V.O Artist: Seraphim
Listen to this Chapter.
I Killed the Immortal
By: Oro Prizyvaushiy
Valentine Gottfried didn’t like surprises.
His whole working day went to hell from the very beginning, at night, when he was woken up by a call and shocked by the news: Gunther Crane and his friend were murdered. That’s it. From that moment on there were only running around, talks in raised voices, investigations and clarifications of the circumstances.
The last talk finally made Valentine mad. Some minor Crane’s relative got angry at him for some reason and started talking to him as if he was nobody. Maybe the guy was implying that Valentine’s surname was still Gottfried, maybe something else.
You’d think that the head of the city funeral system would have nothing to do with investigations and murders, right? But everything had happened on the territory he was responsible for, so now everyone was tearing the soul out of him in search of answers that he did not have. Why hadn’t the cameras worked? How long had Arthur Gottfried’s grave been empty and why hadn’t he monitored it? At least he wasn’t called on the carpet like a boy.
His face was burning. He just needed to put it in water, so Valentine quickly went towards the toilet.
Well, the cameras. Ha. The cameras. Wasn’t it their decision to not waste money on tech in a hopeless area? There were two cameras at the exit, and they even captured the two guys coming in. But then – what a surprise – they stopped working. Both of them.
Valentine didn’t even want to think about who could turn off the cameras and then make that bloodbath. Shaking off his hands as he walked, he went back to his cabinet…
Damn surprises. Upon coming in, Valentine found a guy in his early twenties standing on the doorstep. Who was that? Why did the secretary let him in?
“Is that your motto?” The guy pointed at the coat of arms with the inscription in Latin hanging over his desk.
“Who are you?” Valentine asked, closing the door.
“I’m here because of the Gunther’s and Liam’s murder,” the visitor nodded. “It won’t take long. Just ten minutes.”
Well, of course. The previous one at least knocked before coming in.
“Can I see your ID card, young man?” Valentine asked.
He was feeling something familiar about this guy… he either looked like Arthur in his youth, or like someone else from his long dead relatives. Arthur… he was the one who disappeared from the grave.
Nah, that was some nonsense. Arthur had nothing to do with what was happening now. And the thing that disappeared from the grave was an old rotten body split in half.
“So is that your motto?” The guy looked like he didn’t hear the question. “Your family’s?”
“That’s the Gottfrieds’ motto, and, therefore, mine as well,” Valentine frowned. “Now, please show me your ID card, or I… ”
He couldn’t get rid of the feeling that something… unpleasant was happening. He was feeling the heat again, so he pulled back his collar and released the steam. And why did the secretary not say a word when he walked past her?
“And I heard that you’re not a very good Gottfried,” the young man smiled. “So this fact does not prevent you from considering this motto as yours?”
No ID card, no manners. Valentine was barely restraining himself, thinking how he should behave with that uninvited guest.
“Your ID card please,” he repeated with pressure.
The guy sat down on a chair half-turned, freely, as if he was the boss here.
Abstract troubles turned into concrete ones. Valentine exhaled and leaned back in an armchair. The ID card he was given, contrary to the fears, was in perfect order and said that the one sitting in front of him was Sergey Vissarionov, an authorized operative of the internal investigations department of the Crane corporation.
“You’ve come to do business, right?” He callously looked at the boy thinking too much of himself. “So let’s do it. Although, to be fair, I don’t understand what else you want. I’ve spent the whole morning trying to make your colleagues understand…”
“My colleagues?” Vissarionov interrupted him. “Oh, no. Let me explain something to you.”
He turned the ID card to face him and tapped the position line with his finger.
“You were interrogated as a witness. I will interrogate you as a suspect.”
“What?!” The word burst out from Valentine’s mouth.
“Fact number one,” the guy was looking directly at him with a smile. “The murder happened in the Gottfrieds’ crypt. Fact number two. The victims were planning to disturb the Gottfrieds’ graves, and many people were aware of that. Fact number three. You’re Gottfried. And even the motto hanging over your head,” he dramatically moved his hand, “is the Gottfried family’s motto. From darkness,” his voice got a touch of mocking romance, “to light.”
Valentine closed his eyes. That was too much. But he should still remain calm.
“Yes,” he nodded. “I’m Gottfried. Is my origin alone enough to accuse me, or do you have something else, young man?”
“Oh, it’s not an accusation,” he answered. “For now it’s just a suspicion. In the case of an accusation we wouldn’t have talked in your cabinet.”
This brat is probably a son of some of Crane’s friends, otherwise he wouldn’t have acted so arrogantly. Valentine tried to remember if he had heard the ‘Vissarionov’ surname before. Probably… yes? Or no. He wasn’t sure, you can’t remember everyone.
“I think I’ve done enough for the Crane family to prove,” he said, “that I’m a Gottfried loyal to them. After all, it was my help that let them come to power back then”.
The young man nodded in surprise, as if noticing something for himself.
“The years have passed,” he answered. “Maybe you’re unsatisfied. Maybe you didn’t get what you wanted.”
“Do not have recourse to sophistry,” he argued. “If I wanted revenge, I wouldn’t have taken it on the territory that I’m responsible for and much earlier than after nine years. Not to mention that if I wanted revenge, I would need to kill myself first.”
He remembered how it used to be. The powers of the old aristocracy and the ambitious corporation were… almost equal. Maybe Crane would’ve won even without him, but would’ve ended up too weakened. It became possible to bring the plan to life, not least because he and some other people close to Sergey Gottfried removed a significant part of the forces from the Gottfrieds’ territory.
Sergey Gottfried… even when he found out that the guards were gone, he didn’t believe in the betrayal. He didn’t believe it until Valentine personally chopped his arms off. Actually, he didn’t believe that Valentine was capable of anything serious at all.
Same as the Cranes. However, betraying them now, when they were powerful and there was no one capable of challenging them, was a suicide.
“I don’t have recourse to sophistry,” the investigator answered. “I’m trying to understand who you are, Valentine Gottfried, and why is this coat of arms still hanging on your wall.”
“I am not going to reject my ancestors,” Valentine frowned. “I am a Gottfried and I am proud of that. But my ancestors are in the past, and in the present I found it necessary to pick the Cranes’ side. It was not me who betrayed the family, it was them who betrayed the ideals I was fighting for.”
Maybe that’s what this boy wanted to hear? Let him hear it and back off. Valentine was a man of action, a practical person. He did not care about the medieval codes, and the reason why he hung the motto on his wall was… because he could. “Look, Sergey. One of the things you valued the most is now just an accessory in my cabinet.”
“It is not necessary to avenge the family. Sergey Gottfried could’ve been wrong and, of course, we all realize that he deserved his death. But Ilona Gottfried, your second cousin… Even in Crane’s circle, people think that her… fate was unjustifiably cruel. It’s been just a year since she died. You could’ve accumulated anger and then, at the right moment…”
“I didn’t care about my second cousin,” Valentine cut off. “Crane’s idea was surprising, of course, but I wouldn’t say it shocked or angered me.”
This conversation was straining him more and more. As if the guy… was trying to provoke him. But to what? As if by chance, he pulled the ID card and started examining it.
The photo was real. It looked… authentic. Then, where was the feeling that the guy in front of him was not an investigator at all coming from?
“Maybe it delighted you?” The young man smiled obscenely.
“I am not a pervert and do not engage in incest,” Valentine was looking at him with an outright dislike. “It was enough for me to make Crane’s decision… has cut off all her chances of revenge or vengeance. Do you have any other questions?”
“No,” Vissarionov stood up, took the ID card from the desk and started toying with it. “I’ve heard enough, thank you for being frank.”
How similar was he to Arthur in his youth…
Damn. Something clicked in Valentine’s head. Empty Arthur’s grave, strange questions. Could Arthur have had a bastard son?
Valentine wanted to call the Crane tower as soon as the guy left. He needed to make sure if such an officer worked there. Exactly.
“I can’t say I was glad to meet you,” the visitor finished, “but goodbye, Valentine.”
“He didn’t say Gottfried,” Valentine noticed, looking at the visitor grabbing the door handle.
Alexander frankly disliked Valentine and was trying to not see him often. He still hasn’t forgiven… what had happened. But work is work, especially after what happened yesterday, so he went out of the lift and headed towards the cabinet.
“Is Gottfried in his cabinet?” He asked the secretary.
“He’s been there for half an hour already,” she nodded. “I don’t think he had visitors. I think he was talking to someone on the phone… but I’m not sure.”
Alexander sighed, looking at the girl. Cute face, rounded shapes. Surely, she wasn’t employed for her intelligence.
“Then make sure,” he nodded.
The secretary dutifully pressed the button.
“Valentine Gennadievich?” She asked. “Sir Tull has come to visit you.”
Silence. Alexander glanced further down the corridor, at the place where the entrance to the cabinet was. Was he really there?
“Valentine Gennadievich?” The secretary repeated with a slight confusion.
To hell. At another time, he could’ve waited or turned around and left, but not today. Not after this night. In four big steps he reached the doors and pushed them with his shoulder.
“Valentine!” He roared. “Are you there? It’s me, Tull!”
The secretary got up from the desk and was looking at him with fear.
“Is he really there?” Alexander asked, trying to open the door again. Deadlocked.
“Y-yes…” she mumbled in fright. “I definitely heard him talking there just a couple of minutes ago…”
Well then. It was not the time to stand in ceremony. Alexander concentrated and started bashing the door with his shoulder.
A bump. And another one. The secretary’s slight fright turned into serious panic; college didn’t prepare her for this.
One more bump. The door cracked and hung on just one noose. Alexander quickly stepped in…
Holy shit. Again. Again! For the second time in a day.
“Step back!” He stopped the secretary who wanted to look inside. “It’s a crime scene!”
The management staff was looking out of their cabinets; some out of curiosity, some with fear. Alexander didn’t care.
Valentine was sitting in his armchair. His pose was calm… as if he was alive.
And again there was nobody. Blocked door, closed window… fifteenth floor.
The secretary heart-rendingly screeched somewhere behind. She looked inside after all… what a fool.
“I told you—step back!” Alexander barked, pushing her out of the cabinet. “Call the Crane Corporation tower, now!”
The sight was not fitting… for women’s eyes. Valentine Gottfried was sitting at his desk as if he was alive… but it was unlikely he could be taken for a living person.
The body was blackened… as if from inside. Scorched to ashes. The shell. The blackest were the eyes… and the inscription on the forehead that looked like it was drawn with a red-hot blade. Alexander recognized it before he even read it.
A tenebris ad lucem. From darkness to light.