|Quick and Dirty|
|Summary:||Jarod and Josse meet at the Rockcliff Inn to look into a murder.|
|Related Logs:||Murder at Rockcliff|
|Rockcliff Inn - Private Room|
|The door and walls are thick enough to keep all but shouted conversations private. Inside, the wooden floors are kept much more clean and the elongated table with its high-backed chairs kept polished. The Terrick House banner hangs centered at the long end of the room behind the chair at the head of the table. Racks are provided for both armor and arms alike, the wooden supports standing by the door.|
|Sun Aug 14, 288|
Rockcliff usually does brisk business all day, even in the early morning hours, but the inn is sparsely populated today. The common room is near empty, the staff engaged not in work, but in various quiet, pointed conversations with men from the Roost Sheriff's or Ser Rivers' men in the castle guard. Jarod himself has been on-hand for a couple of hours now, deep in conversation with the innkeeper, the maidservant who found the body of poor dead Jens Howard, and other persons of interest who were working that night. Accompanied at all times by a knight from Lord Ryker Nayland's entourage. This investigation appears to be a joint effort thus far, which Jarod is at least openly quite accepting of.
He's just finishing up his conversations with the innstaff now, and has managed to part company with Ser Brody of House Nayland for a moment to find a quiet space to await Septon Josse. Who's been on-hand as well, albeit concerned with the state of the dead rather than the living.
Such as the last few days have been, for the newly de-facto senior septon. Up to his elbows in a dead man's blood for the second time this week, Josse has his heavy gray sleeves tied up onto his forearms with black bands — part mourning, part practical. He pushes the door open with his hip, still wiping blood from under his fingernails with a dingy cloth. "Jarod?"
"Jos?" Jarod's voice is hushed, despite that he's managed to secure a corner where they can speak with reasonable privacy. Perhaps it's the nearness of a corpse. "Ser Brody wanted a bit more time to speak with the innkeeper, though I don't figure there's much more we can learn from him. That's fine by me. Wanted to talk with you alone, anyhow. I mean, we'll need to tell the Nayland man what you found but…I don't know." He shrugs. More likely he just doesn't quite know how to articulate in a way that's not shatteringly blunt his hesitancy to trust the Nayland man.
Josse closes the door again before anything more comes out of his mouth. "I suppose we will have to tell him, indeed," he replies blandly. "But there's merit in separate sets of ears hearing the same details, apart." His soft-spoken voice hardly needs to be lowered to maintain privacy but he seems to do it anyway. "Did you go in there, yourself?" His dark head makes a slight jerk towards the hall, presumably towards the room where the body is.
Jarod nods. "Aye, just to see if it was done the way it was described to me by the maid. I'd like to hear what you make of the state of that man, though, before I judge it for myself. I know what a knife wound looks like, and that I doubt a man can likely do himself in a suicide or by accident the way Master Howard was done. Beyond that…" A shrug, and he waits for Josse to speak.
"I've heard of men cutting their own throats. This was not that." Josse twists the rag around his ring finger, one eyebrow cocking as he looks at Jarod. "Lying on his back, undressed. His swordbelt was within reach, if you saw it there. Did you happen to notice his forearms?"
"How does a man manage that, anyhow? Do you fall on it? I've always wondered…" But Jarod shakes his head, getting off track. Anyway. "His swordbelt I saw, which suggests he was taken by surprise if he didn't go for his weapon. And the inn staff's stories square with that. There was no screaming or struggle loud enough to wake anyone last night. Last anyone saw of Master Howard, he was in the common room drinking. Until this morning, when the maid found him dead. As for his forearms, I didn't get close enough to see. What was it?"
"No, you just…" Josse lifts an arm, as if about to pantomine such a self-inflicted wound, then waves it off. "Nevermind." He raises his left hand so Jarod can see the area on his own forearm, tracing a few lines crisscrossing. "Old wounds on both arms, Jarod. You see them in men who know how to fight with knives and live to bear the scars. He was no amateur with his own weapons. Whoever got him would definitely have needed surprise." Both brows make a slight loft, his soft voice dry. "Given the way the blankets were and the odor on them I would say catching him by surprise was easy. Whoever it was was fucking him."
"Fucking…hells." Jarod takes a moment to absorb that information. "Well, that fits with his character, as it's been told to me. Master Howard made himself known to the local women during his stay here. Last night, as the bartender tells me the story, he had a few drinks in the common room, made a pass at the wife of the local leatherworker - who turned him down quite flat - and went up to his room. He must've found himself some company later. I'm told he'd taken one of the barmaids to bed in previous nights - I know the girl, actually…" Jarod smirks, idly scratching behind one ear. Knows her in the carnal sense, he quite obviously means. Ahem. "…pretty Mistress Ruby. She wasn't working last night, though, and so far as the bartender saw Master Howard went up to bed a lonely man."
"Well, clearly he found somebody." Josse spreads his hands and then goes back to scrubbing at them uselessly with the dirty rag. "I would encourage the bartender to sharpen his memory. There is always the possibility that whoever was on top of him didn't kill him, but it's farfetched in my opinion. There's no indication of a disturbance anywhere else that would suggest there was a killer and a witness. How much did you actually see of the wound at his throat?"
"I didn't linger long enough to take a good look, though I'd like to give him a closer eye before the body's moved out of here," Jarod says, as to the wound. "The innkeeper's eager to have Master Howard out of his residence here. Puts a damper on drinking when there's blood dripping form the ceiling, I suppose. As to his girl…might've been another on staff, though if it is the maids are being tight-lipped about it for now. Which, if one of the girls did him, that's no surprise. Even a barmaid here on an off-night wouldn't occasion much comment, not enough that she couldn't slip upstairs for a turn or two. He also might've made an appointment with one of the whores. They're discreet if you ask them to be, and she might've just gone to his room rather than heading up the stairs with him."
Josse lets Jarod work that out aloud, watching the Rivers' face while he cleans his hands. He's not even paying the least bit of attention as to whether anything's coming off his skin anymore. "You're likely not looking for someone that knows their knives well, I can tell you that." His eyes flicker to Jarod's belt, head tilting. "Have you got a knife on you?"
"Aye, always carry one," Jarod says, reaching to his belt. It's a dagger sheathed at his hip, albeit not so impressively as his sword. This is plainly more of a utility piece than a weapon, more a hunting knife than anything else. Josse's words make him wince some. "Messy job of it, then?"
It's got a blade. Josse takes the weapon from the other man and gets up, planting one knee on his creaking chair. "Pardon the imagery," he comments drily. "How they did was like this. The angle was from above…and probably landed like this." His two-handed grip on the knife looks awkward, the visual painting this better than the words do. "I would guess they're right handed. Killed him as intended but could've been far more efficient if they'd known what they were doing. Also." He sits back on his heel, tapping the knife point on the table. "His coinpurse was gone, if he had one to start with."
"Fucked and robbed, then?" Jarod frowns, but it's a thoughtful frown. "That'd almost be good tidings, Jos. At least, the way this thing could go otherwise. Woman cutting a man's throat for coin - or because she didn't like the way he was treating her in bed - is ugly business but it's just between two people. Noting that'd chance breaking the peace between Terrick or Nayland, or suggest some larger plot. You figure she killed him in one go with the knife, or were there other signs of struggle on him?"
"One go, likely. He didn't even have a chance to move, not with that wound. One cut, he would have bled to death quickly. I don't know, Jarod…" Josse's face crinkles as he slides the dagger back over, hilt-first. "It feels extreme for a simple robbery. Lure a man to bed and brutally kill him in the middle of the act, just for his purse? Why not take anything else?" He clears his throat. "I also noticed a bowl in there. Water and bloody rags…but nothing on him had been cleaned, nor the room. If I had to guess I would say the killer stayed a few minutes to try and wash themselves up. I hate to say it, but that sounds more like who it was expected this to happen."
"She might've been in somebody's pay," Jarod says, frown deepening. "Hate to admit it, but I don't figure I'd be too quick to defend myself if a pretty girl was on top of me giving me a good time after I've had a few cups. Not a bad way to assassinate a man, if that's what your aim was to do, and Master Howard was public enough in his affection for the ladies that it could occur to someone easy who knew him even in passing. That still means the answer to this lies in finding his lady friend, though, whether she just didn't like the way he fucked or had some other motivation."
"Still, if she was in someone's pay…" Josse leans back, frowning. "Wouldn't you send a woman that knew what she was doing? She got lucky that she hit so well, handling the blade like that. If she'd hit lower he might've had the chance to yell out or throw her off. There must be a reason she took such a chance like this."
Jarod shrugs, arms crossed along his broad chest now. "Woman scorned over him fucking another barmaid, maybe?" The suggestion's only half a joke. "Jos, I couldn't begin to guess. Find her and get her to tell us before we hang her is the best idea I've got. Should probably start with talking to that leatherworker's wife. And Ruby. Neither of them strike me as the murdering type, but they had some knowledge of the man, and it'd do to figure out where they were when he died, if nothing else. Along with the other girls who work here, servers and whores. Maybe knowing we know the way it was likely done will make them talk more. Should also have words with the stable keepers. Even washed up, I wouldn't fancy risking a leisurely stroll out of town after just doing murder to a man in his own bed."
"I can barely imagine how she made a leisurely stroll out the front door," Josse says, drily. "Given the mess. Someone must have seen something, I agree. Once the Silent Sisters have attended to the body I would look over that room plank to plank. Who knows, someone may have dropped something we haven't yet noticed."
Jarod nods to Josse. "I'll tell the innkeeper he shouldn't rent it out until we've been over it. Though I can't imagine many'll want to stay there, given what happened to the last customer. You need anything more with the body? I told Lord Ryker we'd see it seen to and returned to Nayland lands as soon as we could, so his kin could do for him."
"I'll go over it once more before I go. Make certain I haven't missed anything." Josse murmurs. His fingers have been gently picking at his robe just under his collar, an intermittent tic of his that Jarod will likely remember all the way back from the Trident. "A shame." Pick, pick, and then his hand stills. "Where is Lord Ryker, anyway?"
"On the road back to Stonebridge by now, likely as," Jarod says. He doesn't sound entirely pleased about it. "I don't suppose I can blame him, though I'm surprised he traveled without the Lady Igara. She's still recovering from her fainting bout in the Roost." There *is* disapproval in his tone there. "I managed to speak to his entourage before he left. Don't figure any of them could've done the deed themselves, and if they were the ones that paid to have it done…well, there's little that can be done to them without Master Howard's girl, anyhow. When Lady Igara rides back to Stonebridge I figure I'll ride with her. I guess this Howard was more Ser Rygar's man than Lord Ryker's. Just came attached to the Lord of Stonebridge to…" He chuckles. "…keep an eye on him for his cousin, I suppose. Or do some other black sort of business here. Nobody can ask him about it now, unless they can voyage to the seven hells."
Josse raises an eyebrow. "He's left her? Huh." That little sound could mean any number of things. "Well, whatever he was doing it seems he did a poor job. Or…maybe too good of one. I don't know. But if anything further turns up I shall come and see you, certainly."
"He's left men here to see to the case, and he claims I can have admittance to Stonebridge if we've questions for men there," Jarod says. "Don't know how I could've stopped him from leaving, save accusing him of murdering his own man. Which I'm reasonable certain none of the men with him could've done the act themselves. If they gave coin to a woman to do it…and we're back around. Anyhow. I'll have a look at the body and then see to helping you clear it out for the Silent Sisters. We should speak to Ser Brody as well. Tell him what you figured from it. I'll be curious to see how he responds to the idea Master Howard's bedmate was paid to do the deed."
"I still don't think anyone with half sense would pay someone so unskilled with a blade, Jarod," Josse says, thinning his lips. "But I'll let you pose that to Ser Brody; you play these games better than I do." Which is a compliment, sort of. He starts to stand, taking the bloody rag with him.
Jarod snorts, laughing at that. "I am but a common man, Jos, and I play no highlord games. I'd likely be dead by now if I did. Ill-equipped for that sort of thing. For my part, I still pray this was an awful mess between a man and the girl he was fucking that got out of hand." Though he sounds less-than-sure about that. "I'll have another look at the body now. And we can get on with this business. Such as we can."
"More highbrow than I, my friend," Josse assures Jarod, with a tired half-smile. "At least if I am doing my duties wrong I won't find out till after I'm dead." He balls up the rag in one hand, heading for the door. "I'll come with you. Seven sharpen our eyes."