I brushed away the thoughts and focused on mother.
“It happened the other day. The Count had gone to a social club after the servant informed him of the urgency. When he returned home, his wife was dead. Her body was hanging from the second-floor railing of the mansion. Rumor has it that it was a horrifying sight!”
“How horrifying…?” I asked.
Mother placed a hand on her heart and shook her head in horror. “I can’t… tell you. There will probably be a picture of it in One Week in Schway. Just hearing about it made me physically numb. Such a brutal incident took place in the Teresa District so everyone is in panic. You need to be careful. All of you. Especially you, Alice. If you want to go anywhere at all, go with a bodyguard. No matter where you go, alright?”
I looked at the men in the room all staring at me. I turned to my mother. “Where did you hire them from?”
“There is a place in town where you can hire ex-soldiers as guards. I chose them especially because they had a clean past. So, you don’t need to worry,” said my father.
Frankly, men looked strong at a glance but usually they were too slow. Father had chosen them so they probably were good with their weapons but I wasn’t sure how I was going to take them with me every time especially in crowded places such as the City Center.
The killer won’t target anyone walking around in public anyway. A bodyguard would just be a useless decoration, for that matter. The killer targeted young women when they were alone. If the Countess was murdered in her own home, what good were bodyguards? But I nodded at father anyway.
“If the Countess was… flighty. Couldn’t the suspect be one of her lovers?” asked Alex.
Mother nodded. “That is what they suspect for now. They couldn’t find him yet but the Capital Guards questioned all of the servants and maids. They will catch him soon.”
“If that is the case, then perhaps the killer disguises himself to be near the victim and only strikes when they are alone. So, isn’t having bodyguards useless? I mean the countess was killed by her lover in her own house,” said Aaron.
Mother looked at us with a frown. “We are not sure who killed her. Rumors have it that the incident was similar to those murders happening in the Underground District. They might not be connected but the best course of action right now would be to remain careful and cautious. Maybe you two are safe, but Alice? Don’t you think she could be in danger?”
“Wouldn’t it be okay if I just stayed home and met no men,” I suggested hopefully.
Mother shattered my hopeful alternative. “How can you not meet men? I have received so many more letters pleading for a visit here. There are so many noble young women you need to socialize with. Did you meet anyone decent at the Grand Duke’s gathering?”
I met… two girls decent enough to kill. One of them was too easy. Did he pay that maid, Maeve Corason, who was sent by the queen to search my room? He isn’t careless, to say the least. So, he must have taken care of it.
I wasn’t used to letting go of my targets. I had never let anyone go. In the other world, finding people was easy. There was internet, for heaven’s sake! But I hardly thought mother wanted to know about that.
“Not really,” I said, instead. “Maybe I am not too good at being friendly? Nobody really approached me.”
“For people to approach you, you need to initiate conversation first. Who would come to you when you look so aloof?” murmured Alex. Mother’s gaze sharpened. I pinched Alex under the table. I hoped it hurt. He flinched.
“I was uncomfortable! I had never seen these people before in my life!” I made a hasty excuse but my mother still looked at me like a snake looking at its prey. Now, that was scary.
Before I could make a bid for escape, Alex said, “Can I be excused? I am very tired from the journey. I would like to rest a bit.”
Mother, thankfully, turned her gaze to her second son. “You do look tired. Was there a lot to do at the Glouster estate? She asked.
“I… I don’t know,” he said weakly. Aaron was vastly different from before. When we had prepared to go to Glouster estate, he had been full of confidence and excitement. But now…
Mother and father looked at Aaron in confusion. Aaron shook his head and muttered that he was very tired and walked out of the drawing room in a hurry.
Mother frowned and looked at us. “What’s wrong with him?”
“Uh… I don’t know,” said Alex, glancing at me as though asking for my help. What could I say?
“Uh… One of the Princess’ maids was killed by wild beasts. He is shaken up by the incident. You know how he hates blood…”
“The Princess’ maid was killed by wild animals?” asked our father, surprised. “How?” Mother looked stunned too.