Roland and Abigail reached the docks shortly after nightfall. It was mostly empty. By this time of night most merchants would’ve left, but the person they were looking for probably worked long nights. As they walked, Roland stepped in a puddle. He looked down and then jumped bacl.
“What is it?” Abigail said.
“Blood!” Roland looked down at the little puddle of blood he’d stepped in. There was a trail running from it. They followed it to the end of the docks, where it dripped off and imperceptibly mixed witht he scrarlet waters of the Red River.
“Great,” Roland said, “Another murder.”
“You’re awefully mellow about this,” Abigail said. She didn’t seem particularly bothered either.
“Not too sound all war wounded adn traumatized, but I’ve seen death lots of times.” Roland looked up and noticed Abigail had wandered off. After a moment she called that she found something and Roland walked over. Under a small, ragtag tent, was a sideways box filled with pieces of wood. Wouldn’t have been particularly noticeable, except that one piece was mostly intact. And it looked exactly like the bolt that had killed the Baroness.
“Oh,” ROland said, “So that’s that then/ Of course our only lead would be killed.”
“Shut up for a second.”
“Thank you.” After a moment, Abigail stood up. “It looks like your assassin returned. Perhaps he needed another bolt for another assassination. I wonder who his target was... In any case, the assassin comes for the bolt.”
“And, for whatever reason, he has difficulty with the merchant.”
“Probably raised the price.”
“Certainly possible. So the merchant provokes our assassin, and the assassin snaps. He knocks over the crate of bolts and stomps on them, smashing them to pieces. Then he advances on the merchant.”
“Who backs up to where the puddle was.”
“Right. He stabs the merchant and the merchant collapses, and the assassin leaves. The merchant writhes on the ground for a while. Then, blinded by pain, he begins to crawl in a random direction and crawls right off the dock.”
“And the Red River takes him to his grave... Just like that old song.”
“My mother always used to sing me that song. She always had a morbid sense of humor.” Abigail’s eyes seemed to drift away and she spoke softly, “And they would never be together, and the Red River would carry them to their grave.”
Abigail seemed to come back to the present. “I, uh, that’s all I remember.” She blushed a bit.
“The tale of a doomed love between a human and a Fae,” Roland said. “Not a bad story, all things considered. Tragic.”
“Yes, well, let’s move on. See if we can find any other leads our killer left.”
“Like footprints in the blood... Look,” Roland said, kneeling down. “Looks like our killer got sloppy.”
Abigail kneeled next to him. There were indeed faint red footprints, barely visible in the dark.
“Here,” Roland said, “I may not have much Talent, but I can at least help us see the footprints better.” Roland waved his left hand a few times and a small orb of soft yellow light weaved out of the air and began floating between them. They stood up and began to follow the trail of footprints.
They followed it through the twists and turns of the alleys near the docks, their soft light the only shield against the overbearing darkness cast by the black buildings. Finally, the footprints reached a dead end, where they stopped.
“....Huh,” Roland said. The buildings on their sides were tall and sheer, not the type that was climbable. But still, the footprints simply reaced the wall and stopped. There were no markings of note on the walls either.
“A literal dead end,” Abigail said, “Now what? Should we return and tell this to my father?”
“Uh, yeah, I guess... Wait a second. What’s that?” Roland pointed to a small object near Abigail’s foot. Earlier her foot had knocked it, but she didn;t take any note of it. She reached down and picked it up. It was an odd mask that would cover the lower half of your face and had a strange marking on it.
“A mask?” Abigail said.
Roland’s eyes widened slightly. “That’s the mask! When I saw the killer, that’s the mask he was wearing!”
“Well, looks like we got another lead, then,” Abigail said, “But why would the killer discard his mask?”
“I’m not sure. Can I see it?” Roland took the mask from Abigail and examined it. He tried it on, but it was too big for him. It seemed to be designed for someone with a strangely large head and square jaw. He took it off and looked inside. On the inside was a small marking: A circle with a crescent through it.
“Hey,” Roland said, “Do you recognize this symbol?” He showed Abigail.
“It looks familiar, yes,” she said, “But I can’t quite place it. Perhaps we should ask my father?”
“Yeah, I guess that makes the most sense. Let’s head back.”
They walked back to Benedict’s house. He wasn’t there.
“Well,” Abigail said, “It’s late and I can’t imagine you have some place better to go? Would you like to stay here?”
“Oh, uh, yeah. Okay. Um. Thanks... Yeah.” Roland said awkwardly. It was awkward.
Abigail showed Roland to the guest room. Probably the most lavish room he had ever slept in by far. It was essentially just a soft bed and a few chairs. Like everything else in the house, it looked like it had been far fancier once, but most of the dressings had been taken out.
Roland undressed, plopped down on the bed, and fell asleep almsot instaNtly.
The assassin’s boots fell upon the rooftops, sending a symphony of dischord to the few nesting birds still awake.
...Okay, so "Roland said awkwardly. It was awkward." is pretty goofy. Quality is not the point of this exercise...
In completely unrelated news, a new Eels album was announced and it's coming out on my birthday! Here's the first single.