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Defiance

A Muddy Scene | Early Monday AM | Before Chapel

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Anne-Elisabeth nodded when suggestions were made. “The intended victim also had something to hide, and that was why he fled without alerting the guards. Maybe he and the third man were also up to no good. The unintentional victim planned to do away with both of them, but there were two of them and only one of him.” She shook her head sadly. “He was overconfident. Or perhaps he had expected his mark to be alone. It's easy to hide in darkness.”

 

She looked over at the fountain. “He pulled his dagger, but one of the others grabbed it from his hands. They pushed his head in the water and tried to drown him, but lost their hold on him. When he turned around, they stabbed him with his own dagger, which flew out of his killer's hand and fell in the fountain. Then again, the dagger could have fallen in the fountain when one of the men knocked it out of the dead man's hand and he was stabbed with another weapon that is still in the possession of its owner.”

 

The Barbadian Countess managed to keep up with the Life Guard’s longer stride as they followed the dogs into the park. She was beginning to become winded when the dog stopped and sniffed at the bushes. It looked as if somebody had cut off his sleeve above the bloody part. The lace was very fine and probably belonged to a …

 

“The intended victim and impromptu killer was a Frenchman.  If the dead man is Dutch, that makes perfect sense. The Frenchman was stabbed in the arm by the Dutchman, who intended to kill him. Or he had scheduled a meeting with the Frenchman so he could murder him and didn’t realize that he had brought backup. The real killer had do away with the bloody part of his sleeve for some reason. If he was wearing a justacorps, then it would be bloody too unless he took it off before the scuffle. In that case, why didn’t he just hide the sleeve under the jacket instead of hacking it off?”

 

Anne-Elisabeth grinned.  "That also explains why he didn't retrieve the dagger from the bloody fountain.  Those French fops are rather fastidious." She  looked over at the Life Guard. “Maybe somebody has seen him walking around with only one lace cuff. I’m not sure if a man would notice something like that, but a woman certainly would. Where could he go from here? If he's injured, his progress might be slow.  Perhaps he passed some commoners or servants who would have noticed the missing cuff.”

 

She thought about searching through the bushes in case there was something left behind, but she was still holding the dagger and her other palm was bloody and aching where it had been cut. She didn’t want to get her own blood on the evidence. Maybe the Life Guard would comb through the bushes or the dog would discover something else of interest.

 

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A bloody cuff.  "Keep searching the bush," he instructed the servant with the dog.  It was not as if he expected much more.  "Is there still a trail to follow?" he asked the houndsman.  The man might still be bleeding but have no cuff to catch it.  That might leave an even better trail.  That it was the upper portion of the cuff that was bloodied suggested that the wound was to the arm and not the hand.

The suppositions of the lady and the trooper made sense.  Perhaps the victim did not seek out guard help because he did not wish to draw attention to himself.  Could it have been one of Williamson's men?  Etherege had said that the King was to have an audience in the garden in the morning, as he recalled.  Was the Dutchman lurking to kill the King?  One man with a sword and dagger was unlikely to succeed, Charles imagined.  Who was the victim and who was the villain?  Charles tended to prefer the narrative  that the French were the villains and the Dutch the heroes.

"A woman would notice," he agreed with Anne.  "A coat could hide the missing cuff," he observed.

"I will keep the cuff for evidence," the Earl announced.  "The man has left the palace for the park, so he is unlikely to return to the palace in a bloodied state."  

Charles tried to recall where was the nearest barber surgeon to the park.  If the wound was deep, the man would need someone to sew him up.  It might be worth a visit.  "Anyone know a barber surgeon or doctor near this park?  If he went for assistance, we will have the man.".

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The dog was quite fixated on the cuff. The handler took him around the area trying to catch where the scent went from there, but the dog mostly seemed to circle the area of the cuff. 

 

The presence of the cuff being cut off was rather odd. It could be that the killer had foreseen that, since they had been discovered by someone and fled, that a dog might eventually be used to give chase. It could also be that the killer had cut off the cuff because cuffs hang below sleeves of most justacorps, often very generously, and a bloody accoutrement would be very obvious hanging and dripping down. Or it might be that the killer had cut his shirt so that he could cut off a strip to attempt to slow the bleeding. All of those options and others were quite possible.

 

Whomever it was, clearly, had a very sound mind for this sort of thing. And had very fine lace. 

 

"It does not seem the trail carries forward, my lord," the handler said.

 

Most of Pall Mall was close by, but many of the finer neighborhoods and houses other than those on Pall Mall were but a short walk or trot away. The area was beginning to awaken and it was likely that whomever it was would now blend in with either the more active streets and the growing activity of the park. Or they could have made it back to their lodgings. Quite some time had passed since Nicci had first come across the scene and heard the person fleeing the scene.

 

The musings of both the Lord and the Lady could prove to have some truth for them. Their theories depended greatly on the identity of the person who was dead. The one who had killed him for now, it seemed, had escaped. 

 

(OOC - I'm going to stop you from running down unnecessary trails...the person did not seek help attending the wound.)

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It looked like the bloody lace cuff was all they were going to find. If the killer had left a trail of blood, the dogs would have picked it up. It seemed unlikely to Anne-Elisabeth that he would have cut off the bloody part of his cuff to get to a clean section to bind his wound. Just cutting off the cuff would have been awkward enough. It would be easier to pull out his shirt, cut off the bottom, and then tuck it back into his breeches with his good hand. That would give him a larger bandage.

 

“If he was really intent upon not being discovered,” she mused thoughtfully, “he could have left the cuff in the bush intentionally to throw any pursuers off his true path. He might not have gone through the park at all.”

 

Excited to investigate further, she turned her gaze to the Life Guard. She still held the dagger, blade pointed downwards. “I could disguise myself and ask around on the streets,” she offered. “If a woman noticed a man with one cuff or one who was acting a bit strange, she might be more likely to tell another woman. I can say that I’m searching for a relative who is not in his right mind.”

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"Most likely he threw it here to cover his tracks," Langdon admitted quietly. Blazing cannons.  He was at a dead end.  If the murderer had done this to throw them off, it meant that they were dealing with a professional killer, the kind the French might employ, the young officer imagined.  Who else would have expected him to summon the hounds?  

Anne offered to spy about, but she was a lady.  She reminded him fondly of his own Darlene.  Darlene would be sure to volunteer to investigate the whole matter with her and her lady friends.  Come to think of it, Susan Herbert would have likely volunteered as well.  What was it with ladies?  At the first hint of danger they were ready to speed right into the middle of it.  No gentleman should accommodate such thinking.

"Quite impossible.  You are a lady.  This man is dangerous.  He is clever enough to fool our chase and yet he is going to be cavalier enough to give away his identity by letting women examine his sleeves?  I think not.  He could overpower you in an instant and be willing to murder again.  No, my lady, this is best left to the Northern Secretary and his men.  This may well be nothing more that French and Dutch agents at each other's throats."  It seemed best that English spies deal with French spies.

"The sun is coming up.  It is best if we return to the palace and make a report.  The villain has slipped away and we may have better success in seeing whether servants have seen the victim before and might identify other mysterious men who wander the gardens at first daylight."  It sounded more optimistic than he felt.  Already the Lifeguard Major was second-guessing his every move.  If I had just given chase immediately ... . he wondered to himself.

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The Life Guard agreed with Anne-Elisabeth’s supposition that the killer had been trying to cover his tracks. “If he did that, then he must be a professional assassin and he meant to eliminate the Dutchman all along. Perhaps the Dutchman was an assassin as well and was contracted to slay the Frenchman before he could carry out his own orders. Or they were both after the same man? Maybe that was the third man, also a Frenchman, and they overpowered the Dutchman.”

 

Left unasked and unanswered was the question as to why foreign assassins would have been sent to England in the first place.

 

She should have known that the Life Guard would be against her perfectly rational idea. Yes, the last time I looked in my mirror, I was still a lady, she thought sarcastically. But my gender has nothing to do with how clever I am. And it’s not as if I would approach the suspect. I would have just asked other women if they had seen a man walking around with one lace cuff.

 

Protesting, Anne-Elisabeth knew, would be pointless. Gentlemen were set in their ways when it came to women, too protective of the fairer sex to see how astute and capable they were. Perhaps when she was an old woman, she would look back on this day and realize that he had been right. But now she was young, reckless, and adventurous and thought she could handle anything that came her way.

 

It seemed that he wasn’t intending to investigate much further either, handing the matter over to the Northern Secretary, whoever that was. She didn’t know if she was included in his plans to attempt to identify the victim, but she planned to accompany him anyway. Whether he wanted to admit it or not, she was involved, and she wanted to have something to report to Nicci later. “I’ll help you question the servants. Even female servants will be more relaxed with another woman present.”

 

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(OOC - the sun came up before the dogs arrived...so the sun has now been up for some time. Everyone of importance will be at chapel until after the Queen leaves, including the King. The earliest part of the timeframe still open beyond this thread is Monday evening. Anything else would have to be behind the scenes or we'll never move forward.

Here are the updates you would get on returning:

The body has been removed. Yeomen of the Guard were blocking off that area because of "a leak in the fountain." 

Nobody has been able to find out who the dead man is yet. Nobody has reported anyone missing. How would you find out who this is?

There aren't even any whispers about a murder or dead person so far. 

Anything with Sunderland has to be off screen, bc I do not play him so do not include him as a NPC involved in any of my plots. 

I'm not as good at these chasing the evil-doer threads as Brian ;) You can wrap this last piece up between you! )

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The morning had been exciting but it was a hollow feeling for there was no arrest of villain responsible.  Upon their return to the garden area, Langdon found the area cordoned off and stories of murder replaced with accounts of leaking fountains.  The Lifeguard officer played along but doubted highly that the secret could be maintained.  Too many people were aware that foul ply had occured and the news was far too appealing to gossip than to hope that it could be contained.  Darlene was certain to interrogate him fully for the details when next they were alone together.

"I think it best my lady that we keep the details of this morning confidential.  It may aid us in capturing the culprits behind the attack," Whitehurst cautioned Anne.  "I am afraid that I must ask you for the dagger.  It is now important evidence in the crime and I shall need it to complete the inquiry."  He held out his hand to receive it, expecting to have his request satisfied.

"I shall need to take my leave as I need to inform my Colonel and His Majesty ultimately," he explained to the lady.  Their walk together was at an end for now.  He bid the Countess good day.

Summoning men of the Life Guard together, Charles began giving orders.  One trooper was to stay with the yeomen guarding the body.  It was not that he did not trust the yeoman but he expected to be held responsible if the body were to disappear.  He requested the houndsman to leave the dog with the corpse.  For reasons he could not explain, he guessed that the missing killer would likely return to the scene of the crime and maybe look for the body later in the day.  He wanted a barking dog to be a clue for his trooper to chase the person that caused the dog to growl or bark, holding him for further questioning.  Charles could only hope that the dog with the scent would remember it for the next 24 hours.

Another trooper was given the task of taking a note to the Northern Secretary, Lord Sunderland, informing him that Langdon had reason to suspect that the victim was a Dutch spy up to no good.  With no one to identify the body, the Major had been inclined to send for the Dutch Ambassador but this was a matter for diplomatic niceties as opposed to police efforts.  He would defer to Lord Sunderland to use his contacts to learn the identity.

That left the Duke of Ablemarle, his superior in rank, more ways than one, to be informed.  Troopers were sent to find the location of the Duke.  The man rarely came to visit Langdon at the palace, so his location was often unknown.  He owed an attempt to inform the Duke before he reported to the King.  Others had been sent to warn the Queen, York and the King, so the young officer seemed content that protection had likely been increased.

Sending word that he was available to brief the King if he wished, Charles made plans to head briefly to Somerset Palace to send forces from his regiment into the area where the villain retreated to see if there was any sighting of a well-dressed man with a bloody sleeve seen moving about the streets of Pall Mall or the area surrounding St. James Park.  With a plan to return to the palace, he hoped to meet with Lord Arlington to see if the morning servants might be questioned.

OOC~ Not wanting to create a time knot, I am leaving open the rest of his day to consult with dukes and royalty as needed.  Otherwise, I know he is summoned the following morning.

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So much for finding my pomander, Anne-Elisabeth thought as she saw that the area around the fountain had been blocked off. She hadn’t been looking forward to putting her hands back in it anyway, not even after it was cleaned. There was no telling what kind of germs could be lurking inside it. And the pomander was most likely ruined.  A pity, as it had been her favorite.

 

The nameless Life Guard … damn his worthless soul … thought he could dismiss her like she was one of his soldiers. She fully intended to accompany him whether he liked it or not, refusing to relinquish the dagger unless he agreed. But when she lifted her hand, it was stained with the bloody fountain water. The other one was too, and the wound on her palm was still oozing. Looking down, she groaned at the sight of blood spatters on her cloak. The bottom was caked in mud, as were her shoes.

 

Nobody in their right mind would talk to her while she looked like this. They might think she was the murderer herself. Now that she knew how filthy she was, all Anne-Elisabeth wanted to do was go home and take a bath before she went to church. She could question the female servants later. If they knew anything, they were unlikely to do more than state the facts when approached by soldiers. One wrong word and they might wind up in a cell. They might, however, open up and share details with another woman, particularly if she gave them a day or two to absorb the shock. Maybe she would even be the one who discovered the dead man’s identity.

 

Reluctantly, she handed him the dagger, nodding when he told her to keep her lips sealed. “I’ll keep my mouth shut, but I also expect you to involve me in the investigation. Whether you like it or not, I’m involved in this too. A clever lady who always keeps her wits about her  and isn't squeamish could be useful to you. Nobody would believe that a lady would concern herself with a murder, and so I would be above and beyond suspicion wherever I go and whatever I do. Think about it.”

 

And with that, she turned around and headed back to her carriage. Looking over her shoulder, she added: “I’m Lady Cambray, by the way.”  An accidental rhyme, she thought smugly.  Quite literally, poetry in motion.

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"I shall keep that in mind ... Lady Cambray."  It was only then that he realized that they had not been introduced.  "I am Major Charles Whitehurst, Earl of Langdon and Major in His Majesty's Life Guard.  Where are you staying if I am to send a note?"  He doubted he would need to do so, but it never hurt to know how to contact witnesses again.

Once she was gone, he made ready to leave but worried about identifying the corpse.  He owed it to himself to scrutinize the man's features and clothing again.  His height, possible age, eye color, scars and other telltale features were committed to memory.  In better light he looked at the boots and clothing for any sign of the bootmaker's or clothier's name.  It might even reveal a different country of origin.  The sword and dagger had been examined before and nothing noteworthy had been found.

Frustrated, he asked the yeoman of the guard if they might have their fellow gate guards come to see if they recognized the man or could recall seeing him come and go from the palace recently.  "Find an artist to come and sketch his face so that we might show it to people that may recognize him."

"Please ask the Lord Chamberlain to come at his earliest ability," he instructed one of his troopers.  The man was not only the Royal Chamberlain with oversight of servants at the palace, he used to be the Northern Secretary before Sunderland and his friend Joseph Williamson in the Tower.  If Arlington cannot help, perhaps I should pay a visit to Joseph.

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Anne-Elisabeth paused and turned around to face the Life Guard who now had a name. He asked for her address, so perhaps he had seen the wisdom in her words. Or maybe he was just being nice and ... either intentionally or unintentionally … giving her false hopes. She supposed she would just have to wait and see.

 

“It would be a pleasure to meet you under more pleasant circumstances, Lord Langdon.” she said with a wry little smirk. “I live at Forty-One Piccadilly Street.” The dark-haired Countess almost told him about her lost pomander but changed her mind because it gave her an excuse to visit him to ask if he’d found it. It did not contain her initials or anything else that would indicate it belonged to her. If … when … it was found, he had no reason to connect it to her until she came seeking it.

 

“Good luck with your investigation,” she told him. Turning away from him, she made her way to her carriage, desperately longing for a bath.

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