I didn’t care whether this was the Sersaw Palace or some park in downtown Seoul. But I knew that the past was past. Who I am at the present was what mattered. But I had one burning question.
“Did you know I had died?” He stopped in his tracks. In the shadows between two torches. The subtle scent of flowers wafted in the wind. White flowers bloomed behind him.
“Yes,” he said, “I didn’t know of anyone else who died the way you did.”
What a relief! At least he knew I didn’t leave of my own accord. “I left the way I lived. In blood. But it hurts less than I imagined it would.” I said softly. I hadn’t presumed, ever, that I would live long at least not in the field of work I was involved in. But… I hadn’t expected to die that soon either.
Could I allow myself the luxury of imagining myself living to a ripe old age now? Well… maybe if my brothers didn’t find out I was crazy and kicked me out. What would 65-year-old Alice Warwick look like? Will I tie my hair up and drink tea in elegant dresses? Would I be happy that I no longer have to work as a killer to survive? Or will I still murder people if I had the chance?
I wasn’t in need of money any longer. But women were vulnerable even in this world. Being one wasn’t easy, especially with people like Count Thoreau or the boy I had just met in the garden. I don’t intend to become a social justice warrior but since I no longer have to kill for money, I might try helping vulnerable people from others full of malice. I have to make sure Alex doesn’t know, or Aaron.
I only noticed the Great Duke had stopped walking a while later. I looked at him in curiosity. “What is it?”
“Let’s play twenty questions. When did I die?” His tone was calm, but his gray eyes looked like dark clouds.
“Uh… I don’t know. Did you retire from the police safely?”
“Did you pass your 60th birthday?”
“Then were you in your fifties?”
I frowned. Being in the police came with its share of risks. But people rarely died on the job. Injuries? Sure. But death? Only occasionally. He had joked about his life expectancy a few times but I had always thought he would live a long life.
He shook his head and I felt uncomfortable. I couldn’t speak. When I died, he was forty-four. He didn’t push me. I didn’t ask how and when he had died. I felt like I couldn’t. We cannot change the past.
People came and went. I could hear a carriage faintly. Soldiers patrolled the walls of the palace, their torched casting lights across the place. He slowly walked again, my hands still on his forearm.
“I think I have to apologize to you. For classifying you as a psychopath.”
“Ah.” I croaked. I turned away from him and coughed. “You’re well educated, but you don’t seem to know everything. Didn’t you say you were a doctor of psychology?”
“No, I wasn’t. And I got my degree from a correspondence course. It wasn’t easy to work and study at the same time and it took a lot of time too. I judged you only with my knowledge I got from your external outlook. I’m sorry.”
“When I listened to you, detective, I thought you were right on point. So, you have nothing to apologize for. Um… I mean… Grand Duke.” I stopped walking. “Let’s stop discussing the past. Let’s talk about the present. Will you tell them that I killed Count Thoreau?”
“I don’t know. Anybody. The royal family… my family?”
“Why would I do that?” He asked calmly as I looked at him suspiciously.
“You asked me if my family knew about it.”
“I was only curious. Anyway, was it revenge?”
“That would be a very strong word. It wasn’t really revenge but… if my past life has taught me anything, it is to do things fast and meticulously. I felt like Count Thoreau would never stop terrorizing my family.” The Grand Duke nodded slowly.
“So…” I pressed on. “Are you going to tell the others?”
“I am not a policeman anymore,” he said, with eyebrows raised. “I am nothing. You probably know that the title ‘Grand Duke of Glouster’ is merely a name with no weight. Besides, I don’t think Count Thoreau had many admirers.”
“The Princess had a lot to say about it. And she’s your niece.”
He chuckled. “Do we seem very close to you?”
Not at all. He saw my face and patted me on my arm. “I don’t plan on telling anyone,” he said. “Of course, if you go around killing people, it will certainly raise concerns. But it is not my concern. If you have more bodies hidden away, just… don’t tell me about it.”
“I’ll keep that in mind.”
We walked a few steps without speaking. It was the first time I had been alone with him like this. I hadn’t known he could be so charming.
“I think you have changed a little.” I pointed out what I felt so clearly.