Chapter 9: Steam City
Location: Kanesville, in the dormitory
Timeline: Day 4
Slam! Slam! Slam! The entrance door to the dormitory was being hit with a battering ram. The yelling of militia soldiers permeated the entire building. Quickly the door flew off its hinges. A bunch of militia men entered followed by a large man with a bulbous belly. He walked proudly, chest first, making the jiggle of his belly all the more noticeable.
“You four, remain here and survey the entrance! Nobody exits without being accompanied by one of us. You three, follow me. I don’t expect anybody making suicidal bravery acts, but with these foreigners one never knows. The rest of you, align in the proper formation and let’s go! We need to find those four!”
Maraea had been following the militia to the dormitory. She left her private quarters and watched the militia from the shadows. She decided to continue to stay out of sight, but had her revolver aimed at the soldiers guarding the entrance.
The man eyed the various shadows around the room. One looked suspect, but he couldn't quite put his finger on it. He got the attention of a soldier, snapped his fingers, and coughed twice. The soldier tapped a fellow member's shoulder and they began to head to the dark shadow on their left.
The three militia men and their leader began to search the surrounding area only to find the door to one of the bathroom doors locked. Kicking it opened, they began to search.
"Look at the air vent over there. See anything?"
"It's sealed shut. See?" One soldier pointed out the seal to another, "So no one is up there."
Melisande sighed, but still pointed her revolver at the opening of the vent. Her paranoia from two days ago came in handy as it prepared her for this. She felt grateful that she was in the bathroom at the time the militia entered the building. It, unlike the workshop room, had an air vent. It was simple enough in her line of work, especially with her fondness of welding with alchemy, to unseal and reseal the vent. Still, her hand twitched as she saw the men leave the room.
As the man walked the main hall, he noticed someone he found particularly suspicious, "Joseph Spire, lead investigator and main prosecutor of the vaudeville murder cases. Tell me your full name and what are you doing in Kanesville. We can do it here or my men and I can take you to the militia station. Your choice.”
Joseph barely managed to finish speaking when an empty bottle flew past his head and crashed against the wall behind him. “Who’s askin’?!” Carol shouted with a drunken slur to her voice. “Ol’ Carol ain’t answer ta’ nobody!” she continued, absent-mindedly reaching for another bottle on the shelf next to her as she did.
"I have half the mind to arrest you for assault of an officer right here!" Other militia raised their guns at the woman, but he motioned them to put them down, "Now, Carol, I am looking for three men and a woman. The men go by Santiago Moreno, Faizel Naji, Leftheris Vunos. We only have a first name on the woman, Melisande. Do they live here? When was the last time you saw them?"
Carol took a swig from her new bottle and scratched the side of her head. “Wha?” she questioned, unconcerned with that fact she’d nearly gotten shot. “Who’s lookin’ for what?” Carol stated bluntly as she picked a bit of fuzz out of her hair and flicking it off to the side. “Do ya’ think I look like someone who knows that kinda thing, eh?” The woman chugged a good portion of the contents of her bottle. “How ‘bout ya’ buzz off!”
Joseph glared at the woman, "Noted miss. Come on, men. We have work to do."
As he walked away he whispered to a soldier, "Be sure to keep track of this woman as long as these people are here."
They finally got to the upstairs area where other soldiers had the crew subdued. Chago and Leftheris were among the people there. Chago was still trying the accords for the song on his guitar, availing himself of the opportunity that Miyra was not there, as he had still a few verses to arrange on the tune. They were asked to say their names and age, and they did. The militia men snickered. These were two of the men they were looking for.
“We arrived from Harling Pass by coach convoy and we are waiting here only for the train to go to Columbus City. Looking for work there,” Leftheris said.
“Yes, we came together with the same coach convoy,” Chago added.
“Where were you 48 hours ago, with whom, and what were you doing? Try to describe your day as carefully as possible.” Joseph glared.
Now Leftheris realized quickly what it was about. Routine questions for investigating a murder. In their case, four murders, as he had been the one to read the newspaper aloud.
“The other day we spent the morning in town, doing shopping for our upcoming trip,” Leftheris said. “I was with Chago here and with Faizel Naji. After wandering through town, we went to a vaudeville show. We spent a while there, I think it was early afternoon when we left band we returned to the dormitory. I hadn't left anymore since then until this morning, when I went downtown with new errands, about nine o’clock. I returned a couple of hours ago.”
The master gunner didn't know how else to gloss over what had happened in the dormitory yesterday. But even if he was asked, how Melisande had heard the facts was a good version for the authorities too. Kevin had left. It wouldn't have helped to rat out the captain and find themselves all the crew hanged for piracy while she was executed for murder. And this surely wouldn't make the late quartermaster come back from the dead.
At his turn, Chago answered for the part which wasn't covered by the common program with Leftheris.
“I returned to the vaudeville hall in the afternoon, together with Melisande. Mademoiselle Giselle Pons was waiting for us, as we had agreed. We worked together at a song, then we left when it was her turn on the scene. Afterwards, Melisande and I split ways. I had wandered for more than one hour in the town, by myself, before returning here. It is so different than most places I know!”
In fact, he had wanted to be alone for a little while, to gather his thoughts how to present the song which was starting to take shape to Miyra. This town was different, but not in a good way. Not enough greenery, not enough air, he felt constricted, suffocated both by the environment and by his own thoughts. He looked forward for their departure.
Now that Melisande had told him about the breaking news in the newspaper, he regretted the more than one hour spent in solitude. He was aware that, if they were looking for a suspect, it was the man who had no alibi for that time.
“Who did you talk to at the Vaudeville Revue?” Joseph pretended to be disinterested, but began to eye the luggage by the beds the two men were sitting on.
Both Leftheris and Chago answered truthfully, while one of the men was noting down their answers.
“Search their luggage. Both of theirs!” Joseph ordered, “And you, search them and put on the table everything you find on them!”
Leftheris threw a thunderous gaze to them, without opposing to the search. He knew he was innocent. One man was searching his luggage, which comprised another set of clothes, weapons well packed, which had been clearly unused for a long while, a book, a notebook which contents nobody could decipher, but the last number which should have been a date was clearly more than one week ago. In his pockets, besides coins, a handkerchief and a sort of a strange necklace of amber there was nothing either.
Chago’s navaja, hidden in his boot, raised the most interest of the Militia men. They studied it and said tentatively, “It could be the weapon of the murder. That blade was also of this shape, we should check.”
The ring in his pocket, clearly meant for a woman, was also suspicious.
“Take it, go to the vaudeville hall and ask those who knew one of the female victims if she had such a ring.”
Useless to explain that he had bought it in Harling Pass and he waited for a favourable moment to propose to Miyra.
“Commander, look what I found! He is our man!” the enthusiastic militia man provided the results of his search of Chago’s luggage.
Chago looked in disbelief at two items he knew well he hadn't put there: a woman’s earring of a peculiar shape and another navaja, sturdier, the kind the mule drivers had, with traces of blood on it.
“These aren't mine!” he protested.
Who to believe him, when they were found in his luggage?
“This is enough for now! The remaining interrogation will take place in our headquarters, with you under arrest. Santiago Moreno, you are arrested in the name of the law, on charge of four murders! Put the handcuffs to him!”