Closed - Content Warning Pride Before the Fall
[warning: death]

Malcolm had never seen a place so grey as Madsmoor in the fall.  Though this day had every right to be a great deal more grim than most others, he could have done without the steady fall of cold rain and the dark thunderheads gathering in the distance.  It was all a little contrived.

As the priest recited his finals prayers, Malcolm tilted the brim of his hat and drew his hands to his mouth to blow on them.  The purpose of this little gesture was not only to warm his ice cold fingers but to hide an extended glance across the casket at the Madswitte’s visiting surgeon.  They’d met only once before, but Malcolm had found him flinty and hard to read.  The sergeant made it his business to discover what he could about strangers in the area, and he still knew so little about the good doctor - save that his son had just arrived in town, and that their relationship was strained.

When the internment was complete and the congregation began to break up, Malcolm approached the doctor casually, walking past him and then stopping, as if he hadn’t noticed him until that exact moment.

“Oh, doctor….?” he trailed off, acting as though he’d forgotten Oliver’s name, because it wasn’t like he needed to keep track of these things, after all, “Sergeant Napier, we met recently.”
Dr. Dietrich’s blue eyes tracked the casket as it lowered into the ground. His features were stone, carved into a perpetually grim frown. He had been with the man when he died, and for that reasons alone, he supposed he ought to be touched to see such a turnout for the service, despite the rain. He had been with many different men and women at their death, though, and this man he had hardly known. Death was a less troubling matter when you hardly knew them.

The doctor’s gaze shifted to the grievers. It would probably unsettle them to know the man’s liver had been bottled up and stowed away for his research. It wasn’t exactly a smiled up autopsy practice to swipe a few organs, but nobody was going to miss it. It’s diseased tissue certainly hadn’t done Mr. Dorsley any favors while he was alive.

As Dr. Dietrich started to drift away with the crowd, thinking fondly of shedding his soaked wool coat and brimmed hat as soon as he stepped inside someplace warm, when a voice caught his attention. He turned, and glancing over the man, he immediately recognized him as the officer who had hounded him about interrogating Violetta. “Yes, I remember.” Dr. Dietrich replied brusquely. He paused for a moment, as if just realizing the sergeant was trying to initiate a conversation.

“It was a lovely ceremony, despite the weather.” Rain dripped from the brim of his hat as Oliver tilted his head. “I take it you knew the deceased?”
The doctor seemed to ignore Malcolm’s query. Unexpected but not entirely surprising, it still caught Malcolm off guard. He glanced over his shoulder at the casket, blinking through a sheet of rain carried upon a sudden gust of wind. How miserable.

“Yes, just….lovely,” he said, wiping a droplet from the tip of his nose and taking a deep breath, “Ah, no, not really. He was an acquaintance, but I wanted to pay my respects all the same. Dorsley was well liked.”

More half-truths. Malcolm had been acquainted with the Dorsleys, but would never have dragged himself out on such a wretched day to attend a funeral service for the late patriarch if it weren’t for the recent disappearance of several bodies from their graves. Would the culprit show himself during the internment? Unlikely, but worth looking into all the same.

“Let’s just hope he stays in the ground, hm?” Malcolm added, tucking his chin toward his chest. He looked up at Oliver searchingly, his wry smile suggesting a light hearted joke. “And how were you acquainted with the deceased?”
“Mhmm.” Oliver agreed, if Dorsley’s family was to be any indication. It was a shame he had to go so wretchedly, body wracked with illness. It was a hard image to shake from one’s mind, even in the solemn rain, and quiet grieving that accompanied them today.

The doctor’s icy blue eyes found the sargent the moment he cracked his little joke. He didn’t find a lick of humor in it, but forced himself to smile anyway. The doctor couldn’t be sure what had prompted such an odd statement. Whether it was just the local superstitions, or if he had noticed the bodies being exhumed from the graveyard as of late. “Well, I don’t believe in ghost stories.” Oliver finally answered, trying to push the images from his mind of his late night scavenging. Of Corbenic, and his fascination with bones. Of dragging near-complete bodies through the servant’s halls.

“I was with the man when he died.” Dr. Dietrich answered, tucking his hands behind his back to avoid the hunched look one could get in the rain. “I could only try to make his passing as dignified as possible, unfortunately he was far too ill for medical attention to do much good.” The doctor looked to the ground. He had been called in at the tail end of Mr. Dorsley’s life, but a terminal illness was far worse when one was called in at the beginning. It was hard to watch a patient- or a friend- slowly waste away.

“I only thought it appropriate I be with the man when he was buried.” And to make sure he was buried without too much fuss about the scar beneath his Sunday best. And to pay his respects to the man who may have unwittingly become the key component in his studies regarding surgery of the liver.

But from the way the pair of them made it sound, it didn’t take much to get a fellow out to a funeral in Madsmoor.
“Oh, nor do I, nor do I,” Malcolm shifted his weight, feet squelching in the mud, “But I’m afraid this ghost story’s quite true. A handful of graves have been disturbed here recently, and since I don’t believe the dead have gotten up and walked off that can only mean one thing.”

Malcolm paused again to size the doctor up. He had no real reason to suspect the doctor’s involvement, but something about the man didn’t sit right with him. Oh, he was stranger, certainly, but that wasn’t all. Perhaps it had more to do with the doctor’s attitude, and the way Malcolm had been treated during his investigation into Violetta Muzuran’s shooting. Perhaps he bore a grudge.

“I apologize, it’s all a very grim business; death and corpses,” Malcolm tilted his head, appearing thoughtful, “But I suppose you are a doctor, so you are used to these things. You must be, surely.”

After all, when graves were plundered in the city, their spoils were often sold to local medical schools, for surgeons and students to practice their craft. Hm, perhaps his suspicions weren’t so misplaced after all.
Dr. Dietrich’s mouth was as straight as a razor. He supposed it was only a matter of time before someone caught on to the body snatching. In the city, it was frowned upon, but also the least of the police’s concerns. After all, the safety of those living overwhelmed the concern for those who were dead. It didn’t help that Oliver was lingering in town longer than he ever expected. Days turned to weeks, then weeks into months, and still the Marquess’ health had not improved. It kept him stuck in the vicinity of his crimes, rather than just gathering his supplies and moving on.

Luckily, from what Dr. Dietrich knew of this sergeant, he was more bark than bite. The whole incident with Violetta, making all kinds of demands while she was still recovering. It had hardly mattered how much insisting he had done- she was in no state to be answering questions in a way much use to anybody. And the doctor would not be shook by such tactics.

“My business is the living, not the dead.” Dr. Dietrich reminded him. Admittedly, he was starting to feel a bit like a corpse himself, out in the cold rain. He reached to his breast pocket for some cigarettes, offering one to the Sergeant before taking one himself. Oliver kept his voice as even as his hands, despite feeling like he was walking on a razor’s edge. “Do you have any leads, aside from the local superstitions?” Oliver went to light his smoke while he waited for an answer, finding his matches infuriatingly soggy.
Malcolm glanced around surreptitiously, aware the topic of conversation was not exactly appropriate for the setting. Folks had mostly begun to shuffle off to get out of the rain, which seemed the sensible thing to do. Malcolm’s own coat was just about soaked through at the shoulders and a chill had begun to set in. He resisted the urge to shiver as he reached to take one of the cigarettes Oliver offered.

“Thank you,” he said, waiting patiently for his own light, “Nothing so solid, but this is a small town. One can’t get away with much around here. Not for long.”

Malcolm didn’t look at Oliver as he spoke. Instead, he absently scanned the graveyard, swinging his head back and forth like an owl on the hunt. It was a habit, much like fidgeting, that manifested every time he was forced to engage in small talk.

“Unfortunately, I can’t discuss details. Ongoing investigation. You understand,” he added, “And how is Lady Violetta? Well, I trust?”
It took Oliver a second match to get his cigarette lit in the damp air. The ends of his fingers were numb with cold, so he simply handed the book of matches to the expectant officer and tucked his hands back in his pockets. The doctor tried drifting back towards town, so they could at least follow the crowd out of the rain.

Dr. Dietrich watched his feet with an apparent interest in avoiding putting a shoe in any particularly deep puddles, but he was hanging on every word the sergeant was speaking, his heart pounding in his chest. So there was more than just a suspicion, and Oliver knew he was right: it was a small town. He had been hoping the man would have been dismissive that this kind of thing just doesn’t happen around here, but instead he seemed confident. Over-confident, maybe, but at the very least determined to get to the bottom of it.

He looked back at Malcolm when he mentioned he wouldn’t discuss more details. Oliver wasn’t sure if that meant he had any to discuss, but he would at least take the relief of getting off the subject. “She’s recovering better than I first expected.” Dr. Dietrich assured him. The young lady was anemic, which could have caused some more serious complications. “As far as I know, the assailant hasn’t made another attempt to contact her. Have you had any luck with that investigation?”

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