Episode 2 Chapter 4

Theodore and Oboe followed the Alderman into the manor yard and onlookers swarmed after them. They found a smirking woman standing outside a barred cottage. Her hair was curled in a brown bun and she was dressed in a black mourning gown.

“Giselle!” Pearce hurried to meet her. “I’ve brought the Deputy. Is what I’m told true?”

“I’ve captured the monster!” She gestured toward a door braced with a gardening hoe.

“Really?” Oboe said. “Does that mean we can go home?”

“Start from the beginning,” Theodore said. “What happened?”

The woman looked insulted. “Well, no need to thank me or anything.” She folded her arms. “My husband is dead and here I am being interrogated on how I go about avenging him!”

Theodore grimaced at his carelessness. “I’m sorry. I didn’t realize you were the widow. Please, if you can, tell me what you know.”

Her glare softened a little. “This is where they’re keeping my husband’s body. I came to help with the dressing and to pray for the passage of his soul. We were interrupted by a knock at the door. Wendy went to answer it and there was this horrible, awful ghoul! The murderer returning to the scene of the crime!”

That did not sound correct. “I thought the crime occurred on the river Wander?”

“The scene of the funeral, then!” Giselle said. “Whatever! A monster waltzed into our village to kill again and you’re arguing over details!”

“The creature is trapped inside?” The Alderman said.

Giselle beamed. “Wendy lured it in with the promise of tea and then I ran out and locked the door before it realized what I was doing! Now we have the bastard right where we want!”

“Wait. Where’s Wendy?” Pearce glanced around, panicked. “Why isn’t she with you?! Where is my love?!

“Over here.” A muffled, mousey voice came from the small cottage window. It belonged to a short and pudgy blonde woman. “Hello. I’m locked inside.”

“Don’t open the door!” Giselle said. “We have to keep the monster quarantined!”

Pearce ignored Giselle. He wrenched the door open and pulled the little woman into his arms. “Are you hurt??” He patted her all over checking for wounds.

“Oh, I’m fine,” Wendy said. “It took me a while to find the tea for our guest, though.”

Theodore pushed his way into the cottage. Inside he found a ghoul. Its face was deformed, lopsided, with pallid blue skin, patchy white hair, and sharp teeth. It wore a well ironed pinstripe suit and was seated with a fresh cup of tea.

“Good morning,” the ghoul said. “Deputy Grayweather, I presume?”

“Yes. Hello.” Theodore was taken off guard. “You have me at a disadvantage.”

He set the teacup down and stood. “Ashby,” he said. “I am the coroner you requested to assist with the autopsy.”

“Hi!” Oboe waved.

“You’re a ghast,” Theodore said with more disbelief than he intended.

Ashby sighed. “Very astute.” He cleared his throat to deliver a well-rehearsed explanation. “Many ghasts choose to live in the capital. Often, when allowed, we find work doing what humans find distasteful. Most people are uncomfortable with mortuary work, and so I have found a useful niche for myself.”

Giselle poked her head through the door. “So you admit to killing my husband, then!”

Theodore felt hot with embarrassment. “Pearce, could you close the door? Thank you.”

“Hey!” Giselle said as the Alderman nudged the door shut.

Theodore turned back to Ashby. “I apologize. The villagers believe a ghast committed the murder. I didn’t anticipate this reaction.”

“I am used to it,” Ashby said with measured annoyance. He swept toward the back room. “Would you mind if we got started? I would prefer to keep this brief. I’ve examined the body already and there are a few points I believe you will find interesting.”

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