Murder! Murder! Murder! That is the word I most often hear in my line of work. People come walking through my door claiming a crime has been committed, begging me to solve it for them. They drop their coin on my table claiming they will pay any price, they beg and plead and threaten. Sometimes I say no, Most times I say yes though, I need the coin, it doesn’t pay to be stuck up.      

     Many times the case is easy to solve, a loved one turns up passed out in a bar somewhere, sleeping it off in a dirty corner. Or a son has run off to the next town to be with his forbidden sweetheart. Murder, they all claim murder, a way of avoiding the monotonous answers to their own problems, but, as long as they pay it’s no skin off my nose. 

     Every once in a while a case comes through that proves interesting, one such case came to me on a dreary day. A tall, cloaked man tromped into my office...the corner booth at Mel's bar and chow. He tracked mud across the floor, adding to the other trails of mud, that's all you ever get in this backwater town, mud. He sat across from me and stared from underneath a travel worn hood, wet from the perpetual drizzle happening outside. 

       We sat in silence for quite a bit before I decided to start the conversation.

 "Tell me your tale and I'll tell you the price." I leaned back and lit my pipe, the match illuminating a set of yellow eyes staring back at me. I acted casually but I admit his stare was becoming unnerving and I didn't like it, didn't like it one bit. 

 "Murder." He growled.

 "That's what they all say." I chuckled.

 "Murder!" He snarled, slamming a gloved fist onto the table. 

"Okay, okay," I placated, holding out my hand, "no need to get riled, tell me what happened." 

He settled back in his chair still watching me with a shrouded gaze. 

"Three nights ago," he grunted "found my nephew dead, murdered."

"What do the authorities say?" I asked. 

"Suicide." He sneered. "They don't know." 

" Don't know what?" I questioned, he didn't answer. 

"Murder." He repeated, leaning towards me and staring more intently. I set my pipe down, feeling a little disconcerted. 

"Yes, as you said before. But if the constables have decided it's a suicide, you will have to give me a better reason to why you think it is murder." I told him, leaning forward to match his gaze.

"There was a note." He growled, slamming a palm down on the table, underneath it was a slip of paper, he slid his hand back leaving the paper for me to take, I did so and examined it. 

     It was a grungy, slip with strange symbols scrawled over it. I stared at it for a while, flipping it back and forth trying to understand what I was looking at. After a moment I slid the paper back across the table.

 "What does it mean?" I asked. He didn't take the paper back. 

"It means murder. We need you to find out who." He slid a large pouch across the table to me, it's sides distended with coins. "Three days." He stood up,I had to crane my neck to look up at him. 

"Why three days? How was he killed? What's his name!?" He stared down at me. 

"West Shire, 4th house on Brewer lane." His guttural one line was muttered as he turned from me and stomped his way out of the bar, it was then that I noticed the tail. I admit I shuddered a little, the wolf people are not usually ones who ask for help. Neither are they people you want to cross. I safely tucked the coins under my cloak and stood up, 

I had three days to come up with some answers, I knew I couldn't do it alone, it was time to assemble my team. 

    First off I headed to the house of my greatest friend and helper. Weasy, an eccentric little goblin who, while a sneaky little asshole, who would steal the cloak off your back if he thought he could get away with it, was the greatest information finder in all the seven kingdoms. I knew without a doubt he would be able to find out everything I needed to know. 

    Then I needed a tracker, someone who could follow whatever clues we found at the house of the alleged crime. This was a job for Mira. She talks way to much, and has a tendency towards being a ditz but when you get her to focus there is nothing she can't find. 

  Finally I needed someone with connections. A crime scene that has already been inspected by a constable will almost be impossible to get into, and seeing the body will be even more so, but with the right connections you can get in anywhere. That's where Zolo comes in, the worst of all snobs, but like most elves his sense of honor is deep, I saved his life now he gives me his services, which in this case means all his connections. 

 With my team together, for better or worse, we set off to solve a mystery. 

Day one:

 First things first, we needed more information. Such as; who was the victim? how was he killed? And where was West shire? 

 Weasy spent most of the day doing what he does, to find out what we needed. He showed up at my place as I was putting supper on the table. He helped himself to bread and stew. 

  "What did you find out Weasy?" I couldn't help but feel a tad bit impatient. Usually at this stage of the game I had enough information to start my own investigation, but this case had nothing for me yet, meaning I had to wait on my comrades. 

  "A lot." He told me around a mouthful of food. "Our victim died three days ago."

"Name?" I interrupted, Weasy glared at me and tore off another bite of bread deliberately taking his time to chew and swallow before answering.

 "Charles Lambobby." Weasy said.

" That's not a very wolfish name." I speculated.

" He wasn't a wolf, he was a Satyr." Weasy told me triumphantly.

" A Satyr?" I felt confused, my wolf friend had said the victim had been his nephew, how was it that his nephew was a Satyr. I shook my head, that was further into wolf business then I wanted to go. 

"What else did you find?" Weasy had finished his meal and was now licking out his bowl. He paused long enough to answer.

"West Shire is the name of Grungs,the wolf town, you can get there in half a day if you ride hard." 

  Grungs was what everyone called the Wolf headquarters. Grung being the name of their overlord, a mob type leader who ruled by fear, blood and a constantly changing set of rules. We had all called it Grungs for so long I guess I never realized it had any other name. 

" You sure you want to take this case Gwenwé?" Weasy asked me seriously. "Anything dealing with the wolves is shady and bad business."

"I don't think I have a choice." I admitted. I hadn't gotten the impression that no was an acceptable response to the interview, in any case, I had taken the coin and started the search, it was too late to back out now. 

 "I'm going to head out with Mira and Zolo tonight. You coming with us?" The little Goblin shook his head emphatically. 

 "Goblins and wolves get along worse than cats and dogs. There's no way I'm showing my face in a whole town of them."

     We were ready to leave in a couple of hours. It was dark by then but the road was pretty straight forward and with the time constraint we were on, I didn't have the time to wait till morning to travel. 

Day two:

    Dawn had broken when we rode into West Shire. We made our way to a travelers inn, got our horses settled in the stable and went to see about some food. 

    The dining room of the inn was nearly empty, a few stragglers hunched over their ale. A tired looking woman came to take our orders, her wolf ears poking up through her hat, a layer of grey fur covering her fingers. When the barmaid had walked away Mira leaned over, "A half breed." She whispered to me her wings quivering a little. "I'm surprised Grung allows such things." She scoffed. I was a little less surprised.

   After finishing our breakfast Zolo headed off to visit with his connections, he vaguely mentioned knowing someone in the Mayor’s office. Zolo never gave us details about his connections, as long as I get what I need he can keep his secrets. 

     Mira and I decided to visit the house where the crime had taken place, we had little hope that we would get inside. As we suspected the doors were locked, we walked around outside, Mira doing her thing and examining different things in the dirt and on the windowsills. 

  “There’s nothing here.” She told me fluttering down from the window. “I’m going to go talk to the constable, see if I can see the body.” She headed into town, I lingered at the house, I had some thoughts, but I wasn’t sure about any of them yet. 

    Zolo came through as he usually does, he got Mira access to the corpse, she did her search but didn’t come up with any leads. The only thing she could tell me was that while Lambobby mostly resembled a Satyr with his goat hooves and horns, he also had a few characteristics that showed him to be part wolf. Zolo informed me that the halfbreed was a runner for the Council of wolves, collecting taxes and protection fees from the various business owners around town.

  We all reconvened at the tavern and talked over dinner.

  “Tomorrow is the last day.” Zolo said, “We have nothing of real value to solve this case. We need more time.”

  “We will sleep on it tonight and tomorrow will bring what it brings.” I said, I wasn’t feeling too concerned, “I have some leads, I just need to figure out how they all fit together.” I was fairly optimistic as to what tomorrow would bring. My friends were skeptical but we all headed to bed to sleep on it. 

Day three:

  In the morning I woke to find the cloaked man waiting outside for us. His hood was thrown back revealing his canine snout.

 “That wasn’t three days!” Mira fretted, flitting back and forth from the window to me. “What are we going to do? What are we going to tell him?”

  “Let me handle it.” I told her calmly, putting on my cloak. They followed me outside.  On the street I stood face to face with the giant wolf man. He didn’t speak, so I took it upon myself to begin.

“Goodmorning...” I paused realizing I still didn’t know what to call him.

“Zerók.” He growled.

“Good morning Zerók, I suppose you are here for answers?”  I didn’t wait for him to answer. “Well we have some.” I told him confidently. “I admit when you first came to me I was intrigued, but then we got here and we began learning a few things that left me a little baffled. Why would a member of the council hire a hick town detective to solve their problems? And why would any one dare kill a personal messenger of the council?” I paused watching Zerók for any reaction, he didn’t give me any, his yellow eyes just watched, a heavy frown on his face. “Then I began to think, it wasn’t a matter of who wanted Charles dead, it was a question of who would dare cross the council. That list doesn’t exist, not in this town anyway, the only ones who would kill Charles Lambobby would be the council itself.

   “So the council were the ones who put out he kill order?” Mira asked, Zerók glared at me, I felt a chill move down my spine, but I maintained a neutral face. 

  “I think that the council did put out a kill order.” I said, but I think that when they got there Charles was already dead.” I maintained eye contact with Zerók, not an easy thing to do with a wolf man. “He's not your nephew is he? You were his assassin, finding him dead didn’t make you very happy did it?” I asked him. He didn’t acknowledge the question, I knew I was right. 

“Why did they hire you f they wanted him dead?” Zolo asked raising one delicate eyebrow, obviously disbelieving my theory.

 “The council didn't hire us.” I told him. "Zerók did. I don't think the council could have cared less, long as who they wanted dead was dead. It was Zerók who was miffed that he didn't get to make the kill."

 “Who did it then?” Mira asked perplexed.

“A disgruntled lover I think.” I said keeping an eye on Zerók. “Satyr’s are known for their promiscuity.” I said lightly. “Doubtful that we will ever find out who.” Zerók growled low under his breath.

 “We hired you to find out who.” He threatened. 

 “Yes, you hired me to find out who had killed your nephew, but come to find out, he was not your nephew and you were trying to kill him yourself.” I said, my hand clutching the knife I had hidden under my cloak. “There is not enough evidence to find out who killed him. I did my best.” The wolf man stared at me, his brows lowered. 

 “I knew this waste of time.” He grumbled. “A waste of money. Our business is done.” He said. “Leave town tonight, never show your useless face back here.” He told me, spitting at my feet.” He stomped away leaving us alone. I let out a slow breath, trying to calm my heart beat.

 “Let’s go.” I told my comrades, “before he changes his mind and we are left dead in an alley somewhere.”

   It wasn’t until we were on our horses and a good few miles away from Grunds that Mira spoke.

  “You know who did it don’t you?” She asked me. I rode silently for a few moments.

 “Yes.” I admitted.

 “What?” Zolo gasped, coming alongside us. “Who?”

“The barmaid.” I told them.

 “The half breed one?” Mira frowned at me. “Why her? How do you know?” 

“It’s quite simple actually.” I told them nonchalantly. “ She told me.”

“Spill it Gwenwé!” Mira demanded. “No more of your cryptic answers, tell us the story plainly.” I gave in and began my answer.

 “It was the paper that Zerók gave me in the beginning. The one with the strange symbols on it. I had no idea what they were, and to be honest I had forgotten all about the paper, until we arrived in Grungs. When we went to the inn there were two Satyrs sitting beside us at the next table, I noticed when they got their tab it was written in the same symbols as our mystery paper. The killer left Charles’ bartab on his corpse.”

  “How would the council not have figured that out?” Zolo interrupted, he always questioned my answers, always doubted my intellect. 

  “I don’t think the Wolves had ever been in that tavern. It was a human establishment, more or less, they collected their taxes and their protection fees, but Charles is the one who collected those, other than him I don’t think a single wolf has ever walked into that place. On top of that the council didn’t care about who killed Charles, they wouldn’t dig around trying to figure out the scrap of paper.” 

 "Tell us the rest about the barmaid.” Zolo said impatiently. 

  “Well after Mira went to check out the body, and you went off to talk to the Mayor I went back to the tavern, I showed the maid the paper and she confirmed it was the tab, I asked if she knew Charles Lambobby, she laughed in my face and then proceeded to tell me the whole story.”

 “Of course I knew Charles Lambobby, everyone does. ‘Nuffin’ ever good came when he was around. He’d come in ‘ere demanding the taxes and other fees for them wolves, then that night he’d coome back spending our coin, getting drunk on the money we worked to make.” She spat on the ground, crossing her arms under her breasts. “He thought he was all that, all because his mother was a wolf, tried so hard to be one of them. He came in here one night, bragging about how he had gotten himself on the counsel, I had ‘nough, I couldn’t stand it anymore. I waited until he had drunk himself crazy, followed him home and did him off. I don’t care who knows it, I tain’t ashamed, I’d do it again if given the chance.”

“So how do you figure that Zerók hired us against the counsel’s wishes?” Zolo asked.

“Well that is more of an assumption. First of all. Why would a council of Wolf people  connected to every aspect of the town hire a nobody from another town to solve their problem? Second why would they just let us walk away with their coin when we didn’t actually solve their case?” My comrades rode in silence for a little while, I couldn’t help but feel a little self satisfied, this case had tied itself up neatly. 

 Murder! They all cry murder! I take what I can get and I solve what I can. Gwenwé, private detective at your service. 

January 17, 2020 23:20

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