Diamond for Dwarves - A Jasper Blake Mystery (Part 5)
“You have a confession?” I echoed. It was not meant to sound like a question. I heard Jasper say something, but I was not sure if I heard him right. He looked down at the cigarette case in his hands momentarily deep in thought.
“Is something wrong?” I asked.
Finally, he looked at me. “We have a problem.”
“All right,” I inquired.
“Before I took up the Tiller case, I was working on another case that is completely unrelated – at the time it was not pressing. However,” he gave me a guilty look, “it appears the previous case also demands my attention.” With those words he brought out his notebook.
“I want you to finish the Tiller case in my stead.”
“What? Now?” I was not sure I was hearing it right.
“That would be ideal –” he suggested, but I cut in.
“But, this is –”
“It is sudden. Yes, I am very aware of that. However, something has come up that I cannot be at two places at once and this is where I would need someone to represent me.”
“But this is not good, Jasper. You are my employer and this case should be yours to finish.”
“The other case is urgent and it is out of town.”
“Surely you cannot just up and leave right away?” I did not want him to leave me stranded with this case we were working together and I was still not making any sense of.
“I will be leaving Oxen Basin tomorrow evening and from then, it will be only for a couple of days – who knows, you may be able to solve the case by then.”
“Tomorrow?” But that is too soon! I did not want to work on this case alone, especially with a lot of pieces missing, not to mention the fact that I had next to no experience in investigating.
“How about we finish solving this case together as soon as possible and leave together!”
He stopped and turned at my suggestion.
“Did I just hear you right, that you want to come with me on this other case?”
“I understand this would mean that you would have to stay a bit longer, however the fact of the matter is I do not have the experience you have in this line of work. I would much prefer if you stay and finish this case before we move on to the next one.”
“We?” He raised an eyebrow.
“Yes, we!” I then added, “Surely, you weren’t suggesting that this other case you are so eager to look into has a deadline.”
“Then take me with you!” If Jasper was being his spontaneous self, I guess I will take that chance in having him leave town with me in tow. “After we finish this case! No, wait! You said you have to leave the city tomorrow. That won’t work! Surely there is a way to make this work!”
He looked at me for a moment and burst out laughing, “You are serious, aren’t you?”
“I am and with a job that has expectation of solving the case and laying some ghosts to rest, I would be even more so. We did agree to take the diamond case along with the Tiller murder and we are responsible to finish them both.”
He gave me a crooked smile, though his eyes had some reluctance. “I’m glad someone has some sense. You are right. We did agree to take these cases and we will finish them.”
I relaxed. “So, that means you are staying and we will finish the Tiller case together?”
“Indeed we shall do that.”
Relieved, I smiled. “So, where shall we begin?”
“Let’s finish the Tiller murder. I believe there is a connection to the dwarven diamonds if we start digging deeper.”
We were back in our meeting room comparing what we had found so far.
“Tell me what you have found,” Jasper said as he sat in a wooden chair next to the desk we had near the blackboard.
“Well,” I began, “What I have are of what we already know.”
So I went over my notes starting with the Tillers: both Gavin and Peony were half-brother and sister; Gavin worked under the employment of three elven families (Everwoods, Sunnydales, and Pinegroves) as their gardener and yardkeeper; Gavin was a member of the guild for Keepers of Diamond Caves; he was found asking around rumours about diamond trades; he was also seen with an elven lady by the name of Lavinia (who was at the Willowdale residence); and he had sought sanctuary during a time when St Eleanor’s was unoccupied and unobserved.
“Now, my turn,” Jasper opened his notes and gave the following: Willowdale was a well respected elven gentleman. However, there had been rumours amongst the servants of the household that he was involved with many women, some of whom were his own female servants that he dismissed with some reason such as petty theft, drunkenness, or lewd behaviours. Willowdale was once married many years ago, but his wife died a year after their marriage and they never had children. Many years later, with many changes in the household staff, Willowdale brought home a young woman who was believed to be his own daughter, likely a bastard. Because she resembled someone in his family, he was convinced that she was his daughter – that girl was Lavinia.
“The funny thing about this story was, Lavinia first appeared about a year ago. She was polite and her behaviours were refined. What the servants find odd was that she preferred to do things on her own, dressing herself, doing her hair, and other skills that a young lady would require with the help of a servant. She liked her privacy and told her father she would like to keep it that way. Her father, probably because he doted on her, gave her that freedom.”
“I thought fathers were usually strict about their daughters’ whereabouts in the home,” I commented.
“What makes you say that?”
“Being a daughter myself with rather overprotective parents I would say that would be expected.”
His eyes had a sad look about them.
“Yes,” he replied quietly, “yes, I would have to agree with that.” He gave me a smile as if to chase away a sad thought. “Let us say, that her father was protective. He would have her under lock and key; however from what I had learned from the servants (and when we saw Lavinia) she seemed to roam freely.”
“What was her reaction when she was told her father died?” I asked.
“Well, apparently she was the one who found her father dead in the room. She was the one who reported it to the rangers, leaving them an address of a friend of hers.” Jasper gave the address which was the Tiller residence.
“It is funny how we keep going back to that place.”
After comparing notes, we decided to order something from Digger’s shop and do some more work together. Jasper purchased some apple turnovers and a pot of tea.
“Do you have a weapon?” Jasper asked the moment we finished our tea and sweets.
“A weapon? No. Why?” I looked up at Jasper as I collected the empty teacups.
“I think it would be good for you to have a weapon.”
I felt uneasy about possessing a weapon. I know that if one possessed a weapon for self-defence there were likely chances of it being taken from that person and used against him.
I voiced my concern. “What if the weapon is used against me?”
“Then, we shall make sure that does not happen.”
Walking behind his desk Jasper reached down to one of drawers and brought out two weapons: one looked like a cylindrical stick about an inch thick and a foot long; the other was a small pistol with its handle made of polished dark wood inlaid with an ivory star.
“Choose a weapon,” he told me, “or better yet, take both. You never know when you will need them.”
I looked at him. Seeing his eyes sincere with his decision, I picked up the stick.
“Ever used one of those?”
With a flick of my wrist the stick extended to three feet. I held it upright before me like a sword.
“Something like it,” I gripped the handle with both hands. The stick reminded me of the time when my father first introduced me to Oronean style fencing when I was about seven. The practice blades we used then were bamboo, lengths of bamboo bundled with strips of leather with a thick disc of hide for a hilt. The bamboo blades that Father used to teach me with were about four feet in length, of which he brought from Oronea. I once asked him to teach me how to fight, but he refused saying, “I would rather teach you to fight with your wits than with a sword that could also kill you in the end.” At the time I wondered why he even introduced me Oronean fencing, now I could conclude that he only wanted me to see that we have some warrior blood running through us. Perhaps I got my hot headedness from my father’s warrior roots.
Jasper’s voice broke into my thoughts, “Shall we give it a try?” In his hand he had another stick like mine extended before him.
“I’m sure we could accommodate some space for sparring.”
I glanced about me: the area where we seated our clients was large, but cluttered with furniture. Moments later we moved all the furniture against the walls to make a space large enough to parry or hold a small duel.
“How about having some rules?” I suggested.
“Rules would be good.”
“No throwing people around.”
“That won’t happen.”
I picked up a chalk and drew a line about a foot away from the furnitured walls. “We remain in the area I have just marked off to reduce damage and injury.”
He nodded in agreement.
“Tapping your opponent will be counted a point. No stabbing, jabbing, or any acts of violence that would produce injury. Any questions?”
“If I may, Ms. Fullerton,” he raised his hand, “injury is inevitable in something like this.”
“I agree, however I would like to take precautions.”
“Very well,” he stood close to one side of the chalk square. I took my place across from him. He stood upright with the stick extended in one hand, his free hand behind his back, “En garde?”
I gripped my weapon in both hands near the base. Shifting my feet shoulder width apart I held the stick before me like a sword. With a cry I ran towards him, he dodged my attack. For a few minutes we continued this dance of my half-hearted attacks and his effortless dodging, until he suddenly turned giving me a playful tug at my hair. The bun I had painstakingly put up that morning fell apart. I gave him a look at what he had just done.
“Come, come,” he teased, “don’t let that stop you.”
With my hair dishevelled, I ran towards him swinging harder, none of the blows landed on him. In a blink of an eye his face was before mine, my vision briefly obstructed as something warm and soft brush against my lips! I jolted. By the time he stepped away from me, I saw a slow half-grin on his face and realized that he had just kissed me!
Infuriated that he would take advantage of me, I gripped my stick and attacked him this time with more determination. Jasper’s eyes had a spark of delight as if he saw something he wanted to see. I swung, hacked, spun, and dodged. Still unable to hit my opponent, I breathed deeply and closed my eyes. I imagined my father before me during a brief practice, his Oronean practice blade before him in one hand telling me that he was going to invite me to put more effort in what I did. He moved towards me, I ducked and swung. My opponent collapsed.
I blinked and saw not my father, but Jasper holding his side.
“Oh my goodness! Jasper, are you all right?” I knelt before him.
He winced, but also looked pleased. “I knew you had it in you.”
“You did that on purpose, didn’t you?” I was referring to his kiss and undoing my hair. I wanted to point out that he made me angry by that kiss he gave me, but I turned to leave, only to have him grab my wrist preventing me.
“What?” I demanded.
“Tell me why you are angry.”
“I am not.”
“You are,” he argued.
“All right then, I am angry with you? And there is a good reason!” I put in with force before he said something.
“Care to tell me?” He had a mischievous twinkle in his eyes.
“Why did you do that?”
“Do what?” Jasper smiled. He was clearly enjoying this.
“Why did you mess my hair? And why did you kiss me?”
“I like you!”
I stopped. “What?”
Jasper straightened himself. “I like you, Cassisa,” he said, “in fact I liked you the moment I laid eyes on you.” He raised his stick, and flicked a hidden switch, making it shrink back to its original size.
I stood there stunned, trying to process what he had just told me. He kissed me because he liked me? Suddenly, at the recollection of that kiss, how he used that against me reminded me of my fury sent my hand painfully across his face.
“Not without my permission!” I yelled at him.
That evening during supper, the males were deep in conversation while Jasper and I sat at opposite ends of the table from each other. I pretended my indifference as I spooned the vanilla custard to my mouth in hope of smothering my irritation from that kiss he stole from me.
“So the victim was found with a red mark,” Merl spoke as Rusty, Harris and Ian listened intently at his recent medical examination.
“Any other injuries?” Harris asked, taking notes.
“A bruise on the lower ribcage made recently, the shape was that of a long thin object. No broken bones.”
I slowly looked away feigning a sudden interest on the designs of Rosemary’s dinnerware.
“Victim was found with some rouge on his lips –” Merl added.
A tea cup was loudly set on its saucer coming from the far end of the table. In my mind’s eye I could see everyone turning to Jasper; everyone – except me.
“I believe the suspect was, in fact, the actual victim in this case,” Ian commented.
“How so?” Merl asked innocently.
“By the shape of the red marking in question on the man’s face is that of a woman’s hand.” Ian explained, “By the angle of the mark one could deduce that it was possibly made when the man was standing upright and the woman in question approached him. The rouge on the man’s lips would prove my statement further.”
I tried to watch from a reflection on Rosemary’s silver teapot as the other three men nodded in agreement. I heard a nervous cough (from Jasper) and the sound of a chair creaking (Jasper shifting in his seat).
“Well, if you ask me,” Rosemary put in bringing fresh pots of cream and sugar for tea, “I would say that man deserved that mark.” With that she returned to the kitchen.
“And yes, Jasper, we can do it too,” Rusty added referring to their observational skills; his deadpanned reply held a hint of laughter.
I stood up from my seat with my dishes and went to the kitchen. Rosemary was occupying herself with washing the pots. I quietly stood beside her and placed my dishes on the counter.
“Allow me,” I offered.
“I am almost done here,” Rosemary then added, “and don’t let those lads bother you.” She finished rinsing one of the pots and placed it on a drying surface to the side.
“He kissed me without permission,” I sulked.
She gave a soft chuckle. “Well now, I would have done the same if I was in your position.”
I relaxed a bit at her response. Watching her finish rinsing the last of the pots, she stepped to the side so I could do my dishes. I could hear Jasper making some kind of protest against whatever it was his friends were teasing him about this time.
“Although, and I know I would be a busybody when I say this, I would suggest that you would make some peace with the lad.”
I looked at her wondering if she made that suggestion out of anger, but it was not so.
“There was an old saying, ‘One should not end the day in anger, it should be dealt with as soon as possible’.”
I nodded. I know that phrase, yet the idea of me pasting a smile and giving a lip service of apology just did not sit well with me. I have done that many times in the past, and lost some friendships in the process all because my apology was phony. Although there were times I was genuine in admitting wrong and tried to restore relationships that I ruined by apologizing, yet I still lost those friendships. The bitter reminder left an unpleasant taste in my mouth and a just as unpleasant lump in my throat.
I spoke to Ishual about this. My mother called it “ego”, my former friends called it “pride”. Whatever it was, I despised that part of me like a parasite that tickled in the back of my throat reminding me of this ugly part of me I wished to get rid of but could not. When I asked Ishual what I should do, he said nothing.
“Rosemary, would he accept my apology?” I heard myself ask, I could hear my voice within me say, I don’t want to go on like this!
“Why wouldn’t he?”
I shrugged. “I am a proud woman, or so I am told, and my apologies mean nothing.”
She stopped what she was doing. “Now, who told you that?”
I looked at my hands soaking in dishwater. “Just some friends,” I fibbed. Once friends – most of whose names I clearly remember.
“Well, do you think you were flippant with your apologies?”
“I don’t believe so,” I said looking right at her. I felt like crying. I was sick of those accusations. I was honest. Or at least I tried, and yet people did not believe me.
Rosemary smiled. “Then, you should not worry,” she assured me, “If you are being honest and genuine, it does not matter what others say.”
“Does it?” I felt tears fill my eyes.
“Oh, dear child! You believe in Ishual who sees and hears everything. He is the most reliable witness wherever we are. He knows your heart. If you are honest and open to him in all that you do he knows that just as he would know if you are lying or hiding something.”
I felt my lip turn up a smile. “Do you think Jasper would accept my apology?”
“Do you think there was something you did that deserves an apology?”
“I hit him across the face for kissing,” I added the last bit when she broke into laughter.
“Perhaps he deserves an apology for the hit. Expressing such behaviours in anger is not a wise thing – especially when he is your employer.”
I nodded in agreement. “You’re right.”
“Cassisa,” I looked up to see Jasper at the kitchen doorway, “A word with you if I may.”
I looked at Rosemary who smiled at me and gave me a kind nudge. “Run along, dear. I will finish your dishes.”
“Remember, do make peace with him while the day is still young,” she said with a wink.
“Thank you, Rosemary.” I left her to meet Jasper.
We left the place and began to stroll along the road nearby. For a while we did not say anything.
“Jasper,” I began, “I –”
“Cassisa,” Jasper interrupted.
“We will finish this case together.”
I smiled. “I am glad –”
“After that I will no longer have you as my secretary.”
I stopped. Did I just hear that he was going to dismiss me?
“Are you saying I am fired?” I felt dread sinking in like a weight.
“I am afraid it will have to come to that, yes.” Jasper turned to me, he had a look in his eyes, were they sadness?
“I’m sorry, I am trying to explain this –”
“It’s all right, Jasper,” I felt tears welling up, but this time I will not cry. “I trust your judgement on this one.”
“Before you continue (and I am saying this regardless of the decision already made) I just wanted to let you know. Thank you for hiring me. I am sorry for crossing the line with my temper.” I swallowed and continued, “If you much prefer, you could dismiss me sooner.”
“I don’t see why I should –”
“Thank you for your time,” I turned to leave but he grabbed my wrist.
“Now, wait a minute! We are not done here!”
“I thought we were.”
“First of all, I want to finish this case with you, therefore I do not plan on giving you an early dismissal. Secondly, I…” He looked at me, but I cannot seem to look at him. “Is it an apology you are asking me?”
Now I was the one laughing! “Whatever for? I was the one who lost my temper and hurt you.” I squeezed my eyes shut to collect my thoughts. Then I opened them and looked right at him, “I apologize for hitting you. That was not something I should have done to someone who has authority over me.”
His hand loosened its grip briefly where I was able to slip out of them and head back to Rosemary’s.
The next morning, I woke up with a cloud of dread hanging over me. Recalling the conversation with Jasper last night only worsened my melancholy. As a former teacher I had days where I was so discouraged with myself and my life I nearly drowned from my melancholic state. As I lay in bed I silently spoke to Ishual. I told him what I did wrong (along with other things I may have done wrong) and my regrets with my behaviours thanks to my temper. I also told him my disappointments in myself especially when I thought I had finally found a decent job; I was hoping I could stay and help my parents pay back the remaining debt my last husband had left me; and yet the question remained of what I need to do with myself now that I was dismissed.
Throughout this silent exchange, I felt tears streaming down from the corners of my eyes on to my pillow. What should I do? I was at a loss. I did not want to get up out of bed. A knock sounded on my bedroom door.
“Cassisa,” Rosemary called, “Jasper is asking for you.”
Tell him I just died! I was tempted to say, instead I asked, “What time is it?”
“It is eleven minutes after nine o’clock.”
My world had already ended; I did not see how Jasper wanted me. Then I heard a commotion: Rosemary making a fuss about something and – was that a male voice on the other side of the door?
Pounding on the door demanded my appearance.
“Cassisa! Get up right now! We have case to solve!” It was Jasper.
I took my time getting out of bed and putting my clothes on. By the time I was fixing my hair, Jasper opened the door.
“One would usually knock before they enter,” I told him coldly. I was not too keen on seeing him.
“I already did, and I gave you ample time to be ready.” He held up a lunch pail. “I have your breakfast here. Also, since I believe you would like to freshen up before you present yourself to the world, you have five minutes.” With that he sped downstairs, probably to avoid another commotion with Rosemary because I saw a rather black look on her face. I wondered if that look was towards me for my extreme tardiness or towards Jasper for being upstairs where a woman’s privacy was maintained. I decided it was both.
We sat in our usual hansom driven by Matthews. I sat as far away from Jasper as I could to almost dangerously leaning over my side of the seat. I felt a strong hand grip my arm and pull me back.
“Do you want to get yourself killed?” Jasper scolded.
I kept my look sullen and faced away from him.
“Really, Cassisa, you are being immature.”
“If I might remind you,” I began, “I am still angry at myself and at what had happened between us.”
“So why are you angry and what exactly about?”
“Well, what do you think?”
“Well, what is it?”
I shot a look at him. He had a smirk on his face. It now irritated me that he found this whole ordeal entertaining and got the upper hand by returning my question with a question. How I hated that!
“Ah! We have arrived.” He eagerly jumped out of the hansom just before I was about to say something else I would regret later. Luckily I kept my mouth shut and followed him.
I realized where we were when Jasper stopped at the main gates leading to the front property of Willowdale residence. The place was closed off, but none of the rangers were in sight. Pulling on our cotton gloves, Jasper and I entered the crime scene. For the first time, I noticed that Jasper carried an envelope with him that I recognized held the coroner reports from Merl.
“According to Constable Ryans, who happened to be part of the investigation, Rineaux Willowdale was found in his room.” Jasper led me to Willowdale’s bedroom. The door was left open ajar with its bloodied carpet visible.
“Hmmm, this time the rangers did a rather thorough job,” he commented as he showed me a photograph of Willowdale lying on his side in a pool of blood.
I gave up remaining angry and decided to cooperate. “I didn’t know they took pictures of the scene,” I said, though part of me still chiding my overextended stewing.
“Usually they don’t, but after a visit from someone above I suppose it was brought to attention.”
There were five photographs. The first one was of the victim and the state he was found in. The second was the details of the wound and the blood stains on the floor. The remaining three were of the state of the crime scene.
“What do you suppose that is?” I pointed at a strange marking on Mr. Willowdale’s body. It was almost hidden under the collar, but it was a discoloured patch that appeared to creep up to his lower jaw.
Jasper peered at patch I pointed out. “It looks like a rash.” He flipped through Merl’s report and found what he was looking for. “‘Victim had a severe allergic reaction from iron. Rash spreading around the upper arm where a deep laceration had occurred spread down to the left elbow, up the left shoulder and along the left jaw.’ What’s this? ‘Victim had a history of injury on the right hip, evidence shown on the shorter left leg due to shifting bodily weight on the left side. Victim would be using a cane for support.’”
“How did he die?” I wondered aloud.
“According to Merl the victim was stabbed.”
A thought crossed my mind wondering if anything was left after the Rangers did their investigation. I crouched down and began to search under furniture. Just under the bed was something that glinted. I went down on my belly, reached under the bed and felt my hand close over something long and slender. I brought it out; it was a cane of polished ebony. The black wood was polished to a velvet shine with a faceted knob of smoky quartz on top.
“Good eye,” Jasper complimented.
I heard a faint rattling sound came from within the cane. I gave it a shake and heard it again.
“There’s something inside.” I examined the cane and noticed that there was a hidden groove located about a span down from the top; I began twisting the length where the groove was until the cane separated into two sections revealing its inside revealing a compartment holding several diamonds ranging from 2 to 4 carats all bearing dwarven runes.
“Well done, Cassisa!” Jasper praised.
I flushed. “We should take this to the station house,” I said as I put the cane back together.
“The lads there would be impressed at your find.”
I could only smile and say, “Let’s see what else we could find here.”
We did another search.
“Now what do we have here?” Jasper crouched down in front of a grated air vent. The bolts were oddly a size smaller than the holes they were in so the grate to the vent could easily be removed.
“What is in the vent?” I asked.
The grate fell away the moment he gave it a gentle tug. Inside the vent was a white handkerchief with a ruddy-brown stain. Taking the handkerchief, he opened it to reveal plain white handkerchief, two letters cut from newspaper, and a silver letter opener.
“D and P,” he said as he studied the cut out letters, “This letter opener is made of steel.”
Elves are naturally allergic to iron, which also means they were allergic to steel because of its iron components. Because one prick or scratch would cause them serious harm, some elves would take the extreme of even building their homes without iron materials, including nails. They would hire special carpenters who had the skill of building homes without any metals – something that would be impossible for humans to imagine, but made possible if that skill was demonstrated.
I peered over Jasper’s shoulder as we studied the letter opener. It was a plain letter opener, one that could be found in an office.
“It appears we have found the murder weapon.” Jasper wrapped the letter opener in its handkerchief then rolled them into his own to keep it from further exposure. “I think we are done here.”
“I wonder if the handkerchief was from the murderer.” I commented as we made our way out of the room. Just as we were about to leave Willowdale residence, something shining in a corner near the main entryway caught my eye. I reached down and picked it up. It was a round brass locket. The item was in a small corner near the door almost hidden from sight. On the locket was the initial T, inside contained a small painted portrait of a large eyed dark haired woman. The woman was young, somewhere in her twenties, her dark hair was piled on her head, she wore a yellow dress and on her hand was a large ruby ring. For some reason the face looked very familiar. Then I recalled something about the ring, when we were conducting our investigation.
“The man called her Lavinia... The lady was wearing a gold ring with a ruby on her left hand.” Could it be? I turned to Jasper.
“Are you thinking what I am thinking?” he asked with a knowing look.
“I believe so.”
Jasper and I immediately paid Peony a visit. We stood in front of the Tiller residence and knocked on the door. The moment Peony appeared at the door she let us in.
As we sat in her den, this time Jasper was the one who asked the questions.
He held up the locket we found. “This locket was found in the Willowdale residence, Miss. Tiller. Would you care to explain how it got there?”
Colour drained from Peony’s face as she fiercely shook her head. “I don’t know.”
“You are aware that Rineaux Willowdale had been killed in his home. Surely, you must know something.”
“The locket is indeed mine. But I swear, I did not kill him and I certainly do not know how it got in the home of that man!” Peony shook like a leaf as she wrapped her arms around her.
“Lavinia,” I said.
A look of recognition flashed across Peony’s face. She looked at me in surprise.
“I believe you know her?” I inquired.
Peony shook her head, but her eyes told us otherwise.
“Peony, two people are dead. You need to tell us what you know about Lavinia.”
Peony bit her bottom lip, eyes downcast. “She is my half-sister – or so we believe.”
“Half-sister?” Jasper asked.
“She shared the same mother as Gavin and I, but her father was Rineaux Willowdale.”
“How do you know this?”
“I learned of this just after Gavin died.” Peony sobbed, covering her face with both her hands, her knees sank to the floor. “I came across some papers that mentioned our blood relation. I confess. I have killed my own brother.”
“Tell us what happened,” Jasper said.
We watched as Peony sniffled. I approached her and handed her my handkerchief, which she accepted gratefully. After liberally blowing into it and wiping her nose, she began her story.
“Gavin and I were very close. He protected me when I was small from my father’s violence. After my father passed away and our mother fell ill, he continued to take care of both myself and our mother. When our mother died, Gavin found work at the Willowdales. He had been working with the elven community for years as well as being part of the guild for Keepers of Diamond Caves.
“One day, he came home with a concerned look on his face. When I asked him, he told me not to worry. He never told me what it was that bothered him, yet as days and months passed, I noticed that he was distant. Finally, it came to a point that it made me worry for him, I followed him. I saw him meeting a young woman at an Oronean restaurant. He seemed very affectionate towards her. I was shocked. He used to tell me everything and now he had a secret – with a woman! Then he would leave with her to the park and I followed. It was then I overheard Gavin and that woman plotting to run away! As I continued to listen I heard them setting a time and place. I wanted to know what this was about so I waited for them at the cemetery near St. Eleanor’s Chapel.”
“When was this?” Jasper took notes as we listened.
“This was at midnight, and that was when I saw my brother meet not a woman, but a man! It was dark and the man my brother was meeting wore black so I could not see who exactly it was. He started to attack my brother, making him run to the chapel for sanctuary. As I watched, I became worried about my brother’s welfare so I followed him. I saw them fighting each other in the sanctuary where it was also dark. I found a sickle that was left by one of the gardeners behind the chapel. I grabbed it and entered the chapel. I attacked whom I thought was the assailant, but only to discover I had stabbed my brother!” At that Peony broke down into tears.
“Miss. Tiller,” Jasper spoke gently, “Go to the rangers right now and tell them what you have told us.”
“You believe me?”
“What you have told us, explains your brother’s death. However,” he added, “What I do not understand why is why you did not tell them this sooner.”
She replied, “I was afraid.”
Moments later we accompanied Peony to the station house where we handed in the evidence we also found in our investigations. As we left, Jasper was lost in thought.
“Are you all right?” I asked.
“Hm? Oh, yes.” His face, however, told me otherwise. He then turned to me. “What do you think? Peony admitted to the murder of her brother, and yet, there was another that had occurred which may have a connection and she did not mention.”
“Perhaps she did not commit that one, or she is hiding something.”
“Perhaps…” Jasper did not seem convinced. Suddenly he stopped. “Cassisa, I want you to go straight home.”
“Go home?” Oh, yes, this was our last case together. “All right, I will do that.” I held out my hand.
Taking my hand, he gave me a confused look.
“Good work, Jasper,” I forced a smile on my face.
He gave me his half-grin and shook my hand. “You did well too, you know.”
I kept my smile as I turned to make my way back to Rosemary’s.
I walked for some distance, believing that Jasper would not see me, I let my tears fall. I was not sure why my heart ached. I asked myself if it was because I will no longer work with Jasper. As I reached into my reticule to get my handkerchief, someone handed me theirs.
“Thank you,” I sniffed as I wiped my eyes.
“I would be careful with that, my dear,” said a kind voice, “The chloroform may work too quickly.”
“Chloroform?” The handkerchief pressed against my face. It was then I saw a pair of large green eyes and bright yellow hair. The world around me spun, a strong arm caught me as I stared into the face of the mystery woman.
“Lavinia?” I heard myself say as I fell into a deep sleep.