Kēmeía (Chemia)

“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 those seven were dead.

Setzer didn’t like the involvement of Jade Sing. He disliked her for a lot of reasons. Jade was an unusual foreigner, and worse, she was a cannibal. Natasha didn’t seem to be 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 the evidence. Cannibalism wasn’t technically illegal, and so it appeared that Jade simply took advantage of other people’s murders. She was a clever opportunist. Jade had broken into the inn attracted by the scent. She had found the bodies and apparently sampled them. Then she had alerted the nearest guard, Sergeant Alice; a small, jumpy woman built like a brick wall. Alice told Natasha, the towering, stoic, guard Captain, and they had both arrived along with Constable Setzer, a 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 copied document, “yesterday’s travel ledger shows he skipped town and hasn’t returned!”

“Wonderful!” Alice clapped.

Natasha studied the list and felt her neck tighten.

“Good job, but this is not enough.”

“Okay…” Setzer said, “what else do I 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.Ch. lab. Alice, I would like you to visit the undertaker for this area and get them to identify the body, whether you identify it or not. If the district mortician can identify it quickly, bring us a note, otherwise, come without it.”

“Sure,” Alice nodded

Setzer sighed. “Alice, do you know who usually comes here?”

“I know almost just about all the people from around here.” Alice’s grasp of syntax faltered when she was excited.

Natasha left them and exited the building, studying the ledger. She surveyed the cobbled streets, and then 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 crossed them off. Then Setzer went out into the city and sought out the rest of the list. Jade stayed behind, tasked with keeping people out of the bar. After much frustration, he had bargained 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.

It took until noon to find everyone on Alice’s list. Most of them wondered why the bar was closed. One person mentioned that Dhesmond had become too touchy. 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.Ch. lab?”

“Yep.”

“Natasha must have known all along… Now we just have to confirm that he isn’t there 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 first and had to wait a few minutes. Natasha arrived 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.”

“Oh.”

“Did you find the identity of the third body?”

“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 Chemia Laboratory,” She returned the vial he’d found at the inn. “Search his desk.”

 

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 instruments and lined with drawers. In the far corner was a small room sealed with a heavy door.

Finch approached them. 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?”

“No. We speak 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 now.” Finch pointed, “It’s heavily barred to prevent theft. Some of that stuff is dangerous.”

There was a loud metallic creak and Setzer’s stomach churned. According to his deduction, the man who stood before them was dead, his body stashed in Dhesmond’s inn. He took a deep breath. He hadn’t earned the rank of Constable through faltering. He defaulted to his orders.

“We are here to search your desk.”

Reighleigh gave him a deep frown.

After a pause, Finch 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 out the vial from the inn. Its size and shape matched, and the colour was the same.

Natasha stood with Reighleigh and Finch on one side and Chloe on the other. She looked sidelong at the doctor. He seemed to be stifling his nerves. She watched his hands and saw that his knuckles were blue.

Setzer read the label on the jar, Hyperthermic Coronary Accelerator and then looked up and nodded to Natasha. She nodded back. They’d found the poison supply.

Then Alice flung the front door open, and jumped inside.

“I got it!—Oh, hi Finch—anyway, I got it!” She waved the mortician’s note in front of her, “The last dead person is not Reigh even for sure now, it’s Dhesmond Machina!”

Reighleigh’s face hardened. He sprinted to the door. Alice smiled and repositioned slightly. Reighleigh tried to tackle her, but unfortunately for him, Sergeant Alice was nearly twice his weight in muscle; a capable guard in the occupational sense well as the literal one. She easily restrained him.

“You’re under detainment for killing three people using this 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, “You followed him, but not through the gate. You went through the part of the wall that is 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.

Chloe called out, “go on!”

Natasha strode to the nearest desk and sat down.

She faced Reighliegh, “Jade confirmed for us that all three of the victims were poisoned. 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.”

Setzer had finished, so he presented the items Natasha mentioned.

“Shortly before we came here, I confirmed that, on the same day that Dhesmond left, the foreman 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 back. Then you poisoned him like you did everyone else; except he would have known his fate when you handed it to him.

“You threw Dhesmond’s body with the rest. But,” Natasha pointed to his bruised hands, “you beat the recognition off his face first.”

She took the ledger, and dropped it beside her. “You left Dhesmond’s closet full of skeletons, with his name on a document proving that he left town. 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, and said, “Dead men do not sneak into cities or poison and brutalize themselves.”

Daniel Triumph.

This is the second 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 was written as an exam for my Detective Fiction course, 01-26-202-01. I got a decent mark in the end, so maybe that’s indicative of the quality of this piece.

P.S.

I know I’ve been talking about The Solune Prince A LOT and not actually posting about it. Fear not, it isn’t “stuck” or something I’m just talking about, without actually working on. I have around forty notebook pages full.

Mostly, I’m just adjusting to my new job and whatnot. If I don’t have anything started, I’ll publish a backstory or something.

… Or I’ll publish more stuff I wrote for class …

Span 3

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“What is that?”

I pointed at the shape in the distance. It didn’t look like anything I had cleaned in the past. My father peered between the trees, and crossed his eyebrows. He drew his spear—he had only brought one that day.

He whispered, “I have never seen such a creature. As a warg, but with long hair.”

We watched it, and I thought it watched us.

“We will continue,” my father said. He put his spear on his back and took one of the spools off of his shoulder.

He pointed, “See here is a good place, the trees are very close, so they have to go through this space. Hmm. Yes, this is so good,  we will not need bait. Tell me why.”

This is how he spoke when he was trying to teach.

“I think…”

“No think, just look.”

I looked at the spot. It was a small alley where two tree trunks crossed each other near their roots. Maybe I could have fit my fist in it. I looked around it, and confirmed that the brush was too tight everywhere else.

“This is a good spot, they have to go through there.”

“Look.”

I looked again, and then I saw it. Scratch marks in the ground, and claw marks in the wood.

“Oh,” I said, “so this spot is already being used.”

“We will not need bait,” he handed me the snare, “do not put your smell on it.”

I set the trap, and then stood, looking around. “Where next—there it is again!”

I pointed this time, a foolish thing to do, and the creature saw me and hid. “What is that?”

“I do not know, I did not see,” he said.

We continued as if I had not seen anything. I set a few more snares. It was not hard to do. My father told me that I caught on faster than the boys did, I don’t know if that was true. But, he told me that later he would teach me how to set the other sort of trap.

We reached the ridge around afterdawn. I was impressed by the sight.

“We are the village that is closest to the western ridge.”

The cliff wasn’t too deep, likely someone could climb it if they were skilled. Although, I would guess that if someone went over, they would die twice over at least from the fall. At the base was a desert-like plain that stretched and expanded to the north. To the south was a stone wall, an artificial structure that still astounds me to this day. That is the Solune wall.

But I wasn’t quite interested in either of those. I pointed straight ahead, and said, “What is that forest?”

My father sat down beside me and said, “That is no forest. If you went past that treeline, you would be shocked at how dark it is, it is always sunset—always dusk in the Elken Yjungle. Look.”

I saw what he meant. The trees were thick, and they looked to be only leafed trees, not a mix like here.

“Who lives in the jungle?”

“The Elken people. They are our ancestors. Later, I can tell you of them.”

“Tonight?”

“Perhaps.” He must have thought hard about it here. It was his night to speak at the community fire, and he wasn’t sure if the Elken were a good topic.

We ran out of snares at the same time that we finally caught up with the rest of our party. Shortly after, the other half of the men arrived. I looked around at the clearing we had all gathered in, and saw the circle of rocks, the mounds and logs. This was a campsite!

“How was the woman, Errand?” Sandgrain called to my father.

“She catch on faster than your son, I would say,” he laughed, “Lime, how long did it take you to learn to set a snare?”

“Eh,” Lime looked between the two men, “three?”

I looked at my father. It seemed that he was unsure whether that meant three days, or three sub-fragments of a day.

He said, “Talc can set a trap already. I will show her the deadfall on our way back.”

Sandgrain lokoed impressed, but he did not voice it. He said, “You think she will mind her fingers?”

“We will see, I expect.”

My father, Sandgrain, and Sour (the hunting elder at that time) gathered apart from the group to discuss. I saw that Silver and Quick were bickering in front of the pit, and snapping each other with leftover snare line.

Lime and most of the other boys and men were gathering wood. I figured I should be more useful than those who were sitting, so I went into the nearby brush to see what I could gather.

There was not a lot of dead wood on the ground. I was unsure what to do, but you should know I have a capacity for cleverness! I looked around for a specific sort of tree, and started pulling at its branches.

After I had taken a few off, someone else saw me and called out, “Hey.”

I finished, and brandished the stick. The boy sounded young, so I felt safe fooling around. He dropped all but the longest of his sticks and struck at mine.

“You will never hit the target if you aim only at their weapon!” I said, swiping at his arm.

The attack hit, and he followed up, hitting me in the ribs. I jabbed him in the chest, and he fell over.

I said, “Maybe we should stop.”

He coughed and looked up at me. He said, “You really are a girl, aren’t you?”

I frowned, “I do hope so.”

“Do you really know how to set snares already?”

I realized that this was Lime, Sandgrain’s son. “Yes, and I know when they do not need bait.”

Lime stood up and leered at the ground. “I don’t learn very fast,” he said, “I’m surprised that you do, although, maybe that’s normal, and I’m just slow.”

I didn’t like this manner of thought, especially not in a man-to-be. I said, “You will find no happiness if you only look at that which makes you unhappy.”

He looked up at me. I added, “My grandmother says, do not speak of your flaws unless you intend to fix them and do not speak of your virtues except through your action.

He said, “Oh,” and began picking up his sticks. “Well, I came to say, you should get dry sticks off of the ground, and not take living ones from trees.”

I decided to test his intelligence. I pointed to my tree and said, “Look.”

He did, confused. After a minute the confusion wore off, and then he surveyed the ground. “Oh, that’s a dead tree, is it?”

“Are my sticks not dry?”

“Huh.”

Perhaps this boy was not so hopeless after all.

Read the first part here

Daniel Triumph.

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Copyright © 2018 by Daniel Triumph

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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Epinephrine

2nd draft of “Alexandre Jutt’s Journal

Alexandre Jutt
Eighth month, 3rd day.

Epinephrine is the fight or flight hormone. Humans, when subjected to chronic loneliness, begin to release epinephrine and the hormone, left unchecked, will erode the body from the inside. It prevents the body from regeneration and inhibits the immune system. Is it your fault that you are lonely? Is it my fault that I am not lonely?

Is it true, even, that I am not lonely? Maybe I’m just deluding myself. Maybe, secretly, a secret even from myself. But I don’t think so. There’s a logic to it though, see, I don’t feel much different after all of this than before. Perhaps I’m too distant from my own situation. Perhaps. Even when I was with my uncle, I felt like this about half the time. Even when I left, I felt like this about half the time. And even now I feel the same, about half the time.

Exactly the same.

“And what do you feel?” He had asked. I didn’t want to answer him.

But I did answer him. And I’m glad that I did.

Trust is… Important I think. Baring your wounds, maybe reopening some scars… I hope they heal better this time.

[original transcript is damaged or illegible in this location.]

—because he skewed my research. I think that there’s more to it that just epinephrine too, but it hasn’t been studied, not even by the E-tchs. I have a letter from Bradley Jeremy, he is strange, he sent three words and nothing else—’Adrenaline, Cortisol, Norepinephrine.’ Hopefully I’ll get a chance to learn about this during my master’s—Talk to Lune—but right I don’t know what to do, about epinephrine.

……………………………………………………

Maybe I’ll be back tomorrow.

For now, these are my words.

Alexandre—

And also,
Daniel Triumph.

Related: Epinephrine Correspondence

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