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- Chapter Three -

The Missing Servant

Part One

When we entered the magnificent Reinhold Manor again, something was off. It was the air; it was so thick and the tension was so prominent that you could slice it with a kitchen knife. And it scared me. I huddled closer to Hershel, grabbing the end of his jacket. His hand went to my back and began to rub circles on it.

"Something doesn't seem quite right, Professor," Luke commented, frowning.

The butler came bursting down the stairs, his eyes holding panic and his arms flailing about. "Pr-Pr-Professor! Oh, it's simply awful! Come quickly, please, all of you!"

"What's the matter, Matthew?" Hershel asked, drawing me closer. "If you're worried about the cat, we've brought her back safe and sound."

His arms stopped moving but he still remained a horrified expression, mixed in with somber. "Oh, well, Madam will be very happy to hear that." His face grew panicked again and his arms flailed about again. "But this is no time to worry about a cat! J-Just hurry upstairs! Right this way, please!"

We rushed up the stairs by two, me still holding onto his jacket as Hershel dragged me up with him carefully.

When we entered the parlor, everything was a mess. A tall and broad-shouldered man came up to us, having the thickest gray mustache I had ever seen. He was dressed very professional and looked like a lot of work, for a male.

"So, you're the famous Professor Layton, then?" he asked doubtfully. "The name's Chelmey, Inspector Chelmey. I'm the inspector on this case."

Hershel looked very confused. "Well, I'd hardly call it a case. If this is about Claudia, we've brought her back safe and sound."

Lady Dahlia, who was sitting on the sofa with a somber look, instantly brightened up at the mention of her cat. "Oh, Claudia, my baby! Mama missed you so much!" The cat meowed and hopped onto her lap, Dahlia stroking her silently.

"What's this cat doing here?" Chelmey shouted angrily. "Why on earth would you bring an animal into a crime scene? Have some sense!"

"Hey, you!" I said, furious, but still clutching Hershel's jacket. After all, this man was a bit intimidating. "We were out when this so-called crime took place and we don't know what the hell is going on, so if you could please inform us, we'd really appreciate it." Luke sniggered.

Chelmey closed his eyes and let out a breathy sigh. "There's been a murder, missy, Professor. A man was killed here!"

I let out an audible gasp and closed my eyes. Murder and death were two things that never settled well with me. Hershel knew this, and drew me closer, wrapping his arm around me now as I settled into his side. Luke gave a horrified gasp and looked at us in disbelief.

"What?" Hershel exclaimed, baffled. "Who was murdered?"

"The victim was a resident of this address, one Simon Reinhold," Chelmey explained unhappily.

"Simon was…" I gasped, trailing off. It had been that smug guy! I couldn't believe it; murdered by cold hard blood!

"Approximately two hours ago, I received a report that a man had collapsed at Reinhold Manor," Chelmey explained. "Upon arrival at the scene, it was apparent to me that Simon was already dead."

"I see," Hershel said grimly. He looked down at me, for I had buried my head into his side, before looking back up at Chelmey. "And the cause of death?" I heard him ask.

"I'm currently conducting an investigation to look into it," Chelmey said, and I peeked back up at him. "I'll just let you know right now, Mr. Layton, I'm looking at you as a potential suspect as well. The rest of the details concerning this investigation are classified."

I got angered when he said Hershel is counted as a suspect, and so did Luke, but we both kept our mouths shut.

"Speaking of the details," Hershel said, "who placed the call to the authorities?"

"Are your ears clogged? You deaf? Didn't I just tell you those details are classified? Hmm?"

I glared at him and he sneered at me.

"All right, everyone. I'll be taking statements from each of you in the other room. Come in one by one, please. And let me make this clear. Under no circumstances is anyone to leave until I've talking to everyone."

And we were shoved back out into the parlor, where the butler was currently standing, sniffing and huffing occasionally and the fatter man, named Gordon, was wiping his eyes with his handkerchief and heaving great, but silent, sobs.

"Imagine…" he began to speak up and we all looked at him. "A murder in this very house. It brings chills to my spine, it does. You're a detective, are you not?" he asked the last question addressed to Hershel. "Do hurry and find the monster that did this."

"My good sir, I am no detective," Hershel said politely. "But I agree that your concerns are certainly warranted. No one is safe until that criminal is behind bars." And he huddled me closer to him unconsciously.

"My sentiments exactly. I just don't understand it. Simon could be snide, but he wasn't the type to be hated. If the criminal was after my brother's fortune, I could very well be this fiend's next target!"

"You have a point," Hershel commented. "If we narrow the motive to stealing the Reinhold fortune, there are a few potential suspects…"

Suddenly, Gordon's meaty hand went flying in the air. "Good gracious, you don't think I'D do something like this now? Simon and I got along very well, I'll have you know. He wasn't very close with Augustus, though. Oh, please do help find his killer! I beg of you! I wouldn't do anything like this!"

Hershel nodded shortly. "Yes, of course I will. It appears that I am a suspect as well - along with my good friends - so we'll find out everything we can."

Gordon let out a huge sob.

Hershel's lips went thin and he led me over to Matthew, Luke sitting on the velvet sofa.

"Matthew, did you notice any strange characters around the manor at the time of the incident?" Hershel asked curiously. I was still pressed into his side, and if I tried to move, he would press me closer. Strange…

Matthew's eyes lowered behind his glasses. "Not a soul, I'm afraid. I-I didn't even know about Master Simon until Inspector Chelmey showed up."

"And where is Simon's body now?"

"I didn't see this, but I was told that the inspector carried the body out shortly after arriving."

Hershel frowned. "I see…Well, it looks like for the moment we are without a lead on this case."

Matthew seemed to peak up a bit. "Ah, but you know, I found this in the room where Master Simon's body was discovered." In his hands was a tiny cog, the middle inscribed with a hammer and a wrench. Gasping, I took it into my own hand. It was tiny, and just fit in the palm.

"What is this?" Hershel asked Matthew, touching the cog.

"I'm sorry to say I have no idea, but I thought it might be a clue, so I made sure to hold onto it," Matthew said.

Hershel took it from me and held it up in-between his fingers. "Amazing! It's a cog so small that one could search the room and miss it. Look, it has an engraving."

"Yup, I already saw that, Hershel," I whispered to him and he looked down at me. "What could this mean?"

"A small cog?" Matthew asked before Hershel could reply to my question. "Now that you mention it, I know a puzzle about an object that almost fits that description."

"What?" I hissed loudly, causing the others to look at me. "Are you joking? A puzzle? At a time like this? Are you crazy?"

Everyone in the room flinched. Hershel drew me back again and made soothing noises while Luke apologized for me and did the puzzle. In Matthew's hand was an eight-dotted star-like thing and I knew which puzzle this was. It was one of those reverse mirror type things, and I saw Luke quickly finding the answer.

"…I am wondering why you gave us this cog, though?" I heard Hershel speak, and it took me a moment to realize that I'd been zoning out. I was tired and hungry and I just wanted to go to sleep at the inn.

"I believe you're a good man, Professor," Matthew answered easily with a smile. "I'm confident you will out the whole of this puzzle together."

"I appreciate the vote of confidence, Matthew," Hershel smiled back happily.

Chelmey came back in, towering and very intimidating still, hunched over with his hands in his pockets and holding a very scowling expression. Hershel and I sat down with Luke on the sofa, him still holding onto me. Right now, my nerves were shot. That wasn't a good thing.

"Is this everyone who was present at the site of the crime?" Chelmey barked in a rough voice.

Matthew pepped up quietly. "I believe we are missing Ramon, sir."

Crazy Guy was missing? I knew it; he wasn't normal, he was crazy, so he must've killed Simon. Why else wouldn't he be here?

Dahlia's face contorted worry as she cried out, "Ramon! Where is he and what on earth is he doing? Matthew, fetch Ramon at once!"

Matthew's eyes went downcast as he delivered some interesting news. "To be honest, Madam, thinking on it, I've not seen Ramon for a few hours now."

Chelmey gritted his teeth angrily, a temple pulsing on his face. "What? Don't tell me he was taken as well!…No, hold on a moment. He's a suspect, too. Perhaps he fled the scene of his crime."

Dahlia was frantic. "Where could he be at a time like this? What if the murderer got Ramon too?" She bustled into the next room unnoticed while Chelmey let out a loud huff. He then went off to look about the manor.

"Hey, Matthew!" I called for the stout butler. "Could you see if Lady Dahlia can take visitors?"

"Of course, one moment." And he came back with the all-clear. Nodding to my boys, we entered the adjoining room.

It appeared to be Lady Dahlia's room. The curtains were drawn, little orange light peering through, there was a desk with flowers and things scattered, a table in the middle with a vase full of flowers, a bed in the corner, and Dahlia appeared to be standing by the dresser with pictures on them.

Hershel spoke first. "Lady Dahlia, I have a deep suspicion this murder is connected to the mystery of the Golden Apple."

"What?" Dahlia gasped, covering her hand over her mouth.

"It's too early to say for sure, but I think that it's highly probable the two matters are linked," Hershel explained solemnly.

"And you think that Ramon is somehow involved in all this?" Dahlia asked worriedly.

"Potentially, yes. However, as of yet, we don't have enough information to draw any solid conclusions."

Dahlia closed her eyes and sighed. "I see…If that's the care, I have a request for you and your friends, Professor. Find Ramon and bring him back here to me. It sickens me that I am being considered a suspect in this brutal crime. I must prove my innocence at once."

Hershel nodded. "As you wish, Lady Dahlia." I did NOT want to help that cold and heartless bitch, but what was I going to do without Hershel? "We will ask around town to see what we can find."

"I appreciate your help, Professor," Dahlia said, smiling. "Well then, I'll be awaiting the good news in the parlor."

Before we could leave Dahlia's room, Hershel held up a hand and made a questioning noise. Luke and I paused and gazed at him.

"Hershel, what's wrong?" I asked.

He didn't answer but instead when to the dresser where the Lady had been standing at and picked up something. It was a frame holding a picture of a young Lady Dahlia, holding what looked to be a baby girl, while Matthew (not looking any younger) and an old woman stood smiling and gawking at the baby.

"Look at this picture," Hershel said, running a hand over it. He looked deep in thought.

"What is it, Professor?"

"It's Lady Dahlia!" I answered. "She's holding a baby, see?" I pointed to the little cutie and squealed. "She's so adorable!"

"That baby must be Baron Reinhold's daughter, then," Hershel answered.

"Her name was Flora, right?"

"Lady Dahlia hasn't changed much," Luke commented absently. "I mean, besides the face and all.

Hershel chuckled. "You know, Luke, they say true beauty never ages." And he looked straight at me.

I had something on my face, didn't I? "W-What's wrong? Why are you looking at me? Have I got something on my face?"

Both of my boys chuckled but refused to answer me. Meanies…

"I suppose so, Professor…Still, it makes me wonder…Let's go see what Lady Dahlia has to say about this."

Chelmey was back in the parlor, looking sullen and disgruntled as ever. Luke approached Lady Dahlia with his head held high and his chest puffed out slightly, making him seem intimidating, although he really wasn't.

"Pardon me," Luke tried to say politely; he was, after all, "GMT," A.K.A., Gentleman in-training. "We happened to come across an adorable picture of you and your daughter Flora a moment ago."

She looked like she'd swallowed a lemon. "I beg your pardon?"

"The picture of you holding a baby…The one that sits in the next room."

"I'm sorry but you must be mistaken," she said slowly. "I've never had any children."

Luke nodded and turned to us with a confused expression. I'm sure Hershel and mine's faces looked like that, too. "Huh?"

"Our apologizes, madam," Hershel said for Luke, "we must have been mistaken."

"At any rate," she replied sharply. "Time is of the essence here. Go find Ramon and bring him back, wouldn't you?"

I grabbed my boys by the ears and jerked them to my height. "If that's not Lady Dahlia in the photograph, then who on this godforsaken earth could it be? I know something fishy is going on here…"

Hershel and Luke turned so that we were in our little circle again. "I think we'd do well to ask the butler a few questions," Hershel answered.

We left Chelmey and Dahlia to chatter about the Golden Apple as we headed down the spiral staircase where Matthew (always) stood, looking somber as his eyes were red-rimmed. He seemed hit terribly by this murder.

"Oh, Matthew," Hershel called, "do you have a moment?"

He sniffed and came over to us, where we were stopped at the front door. "Certainly, sir, how can I help you?"

"It's about the picture of Lady Dahlia upstairs. The one of her holding a small child," Hershel explained.

"Ah, yes, about that old picture…That's not Lady Dahlia, I'm afraid. It's a picture of Baron Reinhold's former wife. But I certainly understand why you would mistake one for the other. They were virtually identical in their appearance, their gesture, even the way they moved!"

"So, the photo isn't of Lady Dahlia, but of an earlier wife of the baron?" I asked, trying to clear this up.

Matthew nodded.

"Wow!" Luke gasped. "Imagine finding someone who looks that much like you. What are the odds?"

"Like slim to none," I said, amazed. Maybe they were related… "Matthew, is there a chance the two were related or relatives to one another?"

"I've never heard anything to suggest as much, ma'am. It just happened one day. The baron arrived home and at his side was Lady Dahlia. I'm sorry to say that's all I really know about the matter."

"Not at all. You've been most helpful. Thank you, Matthew," I said sweetly.

"How odd," Luke commented. "The more I hear, the stranger the whole affair starts to sound."

We nodded and pushed the heavy doors open, reading the find this "missing servant": Ramon.

End of Part 1