Oh dear this thing has been neglected, oh yes it has.
As I thought, I'm not entirely sure if I have the...stamina? For writing a mystery sort of thing. I have a bunch of plot points all thought out, but it's not like I've managed to connect them to anything coherent. This mystery will have a lot of mistakes in 'em. I'm not the sort of writer that plans things out...which is why I know a mystery isn't something I can really write...and yet I'm interested in writing 'em anyways. Dumb dumb dumb.
A Complete Turnabout, a reeeaally good PW fic, has given me a few ideas on how to do things stylistically. Maybe I'll apply them later?
That night, we were taken in for questioning. I could see Trucy beside me, utterly defeated by the oppressing walls that surrounded us, staring at the floor as if she could use it to transport herself away with some sort of magic trick. Caroline had gone in before me. Though the room was soundproof, I couldn't help but think I heard sobbing.
The first thing I noticed was that we weren't the first ones despite the early hours. Caroline was already there in another extravagant dress that was horribly out of place with the drab surroundings. She wasn't even sitting, instead halfway standing up, a hand splayed against the glass as she whispered to Andrew. She turned to us once we entered and immediately straightened up, smiling a smile that wasn't all there. Incomplete. She muttered a polite farewell to everybody and left…stepping on my foot along the way.
Heels really hurt. Eyes tearing up, I sat down as Andrew chuckled lightly. "She really hates you," he grinned, apparently at ease.
"At least somebody's happy..." I muttered.
"Strange, she didn't look like a wrathful spirit." Trucy glanced questioningly at the door as she sat, possibly expecting the pianist to be lurking, mumbling evil curses upon me.
"Of course. It's not polite to hate somebody." Andrew's smirk suddenly turned into a suspicious scowl. "So are you going to say it or should I ask?"
"Uh, what?" I stuttered, feeling slightly like an idiot.
"Why are you here?"
"Well…I thought that, uh, well, I was going to offer to be your, well, defense…"
Andrew didn't look very impressed. "You do know the Wagner family is one of the wealthiest families in the nation, don't you?"
"Uh, well I…" I sank a little in his seat, looking down to the side as Andrew continued.
"And you do know that Elizabeth can buy the best attorneys, don't you?"
"Hey! We only wanted to help!" Trucy stood up as I slouched even more, looking miserably at my trodden shoe. Of course. It was such a stupid idea. They didn't need my help. Who'd want a rookie anyways? "You don't have to be—"
"Of course, I rejected them all." My head shot up, staring at Andrew's smirking face in amazement. Trucy stuttered a bit, possibly trying to spit out the word 'why.' "You can be my defense. I'm sure she'd hate that. I have to sign something, right?" As I watched Andrew sign the letter of request, he said, beaming wildly, "Tell me how she reacts later—I'd really like to hear." The bespectacled man leaned back in his uncomfortable-looking chair, satisfied.
I exchanged a disbelieving look with Trucy for a second. "I get the feeling he doesn't like his mom."
"Having met her, I don't exactly blame him," I replied before turning back to my new client. "So, uh, before we leave, can we ask you a few questions?"
"I don't know. Can you?" Once again, I had the horrible feeling that I was being made fun of. Which probably wasn't that far from the truth.
"Are you having family trouble?" Trucy blurted out while I was still wondering about the insult. To the point as usual.
"That seems a little too personal. You're my defense team, not my therapists." I noticed that his smile seemed to be waning, but I still pressed on.
"Sorry, but we need information—"
"I think there's been a misunderstanding," snapped Andrew, now giving me a cold look behind those neat glasses, all too similar to his mother's. "I don't expect you to win. I just agreed to hire you because it would annoy my mother to no end. It shouldn't matter, because either way you get paid, don't you? Or is it Caroline? Unfortunately, it's too late to woo her now."
I flushed with anger as I realized, searching his face, that he was completely serious. Not only accusing me of doing it for the money, but accusing me of acting hero for his sister? Sure, Caroline's beautiful and classy and…sorry, getting off track here.
I stood up, brimming with obscenities and insults, but managed to release all my rage in one controlled breath. "I still think you're innocent.
"Come on, Trucy, let's go." As much as I wanted to, I didn't turn back to see his expression. Having been insulted so, I didn't want him to see any sort of uncertainty or weakness. I kind of hoped it was an expression of being utterly trumped in a debate.
Strathless Music Theater
During our trip, I calmed down and focused on the task at hand. What I met was…a huge mess. I hadn't noticed yesterday, but that thing that dropped on the victim had really exploded. Everywhere. I wasn't entirely sure where the crime scene began because from what I could see, wooden splinters and sand were scattered all over the place.
"Wow, this place is…uh…Polly? I don't think I can avoid stepping on all these tiny splinters…" Nobody could. Not even if they were able to balance on their toes while walking through. Still, we tried to step as gingerly as we could through the wooden minefield until we were stopped by the sound of crunching Snackoos.
"Hm, it's you guys. Somehow I'm not surprised."
"Hello to you too, Ema." The detective stood there amidst the debris, supposedly doing nothing, though she would probably refute that claim by throwing Snackoos at my head.
"Let me guess. You're the kid's lawyer?"
"Yup! Got the letter and everything!" Trucy showed off said letter, apparently having whisked it out of my pockets. As I patted my pants, wondering how she got it out, she continued waving it in front of a rather apathetic-looking Ema.
"Alright then, I guess you'll want to ask me some questions." Trucy looked worried for a few seconds, then turned back to me. "I think something's wrong with Ema." I took this chance to snatch back the letter.
"I know. She's a little more…distracted than usual. Maybe some trouble with the 'glimmerous fop?'" Apparently, she heard me because I got Snackoo'd. She really has good aim.
"Don't talk about me behind my back!"
"But we're right in front of you," Trucy pointed out.
"Just technicalities in space-matter!" I'm still not entirely sure what that meant. "Besides," she continued, "Glimmer-boy's not working on this case."
"Really?" Trucy said, startled. It felt weird to me too thinking how Klavier wouldn't be there. I was so used to seeing him behind that prosecutor's bench. "What happened?" Trucy continued, apparently eager to pick up a rumor.
"Who's working on it?" I added since, after all, I was curious who this new prosecutor was.
"Mm, I dunno. Bet he was too busy with stupid band stuff. Either way, a rookie prosecutor was signed up before he could. Don't know much yet…just watching these splinters…" Feeling a little sorry for her (watching splinters couldn't be very fun), we stuck around. Even though this was the scene of the crime, there didn't seem to be much to find.
"So, uh, who's the victim…?"
"Wag—you mean he's—"
"Yup. Father to our suspect and your client."
Trucy first looked shocked, then simply outraged. "How—how can you arrest him then? He's his dad!"
Ema sighed and rubbed her face and I couldn't help but think that she looked tired. "Well…there's a reason we have words like 'patricide.' Andrew was the only one there. Unless you can tell me how our murderer escaped from the second story undetected, he's our guy."
Obviously, we had no answer to that then. Trucy hesitated before dropping the point. "Anyways," Ema continued. "As you probably already know, the victim died of a bass to the head."
"A…bass? Like a bass guitar?"
"Too small. It's a string bass, right?" Ema nodded as Trucy looked confused for a moment.
"…Oh! Like those giant cellos at the back?"
"Yup. He got hit square on the head by this end pin."
Once again noticing Trucy's confused look, I quickly added, "An end pin is like a long stick that helps the bass stand up. They also have it on the cello."
"Ooooh! Wow, Polly, you really know your instruments!" It really wasn't much of a compliment (until then, I thought everybody knew the regular orchestral instruments) but I guess it stroked my ego a little bit…
"Yeah, a regular Mozart." Ema rolled her eyes before finally giving over the end pin. It was half-covered in blood. "This lil' guy really dug itself deep into the victim's skull…" I grimaced as I remembered the moment of death. I really didn't want to imagine what basically amounted to a metal spike forcing its way into…ugh.
"Usually end pins have rubber stops, don't they?"
Ema shrugged. "I doubt a rubber stop would penetrate a skull as well as just a plain metal pin. The killer probably just took it off."
"…Yeah, I guess…" I said, sort of weighing the bloody pin before handing it back.
Trucy stared carefully at me. She actually looked serious. At least as serious as she could get. "Something wrong, Polly?"
"I don't…well, maybe I'm just being ignorant, but even if a bass is heavy, it's hollow, isn't it? Would the weight really be enough to have that pin go that far into his skull?"
Ema smirked at me, ready to make me feel like an idiot. "True, even dropped from the second floor, it probably wouldn't have gained enough velocity to really dig deep. But see all this sand? Our culprit decided that a sandbag or two would really weigh the bass down nicely."
Trucy kicked at the sand at her feet. "And then, splat," she remarked sadly.
"Splat," Ema agreed.
I paused as well and we stood there, staring at the bench the victim had sat in. "How would the culprit stuff the sandbags in, though?"
Ema shrugged. "Most likely, he probably cut off a piece of the bass. Not like we'll ever be able to tell with all this mess around."
"'Cut'? You mean like a knife?"
Ema snorted. "A knife? You'd need a saw to cut through a bass. And no, we didn't find any saws lying around. I doubt a theater carries around saws." The brunette glanced up at the open window. "If you want, you could look around up there or something. We've already scoured the place."
"Yay! Thanks Ema!"
"C'mon, Polly! We better check out the place the murderer was!"
Strathless Music Theater
A guard let us through and we looked around carefully. The area had a 'backstage' feel to the place, which obviously excited Trucy. She mostly stared at the doors in the hallway. "Do you think there's a place that overlooks the stage?" she asked excitedly, practically bouncing on her heels.
"Maybe," I said. "Probably balconies or something. You usually get to catwalks from the stage, right?" Trucy shrugged, her theater knowledge even more paltry than mine.
"Wait a minute," I started as something occurred to me. "You're a stage magician! Don't you know anything about the layouts of theaters?"
"Not these kinds of theaters," Trucy shot back and I accepted this answer.
While she was focused on the doors, I peered out the windows until I reached the one that was right above the bench. I pressed my face against the glass, couldn't see anything, and then opened the window and poked my head out. Below was the fairly unique sight of thousands of fragmented wood radiating out across the ground from a point directly below. And if I leaned out further, I could have probably seen the bench, but it also seemed that if I leaned out further, I could have probably experienced the thrill of bungee-jumping without the cord. Examining the windowsill, I couldn't help but notice several scratches. Probably made by the bass as it was pushed out. One gash on the bottom was noticeably deeper than the ones on the sides, which didn't seem rather unusual. After all, it was the bottom that had to hold the whole weight of the bass. The sides just had to bother with rubbing against it.
"They're all locked," Trucy called back unhappily as I looked around at the floor nearby. If Ema was right about part of the bass being sawn off, it might have still been around. But I didn't see anything besides some shavings. "Oh," Trucy said suddenly. "This one isn't!"
I looked over curiously as she poked her head through the door. Then she walked all the way in. "It's a balcony! Like you said, Polly!"
"Huh," was all I had to offer as I followed her in. It was a rather cramped space and rather sparse. It seemed to double as some sort of storage space, considering that there were several planks of wood neatly lying against the wall. So probably this one wasn't usually open to the public. Not like anybody would want to sit with a bunch of wood.
Looking over the railing, I could see the stage at an angle. A pretty bad angle, though. So another mark against it as a good seat.
"Hee, Polly likes sitting in the center, huh?" Trucy commented, leaning over next to me.
"Well, then at least you can see the whole stage," I pointed out.
"Hm, yeah." She looked out across the sea of seats below, probably imagining another cheering audience. "Hey, do you think the real killer could've hidden out here?"
"Perhaps, but then how did he actually escape? Nobody ran down the stairs before the police got here and I would think that they would've checked out this room."
"Oh," she said, looking rather disappointed. "But anyways, there's something I found, and I think it's really important!"
With a flourish, she held out both hands. They were quite empty.
"…I hope that's not it."
"No! You see that there's absolutely nothing in my hands, right? And nothing hidden in this cape…aaaand…" With a sudden swirl of fabric, Trucy suddenly pulled a metal pole out from somewhere. "Ta-da!"
"…A metal pole?" I said, taking it out of her hands.
"So? How was the trick?"
"It's bent near the middle…"
"Hey! You could at least comment on my show!"
"So how is this important?"
"What? Uh…I just thought it was a little strange. I mean…" And here, she pulled aside a few of the planks to reveal a bushel of metal poles. Holding it out to them, I could see that this pole was about the same length and probably was quite similar. "There's a bunch of poles here and that one's the only one dented or something…you know? That's strange."
"I guess. It's not exactly important to our case, though."
"Always trust a magician's intuition, Polly!" And with that, I put it in the record. Because, well, it could be useful.
"It's too bad," I commented as we walked back into the hallway.
"I was hoping to find some sandbags."
After a worrying pause, Trucy said, "Oh, right, those! Aren't they usually backstage?"
"Well, aren't planks and random tubes of metal usually backstage?" I shot back.
"In any case, if the sandbags are supposed to be backstage, then how did they get upstairs?"
Trucy shrugged. Which summed up whatever answer I had as well. "So, now what?"
I sighed a little, not exactly liking what I was thinking. "I suppose…we should see the Wagner household."
"This is…really extravagant," I said with a hint of understatement.
"That's gotta be a lot of bedrooms," Trucy agreed.
I did, in fact, expect a fancy house. But this just looked like a castle. Spires and all. Looked like it was all made out of marble too. And I'm certain that the usual tacky garden decorations had jewels embedded in them…
Of course, we saw all this from behind a tall, black gate.
"Think they'll let us in?" Trucy asked, practically pushing her head through the bars.
"Only one way to find out," I replied, pushing the intercom button right beside us.
There was a buzz of static and then a cold voice that could only belong to that of a pretentious, overbearing mother. "What is it? We didn't order anything and we don't wish to purchase anything!"
"No no no," I said very quickly. "I'm Andrew's lawyer, I just want to ask a few questions! Can we come inside?"
It actually felt warmer whenever she didn't talk, which I found out from the brief silence that followed.
"First of all, that's 'may we.' Second of all, I don't see why Andrew hasn't told me that he has decided upon a lawyer. Third of all, I doubt he would take on a lawyer as eccentric-looking as yourselves and so I believe that—"
"No, wait, we have a letter of request! Uh, ma'am. It's been signed by your son. We're his lawyers."
Another brief silence followed, during which I took the time to brush off the ice that seemed to be constantly spewing out the speakers every time she spoke.
"I…see," she finally said. "And what are you doing here?"
"Well, like I said before, I wanted to ask you a few questions."
There was an audible sniff (so the answer is yes, she can get even more pretentious). "I don't see why you would need to ask me questions to do your job. I have nothing to do with the crime. I heard nothing, I saw nothing, I noticed nothing."
"Okay, maybe, but wait, please!" I said rather hurriedly. "It's just, I think, maybe, uh, family issues, um,"
"There is nothing wrong in the household and even if there was, it has nothing to do with the matter at hand. Good day."
"But there must be a reason—" Click. I stared at the intercom for a few seconds. "…why…Andrew would…" And that was followed by an aggravated groan. "It would be nice if someone in this whole family would be nice and helpful."
"It's okay, Polly, we can do fine without her help. She's sort of a jerk anyways."
"Maybe a little 'Why, of course, Mr. Justice.' Or, 'I certainly wouldn't mind giving you this important clue that is integral to your case, Mr. Justice.' Or even, 'I enjoy talking to you with respect and as an equal, Mr. Justice.'"
As I ranted and hit my head on the gate, Trucy stood by, starting to look a little worried. "Uh, Polly…? Are you okay?"
"How could anybody be so pretentious, so self-absorbed, so…so…egotistical?"
"Aw, come on, don't get so hung up—"
"And it runs in the family!"
"Now, now, Mr. Justice. I certainly hope you're not talking about me."
The voice was coming from the intercom. It was female, young, and amused. Definitely Caroline.
To be frank, I flushed. "Uh—"
"I don't have a lot of time right now. I'll come out in a half an hour or so. I hope you'll be at the gate." Click.
This did nothing much to help my mood. "I feel like I'm just being dragged along. Again."
"Well, in any case, what d'ya wanna do for half an hour?"
I stuffed my hands in my pockets and glanced around a bit, suddenly feeling quite awkward in this rich and fancy neighborhood. "I don't really have a clue," I admitted, and so we both loitered, probably looking suspicious. Luckily for us, someone else came by to look suspicious too and we stood around in front of the Wagner mansion, looking generally suspicious together.
She seemed to be a very sullen young girl with very strange hair. If I had to describe her hair color, it would have to be 'rainbow.' She dressed very perkily though, with a tank top and a short skirt (…in September..?), both in bright colors to clash with her rather dreary eyes.
When she caught me staring, she glared at me with teenager disdain, and loads of it. "The hell're you doing here?"
She put me off a little and she knew it and I'm sure she liked it. So I squared up my shoulders a little and said, "Well, what are you doing here?"
She gave a little snort and said snidely, "That's none of your business."
"Well then," I replied, affronted. "My business is none of your business either."
"Polly," Trucy whispered, though with Trucy, a whisper wasn't exactly quiet. "You're acting childish."
And when Trucy of all people points this out, you know you're acting childish.
Flushing once again, I said, "Sorry. I…we're just waiting for someone."
She raised a skeptical eyebrow and I briefly wondered how exactly you got rainbow hair. "With one of the Wagners? Didn't peg any of them as the type to hire…entertainment."
"Uh? Oh. Oh!" I exclaimed, realizing what we probably looked like with Trucy all dressed up in her costume and me…uh, me. (I really hope she just meant magician entertainment and not…other entertainment.) "No, no, I, uh, we're the lawyers for Andrew."
"Oh, that's right. Heard he got arrested. So it's true."
"You mean…you didn't hear it on the news?"
At that, she gave an outright scoff to Trucy's face. "News? You think poor old widow Wagner would stand to have her son in the news like that?" And here, she flipped her hair to convey the maximum disdain her teenager-y body would allow. "She has a reputation to uphold. Though she doesn't realize she can't roll the bolder back up anymore."
Ah, Greek mythology reference. So she's an educated petulant teenager. Those are always the worst. "Sounds like you know a lot about the Wagner family."
She looked away for this one. "I...live around here. I see things. Hear things. People don't usually notice me while they talk." Amazing, considering her hair.
"So, gossip, huh?" I said conversationally. (And let it be known that whenever I say something conversationally, I have nothing to actually say.)
"What's the latest gossip about the family, then?" Trucy interrupted, sounding disturbingly chipper.
And with that, the sullen teenager with the rainbow hair seemed to change completely. Her face brightened up with an impish smile and she leaned in conspiratorially and said, "Well now, there's a lot of interesting stuff going on, believe me…"
And then came a whirl of information, all scandalous, all of dubious source, all whizzing in my head in a rather confusing manner.
"…and they've totally run afoul in the money department—"
"Wait, what?" I glanced back to the large mansion. "You can't be serious. Have you seen the diamond-encrusted garden gnomes?"
The girl smirked smugly and crossed her arms. "Trust me, old hag Wagner's just making sure we think she's still the top of the flock. They're in deep financial shit."
"And how, may I ask, did they come to that?"
Under my skeptical gaze, she faltered a little before giving a rather sheepish grin. "Well, you know these rumors. Tells you the what, but never the how…but really, it's true."
"You look so serious, I could almost believe you," I commented dryly.
"No, seriously! I've totally seen guys coming in and out here! Bank guys!"
"…How can you tell they're from the bank?"
"Simple," she said proudly. "I asked."
"I…er, I'm pretty sure that they wouldn't just tell someone who they are…"
"I probably bugged 'em so much they couldn't stand it anymore," she replied in the same proud tone.
"Ah…right. Well, it's been fun. But we sort of have to meet Caroline."
And once again, she was smirking at me. "Middle name basis. Not bad. I didn't think little Prissy had time for visitors."
"What d'ya mean?" Trucy asked as I stood around with my hands stuck in my pockets, staring back at the mansion and coughing awkwardly.
"I mean," she explained patiently, "Usually our busybody is practicing her little instruments."
"I wouldn't exactly call a piano 'little,'" I cut in. "And…how do you even know this…?"
And again she was all shifty eyes and fiddly fingers. "Weeeellll, let's just say…"
Pretty sure that I would not like the answer for reasons of the creepy factor, I cut her off and said, "Never mind. Caroline'll pick us up soon anyways."
"Well then, better make myself scarce." And with a possibly semi-serious wink, she was off.
And turning back to the gates, Caroline was there.
"Half an hour, on the dot," she said, smiling softly as always. "And I will have to return home in half an hour, on the dot, so whatever questions you have, I hope they will not waste our time. Your investigation is going well, I hope?"
"Uh, yeah, I think," I stuttered. "We're not keeping you from anything, are we?"
"No, not at all. Go on."
"Does Andrew have any daddy issues?" Trucy immediately blurted out. The question immediately made the air quite awkward and the three of us stood around. I would have thought Caroline would have been at least a little irritated, but her shocked look settled down to a tranquil one and she said, rather lightly, "Why do you ask?"
"Well," I started, absent-mindedly scratching my cheek. "Honestly…we're just trying to figure this whole thing out. Why your brother was up there. If he even had a motive. That sort of thing."
"'Motive?'" Caroline repeated, somehow able to look sweet while hinting danger. "I was under the impression, Mr. Justice, that you were investigating for my brother, not against."
"No, it's not like that," I said quickly. "But if the prosecution brings up a plausible motive, it would be nice to—"
"If the prosecution comes here in attempts to find a motive, I assure you they will find the same answer as you: there is no motive." She looked away for a moment, holding a hand to her mouth. And after a few seconds, she said, "I apologize for interrupting you."
"No, no, it's okay," I mumbled, somewhat stunned. For one thing, it was the closest she got to shouting. For another, she was sending off nervous vibes like crazy. While it was clear from the beginning that she was lying, this was certainly the first time she was showing it. Not that I knew what to do with it because I had practically no evidence of anything and also, I sort of felt sorry for her.
"Right, uh, okay then," I said. This did nothing at all to clear the tense air. "So, um, I've actually been wondering where that bass even came from, I mean, what was it even doing up there?"
Caroline looked away again, hand to her mouth, and then she turned back and said, quite seriously, "The bass is mine."
We just let that hang in the air for a while. "I…see…"
"You can play the bass too?" Trucy asked, beaming brightly, apparently ignoring the other implication of this. "You really like big instruments, doncha?"
"Uh," Caroline said, biting her lips. "Yes. I…guess so…"
It didn't seem that anybody would ask so I decided to bring it upon myself. "So…uh…any reason why your, um, double bass…"
"How a rather large instrument that happens to belong to me ended up on the head of my late father?" And she did that thing again, with her face slightly smiling and distant at the same time, and her tone cold, somewhat like her mother's, actually.
"I honestly don't know." She stared intently at me. Maybe she regretted going out.
"Alright, here's a simpler question. Why would you store your bass on the second floor in the first place?"
"Note that practically nobody knows that I also play the bass," Caroline started, frowning in thought. "It was meant to be a surprise. The orchestra would start up. The audience would enjoy a few songs and when they started the last, a bass solo would start. A spotlight would shine upon the balcony, revealing the source…"
"Showy," I commented. Caroline shrugged.
"It would probably the only way that would prevent my mother from completely disowning me. Showy performances are one of her favorite things. I was hoping it would cancel out the shock of finding out I was playing such a…lowly instrument."
"Hmmm," Trucy mused. "So the bass is like the peasant class of the instruments?"
"You...could say that," Caroline replied, trying to hide a smile. "The bass usually doesn't have many complicated parts, I have to admit. But this song had a wonderful bass solo. I couldn't resist playing it. I had to practice in secret so that my mother wouldn't find out. I had little free time, so I couldn't practice for very long, but apparently, I played it quite well. According to…well…"
Andrew. That name was obviously clinging to her tongue. "But you have free time now?"
"Yes. This is actually around the time I would practice…very interesting timing on your part."
"Oh! By the way, I think you have a stalker fan!"
Stalker might be the right word, but 'fan' didn't seem to fit at all. "Uh, yeah. We met her around here—"
"Interestingly colored hair?" Caroline cut in. "Younger than she actually appears?"
"Uhh, well I don't actually know her age, but she certainly does have…'interestingly colored hair.'"
"She's a little bit of a nuisance."
"You can't drive her away?"
A sour look briefly crossed Caroline's face. "Just try not to get caught up in conversation with her."
Before either of us could ask what was up with that girl anyways, Caroline continued on. "I apologize, but I must go back inside. You understand…"
No. Not really. But we couldn't keep her any longer. And as we watched our last lead of the day escape back into her extravagant mansion, I sighed and knew that the only progress I would be making would be tomorrow at court.