Maluk pushed his way through the mass of people that had assembled in the courtyard, Kira following in his wake. After the first few recognised him, a pathway seemed to open up automatically and he no longer needed physical force to progress. When the final few people parted aside, he could see what they had all tried to see.
On the ground lay a body. Next to it, obscuring Maluk’s vision to the body’s identity crouched Rannol.
Maluk drew a deep breath. So the messenger had been wrong.
Rannol turned his tear-stricken face towards Maluk. All his hard-won dignity from yesterday was abandoned and he slipped easily in the familiar role of pupil as he spoke: “Maluk? Why would they do this? The Lord Eryl never harmed anyone! What do we do?”
Maluk readjusted once more to the situation. Then he took charge.
Taking one student bystander by the arm he barked: “You, fetch Lord Garrath and you,” he directed his gaze to the student’s neighbour, “Get me The Captain of the Library guards, Jarral!” Both men went running.
His gaze swept over the spell-bound crowd and he raised his voice.: “People, I must ask you to go about your business and let us take this matter in hand. The Lord Caretaker will let you know how we will proceed during assembly. Now please disperse!”
His voice broke the spell and within minutes, Maluk and Rannol were left alone in the courtyard with the body of Eryl Lewin. The last to retreat indoors was Kira, looking frequently over her shoulder as if to walk back.
“Rannol, get up.”
Rannol obeyed the quiet voice of Maluk, visibly trying to pull himself together. As he stood, Maluk got a clear view of Eryl’s body. Blood covered the pale blue robe he was wearing and stained the grass around the body. With no visible wounds to the front, Maluk assumed the body had been found on its back and then turned to identify it.
“Maluk … what do we do?”
Maluk replied with the first signs of irritation: “You must start acting like the Caretaker you are.”
Taking the sting out of his remark, he softened his voice and continued, “Let Jarral take care of the body and call a staff meeting as soon as may be.”
As if in answer to his name, Jarral, captain of the Library guard came running to the scene. His face was red from the physical excercise but when he saw Eryl’s body, all colour drained from his face. The duty of Library guard was mostly a ceremonial one and saw little in the line of violence and crime. Jarral had been captain for years, however, and held himself with more dignity than Rannol had managed.
“My Lords! This is terrible.”
He walked around the body, taking in every detail as he went.
“I shall take him to the mortuarium at once.” He gestured to two of the guards that had followed him on his heels. “Get the stretcher.”
He directed his attention to Rannol. “My Lord Caretaker, will we call for the Dakyrian?”
Rannol blinked. Jarral’s suggestion seemed to make sense. In most criminal cases, the Dakyrian served as the Federation’s impartial investigators. And this was murder. He was about to consent when Maluk interrupted him.
“The Caretaker will inform you of his decision after consulting with his staff, Jarral. Now clean up this mess.”
Rannol frowned. He had been ready to step back into his role as Caretaker, just as Maluk had urged him, only to be overruled. He wondered why Maluk wanted a staff meeting before calling in the Dakyrian.
Jarral looked from Maluk to Rannol, clearly feeling the same hesitation. His orders came from the Caretaker and the Caretaker alone. So he asked, “My Lord Caretaker?”
Rannol turned towards Jarral, avoiding Maluk’s eyes. “Yes, please take the poor man’s body away. I will sent for you shortly. Have some guards assemble the senior staff.”
He looked around the desered courtyard.
“And where is Aribald when you really need him?”
-> Goto part 14: The Dark Voice of Suspicion