The air inside the police station was rather warm, compared to outside. James looked out through the window and noticed the sky, steel gray, behind the Big Ben. The only sounds he could hear were his pen drumming on his notepad, the light drops of rain dripping from the roof, and the horses and carriages stomping outside, along with the occasional shouts of grumpy men.
He had been waiting in the station for about an hour. They weren’t allowing him to see her. Mr. Alderman would be furious….If only he would be here instead of him. James’ grip on his pen tightened. ‘No’ he told himself. He had to see her. For Madeline, if not himself.
The door clicked open and Will walked out. His sharp emerald eyes were steady, though the loose way he stood reminded James he had been there for hours.
James got up and hugged his brother, though he wished he hadn’t. He could smell Caroline’s bitter blood on him. His unease must have showed over his face. Will moved, giving him room to see.
There was a white burial shroud hiding her till her throat. Her skin was so pale it looked nearly transparent, eyes closed. Her red hair was the only splash of color over her limp body. James felt his skin tingle and his eyes burn. He knew it wasn’t Madeline, but she looked so much like her that his stomach churned. He wasn’t even aware he had dropped his pen and notepad until Will handed them back to him.
“Her wrists,” Will indicated to the pale arms exiting the shroud. They were so white James had mistaken them for the shroud. He looked at them and noticed there to be two deep cuts painted under her palms. He stumbled out the room when he realized. It was suicide.
He turned around and found himself facing his brother. “James, take a good look. This is all I could do, I haven’t even told them you were related to her. You are only here for business, do not let your emotions cloud that-“ but he then noticed that he was talking to air.
He shook his dark head, “Give Madeline my condolences. You cannot visit the body again till the funeral.” He said and walked back in, shutting the door and all of James’ unanswered questions outside.
James could hear muffled crying outside of their room. He hadn’t predicted rain, thus his blue trech-coat was soaked, as if Madeline crying wasn’t enough to send shivers up his spine. He asked Lily how she was, but she was too busy grieving herself to offer much of an answer, although James knew Madeline hated the fact that women weren’t allowed into police stations. Will had tried, but it wasn’t possible. He couldn’t imagine how she must be feeling; first it was Paul, and she had lost her sister when she became mentally disturbed about the death of her husband. And now it was Caroline. She was forlorn.
He clutched the door knob. No, he thought, she still had him, and opened the door. His heart sank as he saw her. She was sitting in the corner of the magnificent room, her knees next to her chest and her arms over them, like a shadow. Her bloody hair spilled across her thin nightgown, and her face was glazed with tears. She looked wretched.
“I don’t know what to do James!” she cried, “First it was mother and father, and now Paul and Caroline? I’ve been trying so hard to get poor Ava to speak to me again and after two years she finally ate with me. Caroline was the one who handled these situations, her wisdom-“ she broke off, lip quivering.
“Madeline…” James kneeled next to her, “You will get through this,” he said, more calmly than he thought he could, “This will make you either weak, or strong. And I know you are not weak.”
She looked at him, her puffy brown eyes silently thanking him.
“I will have to be the next to inherit, won’t I?” She asked, gazing deep into James’ eyes.
“But I can’t!” she protested, “It was supposed to be Caroline, not me! I am not as wise or strong or responsible as her! Your family too lives in our home, can’t you, or perhaps Will? He is already the sherrif-“
“Madeline!” James shrieked.
“I understand that you are afraid, but there isn’t another option. Yes, Will and I will be here for you, however it is your responsibility and your treasures. The rules already give us a large share, but it is, in the end, yours.”
He put his hands in her cold, brittle ones. “I am here for you, never doubt that.”
She smiled weakly and buried her face in his shoulder. He thought not to tell her about Caroline’s suicide, not yet at least, she was already on the verge of breaking, another crack and she would be lost.
“Tell me about Paul Smith’s death,” Mr. Alderman’s office was always littered with newspapers and many other papers. Pale sunlight poured in from the window, you’d expect an editor’s office to look much like this: a desk, tea on the table, papers everywhere, and a pudgy looking man biting a cigar in front of you.
“Sir, you must understand. Although there is evident proof of suicide, why would they only occur in the Lost family? I believe they are murders, which would be appropriate to believe in as they are profusely wealthy. But what doesn’t add up is the time gap-two years-perhaps the murderer didn’t want to raise suspicio-“
“Tell me about the death of Paul Smith, Michaels.” He interjected, making James set his jaw.
“Three days before Ava Lost would get the check for inheriting of her parents’ money, the police officer went to the Lost mansion to make sure no danger awaited them. Nothing did. However, the next day, Ava had found her husband not breathing. The officers found that he died due to the consumption of the wrong medicine. Their maid, Lily, was inquired, who wasn’t anything but positive she had given him the right one.” When he was done, Mr. Alderman stroked his beard.
“Do these sound like murders to you? James Michaels?” he asked rather lividly.
“No sir. But if we delve deeper into this-“
“Even if the maid accidentally gave him the wrong medicine,” he interrupted, “we cannot accuse her due to the fact of it being a mistake. She has been their maid for years, could simply murder anyone at any time, but she didn’t. Now you go find out why Caroline Lost actually killed herself, okay?”
“Yes sir,” he muttered before turning on his heal and leaving.
After the funeral, James, Will and Madeline took a carriage home. They both lacked their usual alacrity.
“Why do you think she did it?” Madeline asked, which made James’ palm and neck sweat, though she didn’t look surprised.
She shrugged. “I saw her marks. Why do you think she killed herself?”
The carriage was quiet again. Madeline was in black mourning clothes, with her dark hair behind a poke-bonnet, a black spider web-like curtain shining in front of her dull eyes. Will and himself were in black coats.
“I believe it was her pregnancy.” Will said, eyes fixed out the foggy window.
Madeline and James were not as calm. “She was-what-since how long-pregnant?” they both blurted at once.
Will smiled slyly, “If only as many rich people were interested when I announced I was getting married. Yes, Caroline was pregnant. I visited her a few days earlier and she said so.” He said, his gaze now on Madeline, next to Will.
Madeline’s face turned the color of her hair, “But she never got married,” she whispered to herself.
After a moment, Will too whispered, “Fair is foul, and foul is fair.”
James didn’t know what to think. All of them stared out the windows. Icy wind was whipping the carriage, and somewhere the Big Ben rang.
Will had gone in the office and surprisingly forgotten his files.
“I’ll be right back, my dear,” he said to Madeline as he went in after his brother.
James heard muffled voices outside Will’s office and thought best not to interrupt his older brother.
He was worried. He figured out why Caroline had killed herself-could even report it-but something didn’t feel right. Secrets still weighed in the air.
Will had told him that Caroline was pregnant, but Caroline had never been near a man, including James. Her wisdom was popular. Paul could’ve taken the wrong medicine, but he was always very considerate. Ava wouldn’t be able to live without Paul, nor Paul without Ava, the entire family knew that. Could Lily have murdered both Paul and Caroline? And then have Ava go insane to have Madeline as her only mistress? It didn’t make any sense, though the only one who knew about their strong relations was the family and maids. And James’ family.
The air suddenly felt chillier. Will was there the night Paul had died. He suddenly felt sweaty. Will had also been with Caroline before she had died. James felt goose bumps over his whole body. Will also knew of how much Ava loved Paul. The inheritance. It would go to the appropriate heir: Madeline, and her family-his family.
James burst into Will’s office. His older brother looked shocked to see him. He had stripped off his coat and now he was in a dark waist-coat, a telephone by his ear.
“I’ll speak to you later Alexandra,” he murmured into the phone, though James didn’t hear any of that.
“You killed them.”
He wished he was wrong, he prayed he was wrong. Sometimes it was better to be wrong than it is to be right. Though Will gave him a smile. A smile he had never seen Will’s mouth form. A smile twisted and knit from cobwebs.
He stood up, and dragged his fingers across his desk. “I was rather hoping you wouldn’t find out. This just complicates things. Secrets are so difficult to contain, are they not?”
He spoke so casually, James couldn’t bring himself to breath.
“Why?” he choked.
“Money!” he said, spreading his arms. And a memory floated into James’ mind. If only as many rich people were interested when I announced I was getting married.
“It was easy, in case you’re wondering.” He continued, “Well obviously you’re wondering, you’re a writer. All I had to do was blackmail. I blackmailed Paul, that I’d kill Ava if he didn’t cooperate, and I told Caroline, I’d kill her twin sister. They couldn’t even report for help at the police station, I am the sheriff.” His tone was interminable.
He walked behind his desk. “I waited two years to blackmail Caroline because…” he said as he sat on his chair, “I wasn’t sure who, Caroline or Madeline, were to get the inheritance. But then Caroline’s wisdom became famous, and it was obvio-“
And that was all he heard him say, for a flash of silver caught his eye, and buried itself in Will’s chest, the thrower of the knife, Madeline, with and expression impossible to read.
James didn’t know what to think. His brother was crumbling, cursing, and his wife had tears streaming down her face. It was a lurid moment, and then, he realized something.
Fair is foul, and foul is fair.
After all, there was nothing he could do about it.