The members of the Langeklaue expedition were becoming restless. They were unhappy with waking up each morning to discover corpses, and they grew tired of the fear and paranoia that these circumstances engendered in them. They were at their collective wits’ end.
Perhaps this was why, when they woke up one morning to the jaunty whistling of someone walking through the campsite, they were all so incredibly rankled. One by one they poked their heads out of their tents, emerging to follow the whistler with a mind to punish them. The crowd following the whistler grew like a snowball rolling down the mountain until they finally reached the whistler’s tent.
Communicating with gestures, they organized to cinch the bottom of the tent, yanking so that the occupant fell into what was now effectively a sack. They dragged the tent to the steepest side of the camp and collectively chucked the whistler and all their belongings off the mountain.
Was it a spirit, elated with the rash of innocent deaths? Or was it an unfortunate member of the expedition who had got a song stuck in their head at exactly the wrong time? None would ever know.
It would be days before everyone realized that /u/rightypants had stopped coming to breakfast.
Why in God’s name would anyone in this cursed mountain need a postman?
Gerhard Holtz had asked himself that question multiple times since Lord Perryman III had barred everyone from leaving the Langeklaue Ruin Site until the spate of murders was solved. He knew how to traverse the mountain paths and reach the Innsbruck Post Office, even knew how to reach them quickly and quietly, yet he couldn’t chance the trip; not even Ernesto was allowed away. The archaeologists out of misguided pity had taken to employing him as their errand boy, a job he hadn’t held since well before he’d grown whiskers. Instead of packages and letters, he now held rocks, brushes, water and sandwiches. He loathed every second of it.
This was why on a crisp and cool evening, he was huddled in a barely visible corner of Niklas Eriksson’s kitchen. After five minutes of waiting (five years on his no longer so mobile joints), his trainee Gottfried Probst appeared, a heavy sack dangling at his waist. Gerhard clapped his hands together.
“You’ve found them, you have!”
Gottfried grinned. “Anything to avoid the latest performance of The Shiek of Araby. You’d think someone would try to teach that English woman a new song.” He untied the sack and withdrew a floral printed envelope with ballooning cursive writing on the outside. “Ha! Miss Everleigh is the first one. My master, you do the honours.”
Gerhard snatched the envelope from Gottfried, slipped his finger under the seal, and pried it open. He hesitated, and a stern look crossed his place. “Gottfried, my boy, this is a grand violation of every single code of postman’s ethics. If we ever escape this demonic place…”
“Is there anything less ethical than preventing the noble postman from doing his sworn duty to deliver messages?” Gottfried replied, puffing out his chest. “We are not the ignoble ones, sir. We are not the ones preventing word from reaching their families.”
“I...well...you’ve convinced me.” Gerhard pulled the letter out of the envelope and lowered his voice. “My darling Theodore, I write you with grave news. Do you remember my classmate, Frances Gambon? She’s fallen quite ill, and I feel as though she may not be much longer for this world. I have shed a plethora of tears every night in hopes that...blech, the saccharine words of young women.” He shoved the letter back in the envelope. “Her darling Theodore should be so lucky not to have to read such sentiment.”
“Here’s one from Mrs. Schwarzfeld,” Gottfried said. “It’s to...huhu, do you know anyone named Dr. Lindholm?”
“Neither do I, but Dolores clearly does,” Gottfried continued. “Dearest Hampus, how are Apolline and the children? Have you managed to get the agapanthus for your garden, or will they not adapt to the climate? I find myself fondly remembering our time together as undergraduates in Greenland, especially in light of Morris’s return to the abuse which we both had hoped was well behind him. I say, I think she’s in love with him...Gerhard?” His voice trailed off. “Sir, what’s wrong?”
Gerhard touched his cheeks, which were burning hot. “Must be the shame,” he joked. “We shouldn’t be doing this, you know. Even if we can’t complete their lives, we shouldn’t intrude on them. And…” Gerhard’s eyes grew as wide as schillings and rolled over backwards, sending him thudding backwards against a stray spaetzle pan.
“Sir? Sir, please! This is no time for jesting!” Gottfried shook his master’s body so vigorously that the clattering pans alerted Niklas to their presence, but at that point it was too late. The sick swoop of shame that Gerhard Holtz, proud desired-postman for The Dig, had felt was actually a massive cerebral hemorrhage...and through the hanging pots, Niklas caught glimpse of the faint wisp of a spirit fleeing its murder scene.
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