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Defiance

A Muddy Scene | Early Monday AM | Before Chapel

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(OOC:  I interpreted the above comment as an indication that I should post next.  If I was wrong and I jumped posting order, please forgive me and remove my post if necessary.)

 

There was a lot of blood in the fountain. Perhaps it wasn’t only the poor bloke’s head that was dunked in the water. It was possible that he was stabbed while he was submerged. If so, his assailant was probably wet too. Maybe the knife was still in there. It was not yet light enough to see.

 

Anne-Elisabeth was glad that Lord Ranelagh was going to see to Nicci. Her friend needed coddling after the horror she had witnessed. He asked if she wished to come along, but she shook her head. Not only would she feel like an extra wheel, she was a woman of science (so so she fancied herself). Dead bodies and murders didn’t frighten her. Well, not much. She did feel slightly nauseous,

 

“I’ll stay here and help with the investigation, my lord,” she said. “I’ve already discovered something worth looking into.” Leaving the fountain, she walked back over to Nicci and squeezed her hand. “We should get together later. I’m worried about you.”

 

After nodding respectfully to Ranelagh, back to the fountain the young Countess went. She strolled around it looking for objects that might have fallen in the grass beside it. If she found nothing out of the ordinary, she would lean over the rim of the fountain and peer more closely into the bloody water.

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@ the fountain

"I don’t even know, it's just, seems wrong that a fellow is just laying dead there - and with no one to grieve him or care."  

Nicci was not her usual self at all, even if she wanted to feel proactive and even upbeat about the mystery at hand.  She was very rattled, and the cold of bloodied dress against her flesh (though concealed from view by Ranelagh’s cloak) just made her feel awful deep inside.  "Thank you." she was grateful for the Irish Earls suggestion, and nodded to the Jamaican Countess' plans too. 

 

 

OOC: thanks AE, & since we are seperating I dont think the posting order so integral 

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A blood trail confirmed the direction the culprit had traveled.  Langdon did not worry about footprints back towards the palace.  A killer would seek to flee, not return.

"Bradley, I will run to the closest gate.  You run to the other closest gate.  The guards are to stop anyone with blood on their garments or having sleeves that are damp with water.  You stay and help them look for a burly man with wet sleeves.  Now go!"

Charles preferred to catch the villain himself, so he had kept the closest gate as his responsibility.  Speed was of the essence, so he ran towards the gate, not caring much for the people he passed unless someone tried to run from him.

At the gate, he tried not to sound too excited, for it was unbecoming to a gentleman.  Allowing a moment to catch his breath and surveyed the men leaving through the gate.  "There has been a murder in the palace gardens and the trail leads here.  Close the gate.  Has any man passed who looks as if his garments were soaked in water?"  After receiving an answer, he asked that a runner go to each gate with instructions to look for a man with blood stains or wet sleeves trying to leave the palace. 

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(OOC - I will relay anything Bradley finds to Hope, if anything, so she can continue Bradley with CW down the road)

 

When Langdon arrived at the gate, there was nothing out of the ordinary.

 

"A murder?!" the pair looked at each other. "I do not think I have seen anyone wet, my lord, but many people wear coverings and cloaks this early in the morning. None appeared particularly suspicious." There was a bit of a pause. "Why wet, my lord?" It was not the description one usually heard for a murderer.

 

"There have not been many in or out this early," the other commented. 

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Ranelagh gave a smile and a nod to the adventurous widow, "Buona fortuna. It should not be very long before some other Lifeguards or Yeomen arrive." He took in a breath and then added, "If anyone else arrives before they get the area closed off, tell them Lord Langdon has barred anyone else from the area and that the Yeomen of the Guard will arrest anyone who interferes."

 

He would not wish to leave her without some idea of what to do if Lord Langdon or little Langdon did not return soon.

 

There was nothing on the ground around the fountain that would provide any clues of what had transpired. The blood in the water and lack of light would make it difficult to see if there was anything that had fallen in the fountain in the struggle. It was likely that her freedom of investigation would be interrupted before too long, and if she wished to discover something would have to be quick about it.

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At the Gate

"The victim was stabbed and drowned in the garden fountain," Langdon explained in a measured voice as his eyes kept scanning for suspicious courtiers avoiding the gate or his gaze.  "Thus, the killer would have soaked sleeves from attempting to drown the man, and would either have blood on his garments from the deed, or was wounded in the fight.  Either blood or wet sleeves will reveal a suspect," he explained.  "There was a blood trail in this direction."

Impatient, he announced to the guard "I will return to the scene to look for further clues.  Open the gates again in a minute or two but observe each who attempts to leave.  Arrest anyone with blood stains or wet sleeves," he instructed.  "For questioning," he clarified, as he wondered whether Bradley had better luck.  No killer was going to use this gate now that the guards were notified.

 

 

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"My lord, unfortunately, we do not inspect those leaving well for having our eyes focused on those arriving. Only a few have come or gone in the last ten minutes if 'twas not long ago," one said.

 

"None seemed in any particular hurry."

 

If it was a practiced assassin or conspirator, though, they would have enough sense to not draw attention.

 

"A tall gentleman left but a few minutes ago, and he would be a fine gentleman, for his perfume was the sort that would be expensive, Lord Langdon." The two were not buffoons in their duties, but the truth was that they were mostly there to keep undesirables out, no vet those who had already entered and were leaving. "We could only notice the back of him, so no idea who he was."

 

"There was another shortly before that but nothing of note. And a lady leaving."

 

"But I doubt a lady would stab or drown someone. More than likely a palace tryst and race to leave before courtiers arrive."

 

"We will do so, my lord."

 

(OOC - If you would have given chase when Nicci first mentioned which direction they went, you probably would have caught the person! You can rejoin Anne-E after her next post ;) )

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Blazing cannons.  It was a dead end. How was one to tell who might be a culprit underneath cloaks and finery?   This would not be a lady." he agreed.

Charles already was making conclusions in his mind.  It is a Frenchman no doubt. Langdon disliked the French and who else would murder a Dutchman?  "Any Frenchmen exit recently?"  Realizing that Frenchmen hardly wore a sign, he clarified "speaking or dressing like the French I mean."  No answer was likely to be satisfying.

Excusing himself, he headed back towards the fountain but tried to find the last spot that he and Bradley had seen evidence of a blood trail.  Might it still be there and might it show a change in direction if he looked closely enough?

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Anne-Elisabeth nodded. “Don’t worry, my lord. If anyone else comes this way, I’ll start singing. That will send them packing.” She glanced toward the body. “Of course, that might wake the dead chap too and then he can tell us who killed him.” A bit of levity in a serious situation often diffused the tension. She could tell how frightened poor Nicci was. She squeezed her friend's hand again and then went back to the fountain, searching around it and looking into the bloody water.

 

That turned up nothing. The Life Guards were following the trail of the killer where he fled, but where had he come from? Had his victim been waiting for him or was it the other way around? Holding her pomander close to her nose, she leaned over and began to examine the mud all around the scene of the crime, looking for footsteps that might indicate from which direction they had arrived at the fountain, as well as any items that either man had dropped either before, during, or after the struggle.

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"No French-like cloaks, my lord," one ventured, trying not to sound cheeky.

 

When Charles returned to the blood trail, he would find no evidence of some sort of misdirection, although the area was a bit more walked upon after everyone had come across Nicci. Whomever the bloodied person had been, they had apparently exited the palace, alone, perhaps smells very elegantly!

 

Anne-Elizabeth, also re-inspecting things, was still by the fountain as Lord Langdon moved nearer.

 

(OOC - If I might suggest to all, try something other than just looking and then looking more/harder...It is not daylight! Re-read the thread, might be helpful...Every detail of what I say and how I say it is important.)

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The Lifeguard officer had returned to the blood trail solely to test the theory that the culprit had continued towards the exit and had not changed course and moved back towards palace buildings.  Though the ground was sodden, Langdon had enough evidence to convince himself that  the murderer had left the palace, and therefore was not likely a resident of the palace.

Once back at the fountain, Charles greeted the lady again.  "My lady, do you smell perfume in the air around the body?"  Given his interaction at the gate, the Major was hoping to confirm that it was a courtier, rather than a servant, to blame.  Perhaps the perfume would be recognizable to the lady or himself.  To the nearby guards he ordered, "awake the master of the hounds.  I want a hound that can sniff a perfume and follow or recognize it."

While this would be happening, Charles looked for evidence that the victim may have grasped some article of clothing of the killer in his hand.  Perhaps there was a button that had come loose from the killer's coat.  The dead man's pockets, possessions, hands, and the immediate area was search for any clues.  Footprints were likely lost with the boots and shoes of others that had approached the dead man.

Where did he stab you?  Charles hoped to know if the killer had been in front or had ambushed him from behind.  If it had been in front, there was a possibility that they had known each other.

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It was so dark that Anne-Elisabeth could hardly see a thing. This was getting her nowhere. She stared at the dark stain on the side of the fountain. The metallic scent of blood made her gag and she raised her pomander to her nose again, but it slipped and fell into the fountain with a splash.

 

There was only one way to get it back. “Bloody fucking hell,” she muttered. Pushing her cloak back and taking off her gloves, she plunged both hands into the water. Damn, it was cold! She was a long long way from the warm waters of Barbados.

 

Leaning over the edge so that she could reach the bottom, she moved her hands over the smooth but chilly marble, inching her way around it and leaving no area unexplored. Her teeth began to chatter but she didn’t give up. Her pomander was down there somewhere, and perhaps she would find something else in it too that would help in the investigation.

 

A vaguely familiar voice startled her and Anne-Elisabeth nearly tumbled over the rim.. She looked up as the Life Guard who had taken charge of the scene approached her. The younger one was not with him. He had been scared shitless. She wouldn’t be surprised if he had already resigned and fled to the church to become a priest. No, priests came in contact with dead bodies regularly as well. They had to preach at funerals. Maybe he had decided to become a goat farmer. That sounded like a safe profession.

 

The Countess hoped the gentleman couldn’t see her well, but the constant splashing might alert him to what she was doing.

 

Did she smell perfume? As he searched the body, she lifted her head and sniffed the air.  Anne-Elisabeth had always been quite sensitive to scents.

Edited by Anne-Elisabeth Devereux

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The water in the fountain was indeed, quite chilly. Thankfully, it was not Scotland or the lady might be tempting frostbite! The bottom was a bit slick with algae and debris, even what felt like an errant coin or two. 

 

Lord Langdon would find a stab wound in the man's clothes, gut-level below his sternum. Quite a large hole in the man's clothing, actually. Instead of finding bits from the killer, he would notice tears and a few missing buttons on the deceased man's clothing.

 

As he had to turn the man over to locate such things, he might notice the ground significantly disturbed under and around the man where none of the spectators could have trodden. 

 

Anne-Elisabeth's hand then hit against something harder and heavier. Rather than her pomander, it was a large dagger.

 

There was no lingering smell of perfume in the air by the fountain, nor had there been such a smell.

 

"A hound that can sniff a perfume and follow it? Of course, my lord, I will wake him." Off the trooper went.

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Regrettably there was no strong smell of perfume.  That would make it harder for the hound.

A stab in the gut suggested the work of an impassioned assailant.  To a military man, a wound to the gut was the worst way to die.  It was slow and painful.  If someone wanted to kill someone quickly, the heart or throat were better choices.  This might be evidence that the murder was not a trained assassin.  In fact, an assassin would not have scuffled with the victim as the evidence gave witness.  The ground was disturbed as if a melee had occurred.  The missing buttons were further evidence.  This had been a fight that escalated into something deadly, as opposed to something more carefully planned.  The victim may have wounded his assailant as well.  Perhaps it was worthy of looking for a courtier with a black eye or a bloodied lip.  

The pockets of the victim seemed to yield nothing.  If a stray button could be found that did not match the buttons of the victim, Charles would collect it.  Little else caught his eye as Anne went fishing in the fountain.

The Major made a mental note to contact the Chamberlain's Office.  He would need to determine which servants would have been on duty at this hour and might have been in or near the gardens.  There would need to be questions asked of potential witnesses.  His eyes scanned the surrounding gardens.  It was still early, but might there be servants or other potential witnesses watching him from a distance?  If so, they needed to be questioned.

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How long has it been since this fountain has been cleaned? Anne-Elisabeth made a face as her hands connected with the slippery surface and brushed aside various pieces of mostly unidentified debris. Some were coins, and she pushed those to the right so that she could collect them later. She wasn’t poor by any means, but every little bit helped. Maybe there would be enough to buy her a new pomander. She wasn’t sure if she would be able to find hers before she froze to death.

 

When the Life Guard asked if she smelled perfume, she paused and sniffed. “I smell nothing but blood,” she replied before turning her attention back to her search. It has to be in here somewhere unless there’s a hole in the bottom of the fountain, which of course there’s not or all the water would be sucked into it. It would help if the sun comes up, but maybe I should be thankful for the darkness. I can’t even imagine the gossip that would fly around court if someone found me like …

 

Something sharp slashed across her palm. “Ouch!” she cried. That was definitely not her pomander, but could she have found the knife that had been used to stab the dead man instead? Anne-Elisabeth pulled her injured hand out of the water, while feeling around carefully with her good one. She touched the coldness of metal and slid her fingers along it until they curled around what was most definitely a hilt.

 

She lifted it from the fountain. The water’s pressure made it seem heavier than it was. I feel like King Arthur pulling the sword from the stone. “I think I found the murder weapon!” she called out to the Life Guard.

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As Charles mused over next steps, the lady found a large dagger.  The murderer had decided to hide the weapon.

"Do take care but let me see it," the young officer asked.  Looking to receive it, he gave it a good examination.  As a man who knew weapons, he wondered if the style would be English or French.  Often, a weapon maker would leave a mark.  If it was an English blade, perhaps it had been smithed for the killer.  If so, he might be able to trace it to the owner.

OOC~ Sorry, I thought to await a mod response first.

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(OOC - Keep going between yourselves ;) I want to see what you come up with jointly. I will drop in if you hit on something!)

 

The knife was neither English, nor French.

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Anne-Elisabeth was loath to let go of the dagger lest the Life Guard send her away. Instead, she stepped closer and held it out with her good hand so that he could take a look at it. The cut on her other palm stung and she could feel blood trickling down her wrist.

 

“Is it as foreign as the man that was killed by it?” she asked as she ran one finger along the flat end of the blade, wondering if she would feel anything written on it.

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The dagger was nothing special to his eye.  It seemed neither an English nor French blade.  "Curious," he observed aloud.  "Look for an engraved mark if you will and please look in the fountain to see if you can see anything else in there that might be helpful."  She was reluctant to give up the blade, so he tried to make her useful.

The Earl was running out of places to look for clues.  The ground was so disturbed and the hole so large in the man's gut that Charles was beginning to test the idea that there may have been more than one assailant.   The victim had been overpowered.  It would have been easier to overpower him with two men, rather than one.  He looked about for footprints or disturbances that might validate his theory.

As for the torn jacket, Langdon looked to see if the tears might be the product of a dog bite.  Could the killer have had a dog?  A dog might have also swallowed the buttons.  If it were a dog, it would make the killer much easier to find as few gentlemen came to court with an animal.

He searched the man again for hidden pockets that might yield a letter or a clue.  Was the man dressed as a servant?  He did not appear to have any heraldry, but he could be the manservant to a gentleman.  Was there a wig?  Did he have a scabbard that would suggest an aristocrat?

His eyes search the surrounding area for gleaming buttons, disturbed earth, an item or a trail that might reveal more about the meeting.

 

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The Lifeguard didn’t answer her question, nor did he try to take the dagger from her. Anne-Elisabeth supposed it didn’t matter if the weapon was foreign or not. Or perhaps all daggers were alike. Maybe she had showed her ignorance by asking if it was foreign.

 

He issued instructions, so she supposed that he was glad of her help. She almost complained about searching the fountain again. Did he have any idea how cold the water was? Or how slimy the bottom was?

 

The Countess opened her mouth and then closed it again. If she protested, she would sound like one of those silly ladies who who fretted if they got a spot of dirt on their gowns. If the Life Guard thought she was one or those distasteful creatures, he would definitely send her away. Besides, she had never been afraid of a little discomfort or getting her hands dirty.

 

He went back over to the body and she approached the fountain, sitting on the rim for a moment to thoroughly explore the dagger. She felt along the sides of the blade and all over the hilt, searching for engravings or any other identifying marks. Every inch of that dagger was examined, even underneath the overlapping on the hilt where it met the blade. She then lifted it up so she could see it better in the dim light, going over it again with her eyes. Perhaps something had been engraved on it and written on it too.

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There was nothing further interesting or notable about the dagger itself. The water of the fountain certainly did not beckon a second time. She had felt around the immediate area in search for her pomander already and felt nothing strange other than the dagger she had brought up. Perhaps Lord Langdon did not realize one could not see so well in there at this hour and with the blood darkening the water further! 

 

There were no paw prints. There had been a number of people around the body, so there were many footprints right there. Two sets of footprints could have been leaving the area, which he had seen earlier, one heading toward the palace and the other toward the gate.

 

If the dead man had been overpowered by two men, why did there seem to have been such a considerable struggle to produce such damage to the dead man's clothes? Why would the wound be so large and sloppy? 

 

In second look at the body, the man's clothes were fine but dark and not remarkable as the first time, not the sort of fashion of the French but more sedate like a German or Dutchman. The man did have a scabbard. The sword was still in it. There was more light as the sun ascended. Enough for a man familiar with weapons to notice that there might be a similarity between the dagger and the sword. 

 

Lord Langdon's life seemed to be rather full of mysterious daggers these days!

 

(OOC - I think we're getting somewhere! 😂 And don't hesitate to postulate your own theories Anne-E! You can see what CW is looking at from where you are, the body is right next to the fountain where you are sitting on the rim, so you are both close.)

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The victim was a gentleman for he had a sword.  Likely he was Dutch as there were few German men about court, unless he was of the Queen's retinue.  He focused on the face more closely to think if the dead man might have been in the company of the Queen.  Langdon had been in the Queen's Life Guard as a Captain and knew some of the faces about.  He also looked again for bruises about the face that might evidence a punch to the face, or two.

The next thing to identify the victim was a signet ring.  If the man was a lord, surely he would have a signet ring Charles imagined.  The hands were checked.  He knew the Dutch to have a republican form of government, so there were fewer nobles.

"The victim may be Dutch.  He was likely attacked by two men," he surmised aloud.  "There was a scuffle and the two assailants turned deadly in their purpose.  The victim had no time to draw his sword but he pulled forth his dagger, or else it was pulled free from his person in the scuffle.  Perhaps they were attempting to drown him."  As for the gaping wound, it might represent multiple stab wounds to the sternum.

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Anne-Elisabeth could find no engravings on the dagger or nothing else that might identify its owner. Still sitting on the rim of the fountain, she watched the Life Guard inspect the body again. This time he found a sword still in its scabbard. The sun was finally rising so she could see a bit better.

 

She listened to his speculations. “You think that the dagger is his too?” Her knowledge of weapons was nearly nonexistent … okay, it was nonexistent … so she couldn’t see the similarities between the dagger and the sword. “Maybe he stabbed his killer and there’s a courtier walking around with a fresh injury that might implicate him.”

 

The young Countess hopped down from her perch and stood next to the gentleman whose name she did not know. “What if the dagger was not his, but belonged to somebody he knew?   Maybe they were members of the same organization in the Netherlands. Perhaps the reason he didn’t draw his sword was because he thought he had nothing to fear from the men he was meeting. Obviously, they were up to no good or they wouldn’t have gathered in the dead of night.”

 

She paused, considering the evidence they had found so far. “Somebody was injured in the fountain because of all the blood. Perhaps the dagger did belong to the victim and he managed to stab one of his assailants when they tried to drown him, but the knife flew out of his hands and landed in the water. Somehow he got out before he was  fatally stabbed.”

 

Anne-Elisabeth knelt down beside the Life Guard to get a better look at the corpse. That is a rather large tear in his clothes. Maybe they had to stab him several times before he died. Are his clothes soaked too? And his shoes? If not, perhaps they only dunked his head in the fountain to drown him. He broke free, but he was overpowered and killed.”

 

She glanced over at the Life Guard. “Have you turned him over yet? There might be something of interest underneath him.”

 

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A trooper approached them to inform Lord Langdon that his brother had not found anything at the other exit, but had gone inside the palace to see if there was anything out of place there. 

 

At some point earlier, someone had rolled the body over and thoroughly checked for any items of interest. Buttons were missing from the clothing and there were several rips other than the long, large hole left from the dagger. The handle of the dagger and hilt of the sword matched but were not notable or particularly expensive. The gentleman did not seem grandiose enough to be the target of an ambushed assassination in the garden at the palace, truth be told. Surely an assassin would not have been so sloppy in his kill either. 

 

Some movement could be heard nearby, and a man appeared with a few servants and a pair of hounds. 

 

 

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Without any significant new evidence, Charles found himself nodded to the various suppositions advanced by the lady while his mind kept going.  There is something I am missing.  He saw no signet ring, so the man was not likely a noble.  Did the man's buttons look like they were made of gold?  That would be the only reason that buttons would have been stolen.

He was not surprised that his brother had found nothing unusual.  How was Bradley going to know if there was something unusual in the palace?  he was too new to it anyway. 

As the hounds arrived, Langdon asked the huntsman whether his dogs could track the blood of the killer.  He pointed the path of the blood droppings that had led the Whitehurst brothers towards the gate.  There was no perfume in the air, so the young officer had abandoned that idea.  He allowed the huntsman to attempt to pick up a trail with the dogs.

To the other servants, Langdon asked "I would like a list of all palace servants that were on duty this morning."  He knew that he would need to make the same request of the Lord Chamberlain, the Earl of Arlington.  "I am especially interested in any that would have been in the vicinity of this murder."  He had kept watch for any servants in the distance showing too much interest.  "I should like to question them."

"We should take the body to a cold and secure room in the palace.  I want to find someone who can recognize him.  I want him identified."

"

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The ground around the dead man was too wet and muddy to ascertain how much of the clothing had gotten wet from the fountain, for it was all wet now. However, the hair and top of the coat did seem too wet to have gotten so from the ground alone.

 

The Huntsman took the dogs toward where Lord Langdon had pointed out the blood and allowed the hounds to get a good sniff.

 

Meanwhile, Lord Langdon was answered by the Trooper who had brought Bradley's message, "The only servants who might be around out here at that hour of the morning would be gardeners, but it was even too early for them. I will ask for lists to be made." The Life Guards and Yeomen were quite familiar with the various patterns of comings and goings since many things in the palace ran on the same schedule daily. 

 

The Trooper eyed the body laying there and then said, "Seems strange a gentleman to be dressed so darkly and skulking about the gardens so early..." Even foreigners tended to a bit more finery and color for court. Surely this was no entirely innocent victim. Innocent people did not skulk about the palace in the dark getting involved in murderous things.

 

One of the servants that had come with the Huntsman nodded with this assessment about the gardeners. "I only know of the doings of some of the outdoor staff, my lord. The gardens are not frequented by the stable staff or such. They are here the earliest, though, to tend the animals and do the dirtier work before the nobles are about."

 

The dogs seemed to have picked up the scent toward the gates if they were ready to follow.

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The Life Guard said nothing more to her, simply nodding as she threw out various theories. There were far more possibilities than either of them could come up with, considering the scant evidence they had found. Anne-Elisabeth sighed when the trooper arrived, followed by some servants and a huntsman with a pair of hounds. Was this it, then? Was she going to be sent away now that reinforcements had arrived? If so, they were going to have a fight on their hands. She was involved now, and she was determined to see the investigation through, woman though she may be.

 

Orders were issued and she stood up when the trooper commented on the clothing of the deceased. "You know, we've been treating him like a victim, but what if he was the true villain?" She spoke loud enough so that the Life Guard could hear. “Perhaps he was an assassin, but his mark overpowered him. The man he was sent to assassinate probably didn’t intend to take his life, which is also why the hole in his clothes is so ragged.  He was just trying to defend himself."  Anne-Elisabeth held up the dagger.  "The dead man's own weapon was used to kill him."  

 

She noticed that the dogs seemed to have scented something around the gates. Dagger still in hand, the raven-haired Countess headed in that direction, so that she would be the first to see what they had found.

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It was true that it was a curious time to be in the gardens.  Wearing a dark color might be for nefarious reasons, or it might be nothing more than a preferred color.  The lady gave voice to the suspicion.

"If this man was the villain, then why did the victim flee?  Surely he could await help or run to the guards for assistance?"  To a soldier, it would make sense that a victim would seek out soldiers for help if attacked.  Why hide from those who would help?  "Perhaps the other two men were conspirators and had a falling out?" he speculated aloud.  "They needed to flee as well."  It seemed something of a long shot.  "There appear to be two others.  One stayed in the palace.  Surely they would report the attack if they were innocent."

There was an offer to make a list of servants and their morning schedules.  That would help in later questioning.  Arrangements were made to preserve the body in a cool room nearby.

"Very well.  Let us see where the dogs lead us."  There were two possible trails, but the bloodied one was their best hope.  It was still early in the morning and there might not be much foot traffic to cover the smell of the blood.  "The trail is still fresh."  He moved towards the gates at a brisk walk.  He would hope the dogs might lead them to the right place.

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The Trooper shrugged, he simply did not think your average courtier could be found murdered in such a way, at such a time. "A meeting of some sort then? If there were three." Truly, there could be any number of explanations. Something was unexpected, though, or interrupted, perhaps. No smart assassin would plan a murder in so visible a place, even at such an hour. "Someone would flee if they thought they would be suspect regardless of their story or if they had something to hide or could not risk being detained because of some duty."

 

The former Northern Secretary had all sorts running about, and sometimes there was a body or two that turned up. This almost reminded him of that. There were many potential reasons one might flee the scene. The trooper did not even know that the murder's ending had been interrupted by Nicolette.

 

The trooper stayed behind as Lord Langdon and the lady followed the dog and the handler. The dog led them into the Park on a fairly straight path. It was some minutes worth of vigorous walking before the dog found something in the bushes.

 

It was the bottom portion of a cut-off sleeve from a finely made shirt with an intricate lace cuff. It was soaked with blood, but not the bottom cuff portion, the top portion.

 

There was nobody visible nearby or walking away.

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