There's not a lot of love for Tieflings in the city of Cordera; most people just don't trust them. There is even less love for a Teifling that sticks his nose in other peoples business, but I had to find some way to pay the bills and seeing as how I wasn't much of a dancer, I found work as a private eye.
My office, if you could call it that, was sandwiched between two much larger buildings on the street. Blink and you miss it. On one side was a blacksmith whose forge was conveniently located right outside. The forge kept my office warm all year round. It was great in the winter time, less so during the summer.
Contrary to popular belief, Teiflings to not do well in the heat; we get cranky just like anyone else.
An apothecary sat on the other side of my building and provided me with a medley of strange odors though out the day. It was far from perfect but rent was cheap and I was a man of simple needs.
The inside of my office was just as cramped as it appeared from the road. My secretary's desk sat in the front of the office to greet potential clients, while my desk sat at the back, separated by a makeshift wooden wall and door to give the illusion of privacy.
The walls were bare and there were no windows on except for one at the back which did little to let in natural light. Candles and my own enchantments made up for the lack of light.
Ms. Mouskawicz kept the place as clean as she could, while tending to other needs around the place and generally doing her best to keep my head above water or out of the fire.
I didn't pay her enough for all she did, but she would be the first to tell me that.
What she lacked in size, she more than made up for in spirit and dedication. More than once I had been on the wrong side of Ms. Mouskawicz's anger it is was something to behold. She had gone home for the evening and I was alone.
A ball of magical light bobbed up and down above my desk as I went over notes for a case I was working on, doing my best to stretch out my time on the case; I was paid by the hour after all.
This case was open and shut though. Most times people come to me hoping that their gut instinct is wrong and that their perfect hubby or wife isn't cheating on them with a barmaid but that's rarely the case.
Nor was it the case for this one but at twenty gold an hour, I wanted to make sure I had every detail I could for my customers.
I leaned back and rolled out a cigarette and snapped a flame at my finger tips to light it. The smoke cut as I inhaled and I watched the magical light shimmer through the smoke. I should have gone home hours ago and gotten some rest. Or looking for more work, or anything else that would have been more productive then sitting around on my ass.
There was a sudden knock on my door causing me to almost fall backwards out of my chair. My heart pounded and I remained quite for a moment before a second knock sounded.
"We're closed!" I shouted, "Hours are posted on the window!"
I squinted at the frosted, gold tinted window at the office door. The glass was cracked but in big bold letters it read "Nicholas L. Crowely, Private Investigator". Through the glass I could make out a figure pacing back and forth, their shadow cast by the gaslights on the street.
I stood up and carefully made my way to the door, readying a spell in my hand. Call me paranoid but you try having your head thrown against your own office window once or twice and see how you feel about late night visitors.
I cracked the door slowly, just enough to peer outside, and saw a woman standing at the curb. Her arms wrapped around her and she paced nervously.
I could tell that she had some elven blood in her by her build, long and slender with golden eyes and a fair complexion but shorter and with rounded ears of a human. Half elf maybe.
"Can I help you, Miss?" I asked, causing her to jump slightly.
She turned to face me, her expression changing from shock to concern as she studied me carefully, "Are you... Mister Crowley?" She asked, a hint of apprehension in her tone as her eyes glanced over me.
I was used to the looks. Teiflings aren't what one might consider to be classically handsome; what with the horns and forked tongue. Generally speaking, most people held us with a certain amount of contempt. They must think that we are demons or pure evil. Though, as a whole, we were no more evil than the other races.
Of course try telling that to the gentile.
"Yes ma'am." I said straightening up slightly, "I am, unfortunately I'm closed for the evening." I explained, "You are welcome to come back tomorrow morning though."
"Oh but it can't wait!" She exclaimed as she took a step forward, "Please, I will only be a moment." She had a desperate look on her face, one that could not have been put on as part of an act.
Against my better judgement, I opened the door wide, "As you wish." I said, gesturing inside the office. She moved swift passed me and I caught the scent of lavender wafting from her robes.
I followed behind her and flicked my hands at the candles around the room, sparking them to life.
The woman stood in the center of the room, the candlelight casting dancing shadows on her pale skin. She clutched a small bag to her chest.
"Can I get you anything?" I asked, walking over to a cabinet, "Tea, or wine?" Naming the only two suitable and palatable items in the office.
She held up her hand. "That's no necessary." She said.
"Okay than," I said walking over to my desk and pull a chair out for her to sit, she did and I circled around the desk to sit across from her, "What can I do for you miss..." My voice trailed off.
"Seers," She said, "Vera Seers."
She took a deep breath and held her gaze down at her hands, "It's my husband." She said, "He died several days ago."
I pulled out a piece of paper and began to take notes, "Start from the beginning." I said softly.
"Charles worked for the high court as an advisor to the wizards." Vera explained, her voice soft and restrained, "He wasn't magically gifted but he excelled in alchemy and potion making." I scribbled my notes as she spoke, her gaze never leaving her hands, "Before he died, something seemed to be bothering him. He grew distant and cold.
He started to talk about leaving the city and made it sound like we were going into hiding." Vera's voice began to crack and I could see tears starting to pool in her eyes, "He told me, the night before he died, that he was going to turn in his resignation..." Her voice faded.
I reached into my desk and pulled out a clean handkerchief for her to use, with which she dabbed her eyes. "How did it happen?" I asked.
Vera took another breath and collected herself slightly, "They found him in his lab, his wrists were slit." Her voice was dry, almost emotionless and raw, "The authorities said that it was self inflicted."
"And I'm guessing that you have issues with that explanation." I said, studying Vera's expression.
"The investigation was so quick." She said, "They did not take a statement from me about his behavior before his death and they refused to open any investigation.
" There was a bitter resenting tone growing in her voice, "I even went so far as to visit the high court myself, to speak to the magistrate in person but he refused to see me." The corners of her mouth twisted slightly into the hint of a sneer.
"Ms. Seers, I'm not sure what I can do for you." I said, looking over my notes, "The high court is...well the high court." She brought her gaze up to meet mine.
Her eyes were still swimming with tears but beneath them I could see the rage and desperation that had been building up.
"I don't need you to go against the high court." She explained, her words were harder now, driven. "I just need evidence that I can use to get an investigation open. Once I have the evidence, I can take it from there." She said, "Please, Mister Crowley."
I heaved a sigh, "My fee is twenty gold an hour plus expenses." I said.
Vera placed a coin purse on the desk, "An advance. A weeks worth of pay plus extra."
I felt my eyes widen at the hefty amount of coin that had just been dropped onto my desk but there was one nagging detail on my brain. Why did she intend to pay me in advance?
"Are you planning on going somewhere, Ms. Seers?" I asked.
"I'm leaving town for now. I don't feel safe." Vera explained. "I will send a raven for you in a few days time and we can reconvene then." She stood up and I followed her to the door of my office. "Thank you Mister Crowley." She said.
"Please, Nick." I said, extending my hand. She hesitated but grasped it delicately with a shake. "I'll look for your raven. I'll try and have something for you by then." I said, opening the door for her. She glided passed me and off down the road. My eyes lingered on her for a moment as she disappeared from sight and I closed the door.
I returned back to my desk and opened the coin purse Vera had left there. Counting it out, it was just over seven hundred gold. Enough for me to pay Ms. Mouscawicz what I owed her plus put some food on the table for the next few days.
Vera Seers was a grieving widow, no doubt about it but she tells a compelling story.
The high court, for all their flaws is a government body after all, and what kind of government body turns down a chance for more bureaucracy by refusing an investigation.
Unless of course there was something more to Charles Seer's death.
I reviewed the notes I took on Vera and her case. The best place to start would be the court wizards and finding out what kind of work was being done.
It sounds harder than it is, court wizards are sworn to secrecy regarding their projects, but they are still people at the end of the day, people prone to gossip and slip-ups.
Not to mention it helps if you knew one of those wizards already and knew exactly where you might find them at this time of night.