Decay (Early Draft)

EDIT: I apologize for the lack of distinct scene changes before this edit. WordPress has a habit of deleting important page breaks for some reason. I’ve put hyphens ( – ) in between scene breaks to make it explicit. I hope WordPress doesn’t delete the paragraph breaks like before.

My first go at detective fiction. I’m thinking to further edit this one in the future. It’s a little rough, fast, and full of dialogue, but I think it’s decent. I’ll be releasing a similar story that functions as a re-writing of this in a few weeks called Kēmeía which is at least four times better. (I’m just getting feedback on it.)

The Captain pointed to the body and told Fredrick to take a sample of the rot.

“Bring it to Chloe. Find me as soon as you get results.”

The officer nodded and did as he was asked.

“How long do you think?” She asked Setzer.

“Looks around four days.”

Captain Natasha looked at the corpse’s armband. “Four days?” She said.

“That’s what he said,” Setzer continued, “I got a ledger of everyone who was in the city during that time” He handed her a hardback clipboard.

She scanned the names, “A copy?”

“Yeah.”

Natasha unsheathed her fountain pen and began cutting out names. She handed the board back to Setzer. Only three remained.

“Where would you like to start?”

Setzer put his finger on a name.

Chloe took a look at the sample. It seemed strange.

She said, “Thanks, I will, ah, I’ll get it back to you in a couple of hours.”

Fredrick nodded, and then left.

“It has been a while since I got a chunk of human… Hey!” She called out to her one of the experimenters, “ah, can you prep my station?”

Setzer looked up at one of the few three-storey buildings in the city. They were there for Jason Arson, servant of one of the landowners in the “old money” district. Setzer was sure, or at least he hoped, that Arson had done it.

“He works here? Out in the open?”

Natasha nodded, “innocent until proven guilty.”

“What if we can’t prove someone did it?” Natasha said, citing Solune common-law.

A servant opened the door; it was the man they were looking for.

“Not you again,” he said. A mask covered his mouth.

“Has your master sent you on any ‘errands’ recently?” Setzer asked.

The servant made an angry face, but remained silent.

“How about, say… four days ago?”

At this, Natasha prodded him.

The servant shook his head, “I was on an errand. I picked that up.” He pointed to an expensive bottle of wine on the table behind him. “Is that why you came here?”

“No.”

“Well then, goodbye.” He shut the door.

As the two guards moved on, Natasha said, “You should have said yes. He obviously stole that bottle.”

Setzer frowned.

They visited the butcher shop. “Closed. Looks like your idea didn’t work out so well, Natasha.”

“We will check his home.”

The butcher lived in an old and run-down house in the same district as the body. Setzer knocked, and then eventually tried the door but it was locked.

“That’s odd.”

“Yes.” Natasha said, “So? What do you think?”

“Not what I was hoping for,” Setzer said, “we don’t know where he is now.”

Natasha said, “Then we will go to the lab.”

They went to the labs and checked to see if any poisonous chemicals were missing. Nothing was gone that wasn’t undocumented.

They passed a particularly dark and cluttered alley. Setzer, who somehow became more alert at night, stopped and turned his head. He listened.

“What?” Natasha’s words sounded more like a statement than a question.

“You made it stop, which means whatever it was is alive.”

He stepped into the alley, walking over dirt and rotten vegetables. Then, he saw her, a dark woman crouching near one of the walls.

“Who’s that,” he shouted.

The woman stood. She had black hair, dark skin, and a dark blue side-cut dress.

“Eating someone’s leftovers?”

“Maybe.” The woman wiped her mouth. It was too dark to see the red that was on it.

Setzer felt a prod in his back. He stepped forward, “Let’s see than.”

The woman courageously stepped back and crossed her arms. Her claws dug into her skin.

“What—” He stopped and then looked up at the woman, “it was you then!”

He grabbed her and tried to cuff her, but she was a lot stronger than him. Natasha watched in silent amusement. Setzer, in his struggle, turned for her help.

“What are you doing?” He shouted.

“She will not run. Give it up.”

Setzer ignored this advice and continued to wrestle the woman until he ran out of breath. The woman looked down on him and scoffed. Setzer leaned on a wall and threw one hand into the air in defeat.

Natasha took three steps toward the woman.

“That is a nice catch, Jade,” Natasha pointed to the corpse on the ground. Some of the fleshier bits had been torn open. “Tell me where you found it.”

The woman sneered, “Right here.”

Setzer caught a second wind, “Another body in an alley? How old?”

“Four days,” Jade said, “I hoped for something fresher.”

Natasha saw the armband. “Were those wounds there when you found it?”

“No. But the meat tastes funny, even for a body this old.”

Jade stopped and looked around. Her eyes changed their nature, and her nostrils flared.

“You will lead us,” Natasha said.

Jade gave a grunt of anger and moved. Natasha followed.

“What? Hey!” Setzer shouted after them. He got no answer, and, giving up once more, he followed them.

She took them to an abandoned building closer to the castle, but still in the western district.

“Hey,” Setzer whispered, “what’s with the cannibal?”

“That is simply a defect in Jade. She is not happy that we are going to cut her supply.”

“Huh. Innocent until proven guilty?”

Natasha nodded, “Cannibalism is not illegal.”

“Just everything that leads up to it, then? What a joke.”

“Here,” Jade extended her arm to the building, and then promptly left.

The building was old and hallowed. Setzer guessed that it would be demolished soon.

“What if they’re working together, then?”

“I doubt it.”

Chloe put on a white coat and sat down at her station.

Her colleague saw what the sample was, and knew what she was going to find out, so he silently left the lab.

The door was not locked. Setzer looked back, and Natasha confirmed; this building should have been sealed. They searched around what was no more than a shack.

“Up here, the roof has a loft. Aww! I can smell it!” Setzer waved his hand in front of his nose, then scaled the wall and hoisted himself through the hole in the roof. He looked to see if Natasha was following him, but she just stared. He shrugged and looked around. His eyes adjusted quickly and, in a pile of dirt, he found the body. There were two.

“Oh jeez!” He called down, “We’re going to need older records, this one’s a skeleton! And— oh man, what the hell? This is the first guy we found, except—”

Someone else came through the door, and Setzer stopped talking to listen. Natasha calmly turned around.

“Ah! I don’t like this at all. Where did you say you got it?”

“Natasha told me to bring it to you.”

“Obviously you had to bring it to me, who else would know what to do with it! But, ah, you told me that the body was only four days old, but look at this! Ah! Even you should be able to tell!” Chloe slammed the glass container on the table in front of Fredrick.

“Jade,” Natasha nodded, “you have returned.”

She looked very unhappy.

“Something is wrong,” She said.

Setzer, now aware that their guest wasn’t necessarily an enemy, said, “The other body is up here, the first one, and also a skeleton. And there’s a bigger problem.”

“Tell me,” stated Natasha.

“Well—”

“—it’s far older than four days, Look, the blood is decomposing. Fredrick, you have to tell Natasha that that doesn’t normally happen until eight days at the earliest.”

Officer Fredrick wiped his brow. It even looked like a different piece. The piece of flesh he’d brought was a sickly green, but sample Chloe held looked red and sticky.

“Bring this to her at once. And, ah, here,” she scribbled a note, “to quell and doubts she may have that it’s her sample.”

“—the body has become mostly decayed, as if it’s suddenly a few days older,” Setzer shouted down the hole.

“My food—I mean,” Jade thought for a moment, then said it anyway, “My food has been tampered with!”

Setzer jumped down from the attic. “Let’s stake this place out. Whoever is doing this will definitely return, probably with the cannibal’s body. Then we’ll get some real answers.”

They organized under his direction and surrounded the building. Jade hid across the street, Setzer crept in the alleys behind, and Natasha lay prone on the roof. Apparently, Setzer thought, she could climb if she needed to.

About an hour later, a man came through the alley with a large sac. Setzer watched him, but remained hidden. He tailed the man and confirmed that he was going towards the shed. Setzer beckoned to Jade, who was watching grouchily. She beckoned back across the street to Natasha, who was on the shed’s roof.

Natasha put her ear against the tile and listened. After a short period, she heard a loud thump; the sack. She waited for ten counts and then dropped her body, knee first, into the rotten roof. It sunk intward. She swiftly beat the dent into a hole with her fists, then slid both hands into it and ripped out as much if the ceiling as she could hold.

Bathed in the moonlight, the man froze in horror and then shrieked when he saw the silhouette of a guard Captain leaping through at him. She made quick work of the culprit.

Three people were gathered in the Captain’s office , two women, and one man.

Setzer said, “Well, you got him. Do you think he’ll make it through court?”

“Not with this evidence,” Chloe said, “Thanks to your other samples, I managed to extract the poison from his fluids.”

Natasha nodded, “I knew from the start that something was off, but when I saw Jade’s body, I was certain. None of these people had wounds, and they apparently tasted funny. They died from poisoning. And their clothing didn’t seem as old as the rest of them. What finally confirmed it though, was the wristbands.”

“Wristbands?” said Chloe, “They had festival bands?”

“Yes, from yesterday’s festival, not from four days ago.”

“What about the person who made the poison?”

“That was someone from my lab!”

“Yes,” Natasha nodded, “The man we caught did not seem the type to be making potions.”

Natasha and Setzer both stood.

“We still have work to do.”

Daniel Triumph.

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