I grabbed her hand and twisted it and hit her on her temple with my other hand. It was only to daze her a bit. The girl screamed and fell on the floor. I turned her over so that she was facing the floor. I got on top of her back and pulled at the string tying her hair together, pulled it free and wound it around her neck three times. The girl started trembling and sobbing. She pulled at the string on her neck but I held tight. I took my hairpin, secured the tie and tightened the string around her neck.
The girl’s eyes popped and her face reddened as though she couldn’t breathe. She struggled to get the string off her neck.
“Shh. What will you do if someone hears you outside? Will you reveal to the whole world how you sneaked into my room? The Grand Duke won’t like that,” I said. “Who sent you?”
The girl trembled. I twisted the hairpin the other way and relieved a little pressure. She gasped and breathed in and out and coughed.
“Now, you can answer my questions,” I said, “I don’t have much patience. Just strangling you here would be so much easier. If you don’t speak and if you pull any other antics at me, I will kill you. Understood?”
The girl nodded. She seemed to be in her twenties. I observed her. She had only a plain dress on; must be a maid. She didn’t look like she was from a noble household. She was either a maid from here or she must have arrived with someone.
“Are you the maid of Glouster castle?”
The girl mumbled a ‘yes’. I rolled my eyes and twisted the hairpin again. The girl screamed. When my brothers had refused to buy extravagant hairpins and only allowed short and blunt ones, I had been annoyed. I guess these had their uses too. Anything could be a weapon if you were smart enough.
“Well,” I said, “Since you don’t want to cooperate, I guess I will just kill you. Stay still now. It hurts more if you struggle.”
“No, no! Please, spare me!” The girl sobbed.
“Then answer me,” I said, “You don’t look like a maid from here. No maid or servants here would have anything to do with me.”
The girl cried. I sighed. She was beginning to annoy me by the second. She sneaks into my room, goes through my things, and she is the one who gets to cry? Who the hell sent her anyway? Couldn’t they find a more appropriate person who knew what they were doing? She doesn’t look like she knows stealth.
“I am asking you for the last time, who sent you?”
“The Queen from the royal palace?”
“So, you… came here with the Princess?”
What did the Queen want with me?
“Why did the Queen send you? What were you trying to find in my room?”
“To… search your room and see if there’s anything… suspicious enough to cause a scandal…”
Did they think I had love letters stacked in my trunk that I carry everywhere? There was something way worse hidden in my trunk.
“So, what did you find?” The girl trembled. I sighed. “How much money did the Queen give you?”
“S-she told me she’d give me a big reward if I found some-something…”
“So, you still haven’t received any money yet?”
I glanced down at her for a moment. “Do you really think the Queen will reward you?” The girl just trembled and sobbed.
“Look,” I said, “You are so stupid. You never do a job like this without asking for at least some kind of deposit in advance. What if she doesn’t pay you a single penny after you do your job? And she is the Queen, you are just a maid. She could just have you killed rather than pay you. What will you do then? The Queen could ask you to do something similar and ever more outrageous in the future, and you won’t even be able to refuse. What if she kills you for it?”
The girl looked at me and sobbed harder. The Queen had chosen well. Someone naïve and foolish enough to dispose of without caring for any kind of consequences. I felt sorry for her. What were we supposed to do now?
“Does the Princess know you received this order?”
“No, she doesn’t. The Princess and the Queen… don’t have a good relationship. She always says the Queen acts too picky….”
The girl closed her mouth, probably thinking she had said too much. I sighed and twisted the hair pin again, tightening the string a bit. She trembled and gasped. “The Princess hates the Queen!” she said, “She always says something about an incident and wishes for it to be soon.”
“I don’t know,” sobbed the girl. “That’s what the Princess always says. I don’t know what it means. She never elaborates on it. No one knows. I am telling the truth. Please!”
“How long have you served as the Princess’ maid?”
“For 3 years!”
Three years was a long time. Maybe I could use this girl to get more information.