Lucy’s reaction strangely deviated from Iathelos’ expectations. He thought she would show interest since a witness who gave a completely different testimony from what was interrogated yesterday appeared, but for some reason, she didn’t seem very interested.
“Lady Hartland, is something wrong?”
“Huh? No, nothing’s wrong. Why do you ask?”
Iathelos scrutinized her, but he couldn’t find any strange signs. He continued, “So, what were you going to say?”
“Ah, yes. I met someone and I thought you should know.” Lucy handed Iathelos a folded piece of paper.
As Iathelos unfolded and read it, he tilted his head with a peculiar expression.
“This is…” Iathelos, blinking slowly, turned his head toward Lucy.
“Is this… a list of suitors?”
Upon hearing that, Lucy looked at Iathelos with an expression as if she couldn’t believe what she was hearing.
“How on earth did you steer the conversation in that direction from this situation?”
“No… I’m sorry. Sometimes there are individuals who are interested. They want to investigate if their potential spouse might be hiding a criminal history…”
“I don’t have anyone in mind for marriage, and even if I did, I wouldn’t ask you for such help, Inspector. Besides, you wouldn’t assist in such private matters using Citrater’s investigative powers; it’s legally prohibited, isn’t it?”
Lucy feigned a distressed gesture. Iathelos, slightly red-faced, chuckled awkwardly and cleared his throat.
“I’m sorry. Suddenly showing me this… then, whose names are these? ?”
“These are names of law students from the Royal University that I’ve been meeting since this morning.”
“You’ve been meeting law students?”
Iathelos’ eyes widened in surprise.
“Why would you do such a thing…? Wait, did you go alone?”
“It’s just a meeting with university students. I can handle it on my own.”
“What prompted you to do this?”
As Iathelos asked, Lucy’s expression briefly showed a sense of satisfaction, as if she had anticipated such a reaction. With a mischievous expression on her face, Lucy flicked her finger playfully and answered.
“It’s about a student named Flobern we met yesterday. He’s heavily indebted all over, not just to Ancif but also well-known among law students for borrowing money.”
“Didn’t he mention struggling due to tuition fees? Could it be related?”
“I initially thought so too. But after hearing from the students, Flobern doesn’t seem to be such a dedicated student.”
“…I need more explanation about this, Lady Hartland.”
Iathelos muttered somewhat unsure.
Lucy pulled out another piece of paper from her small bag and unfolded it before him. It was a list of names of well-known gambling establishments, some of which Iathelos had heard of before.
“I investigated these places and found owners who knew Flobern at every place I visited.”
“Are you suggesting Flobern was gambling?”
“Not just casually. This guy seems to be clocking in at gambling establishments almost every day, not just occasionally. He’s been frequenting for over a year now.”
The owners Lucy met at these gambling establishments unanimously stated that while Flobern didn’t excel at gambling, he consistently showed up, often losing eight rounds out of ten but still coming back with money to gamble.
Lucy learned from the conversation that Flobern was in a serious state of gambling addiction. Lucy continued speaking.
“I heard the story of a student who lent money to Flobern around this time last year. They said Flobern hasn’t been attending lectures for the past few days. He must have been working to earn money or went gambling during that time. You saw him yesterday, didn’t you? Didn’t he look like he was about to collapse?”
“I thought it was because he was overworked, but it seems that wasn’t the only reason.”
“Right. I don’t know why Balford hid the fact that he went to the bar, but anyway, now we have two liars. I think it would be good to revisit the scene.”
“Let’s head there immediately. Oh, please wait a moment.”
Iathelos entered the interrogation room where Balford was being questioned. After a short command to the soldiers, he returned outside.
“I’ve ordered them to temporarily halt the interrogation with Balford. It’s a waste of time to hold him since he’s uncooperative. I plan to keep him detained for now.”
Lucy nodded in agreement.
Iathelos, asking for a carriage to be ready, left the building with Lucy. As they approached the arched entrance of the hall with a round, soaring roof, Iathelos suddenly stopped and called out to Lucy.
“I forgot to give you this.”
Perplexed, Lucy accepted the bundle he offered and peeked inside.
“Oh, it’s my glove.”
“You gave it to me so naturally yesterday. The one stained with Ancif’s blood…”
As he mentioned it, Lucy pretended to be nonchalant, suppressing a chuckle as she fumbled with the package.
“Did you not like it since it was a gift?”
“I’ve never been a fan of lace since the old days.”
Lucy chuckled, appreciating Iathelos’ attempt at light banter. She was thankful for his ability to navigate potentially awkward situations gracefully.
She was so used to handing things like gloves and coats to her assistant’s that she didn’t even realize she had given her gloves to Iathelos yesterday.
“But what’s this at the end? It feels sticky.”
As Lucy probed the glove’s end, Iathelos made a soft sound and furrowed his eyebrows.
“It’s probably perfume oil. The bloodstain is gone, but that doesn’t seem to come off no matter what. I even considered buying a new pair of gloves because of it…”
“You don’t have to bother, Inspector. It wasn’t something I treasured. I’m grateful you even had it cleaned.”
The Lannon street, where Ancif’s body was discovered, was peaceful but quieter than usual. The long alley was filled with various shops and restaurants, usually bustling with people. However, due to the rumor of a murder, there were noticeably fewer pedestrians.
“Balford was drinking in a tavern nearby until dawn.”
“And our unfortunate student turned out to be a compulsive gambler. Well, both of them have suspicious aspects, but… there’s no clear evidence.”
“Why did Ancif pass by here at dawn? Did that person also drink nearby?”
“It’s possible. If Balford saw Ancif while drunk… under the influence, he might have committed the murder without clear judgment or reason.”
“An interesting possibility.”
“But the problem is how and with what he killed, and how he hid it. Also, what remained in Ancif’s head…”
The two walked through the crime scene, observing the shops along Lannon street. Most of the taverns had closed doors, and knocking on them yielded no response. It was too early, evident by the lack of activity.
Trying the fourth locked pub door and turning around, Iathelos and Lucy both looked at the shouting. A man with a large knife, his face angry, was approaching them. Iathelos immediately stepped in front of Lucy, placing his hand on the holster at his waist, and spoke firmly.
“Stop! Don’t come any closer. Lower the knife to the ground!”
The man stared fiercely at Iathelos before belatedly realizing the knife was still in his hand. He hurriedly put it down, and only then did both notice that he was wearing an apron.
“Wait, hold on! I’m sorry, I came out in a hurry, so just… hold on a moment.”
“What’s your business? Identify yourself.”
The man showed his open palms, and Iathelos remained cautious. The man spoke.
“I… I’m Olson, the owner of the butcher shop here. Right over there is my store.”
Olson pointed across the street to a small shop. Apparently, he had forgotten about the knife in his haste to rush out. Iathelos and Lucy realized he was wearing an apron.
Iathelos kept his eyes on Olson and approached, picking up the knife. Only then, he relaxed, removing his hand from the holster.
“What’s going on, Mr. Olson?”
“Oh, umm… seeing your uniform, you seem to be a police officer. I thought you were a police officer, so I came out to ask if there was anything else happening nearby. Even though there was a death here yesterday… Look, there’s not a single customer. If something else happened, I thought it would be troublesome, so I decided to stop it…”
“If you run a butcher’s shop, I assume you open early in the morning?”
Lucy, who was standing at the back, stepped forward and asked. Olson, puzzled by her appearance which didn’t resemble that of a security officer, quickly glanced at Iathelos with a questioning look.
“I am a detective consultant for Citrater. Please answer the question, Mr. Olson.”
“Ah… yes, that’s right. Unlike other shops, people like us start business early in the morning.”
“Do you remember what time you opened?”
“Let’s see… I woke up to the sound of the clock striking five. Then I just changed clothes and came straight down, so it must have been around 5:10. My house is right above the shop.”
“So, you had already opened the shop around the estimated time of the victim’s death. Did you hear any unusual sounds?”
“Do you know how busy it is to prepare for business in the morning? Moreover, there are many heavy things in the pub, so unless there’s a war going on outside, I wouldn’t know. I didn’t hear anything.”
“And you have no information about Ancif Tinbury?”
“That deceased gentleman? I’ve never been involved with loan sharks, but I have encountered him occasionally in the early morning.”