I left the station not long after my little ‘chat’ with Redshirt. Political appointee or not, he recognized the significance that a paid ‘hit’ on a Privileged elf represented. As I departed, he was on the phone, placating those demanding results, while demanding results from me.
I decided to visit the Hammerfell family first. Horace Hammerfell was a young elf, which is to say, young for an elf. Due to their long lives, elves didn’t even enter school until they were ten years old. Of course, they live nearly three times as long as a human. I guess they had the time to spare.
I wasn’t looking forward to the visit. As far as I knew, no one had informed the family, but I wasn’t sure. Elves are difficult to deal with at their best. Finding out that your son was dead didn’t really bring out said best in people. Or elves.
Following the directions to the address on Hammerfell’s Ident card, I found myself in front of a pleasant looking frame house, about two miles down Industrial Drive from Kringle Park. Not a bad location. I was instantly wary. Elves who lived this close to the Industrial Park were usually year round employees. That normally meant Privileged. Was Hammerfell a Privilege? I had to admit, I hadn’t checked. Bad detective work on my part.
Too late to worry about that now, I decided. Anyway, that was part of the reason for these interviews. To find out more about the victims. There might be something the family could tell me that would make sense of what happened.
I stepped up onto the porch and rang the bell. The door opened just seconds later, revealing an older, gray-haired male elf. He didn’t look friendly. What a shock.
“What do you want?” he demanded gruffly. I showed him my badge.
“I’m Detective Bonespear, Pole PD. I’m here to talk to you about your son, Horace.”
“He ain’t my son,” the man shot back shortly. “He’s my nephew. What’s he done now?”
“What’s he done before?” I replied with a question of my own. Wow, had I really dropped the ball that badly on this?
“You’re the cop, you should know,” the man informed me, moving to close the door. I stopped it with my hand.
“Sir, I really need to talk to you about this. Does Hammerfell live here?”
“So what? I ain’t responsible for his actions,” the old elf replied.
“Sir, your nephew is dead,” I told him shortly, tired of this crap. He might be an elf, but I was still a cop, dammit, and doing my job. The old elf’s visage softened a bit at that.
“I said your nephew is dead,” I repeated. “He was killed late last night by a Tolite fairy, in a bar called Lump o’ Coal.” The old elf sighed, his face seeming to age, and then he motioned me inside. I entered warily. Elves were notoriously manic.
“I’m Aaron Silverlight. Horace is my sister’s oldest son.”
“I’m sorry for your loss, Mister Silverlight.” I spoke neutrally, not wanting to set the old elf off again.
“He’s no loss, to me anyway,” he sighed sadly. “But my sister will be devastated. She sent him here, to me, hoping that a job with Kringle might help him straighten his life out.” He looked up at me.
“You say he was killed by a fairy?”
“Yes, sir,” I nodded. “A fairy he appeared to know. Named Slashknife. He was with another elf, Jason Airdancer. Both were killed in the altercation.”
“Airdancer!” Silverlight paled. “Jason Airdancer is dead?”
“Very much so. Along with your nephew.”
“What the hell was Airdancer doing in a bar? And with Horace of all people?”
“I’d very much like to know those things myself, Mister Silverlight,” I replied evenly. “Were you aware of any friendship between Horace and Jason?”
“No,” the elf shook his head. “They’re from different castes. Nothing in common at all, that I’m aware of. Airdancer was a good boy, destined for great things. Horace was a loser. Constantly into things that no self respecting elf would delve into. Not even a Hammerfell.”
“What kind of things?” I asked. Silverlight looked up at me sharply.
“I’d figure you’d know more about that that even I would, being a policeman and all.”
“Well, normally that might be true,” I nodded, calmly. “Thing is, in this case, Horace is the victim, not the perpetrator. I haven’t had dealings with him before, Mister Silverlight. I’m a homicide detective, sir.” Silverlight looked at me for a minute, nodding slowly at last.
“Guess that makes sense. Horace just couldn’t stay outta trouble,” he sighed again, a weary sound. “He stole, he conned, he did whatever he could to make a dishonest bit o’ coin. I thought getting him on at Kringle Electronics would help.”
“He worked the same factory as Jason, then?” I asked. Silverlight nodded.
“Yes. That still doesn’t explain the two of them being together. Airdancer was management. I can’t imagine the two of them having anything to talk about, let alone drink about.”
“I assume that Horace made a few enemies along his path of. . .lawlessness?”
“More’n a few,” he sighed. “He’d get calls here at all hours. If he wasn’t here, whoever called would sometimes demand that he called them back, or else?”
“Ever get a name from these callers?” I asked, hoping for a lead.
“Not usually,” Silverlight shrugged. “Just ‘he’ll know who I am’, that sort of thing. Never any call back numbers either. I was near to the point of throwing him out, it got so bad. I guess if I had, he might still be alive.”
“Sir, this isn’t your fault,” I told him quietly. “If I may, it sounds to me like you did everything you could to help him. But he had to want that help in order for it to work. He was lucky to have someone who cared enough to try and help him.”
Silverlight looked at me for a long minute, as if searching for some sign that I was being sarcastic, or insincere. Finally, he nodded slightly in thanks.
“Could I take a look at his room?” I asked. “Maybe I can find something that will lead me to one of his. . . ‘associates’. Something I can use to track down his killer.”
“I don’t see what it could hurt,” the elf said wearily. “Come with me.”
Horace Hammerfell’s room was. . .distressing. Especially to a fastidious elf like Mister Silverlight. It was obvious that housekeeping hadn’t been high on the younger elf’s list of priorities. Clothes were scattered across the floor, several plates with uneaten or unfinished meals dotted the tables and shelves, and papers were everywhere.
“You want me to stay?” Silverlight asked softly. It was obvious he was embarrassed. I shook my head.
“It’s not necessary, sir,” I assured him. “I’m just hoping there’s some note or other than might give me an indication of what Horace was into that might have led to what happened last night.”
“Right, then,” he nodded, grateful. “I. . .I need to call my sister, I suppose. Tell her what happened.”
“I can do that if you’d rather, Mister Silverlight,” I offered. He seemed to consider it for a moment before finally shaking his head.
“No, I need to do it. It was my. . .I was responsible for him.”
“If you change your mind, just let me know. I’ll be as brief as I can.”
“Take your time,” he waved a hand. “There’s no hurry. Maybe you’ll get lucky.” With that he left, closing the door behind him. I looked around the dirty room, sighing in resignation.
I had never seen an elf live in such conditions. I used my small camera to take pictures of the entire room before I started my search. Sometimes you missed things in a search that would show up later in photos.
Putting the camera away, I started searching. The small desk was covered with more than plates and cups and cans. There were odd and end pieces of paper everywhere. I picked up several, reading them as I went. Some were just receipts, often with meaningless notes scratched on the back of them. Others looked like hastily made notes to himself concerning errands to run, items to be picked up, and two were notes about shift changes for his job.
The very last note was cryptic; job for S, meet JA, Lump o’ Coal, Friday.
Today was Saturday.