The Mistress

March 15th 1888

Rin turned to the driver and said, her nose held high, "I want this carriage fixed by the time I get back, Mills."

"What?" Len watched as Rin walked past him, avoiding his eye.

The Lady pulled up her dress slightly above ankle-length and rushed into the bushes. Len, awed and surprised, stood there, and absentmindedly called after her, "M-Milady!"

The fact was, she was already gone: The rustling of the leaves that accompanied her vanishing footsteps were gone as well. She was just so adamant; itching for the scent of blood and the trail that lead to a mystery. Len had only heard rumours about it, but never actually believed that the vain, spoiled young mistress loved the thrills death cases gave, and the alluring crimes to be encoded. He already knew she worked for the queen, but didn't think she loves to do detective work.

Does she even know where it'll lead her?

Len groaned and ran after her, shouting, "My Mistress!"

He jumped over a bush and entered the dense, tree-covered woods. He had trouble trying to step out of the thicket, what with the trees' roots in the way — but he was particularly not going to let a girl win to him. Especially when he's two years her senior. Especially when he's the one with the experience. Len could see Rin in the distance: She seemed to have taken a break running, seeing as she stopped moving. And stuff. As much as Len wasn't sure, he was really curious as to why she reacted so fast.

"L-Lady Rin!" He caught up to her finally, catching his breath. He doubled over, panting, next to his Mistress. "What made you run away like that?"

Rin flipped her hair and turned to him, glaring. "You don't know anything at all, do you, Commoner?"

Len wanted to shake his head a no, but he really wanted to know, too, so he just slowly nodded. He wasn't working for her for nothing, which is true enough. Rin handed Len a handkerchief, much to his surprise and confusion.

"What'm I supposed to do with this?" he asked, holding up the silk cloth that was embroidered with golden writings at the sides, and of course let's not forget the decorative letter 'L' at the end.

Rin waved an airy hand and resumed walking into the deeper part of the woods, "I can feel a bead of sweat rolling down my neck. Would you care to get it for me?"

Oh, of course. That was completely logical and realistic enough. Len sighed exasperatedly, the handkerchief delicately held by his hand, following her suit. "I didn't ask if I could be of any help to you, I asked, what made you run like that, Rin?"

The Lady stopped walking and turned her heel to face him dead on. Len felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end as he received the deadly glare Rin gave him.

"First of all, Mister Len, it's a business I would not like to discuss with someone like you. Secondly, it's 'Milady' or 'my Mistress' at all times, have you understood all that?" Her tone was spitting venom. Len could have sworn his ears were bleeding.

"Ah, geez, okay, you don't need to get so worked up about it — Milady," he added hastily. Rin's eyebrows dug lower than Len thought possible and she turned around, her hair smacking Len's face in the process.

He rubbed his nose and, between his fingers, saw Rin running into the deeper part of the woods, bushes rustling after her. Len was very determined to get back at that girl, but was afraid he'd lose his job and much more else. He gnashed his teeth together and swore under his breath before going out to catch up with his Lady.

He just asked what the matter was: The gunshot seemed to be pretty dangerous. They should've called for the police, like a normal person would. But from what Len heard, Rin was far from normal. She was a rational girl who wanted to take everything into action and does things her way to get it her way. She wanted to investigate the gunshot, and wanted to find out what the white stuff was.

Len researched about every boss he had before he applied for a job, yet it didn't get him as far as actually working for two days.

It took Len a while to realise that Rin was already a great distance away from what he could keep up with, and he guessed that by the time he gets there, Rin'll be gone: He imagined a few scenarios wherein, as Len speaks, Rin would walk in the murder, and has been snatched away by the suspect, leaving the corpse of the victim.

He shook his head: He had better hurry. It's all going to be his fault. . . His fault. Rin went to Regent Circus just to pick him up, and on the way back home, they witnessed a gunshot from afar, and now she's gone.

Managing to find his voice again, more out of worry and anger than out of courage, Len shouted, head frantically turning to every direction possible while he ran, "Milady! Mistress! Are you still there?"

He found a clearing ahead, so he launched himself forward, half-guessing it was where Rin could have taken a break. He was blasted with a warm sunlight and a strong streak of light that blinded him before he tackled something soft.

"Ah!"

Len rubbed his head, seething in pain. He had fallen to the ground headfirst: He thought he hit something. It was a while before he caught the acrid scent of blood. He immediately stood up tall and covered his nose, waving his other free hand in the hopes that the smell won't get in through the gaps between his fingers. Finally, he found the source of the unpleasant odour and he regretfully gasped, inhaling the scent itself: There, on the ground in front of him, was a figure drenched in his own blood; his hair was matted, and Len found apparent scars and bruises all over the man. He was sprawled on the grass in a spread-eagled position.

Disgusted as Len was, he checked the man's eyes: They revealed nothing but whiteness.

"You tripped over the corpse, idiot." Len turned around to find Rin behind him, staring at the dead body on the ground. "From what I could gather, the suspect fled just after he shot the victim, knowing if he'll linger he'll cause a ruckus. I guess he's been chased here: They must've been from the city itself, because this would be the nearest place where no one would stay . . . for long."

"This man. . ." Len began, biting his lip, "I think the suspect has targeted him for quite a while now, why else could he have chased him all the way here to kill him at the woods nearest the city?"

Rin nodded slowly, her eyes showing understanding. "Correct."

Len looked at Rin. "What're we gonna do now?"

The Lady shook her head and took out a few plastic bags of questionable stuff. "We're going to Scotland Yard to report this. I've already collected all the evidence needed, anyway."

She approached him with a serious face and took out the handkerchief she gave him earlier, much to his surprise.

"Well, not all the evidence yet, I'm afraid." Rin clicked her tongue and bent down low enough to examine the man. She took out the hankie and slightly disgustedly wiped the man's blood on the face. "I want you to stay and guard this man's corpse until I get back with the police."

"A-as you wish, Ma'am. . . But what's the blood for?" Len asked, his heart starting to heave him down. Rin didn't answer and stood up, leaving.

Baffled, Len watched her as she went away again — what, was this the second time she left him with no answer? Len pushed this thought aside and decided he could find out later, anyway. She couldn't hide her secrets as much as this, right? He thought as he sat down on the grass, waiting. Surely nothing will happen to him if he would just guard this dead man's body.

Rin put the clips to hold her hair back as they kept swinging in front of her eyes. She looked at her coach driver and said firmly, "I want to go to Whitehall Place to report something to the constabularies."

Mills looked rather shocked. "What was the gunshot about, Madam?"

As Rin got on the pedestal she answered without looking at him, "The killer apparently stalked or hunted down for the victim for a while before getting close enough to kill him. The killer's gone now, obviously, and I'm going to the police to confirm something. I know they're useless enough to not do anything about it, anyway."

The horses whinnied at the contact of the whip Mills had whipped on their behinds. The driver winced at the noise, but nonetheless whipped them again to get them moving.

With the door of the carriage closed by Rin finally, they turned to the direction opposite them and went on their way back to London.

Everything could be seen through the window of the carriage, yet Rin seldom put the curtains aside. This was one of those times when she'd taker her time and look at the outside world. They were still riding through the trail of the woods, for she was certain that the cloaked man that passed by the carriage had been the killer. Who else could it be? He must be nearby as well. . . Rin's eyes squinted at the harsh sunlight, looking out the window to see if there was a shadow moving in the trees. She tried to think about the things that went through in her mind the moment she saw the dead man's body. . . It was all disgust. What was that white powder for, anyway? What method did the predator do to kill his prey?

"I see you're still the secretive type, Miss Arianna." Mills's voice was inaudible but could be heard from inside the coach. Rin didn't say anything yet, pursing her lips guiltily. "You've long since trusted a person. You confide in yourself most of the time now. Can't you see others are reaching out to you? There are times when I'd see you flashing that ghost of your old smile, but you supress it."

Her eyes were brimming with tears as she said, "I know. It's just that . . . I can do things by myself."

Rin thought she heard Mills sigh from the other end and she shook her head, trying to be strong for herself.

"Whatever you say, Milady."

4 Whitehall Place was as ghostly as ever: No one dared to come near that estate. Except maybe for those who sought help from the Metropolitan Police. Even at the lightest of day, its eerie atmosphere could change even the weather of the place: There was a thick fog that surrounded the buildings, concealing the stares of the residents as the carriage passed them by.

God, this place was awful, Rin thought, pulling on a face of disgust as she shut the curtains close. When was the last time she sought assistance from these buffoons? Oh yeah, this was the first time. With her nose scrunched, the Lady tried to recall the events that took place a few weeks before. Let's see; she tried to put up signs to find someone to give her everything she wants. Then the queen told her to handle a case that Scotland Yard passed on to her. It was a rather risky one: A serial murder case in which the suspect's victims actually don't share a similarity at all. Was it simply a madman running wild?

Then again, there can't be a single madman whose mind was as brilliant as this one; his strikes can't be random. Rin still believed that there would be some kind of connection between the victims. They were targeted one by one, after all. She still can't figure out what, though. They were both genders, and they had absolutely no relations to the suspect's past at all. The suspect could be anyone: That girl who just ran across the street. The woman who sold cupcakes from the bakery. That young lad who gave away newspapers. The biggest question of all was, did the suspect really have a motive to kill the victims? If he did, then what?

Rin could tell that the cloaked man had been the murderer: Only Mills could have seen his face. Right? Groaning, Rin buried her face in her hands. This was all too confusing. And frustrating. There was just something wrong about it. . . The cloaked man passed them by before the gunshot was heard.

The horses outside whinnied, and Rin gathered all her strength to continue what she came there for. She was going to come out, anyway, but she wished she could stay inside longer to think on things: She absolutely did not want to see that Wellington's ugly face. Or, for that matter, his impossible spy.

The Mistress sighed as she primed her hair for a while before she stood up — and at that exact moment, a knock was heard from her carriage door.

"Aren't you going to come out, Rinnykins?"

Oh. My. God.

Speak of the devil —

The door opened to reveal a robust young man, although slightly shorter for his age, with short, messy black hair that stuck on end at the tips. His eyes were the only clean thing about him, as far as Rin could tell now: They were a sparkly pair of hazel, shaped like almonds. He was wearing a set of peasant clothes — cap and loose bowtie and all. He reminded Rin a lot of Len, with the exception of his chin being significantly pointed, and he had the distinct air of being well cared for, an attribute which the blonde rat conspicuously lacked. His socks were soaked, apparently, judging by the anomalous colour, and it was no mystery solving where he lived and what he was. Shoes too rattily holed; face full of greasy dirt; pants that were badly patched and hardly fitted him . . . there was absolutely no doubt that this boy, no older than 2 years than Rin herself, was from the streets just like Len.

With the misty smog around the boy, it was hard to tell whether he was an apparition or the real thing. The place was so foggy, you can barely see the feet of the person, even at the brightest of day. Right now, Rin was particularly annoyed by the boy's smirk.

"Going somewhere, Rinny?" he asked, pushing back his bangs. Giving the boy a disgusted glare, Rin folded her arms and crossed her legs.

"I'm here to handle a case, Hayes," she replied, glaring at the older boy. "And I had to resort to the worst of inspectors. Is your boss around here somewhere?"

Connor Hayes waved an airy hand and smiled genuinely this time. "Well, good luck with that, Rinny. I don't think he's given me an assignment ever since you behaved in front of him, so I haven't seen him in a while. Hey, I didn't see you since you threw a fit at Wellington and hit him in the —"

"Yes, yes, I get that," Rin said hastily, her temper reaching its peak. She got down the carriage and scanned the area. It was very filthy in these parts. The mud puddles on the street reeked like roasted rubber. Her shoes were even from Milan, and yet. . . Pushing that thought aside, she turned to Connor, determined to get back to the scene her pitiful thief was at, unfortunately. "Can you get Wellington for me? Like, right now?"

The raven-haired boy massaged his chin, thinking. "Are you gonna talk about that stolen diamond case?" Rin's eyes widened horrifyingly, and she thought she was going to get caught. "Because Wellington's gotten real ballistic over it! No clues anywhere!"

Quite relieved, the Lady shook her head. "I'll get to that stolen diamond case later. Right now, there's something more worrying than that."

Connor leaned in to hear more, because Rin's voice was getting more and more inaudible. She told him everything about the crime scene, the gunshot, and the cloaked man. It didn't make any sense to her, but it probably will with more brains. After she finished, Connor stood straight, his eyebrows furrowing indicating that he was thinking deeply. "So that's what you're up all about?"

Rin nodded. "Yes."

Shrugging, the boy turned to the building at the far end of the street. "I think the Inspector's still busy. But it won't hurt to present him the evidences, anyway."

Even though Rin didn't entirely trust this boy, she was still up for solving this. She was so used to keeping everything to herself that she didn't tell anything to anyone anymore, maybe except the cases she solved.

It must have been a while already since she left the crime scene. An image of Len being interrogated by the police about setting the forest on fire appeared in her mind, and she fought the odd urge to laugh. That boy was certainly clumsy, although she doubted he'd set the forest on fire before she got back. If that boy did anything all the while she was gone. . .

Rin sighed and said to Connor, "Let's get to Wellington as fast as we can."

Len was getting really tired of just waiting. Where on earth could that girl be, anyway? And why did she care so much? He was impatiently sitting on the dewy grass — the sun clearly not fully evaporating the dews from a few nights earlier — and could care less about watching over the stupid carcass. He didn't think the strong scent of blood could overpower him, but it did: To think that, of all he's been through, a stinking smell would kill the almighty master thief, Len. However his integrity had been downgraded to the 'servant' category ever since he's worked for Rin. As Len could recall, the moustached driver claimed that there was this cloaked man in the way before the carriage stopped.

The hairs on the back of his neck stood on end suddenly; had there been a breeze that blew by? No, that was simply Len's sixth sense tingling. There was something wrong with the idea, actually.

Relaying the events in his head, the hooded man passed by the carriage, leaving the white dusty evidence on the bump of the carriage, and then there was a gunshot.

Then . . . who the hell is the killer?

Obviously, the one with the gun . . . right? Maybe that hooded figure was just a hooded figure after all. Maybe he was a witness; that he'd seen the murderer and the victim running in the woods and got scared. Maybe. But that doesn't explain why he was wearing a cloak.

Determined to find more evidence, Len stood up and scooted near the dead man, who smelled like hell, by the way. Was he going to smell this way when he'll get in the coffin? Len didn't want to dwell in that space of thought anymore, so he pinched his nose to keep himself from getting distracted.

So far, Len couldn't recognise the man as anyone he's seen before or known. The man had sandy-blond hair that was greying at the ends, and he was balding, his hair pushed way back his forehead. Blood, marks and bruises everywhere: And there was even a gunshot. What? Where was the sense in that? Did the murderer beat this person up before he killed him with a gun or something?

Something seemed very funny there.

Of all the blood-covered parts of the man's torso, Len still couldn't find where the man was shot. He tried to think positive and searched below: His legs were clean. Not a single speck of blood touched his pants; except maybe for the upper part, where the man had most likely been beaten up. This got Len in such a confusion — what was the gun for, then?

Had there been someone, then, who was spying in the bushes? Maybe the spy was the one with the gun. The spy would most likely have seen the killer beating this man up, and signalled for the passers-by to come . . . after the criminal escaped? What?

Frustrated with the mystery, Len stood up, grunting. He patted the dirt on his pants and walked around to find some more clues. He sort of liked the feeling of the wet grass brushing against his black shoes' leather. It seemed to be so relaxing, considering all the stuff he's been through these past days. You know, being accepted as a thief, getting a job in a mansion — sorta — meeting a Lady, stealing a precious diamond, seeing a dead man. . . It's been tough. That's kind of a lot for a boy who used to be nicking stuff from peoples' pockets.

And then he stepped on something. Something soft. And it was sort of squishy.

Len furrowed his brows at no one in particular, listening to the awkward sounds the thing he stepped on was making. It felt soft, but it was making breaking noises. It couldn't possibly be a stick or a tree branch either.

Curious, Len lifted his foot and bent down to closely examine it. He reached out to grab it and realised it was covered with a thick red liquid, its scent being inhaled by his nostrils. Upon closer inspection, it was short, soft and sort of . . . fleshy. . .

Len let out a strangled gasp as he dropped the object on the ground again, aghast with fear and shock — he might never recover from touching it, the vile touch making him lose his own sanity as he remembered how it felt when he held it in his fingers, the blood entering his nose. . . He felt a sort of stinging sensation course through his body — it was a traumatising feeling and a new sense of terror: He never was bothered with blood and wounds, but he couldn't get over the fact that he actually held a finger that was amputated in his fingers, fresh with blood.

He didn't know whose finger it belonged to until he stared at the inanimate object he realised one thing.

The killer didn't use the gun to kill this man. Instead, he used it to shoot this man's thumb.

AUTHOR'S NOTE

ME: HAPPY HALLOWEEN, GUYSSSSS! X3 This is one of the best holidays of the YEAR! So I dedicated this chapter as a treat for the season. Yeah, so, I based this chapter on Fear Garden, except it's fingers, not hands or arms. That was the only song that genuinely creeped me out, so . . . yeah O.o I can't imagine the girl who sang 'I like you, I love you' sing Fear Garden. That's too awkward -_- The OC here, Connor Hayes, was made by none other than the loyal reviewer, XSimply-SimpleX! Cheers to that person! :D Helped me a lot. Please help me spread this story all over the Internet, everyone! Advertise it, tell it, ANYTHING! XD Okay, PLEASE tell me whether Rin or Len's out of character again. I'm getting confused myself, actually . If you don't understand, I'll give you EVERYTHING in the next chapter about the murder, mm'kay? :D I don't like giving anything away, but I'd hate it much more if someone didn't understand what I was writing about D: I'm truly torn! Should I give you a hint? Nah, it'll destroy the meaning of the story T-T Happy Halloween, everyone!

XSimply-SimpleX: Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you! :D Thank you for everything! You gave me an idea! Thank you! As a reward, I'll be giving you a WHOLE CAKE! XD If you can't finish eating it, share, okay? I hope Len wasn't too clumsy here. I just think it's too adorable for him to be so clumsy XD

Mitchkat1: Oh my God o.O You don't know how much your review means to me! QvQ I read EVERY ONE of your stories, and I idolised you ever since! It's an HONOUR to have you read this. . . (CRIES) Thank you for reading! Please accept this slice of cake made with love! :D

XXXDreamingFlowerXXX: Thank you! X3 For everything, actually T-T You followed me ever since my first story. And now . . . (CRIES) Sorry, I feel just so emotional right now. I'm really sorry Q.Q It's so embarrassing to cry. . . . Thanks for reviewing! :D Have a slice of cake!