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Thomas Jarington
Thomas Jarington
Posts: 210
Joined: April 8th, 2014, 10:55 am
Location: Vancouver, BC Canada
Thomas Jarington

John Bradford's Belt

by Thomas Jarington » April 8th, 2014, 2:01 pm

((This is a side tale resulting from the actions of one Barnaby Grathier who took it upon himself to kill a few folks while trying to uncover the truth around the funk. To jog people's memories, a wagon load of funk was rolling into Redridge from Duskwood. Grathier ambushed it, killed all of the teamsters and buried the remains in a shallow grave. Several months have passed since that event.

This story is about Michael Bradford and the search for his brother's remains, as well as his killer. Enjoy))



The Lakeshire Tavern was quiet these days now that the fabled drink called Fidjit's Funk had been effectively, and quite dramatically, run out of the district. No more Goblin transport devices, no more raids by the Guard and no more dancing all night in the tavern.

Brianna was at a loss. Her place was empty, and not just during working hours. These days, it was ALWAYS empty. Gerald Crawley's attempts to extort the entire village had failed, his loans nullified and the man locked under house arrest just up the hill. Unfortunately, some of the locals associated HER with the shady shark, thus avoiding her establishment at all costs.

Fortunately, when he had collected, so had she – thus insuring her employees had maintained their jobs. But that was over and everything had returned to normal - leaving her with an empty tavern, empty pockets and nothing to do but watch the door.

The Fabled Funk was gone and, according to the Guard, would never return again so long as Stormwind controlled the district.

“Michael Bradford!” Brianna said as she made her way from the back into the common room. Wiping her hands on her apron, she hustled behind the bar and lifted a pitcher of ale. “Can I getcha anything?”

“Water,” he said, removing his hat and dropping into a chair at the tavern’s main table. Placing his hat on the adjacent chair, he dropped another item on the table. “Nah,” he said. “Make it a bourbon. I need a stiff drink this morning.”

“Comin right up, Michael,” she said, dropping the ale and gathering up a crock of bourbon. “What brings ya in on such a fine day?” She filled the mug with a larger than normal pour, placing it on the table in front of the sullen-faced man.

“Thanks,” he said, ignoring the mug and lifting the ragged length of tooled leather from the table. “This brings me in.” Dirty, ripped and rusty, the belt (for that’s what it was) looked like it had been through fel and back. Teeth marks appeared along it’s edges and in some places, it was stained dark brown.

“That old, nasty thing?” she asked, wrinkling her face. “Looks like it came out of a refuse pile. Why are ya bringing that filthy thing in here?”

He snorted a laugh, turning the thing over in his hands. Along the length, a tooled name could be read: ‘BRADFORD’, coloured in faded green. “Hunter found this along the old track while he was huntin goretusk,” Michael said. “Found a bunch of other things as well, but he gave me this just a few moments ago.”

“Says Bradford,” Brianna said. “Someone steal it from ya and toss it in the woods?” He shook his head. “Nope,” he said. “My wife made this a few years ago, but it weren’t fer me. Twas for my brother.”

“Oh, John!” she said, her smile lighting up. “I remember him. He used to come around here quite a bit for he took up drivin. Weren’t he one of the Funk drivers that…” she stopped as the meaning of her words suddenly hit her. “Oh, Light,” she said, covering her mouth with a hand. “You don’t think?”

“Maybe he dropped it,” she quickly added. “Fell out of his wagon, maybe.” Michael shook his head. “No,” he whispered. “I don’t think so. Hunter scoured the area and found what looked ta be a shallah grave, though he didn’t stick around long enough to be sure.”

He took a deep swig of the bourbon. “We’re headin’ out there in an hour’er so,” he said, twirling the rotting belt in his hand. Dirt and crumbled leather bits lay scattered along the table. “See what we can turn up.” He lifted his gaze upon Brianna. “But he says there’s bones layin’ all over; Human bones by tha look of it.”

“Bri,” Michael said. “John loved this belt, said it was one of the finest gifts he’d ever been given. My wife’s a bit of enchantress, more a hobby than anything, but she laid a chant on this belt.” He twirled it back to read BRADFORD again. “Said it’d give him strength should there e’r be a time he’d need it.”

He dropped the belt suddenly, grimacing. “All the good it did him,” he muttered, taking another deep draw from the mug. “But I can tell ya one thing: ain’t no way he’d toss it aside, nor let it fall from a wagon.” He shook his head. “Naw, he’s out there and I mean ta find him.”

Brianna nodded, placed a hand atop Michael’s shoulder. “Hold on one moment,” she said. “I got something for ya.” She dashed off to the back of the tavern, disappearing into the kitchen. “I’ll get ya meal for the trail,” she called. “Least I can do for ya, Michael.”

“You ready, Mike?” a deep voice said, matching the tone of heavy boot thuds Michael heard from the hallway leading to the door. “I reckon we got enough time to give that area a good look-see, ‘fore them Gnolls wander back into the area, anyways.”

Brianna popped her head around the corner from the kitchen. “Bradley!” she said. “I’ll make ya a lunch, too; On the house.”

“Thanks,” he said, smiling while removing his woolen cap – clasping it in both hands at his waist. “That’s right kindly of ya, Bri!” He looked down at Michael. “Don’t you worry, none,” he said. “We’ll find yer brother, but I ain’t expectin a good outcome, Mike – based on what I seen, anyways.”

“At the least we can see he gets a proper burial; IF he’s really dead.”

“He’s dead, alright,” Michael said. Standing, he showed Bradley the belt. “He’d die ‘fore he’d take this off.”

“Here ya go, boys,” Brianna said, holding two paper bags in her hands. “Goretusk and cheese sandwiches with a small bowl of westfall stew. I added an shiny apple, as well.” She hand the men the bags, who each expressed their thanks.

“Now, run along and find John,” she said. “And when you finish, come back tonight and I’ll have a special treat for ya.”
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Thomas Jarington
Thomas Jarington
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Thomas Jarington

Re: John Bradford's Belt

by Thomas Jarington » April 23rd, 2014, 3:20 pm

The two men rode in silence, each wary for patrolling Gnolls and scanning the forests for activity. Not that they expected any. With the sun still climbing toward noon, the creatures remained well hidden deep within the forests. However, once the pair turned onto the old track, the danger would climb exponentially.

"Whelp," Bradley said, pulling his horse to a halt and looking south-east into the forest. A break in the fencing showed faint wagon ruts leading easterly. "Here we are, Mike. From here on in, we best be on the lookout for those nasty Gnolls. They'll chew us up and spit us out if'n they get the chance."

Michael nodded, loosening his sword in the scabbord hanging from his waist. "How far in did ya find it?" he asked, taking a deep breath. He was a lumberman, not a hunter and facing off against Gnolls was not something he cared to engage in if he could help it.

"Bout a quarter mile up that track," Bradley said, unstrapping his bow and laying it across the saddle. "The sun's still high, as we can ride a bit. Though, if I were alone, I'd walk in from here. Easier to stay quiet if ya gather my meaning."

"I'm fine with walking," Michael said. He slid from the saddle with ease. "Slade's good about showing up when I need him and if being quiet'll keep those beasts off us, I'm all for it." Bradley chuckled and followed suit.

"We'll let em wander free," Bradley said, slinging his bow over a shoulder. "Gnolls stay away from the roads these days, especially with all that Guard activity around the Funk." He hoisted a small pack onto his shoulders then hooked the reigns on his mount's saddle.

"Speakin a which," he continued, turning to face Michael. "What e'r became o' that drink ya think? Guard really shut it down fer good?" Bradford shrugged, hoisting his own leather pack atop his shoulders.

"They lit outta here, I reckon," he said. "Specially after that bombing in Eastvale. Lots a folks got kilt, Guard and commoners alike." He shook his head then spat a wad of tobacco juice onto the leaf-carpeted ground. "Ifn the Guard had left it alone, aint none of this woulda happened."

"Cept you'd all be broke, beholden to Crowley and a den of Goblins," Bradley said, spitting his own wad of juice into the leaves. Michael gave the Hunter a look. "You never partook in the Funk?" he asked. The Hunter shook his head.

"Nah, man. I ain't one for stiff drink," he replied, nodding his head up the track they meant to follow. "Messes with the wits, ya know? And out here, one needs all their wits an then some."

"I reckon," Michael muttered, following the Hunter. "All that don't matter none, now, anyways. I just want to find John and the folks that kilt him." He nodded. "That's all."

Even with the sun reaching it's zenith, the dark shade under the dense, hardwood canopy kept the ground moist - allowing for silent passage of the two men. Spring wildflowers sprouted in places the sun did reach, covering them in patches of reds, blues and yellows.

Birds sang, luring one another to the nest with musical lyrics or rustling the leaves above as they flew from one location to another. Bees buzzed from flower to flower, zipping by the men's faces when their paths intermingled.

Their journey had all of the elements of an idyllic nature walk, and it might well have been one, were it not for the cackles and growls that drifted toward them from the distance and the final destination which was now in sight - the grave of his brother.

Bradley pointed toward a large tree where brush lined the edge of an indention in the ground. "There it is," he whispered, swiveling his head left and right to scan the forest. "Just to the right of that big oak." Michael followed the Hunter's outstretched hand and immediately saw the grave.

It was shallow, wide and long - certainly intentional now that he inspected it from a distance. Hidden by the brush and oak tree, most people passing this way would have never noticed - especially if it remained covered. However, it was open. Ragged, leaf-covered dirt mounds surrounded the hole, leaving to resemble an archeological dig long forgotten.

As the men approached, Michael could see rotting pieces of leather, rusted metal and other random objects scattered around the vicinity - drug from their grave by scavenging Gnolls, no doubt. Michael leaned down, lifting a dirty, pale object from beneath the carpet of fallen leaves.

It was a gnawed and chewed bone, though from what part of the body, he could not tell. A shudder ran through Michael and his eyes widened at the object he held. Human, he thought, rolling the object over in his hand - horrified and intrigued all at the same time. John's? He shook his head quickly, then carefully placed the bone on a pile of lichen growing at the base of the Oak.

"They's scattered all over the place," Bradley said, gathering another bone several steps away from the grave. "I reckon them Gnolls dug em up and had a feast."

"Them?" Michael said, placing another bone in the pile he was creating. "You think there was more than one person here?" Bradley nodded. "Yup," he said. "Graves too big for just one man. Sides, I found three arm bones last time I was here."

"Ain't nobody I know got three arms."

Michael nodded, sighed and stood - dusting his pants legs off and stepping into the grave. "John always traveled with three others if I recall," he said, hearing a crunch under his feet. The hole was covered with leaves, so he couldn't tell what was in the bottom. It sounded like more bones. "Aint none of em been seen since that night."

He bent down, carefully brushing leaves aside. "I reckon whoever killed John, killed the others as well." He lifted a shattered clavicle, or so he thought. There was an old notch along one edge, as if cut and healed over. Hadn't John had an injury like this, he thought, remembering a time bandits had attacked one of his deliveries. A sword to the shoulder, if I recall.

He moved more leaves and found more bones. A shoulder socket, broken ribs, a flat bone that appeared to have once been joined to clavicle. He stopped, looking at the flat bone more closely. "Brad," he said, standing up and turning toward the Hunter. "Have a look at this."

Bradley dropped his gathered pile of bones and other material, placing them on the lichen where Michael had put his and made his way to the grave. "Whatcha got there?" he asked, blinking as he peered close. "Bullet hole. I seen em before, though that un's a bit smaller than a normal rifle slug."

He reached for the bone. "Looks like a shoulder blade," he said, looking through the small hole the bullet had left. Tiny cracks in the dirty bone ran from from the small hole, but only on one side. "See here? This little socket thing? Arm hooks on here, rolls around in this joint" He nodded. "Yup, shoulder blade."

Bradley turned the bone around, looking at both ends of the hole. "Lookie here," he said, pointing to the hole on the front. "Bullet went in here. It's smaller on this side, so we can tell what size bullet made the hole." He turned the bone over. "And larger on this side where the impact blew out the back."

Bradley looked into the grave. "I bet that ball's still in there, unless it went clean through his body." He shook his head. "But I doubt it. Bullet this size woulda stayed inside. No, it's down in that hole, I reckon."

"Was this a killing shot?" Michael asked, bending down to rustle through the leaves. He brought out more bones and other objects, mostly rotting leather and rusted buckle straps, but had yet to find the bullet.

"Naw," Bradley said, continuing to inspect the shoulder blade - his eyes sparkling with fascination. "I doubt it. Sure as fel knocked him down, I reckon. Whoever shot this uses a high-powered load, but I ain't seen a rifle firin rounds this small." He shook his head.

"Don't make no sense."

The men stayed at it for three more hours, scouring the grave and surrounding ground for whatever bones and artifacts that they could find. Rotting cloth and leather, buckles and straps, bones - even a few coins. However, nothing apparent gave up any sort of identification as to whose remains they had found.

What they did manage to gather filled the better part of two, large canvas sacks and the packs the men wore - now empty of the lunches Bri had made for their journey. The sun was sinking beneath the mountains, the birds were retreating to their perches and the cackling sounds of Gnolls were becoming louder.

It was time to call it a day.

"We did our best, Mike," Bradley said, hoisting his pack atop his shoulder. "But we best be gettin a move on fore them Gnolls come lookin to gnaw on our bones as well." Michael nodded, giving the leaves in the grave one last kick. Just one more item, he thought. There had to be something else.

"They get our scent and they'll hang around here for a few weeks hopin we come back."

Bradley's face turned toward the sky as one last beam of sunlight burst through the oaken canopy, casting it's reddish glow along the base of the large tree - just next to the grave. Michael couldn't help but look as he clambered out of the hole.

Something glimmered. Only for a moment, but it was enough to catch the man's attention - making him reach for what caused the glint.

Nestled underneath a small bush, partially buried by leaves, lay a bullet. Mashed on one end like a mushroom, it looked to be growing from the ground - tiny and small, sprouting from a leaf. Had the sun not shone at that particular moment, Michael was certain he wouldn't have ever seen it.

Grabbing the bullet caused the leaf to move, revealing yet another find - a hammered, silver disk with a small hole in the middle, along with two letters: JB. Michael scooped it up and stood, smiling at Bradley. "You find somethin'?" the Hunter asked, giving a brief look into the darkening forest to the east.

Michael nodded, moving to stand beside Bradley. He opened his palm to show off his new treasures. "A bullet!" Bradley said, his eyes moving quickly to Michael's. "Well I'll be damned. You actually found it."

"Something else, too," Michael said. "This disk is John's. From off one of his drivin gloves." He sighed, pocketing the two relics and hoisting his pack. "I have no doubts, now. We found em."

Bradley nodded, then stopped as a sound floated under the canopy of oak trees. Howls and cackles came from the east, sounds of a Gnoll scavenging party that was growing closer.

"C'mon," Bradley said, turning west along the ancient track. "We gotta get outta here. They may have our scent, though I could be wrong. Best not wait around to find out." Michael grunted a reply, yet said nothing more, following the Hunter as the pair slipped along the road toward their waiting horses in the distance.

Once they returned to Lakeshire, they could inspect the cache more closely. Hopefully lending clue to who killed John Bradford.
Thomas Jarington & Co.

Thomas Jarington
Thomas Jarington
Posts: 210
Joined: April 8th, 2014, 10:55 am
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Thomas Jarington

Re: John Bradford's Belt

by Thomas Jarington » April 28th, 2014, 3:35 pm

Three days later, a group of men stood gathered around the three tables, inspecting the piles of bones that Bradley and Michael had brought from the Valley of the Kings, the area where the old track wound. On the three tables, skeletons took form, headless and most missing several parts, but it was evident - they were humans.

"You see here," a tall man wearing a white jacket said, pointing to one of the skeleton's shoulders - the one Michael had found featuring a bullet hole. "He was shot from the front, as evidenced from the size of the hole." He tapped his finger at the spot. "I've managed to put together, to the best of my ability, I might add, the three figures Michael and Bradley brought to us."

Michael nodded as the doctor looked his way. Bradley simply watched, leaning against the wall with crossed arms. "A difficult task, I can assure you," the doctor continued. "These bones are in a sad state and it is difficult to tell what damage was done by the Gnolls or by the killers."

"Did Gnolls kill these men?" Bradley asked. The doctor shook his head. "Absolutely not," he replied. "I have seen the bodies, or remains that Gnolls have left and these are nothing of the sort." Bradley nodded. "Gnolls don't dig graves, neither," he said. "But I figured I'd ask, anyways."

"However," the doctor said. "I cannot say for certain if they were murdered. You say there was a grave?" He looked toward the skeleton featuring the bullet hole. "Perhaps these men were buried by their own friends?"

Michael shook his head. "Nope," he stated. "They were driving' supplies to Lakeshire and ain't none of em made it. Weren't no friends left to do the burying." The doctor nodded, scrunching his brow as he considered Michael's words while another doctor was sifting through a pile of unassigned bones and fragments of bones.

"If they were murdered," another man said - a local representative for the Magistrate. "Why would they have been buried? Why not simply leave em for the Gnolls to eat and be done with it?"

The man standing beside the representative nodded, rubbing his chin. "Yea," he said. "That's bothering me. Simple murderers wouldn't take the time to bury the dead, nor would thieves." He looked toward Michael. "You said your brother was bringing in supplies?"

Michael nodded. "A load of Funk."

"Ah," the assistant said, glancing at his boss. The representative made a note in his pad. "Funk. So these are from the caravan that went missing? That night when the Funk failed to show?" MIchael nodded again. "Yup."

"Interesting," the assistant said, turning his gaze toward the body. "So, we have three bodies, one identified as John Bradford and a missing wagonload of Funk." He sighed. "Quite the mystery on our hands. Did your brother have any enemies?"

Michael frowned. "Not that I am aware of," he said. "Though I imagine anyone could have enemies these days. Fel, I probably have enemies, too. Though I doubt they'd be kindly enough to bury me should they get around to killing' me."

The assistant nodded. "True enough, I suppose," he said, as his boss snapped the notepad shut. "I think we have all we need," the representative said. "I will report to the magistrate and let you know his thoughts." Michael frowned. "We're just gettin' started," he said.

"No matter," the man replied, cutting Michael off. "The Magistrate will decide if he wants to proceed. Kingsley?" The assistant started toward the door as the representative left, then stopped. "I think I will stay a bit longer, sir," he said. "If you don't mind, that is."

"Suit yourself, Kingsley," the rep said as he marched through the door.

Once the man was gone, Kingsley turned toward the skeletons. "I think the key lies within the grave," he said, walking toward there table with the bullet shot man. He ran his finger along the shoulder blade, tracing the outline of the bullet hole. "If friends did not bury him, then who did and why."

Kingsley nodded. "That is the question. If you killed someone and were not friends, why go to the trouble of burying them?" He looked toward Michael, his eyebrows raised as if he asked. "Thoughts?"

"To hide something," Bradley said, moving away from the wall to stand beside Kingsley. Michael nodded, his eyes glued to the bullet hole. "Or someone," he whispered. "That grave was well hidden beneath the trees and brush. If the Gnolls hadn't dug it up, you'd ne'er found it, Brad." The hunter grunted in agreement.

"Yup," he said. "That's true. But e'ry one who lives in these parts knows them Gnolls are out there. They'd be down rat stupid to bury a body out there." Kingsley rubbed his chin. "So," he said. "That means the killer, or killers, weren't from around here, then."

"Fel," Michael said. "Ain't no one from around here woulda kilt a funk driver to begin with. Remember those Guardians of the Funk? They formed up to keep the Stormwind Guards from confiscating the Funk to begin with. I think ole Oslo was one of hem, if I recall correctly."

Kingsley snapped a look at Michael. "I'd forgotten about that," he said. "The Guards said they were going to shut it down..." he shook his head. "No, they couldn't have been behind this." He sighed. "I think this is going to be a tough nut to crack, Michael," Kingsley said, then smiled. "But no matter what the Magistrate says, I want to help you solve this."

"Thank you," Michael said. "Me, too," Bradley added, placing a hand on Michael's shoulder. "John was a friend of my sister, so if there's anything I can do to help, I'm here for ya."

"Hey!" one of the doctors said, lifting up a curved piece of bone from a pile of fragments. The three men turned, as did the other two doctors. "I recognize this. It's the back of a skull." The lead doctor walked over. "Let me see that," he said, taking the fragment from the man.

The bone was curved and slightly smaller than a child's hand. The edges were all jagged, as if shattered, except for one place - a small, half-circle, barely noticeable. The doctor narrowed his eyes, then placed the bone fragment against his own skull, sliding it around until he stopped at the back right of his head.

"More evidence of violence," he said, showing Michael, Bradley and Kingsley the bone. "Note the small, semi-circular notch here." He tapped his finger at the spot. "An exit wound. The place a bullet came out the back of a skull." The three men peered at the fragment, then Michael spoke.

"Any way you can tell which of those men it belongs to?" The doctor shook his head. "Not without the rest of the skull," he said. "And probably not even then. Since the heads were missing from the bodies, it would be near impossible to match them up." He frowned.

"I am sorry."

Michael nodded, but said nothing. "I think we've learned all we can here, Michael," Kingsley said. "Let's grab a drink at the Brit's place, have a bite to eat and talk about what we know so far."

"Fair enough," Michael said. "I think a good, stiff drink'll do just fine."

"Water for me," Bradley said. "But some Westfall stew would certainly lighten my mood."

================================================

The men ate and drank, making small talk about the goings on around Lakeshire and the like. Finally, when finished, the subject of where to go next arose.

Well," Kingsley said. "We know a few things for certain. Let's start there."

"First, a wagon load of Funk never arrived at the Redridge border to be escorted by the Guardians. Two, the teamsters were led by John Bradford, along with three other men." Michael nodded. Setting his bourbon on the table. "That was his usual team," he said. "They always worked together."

"So we are assuming it is the same group," Kingsley said, sipping his ale. He made a notation in his notepad. "We'll need to confirm that assumption is true." Bradley gulped a helping of stew, wiping his chin clean of the juice. "How do we do that?" he asked, words garbled by his full mouth.

"Go to Bogpaddle," Kingsley said. "Talk to the beverage folks."

"Amway," he said, continuing as Bradley nodded, stuffing another spoonful into his eager mouth. "Three: they were killed, at least three of them and buried in the Valley of the Kings along the old track."

"Murdered," Michael said. "They were murdered."

"We don't know that for certain, Michael," Kingsley said. "We have to go on the facts as they currently exist. For now, we shall say they were killed by an unknown source and buried, no matter how suspicious it looks." Michael grunted, but nodded in agreement.

"Assumptions will lead us in the wrong direction," Kingsley said. "If we are to find out what truly happened, we cannot afford to make assumptions."

"Four," he continued. "One of the dead is John Bradford, as confirmed by the artifacts and markings found. Five: one or more were killed by gunshot. Six: a found bullet is small bore and not commonly used in a rifle. Seven: the grave was shallow, yet well hidden from view in an area known to locals as scavenging grounds for Gnolls."

"Don't forget that the riots happened the same night that the Funk failed to show," Daniels said from behind his bar. He was drying a glass mug with a cotton rag. The men turned their heads. "And," he continued, placing the mug on the bar. "That two men, neither of which I knew, seemed to know about the shipment not coming."

"Indeed?" Kingsley said, twisting in his chair to look at Daniels. "Yup,' the barkeep said, reaching for another recently washed mug. "That was before the Guardians had returned, too." Kingsley looked toward Michael and Bradley. "Now that is rather interesting," he said, reaching for his drink. "How could that happen, I wonder?"

"They the ones that done it?" Bradley said, sopping up stew juice with a hunk of bread. "That's an assumption," Kingsley replied. "But I do find it fascinating that someone knew the delivery wasn't coming." He twisted in his chair, looking toward Daniels.

"Was the Funk ever late before that night?" he asked. Daniels shook his head. "Nope," he said, drying another glass. "Arrived like clockwork. Seven on the button, same night of every week." Kingsley nodded. "I see. You know where it came from?"

Daniels shook his head. "Nah," he replied. "Eddy handled all the deliveries and such. Only know that the crates were labeled BBB & Co and he was our sales rep for the stuff."

"Eddy?" Kingsley asked, looking at Bradley and Michael, then back to Daniels. "He live around here?" Daniels shook his head. "Nope," he replied. "I think he's out of Booty Bay. Used to work for the TwinSeas Trading Company, so I understood. You oughta ask Bri. She dealt with him."

"Thanks," Kingsley said, then turned to his table mates. "Well," he said. "It seems the stew thickens. I think we should take the night to think on this. In the meantime, I'll have a visit with Brit, see what she can tell me about this Eddy character."

"I wonder if the Magistrate'll let us talk to Crowley," Michael said, finishing his drink. "He might know something." Kingsley shook his head. "Nah," he said. "I'd leave him out of it. The less we involve his Lordship, the better chance for success we'll have. Crowley's under house arrest and therefore out of reach."

Michael nodded, then Kingsley stood, slapping his hands on the table. "Well," he said. "I think we're off to a marvelous start. Let's meet here tomorrow, same time, and plot our next move."

The three men shook hands and departed, each with their own thoughts and ideas about what had happened and where it would lead.
Thomas Jarington & Co.

Thomas Jarington
Thomas Jarington
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Thomas Jarington

Re: John Bradford's Belt

by Thomas Jarington » May 4th, 2014, 12:37 pm

"Thank you for seeing me, Bri," Kingsley said, smiling and dipping his head in a bow. Now that the meeting had broken up, he felt the need to stick to the case while the other men got some rest. He had never met John Bradford, nor knew anything about the man. However, as an aide to the Magistrate's Representative, he felt he had a duty to see this through.

Besides, if he solved the case, it might bode well with his desire to be an investigator for the Stormind City Guard - former employer of the famed Captain Spero.

Brianna smiled, clasping her hands before her waist. She was upstairs in her office going over invoices and purchase orders for the tavern, so an interruption by young Geoffrey Kingsley was a pleasant distraction. "Of course, Mister Kingsley," she said. "How can I be of service?"

"Well," he said, lifting a small notepad from his belt. He recalled watching Captain Spero do something similar once in Goldshire and had made use of the recording device. "I am here regarding the tragedy of John Bradford. As you know, his brother Michael is seeking answers and I have decided to take on the case."

She nodded, her smile remaining fixed. "How very kind of you, Mister Kingsley," she said. "John and Michael are dear friends of mine and anything you can do to help would be greatly appreciated." Kingsley smiled and nodded once. "Has the Magistrate agreed to the search?"

Kingsley shook his head. "My boss has given me free reign to follow up," he said. "There is no need to involve his Lordship until more solid answers have been discovered." Brianna nodded, but said nothing.

"I do have some questions," he said, readying his pencil and paper. "Regarding the night that John Bradford was due with his delivery."

"Of course," she replied, motioning him to a chair across from her desk. She took a seat as well and leaned back, relaxing. "Ask away." Kingsley nodded, flipping through the pages of his pad. "Ah," he said. "Here we are."

"How often was the Funk delivered, Brianna," he said. "Day and time, if you please." She looked to the ceiling, then back to Kingsley. "Once per week," she said. "At seven pm sharp. I don't know how they managed that, considering the distance they traveled, but they always made it. Thursdays, if I recall."

Kingsley made notes. "Thursday?" he said, looking up. Seven pm sharp?" She nodded. "Every week from the day Eddy first delivered the samples."

"That leads me to another question," he said. "Who is Eddy and how does he play into the scheme of things?" She sighed, leaning back in her chair. "I reckon since I answered this question before, I might as well again." Kingsley's eyebrow lifted, but he said nothing - merely making a notation: 'Eddy & others'.

"Eddy was our supplier," she said, placing a finger to her lips. "Our sales representative, if you will, for all of our beverages. He once worked for the TwinSeas Trading Company, and may still for all I know, but in regards to the Funk, he worked for the Booty Bay Beverage Company."

Kingsley scribbled furiously, trying to capture all of the items. "Go on," he said.

"He brought samples of the funk for us to try," she said, continuing and looking lost in memory. "After tasting, I agreed and we ran it an entire evening. To say it was a success is an understatement. As word grew around Lakeshore, people flocked to the tavern, drinking up the Funk faster than we could bring it out."

Kingsley paused, taking a moment to let it all sink in. He had been in Stormwind during the months the drink had held sway over the district and just now had returned. The stories he had heard were nothing short of amazing, especially the tragic bombing in Eastvale. He cleared his thoughts.

"So," he said, cocking his head. "The addiction was true? People truly craved this drink that much?" Brianna chuckled. "You have no idea, Mister Kingsley. Lakeshire has always been a sleepy sort of place. Doing business in a town like this is difficult, especially a respectable tavern." She sighed.

"What that drink did for business was incredible. People bought food, they drank the Funk and they had fun doing it. No riots, no fights. Fel, even the elderly were here dancing the night away. It was good times."

"And Eddy delivered this drink to you?" Kingsley said, placing the end of his pencil in his mouth. A habit had thought he should break. Brianna shook her head. "No," she said. "He only set up the contract with the Company. Booty Bay Beverage had their own delivery teams, of which John worked."

Kingsley wrote that down. "I see," he said. "So John made the weekly deliveries?" Brianna nodded. "Aye," she said. "like I said, on time and the same day." She frowned. "Though, to be honest, we needed more than one wagon load. The way people were going through the Funk, we talked to Eddy about having an entire caravan."

"And what night did John FAIL to arrive?"

Brianna thought for a moment. "Ah yes," she said. "The night of the riots. The Guardians went out to meet the wagons..."

"Why did they do this?" Kingsley said, interrupting the woman. "These Guardians?"

"Oh," she said, blinking at his words. "Ah, they were worried the Stormwind Guard would put a stop to the Funk delivery and decided to take matters into their own hands." Kingsley narrowed his eyes. "Stormwind threatened to stop the Funk the day John disappeared?"

She shook her head. "No, no," she said. "A Guard, or investigator, came to see me a few weeks before the riots and asked questions about the funk, where it came from... things like that." She chuckled, cocking her head. "Much like what you're doing now, in fact."

"And this investigator threatened to shut it down?" Kingsley asked. "Do you know who this investigator was?" Brianna thought a moment. "No," she replied. "He threatened to shut the drink down when Foreman Oslo made some harsh comments while he was asking me questions."

"Indeed," Kingsley said. "This Oslo fellow made harsh comments toward the Guard?" Brianna smirked. "That's what I said, wasn't it," she said. Kingsley nodded, making another note. "And then what happened?"

"The investigator pulled a pistol from his belt and threatened to shoot Oslo if he didn't back down."

Kingsley leaned back in his chair, tapping his pencil against his cheek. "I take it Oslo backed down,' he said, earning a nod in return. "Oh yea," she said. "As well he should have. Oslo always DID have a temper, though the Funk brought it out in him."

"That night," she continued, "he formed the Guardians of the Funk to escort the wagons into town, meeting them with his Guardians every week until the one failed to show." She paused, shaking her head. "Then all felt broke loose. That was the night of the riots."

"You've mentioned the riot a few times, Brianna," Kingsley said. "What can you tell me about that?" Brianna stared at Kingsley for a moment, as if deciding whether or not to answer the question. "I've never seen the like in this town, Mister Kingsley," she whispered. "I thought I was going to loose the tavern."

Kingsley made notes while keeping his eyes on the woman. The way her face wrinkled and her eyes sagged, he figured she was telling the truth. The tale was horrid and when she finished, directions were becoming more definitive.
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Thomas Jarington
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Thomas Jarington

Re: John Bradford's Belt

by Thomas Jarington » May 6th, 2014, 12:40 pm

Morning found the three men seated at a table in the Lakeshire Tavern enjoying a stout lake district breakfast of goretusk, fish and eggs - all washed down with mugs of coffee. Called the Dockworker, it was guaranteed to keep you filled until the noon time meal.

"So you see," Kingsley said as he chewed a savory piece of pan-fried goretusk ham. "I believe there is a link between the riots and the killings, though how it connects I cannot yet discern." He took a drink of coffee. Michael nodded, slicing into his ham. The sounds of knife and fork against stoneware plates echoed inside the empty tavern.

"Too much of a coincidence if ya ask me," Bradley said, leaning back in his chair as he sipped coffee. His napkin lay sprawled across his empty plate, making him the first to finish. "Two men just 'happen' to know the Funk ain't comin?" He shook his head. "Damn suspicious."

"I agree," Kinglsey said, flipping through his notepad. "For weeks the deliveries were spot on, never missed. Then, the night these two men showed up, there is no delivery. Not only that, a riot breaks out. People disappear, the tavern is nearly destroyed - a large patrol of Stormwind Guards show up."

Michael rubbed his mouth with a napkin, finishing his last bite. "And," he said, running his tongue under his top lip. "Accordin to those notes of yours, it turns out one of the men who started the riot actually worked for the Guard." Kingsley nodded, flipping a couple of pages backwards.

"Yes," he said. "Here it is. One of the two left before the riot started. The other stayed and helped the Guard." He flipped another page, chewing his lower lip as he scanned his notes. He nodded as he smiled. "You are correct. Brianna said he called for Guard reinforcements after the fight broke out."

He frowned, looking at the two men. "Why would a Guard help start a riot?" Kingsley said, scrunching his face. "It makes no sense." He rubbed his chin, going silent as the other two watched. Michael broke the silence. "Was he local?" he said, narrowing his eyes in thought. "We had plenty of local Guards who enjoyed the drink as much everyone else. In fact, Pearce was one of the Guardians."

Kingsley nodded. "That is what Brianna said as well," he added, flipping another page on his note pad. "No, I do not think I asked that question. Huh." He looked around the room. "What time does Daniels arrive?"

"Not till afternoon," Bradley said. "He's night shift."

"I see," Kingsley said, tapping his cheek with a finger. "We should find that out. If the Guard is not local, then we'll need to make a visit to the Garrison and learn his name; talk to him if we're lucky."

"We could check with the other Guards that work here," Bradley said. "Ask them if they know him."

"Not a bad idea," Kingsley said. "Why don't you get on that when we finish up here. Now, as to the other fellow who was there. Brianna said she didn't get a good look at his face, and the ones that did haven't been seen since the riots, either."

"Really?" Michael said, cocking his head. "She know their names?" Kingsley nodded. "Oslo was the main one, as was Guard Pearce. Pretty much the Guardians of the Funk, as far as she could tell."

Michael and Bradley exchanged looks. "So we got us anothuh mystery?" Bradley said and Michael shook his head, seemingly stunned. "I had no idea things were this bad. People missin, folks kilt - all 'cause of this drink." He let out a whistle. "Damn."

"Something else of interest," Kingsley said. "The man who interviewed Brianna about the Funk also carried a pistol. In fact, when Oslo became belligerent, he pulled it on the man and threatened to shoot him right here inside this inn."

"I ain't ever seen anyone carryin one of those," Bradley said. "Most folks I see carry rifles, swords or bows. Hard to hit anything at a distance and with a bullet that small, might not even make a kill." He blinked, then snapped a look at Michael.

"That bullet hole," Bradley said. "And the spent slug you found. Much smaller than a rifle." He nodded. "Makes sense, now. Musta been from a pistol." He looked at Kingsley, who smiled. "I was thinking the same thing," Kingsley said. "Too many coincidences to ignore. Though to say that man is the killer is still a stretch."

"It adds up, though," Michael said, his face more eager than it had been in days. "First," he said, lifting one finger. "A pistol-packin man interrogates Brianna about the Funk. This same man threatens to shoot Oslo with the same pistol."

He lifted another finger. "Two: Two men who know the funk is not going to arrive, which it did not for the first time ever, and start a riot that brings the Guards down upon Lakeshire and shuts down the drink. One of the men is discovered to be a Stormwind City Guard. The other man disappears." He lifted another finger.

"Three: Bradley and I discover that one of the bodies found in a shallow grave is my brother. A small bore bullet is found, as well as damage by a similar sized bullet; now guessed to be from a pistol."

Kingsley sighed. "It is merely coincidence at the moment, Michael," he said, giving the man a sad-looking smile. "While it does look extremely suspicious, we have no evidence to say that this mysterious man was, indeed, the killer. Carrying a pistol does not make one guilty."

"It does when all of them come together at once," Michael said, his voice growing angry. Bradley looked at Michael. "Mike," he said. "Kingsley's rat. You can't go accusin a man simply 'cause he asked questions and carried a pistol. For all we know, there's a bandit out there usin' the same sort of weapon."

Michael shook his head. "No," he said. "I don't buy it."

Kingsley held up a hand to stop Michael before he could continue. "Easy, man," he said. "I said it looked extremely suspicious, and therefore, is the lead we should follow. The facts state that two men, one known to be a Guard, KNEW that the Funk was not coming."

"This same delivery on the same night failed to show and it's drivers' remains were found in a shallow grave." He lifted a finger, stopping a quip from Michael. "We KNOW this for certain. Therefore, we should find out who this Guard is and who his companion from the night of the riot is."

"We need to talk to them and find out what they know about all of this. I believe they could be the key that unlocks the mystery as to who killed your brother." Bradley nodded, patting Michael on the back.

"That's the rat trail, Mike," Bradley said. "We have ta narrah tha search. Forget about the bullet, the grave an all that for the moment. Like Kingsley said, two men knew the Funk weren't comin. We find those men, we'll get a lot closer to who kilt yer brother."

Michael gave each of the men a stern look, then nodded. "Alright," he said. "I guess you make sense. I'll help Brad with the local Guards. Shouldn't take too long." Kingsley smiled. "Excellent," he said. "I'll ask Daniels if he remembers anything from that night. Maybe we'll get a name."

"in the meantime," he said, standing. "I suggest you pack a bag. I highly suspect we shall be making a trip to the Stormwind City Guard's Garrison in Elwynn."
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Re: John Bradford's Belt

by Thomas Jarington » May 8th, 2014, 3:17 pm

((Apologies for the length, I normally try and keep these shorter. I blame Verin. He couldn't stop talking. LOL Enjoy))

The interviews conducted around Lakeshire revealed that none knew the two men, one of which appeared to be a Stormwind City Guard, and had never really seen them around. Though, according to many, it had been a few months since the riot. Still, it was enough to confirm that the Guard and his companion were not locals.

"Gentlemen," Kingsley said after the inquiries had been made. They stood in front of the tavern, looking eager. "Here is what I suggest. We take a flight to Goldshire and hire horses for the journey to the Garrison. It is not far up the road, maybe an hour's ride."

"The Garrison resides at the far side of the entire Elwynn district, so taking our own horses would not be productive." The two men nodded. "Sounds bout rat," Bradley said, chewing a wad of tobbaco he had stuffed into his cheek. "Much quicker flyin'. That way, we can find out who them two folks were that knowed about the Funk not comin."

"Uh huh," Michael said. "Good plan, Kingsley. What then? We demand ta speak to em?"

Kingsley shook his head. "No," he said with a small laugh. "No, we do not demand anything. We ask." He looked at both men. "What is it with people out here? One would think all of you are criminals or something, the way you treat the law. The Guard is here for your protection, for your help."

"So we ask."

"Reason folks live out here," Bradley said, spitting a wad of juice on the boardwalk. It's thick, brown ichor slid between the boards and splattered into the lake. "Less law to deal with. We can do thangs our way and not worry bout some bur-o-crat tellin us what we can an cannot do."

"It's why poor John got kilt ta begin with," Michael said. "Guard stickin their noses inta folk's business. I bet those two we're lookin fer had somthin to do with his killin!"

Kingsley sighed, shaking his head and holding up a hand. "Look, fellows," he said, trying to match the local vernacular and failing - his accent clearly more refined. People might say "he ain't from round here," and were actually right. He was from Stormwind and had been sent out here to learn the legal and political system before returning.

"Please, follow my lead. I have dealt with the Guard on many occasion and find them to be quite helpful."

Coming here had earned him a position as constable within the Magistrate's office. His boss, the chief inspector, reported directly to his Lordship and their mandate was to handle legal disruptions too small for the Stormwind City Guard. So far, he had helped find Madame Biggsley's prized sow, had broken up two fights over a necklace found in the lake near the dock and mediated two disputes over property boundaries.

In other words, boring.

Therefore, this new case his boss had given him the go-ahead to pursue was just the thing to keep him sane and out of the grasp of the local bumpkins. He was not about to botch it, nor let two locals ruin it. His future was at stake.

"As I was saying," Kingsley said. "We will inquire into those Guards who were here that night, ask the right questions and gain the answers we need. You will have to trust me in this matter, right?" The two men bobbed their heads. "A'ight," Bradley said, sending another wad of juice careening into the lake this time. "We'll follah ya."

"Excellent!" Kingsley said. "Shall we get to it, then?"

===================================

After arriving at the Garrision, Michael and Bradley had gone stone quiet. It wasn't awe that held their mouths, but something else. Maybe their distrust of authority, Kingsley thought as they waited by the gate for Officer Blackcroft. They certainly were not cowards or criminals. Interesting.

Shortly, a man jogged toward them - crossing onto the dirt road and slowing his pace until he was eventually walking. Using the back of his hand, he wiped sweat away from his forehead and straightened his shirt. He ran the entire way here? Kingsley thought, impressed. Nice to see Captain Spero's spirit still lingers.

"Are you Mister Kingsley?" the Guard asked, huffing a few final breathes from the run. Kingsley smiled, nodding. "I am Geoff Kingsley. Officer Blackcroft, I presume?"

"Yes," the Guard said, wiping one last trail of sweat from his forehead as his eyes sought the other two men. It appeared he had recovered from his run. "What can I do for you, Mister Kingsley?"

Kingsley motioned toward the others. "Michael Bradford and Bradly Chaucer," he said, earning a nod from each man as his name was called. "Pleasure," the Guard said.

"Is there somewhere we can speak, Officer?" Kingsley said, noting his two companions said nothing. "I have some questions regarding events in Lakeshire." Before Blackcroft could reply, Kingsley chuckled. "Pardon me, Officer, where are my manners. I am Constable Kingsley, assistant investigator to His Lordship - the Magistrate of Lakeshire."

"I figured it was something beyond an ordinary citizen," the Officer said. "It's no trouble, really." He looked up, as if in contemplation. "You see," Kingsley said before Blackcroft could answer. "I am investigating a murder and do believe you might be able to point us in the proper direction."

"Forgive me, I should say a killing. Whether it was a murder has yet to be determined"

"Is it recent?" Blackcroft said, suddenly taking a strong interest. "Who - " He sighed. "Right, a place to speak. The Offices might be too crowded right now, so, do you mind if we speak up atop the Garrison?"

"Excellent," Kingsley said, glancing at his two companions before turning back to the Officer. He lifted his small notepad from a pocket and looked at Verin. "We shall follow you."

As the four made their way through the Garrison and toward the battlements, Kingsley and Blackcroft discussed their uses of a notepad for recording events, with each man showing disdain for the Gnomish recording devices that appeared to be popular within the Guard. Where they disagreed was whether a pencil or a pen was best suited for the job.

Once they reached the battlements, Kingsley leanded against the wall so that he had a view of the forest and surrounding landscape of the Garrison. Michael and Bradley stood quiet behind Kingsley, watching Officer Blackcroft.

"So," Blackcroft said. "What's this about a killing?"

"Yes, of course, the killings," Kingsley said, flipping four pages on his notepad." Ah, here it is. Yes, several days ago, Maybe a week or two, Mister Chaucer, here, came across a shallow grave up the old track in Redridge. Gnolls had been at it, so the remains were scattered. However, he found some items of interest. One item in particular was a leather belt with the name BRADFORD on it."

Verin folded his arms and nodded, listening carefully.

"It appears that the belt belonged to this man's brother," Kingsley said, nodding back at Michael. Verin gave the man an appraising look, then nodded respectfully. "The next day, these two men went back to the site and recovered the bones of three humans. One has since been proven to be, indeed, his brother - John Bradford."

"Three," Verin said, arching an eyebrow. "Yes," Kingsley said. "Three. No heads and only partial remains, but it was enough for the Magistrate's corenor to determine that they were human."

"They had apparently been there quite awhile."

"The grave was hidden in such a way as to avoid ever being seen," Kingsley said, flipping a page on his notepad. "Oddly enough, the location is well known for Gnoll scavenging, so locals would know better than to bury the dead in that area."

""I'm glad you two managed to get them without alerting the Gnolls," Verin said, taking a deep breath. "Everyone in Elwynn knows about those Gnolls."

"Yea," Bradley said, breaking his silence as he spit a wad of juice over the battlement. "After all you Guards poured into the district, them Gnolls been stayin off tha roads. Makes huntin easier, I can tell ya that. But they shore as fel come back after sunset." Michael nodded, but added nothing - merely watching.

Verin nodded at Bradley. "Yes," he said, watching the juice fly over the battlement. "We have added Redridge to our training routes, so I'm glad to hear the Gnolls have backed down a little." Bradley scooped the used up tobacco from his lip and flung it over the wall, using his tongue to gather the final leaves.

"Yup," he said, digging in his pouch for another plug. "So we seen."

Kingsley nodded, his face showing no signs of the irritation he felt at being interrupted. ""As he says," Kingsley said. "The old track is not as well traveled and leads around the mountains toward the old ruined keep. Most people stick to the roads."

"Someone done kilt my brother, Officer," Michael blurted, overcome with emotion. "He mighta been drivin that Funk, but he didn't deserved ta be kilt fer it." Verin frowned, noting the man was almost in tears.

Kingsley lifted a hand, looking back at Michael. "It is alright, MIchael," he said. "Let me handle this." He turned back toward Verin. "As I was saying, Officer Blackcroft, the remains of one of the bodies was for certain John Bradford and yes, he was a delivery driver of that horrid beverage."

"You see, he never completed his delivery and the drink never appeared in Lakeshire. In addition to the disappearance, the very same night, a riot took place inside the Lakeshire tavern." Kingsley flipped to pages to more notes. Verin rubbed a hand over his beard, scratching his chin, "Yeah. I'm aware of that. The riots that is."

"I was in Stormwind during the entire affair," Kingsley said, "so I have no first hand knowledge of these events. However, I have made inquiries."

He lifted his eyes to meet Verin's. "Those inquiries have led us here."

"Clearly," Verin said. "I've only just met you three." He smiled. "But please, continue." Kingsley cocked his head at thw words. What does that mean, he thought. I've only just met you three. Interesting. He made a notation to follow up.

He tapped his pencil on the page. Smiling, he nodded. "Of course. Are you familiar with the innkeeper named Brianna in Lakeshire? Or the barkeep named Daniels?

"Not personally,"Verin said. "No. For either of them."

"Very good," Kingsley said, nodding. "Well, they both say what apparently started the riot was a pair of men claiming the drink was not coming to Lakeshire." He watched Verin closely, especially his eyes and body movements. Light was in the details.

"One man left, yet one stayed. According to eye witnesses, the one who stayed was a Stormwind Guard in street clothes."

"Yes," Officer verin Blackcroft said. "That was me."

"I see," Kingsley said, cocking his head. cocks his head. "And the other gentlemen who was with you?" The two men behind Kingsley stiffened at Verin's words, suddenly paying VERY close attention to what he was saying. Michael and Bradley gave one another a knowing glance, then turned back to the conversation.

"Another officer," Verin said. "I was to meet him and give what I've thus far observed between the townsfolk and the addictive drink." Kingsley scribbled a note, writing fellow officer on the page. "Do you have his name? Witnesses claim you two seemed to know one another quite well."

Kingsley nodded before Verin could answer. Time to toss a herring, he thought, sensing Verin did not want to reveal his partner's name. It was a tactic he had learned in Stormwind. A quick change of subject before returning was a method of learning information one wished kept secret.

"Of course," Kingsley added. "Rather nasty affair, that drink." He looked up at Verin. "Do you know that one of the locals, a man named Crowley, tried to actually BLACKMAIL the Magistrate with debts?"

"I - what?" Verin said, stopping his sentence when Kingsley mentioned Blackmail. "Wait, Crowley? Yes I have heard of that."

Kingsley chuckled, noting his two companions shot one another odd looks. "He failed, of course," Kingsley said. "And is now locked under house arrest. Oh yes, Officer Blackcroft. Mister Crowley. He wrote notes of mark against the citizen's wages to help them pay for that drink. If he had collected, he would have owned the entire town, I would think."

"Yes," Verin said slowly. "I was aware of what he was doing. It was a reason to prove the drink's addictive qualities."

"He wanted to be made Sherriff, of all things," Kingsley added, causing Verin to scoff at the comment. "How dreadful would that have been!" He tapped his pencil on his notepad. "It is a good thing you Officers managed to prove that, though I fear the addiction had taken hold. From what I hear, anyway."

"Glad it is all settled now."

"Yes,"Verin said. "It takes you rather quick as far as substances go." Verin lifted three fingers. "Three drinks and you're hooked."

Kingsley nodded. "So it would appear." Time to switch the tracks.

"Might I ask how you and your fellow officer knew the delvery wasn't going to arrive?" Kingsley said, readying his pencil.

"I didn't actually know," Verin said rather casually. "It was a hunch. There was talk that the shipment hadn't come in on time and my suspicions got the better of me." Kingsley peered at Verin for a moment before responding. Bloody fel, he thought. No one in the entire town of Lakeshire knew the shipment was not coming. Kingsley's mind focused. They were on the right path.

"A hunch?" Kingsley replied, his face smooth and calm. Michael and Bradley exchanged looks, these showing a little more surprise.

Verin nodded. "A nicer way of saying I jumped to a conclusion."

Kingsley bobbed his head, making a notation in his flip pad. "Of course," he said. "You jumped to a conclusion. Makes sense, with people saying it wasn't coming." He looked at Verin. "Who were these people saying such a thing?"

"A few of the employees," Verin replied, "as well as a handful of the patrons. The other Officer likewise held the same conclusion."

"I see,"Kingsley said, writing another note. Bloody liar, he thought. He's hiding something. "And what time was this, exactly, Officer Blackcroft?" Verin looked up toward the sky, thinking a moment. "Hmm," he said. "Let's see."
He closed his eyes in thought, "It was dark out. A few months ago...I'd say sometime past six thirty, maybe eight oclock."

Kingsley nodded, writing that down. "MIght I ask a qustion?"
"Go ahead," Verin replied, opening his eyes. Kingsley chuckled. "My mind is not quite right after all of this travel," he said, looking at his notes.

"If you'd like some water you're welcome to some," Verin replied, clearly concerned. Kingsley waved it off. "No thank you."

"Officer Blackcroft," Kingsley said, tapping his pencil to his mouth. "If the patrons and the employees already knew the beverage in question was not coming, how did you manage to start a riot? It seems to me that word of something so monumental in Lakeshire would have spread like wildfire."

"Yet, according to Brianna and Daniels, people were in a rather cheerful mood." He cocked his head. "That is, until the riot started." He watched Verin closely, his eyes almost twinkling.

"Like I said," Verin replied. "I jumped to a conclusion. I overheard someone mention it." Officer Blackcroft's eyes fell and his face took on a look of shame. "And I helped fan it."

Nice try, Kingsley thought. As if I have never seen that act before. "Of course," he said. "Do you happen to recall who exactly mentioned this to you?" Verin sighed, bringing a hand over his forehead. He shook his head slowly. "No," he said. "I don't." After a moment he wiped at an eye and straightened himself up.

"I'm sorry."

"It was a long time ago, Officer Blackcroft," Kingsley said, his voice taking on a tole of consolement. Inside, he was furious at the attempt to tug at his heart. He's a cold one, he thought. Cold as a Northrend river. "It is quite alright. It is a sad thing that hapened in Lakeshire"

"Do you know,"Kingsley said, cocking his head. "That, until the night of the riot, the Funk had never been late? Always on time, like clockwork. Same time, same day - week after week." Kingsley shook his head. "Amazing they managed that"

Verin peered at Kingsley's eyes for a long moment, a faint look of gratitude underscoring his expression. "I wasn't aware," he said. "Over the two weeks I was there I only paid attention to the drink and its effects on the townsfolk."

"Of course!" Kingsley said, nodding in agreement. "As you should have. Nasty stuff, that Funk. Glad it is gone." Time to roll the bones, he thought, knowing the time had come to get the other officer's name. He was not certain the man who interviewed Brianna was a Guard. Maybe a chance roll would find the truth.

"Do you know who the officer was that interviewed Brianna a few weeks earlier?" Kingsley said. "I take it he must have done something..." Verin started, then stopped as Kingsley continued - sighing deeply.

"The man carried a pistol, from what she said." Kingsley chuckled. "Even threatened to shoot poor Oslo, though Light knows the man probably deserved it."

"I ain't e'er seen no one carryin a pistol," Bradley said. "Rifles, shore, but ain't seen no use fer them little pea shooters, myself" Verin shook his head, becoming clearly irritated. "I'd like to apologize for him," he said. "I hope nothing came of it?"

Kingsley smiled, one that looked sympathetic, yet hid the elation of tossing a pair of winning bones. "Oh, no no. Oslo can be a bastard I'm certain he threatened your fellow officer and friend. What was his name again?"

"Barnaby," Verin stated. "Barnaby Grathier. He can be rather...impulsive." Kingsley nodded, writing the name into the notepad. He looked out over the battlements and sighed with pleasure. No matter what else came from this meeting, he had gotten EXACTLY what he had come for.

"Well," Kingsley replied. "Like I said. Oslo's a bastard of the first order. However, after that event, he formed an escort group called the Guardians of the Funk!" Vernin nodded, frowning deeply. "Yes," he said, his voice deadpan. "I know."

Kingsley watched closely, paying attention to the reaction. Yes, he thought. He knows something. Apologizing for Barnaby. What could that mean? Kingsley laughed out loud. "Can you believe that?" he said. "The reason for it, apparently, was because your fellow officer threatened to stop the supply of Funk into Lakeshire."

"Like I said," Verin stated. "Impulsive."

Impulsive enough to knock off an entire delivery to make a point? Kingsley thought. He circled Barnaby's name in his book, along with the word 'impulsive'. I wonder what he means by that?

"Impulsive," Kingsley said. "How do you mean?"
"He gets a notion and follows it," Verin replied. "Was the riot his notion?" Kingsley asked almost before Verin could finish. "He started it and then left, is that what happened?"

"All I recall was me speaking with him about the drink," Verin said, pinching the bridge of his nose. "The meat of it is blank, fuzzy. Your man Oslow has quite the arm. Whatever he threw at me knocked me out cold."

Kingsley cocked his head, narrowed his eyes and readied his pencil. "Can I ask why Barnaby Grathier left you to face the riot alone? Not very noble of the man if you ask me."

Verin sucked in a slow, deep breathe - letting it out at the same speed. "I don't know why," he said. "But I still would like to punch him for it." Kingsley smiled. "Let Oslo do it for you,"Kingsley said with a chuckle. "I am certain he would oblige"

Kingsley snapped his notebook closed and smiled. "Well Officer Blackcroft," he said. "I want to than thank you very much for your time and willingness to help me with this little matter. You have been MOST helpful."

Verin nodded. "Was there anything else I can help clarify?" he said. Kingsley shook his head. "No, Officer Blackcroft," he said, smiling at his two companions. They had done as requested - staying quiet; for the most part, anyway. "I think we have all we came for."

"Alright," Verin said. Kings Honour." Kingsley turned to leave then stopped, looking back at Verin. Michael and Bradley turned as well "Yes?" Verin said, looking at each man. "I truly do apologize for my decision that night. It was wrong and I shouldn't have done it. I was lucky a training group was nearby to answer my call. Things could have been a lot worse."

"You followed a hunch," Kingsley said with a shrug. "You did the best you could under the circumstances. In the end, most things have gone for the better." He tapped the pencil against his cheek. One last word, he thought. Just to put a question into his head. Might lead to more information at a later date.

"There is still one thing that is bothering me, Officer Blackcroft," he said. "I interviewed most of the town over these past few days. Not one person ever mentioned knowing the Funk was not coming until you and Officer Grathier's rather loud conversation.

"In fact," he said after a slight pause for effect. "I would swear that they truly had no idea." Kingsley shrugged. "Anyway, I am certain it will work itself out."

"That might be the case," Verin said, causing Kingsley's eyebrow to raise ever to slightly. "I just cannot confirm anything with accuracy."

"Of course," Kingsley said, smiling. He shrugged. "Who can these days? King's Honour, Officer Blackcroft. This has been a most fortuitous day." He turned to go once more, then stopped, chuckling. "It seems I am full of questions! Do you suppose that Officer Grathier is about? Perhaps he can clear things up even more?"

"He's in the medical bay," Verin replied. "Eastvale did a number on him, though I doubt anyone can see him. He only recently woke up." Kingsley nodded and frowned. "A deeper tragedy," he said. "I am glad to hear that he survived that most heinous assault."

"Perhaps when he has recovered, then?" Kingsley added, then bowed. "Good day to you, sir."

"Until then, Light be with you," Verin said, then looked toward the man who had lost his brother. "And to you, Michael."
MIchael and Bradley glared at Verin for a moment, then nodded, repeating the farewell. As they approached Kingsley, Michael whispered so none but Kingsley could hear.

"IS that IT?" Michael said, looking back toward Verin who was watching them leave. "You know that no one knew the funk was not coming" Kinglsey patted Michael's back. "Not here, Michael. We shall talk later." He turned toward Verin.

"Farewell, Officer Blackcroft," Kingsley said, turning toward Verin as the other two men entered the stairwell. "I shall let you know how our investigation into the mysterious deaths are coming along. I'm certain you would want to be apprised."

Verin nodded and Kingsley returned the gesture. When he entered the stairwell and caught up to his companions, he was beaming from ear to ear.
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Re: John Bradford's Belt

by Thomas Jarington » May 12th, 2014, 3:01 am

The three men left the garrison behind, gathering their hired mounts from the stables and riding toward Goldshire. Kingsley could tell his companions were fit to be tied after hearing what they had, so he asked them to remain quiet until a more suitable location for conversation could be found. They listened and remained silent until they reached a bridge over a small creek about halfway between the village and the Garrison.

Kingsley clicked to his mount and turned, riding to a small cleaning on the edge of the stream - out of earshot from the well-traveled road. Dismounting, the other two followed his lead - allowing the horses to graze while the trio stood beside the bubbling brook.

"Thank you," Kingsley said. "For holding back your thoughts on the matter. It is very important we not jump to conclusion nor insinuate that the men and women hired to protect the Kingdom might, in some way, have an involvement in something sinister."

"You heard that Blackcroft fella," Michael said, crossing his arms and glaring at Kingsley. "He said they started them riots and even worse, he lied about bein told about the Funk not showing." Bradley nodded, following up the statement with a tobacco-laced, "Uh huh," he said. "That's rat. He shore did, I heard em."

Kingsley raised a hand. "Okay, gentlemen," he said. "Let us not cast blame and fault just yet. Instead, let us discuss facts as we now know them." He looked at each man and received a nod in return. "What have we learned for certain?"

"That other man was named Barnaby Grathier," Michael said. "He's one of them guards, too." Kingsley nodded. "Very good. "Bradley?" The other man spat a wad of tobacco juice into the stream, watching it float a short ways before being gobbled by a perch. "They's started the riots," he growled, running his tongue under his bottom lip. "And they knew the funk weren't coming."

"Anything else," Kingsley said and the two men shook their heads. "Nothin' I heard cept they knew somethin about John bein kilt," Michael said. Kingsley smiled. "Very astute, yet we have no proof if that is exactly true."

"I do believe they knew the Funk was not going to arrive," Kingsley said, flipping open his notepad. "Officer Blackcroft changed his story when asked about how he knew. The first time, he said he heard it from 'several' employees and citizens, yet when asked again, he only overheard it from 'someone'."

"However," Kingsley said, raising a finger to stop Michael's protest. "Knowing the shipment was not coming does not make them the killers. Besides, there is something else we have not considered."

"What's that," Bradley said, spitting another wad of juice into the stream. "Shore weren't Gnolls that kilt em." Kingsley ignored the statement. "Something Michael said a few days ago: John always traveled with three others. Where is the fourth man?"

The pair frowned, yet remained quiet. Finally, Michael nodded. "Yup," he said. "It's true." He looked at Bradley. "And we only found three bodies. Where the fel's that fourth one?" Bradley shrugged. "Maybe they kilt him," he said. "Then tossed him in the lake 'er something like that."

"Justa throw us off." Michael worked his jaw, frowning while trying to think that line of thought through. "That's purty thin, Brad," Michael said. "Kingsley's rat. Knowin' don't make doin', ya know?"

"Maybe," Bradley said. "I still think they know something, though."

"I agree," Kingsley said, watching the two men talk. "Yet I feel we are on the right path. Blackcroft defended his partner, this Gathier chap, then apologized for his actions - calling him impulsive." He nodded to himself, tapping the small pencil against his bottom lip.

"Yes, there is a lot more there than we know," Kingsley continued. "However, until we have a chance to talk to Barnaby, we will only be speculating. For all we know, the fourth man could be the killer." Both men stared at Kingsley, pondering his words - even nodding as they considered the possibility.

"What's next," Michael said. "Ifn' we can't talk to Barnaby, we might as well call it a day and head home. I want ta get John in the family plot by the weekend." He sighed, then kicked a stone into the stream. "It's good we got us a name an all, but I can't see how it helps us much." Bradley grunted. "We could head deeper into them woods. Maybe we'll get lucky and find number four."

"How would we know it were him," Michael said. "Lotsa folks get kilt by them Gnolls. Only three were in that grave. If there's another out there, be hard to identify him ifn we find the poor soul."

Kingsley sighed, stuffing his pencil back into his pocket. "I believe we should leave those two Guards alone for awhile," he said, meeting the eyes of both of the men. "We learned exactly what we came for, plus a little extra. We know that Barnaby is impulsive. We learned that Blackcroft knows more than he us letting on."

"Hey," Michael said, interrupting Kingsley. "What if Brianna were ta bring a lawsuit against Blackcroft and his friend for damages to her tavern?" Kingsley cocked his head, appearing intrigued. "He admitted to startin the riots. We heard him say it. Maybe that'll force em to say what really happened out there."

"Interesting," Kingsley said, then frowned. "I highly doubt his Lordship will allow it, unfortunately."

"Why not?" Michael said, his eyes narrowing in anger. "That man helped destroy property." Kingsley nodded. "However, too many people were involved with that nasty beverage. If it was to come to court, then everyone's small clothes would be shown to the world."

Bradley spat a wad of juice into the stream. "Whatda folks drawahs have to do with a lawsuit," he asked. "I thought we wuz talkin' about riots and prop'ty damages." Kingsley laughed, as did Michael.

"He means," Michael said. "That his Lawdship don't want folks to know he was drankin' the Funk as well."

"That would be correct, Michael," Kingsley said. "And many others, too, I would imagine. While it would be a valuable exercise and maybe gain us information, I do not advise we follow that path just yet."

"However," Kingsley said, raising his hand. "I do suggest I make my way to Bogpaddle and determine how many people were with John that night. They might also know the extent of the delivery, as well as the names of his companions."

"In the meantime, Michael," Kingsley added. "You should lay your brother to rest."

"It is high time he found eternal peace with his family."
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Re: John Bradford's Belt

by Thomas Jarington » May 16th, 2014, 4:06 am

The Lakeshire tavern was quiet, even though it was packed with people. John Bradford's remains had been interred up the road and more than half of the town had turned out. Two additional graves were dug along side John's where the remains of the his fellow drivers (assumed, though under the circumstances, most felt it was accurate) were laid to rest next to their boss.

It was three days since Michael had returned from the Storming City Guard's garrison, yet his mood had not lifted. The wake inside the tavern was nice, and several people shared stories about life with John Bradford. Some were pleasant, others were raucous and all painted a picture of an adventurous man whose life was cut short doing a job he loved.

"Here's ta John Bradford," a large man said, a dockworker by the smell of him. "May he drive funk to the Lightbringer himself!" Huzzah's exploded from the crowd and Michael hoisted his ale - drinking a final toast to his brother.

"To John Bradford," Michael said. "The finest brother a man could ever have!" Slamming back the entire mug, he thumped it to the table, wiped his mouth on a sleeve and left the wake to the others. He needed some peace.

Instead, he found Kingsley.

"I fig'rd I'd see ya soon," Michael said to the slender, well dressed constable. He stood along the dock, staring into the lake - right in the location Michael usually went to think. "How'd things go in Bogpaddle?"

Kingsley's face fell into a sad smile. "The service was very nice, Michael," he said. "I am certain John would have liked it." Michael laughed, practically echoing across the lake. "Liked it?" he spat into the lake. "He'd said piss on it and pass the ale." He shook his head, wiping tears - both from laughing and from loss.

"Nah, Kingsley, he hated these damn things." He sniffed. "Glad it's done, though." Kingsley nodded.

"I am glad you found him, Michael," Kingsley said. "He deserved better than he received from his killer."

"Thanks," Michael said, turning to stare out over the lake. "Bogpaddle?"

"Ah, yes," Kingsley said. "Bogpaddle. Well, when dealing with Goblins one has to expect certain conditions need to be met before any sort of reasonable exchange can occur."

"How much?"

"Just under ten gold," Kingsley snorted. Michael nodded and spat. "Bout rat."

"They wanted twenty."

"Tell ya who them others were?" Kingsley nodded. "They did. Even told me who their employer was, though I cannot say I had ever heard of the outfit. A company called The Crimson Lotus."

"Have you ever heard of them, Michael?" The man shook his head and frowned. "Can't say that I have, though ifn they work for them Goblins, they's bound to be trouble."

"That is what I thought as well," Kingsley said, following Michael's gaze over the lake. In the distance, a loud howl echoed across the lake, accompanied by the screech of a hawk. Gnolls out hunting, Kingsley supposed. "It appears that this company took over all of the deliveries for the TwinSeas Trading Company shortly before the disappearance."

"In fact," Kingsley continued, trying to make out the distant shoreline. "The TwinSeas seems to have washed their hands of the entire affair, especially after their Company offices were torched in Booty Bay."

"That's too bad for them," Michael said, spitting another wad of juice into the lake. "But why's that important to me? Ifn they weren't the ones selling or running funk into Lakeshire, why we even talkin about them?"

Kingsley sighed, a sad smile gracing his lips. He reached into a leather courier satchel he carried on a strap and lifted a tattered piece of parchment - handing it to Michael. "Have a look at that."

"What is it," Michael said, snatching the paper from Kingsley's hand. He was in no mood for riddles and wished the man would come right out and say what he had learned - without all of the drama and suspenseful buildup.

"Wanted for the Torching of Booty Bay Property," Michael read out loud, then stopped - continuing to read the rest in silence. His eyes snapped up to meet Kingsley's and was met with a smug, yet knowing smile. "Where'd ya get this," Michael said. "Bogpaddle?"

Kingsley nodded. "Yes," he said. "From Baron Silversnap himself. AFTER I paid the large sum of gold he demanded, I will say." He pointed toward the two names listed on the paper. "I do believe you recognize one of them?"

"Barnaby Grathier," Michael said, re-reading the wanted poster. "That's the Guard that Blackcroft said helped start them riots." Michael looked up at Kingsley again. "He burnt down the TwinSeas shippin' offices, too?"

"Apparently so," Kingsley said. "According to the Baron, his peer in Booty Bay was none too pleased at having his town set on fire. Booty Bay is completely wooden, I might add, so a large fire like that could have destroyed the entire town."

"Therefore, in retaliation, he posted wanted notices throughout the entire Cartel. He then sent demands to Captain Landreth at the Garrison for damages done by one of his Guards."

"Yea," Michael said, nodding, not really listening to the reasoning. "All them pirates woulda been without a place ta drink. Tragic." He frowned, then met Kingsley's eye. "If Grathier's a wanted man, then why's he still running around with the Guard? Why ain't he locked up in Booty Bay?"

"They dropped the charges," Kingsley said. "Stormind offered a better deal, something about housing investigators and such, then canceled the wanted notice." He shrugged, smirking and shaking his head. "That is what happens when you deal with Goblins, I am afraid."

"Did he do it?" Michael asked. "Was he the one that burnt down them offices?"

Kingsley nodded. "Yes," he said. "They have proof. Witnesses saw him, as well as a Blood Elf leaving the building as it burst into flames. However, Like I said earlier, they received a better deal for canceling the bounty."

Michael spat into the lake, this time into the middle of a small swirl where a fish had recently surfaced. "Damn," he muttered. "This man seems a menace. Burns down some folks company buildin's, then goes out an starts a riot. Even has wanted posters out with his name on em."

"Damn."

"That does not mean he killed your brother," Kingsley said, lifting a finger to stop Michael's line of reasoning. "Blackcroft called him impulsive and this," he said, tapping the poster Michael still held, "certainly proves it. But killing an entire delivery crew?"

Kingsley shrugged. "We have no evidence. I am sorry, Michael, but until we uncover something solid, we only have assumptions - no matter how clear they appear."

"He started them riots, Kingsley," Michael said, his voice deepening to a near growl. "He knowed about them drivers not showin up; bout the Funk not coming." He leaned close to Kingsley face. "That makes him guilty in my book!"

"Not in the law's book, my good man," Kingsley said, unbowed by Michael's anger. "If we take this to his Lordship, he will laugh and toss us out of the office. No, Michael, until we have more evidence, we cannot accuse anyone."

"Do you understand?"

Michael stared hard at Kingsley, then his shoulders slunk - his demeanor weakened. "Yea," he whispered. "Completely." Kingsley nodded.

"Good," he said. "And to tell you the truth, I am not convinced it was him. Officer Grathier is a Stormind City Guard for Light's sake. We owe him the benefit of the doubt."

"However," he continued, cutting off Michaels incoming retort. "We still need to discover where this fourth man went. If we can learn his whereabouts, find out if he is dead or alive, we can narrow our search."

"How we gonna do that?" Michael said quietly. "I don't know any of em that rode with John."

"I do," Kingsley said, smiling. "I paid good gold for that information. We will find him, Michael, and when we do, we will be much closer to the truth."

"When one runs out of immediate evidence," he said, lifting a finger. "You must begin eliminating other possibilities. When that is done, what is left is the truth."
Last edited by Thomas Jarington on August 14th, 2014, 11:23 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: John Bradford's Belt

by Thomas Jarington » May 16th, 2014, 6:40 pm

((I do not recall the name of the fourth man who rode shotgun with John Bradford. Therefore, in order to continue the story, I will make up one and adjust if someone recalls. I THINK it was Bill, but I am not certain. Bob and Randall drove the wagon into Eastvale Logging Camp. John and... Bill(?) was the one ambushed.))

=================================

Geoff Kingsley stepped off of the griffon, gathered his gear and made his way toward the pub located inside the 'resort' of Bogpaddle. The town had grown once Fidjit's factory had come online, having hired others to help run it. The majority had been Goblins and had typical housing provided by the Company. The drivers, however, were Humans contracted by the Crimson Lotus and therefore lived in slum-like shacks on the outskirts of Bogpaddle.

"Pardon me, madam," he said to the first woman he came across. Wearing a dirty, soiled dress, she was scrubbing a shirt on a wash board located near a murky, green pond. "I am looking for a man named Bill Wiggins. Would you happen to know where he lives?"

The woman looked up at the man, stood and wiped the back of her hand across her forehead - leaving a greasy, black streak. "What do ya want with him," she said. "He done something wrong?" Kingsley smiled and whipped small, white business card from within his green jacket.

"I am Constable Geoffrey Kingsley," he said, offering her the card. She took it and frowned, wrinkling her nose and scowling. "I represent his Lordship, the Magistrate of Lakeshire and have need of Mister Wiggins's services."

The woman handed the card back to Kingsley. "I can't read nothin'" she said, cackling a wheezing hiss of a laugh. "But I ain't seen Bill since he done left fer Redridge bout four er five months 'go." She pointed a wrinkled claw of a finger at Kingsley. "You see him, you send him my way. He owes me gold fer all the rats he done left me with."

Before Kingsley could reply, a filthy urchin of a boy wandered around the corner of one of the shacks. "Ma," he whined, picking his nose then eating the results. He looked to Kingsley to be around six seasons. "Sissy won't give me back my toy hawse! She said she gonna break it and sell it to them Goblins."

"You get yourself outta heah," she bellowed, turning on the snotty-nosed urchin. "How many times I told you ta keep yer ass inside when I'm warshin!" The boy's eyes widened. "But MA!" he wailed, but said nothing more.

She slammed the shirt into the basin, sending soapy brown water sloshing over the side. "I told you ta GET!" The boy scurried away with a cry, leaving Kingsley to shake his head. The woman turned back toward him. "Now, Mister Kingsley," she said. "You knows where Bill is er dontcha?"

He shook his head. "No, ma'am," he said. "It is why I came here. He is a key witness in a murder investigation and it is very important that I have a word with him."

"Who he kilt this time?"

"M'am?" Kingsley said, cocking his head. He's killed others? Kingsley thought, his mind racing toward the logical conclusion. Maybe he DID kill those drivers.

"You heard me," she said, placing her hands on her hips. "You best get mah gold fore ya hang him."

"No, no," Kingsley said, raising his hands. "You have me wrong, madam. He was part of a caravan that was delivering Funk into Redridge. That caravan has gone missing and we have only found three of the four men who were with the wagon."

"So," she said. "He rode shotgun on those things all tha time. Maybe he got paid and ran off with mah gold."

"Perhaps," Kingsley said, reaching for his notebook. "Do you mind if I ask you a couple of questions? It will only take a moment." She huffed, her scowl growing deeper. "Mister Kingsley," she said. "I didn't ask you here. I got work ta do an' rats ta feed."

"There is a reward," Kingsley said, his voice mild and firm. "For information leading to the arrest and conviction of the killers." She licked her lips, her demeanor changing instantly.

"There's a re-ward?" she said, suddenly smiling and wiping her hands on her filthy dress. "How can I help ya, Constable?"

Kingsley smiled, nodding once. They always talk when there is gold on the line, he thought. Always.

"Do you know a man named John Bradford?"

"Johnny?" she said, bobbing her head. "He an Bill'r best friends. Growed up together out in Westfall, so I hear. He's always comin' round ta visit; or was fer he left with Bill for Redridge while back." Kingsley nodded, making a notation in his notepad.

"Does John live around here?" he said, looking around the slum. People were watching from a distance, paired up and chatting quietly to one another. "Nah," she said. "He has a place out in Redridge; back up in them hills borderin' Elwynn."

"I see," Kingsley said, making another note. "Is he married?" She grinned, one that spoke of things best left unsaid.

"Johnny-boy married?" She laughed her hissing cackle once more, making Kingsley smile ever so slightly. "That man's a dog, Constable. Ain't no way he'd stay married ifn he even wanted to."

"Nah, he's as free as the ocean breezes, that one." Kingsley made more notes, tapping his pencil against his mouth after he finished. "Just a couple of more questions, madam...?" He looked at the woman. He had not gotten her name.

"Misses Wiggins," she said, running her hand through her tangled mess of hair. "Glorfindle Wiggins, but all the folks round here call me Glory." I bet they do, Kingsley thought. And not for that hair, either. He cleared his voice. Concentrate, Geoff. Stay focused.

"Yes, Glory," he said, lifting a finger at her name. She nodded with a smile showing several missing teeth. It was all Geoff could do to keep from cringing. "Was there ever any hard feelings between John and Bill that you knew of?"

"Nah," she said, shaking her head. "They's as close as fleas on a fox's back, them two. Shore, they might have a spat or two over an ale or something, but nothing ta write home bout." Kingsley nodded. "That close, eh?" he said, making a notation.

"Yup."

"Can you think of any reason Bill would want John dead," he asked, readying his pencil. "Or injured in some way?"

"Wut?" she drawled, her face showing genuine shock. "Dead? Fel no, Mister Kingsley. They's like brothers; fleas as I done tolt cha. Bill might be a gold pincher, but he ain't gonna kill John."

"But, Missus Wiggins," Kingsley said. "You told me Bill had killed others." She cocked her head and frowned.

"Whater ya sayin, Mister Kingsley," she growled. "Something bad gone and happen ta Johnny?" Kingsley pursed his lips.

"Something like that, Missus Wiggins," he said. "John was found dead, along with two others we have yet to identify. I have been conducting interviews with the families of the Funk delivery team John Bradford led into Redridge four months ago."

Glory placed a filthy hand over her mouth. "Dead," she whispered. "Someone done kilt Johnny?" Kingsley nodded. "Yes, M'am," he said. "Several months ago. He, along with two Humans, were buried in a shallow grave along the Old Track in Redridge."

"We are fairly certain they are the remains of three of the four teamsters from that delivery."

She sighed, wiping away a tear from her eye as she turned away. "I see," she whispered. "And you didn't find Bill's remains, I take it? That why you're here, Mister Kingsley? You think Bill kilt those men?" Kingsley shrugged.

"We do not yet know, ma'am," he said. "We only know that the delivery never arrived and that John's remains, along with two others, were found buried in the forest. However, I do think one of the four men survived and is the key to solving this mystery."

The woman rounded on Kingsley, her voice sharp as a felspawn's razorspine. "Bill ain't no murderer," she said. "Them folks he kilt are ones that deserved it." She nodded. "Thieves, they were and they done paid for their rotten ways." She shook her violently, causing her straw-like hair to wave around her head.

"There ain't no way he'd up an kill John. NO WAY."

"That is good to know, Missus Wiggins," Kingsley said, jotting down more notes. "I do not believe he did it either. However, unless I find him, or his body, he remains our prime suspect." He tapped his pencil on the pad. "Would there be anything that might distinguish him, should his body ever be found?"

"He carryt a silver-mounted shotgun," she said. "As well as a bandolier that helt shells. Had silver disks with his initials on it. Like the gloves Johnny wore." Kingsley wrote that down.

"Anything else?" he asked, giving her an inquisitive look. She shook her head. "Wait," she said. "He loved his leather tobacca pouch. Had his initials on it, as well."

Kingsley scribbled the details, then flipped back two pages where his interview had begun. "Let me go over the details as I have them, Missus Wiggins," he said. "Then I shall leave you to your washing."

Geoff read back the notes he had taken, focusing on the key points that were relevant to Bill Wiggins. Each one she agreed and had nothing else to add. When finished, he snapped the booklet closed and smiled.

"Thank you for your time, MIssus Wiggins," he said. "You have been most helpful." She nodded, yet frowned.

"You said something about a re-ward?" she said, frowning. "You never mentioned how much."

"I did," he said. "Fifty gold should any information you provide lead to the capture and conviction of John Bradford's murderer."

"A'ight," she said, nodding. "And if you DO find Bill, you tell him he best be payin up, or I'll kill him meh-self."

"I will do so, Madam,' Kingsley said with a bow of his head. "Good day to you."

"Uh huh," she said, turning back to her wash. "You, too."
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Re: John Bradford's Belt

by Thomas Jarington » May 20th, 2014, 12:56 pm

Kingsley's rounds through the Bogpaddle slums were a success - turning up helpful information on the two other drivers who had accompanied John Bradford to Redridge on that fateful journey. Both men were single, yet for some odd reason had brought their mothers to live in Baron Silversnap's resort.

Joshua Morley, proudly called Mad Dog Morley by his friends (the name Silversnap had provided), was the first he came across after dealing with Missus Wiggins. The hovel where Mother Morley lived was much different from the others that surrounded hers: it was clean, well kept and actually had flowers on the porch.

Greenery lined the short walk from the muddy lane, and small, metallic animals dotted the garden. It was like an imaginary land standing in stark contrast to the surrounding misery, as if forcing the vile sounds and smells away by sheer cheerfulness.

Kingsley removed his hat as he approached, gently rapping his knuckles on the door and calling out the name he'd been given by a toothless bag of bones named Ermma. "Miss Morley," he said as knocked. "Are you home?"

"Coming dear," a gentle, elderly sounding voice came from within. "Just let me get my cane." Geoff smiled, turning to look toward the rest of the Lotus-provided slum. Sounds like my own mother, he thought, feeling the serenity that the bubble of happiness provided. What in fel's name is she doing here?

The door creaked open and Kingsley turned, dipping his head in a bow. "Miss Morley?" he said, clasping his hat in both hands before him. "Yes," she said, smiling up at the larger Kingsley. "I am Miss Morley. What can I do for you, young man?"

Geoff fought back the urge to close his eyes and take in the scent that flowed through the door: that of freshly baked bread with just a hint of spice. It was like coming home.

"I am Constable Geoff Kingsley, Madam," he said with a nod. "Representing his Lordship, the Magistrate of Lakeshire. Might I have a moment of your time?" Miss Morley brought her hand to the side of her face.

"Oh my," she said. "Such an important sounding title! Please, Constable, come in. I just put on a pot of tea." She chuckled, an elderly giggle that was not at all reminiscent of the local surroundings. "Thank you, madam," Geoff said. "I will only take a moment of your time."

The inside of the house was as pleasant as the out: soft furniture set near a crackling fire, green potted plants lined the window ledges and hand-sewn throws draped in corners throughout the small cottage. A simple crockery teapot was placed upon a table, surrounded by a pair of cups and saucers - both eager to be used.

"Would you like some tea, Constable Kingsley?" she said, shuffling toward the teapot - her cane gently tapping along the polished, yet well-trodden wood floor. "I just poured it." Kingsley nodded, standing just inside the doorway as he pulled it closed behind him.

"I would be delighted, Madam Morley," he said. "A spot of cream, if you please," She smiled, nodded and deftly poured the tea, though the teapot rattled as her aged hands shook from the weight.

"Have a seat, Constable," she said as Geoff moved to help. "I have poured tea my entire life and can certainly do so now."

"Of course," he said,turning to find a comfortable chair near the sofa he assumed would be where Madam Morley would seat herself. "You have a lovely place. Surprisingly so for Bogpaddle." She shuffled forward carrying his tea and Geoff stood, taking the cup and saucer she offered.

"Thank you," he said, waiting for the woman to seat herself. She wore a simple brown linen dress, over which a sky blue apron was draped. Tufts of flour dotted the apron, explaining the smells of baked bread in the cottage. While aged and gray, her features spoke of kinder times; her mannerisms of higher class.

Certainly not normal for this place, he thought, waiting for her to take a seat. I wonder what her story is?

"Now, Constable," she said, easing herself onto the sofa after placing her cup on a small, wooden end table. "How might I be of service to the Magistrate of Lakeshire?"

Kingsley sipped his tea, then placed it back atop the saucer on the coffee table in front of the fire. "Of course," he said, reaching for his notepad. "I am investigating an incident in Redridge surrounding the delivery of beverages originating in Bogpaddle." She sipped her tea and nodded, not speaking - just listening.

He explained how the drink named funk was supplied, the Company that created it, as well as the outfit that delivered it. He told of the events leading up to the disappearance, yet left out any mention of there being people killed. No need to cause her undue stress, he figured.

"The Baron was kind enough to supply me the driver's names of the delivery in question, Madam Morley," he said, flipping one of the pages in his small notebook. "And your son's name was among them." She smiled, sipped tea and said nothing.

"Might I ask you, when was the last time you saw Joshua?"

"Of course," she said, placing her tea cup on the end table. "He left on his quest a few months ago and said he might not return for some time." Geoff lifted an eyebrow. "Therefore, I highly doubt my Joshua was one of these wagon drivers you mentioned." She waved a dismissive hand when she mentioned the wagon drivers, almost out of disgust.

"Quest?"

"A gallant one, Constable Kingsley," she said, bobbing her head with pride. "He and his fellow Knights were to escort the Baron's daughter to Stormwind so she could be presented before the King." Oh dear, he thought. She is daft.

"I see," Kingsley said, making a notation in his book. How best to handle this, he asked himself, then decided: Do not question the Knight aspect, simply focus on the tale. "Escorting the Baron's daughter." He nodded. "Did you bid him and his fellow Knights farewell as they departed?"

"Oh no," she said, shaking her head. "It was a dangerous and secret quest, Constable. They left late in the night so none could witness their passing. The Baron's daughter is fairest in all the land, and if word had gotten out that she was traveling, bandits could have taken her."

"Ah," Kingsley said, writing another note: late at night. "That certainly makes sense." Use her own words and stay within the story, he said to himself. Time to reframe.

"Did Knight Morley often depart on quests?"

"Yes indeed, Constable," she said, sitting tall in her chair. "My Joshua is a gallant man and every week performs great deeds for the Baron." She frowned. "Though he has never been away for so long."

"Have you met his fellow Knights, Madam Morley?" Kingsley said, leaning back in his chair. "Did they ever come around for tea?" She shook her head.

"No," she said. "I did ask Joshua to invite them, though. But he said that the Order was a secret one, and that if they were to be seen in my household, that I would be put into grave danger." Kingsley nodded, making a notation. Order, he thought. I bet I can guess what it is called.

"Order, Madam Morley?" he said, spinning his pencil between his fingers. "Do you recall it's name?"

"The Order of the Crimson Lotus," she whispered, looking around the room as if others might overhear. She leaned closer to Geoff. "An ancient and noble order of Knights errant, tasked with protecting the Baron and his lands." She nodded. "My Joshua is their leader."

"The leader," Kingsley said, cocking his head and smiling as if impressed. "You must be so proud, Madam Morly."

"I am, Constable," she said. "It is why we moved from our manor house in Westfall and came here. The Order called and he answered." She sighed, looking into the fire. "Duty, you know."

"Of course," Geoff said, writing a notation. "One must always do one's duty, Madam." She smiled, looking at Geoff, but said nothing. It was the look of a mother who's pride for her son knew no bounds. "Even when the hardships are great, duty and honour are most important."

How can I tell this woman that her son was a simple hired hand for a group of teamsters? he thought, wrapping his mind around the story Mad Dog had woven. Mad Dog the Knight. He almost laughed.

"Can I offer you some lunch, Constable?" she asked, suddenly standing. "The bread should just about be ready."

"I would be delighted," he said, rising to his feet as she did. "It smells incredible."

"Joshua loves my bread," she said, grabbing her cane and shuffling toward the kitchen. "I always send a tin with him when he departs upon a quest." Kingsley lifted his eyebrow. A tin? he said to himself, recalling the items from the grave Michael and Bradley had found. There had been a small, dented bread tin.

"He must feel blessed to have you looking out for him when he is questing," Kingsley said, walking toward the kitchen where the woman was pulling a loaf from the metal oven. Nice, Kingsley said to himself. Well stocked and appointed. Seems Mad Dog took good care of his mother.

Glancing around the kitchen, he noticed a number of tins on a shelf, all the same colour: red with a blue border. The same as Michael had brought back from the forest. "I see you collect tins, Madam Morley," Geoff said, pointing toward the shelf. "My mother loved using tins for all sorts of thing."

She turned to look where the tines were kept. "Oh yes," she said, placing the loaf pan atop a wire stand. "Joshua uses them on every one of his quests. They travel well, you know." Kingsley nodded.

"Yes," he said. "Though since my mother has passed, I have not used one myself."

"Oh, dear," Madam Morley said, covering her mouth with a hand. "I am so sorry, Constable. Has it been long?" Kingsley nodded, a slight smile covering the sadness of the thought. He hated thinking about his mother. Too many hard memories.

"Yes, Madam Morley," he said. "She passed several years ago." He looked toward the tins. "Those just bring back the memory of her."

"Would you like one, Constable?" she said. "I have several and would be honoured if you would take one with you." She cocked her head in a tempting sort of way. "I'll fill it with bread." Kingsley laughed.

"How can I turn down such a thing," he said. "It is a deal."

Two hours later, Geoff Kingsley found himself leaving Madam Morley's house with a tin filled with spice bread, a full stomach and all the information he needed in regards to Joshua 'Mad Dog' Morley - positive proof that one of the bodies found was Mad Dog's.

He never told her the real tale of her son, nor what had become of him. Sometimes, duty required that the truth remain hidden in order to protect the innocent. If it helped this kind, elderly woman to live her final days in the comfort of believing her son was a Knight, then who was he to crush her fantasy.

He had one more visit to make, one more name to follow up on and he would be done with learning which of the four men had not been buried in the grave. Eliminate all of the possibilities and what remained would be truth.

========================

Geoff Kingsley landed at the Lakeshire flight master's stable sleepy tired and bordering on elation. Th final interview had gone perfect and, more important, had been short. Jaz Dagget's mother had been a brute, looking more Orc than human. More of an unfortunate circumstance of birth, he had imagined. Fortunately, she did not have the temperment of an Orc, which had made his job much easier.

She had known exactly what her son did for a living, where he had gone and the men he traveled with. Jaz was a hard man who loved blowing things up with sticks of dynamite, especially soft and fuzzy things like rabbits. He'd ridden with John Bradford for as long as the woman could remember, and she named practically every instance in which Jaz had done so.

Another habit of Jaz's she spoke of was dueling with pistols. He always won and had only taken one hit during the dozens of duels he had participated in: a shot to his shoulder that had never been removed. It seemed he kept all of the weapons of his victims as trophies, especially the one that had managed to hit him.

When asked to see it, the woman had eagerly handed it over for inspection, even offered it up to Kingsley to use as evidence to prove that her son was one of the bodies. "I ain't got no use fer it, anyhow," she had said as she handed the gun and it's ammunition over to Kingsley. "Got me an entire arsenal in here, so what's one little pea shooter gonna do fer me?"

It was a small bore, percussion cap pistol built from one piece of dark mahogany, curving from the barrel and into the handle. Silver inlay covered the entire piece and Kingsley could see why Jaz kept it - the gun was one of the finest makes he had ever seen.

But he wasn't collecting guns, he was gathering evidence. The barrel was rifled, which explained the bullets that came with the weapon. Most guns of this type fired lead balls which pancaked on impact. Powerful, yet not very accurate over dueling distance.

This piece, with it's rifled barrel and bullets, was a dueler's dream when it came to accuracy. Light weight, high velocity and small bore, it was no surprise to Kingsley that Jaz had been hit. The man was lucky to have survived and Geoff was lucky he had kept the pistol.

It was the proof he needed to identify the third man as Jaz Dagget, teamster of the Crimson Lotus - now buried with his former leader, John Bradford.

==================================

Michael and Bradley were waiting inside the Lakeshire tavern as Geoff Kingsley made his way inside. Tired and dirty from the journey, he was still excited to be meeting with his companions. They were drinking ale as Geoff entered, raising their hands to capture his attention.

"Kingsley!" Michael said. "What's the word?"

Geoff removed his hat and placed it on the back of his chair as he flopped into the seat. "The word is good, my friends," he said, accepting the mug of ale Bradley slid his way. He took a sip, sighing with pleasure as the two men eagerly watched.

"I know the name of our missing man," he said, wiping his mouth with a dirty, green sleeve.

"Bill Wiggins. We find him, we'll know for sure what became of John's ill-fated delivery."
Thomas Jarington & Co.

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