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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6. V.

     Violet's home was more of a castle than a town house. Josephine always thought so. It was suiting for the woman who acted more like a queen than an officer. The coachman had offered to take Josephine's coat and bag after helping her from the carriage, but she'd turned him down. He was new, which meant he didn't know that she utterly despised anyone waiting on her hand and foot. The only servants she allowed in her home were her cook and the housekeeper, both of which had been under her family's employ since she was a small girl. It was more out of respect than need that she kept them.

     “But, miss, the lady would be very displeased with me if I allowed you to carry such a burden,” the coachman tried as Josephine made her way to the doorway. She noted that neither Violet nor Christian had bothered planting any flowers, leaving the grounds practically stark. She tutted at her friends' lack of beauty. They really ought to know better. She'd have to have a word with them during dinner. Of course, that was if she ever made it to dinner. After she revealed the bracelet that Adam had taken, Violet might just arrest her without offering her a single morsel.

     That was a disappointing thought.

     The coachman opened the door for her, and Josephine breathed in the wonderful smell of lily. At least Violet had class inside of her home.

     “Miss-”

     “If you are so determined to remove me of my belongings, sir, you may have my coat, but mind you, I do not part with my bag. If you continue on with your witless pleading, I may just run you over with your own horse.”

     She heard a low whistle and turned to see Christian grinning at her. At twenty-six, he was one of her oldest friends. His black hair was combed out and away from his face and complimented his lovely blue eyes. He stood at six-three and looked a lot healthier than Josephine had seen him other times. He looked to be in a good-natured mood as he waved off the offended coachman.

     “What's eating you, Jo?” he asked as he walked over and kissed her on the cheek. He took her coat and dared her to fuss about it with his eyes. She didn't. She had no problem making him work for her.

     “I apologize,” she said simply instead of telling him of her day. It was something she only wanted to disclose to Violet, despite Christian being very dear to her. He was the only one she trusted to watch Bellamy now while she was seeing the doctor herself. Though he was a pediatrician, he was always quite gentle with her beloved bunny. Bellamy seemed to love being around him, though that could also be because he could smell Bastille on him. A loud meow broke through her musing, and she smiled. “Summoned by thought, Bas?” she asked as she opened her bag and pulled out Bellamy.

     The cat sat as still as a statue as she sat him on the floor in front of him. He watched as Bell sniffed the air and then hopped toward him. Bas licked the top of his head before grabbing him by his scruff and carrying him away.

     “Be careful with him, Bastille!” Josephine called after them. “Don't be late for dinner.”

     “You sound like a worried mother,” Christian chuckled, and Josephine smiled at him knowingly.

     “When will I get to be a worried godmother?”

     His chuckle turned into nervous coughs as he scratched the back of his head. “I-I um... Vi... I'm preparing dinner tonight.”

     Josephine gave him an easy smile that said that he was off the hook. For now. “What am I to look forward to tasting then?”

     “Well, for appetizers, I've prepared miniature Bedfordshire clangers with toasted apple slices sprinkled with cinnamon, and treacle tarts with Spanish chocolate drizzled over them. For dinner, I have cooked lamb in the venison way with stewed carrots and potatoes, chicken with cream and parsley, and Yorkshire pudding. For dessert-”

     “My goodness, Christian,” Josephine interrupt as they began walking through the house, “Do you plan on serving the queen tonight?”

     “Violet is my queen,” he beamed proudly. “And it is so rare that we get to dine together.”

     A stab of guilt hit Josephine as she realized she was probably interrupting their free time, but then she remembered that Violet had invited her. She hadn't really imposed.

     “So, for dessert, I've prepared saffron cake with clotted cream and black cakes. I've also made a small carrot cake for Bell, since he so violently rejected the meal I made last time.”

     It was Josephine's turn to laugh nervously as she recalled Bellamy trashing their last dinner together because he'd disliked the food. It was the first time she'd ever seen him misbehave so violently, and she hadn't known what to make of it. It wasn't until Bastille had pounced on him and drug him out of the room that anyone could find words to speak. Granted, they had all laughed, but it had still lead Josephine to take Bell to the doctor to ensure he hadn't hurt himself or something was wrong. His vet had said that aside from the fact that he'd accidentally eaten some meat, he couldn't find anything wrong with him.

     “I am sorry for that. He's been an angel ever since though,” Josephine smiled as she was lead into the parlor. Christian offered her a seat and she took it. “Where's Violet?”

     “In the study. I'll go get her so that you two can chat about whatever you don't want to speak to me about.”

     “Christian!” Josephine frowned, but he simply smiled and walked off. She sighed and looked around their parlor.

     Like Josephine, they didn't have any automaton servants, but they did enjoy the occasional clockwork device. There were two little clockwork dolls that waltzed together whenever you wound them sitting on their mantle above their ornate fireplace. Everything about their parlor was decorative. She doubted either of her busy-body friends would have had the time to do such work, and Josephine guessed that it was the work of Violet's future sister-in-law.

     From what Josephine knew of her, Catherine was an intelligent girl. Just recently eighteen, she was already studying to become a veterinarian- to her father's chagrin. He had hoped that his daughter would settle down and leave the doctor work to her older brother. Josephine hoped that there would be a day where she would take her class. With a father and a brother as doctors, she was certain that Catherine would be able to afford it. It would definitely be interesting to teach a Hall.

     “Hi, Jo. Was your trip pleasant?” Violet asked absentmindedly as she walked into the room. Her hair was tied back and she was staring at what Josephine guessed to be a police report. She looked up only to find a seat across from her in a soft-looking armchair, and then her attention returned to the paper.

     “A new case?” Josephine asked, already reaching in her purse for her pen and paper. Her latest novel was missing a nice little twist, and she knew that Violet was good for giving her one.

     “You could say that. Marquess Rumblefellow had a bracelet stolen earlier today, and she wouldn't stop calling me until I promised to find it for her. The only lead she could give me was that her thief had once lived at Laura Hope Orphanage. They just sent over a list off all the boys who have aged out over the last five years.”

     Josephine sucked in a breath, making Violet look up. She glared at the professor who suddenly wore a sheepish grin.

     “You do not have anything to do with this.”

     Josephine didn't reply and Violet groaned.

     “But she reported that a male stole it. Did you hire someone?”

     Josephine's eyes suddenly widened and she shook her head.

     “I didn't have anything to do with it being stolen, but I know who stole it. They feel bad about it and gave it to me to give to you,” Josephine replied as she pulled out the delicate-looking bracelet from her purse. Violet took it quickly and wiped it down with a handkerchief that she produced from seemingly no where.

     “Who stole it?”

     “I can't tell you that.”

     “Jo, this is serious. If someone is stealing from nobles, they need to be punished.”

     “And I can't let you hurt him, Vi.”

     The look on Josephine's face made her friend groan. She wrapped the bracelet in the handkerchief and put it in her pocket. She knew that look on her face. She'd seen it on so many wives of thieves, rapists, and murderers. They were so blinded by love that they couldn't see the wrong that their loved ones committed. They couldn't fathom it. It usually led horribly for them, but Violet decided not to tell Josephine this. Jo wasn't like those other women who were devoted to their men. As far as Violet knew, Josephine had never even shown an interest in men. She certainly hadn't relied on them for anything. So maybe her friend knew what she was doing. She could only hope.

“Let's go eat dinner,” Violet sighed, and Josephine gave her a grateful smile for dropping the subject.

 

***

 

     “Chris...Do you think you went overboard?” Josephine and Violet asked as they sat at the dinner table. All the food couldn't fit on the table made for four, so some had to remain in the kitchen. Christian gave an embarrassed laugh and scratched the back of his head.

     “It's been a while since I was able to just enjoy cooking at home instead of going out to a restaurant. I guess I got a little trigger-happy with it.” Both women laughed and then began to eat.

     The food truly was divine, and Josephine wondered quietly if Adam could cook. Not that it mattered, of course. He was her mechanic. As long as he knew how to fix whatever broke in her home, it didn't matter if he could cook or not.

     “Christian, where did you learn to cook so well?” Josephine asked to get her mind away from Adam.

     Christian had just finished swallowing when she asked, and now he wore another embarrassed smile as he looked down at his plate. Josephine noticed the loving smile on Violet's face, and knew that it was a rare occurrence for an outsider to see it. When Christian looked up and saw it, his face instantly flushed but he didn't look away.

     “When I was younger, I would hide in the kitchen to keep from dealing with the tutor my father hired for me. Our cook, Ms. Pane, eventually got fed up with me and said that if I was going to keep skipping my lessons, she was going to teach me.”

     “She sounds lovely,” Josephine smiled at him and noticed a small black ball heading toward her. She looked down to see Bellamy looking at her with his large, unseeing eyes. She was about to scoop him up, but Bastille beat her to it. He grabbed the small bunny by his scruff and stood on his hind legs to place him in Josephine's lap. She smiled at the intelligence of the cat and gave him a quick scratch behind his ears. “That was quite gentlemanly of you, Bastille. Thank you.”

     He purred before landing back on all fours. He looked to Christian expectantly, and the young man rolled his eyes at his fiancee's strange cat.

     “I also made Bellamy a carrot cake, Jo,” Christian stated before standing and heading into the kitchen. Violet couldn't suppress the giggle that made its way to her lips, which caused Josephine to laugh too. Christian flushed but didn't stop.

     “He's precious, Vi,” Josephine stated after finally reigning in her laughter. Violet beamed at her, another rare occurrence. “I hope my godchildren will be like that.”

     Violet didn't miss the hint, but she chose not to comment as she took a sip of her wine. It had been a gift from Josephine, and it certainly didn't disappoint. It again made her question exactly who was Josephine Adderdale. What class did she teach? What school did she teach at? How had she found herself in Winchester and how did she seemingly know every resident of the city?

     “You have that face,” Josephine stated before taking a sip of her own wine.

     “What face?” Violet asked indignantly.

     “The face you wear when you're on a case.”

     “I am on a case,” Violet reminded her.

     “Not in the dining room, you aren't. What are you thinking about?”

     Violet shrugged. Sometimes you had to just ask.

     “What are you a professor of? You always say that your class is so expensive and hard to get into.”

     Josephine clucked her tongue almost derisively. “I thought you would have done some digging and figured it out, detective,” she sighed. Violet's eyebrow twitched at her tone, but she didn't reply. “I will answer your questions if you answer mine.”

     “Fine,” Violet nodded. That had been the purpose of the dinner date to begin with.

     “How many bodies has this copycat killer made?”

     Violet hated the way Josephine phrased it, as if the victims were never people in the first place. It was the same kind of phrasing that the older officers on her squad used, which led to a new question about her friend.

     “We've found five female victims that match his M. O. How old are you?”

     Josephine blinked at her, taken aback by Violet's first question. She'd expected her to ask about her profession, but not her personal life. Still, a deal was a deal. “I'm twenty-five. Is there a chance that this is actually Jack and he's just degenerated?”

     “No. Jack the Ripper would be too old to kill the types of victims that have been targeted by the copycat. Who are your parents?”

     Something sparked behind her dark brown eyes before she dropped them to Bellamy, who was sitting quietly in her lap and sniffing the air.

     “Jo...?”

     “Here we go,” Christian announced as he entered with perhaps the cutest little carrot cake in the world. It was small enough to fit in the palm of Josephine's hand, though she left it on the little saucer as she sat it in her lap beside Bellamy. He immediately pounced on it, and Josephine laughed. Christian looked at the scene, a pleased smile crossing his face before he sat down again and took a sip of wine.

     Noticing the look on his fiancee's face, however, caused his smile to waver.

     “Is something wrong?” he asked carefully. Before Violet could answer, Josephine interrupted.

     “This lamb is spectacular, Christian,” she complimented with a cheerful smile. Only her eyes betrayed her, and Violet noted this. They stared at each other, daring one another to comment.

     Christian decided to ignore the tension and instead began eating himself. He'd learned growing up with Catherine that it was never wise to get between two women. Before he could think of a way to change the subject, the doorbell rang. He sat his napkin down to get the door, but Violet shook her head.

     “Give the help something to do, love,” she smiled gently, and he gave her that sheepish smile that had gotten her to date him in the first place. She loved how his smile was slightly lopsided whenever he was embarrassed, and the hint of a dimple that appeared when he was on the brink of laughing at himself. He'd had that exact same smile when he'd proposed to her at a crime scene.

     Moments later, the footman that Josephine had offended entered with an officer. Josephine wondered for a fraction of a second if he'd actually called the police on her, but threw that out of the window when she remembered whose house she was in. Maybe he was here to tell Violet of a change in the case.

     Violet wiped her mouth with her napkin and gave the officer a cold stare. She had made it clear long ago that her house was off-limits. She didn't want officers coming in and out of her home, telling her news of murders and thefts. If she and Christian have a child, she couldn't imagine what kind of environment that would make for it. The officer standing before her was veteran enough to know this about her, and the look in his eyes might have been apologetic, but his tone certainly wasn't. It was urgent and a bit on edge.

     “Detective, can we speak privately.” He didn't ask, so Violet didn't initially give an answer. Though the officer before her was certainly older than her, and he had probably clocked in more hours than she had in her entire career, but he was in her home and that meant he would show her respect.

     “You have come to my home at this hour and interrupted my dinner, officer. I believe privacy is a limited resource that has run out.”

     The officer's face turned a slight shade of pink, but he nodded. With a wave, more out of habit than for the officer, Violet dismissed the footman. Once he was gone, the officer began to speak freely.

     “Another body was found in an alley near the university.”

     The look on Violet's face was less than pleased as she looked to Christian. This was supposed to be their night together. He gave her a supportive smile that sparked an idea.

     “Well, let's go,” she smiled at him, and he raised a doubtful eyebrow. The officer spluttered out some policies that Violet could care less about. She stood and covered her food with her napkin. “Christian is more than capable of being my medical examiner.”

     Josephine gave a smile that Violet knew all too well. “And you can't really stop me if you tried, sweetie.”

 

***

 

     Though the officer couldn't stop her, Violet could, and she made Josephine wait outside of the alley as Christian did the initial examination. Josephine was close enough to hear, which was the only reason she hadn't stormed into the alley to see for herself. Though it was dark, the lamplight on the corner was close enough that she could write in her journal everything that Christian noticed.

     “He was in his mid-twenties and Hispanic,” Christian stated as Violet held the lantern close enough to give him a good view. He lowered the man's collar to inspect his neck. “There's bruising on his neck to suggest strangling, but that isn't what killed him.”

     “Then what did?” Violet and Josephine asked together. Christian gestured for Violet to move the lantern further down the man's body and pointed to the large red stain that had looked as black as the man's shirt in the dark.

     “He was stabbed, so I'm guessing he must have put up too much of a struggle when your killer was trying to strangle him.”

     Josephine entered the alley, to Violet's annoyance, and frowned as she tapped her now closed journal. “This doesn't make sense.”

     “How does it not make sense? He wasn't used to a male target and had to resort to a knife to finish the job,” an officer stated as he entered the other side of the alley. “The coroner's assistant is here, Detective. He wants to know if he can take the body.”

     “Christian?” Violet asked, and he nodded. “Tell him that's fine.” The officer nodded and left to deliver the message.

     “It doesn't make sense,” Josephine continued, “because all of his other victims have been unsuspecting females. Girls who were too small to put up a real fight. So why go after a man who is at least two hundred pounds? It doesn't make sense.”

     Violet nodded and held the light closer to the man's face. “Maybe-”

     Josephine cut her off with a gasp, and Violet quickly looked up at her. “I know him!”

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