The latest murder scene was a study in blood. There was still a little haze of blood around it, three days after the murder had taken place. Sean hovered just outside not wanting to go in any further and kept holding off from inhaling water because he did not need a dead guy’s blood running through his body.
Argan of course showed no such qualms. He swam into the hanging house leaving Sean treading water and swishing his arms around to keep from sinking down to the seabed. Eventually he got tired of doing that and followed Argan inside.
The amount of blood inside was even denser. Sean wrinkled his nose and felt superiorly grateful for the goggles that he was wearing. All the blood floating around inside, made it difficult to see much. Sean held his breath for as long as he cold but finally had to take in water. The first inhale brought with it the coppery tang of blood. Sean grimaced as the smell and taste seemed to pervade his senses and stick in the back of his throat. He promptly felt nauseous.
“This is awful,” he announces and then wished he hadn’t because he’d had to open his mouth to talk and there was no talking underwater without at least some water getting into your mouth.
“Get used to it,” Argan said. The older mer was carefully spinning in place with little twitches of his tail, taking in the room.
“So, whose home was this again?” Sean asked when he had recovered a bit.
“Pacniet,” Argan replied.
“What was his profession?”
“He was a… Parchment maker I suppose?” He prepared kelp leaves and other plants for use for writing.”
“Huh,” said Sean, “Cool. I thought you guys simply… picked them.”
Argan gave him a look that implied his IQ was far, far lower than average. Sean raised his arms in defense of his ignorance. Argan narrowed his eyes but let it go. When he wasn’t watching Sean slumped because he was sure that any good will he’d built up was gone. But he straightened a moment later because he was not going to be useless here and asked another question.
“How old was Pacniet?”
“Five hundred years,” Argan told him, “Give or take.”
“One of the older ones then?” Sean asked, looking around the house with interest.
“More of average age among the victims. Middle-aged for merfolk.”
“Okay,” Sean said, still studying the house with interest. The house is much bigger than it appears from the inside. One end of the home is braided tightly to its kelp stalk and to the core of stone that runs along that stalk. The floor is rounded, dipping towards the middle but that doesn’t seem to bother anyone that lives in Nailecta. Or course, there isn’t really much in the way of furniture, not furniture that Sean is used to at any rate. Thin slabs of stone are attached to the walls by rope and can be pulled out to use as a desk. There are several of these and it’s clearly where Pacniet did his work. There are a few bone hooks worked into the walls where a scabbard hangs along with a sword, two daggers and wicked looking harpoon. Next to them, is a breastplate, made of cured sharkskin, but it looks old and seems to be more for display than anything else.
A chest made of heavy steel is strapped into a corner to prevent it from rolling towards the center of the house and Sean is surprised to note that it is of human origin. The letters stamped on it are faded but are definitely representative of some ship or the other.
Sean goes to move forward but Argan stops him. “Don’t move.”
“Why?” Sean asked, feeling suddenly afraid. Was something on his back?
“I need you to not disturb the blood.”
“The blood’s pretty much disturbed,” Sean pointed out. “It’s a literal blanket of dispersed blood droplets.”
“But the concentrations still exist in some places. They must have sealed it right after removing the body.”
“Okay,” Sean said, “And why is this important?”
“Because the placement of the blood in the water can tell us things,” Argan said. He carefully made his way back to Sean, doing his best not to disturb the water much. He took Sean’s arm when he reached him and jettisoned them back to the very doorway of the house and then took off his pack. He rummaged around in it for a second and then pulled out a thing.
Sean cocked his head at it. “What the heck is that?” he asked. It had a crystal embedded in the center of the contraption. The rest of the instrument was made of artfully sculpted and fitted bone and what Sean thought might be real diamonds. Screwed onto the bottom was a little pot.
“The closest translation to your language would be ‘seer’,” Argan informs him.
“What does it do?” Sean asked and then felt like an idiot. “Oh, it’s to see the uh, blood patterns, right?”
“Correct,” Argan said. “Its use requires a light source, whose level of light I don’t have available.”
“So, what are we going to use?” Sean asked.
“Artae,” Argan said. “But its use will present challenges. Remember as much as you can, I may not.”
Sean nodded seriously.
Argan begins to unscrew the little pot. “This will cause the blood droplets to cohere to those closest to each other,” he said, “It will help us determine the blood placement but once we use it, we must use the rest of the seer fast. Once the blood has started to cohere, they will continue to do so until all we have are clots and those clots will sink.”
“So, we only have one shot at this?” Sean asked.
“Clearly,” Argan says. “Prepare yourself.” It is the only warning Sean gets before Argan finishes unscrewing the pot and shakes the substance within, out. It is red and looks much like fresh blood itself. It slowly spreads through the house, seeming to disappear the further it reached and then Sean starts to see it.
The blood that has permeated the area since they arrived starts to shrink in on itself, pulling together, drawing to where the heaviest concentration of blood is.
Argan holds the seer in his hand and extends it towards the house. Light slowly appears in his palm and the diamonds on the seer catch the light and, reflect and direct the rays towards the crystal. The crystal collects the light and then spreads it out over the area. But though the light encompasses the area the crystal has somehow split the light into different layers of intensity.
In the meantime, the spilled blood has coalesced into ribbons of red that tangle themselves across the room. The light spilling from the crystal picks them all up, catching every drifting thread and sheer layer that dances slowly in the water.
It’s almost too much for Sean to remember but then they start making sense. Some of the ribbon trails are cut short and scattered to nowhere. Remnants, Sean thinks, of the first responders and those who had carried the body. But there, curling in the edges of the room, where no one would really have need to go, were the continuation of blood patterns that had been broken.
It wasn’t like blood splatter, the ocean was too fickle a medium for such a thing, but Sean could see the patterns, measure them in the amount of blood that made up the ghostly curls. He could see the echoes of the fight mapped out across the room. But only for a minute or two. The ribbons collapsed on themselves, crumbling, shrinking and finally drifting towards the floor in ungainly knots.
The light from the crystal shut off and Argan dropped his hand, slumping for the briefest of moments before straightening and resuming his usual intimidating posture. He swallowed hard though and his gills are flaring more rapidly than usual.
“Did you see it all?” he asks.
Sean nods and then asks, “Do you have kelp?”
It turns out that he is a lousy artist but his stick-figure worthy drawing is still enough for him to map out what he’d seen in Pacniet’s home. Argan corrects a few things here and there and adds others but altogether Sean got the impression that he hadn’t done so badly at all. When they’re done, they have a rough idea of how the fight had progressed in Pacniet’s home.