There was a great pain in Edward Barrowe’s upper back, followed by the terrible feeling of falling directly onto his face, and then numbness. Dying was, in Mr Barrowe’s opinion, far less pleasant than he’d been told. Of course, then there was a light, and a gentle urging toward said light, but Mr Barrowe had always been a man that needed to be convinced before agreeing to anything. Besides, there was one lingering piece of business he would have liked to see cleared up, thank you very much.

So, about a half hour after his death, Mr Barrowe woke up. He was abruptly awakened, as if someone had pushed him out of bed and onto the floor. It was a very unnatural feeling, so Mr Barrowe went to check himself in the little mirror he kept on his office desk to make sure everything was still there. Much to Mr Barrowe’s annoyance, he was not there at all. He was still on the floor, getting blood onto his nice Persian rug. Someone had put a blanket over him, which was a nice thought, but it barely covered the stain. Mr Barrowe ( he’d been called Mr Barrowe so many times that he’d started calling himself it) was now a ghost.

He was about to start testing his new abilities when the door to his study swung open. Banshin Fetch, the auditor he’d hired to help manage his estate, walked in like a man on a mission. Trailing behind him were Dulan and Dolores, both looking nervous. Dolores was red-faced, she’d obviously been crying. Even Dulan looked a bit shaken, eyes darting furiously around the room. The sight did summon some sympathy in old Mr Barrowe’s heart. It was quickly corrected by the thought that he hadn’t been setting out to get murdered, and that he’d left them plenty of money to take care of themselves.

“Well?” Dulan said, positioning himself by the window, shifting the curtains. The moon was just peeking over the clouds, letting in just enough light to make Dulan look like he was the wrathful ghost. “Do your hocus pocus.”

Banshin reached over to switch the light on (Mr Barrowe wasn’t sure about electricity as a concept, but he had to admit it had its uses). Much to Mr Barrowe’s surprise, the auditor actually rolled his eyes at the young man. 

“Mr Dulan, you know what an investigation is.”

“And I know you’re not qualified to do one,” Dolores said with that high and mighty tone she reserved for people who were acting foolish. She was still standing by the door, one hand clenched around a small book and the other on the old wooden bookshelf beside her. 

“Peace, Ms Dolores. I will not disturb the scene with anything more than my eyes,” Banshin replied.

Had Mr Barrowe had an old heart to beat, it would’ve stopped dead. For as Banshin Fetch said this, his eyes locked square with the eyes of the ghostly Edward Barrowe.

“I must ask,” Banshin said, turning back to Mr Barrowe’s son and mistress, “that you not talk to me, nor amongst yourselves. I must be able to listen keenly and sometimes need to puzzle things out loud to myself. I hope you will not take offense if I say anything that sounds… strange.”

Dulan huffed, but said nothing. Dolores nodded.

And then, again, the auditor turned right towards him. A shiver ran down Mr Barrowe’s non-existent spine.

“Can you see me?” He asked, surprised at the strange echo his voice held.

“Yes, Mr Barrowe.” Banshin said, and had it not been for the whisper in his voice, Mr Barrowe could’ve fooled himself into thinking this was a normal conversation. “I hope you don’t consider it rude, Mr Barrowe, but may I ask why you’re still here?”

Mr Barrowe huffed, a near-perfect imitation of his son’s huff. He declared, “I’ve been murdered, Mr Fetch. I don’t suppose you think I’d go kindly into the good night?”

Dolores and Dulan made no indication they had heard him.

Banshin nodded. “What is your final request then, Mr Barrowe?”

“How is it that you can see and hear me?” Mr Barrowe said.

“Is that your final request, Mr Barrowe?” For the first time since Mr Barrowe could remember, Banshin Fetch smiled. It was a playful, if polite, smile.

He was not a fan of it. “No! No, I want to know who killed me, obviously. I knew this was coming — the death, not the murder. I’ve been making sure everything’s settled and ready, all debts paid and all that. I want to know who had such a problem with me that they went and stuck a knife in my back!” And if I can haunt them for the rest of their days, Mr Barrowe thought to himself privately.

“Then, Mr Barrowe, we should get straight to business. Will you tell me what you remember from tonight, up until your death?” Banshin said, and pulled out that little writing book he was so fond of jotting in.

“Well! I suppose Virgil and I had been preparing for the kids. They never visit unless it’s to discuss business, you know. Dolores helped, but you know Dolores. When women get an idea in their head, there is nothing that can shake it out. She’s become convinced that a trip to a French coast will cure all my ills. Anyway, Dulan and Amy got here around five o’clock, I think. They came right up to see me, Amy all quiet and Dulan all glares. When I called and said I needed to talk to them about the will, I think they were worried I was writing them out of it! Cleared that up quickly. Sure, some of it is going to Dolores, and a bit to support Virgil, but most of it goes to Amy, as the eldest, provided she does her duty and takes care of Dulan. Neither of them is married yet and I’d rather they’d have each other, whether they want it or not. Dulan huffed a bit but Amy was positively beaming. I bet she thought I was going give it all to her ‘future husband’ or something. Sure, the ceremony of walking her down the aisle might’ve been fun, but I’d be damned if my children made the same foolish mistake I did. Marriage is a fool’s game, let me tell you.”

Banshin nodded, taking it all in and noting the occasional thing. “So most everyone had been here awhile by the time I arrived?”

And what an arrival it had been. Mr Barrowe’s study faced the driveway, so he’d been the first to notice when Banshin’s black coach, eerily quiet, pulled up to the manor. That thing had always given Mr Barrowe the creeps. If Banshin had said the Grim Reaper was his driver, Mr Barrowe would’ve believed it. Especially given, well… recent circumstances.

“Er, yes.” Mr Barrowe continued. “We had just about finished our chat when you arrived.  Dulan was awful insistent about something, so they went out to speak. I heard some shouting-” Mr Barrowe frowned as he watched Banshin write something down, “but that’s normal for them. We’re a loud family, as they say. A little afterwards, Dulan came up to check on me. I’ve worried about him over the years, but he’s a good boy. Listened to me hemming and hawing over my old bones, which aren’t bothering me so much anymore. Wonder, that. I used to have this insistent pain in my back, like someone had strung a chord wrong back there. Bloody hurts like hell, every morning, except Wednesdays. Couldn’t tell you why, the doctor said it’s some sort of sociological thing. But it was always there the next day, hurting like a-”

Banshin made a little clearing-of-the-throat noise, interrupting Mr Barrowe. “After your son visited you, what happened?”

“He came to my office. Wasn’t much of a visit,” Mr Barrowe grumbled, but continued, “He headed back down with some look on his face. I imagine he’d figured out what to say to his sister. L’espadon d’escalier, whatever that saying is. I think Dolores was waiting behind the door, because as soon as Dulan was gone she was there, gushing about all her ideas for our trip to France. I’ve never liked France, but I said yes to Dolores, heaven knows why.” Mr Barrowe looked at his corpse, still lying on the ground, then up at his mistress, who was still looking at Banshin. “I suppose that doesn’t matter now.”

“It does,” Banshin said gently. “What happened next?”

Annoyance replaced the small glimpse of sorrow. “Virgil got it into his head that I was going to fall over dead! Damned butler whisked in and started hovering around me until we went down to dinner. Even offered to feed me if I was feeling weak. He’s turning into an old woman faster than I’m turning into an old man! Or was turning, rather. I had a right battle making it up the stairs without him carrying me, but I just wanted to get a book from my office! It wasn’t going to kill me. Except I suppose it did!”

“Did you see anything of note in your office?” Banshin urged.

“Like my killer? Ha, I wish. I figure now he must have been hiding in the curtains, like in Macbeth. Stabbed me just as I had my back turned.”

Banshin frowned at the corpse, lifting up the sheet near his hands. “Where’s your book?”

“What?” Mr Barrowe remarked. “Oh, I forgot it. Got distracted by the backup will you left on the table.”

Banshin looked at the desk, where Mr Barrowe was pointing. A crystal decanter sat between piles of unopened letters, with their opened counterparts piled on top. The only thing not marked by dust, debris, or other markers of normalcy was a crumpled-up piece of paper; it sat prominently on top of an old ledger.

“What did you do with it?” Banshin said.

“Got it to show you,” Mr Barrowe replied. “I want to make clear — beauty that she is — that Dolores is not getting all my wealth. Some of it, most of it, needs to go to Amy and Dulan.”

He nodded, and stepped towards the desk, reaching towards the paper.

“Ah ah!” Dolores hissed, momentarily taking a step further into the room. She brandished her book at him like a policeman’s truncheon. 

“Oh, let him,” Dulan hissed back. “It’s not like he’s going to find anything. Or pocket anything, while we’re watching.”

Mollified, Dolores shrunk back to where she’d been standing.

Banshin picked up the paper and unfolded it. “Interesting.” Was all he said before placing it back where he found it.  He then went back to pacing around the room, looking it over while occasionally jotting things in his book. He stopped before Dulan and Dolores, surveying them. He then returned to where Mr Barrowe stood (Floated? Existed? Mr Barrowe wasn’t sure if ghosts had feet).

“Well?” Mr Barrowe demanded.

“I have a strong suspicion,” Banshin said, full volume this time. “But I’m afraid I’ll need to speak to everyone who was present in the manor during the murder.”

“Of course,” Dulan said. “They’re waiting outside.”

“No staff?”

“I don’t need a small army to take care of me and Dolores. We bring a maid in when the place needs cleaning, but that’s it,” Mr Barrowe grumbled.

“Eddie was always a bit frugal, bless him,” Dolores said. “Virgil and I handled the house.”

“I understand,” Banshin replied gracefully. “Shall we, then?”

Banshin and Mr Barrowe’s family left the office, walking downstairs to where the others were waiting. Mr Barrowe was happy to learn he could follow them outside the room. Amy was hunched over, cradling a damp handkerchief, and Virgil was sitting beside her.

“Well?” Amy demanded, all sorrow replaced by annoyance at their tardiness. “Was it a break-in?”

“I’m afraid not, Ms Barrowe,” Banish said, not unkindly.

“Hm! And what evidence do you have?” Dolores asked accusingly.

“The evidence of your eyes, Ms Dolores. Unless you saw a broken window or lock where I did not? We have been in the house all evening, and heard nothing strange until Dulan’s shout.”

“You’re not suggesting one of us is the killer?” She shot back.

“I’m afraid I can’t find any evidence to suggest otherwise.” He replied.

“You said you have a suspect.” Dulan prompted.

“I said a suspicion, Mr Barrowe. There was something of note in the study you see — a will.”

“Yes, Father was showing it to us this evening,” Amy said with annoyance.

“No, this will was not your father’s. It was made to look like your father’s will, but it clearly had been forged by an amateur. Besides that, the difference in author was more obvious in the main recipient of the will: Ms Dolores.”

Dolores stared at Banshin in shock before growing angry. “What, exactly, are you suggesting, Mr Fetch?”

“Yes, what are you doing, Banshin?” Mr Barrowe proclaimed, “Dolores didn’t kill me, don’t be ridiculous.”

“I’m not suggesting anything, Ms Dolores, only catching everyone up on the situation. Now, if you don’t mind, I need to ask you all some questions.”

“Where were we at the time of the murder, and all that?” Dulan said coolly.

“Well yes, but first, Mr Virgil, would you mind telling me what Mr and Ms Barrowe were arguing about, just after I arrived? I caught bits and pieces, but the whole story escaped me.”

Virgil suddenly looked very nervous. “Well, it’s nothing of importance.”

“Don’t be coy, Virgil,” Dulan scoffed. “It was my sister who was doing the arguing.”

“Ha!” It was a bitter, angry sound. Amy followed it up by declaring. “My brother was complaining that I wasn’t going to pay his gambling debts. Again.”

“They’re not gambling debts, idiot!” Her brother shouted back. “It’s not my fault you don’t know how investing works.”

“I know exactly how your little hobby works, brother,” She said with icy emphasis on the last word, “which is why I call it gambling. Perhaps if you got a real job, you would be able to pay your own debts.”

“They’re just going to keep at it until someone stops them,” Mr Barrowe warned.

“I think I see the picture now, thank you,” Banshin said quickly. “Let’s discuss where everyone was during the event, shall we?”

“Yes, let’s start with you, Mr Fetch,” Amy said, her anger redirecting. “Where were you when our father was being murdered?”

Virgil, obviously still nervous, coughed. “He was, uh, we were talking in the main room. It turns out my cousin was an old acquaintance of Mr Fetch, and we were catching up. 

“Which, since the body was still warm when Mr Barrowe discovered it, implies that both me and Virgil could not be the killer.”

“Unless you were in cahoots!” Dolores gasped.

Dulan actually laughed. “Virgil’s known Father longer than you have, Dolores. Why would he murder his most dependable paycheck?”

“He was also a friend, Mr Dulan,” Virgil said, quietly. 

“And what about you, Mr Barrowe?” Banshin demanded, turning all attention towards the ghostly Mr Barrowe’s youngest child.

“I’ve already told you. I was with Dolores in the library and then went to the loo. I was in there when I heard him fall and went to investigate. I thought he’d had a stroke, not… well, not murder.” Dulan finished. 

“Ms Dolores, is that what you remember?”

“Oh, well yes. Dulan came to check on me, and then went away.” 

“What were you doing during that time, Ms Dolores?” Banshin said, now stepping toward the woman.

“I was… well I was reading,” Dolores replied weakly, holding up the little book she’d been clutching like a talisman the whole time.

It was a little book on France; Mr Barrowe had no idea when he’d bought it. A little bookmark peeked out halfway through. Banshin took it gently and skimmed through. “Ah. Considering somewhere in Brittany? Perhaps Nantes?”

Dolores snorted. “Nantes is not in Brittany, Mr Fetch.”

Engrossed in the exchange, Mr Barrowe reached down to a little plate of biscuits sitting on the library table. His hand passed through, and he gave the offending wafer a glare.

Banshin nodded. “Fast reader, Ms Dolores?”

“I’m afraid not,” Dolores said. “But it’s not a very long book.”

“No, but you were obviously very engrossed, so much that you didn’t notice the time,” Banshin said, with surprising confidence.

“I can’t say I did, not exactly. It was before Dulan called us all to the study, that’s for sure,” She mused.

“Of course. Now, I’m afraid there’s one person we’re still not accounting for,” Banshin announced, turning to Amy, who was still sitting on the couch.

“I was writing a letter to a friend,” Amy said in that crisp voice that meant she was going to get very angry if you pushed further.

“You will understand if we need proof, Ms Barrowe.”

“That is private, Mr Fetch, and if you would-”

“Ms Barrowe,” Banshin said with considerably more force, “I found it very curious how you were the first to suggest that the police be kept out of this affair. They are hardly a perfect group of men, especially in certain delicate matters, but you understand how that looks, yes? The main beneficiary of the dead man’s will, voting to keep the police from investigating?”

Amy Barrowe had gone very pale.

“You’re not seriously suggesting- my sister is an idiot, but she’s not a murderer! I doubt she has it in her,” Dulan said in a considerably less affectionate tone than his words would suggest.

“There are a lot of laws about client confidentiality, isn’t there, Mr Fetch?” Amy stated very carefully.

“That there are, Ms Barrowe. I can promise you that, should you at least let me see the letter, I will speak of it to no living soul.”

Amy deflated a bit and produced a thin piece of paper from her sleeve.

Mr Barrowe wasted no time in looking over Banshin’s shoulder to read.

“I don’t understand,” He grumbled. “It’s just a letter to that girl Catherine. They’ve been friends since she was a child, you know. Still close, they’re planning to move in together in a few months, from what I remember. Don’t know why Catherine would care so much about her not having to marry a man. Catherine’s never been married either.”

“I understand,” Banshin said. He folded the paper carefully, before handing it back to the woman.

“Do you?” She asked, eyes narrowed.

“Well, I don’t. Why didn’t she want the police to find that?” Mr Barrowe demanded.

“Some relationships are… easily misinterpreted, particularly by the police. I commend your caution, Ms Barrowe,” Banshin said.

“Oh, enough of this!” Dulan bursted out, with characteristic impatience. “Have you figured it out or not? We’ve all got alibis, so someone’s lying. And I think we all know who it is. Really, Dolores, ‘I was reading’?”

“How dare- You gave me the book, Dulan!” Dolores sputtered.

“Why doesn’t everyone sit down?” Banshin urged. “It’s been a long evening and surely you’re all tired.”

“Oh, come off it!” Dulan said. “Just tell us it was Dolores already.”

For the fourth time that evening, Banshin made direct and terrible eye contact with the ghostly Mr Barrowe.

“Go on,” the ghost replied.

Banshin looked away. “It was, most likely, you, Mr Dulan.”

Dulan sputtered. “What?!”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Amy said. 

“I am not, Ms Barrowe. Ms Dolores clearly did read her book, and was so engrossed by it, I doubt she knows how long Mr Barrowe was truly gone for. Your alibi is not nearly as solid as you like to imply, Mr Barrowe.”

“So I might’ve been in the loo for a while, that doesn’t prove anything!”

“No, of course not, but you are also the only one with a motive. You have debts of some kind, clearly. Debts your sister won’t pay.”

“Aren’t you the auditor? I don’t get any money from the will. That’s no motive,” Dulan spat.

“Of course. Your sister gets the money provided she takes care of you. I doubt letting your debts catch up to you would count as ‘taking care of you,’ Mr Barrowe.”

Dulan was starting to go red. “And what of the fake will? You said it would’ve given everything to Dolores.”

Despite Dulan’s clear agitation, Banshin remained perfectly calm. “Yes, that was interesting. It would create a neat little picture, wouldn’t it? Dolores is crafting a will to give herself a bigger hand in the estate, when suddenly Edward comes upstairs. She must hide, and then, when the man grabs the will she was working on, she panics. Grabs a letter-opener from the desk, and strikes.”

Dulan looked almost relieved. “There! That’s what happened! It all lines up!”

“Except we all saw the crime scene, Mr Barrowe. The will was not in Mr Barrowe’s hands but on the table.”

“That’s right! I had the damn thing in my hands- I thought you moved it!” Mr Barrowe himself said, momentarily forgetting only Banshin could hear him.

“What does that prove?” Dulan said.

“The only reason to move the paper was to give Dolores a motive in the eyes of anyone who later saw the scene. Only the person who killed Mr Barrowe, or the person who discovered his body, could’ve moved it before everyone arrived. If Dolores had been the killer, she would’ve had good reason to get rid of the paper, not put it where it would be seen.”

“I’m the one who discovered his body!” Dulan nearly shouted. “I might’ve moved some things around, but I didn’t kill him!”

“Currently, Mr Barrowe, we have only your word on that.”

“Why you-” Dulan actually leaped at the man, face red and fists clenched. Only Dolores and Virgil’s quick movement restrained him from making contact with the auditor.

Banshin didn’t even flinch.

“I hate to play Devil’s Advocate,” Virgil began, still struggling to hold back the huffing Dulan, “But the evidence you’ve given could just as easily implicate Ms Amy. She could’ve brought the letter beforehand. It’s not a very strong alibi.”

Banshin shook his head. “It’s the strongest alibi so far, actually. As you recall, Ms Dolores and Mr Barrowe, I took a look at the will and got a good opportunity to understand its handwriting. It is very different in shape and manner to the handwriting of Ms Barrowe’s, of which I just got a very good look at right now. Handwriting is important to me. I am an auditor, after all.”

“Then what if we brought you a sample of Mr Dulan’s handwriting?” Virgil said, with some small hope.

Banshin nodded. “I would be able to tell if they were the same.” 

Suddenly, Dulan deflated, all of his belligerent energy dissipating. “Oh, don’t bother. I’m not going to sit here and wait for this ass to say the dotted i’s and crossed t’s matching means I killed my father.”

“Do you confess, then?” Banshin pressed.

“I don’t have anything to say to you,” Dulan growled. “Get the hell out of our house.”

Banshin turned to Dolores. “It’s actually your house now, Ms Dolores.”

Dolores looked at the red-faced youth. “Perhaps you could give us a moment, Mr Fetch?”

“Of course,” Banshin murmured, stepping out of the library and closing the door behind him.

The sound of shouting was not far behind.

“Are you satisfied now, Mr Barrowe?”

“Did my own son really stick a letter opener in my back?” Mr Barrowe said, voice hollow.

“I think Dulan was in much more dire straits than anyone realized,” Banshin said, with uncharacteristic emotion. “It takes a lot to drive a man to murder, particularly a loved one. I wouldn’t be surprised if whoever holds his debts has threatened him directly, to scare him so badly.”

“It all still feels a bit unbelievable,” Mr Barrowe said. “How is it that you can see me, again?”

“Just an old trick of the trade, Mr Barrowe.”

“Are you actually an auditor, Mr Fetch?” Mr Barrowe asked.

Banshin said, not unkindly, “Your last request is fulfilled, Mr Barrowe. Exciting as this all is, you’d best move along.”

“I suppose I should,” Mr Barrowe said, a bit sadly. “I might take one more glance at them, if that’s allowed.”

“I don’t see why not. It can wait a moment or two,” Banshin said.

“It can, can it? You got a coach waiting for me outside?”

Banshin smiled his chilling little smile. “There always is, Mr Barrowe. There always is.”

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