by Trevor Hopkins

"Did you locate the murder weapon?"

Tewel's face broke, suddenly collapsing into a tragic grimace of grief and anger. He sagged on the chair, his hands tearing at his forehead. If he were a human, he would be pulling his hair out by the roots at this point. He seemed possessed, somehow changed, somehow a different Goblin, all wild-eyed and manic.

After a few moments and with a supreme effort, Tewel managed to recover his previous dispassionate demeanour. All an act, of course. He must have been utterly distraught, inside, but he could not bring himself to display his emotions, even to me, except when the internal pressure became unbearable.

"Oh, yes," he said with all of the outward appearance of calm, "It was still sticking in her body when we got there."

I sighed. Perhaps it would have been better if I hadn't asked the question. On the other hand, I had to know the answers. And you don't get good answers without asking hard questions, in my experience.

"And all the wounds make by the same weapon?"

"Yes. The coroner's report was quite clear."

"Fingerprints?"

"We dusted everywhere. Nothing."

It was nothing less than I expected. With somebody as famous as Lady Strowan, a shoddy or incomplete report from the medical examiner or the forensics team was unlikely. It was time to try another tack. Tewel seemed like a Goblin on the verge of a catastrophic psychological collapse, however much he had managed to hide it from his colleagues and superiors. I couldn't risk him clamming up on me now; I had no other route into the official investigation on this one. Besides, I genuinely felt for the old boy, despite him beating up on me earlier.

"Tell me how Tibbermore died."

Tewel blinked and his gaze returned to the blank wall facing his desk.

"He was stabbed," he said in that detached way that I had hitherto considered to be his permanent aspect, "In the back. A single deep blow, penetrating the heart. There was little blood. His heart must have stopped immediately. And, no, we haven’t recovered the weapon."

I asked a few more questions, invoking responses in the same bland tone. But the message was clear enough. Tibbermore had been killed in a competently dispassionate, even professional, manner. The word which sprang to mind was "assassination". Apart from the use of a knife, it was a completely different modus operandi. So, unless somebody was being very clever indeed, Lady Strowan and her loyal manservant had been killed by different people and, quite possibly, for different reasons.

Part 68 Part 70