Slightly later than intended I have finished the next chunk.
3/933/825M41 - Chapel of St Vigor
Douglass gritted his teeth. "So where is the body now?"
"On a pallet in the vestry. Where else would we have the cleaner place it? Outside the rear entrance with the rubbish, eh?" chortled Cleric Archibrand Lesp.
"Cleaner? You allowed the cleaner to interfere with an active crime scene!" spat Douglass. Part of him knew that shouting at the Ecclesiarchy Liaison would not fix the problem and might even cause more in the long term, but it was a touchy subject.
"Clearly the first priority was to resanctify the chapel so it could be returned to use. You must see that the mere temporal punishment of a recidivist comes second to serving the Divine Emperor?" said Lesp smiling beatifically.
Punishing recidivism is serving the Divine Emperor you pompous bureaucrat seethed Douglass internally. "Can one of my men have permission to go through the Chapel's rubbish?"
"Go through the rubbish?" Lesp quirked an eyebrow, "If you think it will help. But I must insist your man wears gloves and does not remove anything. There have been instances of people stealing church property to sell as false relics."
Gloves, thought Douglass, would anyone choose not to wear gloves when going through waste? At least he was not insisting everyone take confession before they touch anything. Deaths on Ecclesiarchy soil were a jurisdictional nightmare. If he were not almost certain Intelligencer Atella viewed bias as sinful he would think this assignment was punishment. "I can assure you my men will treat everything with the appropriate respect. However, if you have any concerns you are welcome to observe the search."
"No, no. That will not be necessary," replied Lesp quickly.
Smiling inwardly at the image of a portly Cleric Lesp picking carefully through a waste container, Douglass waved his assistants over. "DePre, interview Deacon Boreas. Try to get some answers but remember that we have to treat him with soft gloves. Carlsen, I need you to handle something with soft gloves too, check the rubbish to see if anything helpful survived cleaning. If anyone needs me I will be inspecting the scene in a respectful manner."
* * *
Douglass' immediate impression of the vestry was how cramped it was. Two wardrobes had been placed against the left wall with a table partially blocking their doors. A pallet was pressed along the right wall leaving a narrow corridor down the centre of the room to the side exit. Sidling past the table he crouched down next to Doctor Hinely to view the body.
A blanket was bundled up at the foot of the pallet. Maybe they covered him out of respect. There was blood covering the victim's tunic but nothing immediately obvious on the pallet or blanket which fitted with him being dead for a while before he was moved here.
"So what can you tell me Doc?"
"He has a jagged wound to the chest just below the ribs. The fingers are missing from his right hand but the stumps are not healed so that could be perimortem. Some of the joints show signs of fracture but the body was supposedly moved so it could be due to that. I will know more once I have the opportunity to carry out a proper autopsy. However, the preliminary cause of death is exsanguination from the chest wound," replied Doctor Hinely, "Any issue with me taking the body now?"
"The body was moved and the scene cleaned before we arrived. The autopsy might provide the only definite evidence we can recover so, the sooner we get that, the sooner we know what to look for in here." Douglass remained crouching, continuing his study of the room until he realised Doctor Hinely was standing silently with one eyebrow quirked. Smiling sheepishly he sidled back out of the room to allow her to pass before turning back with a puzzled look. "Wouldn't it be easier to use that door?"
"Would be, but it's locked and bolted."
"Right." Douglass tapped his comm, "DePre, ask the Deacon to give the side door key to Doc Hinely."
Studying the floor more closely, Douglass noticed scratch marks next to the table. Looked as if they needed move it if they wanted the door fully open. From the small pile of crumbs by the door the cleaner had not been in here, so it was even more likely that the victim bled out somewhere else.
* * *
"And was it you that reported the incident, Deacon?"
"No. Mr Kara found the body when he came in to set the altar for Matins. There have been thefts so we keep everything locked away you see. I expect that was what happened here. Grish and one of his colleagues came here hoping to steal something and they argued and he was stabbed,” replied Deacon Boreas, turning an empty cup over and over, "He had just called you when I arrived. I came into the Vestry and noticed that the plate locker was still closed so I went through into the chapel before robing. Mr Kara was just standing there holding a comm-unit. I asked him why the altar was not set and he just pointed at the ground. It was then I saw the body."
"And Mr Kara is the Verger?" queried DePre making a note.
"Yes. Lhari Kara. He has been Verger here for years. I asked him what had happened and he said he found the body just lying there. I saw he had his comm-unit out so I asked him if he had called someone. He said he had called you. I know the diocese needed to know straight away so I borrowed his comm-unit and was told to wait for Cleric Lesp. I asked Mr Kara to stand at the main door to stop people coming in but he was babbling so I sent him home to rest. We do not get much gang violence around here so are not used to death by violence."
"Perfectly understandable, Deacon," said DePre smiling, "So you stood there until Cleric Lesp arrived and then he says you helped him reconsecrate the Chapel. Did you recognise the victim straight away or only as you were moving him?"
"Pardon", gulped Boreas.
"You said that you thought Grish and a colleague were intending to steal something. So you recognised the victim."
"Oh... um, yes. I think his first name was Daniel. He came to services sometimes but I think it was more to find victims rather than out of piety. He claimed to be a Pardoner. I sometimes saw him talking to parishioners after services and sometimes something changed hands. That is why I thought he was here to steal. After I called him I just stared at the body. That was when I recognised him. I did not really pay attention to anything else. When Cleric Lesp arrived with a cleaner he reminded me to check to see if anything was missing. The suffrage candelabrum was knocked over and there were candles on the floor but apart from that nothing was damaged or missing. Actually, wait, there were dead coals on the floor by the censer as well."
"So you came into the Chapel via the Vestry and saw Mr Kara. Went over to him, at which point you saw the body. You sent him to the front door to keep people out and stayed with the body until Cleric Lesp arrived. When he arrived you checked the Chapel while the cleaner moved the body and cleaned the floor? And nothing stood out apart from the candelabrum and the ashes?"
"Yes... that is it."
"Thank you Deacon, you have been most helpful. If you remember anything else, even if it seems trivial or irrelevant please contact us."
* * *
The cleaner had been thorough, thought Douglass, maybe I should take their details in case Intelligencer Atella decided to upgrade to a sterile desk policy. No, that was unfair. He was just mad at Lesp for destroying evidence. A clean desk policy could work well in less intuitive departments. Maybe if he tried a different view he would get a fresh perspective.
He had just started jogging down the side of the Chapel he found himself facing Doc Hinely's eyebrow again at the head of the pallet. Pressing against the wall he watched her guide it past.
"Doc. You forgot the blanket. The Intelligencer wants everything by the regulations and a temporary body covering is supposed to travel with a body."
"Douglass. You might claim that investigation needs randomness because people are random, but I have always followed the regulations. The blanket was not on the body when I arrived so is contents of the scene and not a body covering."
Returning to his plan he entered the now open Vestry door and continued into the Chapel. The pews blocked sight of the aisle and nothing stood out along the side wall. Moving to the front and along to where the body was supposedly found, it continued to stand out. Something did not quite feel right but - without something to give context - he was in danger of focusing on irrelevancies. So interview the Verger, review the autopsy, then look for something that did not fit. Ironically what regulations indicated the senior investigator should do. Well apart from personally carrying out the initial interview of a witness.