The blood billowing out a hole in the roof of another stone building is the only indication of where Extinrel is. As far as Sean is concerned, that’s all that is needed. The plume of blood is caught by one of thin currents that threads it way through the town and carries the blood away from Nailecta.
“What!?” Extinrel snaps when Sean pokes his head into the doorway. Caniciat is nowhere to be seen.
“We’ve come to examine the victims again,” Argan says. He fixes Extinrel with a look that Sean correctly interprets as a commanding officer smacking down someone of lower rank. “Do not worry. We’ll work around you and stay out of your way.”
“You had better,” Extinrel says, but keeps the snappy tone out of his voice. Argan and Sean then enter the building properly and Sean can see that Extinrel is elbows deep in the innards of a mer. A pad of kelp is close by and several of the more esoteric devices they’d packed back at the cupola is on a nearby table.
Seventeen bodies lie on tables in the room. They are all in various stages of decomposition, but clearly, far, far less than they should be. Like in Itait the merfolk here have some way of preserving the bodies. Their method’s Sean notes is far better than the methods used in Itait.
As before however, the sharp scent of whatever is used to preserve the bodies floods him.
“Weren’t there nineteen deaths?” Sean asks after taking a moment to get used to the scent of the room.
“There were,” said Argan, “But two were buried before they released that they might be connected.”
“At the risk of being insensitive, can’t we exhume them?”
“It would make no sense,” Extinrel grumbles. “Once the artae is released from the body, it is naught but dust.”
“Uh what?” Sean said blinking.
“Artae,” Argan said calmly. “When we are buried, our bodies turn to artae. Most of it anyway. If It isn’t buried it remains for the other creatures of the ocean to devour.” He shrugs like this is an entirely normal thing to say.
Sean blinks hard, blinks some more and then decide that he’s not thinking about it. It was not worth straining his brain over. So, the first two bodies are inaccessible to them. He can work with that.
“Ukendrel said that all of the bodies bore marks that were most likely made by one person,” Sean said. “Is it true? Um, is it likely? Can we find that out?”
“Yes, we can,” Argan said, “though it is not exact.”
“I haven’t examined them all,” Extinrel said, “But what I have seen makes it likely. Of course, such a thing is difficult to say. Bodies, no matter how well preserved do not last long. As you can see, they are breaking down already and that makes any findings I might make, shaky evidence.”
“Even shaky evidence will help,” Sean said. “We literally have a serial killer who didn’t know he was a serial killer until three days ago.”
“Or so he says,” Argan replies.
“Or so he says,” Sean agrees. “So, who is who? Who got killed first?”
“Alikna was the first followed by, Eckon, Diniet, Dariet, Sirgath, Lania, Ilsari, Taklagat, Reslo, Celtrik, SaAkad, Farane, Malceteth, Juniroc, Xanizi, Veknit, Haidilin, Barinai and Pacniet.” Sean pretty much forgot the start of the list by the time Argan reached the end of the list. From the gleam in the merman’s eyes he knew. Sean rallied with another question.
“What do they all have in common?”
“Nothing,” said Argan, “Not that we’ve found.”
“Okay, but do groups of them within the larger groups have things in common?”
“Some yes,” replied Argan. “Four have the same jobs, two happen to have the same parents, five were born in the same place, nine worked in the same area, two others actually knew each other and considered each other friends, twelve of the nineteen had met each other at least once before they settled in Nailecta.”
“Okay,” said Sean, “that’s actually interesting, the last bit. Wait a minute a pair of siblings got murdered?”
“Yes,” said Argan. “At different times.”
“Huh. Um, well I don’t think you guys have races so… demographics. How many of the victims were male and how many were female and what age brackets do they land in?”
“Eight females and eleven males,” Argan said. They’re all older than 400 human years. Oldest is about 600 human years, youngest 401.”
Sean blinked and then said. “Okay I’ve got to ask, what is your life span like?!”
“Hmm our oldest tend to reach the eight hundred to nine hundred bracket,” Argan said casually.
Sean swallowed. “That’s…. a really long time,” he said faintly.
“For humans,” Argan says coolly.
“I guess,” Sean says. “That’s gonna take some mental processing. Alright so…our possibly ignorant serial killer, only killed people who were over the age of 400 human years.”
“That seems to be the case,” Argan said. He seemed to be waiting for Sean to continue his analysis. Sean, on the other hand, was hoping Argan would pick it up from there because he was running out of ideas and he felt mentally drained from the interrogation. He tried to remember what he and Ukendrel had spoken about.
“Okay, so, the actual reports from people. Did all the murders really happen at night?”
“Mostly,” Argan replied, “There was one that was thought to have occurred late in the evening rather than true night.”
“Okay,” Sean closed his eyes briefly and then asked, “Is there an MO for the killings? Something more than the shape and depth of claw marks?”
Argan gave him a little smile. “Watch them and tell me Shenaragle. Tell me what your sovereign-sanctioned eyes see.”
Sean frowned a little at the statement sensing an unspoken connotation. When Argan failed to elaborate however he turned his gaze, once more to the bodies. After a frustrating five minutes of trying to see what Argan wanted him to see he gave up and just talked, hoping that he’d come to the answer eventually. “Rage,” he said, “Almost blinding, emphatic rage. These murders are personal, they’re revenge and satisfaction and maybe a personal sense of justice. But the rage really isn’t blinding. It’s calculated. As much as this is personal, there’s a professional element? The killer was angry but he planned this and, and,” Sean paused and then said slowly,” I think I’d have to see the murder scenes but it’s quite possible that the murderer didn’t just do this for revenge. He or she, needed to do it. It had to happen. And that’s why there was so much careful planning.”
“Why do you think these were planned carefully?” Argan asked. “these bodies looked to have been ripped apart in frenzy.”
“Because you don’t kill nineteen people and not get caught or killed, without careful planning,” Sean said. “And if you were in a frenzy, why make sure to rip open the throats first every single time? I mean it could be like a favourite attack move or something but ripping open the throat pretty much ensures your victim won’t scream both for help and to kill you and that they’d bleed out. Second marks look to be over the gills so they can’t breathe well at all and after that, then the frenzy starts. All the other wounds are over those two. If the killer didn’t have a personal stake, he wouldn’t need to maul the body, one more blow could finish it so that’s how I know he or she is personally involved. I figured the killer is professional not just because of the planning involved but also because of how well they did plan. They literally got away without a scratch every single time, or they’d be caught already. So, killing MO would be the claw marks across the throat and gills and then mad frenzy. I’d liked to see the murder scenes before I know who he even got into the places without being stopped and if that’s something we can use to narrow down who killed the people.”
“You don’t think it’s Ukendrel,” Argan asked.
“I think it’s too convenient,” Sean replied.
“Well,” said Argan. “I have not visited all the crime scenes yet. And I still have to peek around in Ukendrel’s home.”
“Cool,” said Sean. Argan swam out of the room and Sean hurried after him, figuring that that meant that he’d performed well enough for the exacting second in command.