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Number Thirteen

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Bluebeard Mansion, the first night
(I have no clock, but the sky is at its very blackest point)

You may of course wonder what I'm doing here, why I would choose to place my life in peril for the most slender of rewards. Believe me when I say that those same questions haunt my thoughts still.

I’ve always fancied that I had something of the Lady Detective in me, the secret soul of an adventurer trapped inside my somewhat ungainly frame. So my ears burned when I heard of Lord Bluebeard; my beaky nose twitched each time one of the ladies in Mother's club mentioned his name. As they tittered over their fine bone china cups, the chatter always followed the same sort of a pattern: 'Did you hear that Lord BB married another?', 'ONE THIRD of his age this time, they say!', 'That girl doesn’t have an ounce of sense in her pretty little head, nor a mother to watch over her', 'He’ll make a widower of himself again by the end of the year, mark my words!'.

And so, time and again, it came to pass. The latest casualty was Cynthia-Jayne Fox, otherwise known as Lady Bluebeard. She died on the seventeenth day of September, and, according to Lady Bracebox, her family never even got to see her body.

In my younger years, Lady Bracebox and the rest of Mother's ladies turned the full force of their gossip on me. I heard all about the terribly dashing Lord Esplendo and the frightfully erudite Sir Edmund Firstwit. Joachim Harte was not too bad looking, or so they would have had me believe. The important thing to remember, and this they couldn't stress firmly enough, was that a girl like me couldn't afford to be too choosy about the man who she would spend the rest her life with. A husband is a husband after all.

When I grew a little older and stouter, and when my curves began to droop in the wrong direction, they discretely let the questions drop, abandoning the ship due to lack of hope, so to speak. Perhaps it was simply boredom that led them to fixate on Bluebeard so. Nevertheless, it was from them that I put together this grim, mysterious tale, slowly mastering the detective's art of piecing together the scattered clues.

I suspect that there have been twelve girls in total. Twelve young souls who left their homes as innocents before being consigned, for all eternity, to a wooden box in the ground. To learn of their fate and bring the monster responsible to justice will be the first great investigation of my life.

At least, that is how my thinking ran back in the safe confines of my girlhood bedchamber. Now, as I lie alone in this strange place, my knees drawn up to my chest as I struggle to write in the failing light, I fear that this first investigation will also be my last.