Home > The Girl He Wished (Paige King FBI Suspense Thriller #4)(6)

The Girl He Wished (Paige King FBI Suspense Thriller #4)(6)
Author: Blake Pierce

As she and Christopher approached those gates, there were already plenty of people lining up to get into the Renaissance Faire. There were families and groups of friends, couples, and people who had obviously come alone. Some of them were dressed in ordinary, casual clothes, but probably half or more were in costumes of various kinds. The majority of those costumes were interpretations of medieval dress that involved everything from a few items of old fashioned looking jewelry over otherwise simple clothes all the way up to what looked like full, homemade suits of armor. A few, though, had come in obvious fantasy costumes, or in costumes from other time periods, as if the whole place were one big playground for people who wanted to be different.

Paige realized the scale of the task facing her and Christopher when she saw that lots of them had weaponry of various kinds, too. There were people walking around with swords, and if most of them looked like they were plastic, at least a couple of them looked as though they weren’t. Would one guy with a dagger stand out, in a situation like that?

Paige and Christopher walked up to the gates, with Paige doing her best to ignore the looks from the people there who thought that they were cutting the line. Paige showed her FBI badge to the greeter at the gate, a young man in what appeared to be the outfit of a knight, complete with large shield and longsword.

“FBI. We’re here about Meredith Park.”

Paige saw him swallow, looking worried as she said that. She took a guess.

“Did you know her?” Paige asked.

“Everyone did,” the greeter replied. “She ran the restaurant. She got along with everyone.”

“So she was popular?” Christopher asked, joining in.

They needed as much general information as they could get about Meredith if they were going to find answers in this case. In particular, they needed to know if anyone had a reason to hurt her. It was still possible that this was a double murder for some normal reason, rather than just because a serial killer had targeted them both.

The knight nodded. “When I wasn’t on the gate, I would go help out around the park. I do some of the jousting shows and the mock combats. Meredith was always a good person. She had a smile for everyone, and she was always ready to do whatever she could to help.”

“And where were you yesterday, when Meredith left the restaurant?” Christopher asked.

The knight on the gate hesitated as he tried to recall. “I was here. I was on the gate all day. You can check the schedule if you want.”

“Hey, can we hurry things up here?” a guy called, from the line. He was standing there dressed like some homebrew Henry VIII, a big guy in a tunic, cloak, and ruff.

Paige wanted to know more about Meredith, but looking around, she could see that the other people in the line were getting a little impatient. She could find the information she needed elsewhere in the Faire.

“We should go in,” Paige said.

Christopher led the way into the place, and Paige followed in his wake. It was even bigger in there than Paige had thought from the outside, with a number of buildings set out in rows, so that it seemed like a whole medieval village in the shadow of a small castle that looked like it had more to do with every TV fantasy series than with anything actually medieval. That castle had so many spires and turrets that it seemed like some great stone porcupine.

Quite a lot of the Renaissance Faire was open fields, though, punctuated by tents that looked semi-permanent, as if they’d been deliberately designed to create the impression of somewhere that had been thrown together for only a day or two when in fact they had sat there in the same spots for years. The field currently featured a couple of knights charging at each other on horseback while crowds roared their support, lances leveled, ready to knock one another off, and Paige heard the impact even from where she stood.

It felt strange to be dressed in suits here, given the number of people in many variations of medieval dress.

There were some in suits, too, although curiously old fashioned ones, often accompanied by goggles or homemade apparatus of brass and glass.

“Steampunk doesn’t exactly fit the medieval feel,” Christopher said, obviously seeing some of the same people.

“I get the feeling that historical accuracy isn’t the main selling point of the Renaissance Faire,” Paige replied. “I guess there’s just something about it that encourages people’s more creative sides to come out.”

Which probably made it all a lot of fun to walk around under normal circumstances, but Paige wasn’t there just to enjoy the atmosphere, and it also meant that asking the people there if they’d seen anything out of the ordinary yesterday might not give them many results. Even a man openly waving a strange knife around might not attract attention, since there was at least one performer with the Faire twirling a medieval Morningstar like it was a baton, sending the spiked head on a chain whirling around his body.

“We need to find the employee parking lot,” Christopher said. “Once we get to the murder site, we can work out from there.” He headed over to a large map of the Renaissance Faire, apparently carved out of a single cross-section of tree trunk, with details burned on it.

Paige could see the problem with it instantly: While it showed exactly where to go for the jousting field, the feasting hall, or King Arthur’s Court, it didn’t include the employee parking lot. This was a map for the customers, and presumably, whoever had designed the map hadn’t thought that customers had any business there.

“We’ll ask,” Paige said, and headed over to where a man in tunic and hose was giving archery lessons to anyone who walked up, a trio of young people sending arrows flying out into straw targets a little way away. Or at least near those targets. They weren’t all hitting very consistently.

“Have you come to try your hand and see if you’re worthy of being one of King Arthur’s yeomen?” the instructor asked.

“Actually, we wanted to ask you a couple of questions,” Christopher said, stepping forward with his ID outstretched.

As soon as he saw the ID, the archery instructor’s face fell, obviously knowing what this was going to be about. How could he not, with what had just happened?

“You’re looking into what happened to Meredith?” he asked.

“We are,” Paige said. “Did you know her?”

Everything about the way he reacted suggested that he had, just as the greeter at the gate had known her.

“Everyone knew Meredith,” the archery instructor said. “She was one of those bright, bubbly people it’s kind of hard to miss, even in a place like this.”

“Did she have any enemies?” Christopher asked. It was a standard question, because sometimes, it was obvious to everyone around a victim who might have killed them.

Apparently not in this case, though.

“Enemies?” the archery instructor said. He sounded genuinely surprised by the idea. “No, of course not. Why would someone like Meredith have enemies?”

Paige suspected that he would be surprised how sometimes even the most ordinary people had enemies, but she needed to find another way to ask the question.

“But I’d guess that a place like this doesn’t always run smoothly,” Paige suggested. It was usually easier to get people to talk about any general trouble than it was to get them to admit that one of their friends had someone in their life who might want to kill them. People had often heard gossip that they didn’t realize might be relevant.

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