boy, "I've come to talk to you about Sir Fux."
"What? Sir Fux?--" Claude's face darkened immediately and he glared at the suddenly unwelcome intruder. "I must apologise, Sir, but I have nothing to talk about in relation to that man."
"He forced your father into suicide, didn't he? Don't you hate him?" Joseph asked.
The veins on Claude's forehead nearly burst, but he took several deep, surreptitious breaths and calmed himself.
"You had best leave, Sir. As you have heard, I have work to do." Claude pointed to the door.
Joseph sighed. He'd hoped to pick up on something, but the boy acted exactly as he would expect an innocent, affronted young man to. In fact, his self-restraint was impeccable. He either didn't know about the councillor's death at all, or he was a very good actor.
"Sir Fux is dead. His corpse was found in his house last night," the detective said when he saw the muscled young man actually make to shove him out of the office himself.
The boy's eyes literally lit up with happiness for a moment, then dimmed with dissatisfaction and disappointment. Joseph knew that look too well. It was the look of someone who'd been robbed of revenge.
Claude's eyes continued to change, however. A moment later they were burning with rage. He actually grabbed Joseph by the collar, lifted him off his feet effortlessly, and shook him like a doll.
"You're shitting me, aren't you?! That old thing isn't dead; he can't be dead! Who dared kill that bastard!"
"Claude, let go!" Wenisk bellowed, "Sir Fux is dead. I saw his corpse myself."
Joseph watched as the boy held him up in the air for a moment longer, then dropped him as he deflated like a balloon. He trudged back to his desk and collapsed into his chair haphazardly.
"How can that thing just die... Who killed him?! Ah, I had it all planned! That bastard escaped me! F*ck..."
"You had it all planned?" Wenisk asked.
"Next year's election... his status as a councillor--" The boy hugged his head. "--I'd planned everything with Uncle Thomas. I would make sure he'd lose the election and force him to live in town like a miserable commoner. I wanted to make him suffer for at least a decade. Damnit, why did he have to go and get himself killed! F*cker!"
Wenisk secretly shot Claude a thumbs-up.