Authors: Joyce,Jim Lavene
Tags: #Paranormal Mystery, #Fantasy & Magic
Daisy, Bart, and I only made it into the castle a few seconds before it was closed to the public. We were following Chase. Gus, the Master-at-Arms and gatekeeper, wasn’t at his post, so security people were there to keep everyone out.
I wondered about Gus. I’d never seen him gone from his post regardless of weather or time of day. It was odd. Did Chase know where he was?
A sizable group of Village residents had gathered as they’d heard the news. Chase and his security guards tried to keep everyone out, but the cobblestones were crowded with new actors, thousands of visitors to the Village, and hundreds of residents who lived there. It wasn’t an easy task.
Residents of the castle were standing in the walled garden that was favored by the royalty. All of Isabelle’s retinue were there, weeping and wailing. King Harold and Queen Olivia were also present, standing close together and whispering between each other. Rita Martinez, head of the kitchen staff, was standing near the garden wall, her expression blank. Sir Reginald was squatting close to Isabelle’s body.
Chase had just entered the garden after helping to set up the perimeter. He silently scanned the area around Isabelle. “What happened?” he asked the people around him.
Rita wiped her eyes. “I was walking out of the castle for a cigarette break. She was already here.”
“Did you see anyone else out here?” he questioned.
“No. Just poor Isabelle. It was terrible.” She hid her face in her hands.
“Anyone else?” Chase looked around at the familiar faces.
“She liked to dance up there,” one of Isabelle’s ladies (the one with the perfume from the museum) recounted. “Her terrace is right above us. She must have slipped and fallen.”
“Where were all of you when this happened?” Chase knew royal personages were rarely alone.
“We were doing her bidding.” The girl with the parasol from that morning said. “Her clothes needed washing. Her hairdresser was coming today. Her shoes needed brushing.”
As she said shoes, I noticed Isabelle’s dainty feet. They were encased in the dancing slippers Bill was making for her.
That meant Bill had been there. My heart started pumping harder. Where was he when Isabelle fell off the terrace?
Where is he now?
The sound of sirens entering the Village meant that Detective Almond and his officers had arrived. His group from the Myrtle Beach Police Department handled problems Chase and his people couldn’t take care of.
It was a good time to look for Bill—before Chase or the police noticed that he’d been there and started asking questions we didn’t have answers for yet.
I cautiously walked away, taking a sharp right and going into the castle. Bill could still be in Isabelle’s suite, or somewhere in the castle. It wouldn’t be a good thing if he’d been the last person to see her alive. It would only be a matter of time before someone grieving for her would remember that he’d been there to fit the slippers.
I hoped this wasn’t a result of Isabelle reverting to her true nature and rebuffing Bill’s advances. Not that I thought Bill would actually hurt her. I hadn’t known him long, but he seemed like a wonderful, gentle soul. If there had been an accident, not really his fault, the sooner it was cleared up the better.
There was a side door from the garden that led to a secret passage. Once in the passage, I could go anywhere inside. Because I’d worked in the castle for a few summers, I knew my way around. I ran up the stone walkway to Isabelle’s chambers. But the rooms were empty.
I checked the heavy, iron terrace railing, peeking over it. Detective Almond was already in the garden talking with Chase and all the castle dwellers that were there.
But no sign of Bill. I didn’t know if that was good or bad.
Was it possible Isabelle had slipped and fallen even though the railing around the terrace was still intact?
Probably not. She would have had to cartwheel across the railing.
have picked her up and thrown her over. Someone large and strong. Not even
large and strong, really. Isabelle was tiny. She might have weighed 90 pounds, but no more.
I thought it
have been suicide, but whatever Isabelle would have used to climb over the rail would still be there. She wasn’t tall enough to step over it, even with magic slippers.
I kind of snooped around her luxurious quarters. There were thick, expensive rugs on the stone floor and colorful unicorn-filled tapestries on the walls. Her bed was on a raised dais with heavy, pink velvet curtains surrounding it. The bathroom was spacious and also pink with a tub that could easily accommodate at least three people.
The other room was a big sitting area with a large screen television hanging on one wall, and a fireplace on another. Her windows were floor-length and faced the terrace on the sunny side of the castle.
I snooped through her closet. It was stuffed full of dresses and shoes. There was a lovely purple velvet cape I wouldn’t have said no to. I realized it was a little inappropriate to ogle her clothes with her dying recently. I shut the closet door and started to leave the bedroom.
Then I heard Detective Almond’s voice. The man only had two audio settings, loud and louder. He and Chase were walking into the suite. It was my cue to leave.
But with the two men coming in the doorway, I had to be creative or answer uncomfortable questions. The passage that had led me here connected every room in the castle to every other room. It made it easier and more discreet when the staff needed to bring something—or
—in without being seen.
The passage from Isabelle’s suite was located behind a bookcase. I pulled the lever, and the bookcase swung silently open. I scooted into the passage and closed it behind me.
The passages between castle rooms weren’t dark or dusty like the ones in scary movies. Because they were used so frequently by everyone from the king and queen down to the lowliest servant, they were cleaned with the rest of the castle each day. Electric lights in sconces were always on so that no one got lost. It was easy to find my way to the kitchen area.
Everyone in the castle knew about the passageways. It would be possible for anyone to have killed Isabelle and escape without being seen by her retinue.
I was only speculating and also laying groundwork in my mind in case Bill was accused of having something to do with Isabelle’s death. He was new to the Village. He’d never worked in the castle. He would have had to go in and out through the suite door. Everyone would have seen him.
Once I reached the kitchen, I ran outside. I was surprised Rita had taken her cigarette break in the garden rather than the courtyard. The kitchen courtyard was where all the castle employees congregated on their breaks. The garden was more for the royal personages and their guests.
What was she doing there?
It was as much a mystery as Gus’s absence from the gate.
I could use all of these things to help Bill—if he needed it. I hoped he wouldn’t, but weird things happened sometimes. I knew that better than most.
But what if Bill was responsible for what happened to Isabelle?
I had to consider that idea too. I’d been so ready to defend him from false accusations, but what if he killed Isabelle?
No. I didn’t believe it. I was a pretty good judge of character. Bill was no killer—I’d wager my new sandals on it.
Still a thought once considered can never be un-thought. Worry niggled at the edge of my awareness. I’d brought Bill to the Village. If he killed Isabelle, I was partially responsible.
Police officers were standing guard at the garden, probably waiting for the medical examiner. More people were coming from the Village to see what was going on but weren’t able to get through Chase’s security.
of the area wasn’t a problem. I grabbed a basket of flowers someone had left on the ground and walked out quickly. I needed to find Bill. I hoped he wasn’t involved in this, but the sooner we started asking questions, the better.
Maybe this all sounds a little heartless considering that Isabelle was dead. I felt bad about it – really. I wasn’t laughing about her death, but I wasn’t crying either. She would have felt the same about me, if our positions had been reversed.
I was also hoping she wouldn’t come back as a ghost like Wanda.
I started checking all the usual places Bill liked to hang out between working on the exhibit. Where would he have gone after dropping off Isabelle’s slippers? I knew he enjoyed the taverns and pubs scattered throughout the Village. It seemed doubtful that he would’ve gone back to the tiny housing space he shared with Fred. He’d complained about it enough that I knew he wasn’t happy there. Maybe he went to his stall or to the museum.
I wasn’t surprised to see visitors leaving the Village with haste and deliberation. Several uniformed police officers, and security guards, were herding them toward the Main Gate. Detective Almond had apparently decided to close the Village early for the investigation. No doubt it would be less confusing to deal only with the residents.
But what if one of the visitors had killed Isabelle? He must not have thought of
. He was already sure it was an inside job.
I had to find my cobbler.
Mary, Mary Quite Contrary was taking off her blond wig as she headed home. William Shakespeare was still packing up his writing supplies from his podium. King Arthur had Excalibur slung across his back. He pulled the sword from the stone several times each day.
I saw my assistant, Manawydan Argall, showing his resident pass to a police officer at the gate. I was so glad to see him. Maintenance men were hanging the new banner on the museum announcing Bill’s debut tomorrow. I hoped it would still happen.
“I’m so glad you’re here!” I hugged Manny. “I missed you. Did you have a good vacation?”
“It’s wonderful to be back.” He was dressed, as always, in Victorian garb rather than something from the Middle Ages. But with all the steampunk elements coming into the Village, it didn’t seem so out of place anymore. He was always particularly neat and clean and smelled of fresh air and flowers.
“How was it at home?”
Manny was from a small kingdom in Africa where he was the crown prince, as wild as that sounded.
“It was odd after being gone for so long. I kept expecting storybook characters to go in and out of the mansion each day. There were elephants trumpeting during the night, however, so I felt at ease. How is the cobbler exhibit progressing?”
“Thank you for knowing that you don’t have to
a cobbler.” I laughed and hugged him again. He was so much more than just my assistant. We’d become good friends. “I’m still hearing jokes about it.”
“People find the oddest things humorous here,” he remarked. “On my way in, I saw a woman dressed as a spider. Everyone was laughing and taking pictures of her.”
“It’s the week we take on new actors for the Village.” We walked toward the museum. “You’re going to see all kinds of strange costumes and acts.”
He adjusted his large glasses. “As though that doesn’t happen
day here, Lady Jessie. Where is everyone going?”
“We may have a problem with the cobbler.” I told him quickly about Princess Isabelle and my belief that Bill had been at the castle.
His dark eyes widened. “Magic from elves? Can this be true?”
Manny was a little naïve after spending years out of touch with the world. Growing up as a prince was isolating. He’d had to run away from home to experience the world without the royal cotton batting his parents had used to protect him.
“I doubt it—though anything is possible.
The Big Bad Wolf joined us. The costume was hot so he’d removed the headpiece. “I s’pose you two know about Isabelle?”
“It’s a tragedy.” Manny sighed. “She was so beautiful.”
The new bookstore and print shop owner, Paul Samuels, gave us each a single sheet of paper. His shop was called Rare Books. “Have you seen the latest issue? It’s the first edition of my Village newspaper.”
The wolf examined it closely, perhaps needing spectacles. “Princess Isabelle murdered by Shoemaker? What shoemaker?”
Manny stared at me. “Is that true?”
“No. Of course not. Bill didn’t murder anyone.”
Paul grinned. “People saw him with her only moments before she died. It’s a scoop!”
“My good man,” Manny advised. “
is not the proper term for this news, not here at the Village. I’m not sure what would be. You should consult a historian.”
“I think scoop is okay,” the wolf said. “What do you think, Jessie?”
“I think I have to find Bill. I’ll talk to you later.” I continued on my path. There was no one at the museum. Bill’s stall was closed.
“Wait for me!” Manny was huffing along behind me. “Do you think something happened between Isabelle and Bill?”
“I don’t know yet. I have to talk to him. He’s going to be a perfect suspect if Detective Almond decides to call Isabelle’s death a murder.” I changed course and headed for Peter’s Pub. I had to find Bill and talk to him before the rumors got any worse—and to assure myself that everything was okay with him.
“I’ll be happy to be of assistance. I could take the pubs on the left side of the Village, and you could take the pubs on the right.”
“Thanks. Sorry to get you caught up in everything right away before you even have a chance to settle in.” He was still holding the canvas bag he’d traveled with. He had to be the least prince-like person in the world. Our Village royalty could learn a few things from him.
He smiled. “It feels like home now, Lady Jessie. What would the Village be without a bit of intrigue and the aroma of roasted turkey legs in the air?”
“Okay. If you find Bill, let me know. We can use our cell phones since the Village is closed. I’ll stop by the Dungeon and get mine.”
He frowned. “I did not buy a cell phone while I was gone. I’m sorry. It simply seemed impractical since we can barely use them here.”