A week since the funeral, and I still couldn't stop thinking about him, and neither could she, apparently.
She walked right in, bold as brass, and told me "I need you to find out what happened to him," and of course I knew what she was talking about. "I'll pay you." said she, and from that moment I was on the case.
Not that I wouldn't have taken it anyway, cash or no cash, I mean, she was my mother and he was my father, after all.
Next day, I headed up to the house, hadn't been there in years. Biggest house in Denmark, if you listen to what they say, and that's something I never stop doing.
Uncle Claude, Dad's brother, had moved in now, to help Mother dearest through this trying time, no doubt. Don't get me wrong, I knew what was happening, I'm not naïve. Yeah, I knew, me and the rest of the country. Euuch.
I went up the pompously long driveway and a servant pulled open the front door without me even getting the chance to knock. He gave me, well, tried to give me, I wasn't listening, and earful about how overjoyed he was that my long leave of absence was finally blah blah bloody blah. I brushed passed him and headed right for the deceased's rooms.
Hey, gracious ain't in the job description.
I went through dear old Dad's things like I would with anyone else's, no special treatment here.
There was nothing there. I looked for more than an hour, but I didn't find anything pointing to anyone even remotely disliking him. The whole country loved him.
I'd wasted my time here, and I didn't know where else to - Hello.
I'd knocked a wall painting over in my search, and, lo and behold, my father, always the fan of jokes and cliches, had actually put an honest to God safe behind it.
Simple rotary dial on it, couldn't be more than four digits in the combination. I was about to start work on cracking it when I saw what the painting that had been hiding the safe was. It was good ol' Bill, the Bard himself. I tried 1 - 5 - 6 - 4 as the combination, and then 1 - 6 - 1 - 6 when that didn't work. The second, more morbid one worked, knowing Dad that wasn't all that suprising, and the safe swung right open.
Inside was a couple hundred bucks in cash, some objects of what could only be sentimental value, and a small, leather-bound journal.
It wasn't a bad read, hints and suspicious about Mother and Claude, conspiracies in the government, all that sort of stuff, until the end. The last few pages talked about assassination attempts, with poison, mostly.
Even better, there was a page or two that had been ripped out.
Someone knew something.
Wish it was me.
I headed home, left a message with the servants to have Claude and Gertie call me when they got in, and telling them about Dad's journal.
As I walked in the door, first thing I saw was the open window. I shut the door quietly and pulled out my gun, then I stood absolutely still, pressed against the wall, listening for any movement at all.
So I took a shower.
I had my gun on the counter, don't worry. I even leaned a sword on the toilet, just to be safe.
During what was probably the soapiest bit, I noticed something strange. The steam was clouding up the mirror, but only in certain parts, and in certain, familiar shapes. They weren't strange shapes, nor were the eldritch, arcane, or even interesting.
Don't go getting so excited, they were just letters.
Admittedly, it's not like that sort of thing happens to me every day, so I used my keen detective skills to divine that further investigation was needed.
After I'd washed the soap off, of course. Some things have priority.
Maybe a minute later I finally read what the mirror said. It was a simple, short message, a single word, but I didn't know what it meant.
I heard a crash from the hall, and I went out to look.
My hall mirror had been shattered, and as I looked at the glass, I noticed a distinctive pattern in where the shards lay. Said the same thing that was in the bathroom.
A creaking of a door, my fridge.
I ran to the kitchen in time to see it swing shut, and I looked at the table and saw a ham sandwich, top slice of bread waiting to be put in its place, a bottle of mustard standing sentry beside it.
Written in mustard on the top slice of ham was the same word as before, one I was already getting sick of.
Someone was here, they were screwing with me, I just knew it. "Who's there?" I called.
Came the reply: "'Mark me.'"
"Who are you?"
"'My hour is almost come, when I to sulfurous and tormenting flames must render up myself.'"
"That's just great, I'm sure you can't wait, and I'll send you down even sooner if you don't answer my question. Who are you?"
"'I am thy father's spirit, doom'd for a certain term to walk the night, and for the day confined to fast in fires-'"
"No. You're not. You're some twisted idiot who happened to figure out how to get through my window, that's who I think you are."
And that's when he came walking through the wall. Dad never could resist an entrance.
It was him too, he looked exactly right, if a bit pale, but I suppose that comes with being dead. Nice of them, I suppose, to throw in that little bonus. Makes your face pop, that's for sure.
Needless to say, I was stunned, speechless, dumbstruck.
"Son," he said. "You don't close your mouth, something nasty's gonna fly in there."
I did that, and he walked around the kitchen, through the table and the sandwich, and grumbled about how hard it'd been to get the scene set right.
I finally forced myself to say, "You're getting me a new mirror."
"You do what I'm about to ask you to, my boy, I'll get you twenty."
"Gee whiz, will you really?!" I said, my elation at the thought clear from the grimace on my face.
He stared at me for a second before saying, "Shut up." Once I did, he went on, "Alright, look, I know you found my journal, I know you want to do the whole sleuthing thing, but I'm going to spoil the play for you. Claude did it. He killed me. Poisoned my dinner, told everyone it was a heart attack. And what you're gonna do is you're gonna get him back for me. I'll be blunt, I want him dead, I don't care how you do it, just kill him. But my time here is nearly done, so adieu, adieu, remember me."
My old man read too much Shakespeare.
Still, I guessed he was telling the truth, no reason he wouldn't be, and that made Claude my enemy.
I set off to do as I'd been bidden.
First I went to see Mother, to see if she knew about any of this. She didn't, she thought I was crazy. Only interesting thing happened in the conversation was when I noticed someone lurking behind a curtain, their feet showing under the bottom.
Now there are a lot of things you can do in a situation like this, you can watch what you say, make sure that whoever is spying on you doesn't get anything good. Or you could expose the spy in hiding, proving them incompetent and giving them nothing. Or you could choose the diplomatic option, which is my preferred method
Seeing as how we were in the kitchen, this method was delivered via frying pan.
It knocked him out cold, I didn't even recognize the guy, one of the servant, probably.
"Go get Claude," I said to Mama Gertie, and she did.
They came down to the kitchen, and Claude was visibly terrified, she'd probably told him everything.
He decided he wanted to talk. A good choice, I still had my frying pan in hand.
Mother poured us some drinks, then did something with the stove. I didn't touch mine, while he gulped his down almost instantly and poured out another.
I told him what I knew, and it was all right, he and Mother had wanted to be together, but she wouldn't leave Dad. So Claude killed him, simple as that. I asked him how he did it, and he said, "Simple, I just poisoned his-" and then looked down at his cup, then at Gertie, then to me, and then slumped over, dead.
I stared at my mother, I had no idea that she would have even considered killing him, I wasn't even sure that I would've been able to go through with it.
She just smiled at me.
"What about the body?" I asked.
She went to the cupboard and got some matches and, smiling all the while, lit one, lighting the gas that had been filling the kitchen from the stove for the last twenty minutes with it.
Last thing I saw was the flame rushing towards me.