Magic Can Be Murder

Chapter 13

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Nola held on to a mental picture of Brinna, lest the image before Galvin start quivering like a reflection in a bowl of water that's been jostled. She hoped Brinna was alone, for she had nothing to spare for maintaining Brinna in her mother's form. Nor had she anything left for answering Galvins sarcasm.

"What happened in the market?" Galvin asked.

"Nothing," Nola said.

"Why did your story change after you came back?"

"It didn't." Don't cry, Nola told herself, though she was so exhausted and frightened she felt close to it. Galvin would not be moved by tears.

"Either Kirwyn was with you or he was not."

"What I meant," Nola said, "was that I was in the kitchen, scrubbing the floor. Kirwyn was with me, the last time I'd looked. But – " She had to stop licking her lips; she knew it made her look like the guilty liar she was, hut she couldn't help herself: Her mouth was so dry. "I had my back to the door, and he was behind me. So, you see, I didn't exactly see him, so I felt alone. Though I wasn't. Because Kirwyn was there, too."

Galvin just sat looking at her.

And she sat holding on to the edges of her glamour, which felt ready to fly off like a floppy hat on a windy day.

He has kind eyes, Nola remembered Brinna saying in answer to someone's comment that Galvin had pretty eyes. They were an attractive gray, but cold. There was no kindness in them now. Everything in his expression called her a liar. She fought not to flinch, not to glance away guiltily.

"Did Kirwyn kill Innis?" Galvin asked.

The question took Nola's breath away. "Kirwyn?" she asked on half a sigh. He suspected Kirwyn after all? Despite all his questions about Alan? About an intruder? She saw he was studying her, catching the relief that must have flickered across her face. And what did he make of chat? "I wasn't there when Innis died," was all she dared say. "I was in the kitchen."

Galvin's voice became more gentle, chough his eyes were no warmer. "Did Kirwyn have reason to want his father dead?"

Yes! she wanted to shout. You're finally asking the right questions. But she couldn't get her voice above a whisper. "They argued frequently. He wouldn't have liked to share an inheritance with the new wife." Surely some of the neighbors would have told him this earlier. "But if it was Kirwyn, why would he steal che money? It could only be a danger, slowing him down, proving he was che culprit if it was found on him. Why risk that when it was part of his inheritance?"

Galvin hesitated, though Nola suspected he had worked out an answer already and was simply weighing whether to share it with her. "To make the killing appear to be done by someone else," he suggested.

Nola was aware that her mouth formed a silent "Oh." She felt like a naive child. Not that she had ever been a naive child, or at least not in a very long time.

Galvin was watching her closely. "What about Alan? Did he have reason to hate his master?"

Nola closed her eyes in frustration.

There was a rattle from the gate that led into the courtyard.

Brinna! Nola thought. In her panic about Galvin's questions, she had forgotten to concentrate on keeping her mother's form on Brinna, and now Brinna was back to accuse and offer proof –

The kitchen door opened, and the sound of many voices came into the house. The funeral party was returning.

Nola mentally pictured her mother's form overlapping Brinna's.

In the meantime, Galvin's attention never wavered. He had to have seen the dread on her face and how it was replaced by relief. He spoke slowly and calmly, though they had only a few more moments. "If you were Kirwyn, and you had killed your father and stolen his money to make it look like the work of an intruder, what would you do with the money?"

"I don't know," Nola said. Which was the truth, but Galvin had no way of knowing that after all her lies.

And then people were stopping in front of the open door, looking in at her on the bed and Galvin sitting there beside her.

Kirwyn smirked, raising his eyebrows suggestively. "My, my, did we come back too soon?"

"Yes," Galvin said. He stood, ignoring the knowing grins on most of the faces of chose crowded around Kirwyn.

Kirwyn glowered. It was the look he had worn just before killing his father. It was the same look he had turned on Brinna. And now here was Nola, trapped in the same house with Kirwyn, wearing Brinna's form – being Brinna, as far as anyone knew – and with a leg she couldn't walk on.

Don't worry yourself unnecessarily, Nola told herself. Even if Kirwyn wanted Brinna dead, even if he was actively plotting her murder, he wouldn't pick tonight, not the night after he'd killed his father.

But maybe that was the best time of all, Nola thought. People would think the intruder had come back. Maybe that was exactly the best time to commit a second murder.

"Lord Galvin," she called, stopping him at the door. "What about the killer?"

She could see him try to work out what she meant, since he had just clearly indicated to her that he suspected Kirwyn was the killer. She continued, "What if the killer comes back? Surely this household isn't safe. Will you and Sergeant Halig remain here tonight?" Galvin and Halig guarding the door had to be better than being trapped with Kirwyn, with only the too-trustful Alan to protect her.

Kirwyn snorted. "Timid Brinna. Surely that isn't necessary. The intruder has had the whole day to put Haymarket behind him while Lord Pendaran's men have squandered away the hours on pointless questions and frivolous searches."

If he hoped to shame Galvin into leaving, it was a mistake.

"Yes," Galvin told Nola. "We will be staying the night."

"This is a house in mourning," Kirwyn objected. " With a useless maid who has a crippled ankle. We do not have the wherewithal to put you up in a suitable manner."

"Then it is fortunate my needs are simple."

The crowd at the door parted for him, so that only Nola was in the room to see the look Kirwyn gave her as he muttered after Galvin, "Such as a useless maid with a crippled ankle?"

Chapter Thirteen

THE LAST OF the people who had crowded around the doorway wished Nola well and closed the door behind them on their way co food and drink and reminiscing about Innis. Nola hastily put aside the hair she had plucked from Galvin's head. Her shoe would be a good hiding place, at least for now. Then she searched the blanket until she found one of Brinna's hairs, which she tossed into the cup of water she'd already bespelled.

Apparently all cried out, Brinna was asleep in the barn in which Nola had previously seen her. Nola even knew which barn it was, for it was so dilapidated that through the great chinks in the wall Nola could see the millpond. It was the barn in which she and her mother had considered staying – since it looked abandoned and probably had no one to order them out – when they had first come to Haymarket, before they stopped at the silversmith's house.

Brinna – asleep and alone. You were lucky, Nola told herself. If she had been awake when the glamour wavered…

Wavered?

WAVERED?

Nola had abandoned it for long enough that if Brinna had been aware of what was happening, she could have made her way to the house, could have been in among the funeral party before Nola had enough presence of mind to re-form the spell.

That didn't bear thinking about.

Besides, she had no time to spare on events she had already survived; she had to plan what to do next. She had arranged things so that she was – she hoped – safe from Kirwyn tonight. But those same arrangements had almost certainly assured that she would not be able to sneak out of the house once everyone was abed. Galvin and Halig would be keeping watch, to make sure no intruder came in, to make sure Kirwyn didn't leave his room to go to Brinna's. Certainly they were just as capable of noticing her going out.

In all likelihood, then, she was here for the duration of the night.

Once morning came she would have to convince them that she was fit enough to do the marketing. Alone. That was two obstacles to overcome; the convincing and the being able to walk at least as far as the outside door when moments ago she couldn't take one step unaided.

The room grew dimmer as late afternoon faded into evening, and finally the people who had attended Innis's funeral began to go home, and still, no better plan had suggested itself to Nola than to wait.

The cooper's daughters cleaned up after the guests. Either that or a hostile army set siege to the kitchen; it was hard to be sure about chose rattlings and clatterings coming from down the hall.

When Alan came in bearing yet another tray of food, Nola asked about who had come and what she had missed, reasoning that without something to occupy her – besides, of course, keeping intact the spells chat made her look like Brinna and Brinna look like her mother – she wouldn't be able to keep her eyes open much longer. Never mind that she didn't know any of the people that Alan might mention.

But Alan, stifling a yawn, claimed exhaustion and stayed only long enough to close the shutters against the night's dark and chill, using a piece of string, and never complaining that he would have to fix the broken latch.

Kirwyn came next.

Surely he wouldn't do anything, she tried to reassure herself. But she was becoming more and more convinced that Brinna had not made a simple mistake when she had claimed that the two of them were in the kitchen together during the time Innis was being attacked. And now, she guessed, he was here to persuade her not co change chat story. By threat? By an appeal to love?

The first idea was distressing, the second disgusting.

Before Kirwyn had a chance to say anything, though, Galvin came up behind him and leaned over his shoulder. "Good night, Brinna," Galvin said. "Rest easy. I'll be in the kitchen, and Sergeant Halig will be in che shop, both of us alert for the faintest sound of trouble." Which was surely meant as much in warning as reassurance. He patted Kirwyn on the back and added, "Say good night, Kirwyn, and let her sleep."

"Good night, Brinna," Kirwyn said with a forced smile. "Perhaps by tomorrow you will be feeling well enough that I will not have to hire extra help to do your work for you."

She managed what was no doubt a sickly smile. She absolutely must not let herself get trapped alone in the house with Kirwyn.

Kirwyn slammed the door so hard that it shook.

She knew the night was going to last an eternity.

LONG AFTER any reasonable person would have been asleep, Nola heard footsteps in the hall, coming from the direction of the other wing of the house – from the shop. The person was taking care not to make any extra noise, but what she heard were boots, not bare feet.

Surely Kirwyn would take more care than that.

The footsteps passed her door without pausing and entered the kitchen. She heard Halig's quiet voice ask, "Did you want to talk?"

Galvin must have whispered his answer, or not spoken aloud at all but simply gestured, for in a moment Nola heard the kitchen door open, then shut. Galvin apparently didn't want to take the chance that anybody else in the house was awake and listening.

Such precautions might protect him from the average eavesdropper, but…

Nola reached for the strand of his hair that she had tucked into her shoe.

She found herself hesitating. She had hoped – she had to admit to herself – to keep his hair, to be able to look in on Galvin one more time, later, when this was all behind her, when she could watch in safety for a good long time. She knew this was silliness. Besides, she needed to look now.

When the shadowshapes formed in the bespelled water, she saw that Galvin and Halig had stopped at the bench under the walnut tree in the courtyard. Galvin was sitting; Halig leaned against the tree. "I don't know what to make of her," Galvin said wearily.

"Could she have been trying to escape?" Halig asked. "Get to wherever they hid the money?"

So Galvin had told him about her misadventure with the window this afternoon, and more important, they suspected her – or rather, her-as-Brinna.

Nola clenched her hands in frustration that she had caused precisely what she had tried to prevent.

But Galvin shook his head at what Halig had said. "Hard to believe, given that she can barely make her way across a room. How far could she possibly have gotten?"

Their voices were quiet, and she had to strain to catch the words through the bespelled water. "It might be an act," Halig pointed out. In response to the look Galvin gave him at that, he added, "Well, part of it, at lease. She could be exaggerating how badly she's hurt specifically so we don't watch her as closely as we should."

"She was on the floor," Galvin said. "I wouldn't have heard her leaving if she hadn't fallen."

Halig shrugged. "Maybe she didn't have far to go to get the money. Maybe she didn't even have to leave the room. Could ic be hidden near the window, behind the shutters or beneath the sill?"

Again Galvin shook his head. "Not from what I could tell." And Nola remembered how he had considerately opened the shutters for her, even before helping her back to her feet.

Halig gazed off into the night, not looking at Galvin. He said, "So you're thinking she's what she seems and hasn't anything to do with the killing?"

Yes, Nola frantically thought. Yes, yes, yes!

Galvin sighed, which sounded much more like a no, even to Nola's energetic hoping.

Finally Halig faced him again. "That leaves Alan."

"I would very much prefer it to be Alan than Brinna," Galvin agreed.

Halig snorted and countered with, "I would very much prefer to be a rich baron, lord of a castle in the south."

Galvin rested his face in his hands.

You outrank him, Nola thought. You can TELL him what to say. But she knew this would not be settled by rank.

Halig said, "Kirwyn couldn't have done it alone, not the way they described it. One, if not both, of them is involved."

"I know," Galvin sighed.

Well, at least they were including Kirwyn in their suspicions.

"Alan…" Halig shook his head. "If I needed a partner, someone to lie for me, to help me, I would hate to be dependent on Alan's quick wits for something like chat. It's much more likely to be her."

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