Lies. Trickery. DeAth. Just another day in the business.
Locke Detective Services
CHAPTER
1
I Keep My Friends Close and My Enemies Closer
Mera Insons stood with her fist frozen in the air, debating wether she should knock.
A quaint little woman who at first glance would appear no older than 18, Miss Insons looked to be quite the type one would expect to find very much at home in a library. Brown eyes shone with anxiety and hesitation, and her hair- oh, her hair! It was dark, dark as the deepest midnight, dark as ebony and a bit more, quite a bit of change from the London streets bustling with heads of blonde and brown. Her perfect posture vanished as she stared at the gold nameplate in front of her.
ARCANE LOCKE DETECTIVE SERVICES
This was the right address. She had arrived. She simply had to knock.
So why was she so uneasy?
The echoing sound of rain pounding gravel flooded her ears, no longer able to be ignored. Mera cursed under her breath. She had left her umbrella at home. As she trifled through her purse for something to cover her head, perhaps a bonnet, she could feel the eyes of passerby on her back; for she looked quite foolish standing in front of a door with no protection during a storm.
Come now, she told herself. You must knock. He is what you have come all this way for, is he not?
Mera sighed. Detective Locke had quite the reputation around England. He was regarded as the best sleuth of the 19th century. He could solve absolutely any case. But for this, there was a steep price. Although he would only charge 15 silver coins, he would not be as generous with your dignity. Anyone who had employed Arcane Locke left his office with one less mystery and much less self-respect.
And not to mention the rumors.
London was a perfect place for gossip. Some of it was true, some of it was not, and some was frankly ridiculous. Some French scholar finally deciphered the Rosetta Stone? Unbelievable, the things people say! Mera herself was very much against all the hearsay and blathering slander, but she could not deny that much of the chatter was caused by Arcane Locke.
He was odd, to say the least.
Mera considered herself higher than the scandals housewives made up to whisper to their neighbors over the clothesline. But she could not help but overhear tiny parts of conversation. Nothing much- a hushed phrase, a murmured name.
“I saw someone leave crying-“
“-has real skeletons in the closet-“
“-bet he commits all the crimes he solves-“
“Dead eyes, like a shark-“
It was pouring now. A flash of lightning illuminated the streets, and thunder roared. Fishing through her purse again, Mera found a balaclava and quickly pulled it on. An umbrella would have been better, but it would have to do.
Now there was nothing left to do but knock.
Did she truly wish to know what lay behind the door?
Mera looked down at her necklace. She brought the cross charm close to her face and squeezed it. She looked up.
She knocked.
There was no stirring on the other side of the door. No voice yelling, “Please do come in!” or the scraping of a chair as someone got up to greet her. The only sound was of the vicious downpour slapping the cobblestones.
Maybe he hasn’t heard me over the rain, Mera thought to herself, having been a sensible girl. She knocked harder. Alas, there was still no response from the other side. Her dress was getting quite damp; the balaclava was simply not enough. If she wasn’t allowed in soon, she would catch pneumonia. And that would not do a lot of good for her father.
If no one answers this time, I will go home, she vowed.
“Hello?”
Her cry went ignored. Thunder cracked, and a miserable fog rolled in. Mera wrapped her arms around herself, having no coat to wear. But as one would expect, it was not good enough. “Hello?” She tried again, now desperate. It was rather cold outside, and she was quite doubtful she would be able to find her way home through the dreadful mist. Suddenly, Mera was very aware that the streets were empty. She was alone.
Once again, Mera cursed herself for her foolishness. What could Locke possibly be doing in there?
Mera put her ear to the door, not sure wether she expected to hear screams or silence. Instead, she heard a piano. Each note was clear, precise, and perfect, like a jewel. She stayed there, head pressed against the smooth mahogany wood, enraptured. She was no longer aware of the biting chill, or the booming thunder, or the sting of the rain. She only knew the melody. It was familiar to her. Quite familiar, in fact.
Für Elise?
The music came to an abrupt halt. It was once again quiet.
“I was not aware I had an audience.”
Sheepishly, Mera replied. “I AM terribly sorry to interrupt you,” she began. “But, you see, I have a mystery for you. It is quite urgent.”
For a second, it was quiet. Soon after she heard footsteps, and the door swung open. Mera offered her hand to shake, but the man simply looked at it like he didn’t know how. She lowered her hand, cheeks burning crimson.
“Arcane Locke, professional detective,” he stated in a completely serious manner. He did not smile, he did not laugh. He was an emotionless robot, a machine in a human body. Two intelligent gray eyes bored into Mera’s soul.
Dead eyes, like a shark’s.
“Mera Insons.” Mera’s voice was shaky and hesitant. She hoped this would go well.
“Yes, yes, I know,” he replied. But before Mera could open her mouth, he walked inside, leaving Mera little choice but to follow suit.
Closing the door, Locke sat down behind his desk, gesturing for Mera to sit down. She was past the point of no return. Mera mentally said a quick prayer and obeyed. But instead of asking her what happened or why she was here, he simply said, “Welcome to London.”
Mera stared at him, quite startled. “How did you know I just came here?”
“It was obvious,” he shrugged, sounding bored. “You have a French accent, so you most likely grew up there. Dark hair and brown eyes, very common in France. So you’re a foreigner. You not wearing black to mourn the passing of the queen scarcely a year ago, so you have to have come during the past 10 months- soon enough to not have gotten word about the death and wear bright colors, but after the death happened.”
“No wonder everyone was wearing black,” Mera realized, who had felt very out of place on the streets in her blue dress.
Locke continued. “But you had to ask for directions here, so you must not know London very well. That means you are new. So welcome.”
For a moment, Mera was in shock. “Thank you,” she managed, not comprehending what had just happened. She did not have the opportunity to think about it, for Locke leaned forward and asked, “So what do you have for me, Miss Insons?”
“I used to live in Paris with my father, a well-known professor in France. He taught about music at the University of Paris and gave piano lessons on the side. His favorite song to teach was Für Elise. We used to practice it together, every day. Six months ago, Father was offered a job as a music teacher in an elementary school, and we moved to a little town about 20 miles from here. We stayed there for some time, and we were happy.
But last August the school he worked at closed down, and so we came here. After a week of searching, Father was hired as a science professor at a small university. He liked his job. And he knew his way around much more than I did, so he usually did the errands. I tried to help the best I could. And two days ago........my father went missing.”
Locke simply nodded, his face straight. He did not offer any condolences or kind words. In a way, Mera found it refreshing.
Suddenly, she noticed a figure in the back of the room. A blonde woman, looking sadly at Locke. Mera started to say something, but the detective interrupted her.
“I see.”
And with that, he stood up and left.
“No assignments for the past two weeks?”
“Yes,” confirmed the student. “Professor Insons just.....stopped giving work. And one day, he just did not show up.”
“I understand. Come, Rarity.” Locke started walking towards the office, not bothering to check if his assistant was following him. He took quite brisk steps, and his helper almost had to run to keep up.
“It’s Rarita, sir,” a meek voice whispered. “Ah, yes,” he said rather distractedly. He clearly was not paying attention to her.
“Any developments on that serial killer, sir?”
“Afraid not, Rarity,” Locke sighed. “But I WILL catch him. I just don’t get how he’s being so elusive....”
The streets were empty. The rain had come to a drizzle.
Then, a scream.
Before he could react, Locke felt the sting of a needle, the London winds, and then nothing.
Black.
Locke opened his eyes. He had been attacked. But by who? Where was his assistant?
“Ah, you’re awake.”
The world seemed to spin. It was quite as if the London fog had seeped into his mind. He turned his head towards the sound, and someone came out of the darkness.
“No....”
“Yes,” they said.
In front of him was a broken hand mirror. It would not mean much to others except for perhaps seven years of bad luck, but to Locke it meant worlds more.
“You’re....” Locke trailed off.
“The Miror Killer. I know, I know. Impressive, yes?”
Locke shook his head. It could not have come to this, and yet it had. By the light of their candle, plain as day, he could see their face. But it simply could not be.
They grinned. “What can I say? I keep my friends close....
And my enemies closer.”
The candle went out.

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