Great! I'm Half-Fish!

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Chapter 37

Sean is exhausted. They’ve gone through four more crime scenes and he honestly cannot ever remember using this much brain power in his life. Most of the other crime scenes aren’t as well preserved as the first one they went through; obviously because nothing really keeps in the ocean. But under the spectrum’s light they’d managed to track black scale shine from all of the crime scenes back to the main square where they lost it again.

It was here they were currently hovering in the water while Argan frowned thunderously at the swirl of color in the square.

“Could my dad track it?” Sean asked after a moment.

“Possibly,” Argan said after a long moment, “I’ve learned not to underestimate Rakcigion’s skills but there are a lot of layers here. I’m not sure even artae could parse them all.”

“But we probably don’t have to,” Caniciat said grimly. “With black scale shine leaving from every crime scene the chances are that it is Ukendrel who committed the murders.”

“We don’t know for sure,” Argan pointed out. “He’s not the only one of the merfolk to have black scales.”

“Can we use artae to match the scale shine from the trails to Ukendrel?” Sean asked.

The two mermen fell silent and then Caniciat nodded slowly. “Gethain should be able to,” he murmured. “But we’ll have to ask. That’s complex usage.”

“Even so,” said Argan eyes narrowing and gills flaring. “I dislike not being able to find the ends of these trails. Clever is a trend we’ve found in our cases this time and I will not discount the chance that these trails are contrived.”

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They go through the next fourteen of the crime scenes, confirmed that there was indeed a trail of black scale shine from all of them and finally went to Gethain.

“I can,” Gethain replied when they brought him their findings and asked if he could match the scale shine to its original owner. “But the power required is of an amount I am reluctant to use at this juncture. It would put me out of commission for several hours, possibly days. It would also alert whomever the scale shine belongs to and in the event that it is not Ukendrel, give them a heads up. We have no idea the possible ramifications of that.” His eyes narrowed in thought for a moment and then he said, “Get me scale shine from Ukendrel. Comparing scale shine of two samples we have is much easier and requires far less power.”

Argan nodded and made a sharp gesture to Caniciat. Caniciat obeyed, spinning and heading back out of the copy-cupola. Sean figured that he was heading to Ukendrel to get a sample of his scale shine.

“Even if the scale shine does match,” Sean ventured hesitantly after a minute of silence, “it doesn’t mean that Ukendrel was the murderer does it?”

“No,” Argan confirmed. “Much of what we can collect is what you humans call circumstantial evidence. The scale shine might be Ukendrel’s but it is no guarantee that he was the murderer even in he was at all the murder sites. It is quite possible that he was placed there to throw us off the trail.”

Sean sighed. “Is there any way we could get definite evidence?”

“That is a difficult thing to gain in the ocean,” Gethain said gravely. “Our cases have often been tried on the amount of circumstantial evidence gained. It is the accepted school of thought that when there is a certain amount of circumstantial evidence, it is most likely to be an accurate representation of guilt or innocence.”

“That...sucks,” Sean murmured, half to himself. He wished that it was possible to have more precision for things like this. From the stiff way Gethain and Argan held their bodies, he figured that they agreed with him.

The thoughtful silence was broken by the return of Caniciat. He handed a wrapped bundle to Gethain who opened it to reveal a knife. On the edge of the knife, scale shine glittered. Sean winced wondering how Ukendrel had taken having his scales scraped. No matter how much he may be willing to help them, being approached by someone with a knife while being shacked could not have been received well. None of the others seemed to share his concern however.

Argan spread out the samples they had taken from the nineteen trails they had followed. Gethain laid the knife adject to them and regarded them all seriously. To the naked eye, they appeared to be the same. Sean breathed in, tense with anticipation. This would the second time that he would see artae used and he was eager to experience it again, to parse those things he had been too awestruck to notice before.

After a moment Gethain sucked in a breath of water, let it out slowly, pulled in another and raised a hand. He reached out, fingers crooked slightly, as if he were gripping something and white stars bloomed into existence at his fingertips.

The ocean sighed and sang. It was the soft opening notes of an opera, an aria, the kind that makes you soar. There is a shiver through the ocean and Sean feels his awareness expand. Only that’s not right. It’s more accurate to say that the things that he is now aware of, have come to him. Like looking through a magnifying glass.

He can feel the merfolk outside, feel them moving, feel the kelp bushing against the sand, notes a school of fish darting right outside of Nailecta, feels the pulse of the city, a tangle of the all the things living and breathing within it. Then the focus narrows and the awareness brought by the artae fades to the background.

Sean had thought that what Gethain would do, would be something like he’d seen on tv; that he’d try to match chemical composition or structural make up. It wasn’t. One by one the scale shine samples hummed, limed by white light and Sean was overwhelmed by the information that poured from them. The closest he could describe it to was flipping the pages of a comic book and getting only the impressions of colors and shapes. Only here there were the echoes of feelings, the edges of temperature, the flash of movement in his minds’ eye.

It was he realized after a long moment, a sliver of someone’s life. Artae he remembered, came from both the living and the dead, the interaction of things in the ocean.

Slowly, slowly the differences resolved, the day to day living faded and left a baseline impression of a person. Sean took a moment to notice that Gethain’s hand was trembling and then re-focused on the samples. It wasn’t quite easy to parse between twenty different life impressions so he didn’t actually get through all of them before Gethain dropped his arm and the ocean song cut off. What he did manage to make it through however suggested one thing. The samples all matched, and they all matched to Ukendrel’s scale shine.

“Well,” Gethain said his voice hoarse. “It seems like our murderer is indeed, our murderer.” He was still shaking lightly, gills fluttering fast and hard but his eyes glinted dangerously and Sean never felt quite so afraid of him as he did then.

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