Violet

The town of Winchester is filled with many quirks and oddities. Between authors who played at crime scenes and undertakers who wished they were alive, D. I. Knighton is never short of things to investigate. A pall is cast over the town, however, when a sudden rash of killings spread throughout. Will the detective be able to solve the mystery before one of her loved ones becomes the next target?

(Comments, constructive criticism, and theories are welcome and appreciated!)

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5. IV.

     Josephine sighed as she graded yet another failed paper. She detested when her students didn't even try. It seemed every time they got back from a break, they believed that she would give them a chance to adjust. It was that kind of thinking that had caused half her students last semester to have to take her class again. She noted those students had at least tried hard enough to get a passing grade, though some just barely. As she sat the disappointing paper down, she noticed her precious Bellamy curled in a ball and rolling around on the coffee table. She smiled at the adorableness of her pet.

     It had been less than a year since she'd taken Bellamy into her home, and he had quickly made his affections clear. The pygmy rabbit had immediately made himself home in Josephine's heart, and she couldn't think of a time when he hadn't managed to brighten her spirits. The bunny, sensing that he had gained the appropriate reaction from his master, uncurled and tilted his head at her. He laid his ears down flat against his head, his signal that he was hungry. Josephine giggled and sat one of his special treats beside him. His vet had created them especially for Bellamy due to his condition, and the rabbit had apparently taken a liking to them. She'd been instructed that she could give them to him in any amount between meals.

     “You keep this up and you'll be too fat to hop around,” Josephine replied to Bellamy, who had pounced on the offered treat. He puffed his cheeks at her, and she had no doubt that he'd understood what she had said. Bellamy was a smart one.

     She'd found him half dead at a pet store. Runt did not begin to cover the size difference between Bellamy and his siblings. The owner of the pet store had informed her that Bellamy was a birth-defect in general, and that without the proper treatment, he would soon die. His siblings refused to let him drink from their mother, and it was obvious that the tiny body was too weak to fight against them. The owner had stated that he probably wouldn't make it to see the next week. With that in mind, Josephine had bought him and done everything in her power to keep the little rabbit alive.

     It hadn't been cheap. Bellamy's lungs hadn't fully formed, and now it took the form of asthma, and the rabbit would never be any larger than what he was now- who could fit comfortably in a teacup. He was nearly completely blind and would be fully soon enough, though that didn't seem to slow him down any. He also had to have yearly check-ups to insure that he would survive the next. In all honesty, it was a surprise that her little Bellamy was still alive at all, let alone as cheerful as he was. The main question now that his health was in order was if he could breed. Most dwarf rabbits were twice his size, and with all the medicine he'd had to take, it was unsure if he was sterile. Of course, Josephine loved him regardless if he would give her grandchildren. She hadn't gotten him because she'd wanted to breed him, but because he'd seemed to call out to her. She hadn't even wanted a pet until Bell.

     “Just a few more papers and then we'll see if Vi's chariot has come to sweep us away for dinner, okay? Then we'll see what kind of goodies she has that you can nibble on.”

     Bellamy gave her a look that Josephine took as skeptical. She laughed.

     “I'll chop up a carrot and bring it along as well- just in case,” she winked before returning her attention to her work. With her dark hair pushed away from her face by a headband and her thin wire-framed glasses sitting on her nose, Josephine looked older and more sophisticated. Of course, she tried to avoid such a look at all costs. It was so much better to stun people with her wit than with her appearance, and it took less effort.

     “Talking to your mouse again?” a familiar voice joked, and Josephine once again looked up from her papers to find Adam- her oldest friend and mechanic- standing in the doorway of her parlor. It wasn't strange for him to come unannounced, but she did find it strange that he still wore his tool belt. She hadn't noticed anything broken, which meant that he had just left a job and hadn't bothered to go home to change.

     “Bell's a rabbit, not a mouse. Have you eaten?” Josephine asked, trying to figure out what would cause him to stop here first. He rolled his eyes at her first guess.

     “Is that why you think I visit you? For the free food?” he asked with mock hurt in his voice. Josephine had known him too long to think it real.

     “Partially. But since you've turned my offer down, is there a different reason, or is this casual?” She shifted the graded papers off the settee in case Adam wanted to sit, though the idea of him dirty on her clean furniture made her skin crawl. Still, she'd do anything to make sure he was happy and comfortable- especially in her home.

     “Never said I was turning you down,” he grinned. Adam was lean with coppery-blonde hair and hazel eyes that sparkled when he smiled. He was around six-foot-five, but usually tried to seem less intimidating than his height warranted. It was because of that quirk that Josephine usually noticed if something was wrong. She noticed now that he seemed a bit fidgety and knew it meant he'd done something he thought would disappoint her. She sighed, removing her glasses. She swore it was easier keeping Bellamy out of trouble.

     “What did you do?” she asked instead of engaging in their normal banter. Adam gave her a sheepish grin and scratched the back of his head with one hand and reaching into his tool belt with the other.

     “Well, I met this noble today...” He pulled out a silver bracelet, and Josephine's eyes widened. “I swear I didn't mean to! I wasn't thinking and she was just so princess-y and I just sort of... reverted?”

     “Is that a question?” Josephine asked in the same tone she reserved for her less attentive students. Adam took a deep breath and looked her square in the eyes before thinking better of it and letting his gaze fall to Bellamy, who was watching him. The bunny gave him a pitying twitch of his nose before he hopped off to find his own brand of mischief.

     “It won't happen again, Josie. I swear. I want to return it myself, but you know what they'll do to me if they find out someone like me stole from a noble.”

     He gave her his best puppy-dog face despite knowing that Josephine preferred rabbits. Because it was Adam, she caved.

     “Who's the noble?”

Adam beamed at her and ran over to give her a hug. Despite her loud nature, Josephine blushed at the contact. “I think she was Lady Rumblefellow.” Josephine pushed away from him, her face twisted in irritation.

     “That two-faced marquess that used to visit your orphanage?”

     Adam nodded and Josephine suppressed the urge to groan. She did not want to deal with a spoiled, pampered, entitled brat like Lady Rumblefellow. It was girls like her that gave men the idea that women could be sated by expensive gifts and cheap words. The bracelet she now held was probably a gift from a suitor. Josephine racked her mind for any mindless gossip that her students loved to spout about the nobles, wondering if any had spoken about Lady Rumblefellow being engaged. Though she couldn't recall anything, it didn't mean that it didn't exist, and the gravity of Adam's actions weighed heavily on her shoulders. She knew that her friend was occasionally compulsed to steal from the more-fortunate, but this was ridiculous. People like the marquess didn't hesitate to throw orphans like Adam into prison immediately- if not call for an execution. Josephine bit her lip.

     “I'm having dinner with Detective Inspector Violet Knighton tonight at her home. I'll return the bracelet to her and let her work through the necessary channels to get it back to the marquess without any contact from us.”

     Adam gave her another grateful hug before she pushed him off and pinned him with a scathing glare.

     “Adam Ashleigh O' Lorman, if I so much as smell another stolen item on you from now on, I will hand you over to the authorities myself. Do I make myself clear?”

     He still wore his stupid grin as he nodded in gratitude. Josephine sighed, her anger leaving with her breath. She could never stay angry at him, which was dangerous in the sense that he always managed to give her something to be angry about.

     “I swear I'll make it up to you,” he beamed before heading toward her kitchen. She sighed again before starting back with her papers. This time of day, her cook Rosa was there, so she didn't need to accompany him. She grimaced as she gave another failing grade. It did not hint at a good quarter.

 

***

 

     A man rushed down a darkened alleyway. The sun had set only an hour before, but it marked how late he was. The train had been thirty minutes late arriving, setting him back even further. The class was surely over, but hopefully Professor Adderdale was still in her office. At the least maybe he could beg a make-up assignment out of her. He ran down another alley before an arm shot out, catching him at the throat and knocking him to the ground. He gasped for air as he looked for his assailant.

     Shadows danced around his vision as a gloved hand reached out toward him. “Filthy dog,” a dark voice growled. “You don't deserve her.” The man had no idea who the voice meant. He felt a tight grip around his neck as his air was cut off and his world began to dim.

 

***

 

     Violet lived on the outskirts of town in a large brownstone she shared with Christian. It had been an engagement gift from his father, though Violet suspected it more from his sister Catherine than the father who believed that his son was a fool for marrying her. He believed that a woman had no business in the law profession and wanted his son to settle down with someone like Jane. Catherine on the other hand thought Violet was the coolest thing in the world since ice. She often came to visit and the two would chat like sisters late into the night when Christian had to work late at the hospital and she didn't have a pressing case to handle. It was the closest to a family Violet had felt in a long time. Though she took a lot of pride in her independence, Violet appreciated the warmth Christian's family offered. A low meow pulled her out of such thoughts.

     She looked down to see Bastille circling around her feet. Once he realized he had her attention, he sat down and stared at her with his piercing green eyes. He gave a loud meow that signified that he was bored.

     “Don't worry, Bas. Jo and Bellamy are coming, and you can play with him before dinner.”

     That only seemed to make the cat more anxious as he stood and fell over. Violet rolled her eyes at his dramatics.

     “You are not going to die of boredom. I've already sent the carriage. They should be here in a few minutes or so.”

     Bastille stood once more and promptly fell again. He repeated this several times before rolling around on the floor. Violet had to suppress her laughter at his behavior. He was certainly something different. She'd found him at a crime scene nearly four years ago. He'd been startling skinny, but Violet hadn't missed the intelligence in his eyes. Something had told her to take him, so she had. Except for a few exceptions, she had never regretted taking him in. He was very clean and considerate for a cat, and he wouldn't hurt a fly unless it struck first. The only exception to that apparently being Christian's cat Sylvia. Bas hated her with nothing less than extreme prejudice. On the days where they didn't fight, he ignored her completely. There were times when Violet even had to separate them to make sure she wouldn't come home to a bloodbath. To make it worse, Christian thought it amusing. He said that like Bas, Sylvia normally wouldn't hurt anyone. She played with mice and such, but she was really friendly toward people. They'd gotten along the first few months, but something had apparently happened between them. She felt ridiculous assuming such, though.

     “If you're so bored, why don't you go play with Sylv?” Violet joked, knowing what his reaction would be.

     Bastille sat up indignantly and stuck his tail up at her in offense. He stalked off, probably to brood.

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