Part 45: Britannia's Greatest Detective - The Skara Brae Clone Caper
Britannia's Greatest Detective - The Skara Brae Clone Caper
As you may recall, we recently abandoned a murder investigation in Skara Brae because you can't actually resolve it in any way . Well, we still need to get our hands on the Rune of Spirituality, so I present to you... a story. It is not entirely true, but contains certain elements of truth. A few things might be embellished, perhaps, but in all... well. It was quite a day in Skara Brae.
But who was it that murdered the humble fisherman Quenton?
Was it gargoyles, as hinted by mayor Trenton Bell? Or perhaps the mayor himself, fabricating a story to get rid of the jealous Quenton?
Could it have been Marney, Quenton's beautiful daughter, pulling a fast one to cover up the death of her father?
Or maybe it was Yorl, Quenton's supposed best friend, a man with ties to the sea and potential to hold a grudge, and one of the last men who would have seen Quenton alive?
It's best that we interrogate the mayor on the whereabouts of the Rune of Spirituality as well. Could it all be tied up in that messy affair?
"The Rune? Quenton, not I, was in charge of its safe keeping. Just as I suspected, when he died, so too did our chances of finding the rune. You see, he never told anyone where it was located."
"Nobody, huh? Maybe they just didn't say. Maybe Marney wanted us to think that."
"Steve, what are you talking about?"
"I've got a hunch. Let's go visit Marney."
"That's strange, she doesn't seem to be home."
"Why is that strange? People leave their homes all the time."
"And leave her chest behind, Dupre? No, something doesn't add up here. I say we search the place top to bottom. Marney? Marney!?"
"This is worse than I could have ever expected. Somebody knew I was coming here to ask about the Rune. We have to... we have to... oh God, Yorl!"
"We've got to get to the bottom of this before whoever killed Quenton, Marney, and Yorl finishes off the rest of the town."
"But we're trying to-"
"There's no time, man! To the Haunting Inn, to inquire about our suspects!"
You see a man bent over with age. An old brown tunic hangs loosely on him.
He looks at you, then looks over his shoulder and shouts to someone behind him. "There, I told you, Marta. New people, new food for our souls." He turns back to you. "Welcome to the Haunting Inn. Come and sit, for you must have many tales."
"I'll say. For example, the Avatar-"
"No time to let Dupre talk! Tell me who you are, man!"
"Uh... okay. Gideon's what I'm called by one and all. 'Tis an old family name meaning 'one who spreads the word.' My wife tells me I spread too many of them around."
"How very suspicious. Tell me about... the murders!"
"What do you mean murders? Quenton was the only o-"
"I'll ask the questions here, buddy."
"Okay then... my wife Marta hasn't come out of that room since she saw that darn ghost in the dining room a few nights ago. She told me the lanterns went out and a spectre drifted in front of her. She let out such a scream that I heard her from our bedroom." He shakes his head and glances at the room behind him. "My Marta don't spook that easy. After all, she's woke up next to me all these years. At first I thought maybe I should lock the cupboard where we keep the wine. But I don't think my Marta's been nippin'. I wish I knew what she saw."
"So you claim ignorance, huh. How convenient."
"I'm sure by now you've heard such banter about old Quenton."
"Actually, Steve has kind of been-"
"He was a dear soul." Gideon looks past you into the distance. "I could not believe it was him by the well." His eyes become watery. "He lay so quiet, no sign of pain on his face, and just an amulet in his bloody hand." He looks at the floor and mumbles. "Quen, I miss you, old mate."
"A likely story! How do I know you even met Quenton... BEFORE KILLING HIM, that is!"
"Uhhhhhhhh, what? We came to this island many years ago. As children we'd take the boats and race around the point. Marta and I took care of him when Mondain's henchmen killed his wife Elisabeth. We care for his daughter, Marney, now. She's such a brave girl. Neither I nor the travelers staying here heard anything the night he was killed." He looks at you a moment, then leans closer. "They say that Quenton was killed by a Gargoyle. I've heard these beasts eat their prey. Why did they leave Quenton alone then?"
"Sounds pretty unbelievable. And what about these so-called travelers?"
"I questioned them about the night of the murder. Still, of all of us, my Marta and I had the best vantage point from which to witness, or even hear, the murder. Yet we saw and heard nothing."
"Obviously because you did it."
"What? That's preposterous!"
"Oh really? I bet you didn't think I'd check your story. I bet you thought that since Quenton was dead he'd tell no tales! Well, we'll just see about that! Investigators... TO THE VINEYARD!"
"Steve, what are we even doing out here?"
"We're tracking down Quenton's restless ghost, of course. The dead often stalk the place where they were murdered late at night."
"Yet it's 11:35 in the morning."
"Oh yeah, smartass? Then who is that?"
You see a vaporous form hovering before you.
A shiver runs up your spine as you feel a chilling draft... The form is that of a man. His mouth moves, yet no words can be heard...
"Alright, Quenton, cough it up. Was Gideon the one who murdered you?"
You speak the word and the spectre responds by pointing a boney hand to his eye.
A wind from behind blows your hair, covering your eyes.
"Intriguing. That sets a new perspective on things. So the gargoyles..."
A whirlpool of leaves, twigs and stones whips up around you. Your clothing is yanked by the strong wind forcing you to grip it tightly in your hands.
"But then how..."
The ghostly image shimmers for a moment and then he points a boney finger to his neck.
The spectre's arm thrusts again, pointing to the sea, towards the pier.
"Of course. It's all so obvious!"
A strong breeze suddenly assaults you with twigs and leaves. You hear no answer save the rustle of leaves on the ground around you.
"...what the hell was that all about?"
"I think I may be on the right track. It runs deep, much deeper than I'd ever expected. Quenton has really opened my eyes."
"He just pointed at himself and the sea, you idiot! What are you even talking about?"
"Just follow me to the wine... place... thing."
"Out of my way, wine vendor, criminal investigation in progress!"
"I'm sorry, what?"
"or should I say wine MURDERER? Out of my way, I've got something to confirm in your basement... or should I say MURDERment."
"It's just as I suspected. Nothing is hidden from X-Ray."
"Well, what is it?"
"Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Now we must leave town and track down the loner Michael."
You see a tall man with muscles looking like huge snakes.
"Speak," he growls at you, his voice as rough and cold as stone.
"You must be Michael."
"Are you taking a census?" His powerful gaze is fixed on you. "My name is given to friends so that they may feel they are close to me. Since I have none, I refrain from its use."
"What do you know about the ghost? Or should I say FORMER ghost?"
"That is a concern of the town, not mine. He was not fortunate. It is written that it is better to be fortunate than skilled. He, I'm sure, would agree." His face betrays a slight grin.
"So you don't know anything about his murder."
"All men have enemies. A debt needed to be settled. He hadn't the strength to settle it, so someone decided to take the initiative." He pulls out a knife and begins to pick at his nails.
"Right then, sorry to bother y-"
"Hang on, what debt?"
"Surely you don't buy the fable of the gargoyle. There wouldn't be enough left to bury if that were the case. This was no monster who settled the debt, it was the work of man's hands." He brings the knife to his teeth and delicately works it between them. "Have you ever seen one? If you had you would not believe the fairt tales being told by that incompetent mayor." He grabs the knife and holds it aloft. "See this blade? Their fangs are twice as long and thrice as sharp."
"Hey hey, who's the investigator here! Stop bothering this poor man."
"Bothering? Avatar, it's completely obvious, he murdered Quenton!"
"Obvious, you say? I suppose you'll want me to ransack this gentleman's things just to satisfy you?"
"For crying out loud, yes! Hurry up and figure this out before you k-"
"TO THE HOUSE!"
"My God. It's worse than I thought. All the pieces were right in front of me... we've got to stop him!"
"Finally, I thought you'd never realize Michael was-"
"In great danger!"
"You're too late, Steve! You were getting too close to the Rune of Spirituality. I had to stop you somehow!"
"Confound you, death cannon! Everywhere you go you leave death and cannons in your wake!"
"What are you talking about? You told us to walk back inside the house and walk out again after y-"
"He can't be allowed to escape!"
"Don't take another step, Avatar, or the esteemed mayor gets a face full of me!"
"Is there some reason you're talking out of the corner of your mouth?"
"Your honor, hold still! He's crazy!"
"You're talking to a cann-"
"Throw down your armor and nobody gets hurt. Except Marney. And Yorl. And Michael. I mean nobody else gets hurt."
"Alright, I'm dropping the armor."
"Hahahahah! Now you are defenseless! No one can stop me!"
"Oh, but that's where you're wrong. ORT YLEM, ARMOR ARISE!"
"Did you just... did you just cast Animate on your armor?"
"It's two against one, death cannon!"
"You think one suit of magic armor, animated by arcane magics to wander about aimlessly, is going to stop me?"
"Perhaps not... but..."
"We're not alone. The whole building is surrounded!"
"CHEESE IT! You can have your stupid mayor, but mark my words, you'll never find the rune, never!"
"What exactly just happened here?"
"I'm not exactly-"
"Iolo, come on! Help me get out here and kill all these clones!"
"Now pick up the once-animate suits of cloned armor, Dupre."
"This doesn't make any sense."
"Quiet! I'm mere moments from unraveling this entire grisly affair."
"You thought you could collaborate with the cannon, but you forgot: He who lives by the cannon, dies by the cannon!"
"It's making me very uncomfortable the way you're pointing tha-"
"What the HELL!? You just BLEW UP my h-"
"With the cannon's collaborators brought to justice, only one loose end remains."
"Quenton, I know you're dead and everything, but I'm not about to let that stand between us. I could use a man... ghost... thing... and with your daughter, best friend, townsmates, and a couple other people who may or may not have murdered you dead, you have nothing left to live for."
"Well, yes, I mean you couldn't live for them even if you wanted to at this point, but all the more reason to tag along with me."
"You're inviting the ghost of a murdered fisherman to join our party. You're serious."
"Dead serious, Dupre! Hahahahahahhahaha!"
"Oh my God."
"He may not have a body, and he can barely lift more than Sherry, but his complete incorporeality will surely prove useful in our endeavors."
"So, uh, Steve, what... what was the point of all that?"
"It's elementary, my dear Shamino. You see, Quenton had the Rune of Spirituality all along. As its name suggests, it can only be held by a spirit. Quenton was never murdered at all! In fact, he has always been a ghost, but the audience was only aware of this in the climax of the plot. There was no crime at all!"
"What the hell are you talking about? Steve, you paraded around pushing a cannon all over Skara Brae. You blew up Marney, stole the Rune of Spirituality from her father's basket, and shoved her corpse in the chest. Then you had us go back into the house and search it and 'discovered' her body. Then you ran around shooting anyone you could find. There's almost an entire city dead because of you!"
"Have you gone utterly nuts!?"
"Look, I may not be the greatest analytical mind in the so-called legal profession, but I do know one thing."
"If any of you - and I mean, you know, anyone, even Shamino - were to ever mention this incident to anyone else, like ever, I would shove the cannon so far up your ass you'd be coughing black powder."
And that's how I solved the mystery.