Murder at the Kinnen Hotel, p.1Brian McClellan
All material contained within copyright © Brian McClellan, 2014.
All rights reserved.
This is a work of fiction. All names, characters, places and scenarios are either products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. All resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
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Twenty-two years before the events of Promise of Blood...
Adamat trudged through the slush and snow of the streets and onto the shoveled walkway that led up to the home of the Viscount Brezé. The four-story townhome in the Samalian district was surrounded by a ten-foot wrought iron fence, the tiny yard blanketed in snow.
Half a dozen constables swarmed the street in front of the townhome, and there were probably twice that number inside. Two large police wagons were parked in the street, creating a blockage that only encouraged the growing crowd of onlookers.
Subtlety, Adamat reflected, was not a quality of the Adopest police of the First Precinct.
His old precinct would never have been so sloppy. He’d have to mention it to the captain. A word to the drivers, instructing them to park out of traffic, was all it would take. He stepped inside and removed his overcoat and hat, shaking off the melted snow before handing them to the butler.
“Who are you?” the butler asked, more than a little hostile. “No one else is allowed. Everyone is already tramping in and out and the lady of the house—”
“My name,” Adamat cut him off, “is Special Detective Constable Adamat. I’m here at the bequest of the captain of the precinct. Kindly point me to the crime scene.”
The butler’s mouth snapped shut and formed into a hard line. He took Adamat’s hat and cane and pointed down the hall. “The dining room.”
Adamat cursed himself for a fool as he proceeded onward. He should have let the butler finish his sentence. The lady of the house was in a rage? Grieving? Ambivalent? It would have given him more information to go on, even if only to give him the slightest sense of the politics of the household. And politics there would be. For every noble that plays his or her games in the greater arena of Adran politics, there was an entire household where similar games played out every day on a smaller scale.
Sometimes, as was the case this morning, they led to murder.
He blamed his short temper on the weather and slipped between two constables gawking at the dining room entrance, pausing just inside to slip the handkerchief out of his pocket and hold it over his nose.
He’d seen worse crime scenes in his young career with the Adopest police, but not many.
Viscount Brezé had been a tall, slender man in his thirties, prematurely bald with a mustache grown long to cover a protruding upper lip. He lay near the cold fireplace, sprawled facedown in a dark red splotch on the rug. Blood, brain, and bits of his skull were scattered across half the dining room.
Adamat examined the scene, casting the entire thing to memory in the blink of an eye using his Knack—a minor sorcery that allowed him to remember absolutely everything—and wondered how any police investigator got on without such a tool.
He noted the bloody frying pan discarded in the corner and the gore-slick candlestick next to the body.
A middle-aged man with a narrow waist and square shoulders knelt over the viscount’s body. Like Adamat, he wore a brown suit jacket and matching vest and pants instead of the black and silver of the Adopest police, but his presence and the scrutiny with which he examined the body was enough to surmise his identity.
“Lieutenant Dorry?” Adamat asked.
“That’s me,” Dorry responded. He gestured to the two constables in the doorway without looking up. “Let’s get him turned over, shall we?” he said.
“Wait for a moment,” Adamat said. “I’d like a few moments with the body before it’s disturbed.”
Dorry looked up sourly. “And you are?”
“Special Detective Constable Adamat.”
“Oh. You.” Dorry sniffed. “You came over from the Twelfth Precinct with the new captain?”
“I did,” Adamat responded. “The captain sent me this morning as soon as I arrived. I can take over from here.”
Dorry looked up at the two constables with an exasperated expression of disbelief. “How old are you?”
“Twenty-three,” Adamat answered, trying not to let his annoyance show. Everyone always wanted to bring up his age. Age didn’t matter more than it was an indication of experience, and Adamat had more investigative experience than most of the Adran police force.
“Right. And since when,” Dorry asked, “do constables give the orders around here?”
“At the Twelfth Precinct I took the lead on nine murder investigations, every one of which was resolved satisfactorily,” Adamat said, drawing himself up.
“Detective constable,” Dorry said with a false laugh. “I have the lead on this investigation. This precinct works directly beneath the commissioner, so whatever leeway the captain gave you at your old precinct, it won’t be happening here. Detective constables do not take the lead on a case, especially not one involving the nobility.”
Adamat blinked back at Dorry, trying to readjust his thinking. He wasn’t in the Twelfth any more. And it was true, constables didn’t usually take the lead on these sorts of cases. He didn’t know these policemen yet, and they didn’t know him or his skills. He would have to be patient.
“I’m just here to help,” Adamat said, spreading his arms amicably.
Dorry eyed him for a few moments then said, “Yes, well, I’m afraid we won’t be needing your talents today, constable.”
Adamat did a circuit of the corpse, careful to avoid stepping in the gore. He noted several splotches of blood leading away from the body. “You have a suspect already?”
“And they’ve confessed?”
“Not yet, but she will by the end of the day. It’s an easy case. I’m sure even you can see that.”
Adamat finished his circuit and paused to force down his frustration, sorting through what he had heard about Dorry. He was a bull-headed investigator, lazy on the worst days and negligent on the best—and that was information gleaned from Dorry’s own friends. He was also the commissioner’s nephew.
“So who did it?” Adamat asked.
Dorry stood up and let the two constables roll the body over. The front of Brezé’s evening jacket was caked with dry blood, his face frozen with the mouth open, the eyes dull and empty. Dorry crossed his arms and gave Adamat a thin smile. “You’re the Twelfth’s prize investigator. You tell me.”
“I suspect,” Adamat said, “that you’ve accused the cook.”
The two constables exchanged a glance. “Took Dorry two hours to get there,” one of them whispered.
Dorry shot them both a glare. “And how did you come to that?”
“The frying pan is a start,” Adamat said. He shuffled through his neatly stored memories, searching a dozen years worth of newspapers, gossip, and miscellaneous information for anything concerning Viscount Brezé. “The viscount was known to get handsy with the help. The last cook he hired was a sturdy woman with powerful forearms more than capable of delivering these kinds of blows but attractive enough to still catch his eye.”
“How the pit,” Dorry asked, “could you possibly have known the last bit?”
“The gossip column of the newspaper seventeen days ago,” Adamat responded. “Where is she?”
“Being questioned in the sitting room,” Dorry said.
“And the Lady Brezé?”
Adamat tilted his head slightly. He thought he heard a woman crying—no, blubbering hysterically—from down the hall. The sound of someone who’s been accused of killing a nobleman, no doubt.
“It was likely self-defense,” Dorry said. “Perfectly understandable. He must have tried to force her.”
“But she killed a nobleman. She’ll get the guillotine for sure.” Adamat paused. “The viscount was knocked out then beaten with terrible ferocity. Does that tell you anything?
“Yeah,” Dorry said shortly. “That she wanted to kill him.”
“Yes.” Adamat sighed inwardly. This was a crime of rage, not of desperation. Someone had to drop the frying pan, then pick up the candlestick and make sure Brezé was dead, bashing his skull in for thirty or forty seconds straight. Not to say the cook wasn’t capable of rage. He’d have to get her alone for an interview.
Dorry nodded slowly, eyes narrowed. He raised his chin in challenge. “All right, constable. What do you think happened?”
“I’m not sure,” Adamat said. “I try not to jump to conclusions. But I don’t think we can rule out any other kind of foul play.”
“Oh, and who else could have done this?”
“We’ll have to find out. Look for motive, capability. I would rule out self-defense—the motive of the cook—because he was struck from behind. I’ll need to interview the staff.”
Dorry sneered. “My men are already doing that. The cook is the only one with the strength to pull this off. You saw the butler. He’s ancient, and he’s about the most hale of everyone who was in building at the time.”
“Could it have been a burglary?”
“The windows and doors were all locked last night and this morning.”
“What about Lady Brezé?”
“As a witness?”
“As a suspect.”
Dorry scoffed. “Lady Brezé is a twig.”
“Lady Brezé was a championship boxer at Jileman University and has publically castigated her husband for his dalliances.”
“She’s also a second cousin to our esteemed monarch,” a voice said from the door.
Adamat, Dorry, and the two constables all ducked their heads. Commissioner Aleksandre was a bear of a man with a red face and long blond hair tied sharply back behind his head. He was the type of person that dominated any room with both his size and sheer force of presence. His nostrils flared as he examined the crime scene down the bridge of his nose.
“I overheard something about the cook?” Aleksandre asked.
“Yes, sir,” Dorry said. “Our current suspect.”
“Our first suspect, sir,” Adamat amended. “I’m sure there will be more.”
Aleksandre’s eyebrows rose, and he glanced at Dorry. “I’m sorry, what was your name, constable?”
“Special Detective Constable Adamat, sir.”
“Ah,” Aleksandre said shortly. “I’ve heard of you. The Knacked with the memory?”
“Constable,” Dorry said quietly, “may I speak with you outside?”
Adamat followed Dorry out into the hallway, where Dorry took him by the sleeve and forced him into the kitchen. “What the pit do you think you’re doing?”
“Introducing myself to the commissioner,” Adamat said, tongue in cheek. Dorry was getting on his nerves and that tended to make him behave petulantly. Adamat wasn’t interested in playing politics. He wanted to solve a murder.
“Are you being intentionally daft?” Dorry demanded. “I made it clear you are not the lead on this investigation.”
“But I am on the investigation. The captain made that clear. We can’t jump to conclusions,” Adamat said.
“The captain doesn’t know how things work in the First Precinct quite yet, constable. Neither do you.” Dorry jabbed a finger at Adamat’s chest. “I recommend that you learn your place quickly. And you will never, ever correct me in front of the commissioner.”
“Are we quite done?” Adamat asked.
“We are,” Dorry said. “Now get the pit out of here. I won’t have a detective barely out of the academy lording over my crime scene.”
Adamat had been annoyed before. Now he was furious. To be ordered off an investigation by a self-righteous imbecile … “And I won’t see an innocent cook sent to the guillotine because you’re being sloppy, lieutenant!” Adamat’s mouth snapped shut as the last word left his mouth, and his stomach sank. That had been a mistake.
“The captain will hear about this,” Dorry growled.
“Yes, she will,” Adamat responded with a bluster he didn’t feel. His talents notwithstanding, he’d crossed the line mouthing off to the lieutenant like that. He forced his breathing to remain steady and strode to the foyer, demanding his hat and coat from the butler.
He took a hackney cab to the precinct building in the center of the city and immediately went to the captain’s office. He knocked once and entered at a terse “come.”
Captain Hewi was a no-nonsense officer about thirty years old. She had brown hair and eyes that seemed to take in everything at once. She’d risen through the ranks from constable to captain in less than ten years thanks to her ability to balance competence with the needs of city politics and had, for some reason, decided to bring Adamat with her on her transfer to the First Precinct.
“What are you doing here, Adamat?” Hewi asked. “Didn’t I just send you over to the Brezé townhome?”
“I had an altercation with Lieutenant Dorry,” Adamat had the presence of mind to look ashamed of it. Inside, he was still fuming. Dorry was a prig.
“You’re joking,” Hewi said.
“No ma’am. I suspect he’ll make a formal complaint.”
The captain made a sour face. “We’ve been here two days and you’re already making friends. How wonderful. What have I told you about keeping your damn mouth shut?”
“I’m sorry, ma’am.”
Hewi waved off his apology. “Never mind that. I’m glad you’re back. I’ve got two constables waiting for a detective to come take a look at another murder scene and you’re the first one that’s free.”
“A businessman was just discovered with the body of his mistress. Looks very much like he shot the girl in a drunken stupor. It’s not high profile like Brezé, but big enough to warrant a proper investigation. I want you to take the lead.”
“Of course, ma’am. Thank you.” Adamat breathed a sigh of relief. There would still be consequences from his altercation with Dorry, especially if he went to the commissioner. But at least Hewi wasn’t taking it seriously.
“Don’t thank me quite yet,” Hewi said. “You haven’t heard it all. The businessman is a troublemaker and has a number of very rich enemies. I understand you went to school together. Does the name Ricard Tumblar spark your memory?”
The Kinnen Hotel was less than quarter of a mile from the precinct headquarters. It was a fortress of a building, with hundred-year-old stonework wrought in an austere, ugly fashion that belied the wealth inside. Only three stories tall, it took up an entire city block and had been the destination of visiting dignitaries, merchants, and nobility for decades.
Adamat stopped by the desk and showed his credentials to the concierge, who revealed that Ricard Tumblar had leased the smallest suite on the second floor of the building for a two-week period. Adamat refused an escort and took the main staircase in the grand hall up to the second floor.
The situation was being handled far more discretely than the one at the Brezé townhome but, then again, this was a place of business. A single bag boy stood outside room 211, hands held behind his back, opening the door for Adamat when he showed his papers again.
The suite was a three-room affair with a bedroom, sitting room, and bath complete with running water. A single constable Adamat didn’t recognize stood at the side of a distraught-looking Ricard in
Ricard surged to his feet at the sight of him. “Adamat?”
“Detective constable,” Adamat introduced himself to the policeman. “Captain Hewi has given me the lead on the investigation.” He ignored Ricard and opened the door to the bedroom.
There was a four-post bed, the curtains pulled back, as well as a mirror and vanity and a pair of chairs by a breakfast table. The two windows faced east, bathing the room in bright white mid-morning light. The room smelled heavily of whiskey.
A Deliv woman with chocolate skin lay face-up on the bed, her nudity covered partially by a sheet. She was young and quite striking, with gentle features, the perfect skin of her face only disrupted by the congealed blood around the bullet wound just above her temple. The white linen beneath her was soaked a deep crimson. The bed, Adamat noted absently, would be a total loss for the hotel.
He poked his head into the sitting room. “Constable … ?”
“Jain,” the man replied.
“I see. Constable Jain, would you come here please?”
Jain glanced meaningfully at Ricard.
“He’s a local businessman,” Adamat said. “He’s not going anywhere.”
“Adamat,” Ricard said. “I didn’t know you were …”
Adamat held up a finger to silence Ricard, and then stepped to the side so Jain could enter the bedroom.
“When was the body discovered?” Adamat asked.
“About two and a half hours ago. There was a gunshot from the room, and the concierge forced the door to find Mr. Tumblar holding a pistol in one hand and shaking the body with the other. The concierge had to wrestle the pistol from Mr. Tumblar’s hands. They summoned the police immediately.”
“Where is the pistol now?”
“The concierge has it.”
“Good. When did you arrive?
“Two hours ago.”
“And you’re the only constable here?”
“My partner went out for an early lunch, sir.”
“From a crime scene? Wonderful.” Adamat sighed, then looked around the room once more, searching for the small details. He crossed the room to the window, feeling the cold breeze through a crack about an inch wide. “Was the window open when you arrived?”
Murder at the Kinnen Hotel by Brian McClellan / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes