Monday, 23 March 2015

Witch Takers (part 4)

"A Press Conference." Freud said. "How much of your training covered one of those?"
"Some of it." I lied. I'd spent hours studying public appearance and the many protocols they demanded. "Would you like me to remain silent?"
"No." Freud replied. "If you're asked a question, you answer it. But only if you're asked."
I nodded and then gestured for him to go first. The double doors swung open quickly, their head height circular windows swinging away from us, and then a sudden explosion of rapid flashes almost blinded us as journalists fought to gather the best image for their respective newspaper. "If a cartoon of me appears in that scandalous article, Dwarves and Fairies, I'll be docking your pay." Freud nudged me.
We made our way behind the desk at the front and took our chairs behind the desk. A glass jug of water waited, but none of us dared drink from it. That would be seen as impolite, and anyway, my hands were shaking too much for me to hold one without dropping it. Stonetoe was sat directly up the table from us, looking dead eyed into the crowd of journalists. Behind us, an enlarged image of Buster O'Rhian looking semi-miserable stared down and I felt an enormous pressure to do right by him. Freud held a finger to his throat and then took it away, pointing at the journalists. They stopped talking so that he could begin. "Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to this Mortlock First Regiment of Law Enforcement press conference. I apologise for the short notice, however we only realised the need for it a few hours ago. As the board behind you may suggest, we have gathered you here regarding information about the death of Buster O'Rhian, who was found in the Mortlock Canal merely two days ago."
Freud paused a second and poured himself a glass of water from the refilling jug. It was a classic tactic, inspire dominance by taking luxuries in a time of crisis. Once Freud was finished emptying his glass, he looked forwards and continued, "After making a generous donation to our investigations, Mr Irwin Stonetoe, who I am sure you recognise as the Balivion Baron's Manager, gave us a lead which we have thoroughly investigated. I am pleased to announce that we find the lead to be fully correct."
Once more, he filled the glass with water and then drunk it, taking a second to savour the water. I was coming to understand now why the instructors never described Freud as enigmatic and instead as an attention seeker. "We, myself and Detective Winters here, have formally arrested Arthur McNiven for the murder of Buster O'Rhian."
Once more there was a sudden flashing of cameras and then a bombardment of questions jumped towards us. "Is this the same Arthur McNiven as who runs the Mortlock Marauders Fanzine, "The Pebble Mill?" Demanded a reporter from the Mortlock Gazette.
"Indeed it is." Freud replied. "My associate, Detective Winters, will explain to you what we have found Mr McNiven to have done."
I nodded and turned a grim eye to the crowd. "As some of you may know, Mr O'Rhian worked with the Honey Shop Lads, a group of miners who exploited a natural vein of drugs in the soil of Bruskin. We believe that O'Rhian, when taking the drugs, had his dosage tampered with. A quick observation of Mr McNiven's fingers showed us that he'd recently handled the substance, and when we searched through his possessions, we found a supply of Honey that was missing the exact amount that would be required for an overdose, in addition to the average dosage otherwise. It is believed that this overdose caused him to lose balance and knock his head onto one of the stones residing around the Falls, where he fell and drowned."
"What will McNiven be facing sentence wise?" A reporter from the gossip rag, "Help! I Married A Leprechaun Who I Thought Was A Potholer!"
"Be careful. They tend to take everything out of context." Freud whispered through the side of his mouth.
"As I'm sure you're aware, it is not our duty to provide a sentence. It is our duty to bring these culprits, such as Mr McNiven, to justice, which I'm sure even you can agree we did in a surprisingly efficient time."
Some more camera flashes.
"Mr Stonetoe, what is this generous donation that Detective Freud mentioned?"
Freud nudged me and I nodded as we stood up. Freud offered his thanks for the press' attention and his apologies for our short exit, and then we rushed out to the flash of cameras. "How did I do?" I asked Freud.
"Good." He said, in the manner that required the word 'But' to followed instantaneously. "But," he added, "you called the victim simply O'Rhian rather than Mr O'Rhian at one point."
I nodded. Little things like that were what separated Freud from other law enforcers.

We returned to the First Nick and went to the Cold Rooms. McNiven was in one of the secure holding rooms, looking particularly miserable with himself, but I was more interested in Geoffrey. The ape of a man was standing opposite the cells in one of the Cold Rooms, alongside the body of O'Rhian. His brow was furrowed in the way that I presumed suggested that he was particularly confused.
"What's the matter, Geoff?" I asked.
Geoffrey turned and said, "O'Rhian doesn't have any traces of Honey in his body."
"I ran a cautionary test for fun," he didn't notice the quizzical look I shot him, "and discovered that there are no traces of Honey inside him, which would ultimately suggest that his presumed method of death doesn't match his true method."
"We've arrested the wrong man?" I asked.
"My logical process of scientific investigation would suggest yes." He confirmed.
"Good God."
"He has nothing to do with this." Geoffrey replied. "The new question is, who is the true culprit?"
Something flashed through my mind suddenly, an image of a ring of dust on the top of a filing cabinet. "Good God."
"I repeat my previous stance." Geoffrey said.
"I need to check something very very quickly." I said and began to run. I didn't pause for Lynda to shout at me, not even to grasp my cape. I burst from the First Nick and ran up the Mortlock High Street, passing Rafael's and the various other establishments. I chased up the church council's laid path and then through a short nature reserve towards the stadium. But I didn't enter, I ran around the side to the bins. I said a few words and the rubbish began to jump out spiralling through the air and narrowly missing the river that led into the Falls.
"Gotcha." I said, grasping something out of the air. It was the trophy that the Balivion Barons had won in another Arlington Championship game. And the cup, itself, was caked with Buster O'Rhian's blood.

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