And this post follows directly from the last one. Sorry, Jess, not a whole lot of action, but there is some good interaction--hopefully.
First draft. Please do not quote or repost anywhere. Thanks!
Quick synopsis. Anabelle Sturgis is the Special Examiner to the King. She's also a Fire Witch. She's named the fire elemental who keeps her company Flicker. She is investigating the murder of a family member of one of the Fifty (the nobility in this world), a Water Witch who has drowned--an impossibility that puzzles Anabelle. She, her ex-husband Jonathon, and Jonathon's brother, Patrick, are attempting to interview Eli Gorham, a Patriarch and father of the murdered Water Witch. Anabelle succeeds in gaining an interview, which doesn't go all that well.
Anabelle seated herself on an uncomfortable settee. The two men settled gingerly on the edge of spindly-legged, brocaded chairs. Now that she had nothing to distract her, Anabelle felt the uneasy grumble from Flicker. She kept her hands and arms prudently away from the fabric of the settee.
“So, how have you been, Jonathon?” Anabelle said at last.
He glowered at her from beneath his thick black brows. “Not eating enough, apparently. I haven’t heard from you in months. I’d like to have a conversation, but not here, and not now, Anabelle. If you would do me the honor of inviting me to the house,” he said with heavy irony.
Anabelle’s lips tightened. “You spent little enough time there when you had the run of the place. Don’t blame me if you no longer feel welcome.”
“If you two are finished sniping at each other, you could call a truce,” Patrick said.
The opening door prevented further conversation along those lines. The butler and another servant came inside.
“His Lordship will see you in the Green Room, Special Examiner. If Sheriff Sturgis and Deputy Sturgis will follow Chartrand, he will assist you in questioning the staff.”
Anabelle followed the butler down the hallway. The Green Room turned out to be a formal affair, decorated as coldly and mausoleum-like as the drawing room. The walls were, indeed, an ugly olive green, and, she supposed, the reason for the name. Eli Gorham, his wife, and a young girl of about fifteen summers sat in the room. Gorham had risen and bowed when the butler had announced her and withdrew.
“Lord and Lady Gorham, Miss Gorham, I thank you for granting me this interview on such short notice.” Anabelle gave them a formal curtsey.
A chilly smile graced Gorham’s face. “Special Examiner. So nice to see manners. One meets so many jumped-up folk in law enforcement these days.”
Anabelle set her teeth at the implied insult, but she said smoothly, “Anabelle, please. I hope to keep this is as painless as possible, my lord.”
“That’s good to hear, Anabelle.” He gestured to nearby seating. “Won’t you sit down?”
She sat down in a chair that could have doubled for a slab of rock. She discreetly surveyed the Gorhams. Lady Mary Gorham had been crying. Her eyes and nose were pink, and her cheeks still blotched. Lord Eli Gorham looked impatient and cold. Miss Elizabeth Gorham’s expression interested Anabelle the most---suppressed excitement, almost glee, as if the girl kept a secret that it pleased her no one else knew.
“First, let me say how sorry I am for Minna’s death. I know this is hard, but to find out what happened to her, I must ask questions. When was the last time any of you saw Minna?”
“My daughter went to bed that night at her usual time,” Gorham said in an acrid voice.
“And that time was…?”
“Eleven o’clock,” he said.
“Did she seem different in any way?” she asked.
Gorham raised a brow. “Different, Anabelle?”
Gorham bristled. “What are you implying, Special Examiner?”
Anabelle cocked her head. “Implying, my lord? I’m not implying anything. I’m merely asking after Minna’s state of mind. Anything that might give us a clue as to why she was found in a lake miles away from here in the middle of the night.” With no clothes on. She stopped herself from saying the rest.
Lady Gorham made a soft sound and put a hand to her lips.
Gorham flicked his wife an impatient glance. He turned to pin Anabelle with a hard stare. “Let me make something very clear, Special Examiner. None of us had anything to do with our daughter’s death. She was fine the night she went to bed, and none of us saw or heard anything until one of your people came to our door the next day. I know your type. Pestering us with useless questions while the real perpetrator goes free strikes me as a poor use of your time and my money. Now, unless you have something of interest to relate, please stop upsetting me and my wife and go earn your pay.”
Instant rage blossomed in Anabelle. An uneasy Flicker fueled the emotion until Anabelle felt herself spiral out of control.
“My type?” she said, her voice deadly quiet.
Lady Gorham made an involuntary gesture. Elizabeth Gorham stopped smirking and watched Anabelle with fascination. Gorham paused, apparently having just enough sense to realize he might have made a serious mistake.
When Anabelle continued, she felt as if her words were backed by flames. “My father was just such a man as you---arrogant, hard, unloving. Always sure that he knew best, always ruling his household with an iron fist. Until the day they carted my mother away, and he spent the rest of his miserable life in seclusion, ignoring his own son and daughter as if they didn’t even exist. You and my father could have been twins, Lord Gorham.”
He jumped to his feet, fist clenching. “How dare you speak to me like that!” he snarled.
She stood, feeling the heat emanate from her body, and stared him down. Gorham actually took a step back.
“I am the Special Examiner to the King, and my father was Lord Hollings, Advisor to the former King. I dare.”
She turned and walked out of the room, trying to tamp down on her temper before her clothes, and possibly everything around her, reached incendiary point.