While Telbarisk and Anla had held pleasant conversations in Elvish, Al had been thinking about the case. He was pleased to say that the grivven was innocent. It seemed unfathomable that someone so foreign to these lands would waltz into a small town, murder a man, and have the cunning to sneak around to the opposite entrance to walk through. In fact, someone who did the last wouldn’t be cunning at all. Telbarisk could have run north and be well away from Wiyok before a posse could gather. He seemed too smart to do such a thing.
His whole demeanor told Al he was innocent, too. Al knew that he couldn’t use a gut feeling or anecdotes in court- there was a liar somewhere in this circus- but it went a long way to making him feel like he was doing the right thing. Why would a man feign innocence on a murder, but admit to another with shame?
Finally, after a few hours, the wagon stopped, the chains removed, and the doors flung open. Al winced at the bright light and held an arm up to shield his eyes. He clomped down the stairs and lent an arm to Anla as he looked around.
They were in the small city of Carvek and in front of a wide building with the sign of Uvarna: a feather encircled with a chain done in grays and reds. Alpine noted that there were no gallows on the premises, or else there would be a set of fangs on either side of the signet. At least if he failed they had a sporting chance to rescue Telbarisk from the jail before he was executed.
The street was filled with people. Around the wagon was a small crowd of people, including the two magistrates who had tried to hang Telbarisk earlier. Most looked wary from the travel. Those that met his eyes frowned or looked away after narrowing their eyes. He told himself that he wasn’t going to make friends nor be popular today, whether he won the case or not.
A jailer from the temple met them and shackled Telbarisk, this time with metal manacles linked with ornamental chains that were wavy instead of straight. Alpine stayed to the grivven’s right side. There were at least few lawyeral procedures he knew offhand.
“We’re going to go inside,” he said to Telbarisk as they walked up the stairs, “and you’ll be placed in a cell while Anladet and I gather as much information as possible. Then, if there are no other trials, yours will start in an hour or two. You’ll sit quietly until someone asks you a series of questions. Answer them truthfully and briefly. Do you understand?”
Telbarisk nodded as they entered the building. It was two stories high and set flush with the street. Tel was taken left and down a set of stairs while Anla and Al walked forward down a hallway. Their soft-soled shoes were the only ones that didn’t echo on the richly tiled floor.
They were escorted to a room to the right. It was small, albeit important in its function. Here, Al would report to the case and offer his services to Telbarisk, on behalf of the goddess Uvarna. Before them was a robed clerk who sat behind a desk.
“Name?” the clerk asked and Al already found himself in trouble. Only wizards were given a natural given name with a color surname combination. In fact, it was illegal to give your child a forename that involved something involving the outdoors. It was a way for wizards to differentiate themselves immediately from the regular population. And to gain respect, Alpine had realized sometime recently. He couldn’t give his wizard name.
He cleared his throat. “Dominek Choudril.”
“And you’re licensed to practice law in Sharka?”
“No. My license holds in Quisset only.”
The clerk looked up and over her spectacles. “Then we cannot proceed unless you have your license with you.”
“I’m on vacation with my wife,” he said, gesturing to Anladet. “I have none of my documents, notes, research, or books with me.” When the clerk frowned and sat back at her desk, Al put a little pressure on her. “I’m taking the case as pro bono. My wife is already upset that I’m cutting into our travel time. If you’d prefer I step down and allow one of the clergy to take over as my client’s representation, I’d feel it was in Her divine grace and would feel very grateful.”
The clerk’s eyes darted back and forth as she thought about this. It would have to be someone, now that the wheels were in motion, and whomever it was did not please the clerk. “I suppose if you could give me the name of your practice, your city, and your sponsor, if you’re still under moderation, than that would be sufficient.”
“Clathem, Choudril, and Simmers in Condreyin. I’m fully licensed.”
She rose and passed him a very thin folder. “Here is the docket of information we have about your case.” Inside was just one handwritten page. “Your trial begins in one hour.”
“I don’t suppose we could have a delay due to the recent nature of the events?”
“One hour,” she repeated.
One hour was a pitiful amount of time to prepare. He didn’t show his disappointment that the trial wasn’t delayed, though, for it would look unprofessional. In fact, he had to admire the efficiency of the situation even though it didn’t benefit him.
He took the page and was escorted by the clerk to the defense lawyer’s personal room a few hallways down. When they were alone, Anladet looked at Alpine. “Dominek Choudril?”
He looked around the room dramatically. “It’s my birth name.”
“Yes, actually. My grandparents on both sides were from there. Now, let me read this. The deceased, Myr. Magen Layock of Wiyok, Sharka, was found deceased in his home this morning by Mr. Akort Blecal, who had a meeting scheduled with the mayor.‘ A meeting early in the morning, in the mayor’s house, on a Monday? That’s odd.”
“Maybe the mayor is a busy man?” Anla offered.
“Seems like something to keep in mind. ‘Mr. Blecal claims to have seen a tall man leaving the mayor’s house, running into the woods behind his property. He later identified the accused as the man he saw.‘ That doesn’t seem concrete enough. He claims a man with one feature is the culprit and points out someone who happens to fit that one description. That could have been just about anyone.”
Anla folded her arms on top of the desk and sank her head slightly. “So, the man who found the mayor dead, a murdered mayor, just so happens to be the one person who can identify the killer? Gosh, how convenient for this Akort guy.”
“Yes, I think he’s going to be the first person I’d like to talk to.” Alpine flipped over the paper, then turned it back. “It was too much to hope that someone jotted some notes as to how Layock was found.”
“That I don’t understand. What does it matter? He’s dead. He was stabbed.”
“Well, walk yourself through the crime as if you were the killer. Say our mayor is of average height, a few inches taller than me. You want to kill him and you only have a knife to do so. What would you do?”
Anladet rubbed her lips with her two joined pointer fingers. “I would sneak up and stab him in the back?”
“Yes, good. If he was stabbed in the front, especially a lower thrust into his digestive area, it would indicate the killer knew the person. As the culprit, you’d want to surprise your victim and keep them unsuspecting as long as you can. You can tell a lot about how a man died by how many times he was stabbed and where and if there are any errant cuts elsewhere. Did the victim struggle with the culprit? Was it a crime of passion or was it planned?”
“Um, Al? Would you be upset if I offered some thoughts on the matter?”
He put the paper down. “Actually, I would love a different perspective. Neither of us have any experience with this. I learned some law in the base curriculum at Amandorlam, but it’s not nearly enough to win this case. We’re partners.”
“Thank you,” she said, smiling. “So, you just said that someone who knows the mayor would stab him in the front, but someone who doesn’t would stab him in the back. I don’t think that’s going to help us either way.”
“Why do you say that?”
“Well, our prime suspect so far is Akort. He was having a meeting with the mayor and was likely the last person to see him alive. Is that intimate or not? Would someone like that stab from the front or the back?”
“That’s a good point,” he said, leaning back in his chair. “You need a lot more information before it becomes something tangible. When was the mayor stabbed? Where in the house? What was he doing? Those are all valuable missing pieces. Akort could have been having a nice conversation with Layock when he suddenly stabbed him. Or he may have snuck up on him in the middle of the night.”
Anla took one of the pieces of paper and the fountain pen on the desk and began writing down all the questions. “What else do we need to do?”
“Well, we can explain how someone killed the mayor for days, but if we don’t explain why, then we lose. It’s called a ‘motive’, the reason why he was killed. Could be anger, could be jealousy, but usually there’s some trail that leads you back to why it happened.”
He shook his head. “Too early to tell. I bet they’ll be some small town politics involved.”
“Okay, so motive and information about the murder. Anything else?”
“I think praying will help,” he said, smiling weakly.
“Al, have some confidence. You’re the man who convinced the Duke of Sharka that we didn’t kidnap his daughter and to pay us the reward when he didn’t want to.”
“One small victory. All the books I’ve read and classes I’ve taken aren’t going to help me out. I don’t think I have the instincts it takes to solve things on my feet. It’s one thing to win debates in a classroom and another to win an actual legal case. I just hope I don’t get him killed.”
Anla placed her hands over his right. “Telbarisk and I talked a lot about kouriya on the way over. I can assure you that he has all of his faith in you. And I know you’re brilliant. I believe you’ll solve this.”
“Thank you,” he said, rising from his seat. “I’ll feel better once we start interviewing people. Let’s go.”