((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.
"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.
Thomas Jarington & Co.