The First Case: Rapunzel

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    Once upon a time in a forest, the body of a witch was found at the foot of a tower. She lay sprawled on the grass, pale and dead, her hair a tangle of leaves and twigs and her limbs bent irregularly. Already, the people from the local villages poured over her – it was clear that none of them were here to mourn, but rather, they were here for the conspiracy. The only sound of wailing came from one person, a fair maiden with lengthy blonde hair that ran on the ground, circling the crowd at least thrice. She had arrived long after the locals gathered, and she fell on her knees and began crying ever since she laid eyes on her dead sister.

    Fantasy investigator and detective Polkadot surveyed the crime scene from paces away. Her eyes glinted curiously as she observed this wailing maiden; her hair was abnormally long – perhaps the length of the tower, which seemed to sprout from the sky. Polkadot had heard a mourning person cry before, but this was different. Perhaps she was the only one paying attention, because nobody else seemed to notice that the girl cried no tears. A simple shake of the shoulder, a maintained agonizing sound, and every local was fooled.

    “I – I never got to tell her goodbye –” the girl said between hiccups. She broke into another fit of tearless cries.

    A local woman gently patted her shoulder. “Oh, Rapunzel, sweety, you can tell her your farewells now. Her spirit is still here.”

    For a fraction of a second, the girl named Rapunzel looked alarmed. However, it quickly vanished, and she threw herself over her witch sister. “I’m so sorry, sister!”

    Polkadot sensed the witch. “Is she, really?” She whispered.

    “She’s sorry that I had fallen in love.” The ghost replied sadly.

    “Where is he?”

    The witch had a smile in her reply. “There.”

    At that moment, a handsome lad appeared between the trees. His eyes looked bloodshot, and he looked as pale as the witch. He took slow, trembling steps.

    The witch was barely breathing at the sight of his condition. “My prince looks so sick.”

    Polkadot watched as the prince fell. His head hung, and his hands drooped loosely at his sides. He looked as if he was beaten up by an army.

    The witch remained at Polkadot’s side. “My prince. If only he knew.”

    As she said it, Polkadot felt a cold chill run up her spine. The ghost was in front of her, hovering a few inches above the ground. Polkadot could see right through her at the scene, at her sister, and her dead body. She overheard two locals conversing.

    “Whadya reckon, eh? Nother suicide?”

    “It’s true, that. These young uns want death like I want whiskey.”

    “But she coulda just hung herself.”

    “Nah, that’s overdone, isn’t it? No one’s ever thrown themself down a tower. See how much attention it gets ya.”

    The ghost looked at Polkadot with plead in her eyes. “I didn’t kill myself,” she said, “I was murdered.”

    Polkadot was here to solve the case. Where there was a death, especially in a world such as this, there was a killer. She was going to find out who had done it this time.

    “This is no suicide,” Polkadot said loudly. Until now, she had not spoken and was not seen. Now, all eyes turned to her in surprise. They looked at her with narrowed eyes; she was a foreigner to this land, with a different accent, and different clothing. And she was suddenly addressing them.

    A man chuckled. “What is it, then?”

    Polkadot dug her fists deeper into the pockets of her navy blue coat. She stepped forward casually, gazing at the tower. “A murder.” She locked her gaze on the blonde maiden.

    Rapunzel got to her feet and spoke harshly. “Are you saying that someone killed my sister? Where is that son of a troll? I want to break his neck with my bare hands!”

    “Yes,” Detective Polkadot concluded. “The murderer is among us.”

    There was a series of gasps from the crowd. The prince’s head perked upwards. Rapunzel’s eyes flashed.

    “What in the darn hell?” said a local.

    Polkadot strolled around the crowd, thinking, calculating. “See, a fall from this height would not kill.” She gestured to the tower. From the corner of her eye, she saw that the witch was smiling. “In addition to this, the ledge at the window is above waist height. It would be very unlikely that one would accidentally trip over it.”

    “That’s true,” said the man she overheard earlier. “No accident. You gotta have thrown yourself over. Deliberate. A suicide.”

    The crowd was murmuring sounds of agreement. Rapunzel crossed her arms, frowning. The prince stayed on the ground.

    “You’re absolutely correct,” said Polkadot, “Mr…?”

    “Chuck.” He said with a proud smirk.

    “Mr. Chuck. You’re correct in every sense. It was deliberate. She was thrown over. However,” she added slowly and watched his smirk disappear, “Another person was involved.”

    Silence.

    Then, “This is all utter nonsense,” said Rapunzel, dripping with sweetness. “Please, perform your presentation elsewhere. I need to mourn my sister’s death. She had died, if you hadn’t noticed. I’ll never see her again.”

    Polkadot looked at Rapunzel, expressionless. The ghost was hovering right next to her. “I’m not so sure about that. I have a feeling you’ll see her quite soon.”

    The expression of alarm returned on Rapunzel’s face. Her eyes flickered to the faces in the crowd. She fidgeted with her fingers. She was nervous, Polkadot noted. The prince hadn’t moved a muscle.

    “Who do you think you are?” Rapunzel pointed a finger at Polkadot.

    She introduced herself bluntly. “Fantasy investigator, journalist, and detective, Polkadot. I solve cases – murder crimes, stolen items, lost myths, cover conspiracies. I am never hired. Special gifts often aid me in a way another investigator would never be aided. I leave when the case is completely solved.” She paused to steal a glance at the ghost, who gave her an encouraging nod. “And when the souls of the dead are freed.”

    She allowed them some time to digest those words before she continued. “Here’s what we know: the ledge is too high to fall over accidentally. And if one happens to fall over, it would not be to their death. Now, here’s what we assume: the witch committed suicide. A likely theory. Except we don’t have sufficient evidence. It is only a theory. The witch had no reason to give an end to her life.”

    “You know nothing of my sister,” Rapunzel said acidly. “She hated herself. She was uglier, always jealous of me and my hair. Always jealous, she was -”

    “That’s not true.”

    All eyes turned to the prince. His lifted his head slowly, and the sunlight lit his dull eyes. “She was beautiful. And she was talented with her magic. She would make potions, and turn shells into butterflies, and rocks into fishes.”

    The ghost was glowing so brightly, Polkadot was surprised that nobody else could see her.

    The prince fell quiet, and Polkadot continued. “You spent a lot of time with her?”

    The prince nodded. “I – ”

    “No, he did not,” Rapunzel interrupted. She took large strides to the prince and stroked his hair roughly. “My prince, look at you. Your skin is cold, and you haven’t slept. Come with me – I’ll get you back to health again – ” As she said this, she reached for something in her dress pocket, but stopped herself.

    “Miss,” said Polkadot, “I’m afraid you cannot leave. Nor can the Prince. Until I have solved this case, everyone is a suspect.”

    Rapunzel’s eyes widened. “You think I killed my own sister?”

    Polkadot did not reply. She watched the prince closely. He seemed unaware of his surroundings, and he kept blinking … his eyes twitched.

    “Would the Prince allow me to examine his eyes?” Polkadot addressed him.

    He did not reply. He hung limply, twitching. Detective Polkadot lifted his head in her hands and opened his eyelids while the crowd watched. Rapunzel was breathing heavily, gasping and heaving at all the wrong times. It was just as Polkadot thought. The prince’s irises were violet.

    “The prince is under the influence of a drug,” said Polkadot loudly to the crowd. “He knows not where he is, nor what is happening. And I suspect that he had been fed this drug for weeks.”

    “That is nonsense!” Rapunzel exclaimed. “Who would dare drug the prince?”

    “The same who killed your sister.”

    A heavy silence hung in the air. Polkadot looked in Rapunzel’s eyes and saw that it was the eyes of a killer. But she had to prove it.

    “Now,” she continued. “What were your exact whereabouts last night at the time of your sister’s death?”

    “I was picking flowers for my hair. Out in the garden. The tower is not in sight that side of the forest, so I couldn’t have known what was happening here -”

    “And what time was it?”

    Pause. “The first star had just appeared in the sky.”

    Polkadot nodded. “It was close to nightfall, you say?”

    “Yes.”

    “And what was your sister doing, do you know?”

    Pause. “I suppose she was making a potion or something.”

    “Hmm. What flowers were you picking?”

    “I beg your pardon?”

    “What flowers were you picking?”

    Pause. “Roses.”

    “And where were you picking the roses?”

    “I told you this. I was at the deeper parts of the forest, where the tower is not in sight, by the lake -”

    “Mr. Chuck, you’re a botanical expert, I hear?”

    “I am.”

    “Do roses grow in or around lakes?”

    He looked at Rapunzel strangely. “No, they do not.”

    Her eyes widened.

    Polkadot addressed Rapunzel. “I’m going to repeat my question. What were your exact whereabouts at the time of your sister’s death?”

    Pause. “I – I – ”

    “I heard singing.” It was another local. A young girl.

    “You did?” Polkadot asked. “Can you identify the voice? Or the song?”

    “It was her voice,” she pointed at the witch.

    “And what time was it?”

    The girl seemed scared to reply. “Evenfall.”

    All this while, Polkadot strolled to the entrance of the tower, observing the steps and walls. There was a smear of blood at the bottom corner. She turned to the little girl. “Where do you live?”

    “Near the lake.”

    “And you heard singing?”

    “Yes.”

    “And it was the witch?”

    “Yes. I’ve heard her singing before. She comes by to get lillies for her potions. Well, she used to.”

    “Mr. Chuck?”

    “M’lady?”

    “Do lillies grow in or around water bodies?”

    “Yes, they sure do.”

    “So, Rapunzel. Your sister picked lillies at even fall, and you picked roses when the first star came out?”

    Rapunzel was silent. She gripped the prince’s arms tighter, and caressed his hair. He did not retaliate.

    “Mr. Chuck, please make your way here.”

    He walked to stand beside her.

    She pointed to the red smear. “Mr. Chuck, do you confirm that this is blood?”

    Chuck’s eyes widened as he bent down to examine the smear. He stood again and swallowed. “Yes, that is blood.”

    Polkadot nodded. “Miss Rapunzel, do you have a cut, or injury?”

    She felt herself desperately, blinking. All the while, Polkadot made her way towards the body, and circled it.

    “She doesn’t,” said Chuck. Rapunzel flashed her eyes at him.

    Polkadot looked at the ghost for permission. The witch nodded slowly at her. “Mr. Chuck, could you turn the body on her back?”

    Everyone watched as Chuck laid the body carefully so that the crowd could see the witch’s face clearly. And there, as clear as daylight, was a stab wound. The red of blood stained her clothes. There was a gathered intake of breath.

    Polkadot looked at Rapunzel. “Do you plead innocent or guilty?”

    “I would never stab my own sister! And what kind of a detective are you? No witnesses, yet you’re certain it was me!”

    “I do have a witness.” Polkadot bent on one knee and spoke to the Prince. “The witch was beautiful wasn’t she?”

    His eyes lit up. “She was very beautiful. And talented with magic … always … always making potions ….”

    “You spent a lot of time with her?”

    “Yes,” he coughed. “Yes … she … I – ” he turned his head to look at her body, and a single tear dribbled down his cheek. He crawled to the witch, pushing Rapunzel’s hands aside. And he cradled the witch’s head in his lap, and he kissed her. The ghost sat beside them.

    Polkadot gave the prince all the time he needed. He was not yet free of the drug, that was certain, but he seemed fit to answer questions about the witch. When he looked up again, Polkadot seized the opportunity.

    “Where you there when she fell?”

    He seemed to gather his thoughts before he replied. “She did not fall.” His eyes ran around the crowd and landed on Rapunzel. With the energy he had left, he threw his finger at her.” It was her. She killed my Ophelia.”

    The crowd burst into angry sounds. But amidst the uproar, Polkadot looked at the ghost of Ophelia, at her sad eyes, at the prince cradling her body, and knew that it was the end. The ghost shimmered and disappeared, and that was the cue. It was Rapunzel that was jealous – the witch and the prince was in love. That evening, Ophelia had gone to pick lillies for a potion she never had the chance to make. That evening, Rapunzel stabbed her, dragged her body to the towers. And when the first star came out, Rapunzel let her fall. With Ophelia gone, the prince was hers.

    Polkadot dug her fists into her pockets, and returned into the forest. The case was solved.

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