Murder and Cows
"These are magnified shots of the site of the aneurysm."
Vlad eyed the picture. "So the blood vessel ballooned out and ruptured?"
"Well, yes, but while most aneurysms are caused by blood pressure, frequently in weakened old arteries, this is what we call a Traumatic Aneurysm. It started with physical damage to the outer layers of the artery. Looking more closely we can see that there is healing along these edges consistent with a very hard blow to the head, between two and four days prior to the rupture of the aneurysm."
The coroner turned to study Vlad. "The thing is, there is no other damage from this postulated blow to the head. I've never seen it before, but there are examples in medical texts of strong Mentalists, with very good training in delicate physical manipulations being able to do repairs to blood vessels. The corollary being that they could probably cause damage as well."
"And therefore you can't rule out someone killing him?"
"And the actual attack was at least two days prior to the death."
"Doctor Volkov . . . thank you for handling me a problem." He took the proffered chip.
Is there anyone in that house, besides Lord Axel, who could kill like this?
I know Lord Andre and Lord Nikoli are just a few months younger than he is but . . . what training in Mentalist Techniques have they had? They just simply are not in the same league with their cousin, the Government Agent. At whatever level of the Government he answers to. Or Agent of the Three Hundred. He and the Inquisitor clearly knew each other.
He checked his messages, then headed back for Vinogradov House.
Where he walked into a domestic disturbance on the front steps.
Lady Veronika screeching at the top of her voice, ". . . put up with you for eight horrible years and now I find out you're poor! Yeah, run you little weasel. When my Dad finds out . . . "
Lord Nicoli kept backing away. Vlad caught caught something about "Four million rubles is not . . ."
A car pulled up, and Andre bolted out the front doors and dived in, Nikoli turned and jumped in after him. The car door slammed and the car zoomed off.
Lady Anastaciya stalked out the doors and made a very unlady-like gesture toward the car. "I'm going to start by killing that sanctimonious smirking asshole, then when my dear husband dares to show his face again . . ." She spun and walked back inside.
Vlad eyed Lady Veronika. "What happened?"
"Axel showed us the domestic expenses that we have to pick up, now that Lord Vladimir isn't paying them." Her voice quavered a bit. "Do you have any idea how much it costs to feed and clothe a hundred and forty servants and their sixty children?"
"No . . ."
"Twenty-eight thousand rubles a month. Every month. Even though I'm splitting the cost with Veronika, that will take nearly half our living expenses. My dress allowance . . . doesn't exist anymore. Axel says we can't redecorate for a year, and we'd best wait three years to get any new cars . . ." A deep sobbing breath. "I don't know how I'll hold my head up in society."
The two doormen opened the doors for her, standing well back, faces blank.
"Hmm, yes. But even without the Lord's Council salary, surely his personal accounts . . ."
"Oh sure, but where are those accounts? Where did all that money go?"
To a Budapest Reborn mercenary company, and no doubt bribes to politicians And it's all going to be seized by the government because of his treason. And that's why Axel split the trust in such a hurry. He's hoping the government won't go after the son's money. I'd have left them hanging in the wind, myself. Maybe.
What a mess, and if I have to arrest Axel for murdering him . . . They'll probably give him a medal.
He caught Axel's voice and veered over to the small dining room. Forty-one was leaning casually on the wall.
". . . isn't forever. You can just tell your friends that you 'need a period of mourning' then you blame it on me being slow and stingy, and then talk about your plans to remodel once Andre and Nikoli are on the Historical Trust Board, and in control of their own Trusts . . ."
Lady Anastaciya was drumming her fingers on the table.
". . . then you swap to talking about how inconvenient its going to be, perhaps it would be marginally less disruptive to not start until spring or early summer and so forth. And . . . you two have rooms full of dresses worn once or twice. Surely among all the servants you've got some seamstresses who can pick them apart and re cut them in the newest fashions. Would anyone actually notice you used the same fabric as a dress you wore three years ago? Same with those fur coats in the refrigerated rooms.
"Oh, and those servants you can't afford? Look them over and get me a list of the ones you don't want. Well, I'm sure there are bad grow-ins, and oldsters who can't do much any more. If there are any with value, I'll help you sell them anonymously. I'll take the rest and see if I can at least break even on the lot, and save you the upkeep. Oh, and the cost of chips, there's four or five servant kids hitting eighteen every year."
Lady Veronika and Lady Anastaciya swapped glances.
"Let's go talk, just you and I." Lady Anastaciya rose and stalked toward the back stairs. Lady Veronika followed.
Forty-one shook his head. "Makes me glad I can't marry."
Lord Axel sighed. "Women aren't allowed to get an education, work, take the time to find a husband they can truly love. At eighteen they either marry someone who can afford the wife chip, or hope their father will spring for it. Because their only other choice is a servant chip that, by design, will lower their intelligence." A shrug. "So I really can't blame them for being bitches. It's the only power they will ever have."
Vlad scowled. "And sometimes they get engaged to someone who will takes their Dad's money for the wife chip, pocket it, and get the girl a cheap servant chip."
Forty-one growled. "And live to brag about how clever he was to do it far enough ahead of the wedding that he could dump her when she had a bad grow-in. I had to sit on your Dad. Literally."
Vlad smiled wryly. "Yes. I remember. I was . . . sixteen? Good thing I never met the . . . person again, after that."
Lord Axel stared into space for a moment, then blinked and brought his attention back to Vlad. "So . . . How is your investigation going? Have you decided to arrest me yet?"
Vlad sat down and propped his elbows on the table. "Did you kill Lord Vladimir? Mind you, I'm saying killed, not murdered."
Axel shook his head. "It was a complete surprise to me. And if you don't trust my morals, trust my brains. I'd have at least waited until I was firmly and publicly known to be fifty, if nothing else. To be honest? I was keeping my eyes open for murder attempts on me. I was hours away from being able to see the problems with the Historical Trust. And whatever he was up to, he was probably eyeing my money."
"Humph. So . . . who else in this household has the ability to reach into someone's brains and damaged a blood vessel badly enough that it killed him several days later?"
"Really? Huh. I take it your coroner spotted something?" He leaned back in thought. Shook his head. "That I know of, I'm the only one. Andre and Nikloi don't have the training, nor the self control something like that requires. The four I'm training haven't been able to touch the power long enough to have developed the necessary control. Mr. Solovsky has pretty good glow, but he wouldn't have had that sort of training. There aren't many servants from outside . . . I'm sure you've noticed the strong family resemblance in a lot of them."
"Yes." I don't think I'll ask how many are his. And I haven't noticed any redheads. But now I'm going to have to wonder about those four he's training. "How early were you trained?"
"Oh, very. I was a weedy, young looking kid, but my mentalist powers showed up early, and . . . my parents and especially my maternal Grandfather, were believers in learning control through competence."
"Do you actually know how to create an aneurysm?"
His mouth quirked a bit. "I was recruited when I was in college, been working ever since. I've killed. And yes, damaged blood vessels badly enough to cause aneurysms. But I don't do it for personal reasons, and I don't think anyone had a hint he was planning something."
"Well . . . maybe I'll ask a few people up the hill . . . I need to ask a few unconnected questions about something else."
Vlad snorted. "Not to mention what to do with a hundred servants?"
That got him a shrug. "I'll just pick up a no-doubt hefty percent of the expenses while I firm up my currently very nebulous plans. I hope there are no more alarms soon, my ideas for private projects . . . that is to say, business opportunities, are growing out of control."
Vlad eyed him. "Quite apart from the house, I have sneaking suspicion you have more money than a man so recently turned fifty ought to have."
"Yes. If you read the actual details of that law, earned income is treated a bit differently than wealth. It just can't accumulate excessively, outside of a class four individual investment account."
"Which you can now access."
"Yep. Now if I could just track down Dear Uncle's other accounts--the money from the Historical Trust whipped in and out of his known account very quickly. Other people are tracking down where it went and if we're looking at shell companies of Dear Uncle's or fronts for some business deals of dubious legality, assuming . . . Lots of stuff I can't talk about. What we really need to find is any property he owns, where he might have placed another . . . thing."
Forty-one eyed them.
Vlad shook his head. "I might as well pack it in until you lot work out the . . . entanglements. Then I can move back in and try to find the killer so the Government can thank him."
Axel laughed at that. "Oh, pity the poor honest policeman who has to deal with a case like this. In the end, we'll probably find out that his . . . business partners . . . did it, as the easy way to get started, then get rid of the fool who thought he'd control it all."
"Well, that's how I'm betting. How . . ." He broke off and pulled out his phone. "Axel . . . Really?"
The man's grin broadened. "Cows? Lots of cows? Hot Damn. I didn't think they'd back down. Yeah. I'll go take a look."