I walked for a time in silence, enjoying the sense of peace. Everything was quiet. Even the brook I was walking near was more whispering than babbling.
Then a loud “Snap” rang out.
I had stepped on a stick laying in the path and broken it. I had a sudden sense of foreboding, as if I really had done a great wrong. I could feel all the eyes on me, and everywhere I looked it seemed as if the small beasts were quick to look away.
I spun around quickly, and left the path heading straight for the water. That might not have been the smartest choice I had ever made since that led me straight towards the brook. You never know what running water here will do to you, but I was pretty sure this was not the headwaters of Lethe.
Slowly the foreboding faded and the peace returned.
I hopped from bank to bank, careful not to touch the water just in case. The last thing I needed was to find myself back at the start of my journey with no recollection of where I was going, or why. But no matter how careful you are, sometimes the dice are simply against you.
My foot hit a slippery patch of rock on the far bank.
And I landed in a stagnant pool of muddy water. Flat on my back. I could feel immediately that nothing was broken, aside from my dignity. I had little enough of that left. With a sigh, I pried myself out of the puddle, and shook the muddy water from my clothes.
I walked for a time in silence, enjoying the sense of peace. Everything was quiet. Even the brook I was walking near was more whispering than babbling….
Almost lost among the professional certificates hanging on the dingy wall was a hidden gem. A single sheet of vellum, covered in elaborate calligraphy, bearing several signatures of dignitaries, and the seal of the university.
The frame was unassuming, to better fit with the lack of tasteful or current decor.
Dust was on most everything, and somehow a splash of an unknown redish liquid obscured the name of the university, leaving a visitor to uneasily get the impression of a learned but careless person.
Little would they know that the splash was concealing a vastly more prestigious name than would ordinarily be seen in such a dingy setting. Or for that matter, that there was a slight difficulty with the dates and names on the vellum. Not at all that they were incorrect, or that the document was forged. More that neither the document nor its owner bore the appearance one might expect for the age implied by those dates.
Both were remarkably well preserved, but Michel well knew that simply placing that treasured document in plain sight was the best way to preserve it. Nobody would look closely, and those who did would see exactly what they wanted to see. People are funny that way.
The scene was a mess. The spreading pool of blood was still able to flow, so whatever happened here was recent. There was no sign of either a body or a struggle. And yet, there was a lot of blood. Too much blood.
It had been found by the roommate, which was suspicious enough. His alibi was about as strong as tissue, but there were other factors. The largest was that the room was locked until he arrived. The windows were painted shut after too many years of just adding a new coat of paint. There were no other doors, and the door was locked when he got home.
He opened the door to find a pool of blood, and panicked.
The blood was all over the floor, and some was on the chair before the small table where a typewriter stood. A real antique beauty of a typewriter, all cast iron frame, black gloss paint, gold leaf details, and chipped white keys with worn black letters.
There was paper in the typewriter, a stack of blank sheets to one side.
No blood on anything above waist height.
No trail of footprints.
Anyone sitting at those keys who started to bleed would have left a trail as they moved around.
And yet, we have no body. No trail. No footprints. No fingerprints.