By Lauren Rabalais
Web Content Contributor
“There was truth and there was untruth, and if you clung to the truth even against the whole world, you were not mad.”— George Orwell
The next morning finally came after another sleepless night. This time, though, it was different; Alphonse rolled around all night, but he couldn’t help the twitching in his toes and the excited thumping in his chest. He would be the savior, the hero of Apatéa, while the criminals he killed would be the villains. Even if they didn’t understand now, they would in time—the people would believe in his righteousness.
But, eventually, morning did come, and those feelings didn’t leave with the night. Though he wasn’t awoken by screaming parlor maids this time, he knew what was coming. Alphonse rolled out of bed and stretched his back with a yawn. Mid-yawn, he noticed Ashtad sitting on his dresser again.
“Good morning,” Alphonse said with lidded eyes and a sleepy wave.
“How d’you do?” the demon returned with a small, amused wave back. “Your sister is looking into the murder of John Bennett as we speak. You should visit the throne room and greet her.”
He jumped up at that. “I shall make my way down, then. I thank you, Ashtad.”
The demon’s eyes widened. Alphonse was confused by such an expression, but then he realized— he’d never addressed the demon by name before. He didn’t know what made him say that. Maybe he was starting to feel comfortable with the demon’s omnipotent presence.
Ashtad smiled. “You are welcome, Alphonse.”
Alphonse made his way down the grand staircase and, as Ashtad said he would, found Violet in the throne room speaking with her father’s former advisor, Viscount Devitt, and Governess Adelia. She looked uneasy, and he supposed that made sense, given the circumstances. Now how was he supposed to enter this conversation?
“Excuse me,” he blurted out as he walked into the throne room. He immediately regretted it once he saw Governess Adelia give him the all-too familiar evil eye.
“You insolent boy, when will you learn how to greet others like a noble?” she said, but he saw a shadow of a smile quivering in the dimples of her cheekbones. He really liked that smile. “That is not the etiquette I taught you.”
“I humbly apologize,” he said with an exaggerated bow and a hint of a laugh. “I suppose I’ll never learn.”
“What is it you need, Alphonse?” Violet asked him. She’d only been queen for a short amount of time, but she already seemed so worn out.
“I overheard from a maid that there was some commotion that occurred last night. Would you mind informing me of the subject?”
Alphonse had no real reason to be concerned, not yet. While he’d heard an earful of speculation of why the former King was killed so gruesomely, he didn’t think the murder could be attributed to him. He had no such weapon that could cause so much damage.
“Drat, word has spread already?” Violet said with a low voice. “I suppose we’ve been too noisy with such a delicate topic.” She cleared her throat and looked at Alphonse with steely eyes. “We believe there is a murderer running lose in Watson Castle. First it was… It was father, and now, just last night, a man in the dungeon was slain in the same manner.”
Alphonse gasped dramatically. “What terrible news! How do we catch this foul brute?” Christ, that was too dramatic; he was sure Ashtad would be making fun of him right about now.
“That is the question,” Violet said. “The murders are both so… unorthodox. No rifle nor sword could cause the kind of damage we’re dealing with.”
He tilted his head in confusion. “What damage are we dealing with, exactly?”
Violet sighed. “Alphonse, we can handle this. I’d rather you not be involved, it isn’t safe.”
Alphonse scoffed. “What good would keeping me in the dark do, Violet? Would it not be better for me to be aware about all this for my own safety? Let me be part of this—I want to help.”
Violet gave him a tired smile. “If that’s what you want, then. Moving on, we noticed that both victims had their windpipes crushed with what had to be great force. We’re considering which methods could result in such damage.”
“Perhaps some sort of battering weapon?” he asked. Maybe he could lead them on. “A mace, maybe?”
“We thought so, too,” Violet said. “But something is just… not right. We noticed two large holes in both victims’ necks. We are unsure of what sort of weapon might cause that.”
“Is there some sort of new, foreign weapon that we aren’t aware of? Maybe one of the neighboring states devised some alternative form of mace?”
“Well,” Violet started. “That’s the most plausible idea we’ve heard thus far. I’ve issued a team of doctors to research this to the best of their abilities, but it might take months before we can derive a solution.” She looked back towards the throne.
“There is a Judas among us, Alphonse,” she said quietly, her hands clenched into fists. “I shall find him and avenge our father.”
“Avenge him?” Alphonse asked. “How might you do such a thing?”
A tear rushed down her cheek, and Violet immediately moved to brush it away. “I’ll catch him,” she said, her voice raspy. “I’ll catch the murderer and deliver him to the gallows personally.”
“You are no detective, Violet,” he said.
“Maybe not, but someone has to be the hero,” she said, her words marble and her eyes hardening to stone. “My father would not act so carelessly as to be easily slain. I trust you won’t stop me from doing what I must.”
She smiled sadly as she sniffled, her eyes furrowing as she tried to cease her crying. “I shall make you proud, Alphonse.”
Three nights later, Alphonse showed Ashtad the list again. Everything Ashtad had told him during his scouting trips and the information Violet gave him had been written down.
“Henry Morris, upper-middle of the page, arrested for child prostitution. He should also be awaiting his trial in the dungeon. I doubt he’s been relocated, yet. Have him dead by sunrise.”
“As you wish,” Ashtad said with a bow.
Alphonse smiled at his departure and thought back to his earlier conversation with a chuckle. A foreign-made mace? What a silly idea. As long as he and Ashtad were a team, Violet would never solve this case. He’d never felt more powerful.