“A Murder, A Mystery, And A Marriage” Part 6

This is the last part of a novelette; if you haven’t already, please start from the beginning or read Part Five.

CHAPTER THE LAST

“The game is afoot!”

“How did you know?” Hildegarde asked after we were out of the Palace.

“Elementary, my dear lady. To begin, we know that he stole the documents.”

“So it was he.”

“The fingerprints proved that.”

“But he couldn’t have taken the documents—”

“He had the metaphor of nothingness, you remember? I deduced that from my first sight of him, taken with the other circumstantial clues. I think he also had some sort of precognitive ability to know where he needed to go without looking, because he never looked out of the metaphor once but still fired unerringly. From the tests you ran in the chapel after the first attempt I deduced the use of some metaphor. I also knew that someone with a change-of-seeming device had made the first assassination attempt because the footprints outside ended on the Palace grounds. I deduce from the fingerprints all over the patch in the roof in the library image that the Department of Intelligence gave him a metaphor-change device so that he could patch the roof. (How he managed to convince them to do that, I have no idea.) We know that the Department of Justice brought him here along with that other man, as you mentioned, to face the charges of incompetence. The other man may have been an accomplice, but that will come out at the trial. The focus on the wedding I deduced from the contents of the missing files. I got the warrant and waited.”

“Thank you, sir.”

When we reached my rooms, there was an envelope sitting on my desk. The note inside it, in the Queen’s own hand, read:

While we are saddened by the loss of Prince Narcissus, we are grateful for your intervention that spared the life of Princess Anvila, for your work that uncovered a major security breach, and for your aid in the ongoing incompetence investigation. As a small token of that gratitude, we will supply you with a new rapier to replace the one you damaged in their service, and have given you the rights to the chapel where today’s ceremony was performed.

The other item in the envelope was the deed to the chapel, which I signed, as I do this account:

SHERLOCK HOLMES

That’s the end of this story. I’ll post the sources for the quotations that opened each chapter below. As always, feedback of any kind—comments, criticism, questions, requests, revision ideas, offers to “beta” future posts, or anything else—is eagerly desired and requested and greatly appreciated. What did you think?

Quotation sources:

“You see, but you do not observe.”
“A Scandal in Bohemia,” 1892
“Our highest assurance of the goodness of providence seems to me to rest in the flowers.”
“The Adventure of the Naval Treaty,” 1893
“‘Capital!’ cried the inspector. ‘Capital!'”
“The Adventure of the Dancing Men,” 1903
“‘It strikes me, Williamson, there isn’t very much that we can tell this gentleman.'”
“The Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist,” 1903
“‘You will rise high in your profession. You have instinct and intuition.'”
“The Adventure of Wisteria Lodge,” 1908
“‘There is only one man,’ he cried.”
“His Last Bow. An Epilogue of Sherlock Holmes,” 1917
“Is it really you? Can it indeed be that you are alive?”
“The Adventure of the Empty House,” 1903
“It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data.”
“A Scandal in Bohemia,” 1892
“Depend upon it, there is nothing so unnatural as the commonplace.”
“A Case of Identity,” 1891
“The game is afoot!”
“The Adventure of the Abbey Grange,” 1904

All, of course, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

“A Murder, A Mystery, And A Marriage” Part 5

This is the fifth part of a novelette. If you haven’t already, please start at the beginning or read the previous part. A reminder: as with all my work, comments, critique, or any other sort of feedback would be greatly appreciated, but if you’ve “solved” the mystery, for which telling clues existed from the beginning of the first chapter, please don’t give it away! There will be one more installment.

CHAPTER THE EIGHTH

“It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data.”

I ran into traffic on my way. The street in front of the Palace was crammed with people. The carriage of Prince Narcissus was passing by. Suddenly, out of my left eye, I saw a flicker of blackness. I focussed on the flicker. It was a man, only half there even in my metaphor-sight. He held a pistol, the tip of its barrel barely sticking out of the metaphor into reality. If I had not had my special lens, the part of the tip in normal reality would have been too thin to be seen. The man reacted to nothing ordinarily visible, but acted only on what looked like instinct. I drew my rapier with my left hand and moved quickly through the crowd to a place in front of the man. Hildegarde followed at arms’ length.

Adrenaline rushed through me suddenly, and I jerked the rapier up with pinpoint precision to a position in front of the muzzle of the gun. The gun jumped soundlessly. As I had planned, the bullet hit my rapier with a clang and ricocheted down harmlessly. My arm was suddenly throbbing with pain, for the bullet had twisted the rapier around in my grip. Amazing, the sacrifices I make for the Crown, I thought. The gunman had not noticed my counteraction; he moved off through the crowd, and the carriage went through the Palace gates. I touched Hildegarde’s shoulder to make her stay there and ran for the marshal.

When I had acquired the warrant, I went back to my rooms, where I examined my arm. The wrist was sprained, and the elbow almost so; the shoulder was twisted beyond normal use, but I’d had worse. The rapier was bent to the point that it would no longer fit into its scabbard. I treated my injuries as best I could, then went out again, this time to the healer assigned to Parliament rather than the Palace healer—I had no wish to see any more of the traffic from the prince’s appearance, and the Parliament building was in the other direction from the Palace.

When I returned to my rooms again after the lengthy visit with the healer, it was nearly dusk. I laid my plans for the next day. I immediately ruled out ny elaborate trap, which was highly impractical, out of my mandate and not my style in any case. However, I could set sentries to support my case in the courts after my simple trap was sprung. I sent out messages to my agents in the city, asking them to watch for someone matching the description of the man in the blackness, especially on the Palace grounds. Then I took what sleep I could, for I would need to rise early in the morning.

CHAPTER THE NINTH

“Depend upon it, there is nothing so unnatural as the commonplace.”

The morning of the wedding dawned cold, cloudy, and foggy. I did not prepare for rain, for no rain had fallen in years, and the country was none the worse. Instead, I spent my time preparing an elaborate disguise, the same that I had used to get safely into my old rooms when I “came back from the dead” in London. The process took about an hour, since I was doing much more than the last time I had used it, but it would still be quickly reversible, and I had already informed Hildegarde, the Palace marshal, and most of the Watch that I would appear to be an old bookseller. To the instant-access cabinet I added the metaphor-change chain.

When I finally left my rooms, I was still several hours early. I reached the Palace without trouble and entered the room where the wedding ceremony would be performed, taking up a post in a corner, from which I could observe everything without being myself observed. Hildegarde found me within a half hour and stood near me.

As the wedding went on, I watched for the man who had already attempted one assassination in my presence. He arrived near the end of the ceremony, as before showing the same flickering effect and not reacting to anything ordinarily visible, and stood close to me with a pistol in his hand. I touched Hildegarde’s shoulder and whispered in her ear, pointing at his position.

“There he is. Can you do something, discreetly, to reflect bullets?”

“Of course,” she said. The anti-bullets working went up, but the man muttered something, and the working collapsed. I realized that any other preventive action I might take would fail similarly. As the ceremony reached an end, the man steadied and aimed his gun. I called the metaphor-shift chain from the cabinet. Law forbade me to draw a weapon of death at such a solemn occasion, even in the defence of life itself, so I could do nothing active, and I did not put on the chain because I did not want to draw his notice until the gun was empty, as I would die to no purpose: I was the only one who could see the gunman, and if he killed me, then the Prince and Princess would still be vulnerable.

As the ceremony reached an end, the man steadied and aimed his gun. I called the shift-of-seeming chain from the cabinet. The gun fired; I moved within arms’ length of him, reached through the chain into the metaphor of nothingness, and grabbed the gun before he could reload and fire again. Then, I put my rod of hazel, which I had completely forgotten until that moment, through the chain and touched the man. He fell instantly. I pulled him out.

“Sir! What happened?” Hildegarde was asking. “Narcissus collapsed!”

“This man knocked out your anti-bullets working—Power is present in all metaphors at once—and got a shot off. I stopped him as he was reloading for a second shot. He was in the metaphor of nothingness. Get the marshal.”

“Here, my lord Inspector,” the marshal said.

“Arrest this man on charges of murder, on this warrant,” I said.

The story concludes in Part Six.

“A Murder, A Mystery, And A Marriage” part 4

This is the fourth part of a novelette. If you haven’t already, please start at the beginning or go back to the previous part. If you’ve “solved” the “mystery,” for which possibly-telling clues existed from the beginning of the first chapter, feel free to contact me privately, but please don’t give it away!

CHAPTER THE SIXTH

“There is only one man,” he cried.

An hour later, I was at the Palace, questioning the guards who had been responsible for protecting Prince Narcissus and were just coming off duty. Most of them had seen nothing, and some did not even know that an assassination attempt had taken place. None had heard a gunshot, and Imperial Guardsmen are, among other things, trained to hear even supposedly-silent gunshots. A few thought they had seen a bullet flying through the air, but in a city with thousands of mages, from infants to teenagers to the centuries-old and from apprentices to Masters, breeds the usually accurate assumption that anything that flickers by without sound is an illusion. One of the guards (who had been transferred from a rural reserve unit for the occasion) remembered where he was standing and its approximate trajectory as he saw it.

I obtained some sturdy scaffolding from the Palace stores, set it up, and climbed to the rafters in the chapel ceiling. The bullet was buried in a thick rafter, but not difficult to find. From the direction of the deep hole I approximated a trajectory that matched what the witness had told me.

At my request, Hildegarde ran some metaphysical tests for me. It denied all the standard suspects for insoluble crimes: The bullet had not been transported or imputed velocity by supernatural or metaphysical means, moved through three spatial dimensions without moving through the fourth, but it was not in the room from which it was fired. That confirmed the absence of a gunshot. Another test showed that there had been no gunpowder in the room simultaneously with lead, though it confirmed that the bullet was initially propelled by gunpowder. My own tests showed that the bullet was completely ordinary, so far as matter was concerned, and had been fired from a similarly completely ordinary gun. All of these results, except those confirming that the bullet had come from outside the room, were exactly contrary to what I had expected.

After scouring the floor, walls, ceiling, and rafters for footprints and fingerprints, and finding none, I took down the scaffolding and replaced it in the Palace stores. I then requested and received permission from the Palace marshal to have a standing disruption placed in the room, to last until the wedding began. Unfortunately, certain parts of the ceremony could not function under such a disruption, so it would have to end at the beginning of the wedding. Hildegarde placed the disruption with care, adding another module to disrupt the functioning of Power-enhanced items that had only passive Power usage.

As I walked out of the Palace on my way to my rooms, I inspected the ground carefully for footprints. Most were innocuous, but I found one set leading onto the Palace grounds and disappearing there and another matching set appearing outside the grounds and going away. I made a copy of those footprints for my files.

When I reached my rooms, I read a dissertation on the nature of reality, from the Academy’s advanced-study philosophy programme, that I had picked up in the Imperial Library. What caught my interest was that the major instance under study was the use of metaphors in the Department of Intelligence. The dissertation said that known metaphors covered nearly every facet of existence, but many metaphors had probably not been discovered.

After all that weighty thinking, I slept fitfully, turning over all the facts of the case in my head. I dreamed of metaphors and mysteries.

CHAPTER THE SEVENTH

“Is it really you? Can it indeed be that you are alive?”

The next morning, I went to the Department of Intelligence with one specific aim in mind. I went to the top floor of my chosen metaphor and looked carefully at every inch of the ceiling. As I had remembered, there was an unmistakable patch in one place, distinct from the rest of the ceiling in pattern and lack of wear. I examined it carefully for fingerprints. The only prints I found matched those that I had found on the shelf below.

After leaving the building, I went to the Palace and searched for Hildegarde. She was not there, so I went back to my office and found her waiting outside my rooms.

“So this is where you were,” I said. “I’d been looking for you. Is there any way to look into a metaphor, or, better yet, all metaphors, without entering? In any case, I need one of those metaphor-change chains, like the one you used to look at the fingerprints. I shouldn’t need to hear inside the metaphor, though.”

“The best I can do for the first is to rig up a metaphor-change chain divided into infinitely many parts, and put it over your spectacles. Actually, just one eye might be better, so you can still see reality.”

“What is reality?” I asked, only half joking.

“Now is not the time to discuss philosophy, sir,” she said, in complete seriousness. “We have a murder to prevent.

“For the second request, of course I can provide you with a metaphor-change chain.” She drew two of them out of a pocket, handing one to me. “Here’s one. I’ll rig up an infinity on the other.” After stretching it out to get rid of all the folds, she set it spinning and said a word in some language I didn’t understand. The chain flashed blue. She moulded it into a circle. “May I see your spectacles, sir?” I drew them off and handed them to her. She set the circle of chain on the left lens and said another word. The chain melted into the glass. “There,” she said, handing the spectacles back to me. “After about a week, you won’t need that. Your eyes will adjust.”

“Thank you,” I said. Handing her a cast of the footprints I had taken, I said, “Would you look at who these belong to?”

“The shoes were produced in Earth, I think, but the only materials that produce that kind of texture were invented in the last ten years,” she said, “and no self-respecting Imperial citizen would wear something like that.” Her first observation was one I had made myself, but the second was a detail I had not thought of checking for, and the third was an example of why I valued her different perspective so highly.

“My sincere thanks,” I said. “If you are done here, I need to visit the marshal again, for a warrant.”

This continues in Part Five.

“A Murder, A Mystery, And A Marriage” part 3

This is the third part of a novelette; if you haven’t already, please start at the beginning or read Part Two.

CHAPTER THE FOURTH

“It strikes me, Williamson, there isn’t very much that we can tell this gentleman.”

We walked in silence, nearly undisturbed, until we reached the Department of Intelligence. There, Hildegarde set her hand on the nondescript door, then placed mine against it. The door opened, and we stepped through.

A confusing visual jumble met my eyes. The image was too much like mixing metaphors—a pet peeve of mine—so I closed my eyes, shook my head thoroughly, cleared my mind, and then opened my eyes again. The image coalesced into singularity. I had read of the metaphors of the Department of Intelligence, in which each visitor saw the same data in a different way, but I had never experienced it until now.

It seemed that I stood in a large library, with the ceiling at least thirty feet high. This first level was remarkably clear, so I could see out to the limit of my range of vision, with no exterior walls in sight. Fifteen-foot-high bookcases, packed exactly full of books, were arranged in seemingly random patterns, and spiral staircases dotted the floor. The carpet beneath my feet was richly textured and had a complex pattern. Twenty feet in front of me was a card catalogue, ten feet high; I walked toward it.

“Sir?” Hildegarde’s voice called, behind me. I turned. In my metaphor, it seemed that she was now dressed in the robes of a lady-in-waiting to the King. “If you don’t know what you’re looking for, the index won’t help you. What are you looking for?”

“I’d like to begin by looking at the place where those files disappeared from.”

“Come with me.” She led the way toward the second spiral staircase. We went up it slowly. The second floor was much like the first. I followed her up another staircase, and then to a set of bookshelves. There was an empty space on a middle shelf.

“So anyone could simply take a book off the shelf and leave?” I said.

“What are you talking about, sir? We just went through two of the physical equivalents of hyperlinks, and here we’re standing by the broken links leading to those documents.”

“It must be a difference in metaphors, then, because it seemed to me that we just went up two spiral staircases in a library and are standing by an empty space on a shelf.”

She shaped a silent “Oh!” and then spoke aloud. “Well, in any case, there’s a massive security system here. You couldn’t just take a document without clearance.”

“So, whoever took the missing documents had clearance.”

“Either that, or he or she somehow circumvented the system. Even someone with clearance should have left a record of the taking. No record was left.”

“Will electronic clues translate into physical clues in metaphors?”

“For the most part, as far as I know. The same with metaphysical clues.”

“Well, then.” My ever-present magnifying glass was in an inner pocket of my coat; I took it out and examined the shelf.

“Would it have been possible to simply take a book off the shelf and look at it without leaving any record?” I asked.

“In your metaphor, I believe so.”

“The reason I ask is that there are some scattered fingerprints, very recent, on the shelf, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen these particular sets before.”

“Let me see.” She reached into her gown and took out what looked like a golden loop of rope. She dropped it over her head and halted it by her waist, then reached for my magnifying glass.

“I think I recognize that most recent set,” she said when she had looked her fill, “but I haven’t seen them, or him, since before the Regency ended, and I know that he wasn’t Chosen. We know why, too. He was proven incompetent in the Imperial courts immediately following the end of the Banishment, although the case wasn’t closed because he hadn’t been given a chance to give a defence; since he wasn’t Chosen, he wasn’t brought to the Empire. His case isn’t important enough to give it to the few Imperial courts now established in Earth.”

“Thank you. But these fingerprints prove that he was here.”

“Ah. . . Assuming that no complicated conspiracy is going on to try to pin the crime on him, yes.”

“We’ll have to leave that as a working possibility, but I don’t think it’s likely—Occam’s razor, you know. I need more data that I can’t get here, but let me look around before we leave.” I took my eyes off the bookshelf and looked around the room. The carpet here was well-worn, nearly in need of replacement; the wallpaper was peeling, with damp spots on the wood. I saw signs of recent patching in the ceiling. “That’s all here, I think, and I have some pondering to do,” I said. “Let’s go.”

CHAPTER THE FIFTH

You will rise high in your profession. You have instinct and intuition.

The case took a disturbing turn that evening when Hildegarde walked into my office without even trying to bypass my security measures. Her garb was unlike any I had seen her in before: a common grey dress, splotched, and stained, with fraying hems; a battered, unremarkable cheap hat; long white gloves that had seen better days; tattered black stockings; weathered brown boots (she never wore boots!); and a cloak that seemed to draw attention away from itself. She spoke immediately without waiting to be recognized.

“My lord, I have urgent news. First, the Ministry of Justice has brought two men who were not Chosen to this universe—without telling the Ministry of Intelligence—supposedly as guests at the wedding. One of them is the owner of those fingerprints. The other is someone that I only had contact with for about six months. He was charged with heresy and conspiracy to commit heresy; the case was suspended because he was unable to come and present a defence. I don’t know if he was competent or not. The wedding invitations seem to be a ploy by the Ministry of Justice to bring them to stand trial, so that the Empire can open diplomatic relations with their government without that dark cloud of unresolved crimes.” She paused for a moment. I took the chance to put a word in edgewise.

“That’s first,” I said. “What’s second?”

“Oh. Second, there has been an assassination attempt against Prince Narcissus.”

“There are assassination attempts all the time,” I said.

“Most fail before they begin. This one got through, and the bullet missed only by the sheerest luck. Besides, most such attempts are Anarchist work, and the Anarchist representative who always makes anonymous calls claiming responsibility made a call denying connection with this. At the time, the Prince was in private prayer in the chapel where the wedding will be held.”

“Could it have been a government insider?”

“No. There are annual screenings for the kind of character flaw that causes that sort of thing, and all applicants to the Imperial Service are screened before approval.”

“Have these data been placed in the files of the Ministry of Intelligence yet?”

“Yes.”

“Could you dump the data to my files?”

“Gladly.” She took a portable computer terminal from a shelf under my desk, plugged it into a port on the wall, sat down next to it on the floor, and began working.

“When’s the wedding, again?” I asked.

“The day after tomorrow.”

“I have the feeling that this case is going to turn into a protection job.”

“An accurate hunch, as usual, Inspector,” said a new voice. The lady who stood before us wore a robe of deep purple, with grey stripes on the sleeves. She had an elaborate crown on her head, with a large gem of shifting colours and many smaller assorted gems set around it. Her hair was up in an intricate fashion. Her shoes, with silver woven into them, were of excellent workmanship, seeming to be little more than slippers but in a shape that would be comfortable in a stirrup. Hildegarde and I rose to our feet.

“Your Majesty,” we said in ragged unison.

“Be seated,” the High Queen said. “His Majesty the King and I have had premonitions about a double assassination attempt that will be successful if not averted. The Ministry of Justice has failed to prevent the last seven attempts, all of which failed by pure divine providence, and Intelligence was never meant to do this sort of work. You are the realm’s foremost detective, so we wish you to work to prevent this assassination. Think of this as solving the mystery of a murder before it is committed. The Crown will lend you Hildegarde and give you open, unlimited access to the Ministry of Intelligence.”

“I accept the assignment. Thank you, Majesty.”

This continues in Part Four.

“A Murder, A Mystery, And A Marriage” part 2

This is the second part of a novelette. If you haven’t already, please read the first part.

CHAPTER THE SECOND

“Our highest assurance of the goodness of providence seems to me to rest in the flowers.”

That evening, I was buried in a good book, ostensibly going over old cases but really just enjoying the style of one Sir Arthur, when another knock came at the door. The ‘H’ volume of my biographies also lay open on my desk.

“Come in!” I said, setting the book aside and turning to face out. Years of training enabled me to hear the door squeak faintly as it opened. It closed with absolute silence. A single swish of fabric reached my ears a moment later.

“Well. Hildegarde, is it?” I said before my visitor could reach the room.

“At your service, my lord,” a voice said behind me. As slowly as I could, I turned my chair back.

Must you do that, your Highness?” I said, putting on a look of mock pain. She was stepping out of a trap door in a deserted corner of the room.

Her undecorated robes were those of a simple lady-in-waiting, with the purple stripe at the hem that signified personal service to His Majesty; her dark hair hung loosely just past her shoulders. One patch of her hair was beginning to lighten, but the rest, as I have seen is customary with those familiar with the Power, especially the Chosen, remained stubbornly dark despite her great age. On her finger was a silver ring indicating amateur usage of the Power. Sitting on her nose were the empty rims, favoured by Master-level mages, that show Power usage and residues (and related data not readily visible) as colours and patterns. Set on her head, though not readily visible even to my trained eye, was the circlet that declared her a princess. Her shoes were the same kind as those that the Minister of Justice had been wearing that morning, but hers were slightly damp in a ring half an inch above the soles and dusty beneath it.

“You have been in Reignalmia, I perceive; you came here on foot, but not through the streets, and you walked on the roofs to reach this building,” I said. “Also, you used the Power before entering.”

Don’t use that title, please, since I am here as a lady-in-waiting assigned to the Department of Intelligence. I used the passage because I needed the practice, and I thought you might like to know about it. How did you know it was I, though?”

“Thank you for warning me about that security hole—did you design that passage, by the way? It has your style. I knew you from that squeak in the door that you haven’t been able to conceal, and from that rustle of fabric. My hunch was that you would be sent with the data, though, from the conversation I had with the Minister of Justice this morning.”

“Oh, well— I thought I’d fixed that squeak. I have also unravelled your deductions, or perceptions as you seem to prefer to call them. My visit to Reignalmia you deduce from the band on my robe, used only in the outer provinces, and from my shoes, which are currently popular only there. The route you deduced from the dampness of my shoes and the dust on the soles. The Power usage you deduced from the absence of a rope mark on my hands. You could not deduce whether I used the Power to lower myself or to remove the mark.”

“Very good. You did fix that squeak, by the way. I put it back. That door creaks for a reason. If you can get in silently, then I need to add some more defences.”

“Here’s the data on those missing files, my lord.” She placed a briefcase on my lap. “Be careful with that, though. It’s larger on the inside than the outside.”

“Thank you.” I set the case on my desk and popped it open. I took out and opened a file folder labelled ‘Summary.’ After scanning a few pages, I looked up and said, “It looks like I’ll need to do some hard research, on foot, and I think I’ll need some help. Would you be willing to assist me?”

“In what way?” she asked cautiously.

“The support I need is twofold. One. I need an insider at the Department of Intelligence. For example, I need to know what is normal, and whether anything I find is actually relevant. Two. I need a mage, to run certain tests, do tracking, and so forth. That would be even more imperative if this were a murder case, where I need to be able to tell whether anyone was in the room at the time of death, for example, but I have been in the Empire long enough to know what sorts of things I miss without backup. You are the best choice I have in that regard, because I read in your biography here that your ‘Power seems to bypass dampeners and guards set against it’ even though it is ‘largely untested.'”

“I am entirely at your service and would be delighted to aid you in this.”

“Thank you, my dear lady. As soon as I finish this summary document, I believe, I will begin to gather my own data,” I said. She heard the dismissal in my voice and departed.

CHAPTER THE THIRD

“‘Capital!’ cried the inspector. ‘Capital!'”

The next morning, I was just finishing the second summary report in the briefcase when Hildegarde came into the room. I looked up, surprised, as she approached my desk. She wore a dark robe, of a sort used only by the Chosen, and a common cap. The rings on her fingers, although seemingly ordinary, could prove her rank upon close examination.

“How did you get in? Is it a new secret passage?” I asked.

“No, I just managed to get around that squeak. I thought you might want to see this.” She placed a sheet of paper before me. It described the contents of the missing documents: security details of the rapidly-approaching wedding of Princess Anvila and Prince Narcissus. The most important public event of the decade, probably, but also a defensive nightmare. I was glad not to be the one in charge of that mess, but I could relate.

“That squeak was too easy to get around anyway. Either I should retire, or my defences need a lot of work. That’s another place where you could assist me. Thank you for both warnings. Shall we be going?”

“Whither?” she asked. “Besides, by the looks of things, you aren’t ready to step out of this room. I can see the arsenal of defences on these walls, but the hall isn’t built for that kind of thing. And that’s just protection. You’ll need all sorts of tools to find any traces.”

“Exactly.” I got up from the desk and walked to the centre of the room, holding my arms out. “Obliviscor.” It was the command word. Mechanical arms stretched out from all over the room. They pressed a breastplate and backplate onto my torso, buckled them, and presented me with a choice of weapons. I took a rapier and poignard, a buckle for my arm, and then a gunpowder pistol and a long rod of hazel.

“What are you doing with that?” Hildegarde asked. “You aren’t a mage.”

“His Majesty himself prepared this for me. It delivers an electromagnetic shock, intensified with Power, proportional to the weight on a person’s soul. It would probably lay a murderer out in a coma for hours.”

“And why the half-plate? If you’re thinking of weight, chain mail is better.”

“That’s to draw attention away from the rest of my costume. It all has true-silver woven into it, with Power added to extend the effect throughout. Let’s to the lab.”

When we reached my laboratory, I opened one of my special cabinets. This cabinet was larger inside than out, with the special property of making its contents instantaneously available to me anywhere while I carried the key. Hildegarde and I went around the lab, collecting the things we thought might be needed and putting them into the cabinet. I made sure to note what went where so that I wouldn’t end up pulling out acid when I needed fingerprinting powder. Once the cabinet was full, I locked it and pocketed the key.

This continues in Part Three.

“A Murder, A Mystery, And A Marriage” Part 1

(This is my “show” story, the longest thing I’ve ever finished and my most polished piece of prose. Until I got to college and started writing presentable poetry, it was my only really presentable piece. I’ll be posting it here in installments on Saturdays when I don’t have other material from now until it’s run out. If anyone sees where it’s going (or, for my Milan readers, remembers this), please don’t give it away in public! I’ll make any revisions that come to mind as I post, or that comments suggest and I think are warranted. The sources for the quotes are moderate spoilers, and so will be cited in the last post.) Continue reading