Kemia (full version) is the third draft of Decay. This will likely be the final one.
“I found this behind the bar.” Setzer handed Natasha a thumb-sized glass vial. It was empty, but lined with a distinct maroon residue. “They must have been poisoned.”
“Yes,” said Jade, “There was something wrong with the taste.”
For the first time since the inn had been built, there was more than one person in its attic. Three of the seven within were dead.
Setzer didn’t like the involvement of Jade Sing. He had a long list of reasons for why he disliked her. The first reason was that Jade was a foreigner, but the worst, somewhere near the bottom, was that she was a cannibal. Natasha had never seemed to be too interested in arresting Jade, despite Setzer’s suspicions. Every time he’d investigated one of Jade’s catches, she had come away innocent. Did she eat people? Yes. But did she kill them? Not according to evidence. Cannibalism isn’t technically illegal, and it seemed that Jade was either a master frameup artist, or she simply took advantage of murders and reaped the spoils. One thing Setzer was sure of: Jade was a sly opportunist. That was also on his list.
Jade had broken into the inn attracted by the scent, she had claimed. She had found the bodies and sampled them, and then she had alerted the nearest guard, Sergeant Alice; a small, jumpy woman built like a brick house. Alice then told her Captain, and they had both arrived along with Constable Setzer; the short, often cross young man with long black hair, pale skin, and dark eyes.
To Setzer’s chagrin, it seemed he was again going to prove Jade’s innocence. He surveyed the corpses. Each was missing part of its calf, and one’s face was so bludgeoned that it was unrecognisable.
“Easy to draw a conclusion based on this,” he said. “First, based on the vial and the… taste, we can assume that these people were poisoned. Second, Dhesmond Machina owns and runs this inn. He could easily spike his alcohol and claim that the victim passed out. Finally, the inn didn’t open today, and,” he handed Natasha a hand-copied document, “yesterday’s travel ledger shows that Dhesmond skipped town this morning and hasn’t returned!”
“Wonderful!” Alice clapped.
“So, Natasha, are we going to search Hannibal or Baracus? He probably escaped to one of those cities.”
Natasha Glass Rhye studied the list and felt her neck tighten.
“Neither. This is not enough.”
“Umm, okay but…” Setzer said, “what else do we need?”
She looked at him calmly, “Who are these people? Where did the poison come from?”
Setzer wasn’t happy, but orders were orders. “Fine, we’ll identify the bodies first.”
“Good.” Natasha’s face was stern, “After you two are finished, meet me at the Ph.Kem. lab. Alice, I would like you to visit the undertaker for this area and get them to identify the body, whether you yourself can identify them or not. If the district mortician can get us faces quickly, bring us a note, otherwise, come without it.”
“Sure,” Alice nodded.
Setzer sighed. “Alice, do you know who usually comes here? To the bar?”
She took a deep breath, and presented Setzer a word salad. “I know almost just about all the people from around here.” Alice’s grasp of syntax faltered when she was excited. Setzer always assumed it was due to her being a foreigner, a Plainkind for the west.
Natasha left them to parse out the identities as well as Alice’s speech, and exited the building, studying the ledger. She watched the cobbled streets as she went, and headed northwest to speak to one of the city’s construction foreman.
Setzer and Alice sat at a table in the bar and drew up a list of all the patrons. Alice identified the two who were dead, and they were crossed off. Setzer went out into the city and sought out the rest of the people list.
Jade was told to stay behind, tasked with keeping people out of the bar. After much frustration, Setzer managed to bargain her into promising that she would “try not to eat anything,” and “definitely not touch the mysterious body.” He hoped he wouldn’t have to answer to families again, but he could never be sure with Jade.
It took until noon to find everyone. Most of them had no idea that anything was wrong, they simply wondered why the bar was closed. One person mentioned that Dhesmond had become too touchy as of late “He damn pussified litl’ bitch nao. Gon haffin’ a new bar.” Setzer assumed that this loss would be considered good news to any innkeeper. Most of the other patrons agreed that, in the past month or so, he had seemed more stressed than usual. Setzer and Alice thanked each person for their time, and soon the list was empty, except for one name.
Alice looked, and shook her head, “Reighleigh Straker. We only checked his house, remember? He’s maybe at work.”
It dawned on Setzer why the Captain wanted them to meet her at the lab. “Does he work at the Ph.Kem. lab?”
“You know, I think the good Captain is a few steps ahead of us.” Setzer shook his head.
Alice smiled. It seemed that was what she did when she was confused. Or happy. Or angry. Setzer had come to accept that nearly all emotions led Alice to smile, but he had yet to tell the smiles them apart.
“Natasha must have known all along… Now we just have to confirm that he isn’t there, at the lab, and our bases will be covered.” Setzer nodded to himself.
Alice just shrugged, “We’ll meet there after I go to the cemetery.”
“I doubt we’ll need it, but orders are orders, I guess.”
To his surprise, Setzer arrived that the Philosophy of Kemia lab first and had to wait a few minutes. Natasha arrived late, with the slight sheen of a person who just walked halfway across a city and back.
“Where did you go?” asked Setzer.
“I went to where they are extending the wall.”
“Did you find the identity of the third body?”
“We deduced that it was Reighleigh Straker. Not sure why Dhesmond would beat him up like that though.”
The Captain shook her head.
“You will see when we go inside the Philosophy of Kemia Laboratory,” She returned the vial he’d found at the inn. “Search his desk when we get inside.”
Natasha knocked on the door. It was answered by a woman who looked like her, except she was younger, smaller, wore a white coat, and had more hair.
“Natasha?” She asked.
“Chloe,” she nodded. “We are here as part of an investigation.”
“Ah, sure. I’ll get someone who actually works here.” She turned and called, “Straker?”
Setzer glanced at Natasha. If Reighleigh was here, alive, then his investigation was worthless. A moment passed, and she called out again, but for someone else.
“Finch? Yes, ah, the guard is here.”
Chloe let them into the lab. It was brightly lit, with large wooden desks. Some were capped with thick layers of metal, but all of them were covered with metal and glass instruments, and lined with drawers. In the far corner was a small room sealed with a heavy door.
A lab student approached them. His lanyard read “Finch Däwngale Zeth.” He was a short man with pale skin, dark hair, and dark eyes. He wore a white lab coat and held a mess of papers.
“Oh, Captain Rhye,” he looked from Natasha to Chloe, “Here to talk to your sister…umm, to talk to Chloe?”
“No. We speak enough when we are not working.”
Setzer said, “Is Reighleigh here? I need to—” see if he’s alive, is what he thought. “I need to search his desk.”
“He’s in the supply locker, right there.” Finch pointed, “It’s heavily barred to prevent theft. Some of that stuff is dangerous, you know?”
There was a loud metallic creak and Setzer’s stomach churned. According to his logic, the man who stood before them was dead, his body stashed in Dhesmond’s inn. The Constable took a deep breath. He hadn’t earned his rank by faltering. Lost, he defaulted to his orders.
“We are here to search your desk.”
Reighleigh gave him a deep frown.
After a pause, Finch helpfully pointed to one of the counters, “It’s that one.”
Setzer strode to it and began opening drawers until he found one filled with thumb-sized test tubes, and a labelled jar of distinct red liquid. He took the vial found at the inn out of his pocket. The size and shape matched, and the colour was almost the same (the inn’s vial having dried).
Natasha looked sidelong at the doctor. He seemed to be stifling his nerves. Her eyes moved down to his hands and she saw that his knuckles were blue.
In his head, Setzer read the label on the jar; Hyperthermic Coronary Accelerator. Then he looked up and nodded to Natasha. She nodded back. They’d found the poison’s supplier. Reighleigh moved slightly. Natasha knew those movements; the flight response. He would go either for the window or the door. Natasha’s eyes moved fast, her mind faster.
Then Alice flung the front door open, and jumped inside, shaking the floor as she landed.
“I got it!—Oh, hi dear; I mean Finch,—anyway, I got it!” She waved the mortician’s note in front of her cheery face, “The last dead person is not Reigh even for sure now, it’s Dhesmond Machina!”
Reighleigh froze. His face hardened, and then he steeled himself and sprinted for the door. Alice smiled and repositioned slightly as Reighleigh leaped forward and tried to tackle her. Unfortunately for him, Sergeant Alice was nearly twice his weight in muscle; a capable guard in the occupational sense well as the literal one; guarding the portal. She restrained him with ease.
“You’re under detainment for killing three people using poison!” Setzer ran to the man and seized his hands. he began winding a cord around Reighleigh’s wrists.
The man retorted, “How could I have murdered someone who isn’t even in town!”
“You—” Setzer had no idea.
Natasha finally spoke, her mind finished with all thought, “You followed him, but not through the gate. You went through the part of the wall that is currently under construction.”
Setzer and Alice looked at each other across the man who stood between them. Reighleigh remained silent.
Finch was unsure what to think. He looked between Natahsa and his wife nervously.
Chloe called to her sister, “go on!” She loved to see anyone competent at work. It was, in her mind, an art.
Natasha strode to the nearest desk and sat down on it.
She faced Reighliegh,
“Jade confirmed for us that all three victims were poisoned.
Setzer confirmed that the liquid and vial found at the inn match with the poison and containers found here. Likely they were killed under your instruction, using your chemical.
Alice confirmed that the body was Dhesmond’s.
Finally, I confirmed that Dhesmond exited town, but supposedly never returned. We have the ledger.”
Setzer had finished his knot, so he presented the items as Natasha mentioned them.
“Shortly before I came here, I spoke to the foreman of the wall project and confirmed that on the same day that Dhesmond left, the she saw him return through her construction site, along with someone else; you. I assume you exited before the workday started and managed to convince the poor man back into town so you could snuff him. Then you poisoned him like you did everyone else; except he would have known his fate when you handed it to him.”
“How haunting!” Chloe blurtend.
Natasha frowned at her sister and continued. “You threw Dhesmond’s body with the rest. But,” shepointed to his bruised hands, “you beat the recognition off his face first.”
She took the ledger from Setzer, and dropped it beside her. “You left Dhesmond’s closet full of skeletons, with his name on a document proving that he tried to evade the law. You framed a dead man. It would have been the perfect crime—if there was no one who could identify a dead body. But what is the job of a coroner if not identification?”
Natasha stood, towering over everyone in the room by at least a head. She said, “Dead men do not sneak into cities or poison and brutalize themselves. You will face judgement in the court. We will bury the dead with love and respect. We will bury you, when you are done rotting to death, with apathy and forgiveness.”
A quiet came over the room. Natasha bodily lifted the criminal over her shoulder, and the guard filed out.
Word Count: 2125.
This is the second draft of Kemia. Polished and added illustrations… does this count as an illuminated version?
This is the third draft of “Decay.” There are a lot of differences, to the point where I can comfortably call them different stories, so feel free to check it out.
This is the second draft of a story written as an exam for my Detective Fiction course, 01-26-202-01. I got a decent mark in the end, I think, so perhaps that’s indicative of the quality of this piece.