“Hey!” Just outside the doorway, Gus threw up his hands. “Warren already told you that he didn’t see who attacked him!”
The chancellor grudgingly nodded.
Or perhaps the chief assassin did see who attacked him, but was too embarrassed to admit that he’d been caught out. Saying so out loud, though, especially without any evidence one way or the other, would mean that he’d be making two enemies at once — Gus the Ghost, and Warrenus himself. Ellison decided to keep quiet. For now, at least.
“What now?” asked Chancellor Cassius. “Do you dust for fingerprints?”
Ellison turned in place. Without a murder weapon, the best places to potentially find fingerprints would be on the door, or the table. But if Warren actually had an open-door management style… “I don’t see how that could be much use,’ he said. “If the killer was someone from the guild, their fingerprints would naturally be here, anyway. And if they’re from someone else — well, we’d have nothing to compare them to.”
There was also the small matter of not having a fingerprinting kit, nor any experience using one. No reason to mention that, though.
“No, we’re going to talk to Gus’s girlfriend about his alibi,” Ellison said. “And to the neighbors, see if anyone can confirm it. But we’ll probably find the solution to the crime in a bar, instead.”
The chancellor wrinkled his forehead. “How?”
“I doubt that anyone who successfully managed to assassinate the head of the assassin’s guild it going to stay quiet about it for long,” Ellison said.
“You know who it probably was?” Gus leaned in through the doorway. “I just thought of it. I bet it was the Doom Avatars.”
“Who?” Ellison had heard of most of the guilds on Krim, but the name was a new one.
“Or maybe the Avatars of Doom,” said Gus. “They’re a new assassin guild.”
“Avatars of Doom,” said the chancellor. “But why would they…?”
“To make a name for themselves,” said Gus. “At least, within their own circles. I doubt they’ll go bragging in bars, though.”
“Well, if they say they did it, we’ll have to deny it,” said the chancellor. He frowned at Ellison. “I hope that you don’t pursue that avenue of inquiry too aggressively. The last thing we want is to word to get out that one of the Avatars was able to get in here, assassinate our leader, and escape unscathed.”
“It would seriously hurt recruitment,” said Gus.
“Oh, this is terrible. We might have to go with another guild, and we haven’t done that for years. I don’t know if our discretionary budget will support it. I’m going to have to call a council meeting, start discussing options.” The chancellor hustled out of the room, then stopped and looked back at them. “Sorry, Gus, but while we’re investigating this, you can’t attend. I’m sure you understand. Also, Warrenus will be there, and I’m sure he won’t want to look at you just yet.”
“We’ll hold a hearing tomorrow,” the chancellor added. “Can you get your witnesses together by then?”
“I’ll try,” said Gus. “Meanwhile, mind if I take Ellison around to the morgue, and to the deliveries entrance?”
“Yes, yes, go ahead.” The chancellor looked at the guard. “Can you lock up the office and take them around?”
“What about body in there?” the guard nodded back into Warren’s office. “I’m sure the boss would rather have it gone sooner than later.”
“When you’re down in the morgue, tell to come up and put the body on ice. Maybe we can find someone to take a look at it.” The chancellor looked back at Ellison. “I don’t suppose you can recommend anyone?”
Ellison did know a couple of forensic specialists, but they were based on another world. “I’ll see what I can do,” he said.
Down in the morgue, Ellison got a chance to see that the ice delivery chute ended in a large, insulated metal bin. He looked inside. There was no evidence that anyone had entered the guild hall by this method. He’d been hoping that the assassin might have lost a button, or a shoe, or maybe even the murder weapon among the blocks of ice. In addition, the bin was nearly full. It would have been extremely difficult for someone to get in this way unless they were a circus contortionist.
The guild’s coroner also showed them all the dead bodies, and the records of when those bodies arrived.
“As you can see, they’re all still here, and all quite dead,” the coroner said.
Finally, Ellison insisted on inspecting the courtyards that surrounded the building. The guild had a practice shooting range out back, for members to practice archery and knife-throwing, as well as a climbing wall and a small ropes course.
“We have the best facilities of any guild,” said Gus. “One of the perks of membership.”
The target dummies were professionally done, and the lawn around them carefully manicured.
“You must spend lot on landscaping,” said Ellison.
“The grass doesn’t look like too many people have been walking on it.”
“Ah. Well.” Gus looked away. “Our members don’t actually take advantage of the facilities too often.”
Ellison walked up to one of the dummies. It didn’t have a mark on it. “Do they ever use them?”
“Well, not as such,” said Gus. “Mostly, they just hang around the common room, drinking beer and playing cards. People think that once they’ve made it into the guild, they can sit back and relax, stop honing their craft. People aren’t putting as much effort into physical fitness as the ought to. But everyone always find time to go down to the morgue and stab corpses. Nobody cares about how much we have to spend on ice deliveries. When I’m the head of the guild, I’m instituting mandatory physical fitness drills.”
“Right. You’re next in line. You get to run the guild if you can prove you’re innocent.”
“If we don’t start making some changes, we’re going to start losing recruits to the Avatars,” said Gus. “It doesn’t really matter who runs the guild, as long as we pose a united front. I’ll be happy to back whoever becomes the new leader. Frankly, with the cloud over me right now, even if I was completely cleared of the murder, I still wouldn’t want to be in charge. Better to earn the guild’s trust again.” He put his hand on Ellison’s shoulder. “The Paladins are my home. They’re my family. The guild will always come first to me.”
Ellison didn’t know whether to believe him or not.