Catching A Man
Author: Elizabeth Corrigan
Released: November 13, 2014
Series: Valeriel Investigations #1
Genre: Fantasy/Science Fiction/Mystery
Author contact links: Blog
“Well, I think that we will want to speak with Duke Baurus as soon as may be.” Fellow frowned at his notebook. “However, I don’t think we can rule out other suspects quite yet. After the breakup, the duke went to discuss the affair with the king, and I’m certain that we can both see how his wife’s infidelity might provide a motive.”
When the men gave each other knowing nodes, Kadin had to clap her hand over her mouth to prevent a snort. “I don’t think he minded so much.”
Blinking, the men twisted their heads around to look at her.
Fellows cleared his throat. “I’m fairly certain that King Ralvin is man enough not to want his wife spreading her favors around.”
Dahran reached out and patted Kadin’s arm. “Miss Stone, you’re a woman, so you may not understand. He couldn’t help but be upset by it.”
Kadin resisted the urge to bristle at the condescending tone. “No, seriously, I think that–”
“Okay, that’s enough.” Fellows held up his hand as Dahran smirked. “We’ve had a busy day and are obviously tired. Starting tomorrow, White, I want you to check out the financials of every guard and servant working here. If anyone got paid to look the other way, I want to know about it. I’ll set up an interview with Duke Baurus, and possibly his sister, as soon as may be. Dismissed.” Without another word, Fellows strode off in the direction of the entrance.
Dahran turned to study a fresco on the wall. Kadin thought about taking the opportunity to strike up a flirtation, but the allure of going home and getting out of Octavira’s shoes proved more tempting. She turned and followed Fellows.
I guess I shouldn’t have expected them to listen to me. With no one to look at her, she let herself cringe with every step down the stairs. It is my first day, and they’ve got a lot more experience than me.
By the time Kadin got to the first floor, she realized she had no idea how she was supposed to get home. She couldn’t see Fellows ahead of her, but if he had planned to wait for the team, he wouldn’t have rushed out.
Guess I’ll have to wait for Dahran to come down, so we can split an autotaxi. She trudged down the main hallway, the unsteady click of her heels providing evidence of the poor state of her feet to anyone listening. I can’t walk to the nearest autobus stop. Do they even have autobuses in the Imperial District?
Kadin made it to the palace’s front door, but among the ornate columns and lions head frescos, she could not find anywhere to sit. The queen’s library was only a little ways down the corridor, though, and she figured she would still hear the other detectives come down if she waited in there. With the determination of one who knows that, if she suffers for a few minutes more, her swollen feet will get a respite, she headed towards the room and opened the door.
“Get out!” a deep, commanding baritone shouted.
Kadin froze. Oh Deity, I hope I didn’t offend someone important.
“I’m so sorry, sir.” Without looking up, she backed away and started to pull the door shut behind her.
A white and green object flew through the air, and she heard a papery fwap as whatever it was struck the wall next to her head, then thumped on the floor. Kadin stopped her retreat and looked down at the object lying next to her.
“Did you… Did you throw a book at my head?”
She lifted her gaze and gasped. She recognized the thrower from the pictures outside the throne room, as well as any number of clicks in any of number of publications Trinithy and Olivan had shoved under her nose. Same dark hair. Same hazel eyes. Same forbidding build. She even thought he might be wearing the same red-vested black suit as he had in the painting.
She had snapped at Duke Baurus DeValeriel.
The fury of his presence came toward her in a flood so powerful she almost felt the need to step back. His face, his posture, everything about him from his side-parted hair to the shiny black wingtips, radiated rage, as though he were so overcome by his emotions that he could not contain them inside his skin.
He clenched and unclenched his fists. “What are you doing here? I said get out!”
Get out of here, Kadin, the rational part of her brain told her. He might have murdered someone last night.
But the waves of his temper had seeped into her skin, daring her to stay.
She put her hands on her hips. “I was leaving, and then you threw a book at my head.”
His lip curled. “That wasn’t incentive enough to listen to me?”
Her heart pounded in her throat. “No, generally a man’s attempting to hurt me doesn’t sway my opinion in his favor.”
True, fair, excellent logic, she thought. You have made your point. Maybe you should go.
The duke’s hazel eyes flashed. “Do you always wander around other people’s homes uninvited?”
Her jaw tightened. “It’s not your home either.”
She wanted to clap her hand over her mouth as soon as she spoke. Please, please tell me you did not contradict a duke.
Judging by the way his eyes bugged, Duke Baurus had the same response to her words as she did. “I have a standing invitation to my cousin’s home.”
Kadin held up her head. “I was invited, too. I’m part of the team from Valeriel Investigations looking into the death of Queen Callista.” He didn’t need to know that she was no longer on the clock. Or that the other detectives didn’t value her contributions.
His countenance changed; the anger remained but was accompanied by surprise, guilt, embarrassment, curiosity, worry… A parade of emotions scattered across his open face, though none of them remained in place long enough for her to capture the thoughts behind them.
His face cleared, and he focused a simple glare on Kadin. “Fine. You won’t leave, then I will.”
She bristled, but before she could speak, he whipped the door out of her grasp and stormed out of the room.
She sank down into the mauve loveseat, her hands trembling more than Herrick Strand’s had. I cannot believe I said all those things to Duke Baurus. To a murderer. She took a deep breath. Except…
Her detective’s brain raced past her shock. If he were a murderer, why would he come back here, to the scene of the crime? I mean, criminals don’t do that, really. He has to know he’s a suspect.
There must have been something he needed to do here. Some object to retrieve. Here eyes darted around the room, looking for anything suspicious or out of place. But though the queen’s sunburst clock indicated dubious taste, Kadin couldn’t see anything that would draw a former lover–or a killer. She resolved to tell Fellows about the encounter in the morning. Maybe he would have a better idea of what to look for.
Kadin hobbled outside the palace just in time to breathe in the last fumes of the autotaxi carrying Dahran away. She sighed, realizing, as she had feared, she would have to pay for a ride across the city herself or else walk to the nearest autobus stop in her heels.
Of course, I’m not likely to see anyone I know in the Imperial District. With a sharp thrill in her chest, she stepped out of her shoes and breathed a sigh of relief as she felt the cold pavement through her stockings. She picked up her shoes and headed for the gate.