There were two guards on duty at the assassins’ guild house. They’d beefed up security a bit since the murder. Ellison didn’t recognize either of them, but figured that the one with the wooden leg had been on duty the previous night.
“Nimble Wind?” he asked the female guard while the other went to fetch the guild’s chancellor.
“That’s me,” the woman said.
“Tell me about last night.”
She looked at Gus the Ghost.
“The chancellor gave his consent to me bringing in an investigator,” he said.
“Well, in that case…” She came out of the small guard booth and leaned against the gate. Her peg leg did, in fact, make quite a bit of noise when it hit the cobblestones. She caught Ellison’s glance. “Yeah, it’s a bit of a disadvantage in my line of work,” she said. “But they hooked me up with this cushy gig.”
“Why not get a new avatar?”
“Well, it’s a point of pride, isn’t it?” She tapped the wooden appendage with the flat of her sword. “Shows I’ve seen some action. And there’s always some guy or gal willing to buy me beers if I tell the story of how I lost it.”
“How did…” Ellison began but Gus elbowed him in the side. “Ah, right. Can you tell us about last night?”
“I was here, on duty. Signing folks in and out.” She hobbled the two steps back to the booth and came back with a clipboard. “Look. Everyone who came in that morning signed out.” She flipped pages. “Everyone except Gus, and Duke Warrenus Oudinnet, of course. On account of being stabbed in the back.” She glared at Gus.
“You weren’t here when I left, and Izzy was waiting for me. You know how she gets when I work late.” He glanced at Ellison. “Lady Ismena is a little possessive. She’d do anything for me, but God forbid I so much look at anyone else.”
“Anyway, Gus here and Duke Warrenus were the only ones in the guild hall last night. Around nine, everyone came back.” She flipped back a page. “See? They came in and someone went to the Duke’s office and discovered the body.” She shook her head. “There’s no way an outsider broke in, found the Duke, stabbed him, and got out again without anyone noticing anything.”
“And you never stepped away from you post?” Ellison asked.
“Well, I was the only one here, wasn’t I?” she said. “I’d do no such thing.”
“Well, of course she wouldn’t admit it,” said Gus. “She’d be fired.”
“I’m not lying,” said Nimble, hobbled back to the guard booth, and slammed the door.
“I think you touched a nerve,” said Ellison, and looked around.
As usual, there was a heavy, spiked, iron gate surrounding the compound. Unlike other guilds, however, the assassins had painted the compound’s stone walls a matte black.
The sign out front was also black and framed inside a tasteful arrangement of skulls and bones. The only thing that didn’t match the guild’s brand identity was a wooden board that said “ice deliveries” with an arrow to the right.
“What’s that about?”
Gus the Ghost preened. “That’s one of our newest member benefits. We now have ice delivered regularly for cold storage of corpses. Members get to practice their stabbing techniques.” He held out his hand and twisted. “There’s a knife technique where you go in under the rib cage and slice out the heart. But it takes a lot of practice to get it right.”
“Where do you get the dead bodies?”
“Oh, there’s no shortage of those on Krim. In fact, people pay us to cart them away. We take fresh corpses, old corpses, even ones that aren’t fully dead yet. It’s a nice little income stream for the guild. We put the money towards operating overhead.”
Ellison walked in the direction the sign was pointing. Around the corner, the iron fence was within a couple of feet of the building wall, and a metal chute ran from the foundation to a square opening in the fence. There was a bar across the opening, held in place with a heavy padlock. Ellison tugged at it, then peered down into the chute. It would be a tight squeeze. He looked back at Gus, who was standing at the corner, looking back and forth between Ellison and the guild’s front gate. The man’s shoulders were too wide to fit through, but someone very skinny might be able to pick the lock and wiggle in.
Gus waved at him and Ellison joined him back at the front, where an extremely fat assassin was walking down the front path.
Nimble Wind hobbled back out and unlocked the gate.
The assassin paused to catch his breath before speaking. “So you’re the detective. Chancellor Cassius. I’m in charge of administration and operations.” The chancellor stretched out a soft, plump hand.
Ellison shook it. It was damp.
“I take it Gus told you he was going to hire me to investigate?”
“Sure, why not?” The chancellor shrugged. “We’re nothing if not fair. We want our members to know that we follow due process. Come on in. I’ll show the spot where Darkflow Ghost viciously stabbed our beloved Duke Warrenus Oudinnet.”
“It could have been someone else,” Ellison said. “I can think of half a dozen ways someone could have done it.”
The chancellor glanced back at him. “Really. Like how?”
“Well, for example, someone could have come in disguised as a dead body,” Ellison said. “Or they could have come in through the ice chute.”
“Hey, you’re pretty good,” said Gus.
“What else?” said the chancellor. “You said half a dozen ways.”
“Umm…” Ellison glanced up. Maybe a zipline? No, there weren’t any tall buildings nearby. “They could have come in on a hang glider, landed on the roof…”
The chancellor scoffed and led them inside the hall.
“You better think of some better alternatives,” Gus whispered to Ellison. “I don’t think he’s buying it.”