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Chapter 19 - Dead End

 

The trek to Myranda's home was not far, but it did require some meandering through tight walkways to a cramped section of mud brick buildings. Between the clutter and the narrow width of the path, and the sewage groove down the center of the road, there was not much room to maneuver. Nothing larger than a hand cart could fit through these alleys.

Stopping at a string of identical looking apartments, Maro hesitated to knock. "I think this is the place." The thin planked door wobbled as his knuckles struck. But no one answered. "Myranda? It's Maro. Are you there?" He knocked again and repeated his call, but still no one answered.

Maro shrugged.

Further down the alley, a weathered old woman sat outside her doorway stitching. "You looking for Myranda?" She called with a creaky voice. "I ain't seen her all day. Made quite a ruccus this morning, bawling like a babe. She's likely sleeping hard, poor child."

"Thank you," Maro replied and knocked again.

"You're not the reason she was all upset are you?"

"No, lady. I uh... not me." Again he knocked and called inside, "Myranda, I have to talk to you about Sloran." And still no one answered.

"We should be prepared for the worst," Kanth stated pulling a dagger from its sheath at her belt. "If she's a witness, or privy, she could be in great danger herself."

She checked the handle of the door to see if it was unlocked. A sudden sense of dread washed over her like the flood-waves of the sea. She shuddered  hoping that no mystical forces were at work within.

Cydric pulled out his sword and dagger as well and conveniently tripped on a rock falling into the door which popped open with a crack. "Oops, clumsy me. Well I guess we should have a look then," Cydric said as he started in.

The room was dark and small, the whole of her estate occupying but one room barely sizable enough for all of the group to stand in. Cydric and Kanth could faintly see a figure lying on a cot to the right of the door. As their eyes grew accustomed to the shade, the figure became clear. A woman, perhaps in her mid twenties, lay with her face and left arm hanging over the edge of the bed. A spilled bottle of wine lay just out of reach of her still fingers. Despite the commotion of breaking the door hinge, she had not stirred.

A hush fell over the room and Kanth felt an overwhelming sadness take her. The whole scene seemed full of remorse and she felt the need to cry. Behind her, Maro, who had stood quietly at first, began to shudder and sob. Almost immediately, he pushed through the rest of the inspectors and leaned against a wall with his arm covering his face.


Vorn seemed numb to the whole thing and took immediately to analyzing the surroundings. The woman was clothed, except for her sandals, though she did not seem to have gone to bed since she lay on top of the sheets. The smell of alcohol lingered heavily and as Vorn looked to the spilled wine, he realized there was a second spill; that of vomit.


The woman's eyes were closed at least. It was hard to look a corpse in the eye. There were fables of soul-switching, where the soul of a mortician was exchanged with that of the deceased. That of course was all done through the eyes. The death gaze.

Kanth fought the urge to fall upon this dead woman and release the anguish that she had welling up within her breast. 'It would be odd and improper for me to act like a damned fool and cry about the loss of a woman I know not... Especially in the presence of my fellow officers,' she thought.

A lone tear welled up in her large eye and cast itself from the ocean that threatened beneath it, beginning its decent down her furred cheek and out onto a whisker. She sniffed at the air just as the tear plunged to the ground below. 'Something's odd about the sourness of her vomit,' she pondered for a moment.

Kanth questioned, "is anyone thinking poison, as I? Or-r-r possibly death by over-r-r consumption? Vorrn, check the back for-r-r possible exits and evidence of forrced entrry. I'll securre all the windows," she moved about the front room searching for clues to an intruder's presence.

Cydric, being the cause of several dead bodies, wasn't quite as fazed as everyone else. He walked over to the body and opened her mouth looking for signs of poison once again. He opened her eyes and looked at them. He had heard of the death gaze, but never put much stock into it. It was just a fable, and that was it.

Next he inspected the woman's neck, looking for bruising, cuts, scrapes, and so on. There were an infinite number of ways to assassinate someone, so Cydric looked for all of the signs he could think of. He felt valuable in this case, and was starting to wonder if the assassin was a competitor or associate. Every assassin had a calling card of sorts, and Cydric began looking for anything familiar that could lead him to the assassin.


Vorn puffed, "I'm angered at the possibility of this being another murder. I'll not let this pass with salt as I would any normal circumstance." Still eyeing the scene for details, he looked for anything out of place. Staring at Myranda's still form, Vorn simply thought of the woman as another dead body. His culture had taught him long ago not to feel anything about death. Before he turned away, he replied to Kanth, "Sure, I'll go check the back. It has to be poison. Why would she vomit by over consumption? Even if she drank enough to vomit, it wouldn't kill her."

"What you say is trrue," Kanth agreed. "Vomiting is the body's prreperrations for expelling too much drrink in the system. It takes a lot morre than wine to kill yourrself as well. Another-r-r murrder-r-r..."

Shadow wasn’t so sure. “Could be that she turrned to the spirrits for comforrt, and they overrwhelmed her-r-r. I have hearrd of people drrinking themselves to death in the past.” He shrugged stepping closer to the girl. “Whatever-r-r the case, doesn’t look like she’ll be answerring any of our questions in this state.” He touched her hand to see how cold she was to determine how long she had been dead, then grasped the bottle she had let tumble out of her fingers as her last bit of strength failed. There was still some small bit of wine at the bottom that Shadow swilled about the bottle then he smelled at it. “Cydrric, want to give this a taste and tell us if it’s poisoned?” He smirked with a bit of morbid humor.

Cydric stood up and took the wine from Shadow's grip. At first he sniffed the bottle to see if anything was detectable, when he smelled nothing, Cydric looked at Shadow, "Cheers." he said as he up ended the bottle draining the last of the wine.


Kanth glanced at Cydric and mumbled, "Dumb human... Death wish I guess..." Then she laughed as she says to him, "You'rre ways of doing things seem a bit irrrational dear-r-r Cydrric. I would surrely hate if you werre to die on us. I was beginning to like you." Then she turned back to her search.

Handing the bottle back to Shadow, Cydric went and stood against the wall with one foot on the wall and his arms crossed over his chest. "I guess we'll know in a few minutes whether the wine was poisoned or not." Cydric would not have given a damn about this woman if it was not for the connection to Sloran. He had seen his share of dead bar whores and in Cydric's mind this was no different.

Setting the bottle on a nearby table, Shadow brought up the possibilities, “We have a mysterrious, yet not entirrely unexpected death here. Her love was poisoned, she was in grrief. Such grrief might be enough for her-r-r to take her own life, or drrown her sorrrrows… especially if she might blame herrself,” he added looking towards Maro who was still red-eyed and sniffling, “… not that she had anything to blame, but it is a possibility. And of courrse, as alrready mentioned, she might have been r-removed as a loose end.” He walked towards the nearby window and opened the shutters, looking outside. “She was hearrd crrying, sobbing… r-remorseful, downtrrodden. I don’t think she was a victim by another-r-r’s hand.”

Turning back towards the center of the room, he looked around the meager furnishings and stated, “We should look for-r-r a diarry or a letter-r-r.”

"Excellent cousin, I'll help you searrch." Then Kanth turned quickly and began looking for any kind of parchment or writing implements. Finding nothing useful she spotted one more nightstand beside the cot where the woman lay and lunged for it, determined to find the reason why she lay here dead.

Once again, Cydric pulled out his pipe and lit it taking in a deep first inhale. As he thought about yesterday and today, he could feel his mood slip into the dark recesses of his mind. 'God damn Phineous, that fat bastard.' he thought.


Shuffling through belongings, the group of inspectors eyed the room's crevasses. It was not long when Cydric opened a cloth bundle to reveal two crumb covered cakes. They were the kind that made your mouth water at the expectation of savoring the soft cake with the crunchy toppings. Letting the sweet puffs linger on your tongue while the sugar crunch dissolved before washing it down with a mug of chilled milk.

Judging by the smears and folds of the cloth, there were four pieces, but only two remained.

Kanth looked down and moved a tin of water from the solidly made desk and tucked beneath a crumpled cloak was a mostly eaten third cake.

"I guess that we have the method of her-r-r death right herre," Kanth said holding up the wad of cloth, revealing the partially eaten cake. "She's been offed just like her-r-r lover-r-r. Now, who would we say had access to both of them in this manner-r-r? The barrkeep?" Not satisfied, she waited for the responses of those present, mainly eyeballing the young noble who directed them there.

 

Maro simply shrugged, "I don't know." The young man's playful mood had been shattered.

Cydric took one of the cakes he was holding, and with gloved hands started to break it into pieces trying to see if he could tell if the poison was baked into the cake or added on afterwards, but it was a hopeless search.

"I'd say Sloran got the cakes on his journey, and wished to share them with his... whatever she was to him. Honestly I think her death was more of a bonus than any real attack. Sort of an, 'oops, oh well,' two birds with one stone sort of deal." Cydric said to no one in particular.
 

Maro shot Cydric an angry glance and left the small room.


Ignoring Maro, Cydric put the cakes on the table and opened the dead woman's mouth. Lighting a candle nearby for better light, Cydric took out his dagger and started scrapping the inside of Myranda's mouth in the same manner he had done to Sloran just a few hours prior. If it was poison, hopefully he'd be able to grab a sample of it. Maybe this time he could identify it as well.

"If he werre given these on his jourrney," Kanth began, "then whomever sold or gave them to him would have followed in orrder-r-r to claim their-r-r prize when the chemicals slay him. So, if this werre the case, we'rre searrching for a forreigner-r-r. I think he was murrderred when he rreached the city." She stood there for a moment scratching her chin and calculating all the facts, attempting to come up with a logical solution.

Cydric too tried to make some logic of the whole scenario, "Well here's what we have, and don't have. We have two dead bodies on our hands. We don't have a real motive, we don't know what the hell was even in the contents of the package, even if it was worth killing for. We don't have a suspect, a motive, or any real leads. I can't imagine what this woman would know that was worth killing her for. Because if it was over something Sloran told her, well then the entire bar that night is in danger."

"Like I stated before, poison is not cheap, neither are those cakes. Someone with money has poisoned those cakes, and if we could figure out the poison type we might have a lead on the region its from, or where it can be bought. Certain poisons come from certain places, the rarer the poison, the harder it is to find; the fewer shops would carry it. Also the deadlier it is, the more expensive the poison. I honestly think that right now the poison type, is our biggest clue. If we can deduce what poison it is, it might tells us who might be able to obtain it. I might be wrong on this, but I think we should find out as much as possible."

"Besides the poison, all that we have now that Myranda's dead is these lousy cakes. We no longer have anyone to talk too. Unless we give Tithion a visit again, maybe we should go and talk to the person he sent Sloran too." Cydric stated, feeling frustrated at the way the day and case were unfolding.

"Perhaps we should get an undertaker?" Asked Sergie. "Or in the least, contact the priests of Mortarious. This girl's soul will need a guide to the heavens; lest her soul becomes lost."

"Good idea, why don't you see to that Sergei. We sure don't want her soul to become lost." Cydric said with a note of sarcasm towards the end. "Plus we should probably run and inform Phineous as well."

"Tithion has told us all he knows or-r-r will rreveal without a fight," Kanth exhaled in frustration. "So, I guess it's up to Serrgie." She looked in the direction of the canine man wonderingly. "Poison type?"


"I need to do some tests. Its easier with ritual magic to identify items like this, but I'm sure with Eric's help we can isolate the substance. I should have an answer for you tomorrow, time provided of course. I need one of those cakes though."

Cydric tossed a cake at Sergei, "Take it and see what you can find. As for Phineous, well he'll find out eventually. I sure as hell am not going to see that bastard." With that Cydric went outside with Sergei and saw him off. Cydric looked at the surroundings and sighed. The weather seemed to coincide with the days events, and this area of town was just as bad, it all seemed very depressing. Cydric wasn't in the best of moods and he knew that the longer they were in this area his mood would grow worse. Although he knew it wasn't really this part of town that had him angered, he knew it was Phineous, or his own carelessness. He still pondered just how the Sleuth knew who he was, and what he did.
 

Shadow leaned up against the wall and crossed his arms about his chest, "Currious. Donnel did say Slorran acquirred the cakes along the way. However-r-r, he also said Myranda and Slorran sharred them at the pub. He died moments after-r-r leaving the pub. Myrranda had enough time to make it back home and drrink to her-r-r sorrrrow befor-r-re the poison set into effect." The large, dark Phylinx continued to toss around the facts. The more answers they had, the more perplexing it became.

He looked at the empty wine bottle sitting on the table and shook his head. "She must have been incrredibly stupid, or-r-r too drrunk to know better-r-r, o-r-r-r she simply wished to die. Wer-r-re I her-r-r, I would be incrredibly concerrned about Slorran being poisoned, parrticularrly since she ate the same cakes, and drrank the same drrink. I would think she would have turrned the cakes over to the militia-man who carrted the body away as suspicious in naturre, not to mention go see a doctor-r-r herrself." He looked at Kanth and repeated, "Currious, yes?"

He took one last look around the dwelling and sighed. "Without some sorrt of suicide note, this death looks either-r-r intended, or coincidental, but not a purposeful suicide."

"I agrree," Kanth affirmed. "As irregular-r-r as the situation is, it still seems like she was not the intended tarrget. She must have taken some of the cakes with her-r-r as she parrted frrom the bar-r-r. She might not have imagined it to be poison that took Slorran's life. Or-r-r, she hadn't associated the poison with the cakes."

Kanth looked towards Vorn and Cydric, a frown apparent on her cleft lips. "What's our-r-r next lead? I'm a bit baffled," she said as she walked over to the young noble, Maro. "I have a feeling that you or-r-r that barrkeep knows morre than they arre telling. What say you?"

 

Maro shrugged, "I don't know anything that has not already been covered. If I knew more, I would certainly divulge that implicitly."

Shadow held his paw out, and asked "May I see the cakes please? No, no... the whole package please." He took the one cake that was left in it and set it on the table, then opened the cloth that it was wrapped in. "This cloth may be a clue as to who gave the cakes to Slorran." Carefully, he examined the thread and make of the cloth and smelled at it.


The cloth, while finely made, seemed quite mundane. With the exception of a deep blue thread stitched about the border and a lace of gold on one corner. Though they were Tithion's household colors, they were also the colors of many noble houses. Lacking the household crest there was no way to be completely certain that it was in fact from Tithion's home.

"I have a thought, and a plan," Shadow announced to his fellow investigators.

He took a deep breath and paced across the floor, turning around with a finger up to introduce his plan, "Maybe we can use Tithion. If the nobleman discovered that this woman could be involved, he might be interrested to use some of those spirritual prractices to question her-r-r as he planned on doing with Slorran's corrpse."

"Well if we're gonna do that," interjected Cydric, "we need to act quickly before memories start to fade, or pub patrons start drinking too heavily. Since there are four of us, I say we split up in teams. Two of us get the undertaker and instruct him to take her body to Tithion. Then two of us to go to the bar, and get a list of the pub patrons last night and begin questioning them. If the four of us try to do it all together we'll be at this all night. I and whoever can go to the bar, I could use a drink anyway and besides, the barkeep can't be racist or sexist with me, hopefully I'm not his type. I say we all meet at Tithion's in a few hours, agreed?" Cydric said.

"Agrreed," Kanth stated. I'll go with you to the pub, I so enjoy watching that bastarrd squirrm." She writhed her hands together as an anxious child awaiting a treat for behaving.

Vorn spoke, "So, I guess me and Shadow are stuck with the undertaker. Come on, Shadow, let's get the body out of the house before she starts to smell."

 

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