(Non-)Hint time. Now kill me.
Part 2: The darkest hour
God… damn it
It was midnight. Everyone had gone home.
Except me, of course, refusing to leave this place until I’d found an explanation.
One of my worse ideas.
The victim’s body had been replaced with the usual white outline.
They’d taken him together with the spear sticking through him, both because the murder weapon needed to be analyzed anyway and because… well, it turned out difficult to remove.
Not as difficult as figuring out how this locked room made any sense, of course.
I’d checked all the windows, but no dice. Sure, I’d confirmed that you could indeed leave through the study windows, but so what?
Everyone told me - those windows were locked when they stepped into the study.
Not that I would doubt any of them, although in my desperation I’d even had a sliver of suspicion that Hertway hadn’t been entirely straight with me.
The other windows… I’d thought they might just be big enough at first. As I said, the view was probably great during the day, but I noticed why I couldn’t count on them once I actually opened them.
As I opened them, they came to a sudden stop, leaving only a moderate gap. I tried sticking my arms through… sure, fair enough.
My head and shoulders… getting tricky.
The rest of my chest… no. I tried several times, but it wouldn’t open any further, only making some creaking sounds.
I’m glad nobody was there to see me as I tried to pull myself back out.
I didn’t bother to try this with any other window. Why were there so many damn windows in the first place?
The chain. I knew it would spell trouble, but this was more than expected.
I had glued it back together to do some testing. (it was pretty easy to tell, unlikely the culprit would have managed to fool anyone like that.)
The first thing of note is that the cut looked authentic - those pieces really went together and no part of the chain was missing.
There were no - absolutely zero - traces of tampering. But even if there were- if you just removed the entire lock somehow you’d still have faced the problem of somehow reattaching it from the outside.
I tried setting it through the gap in the door. No dice. My fingers got through the gap, but the base of my palm was too think.
I couldn’t think of anything else that could have been done through the door.
Which left me with really setting the chain proper. So I did.
Alright, what was the next step? Leaving through the door was out.
Leaving through the study windows? But I could not think of a way to close them from the other side.
There’s one other way I’d considered. I tried locking the chain through the window nearest to it. It worked.
I got thrilled for a moment, but… this window had been found locked, just like the rest.
Of course it’s not that simple…
Those were the only ways I could think of to lock it properly. Of course, either would have forced the culprit to leave a window open which was definitely found locked.
Maybe some kind of contraption closed them? I tried letting the spear fall on the latch (desperate, I’ll admit), but the latches required more force than that to be moved.
Again, I couldn’t think of anything except locking it properly with a hand. Some detective I was…
Was there another angle to approach this from? Determining who the killer is and working from there?
The crime resembled those of the serial killer ‘Vlad’. It must have been him, right?
…both the butler and the maid had been working here for several years. The butler in particular had pretty much worked here his entire life.
If he was secretly a serial killer… would it really make sense for him to go for someone that close to him? That was guaranteed to get him on the list of suspects.
Unless he was that confident in his crime or liked to live dangerously, of course. Or maybe the other victims were just a distraction and this was the only real target in the first place.
…No, there were too many victims. Nobody… surely nobody would go to such lengths just to…
The same was true for the maid, Vanessa. She’d only been working here for two years. Vlad’s activity began roughly one year and a half ago.
Could this have been a longterm plan? Her name started with V… I had to stop my thoughts there. If that was enough to put someone on the list of suspects, it would be quite long indeed.
Still, she was the one who supposedly found the key. I had considered she’d just pretended to find it… but if she was the killer, wouldn’t it have been smarter to just… drop it and let others find it?
Instead of drawing attention to yourself? A double bluff? My thoughts were beginning to spin in circles. With a twisted and elusive individual like Vlad, it was just impossible to know their thought process.
But then… what if it HADN’T been Vlad? What if this was a copycat crime? One to distract from the real culprit?
Still, anyone should know better than to think we’d rule them out just because the crime looked like that of an established serial killer.
Well, I say ‘anyone’, but human thought processes are all very different.
Was there some other reason to make the crime look like this, perhaps? Making the crime scene look as disturbing as possible to make sure the witnesses don’t stay there too long?
I’d considered it, but they ended up unexpectedly going in deeper, to the bathroom. No culprit could have predicted this, so either it ended up not interfering with their plan, or… that just wasn’t it.
Besides, the only reason I could think of to do that was to hide somewhere and leave after the disturbed witnesses… but there were just no hiding places in that waiting room.
The only thing large enough to hide in was the couch, but it was pressed firmly against the wall and impossible to move on your own.
It was also undamaged, so no chance of hiding inside it somehow.
And if they’d hidden in any other room, well, the maid would have seen them leave from the study, and the butler would have seen them in the bathroom.
Heck, the bathroom wasn’t big enough for more than one person to be inside in the first place.
Which meant there… was no reason to just pretend to be Vlad, right?
What’s worse was that I really couldn’t picture the maid or the old butler being strong enough to just… thrust a spear through someone like that.
But again… when humans get serious there’s often more strength in them than we assume.
The visitor… well, it could have been anyone judging by the description of their disguise.
By now I’d figured that if they were the murderer they probably didn’t do it then because they weren’t ready or didn’t want to be looked into too much.
It’s possible they had to scout out the place first.
Besides, it’s not exactly possible to smuggle in a long weapon like that without the butler noticing, so chances are they didn’t have the spear with them yet.
And if the victim was expecting them… well, probably hard to catch him unaware from behind, anyway.
If it was the butler himself, that becomes a moot point, of course.
I got desperate. What if Hertway was in on it?
Could he have fudged some detail during the investigation? He’d acted a little strange earlier, I think.
No… no… that was just the stress getting to him.
Besides, while he may have been the one in command, there should have always been other officers nearby.
It’s not like he could have made an excuse like checking the study all by himself and then locking the window.
And it was impossible for him to be Vlad, anyway. The two of us had been on that killer’s trail since the very beginning.
The serial killer himself conveniently getting assigned to his own case? Yeah right… not happening outside of movies.
I couldn’t believe I’d go that far in my suspicions. Clearly I needed sleep or a drink.
It must have been three hours later.
It was still engaged in desperate attempts to explain the events.
In my desperation, I’d started considering things that seemed utterly pointless at first glance, even.
No, that doesn’t work.
If this happened, you’d still be left with the problem of…
No, doesn’t change anything
The sun was going up in the distance.
That’s when I hit on it.
“N-No way, if they…”
Pointless, but if I expand the context…
…I knew I’d finally found the explanation for it.
In a way, I had been both right and wrong about it being the hardest part to explain.
I’d figured it out.