When we last caught Moxie, Nettles had just accused her of wrong doing . . .
“What do you mean what did I do? What did you do? You just contaminated a crime scene! I saw someone in dark clothing with green eyes run out the back.” Moxie waved her arm up and down pointing out Nettles dark attire and green eyes.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. I just got here and I didn’t see anyone leaving the castle. But never mind that. Call 911,” said Nettles.
“With what? I don’t have a phone,” said Moxie.
“Right. Stay here. Don’t go anywhere. I’ll run up to the front office. I’m going to tell everyone I see that you’re in here with the King’s body, so don’t even think about running.”
Nettles ran past the thrones, down the steps and straight up the hill.
Moxie felt adrenaline soaring through her body, her fight or flight response revved up to max. She did want to run and keep running all the way back to her apartment, but instead walked over to King Terrence’s lifeless body, careful not to touch anything. She tried to piece together what she had heard. She had expected a pool of blood and some bloody blunt object, but there weren’t any signs of an attack. The King’s face was slack. He looked peaceful like he was only resting. She really wanted to bend down and shake him, wake him up, but she didn’t dare touch him. At the moment, not having her fingerprints on anything at the scene was all she had going for her.
Nettles burst through the door then rested his hands on his knees breathing hard. “This,” he started but then took a few more breaths, “This is Harry Hawkshaw. He’s a detective.”
Moxie admired the tall, thin man; his black curls peeking out from under his floppy velvet hat framed his strong features. “Wow. That was fast,” she said.
“I was already here enjoying the fair with my family. Okay. Where’s the King?” said Detective Hawkshaw in a deep, buttery voice.
Nettles guided Mr. Hawkshaw to where the King lay crumpled next to his overturned throne.
“Did you rent that?” asked Moxie pointing at the detective’s fancy doublet.
“I am afraid not. My wife is really into this whole medieval life thing. She made it herself. It took her weeks.” Mr. Hawkshaw tugged at one of his thighs. “I really wish those poor blokes hadn’t worn tights.
“This is Moxie Sharpe,” said Nettles. “I caught her in the act. She almost bludgeoned me with that lute.”
“That is absolutely not true, Nettles. Well the lute part is, but I was defending myself from the real killer.”
“Ah, so you saw who did it. That’s great. A witness. It will be a while before the boys from the nearest precinct can get here, so take your time and tell me what happened. Let’s start at the beginning. What were you doing when the killer arrived?” Harry, to Moxie’s great surprise, pulled a small notebook and pen from a brown leather, drawstring bag hanging from his belt. He began to take notes. “Go ahead,” he said.
“I don’t think I was here when he arrived. I mean I think he was already here.”
“Wait. Back up. So you left and then came back?”
“Right. My fellow musicians left very quickly after the show. Nettles said a quick ‘On the morrow’ and was gone. I was excited about some free time, so I was hurrying back to camp through the woods when I noticed I didn’t have my jacket.”
“Didn’t you need to return your costume? I recognize it from the rental. We used to rent before my wife made our costumes. My wife wore that one a few times.”
Moxie looked down at her bodice and long skirt and imagined the hundreds of sweaty people who had worn this costume before her. Suddenly her skin crawled like she was standing in an ant hill. She unconsciously took a couple steps to her left running into a music stand.
Harry Hawkshaw tapped his notepad with his pen. “Miss Moxie?”
“When I came here for the second joust I had my helmet and my leather jacket on. I walked through the woods so no one would see me. I was taking them back to my tent the same way. Then I was going to return the costume. Well, actually, I hadn’t thought about returning the costume. Since I had to wear it tomorrow you know.”
“Had to wear it tomorrow? So you think you won’t have to wear it tomorrow, now that the king is dead? Don’t you think the show must go on?” Nettles needled. He turned to Harry, “She never wanted to be here. She probably did it just to get out of her contract. I think she’s here under false pretense. I don’t think she ever even touched a lute before this morning.”
“You never complained while we were playing,” said Moxie, surprised that she hadn’t fooled Nettles after all. “But since you brought it up, what really happened to Sir Gerald, Nettles? I spent some time out on his patio and rock wall at his campsite. He put a lot of time and care into that space like he planned on spending time there. I don’t think he would just run off.” She turned to Harry. “The lute player I replaced has been missing for almost a week and no one seems to be looking for him.”
“Moxie doesn’t know what she is talking about. Gerald was a flake and a womanizer, Nettles said suddenly very professional. The previous whine in his voice had vanished. “When he didn’t show up for rehearsals, I was disappointed, but not terribly surprised.”
“How long had Gerald worked with you?” asked Harry.
“Eight years,” said Nettles.
“Seems a little strange to me,” said Harry, “just not showing up after showing up for eight years. Did you fill out a missing persons report?”
“No. Like I said, I believe he’s holed up in some motel with his latest fling.”
“Right,” Harry said lifting one eyebrow and tilting his head. “Well, I’ll talk to the local police about that as well, when they get here.”
“No,” Nettles exclaimed too quickly and too loudly. “I mean. There’s no reason for that. After I sent him a breach of contract complaint, Sir Gerald sent me a letter of apology. I have it on file in the front office.”
“And what did this letter say?”
“Oh, the usual. He’s sorry he let me down. He met this great girl and wants to make it work, so he’s giving up the minstrel life. He’s too old to live in a tent in the woods. That kind of thing.”
“I’ll need to see that letter,” said Harry. “As soon as we’re done here, I’ll follow you to the front office and get a copy.”
“The front office will be closed and locked by then. I’m afraid I don’t have a key. Do you want me to run and get it now? You can stay here and get Moxie’s story and I’ll run and get it before they close up.”
“No. That’s okay. You can send me a copy tomorrow. I’m more interested in getting both of your stories of what happened here while they’re still fresh. Since Sir Gerald isn’t actually missing, he is not my concern.”
Moxie heard Nettles’s huge sigh of relief. She wondered if Harry had heard it too. If he was any sort of detective, he had to know Nettles was lying. And if Nettles was lying about Sir Gerald. . . . Moxie had a sinking feeling that she was in more trouble than she could imagine.
“Moxie, let’s get back to your story. You came back to get your jacket and . . .”
“I didn’t notice anything until I had already walked to the other side of the room by that trunk. I put on my jacket and was ready to leave when I heard loud voices and a crash. I stayed hidden behind the wall, so I didn’t actually see anything.” Moxie suddenly realized that she didn’t know what had happened at all.
“But you saw the killer,” said Harry.
“Now that I think about it,” said Moxie, “I don’t know if that person killed the King. All I saw was someone in dark clothing with green eyes leaving the building. I think they saw me, but I’m not sure. They could have been looking at a shadow in the dark just like I was.”
“You keep saying ‘they’. Was it a man or a woman?”
“I don’t know.”
“Tall or short?”
“I’m not sure.”
“You said he or she was near the door. What was their height compared to the door?”
Moxie walked over to the door. She put her hand on the door to mark her height then stepped back and looked at it. “Taller than me,” she said. Then she looked at Nettles. “I would say Nettles’s height.”
“Oh shut it, Moxie.” Nettles walked to Moxie in two long strides. “Hold your hand still,” he said and stood up against the door.
The top of his head lined up barely an inch past her hand. “So you’re saying you can tell the person you saw was taller than you, but barely an inch taller, from across the room, but you couldn’t tell if it was a man or a woman?” said Nettles like he was the prosecutor at her trial.
“Guess I’m not much a witness,” said Moxie. She walked back to Harry. “Sorry I can’t be of any help.”
“Actually, Moxie, you’ve been a great help,” said Harry. “Nettles, why did you say ‘On the morrow’ after the joust? Don’t the minstrels usually end the day after the evening parade?”
“That’s right. Nettles told me there was an evening parade, but I forgot all about it,” said Moxie.
“She must have misunderstood me,” said Nettles. “She had absolutely no familiarity with the vernacular.”
“Is this true, Moxie? Are you not familiar with Old English?” asked Harry.
“Not really. But I know an ‘On the morrow’ when I hear it.”
“I should fire you right now. Missing afternoon wandering and planning to skip the parade. I think I smelled alcohol on your breath at second joust.”
“I’m curious, Nettles,” said Moxie, “I came back to get my jacket, but what brought you back here after leaving in such a hurry?”
Nettles was interrupted by the arrival of the police. Moxie, Nettles and Harry were quickly corralled into the musicians’ section. Once all of the new arrivals had entered and gotten to work marking the scene and removing the body, Harry introduced himself to the officer in charge leaving Moxie and Nettles to watch in silence.
Moxie expected they would be invited down to the station any moment, but the longer they waited, the more they seemed forgotten. Harry and the officer were talking casually, laughing and smiling. Their behavior didn’t seem appropriate for a homicide investigation.
Finally, when the other officers had cleaned up and left, Harry brought his colleague over to speak to them. “Moxie, Nettles, this is Officer Ormerod. He has some very interesting news for you. Go ahead, Jim, tell them.”
“I think the only crime here is a false report,” said Officer Ormerod, “but we’re not worried about that. You were just over-zealous. We’ll have to wait on the medical examiner’s results, but it appears this man died of a heart attack, or maybe an aneurysm or something. I would say natural causes. There aren’t any apparent signs of foul play.”
Harry patted Moxie on the shoulder. “Sorry you got such a fright, my lady,” he said with a wink, “but I don’t think you have anything to worry about.”
“What?” Moxie exclaimed. “Are you sure? What about the person I saw?”
“Probably someone who saw him die or came across the body and was just as afraid as you were. Hopefully that person will come forward once he or she knows they are not a suspect.”
Moxie wasn’t convinced. She looked at Nettles.
Nettles gaze held Moxie. The pierced lips of his regular, strained expression slowly curved up at the ends into a sinister grin.
What really happened to the King? What is Nettles hiding? Tune in next week for another twisting, turning, action-packed misadventure.