The Mysterious Case of the Missing Skeith: Part Five
Also by fuliguline
Previously, on TMCOTMS:
The Cyvisham brothers reveal the hidden history behind Mercutio and the Cyvishams. Apparently the story was not a simple as it seemed...
Shylock pulled out her pen. "How long have you been working here, young miss?"
"All my life, just like my mother. 'Tis a good family to work for, despite what you might read in the papers. Even if they never pay me, I will never leave this house, not until the hour I breathe my last!" the little maid bravely declared.
"Did you ever meet Mr. Mercutio?"
"Ah yes, but I was a wee lass back then. He seemed like a very kind fellow, despite what my masters always say. My mother, who knew him since he was just a lad, tells me there was no way he could have left with all that money. He was much too fond of Miss Sylvette and Miss Sadie, you see, and he was even fond of Master Andrew and Master Theodore. And he was the loyal sort, very quiet and mild and faithful-like. And—Oh!" she suddenly caught herself. "I suppose it isn't my right to be saying all of this. Pardon me, ma'am." She glanced furtively in the direction of the kitchen. "I also believe I may be burning my biscuits, so if you'll excuse me for a wee second..."
"No worries, Eleanor, and thank you. Your information was very helpful," Shylock said warmly.
The maid bobbed a little curtsy and left.
"So...?" Grotson asked afterwards.
"Did you know, Grotson, that the impressions of servants are often the most astute?" At the Grarrl's blank expression, Shylock continued. "They tend to be exceptionally observant, and they remember quirks and personality traits that others tend not to see. They are like walls with eyes, so to speak. If they think highly of the ones they work for, it usually bodes well for the person in question."
"She thought highly of Mercutio," mused the Grarrl.
"Indeed," said Shylock, turning a glance at the door. "Well, we shall now see what Miss Sylvette has to say about the matter."
Right on cue, the Aisha glided into the parlor room. "Good evening," she greeted them mildly. "How may I help you?"
"My colleague and I have already heard a great deal about this matter from your brothers," Shylock said, busily polishing her teacup on her coat. "I will, however, pose to you the same question—what do you recall about the robbery of the Golden Skeith?"
Sylvette stared at her curiously. "I am not sure what they told you, but unfortunately, I wasn't there for most of it. I didn't even get a chance to visit the vault. My brothers, as I recall, went to Neopia Central on Tuesday to prepare the auction. I initially had plans to join them, but I was feeling ill and decided to rest at home for the night. I told them I would meet them on Wednesday for the bids. When I arrived, Andrew told me the news... nothing, nothing could have prepared me for the shock. Upon my word, it was like a nightmare coming to life. In all my years, I never could've imagined..."
"I'm sure it was difficult, madame," murmured Shylock, scribbling furiously in her notebook.
"I sent a message to Sadie, who was in school, and she came straight away. I just... I don't know what to make of everything that's been happening lately." The Aisha suddenly seemed extremely distraught. She looked at Shylock. "My sister seems to have an extraordinary amount of faith in you. I know Andrew and Theodore have already told you—they try to keep it from me, but I know—that our family is nearing financial ruin. So please, if you can... save us!"
"I am trying, my dear," Shylock said gently. She stared out the window, where it was starting to rain.
Sylvette followed her line of vision. "Rain always bodes bad fortune," she said quietly. "It rained the morning I first fell ill, as a child. It rained the day before the Skeith was stolen. And it rained the day Merc..." Her voice trailed off.
"Yes?" Shylock prompted.
"The day Mercutio left," she finished. "Have my brothers told you about Mercutio? Ah yes, I see they have. I know you must think terribly about him, but—I promise you, he didn't do it! He wouldn't be capable of doing such a thing. You must believe me on this!"
There was such a determination in her face that Grotson looked up from his biscuit. "You seem like you're very sure, madame," he said.
"I am absolutely, completely sure." She seemed to catch herself then, and indulged in a small laugh. "I'm sorry. I just... I just hate it when people assume that he—ow!" She retracted her hand from the biscuit platter with a tiny cry.
Sadie rushed up. "Are you all right, Sylvette?"
Sylvette smiled at her. "Were you eavesdropping?"
Sadie flushed, and stood up straight. "Of course not! But I couldn't help hearing you just now and I—"
"You are all too overprotective," laughed Sylvette. "It's just a few split nails. I forgot about them and reached for the biscuits too fast."
"Oh, those look awful. How did they happen?" asked Sadie, clutching her sister's hand.
"I'm not entirely sure. They just started splitting out of nowhere." She patted Sadie's cheek fondly. "Don't worry so much, my darling."
"When was this?" asked Shylock.
"All this fuss over a couple split nails. But let's see—I can't recall exactly, but it was probably before I arrived in Neopia Central. Wednesday morning, I believe."
Shylock nodded, before making a sudden sound of annoyance. "Sadie, could you get me another pen, my dear? This one seems to be running somewhat dry," she said, giving the utensil a few noisy clicks for emphasis.
As Sadie left the room, Shylock abruptly spun to face Sylvette.
"You were the one who took it, weren't you?"
"What do you mean?" The Aisha looked noticeably startled. "I don't know what you're—"
"The Golden Skeith. You took it."
"Why did you take it?"
"Look here, I won't have you making any false accusations in my—"
"You asked me to help your family, my dear lady. However, to help them, I need you to be absolutely truthful with me. Why did you take it?"
The Aisha visibly faltered. "It's not what you—"
Shylock slowly got up. "If you don't tell me, there is nothing I can do. Grotson, my good man, get our coats and let's be off."
As Shylock turned to leave, Sylvette suddenly leapt up with a sob. "Wait! Oh—I'll tell! I'll tell... I'll tell you everything."
Shylock, with her back still turned to Sylvette, gave her colleague a wink. Nothing quite like the classic fake-out, her eyes said.
The Aisha continued, now completely distraught. "I know you must think I am the worst of the worst—stealing from my own family!—but I assure you, it was all for my poor brother. You see"—she took a deep breath, and continued—"a few days ago, I received a letter. There was no return address, which was odd, but I didn't think much of it at the time. When I opened it, I realized that it was from Mercutio. Oh, if you can, think of my situation! After so many years! I swear, I nearly stopped breathing. But it was his handwriting, and he addressed the opening, 'Dear Ettie,' which was his special nickname for me." Sylvette paused, and a small tear trickled down her cheek and landed on the table. "Oh, don't mind me, please, I'm just being foolish," she laughed dismally, and wiped it away.
"No worries, miss. Take your time," murmured Grotson.
At that moment, Sadie bounded in with the pen. "Here you go," she said to Shylock, before staring in surprise at her sister's wet face. "Sylvette? Are you all right?"
"Yes, yes, quite all right. Sit down, my dear," Sylvette said. "I want you to hear this too. I was just telling your friends how I received a letter the other day. A letter from—from your brother, Sadie."
Sadie's nose wrinkled in confusion. "From who? Andrew or Theodore?"
"No," said Sylvette. "From Mercutio."
Sadie stared at her sister, dumbfounded.
"The letter told me to meet him in an old warehouse on Monday night. He specifically said that I needed to go alone—that he couldn't bear to face the others. I should've been suspicious right away, but I was so caught up in my worry and excitement... I-I completely threw caution to the wind. I waited until my brothers were asleep, and then I rushed off to meet him. It was a small restaurant, very seedy, awfully crowded. When I arrived, a waitress came over and dropped off a note.
"In that second letter, he explained everything. How he had been distraught over my illness, and how he had met someone who promised a miracle cure in return for his financial help. H-how he had temporarily lost his good judgment in his panic and worry and had invested a... a substantial sum of our fortune in the company. How they had kidnapped him when he went back to ask for the cure, how they had dissolved the company, and how... h-h-how they had kept him as nothing more than a drudge for years and years!" Sylvette burst out crying. "Apparently they wouldn't even let him come to the warehouse to see me."
Sherlock patted her on the back awkwardly. "There, there, Madame."
Sylvette blew her nose and continued. "They had heard the news about our selling the Skeith, and were willing to offer his freedom in return for the statue. I was instructed not to tell anyone or his life would be in jeopardy. You must think me a terrible fool, but I—I fell for it. I trusted him, and so I didn't tell anyone while I thought about what to do. During that entire time, I couldn't stop thinking about Mercutio. About how much he must have suffered... I don't know what came over me, gentlemen, but I suddenly decided that—th-that cost no longer mattered. All I wanted was to have him back, and if the Golden Skeith could ensure his return, then so be it.
"There was an address included in the letter, a small tavern. It told me that someone would meet me there on Tuesday night. So when my brothers went to Neopia Central, I followed them. Sadie was staying at her school, so no one would miss me at home.
"I waited until my brothers had finished checking up on the statue, and then I slipped into the bank. Mind you, that pesky bank manager never forgets a face, so I had to come up with a disguise of some sort. A difficult task, but not impossible, thankfully, since the Neopian Bazaar was only a few blocks away.
"I told the manager that I wanted to open a new deposit box. He took me to my vault, then left so I could deposit my 'valuables' in private. Well of course, the minute he was gone, I raced to the Cyvisham vault and punched in the code. The lock clicked. During that one second, I paused—a wave of shame and self-disgust washed over me. But then I thought about Mercutio, and in the next instant, those feelings was gone. I went in the door, and I..." Her voice cracked, and it appeared to take a great effort to articulate her next sentence.
"...I took it. I took the Skeith."
To be continued...