Chapter Six: Goldilocks

The town's ‟morgue" was basically a barn where they kept animals too old or sick to live long. Currently empty and waiting its next living inhabitant, the floor of it had been cleared of hay and paved with a long carpet for the recently murdered victim's predecessors' exhumed corpses. A total of 6 bodies in all laid, going from relatively fresh to crystallized tendons and bones.

Morgan watched as Doctor John Watson examined the bodies, Sherl standing aside as she left her more qualified medical partner do the dirty work.

‟The victims have no real similarities in physicality. Two males. Three females. One hermaphrodite, a drakin." He pointed to the third corpse that had the outlined bones of a decomposed wings. ‟From the fresher bodies, they all died the same way. Haemorrhage, then blood loss. The first victim was a mage, and a powerful one at that, from the rate of crystallization."

Morgan deduced, ‟So there was no time to react and cast a spell. The killer must have been quick."

‟Or the mage had her guard down," Sherl further added.

John added in, ‟Those are all speculations, of course. There's nothing on the body to suggest either theories." He flipped through the archived folder the mayor had handed them. ‟She was a mage travelling through town. She stayed at the inn for a night before being found dead the next afternoon when she was supposed to check out."

‟What kind of mage was she?" Sherl asked.

John headed to the body and gingerly turned over each of the crystallized portion of bones until he got to the neck where his search stayed. ‟Judging from the colours of the crystals and magic veins, she's a light mage."

‟Huh..." Sherl let out. ‟Any belongings?"

‟Yes. Hers are kept in her room at the inn."

Morgan question, ‟They've not moved it to storage?"

‟Apparently not."

Sherl took her pipe out and began to smoke. Letting out a puff, she headed for the exit. ‟I'm heading to the inn."

Uncaringly, John replied, ‟Mmmkay. I want to take a look at the drakin further. They are another outsider, afterall. There might be a link."

‟There isn't," Sherl said confidently.

‟You've been wrong before."

‟We don't talk about it."

You don't talk about."

The detective left her partner alone, leaving a confused Morgan deciding to who to follow. Finally, she concluded she would be more help with the former, and left after the woman. Having picked up her pace, Morgan quickly caught up to the detective.

‟Tell me," Sherl asked without looking back. ‟Why do you not cover your face with a hood or something?"

‟What?" Morgan answered, annoyed. ‟Am I too disgusting for you?"

‟I don't really know. You all look the same to me."

Confused, the knight asked, ‟Who do you mean by that?"

‟People," Sherl admitted.

The inn was in the middle of the village next to an old well, surrounded by other similarly thatched roof bricked building. It would not have stood out were it not for the stable outside that housed the Knights of the Round's steeds - shining bright with their bleached saddles. Entering, the were immediately greeted by the small foyer and reception, next to a flight of stairs that lead straight up. Aside was a door that lead around to the corridors of the first floor.

‟Ah," the innkeeper greeted. He was a young hume man with light skin and black dried hair in a ponytail, clean as if he rarely left the establishment. He gave a grim grin at the sight of Morgan. ‟Miss Knight. Miss Detective. Are you back to rest?"

Morgan cut by the detective. ‟Not at the moment, innkeeper." She leaned slightly into the table so she need not raise her voice for him to hear. However, the man leaned back slightly, a twitch in his eyes as they scanned her mutated face. She ignored the slight and continued, ‟We need to see the room the first victim died in. The mage."

‟Oh, um..." As if snapped back into professionalism, he got off his stool and grabbed the master keys from a hook next to the shelf of knick-knacks behind him. ‟Of course."

As his hand brushed over the shelf, Sherl pointed out, ‟Is that a magic crystal?"

The innkeeper turned. ‟Ah yes. Actually, it was given to me by the victim. She wanted to stay another two days, but couldn't afford it, so she paid me with the stone."

The innkeeper took the crystal off the shelf and held it up to the lamp on the counter. Through the gem, the light casted an image of a seaside on to the table.

Morgan commented, ‟A photograph. That's rare."

‟Yes," the innkeeper admitted. ‟I thought it a fair trade."

Sherl cleared her throat. ‟And the room?"

The innkeeper jumped. ‟Yes! Please, come with me."

The man stepped out from behind the counter and lead them through the door beside them. They followed him down the corridor, taking a turn into a row of rooms on the left.

Sherl asked the innkeeper, ‟Why are the victim's belongings still here?"

‟Well, the bed was covered in blood, cause, you know, she was killed in it," the man answered, his head slightly turned with a face of disgust at the memory. ‟We had to order a new one from the neighbouring town, but they have yet to arrive. So we cleaned up the room but kept everything as is, in case there was more needed from it."

‟That's quite some foresight."

‟It was Mayor Soira's idea, since back then we did not expect it to turn out this way."

Morgan was surprised. She had not found the mayor particularly helpful in their investigation, and she was slightly shocked at his decision.

The knight then asked, ‟And the drakin? The third victim? Did they have a room here?"

‟No, they set-up camp on the outskirts of the village." They stopped at a door painted with a red rose symbol. The innkeeper flicked through his keys and opened the room. ‟Here it is. I'll leave you two to it. Please let me know if there's anything else you need."

Sherl stepped in immediately without asking, leaving Morgan to thank the innkeeper, who bowed and left them to their investigations.

Morgan reprimanded the detective, ‟You could have thanked him."

The detective paced around the room. There was a singular bed next to a window that looked out to the back of the stable and beyond onto the farmland. A wardrobe remained closed in the corner, and a leather satchel was left on a small round table with a cup that contained dried tea leaves. The last furniture was a single wooden chair that faced the table from the door.

Sherl pulled out a pair of leather gloves and snapped them on. She finally replied to Morgan, ‟You're quite good with people, aren't you? Is that why you don't cover your face?"

Confused, the knight replied, ‟What are you talking about?"

The detective ignored her and opened the satchel to investigate. ‟Nine metal rods, round clamps, and a clawed holder." She pulled out the items and laid them on the table next to the tea cup. Finally, she took out a relatively large cotton pouch and inspected its content. ‟Magic crystals. Eleven of them."

Morgan bent over for a closer look at the poles. ‟These looks like parts of a tripod. I've seen them before at royal events."

‟Which makes these..." Sherl ran a bid of magic into the crystals which glowed. ‟Light crystals. Oddly shaped, like the one on the innkeeper's shelf."

‟The victim was a photographer?"

The detective picked through the rest of the pouch. With a light of flame magic, she cast a ray through each crystal onto the table, but most of the stones were empty save for three. Two of them were of sceneries of a forest and field of flowers respectively. The final filled one was a photo of all the equipment laid out on the inn table - the tripod and its parts and the 12 film crystals. Likely an inventory check by the photographer.

‟Something doesn't add up," Sherl said, looking around the room. ‟I'm missing something. The case is too cold. Too little clues."

‟Should we go back to the latest crime scene?"

‟Don't be stupid," Sherl twipped back, though Morgan did not sense any enmity from the insult, just annoyance. ‟That case is too hot. Too new. The killer got better. Left less tracks."

Wrapping her mutated hand in her cape, Morgan picked up the tripod rods one-by-one as Sherl paced around the room in thought. Then, on the 6th rod, Morgan stopped. The weight was slightly different. Lighter. She had held enough swords in her lifetime to know it. It was one of the leg pieces, and it had a rubber cap on the bottom to prevent it from slipping. She reached for the cap and instinctively pulled, the rubber coming off with a pop. Sherl turned to look just as a dark wood wand dropped onto the table.

‟Well, full of surprises, my dark knight." Sherl took out another glove, though just for a left hand, and passed it to Morgan.

Morgan took the glove and wore it on her normal hand but snapped back. ‟I don't like that nickname." Despite the arguments, the pair inspected the wand, with the knight noting, ‟I can feel it. Dark fire. It's powerful, but it doesn't have any fuel in it. I don't think it's meant for range combat."

‟Self defence, then?" Sherl mused. ‟What scared her so much that she needed such a powerful spell?"

Morgan twisted the wand around in her hand. ‟There's an engraving here. 'Property of Goldilocks'. That's the victim's name." Morgan turned the wand over for another look. ‟It has light magic engraving too. Glows in the dark. Must be an important tool for our photographer."

Sherl took a sudden jump back. ‟Shut up!"

‟What?"

‟You're left handed."

‟Yes?"

‟Shut up!"

Morgan was confused, but could tell the detective had gotten hold of a thread.

‟The victim was left handed. She engraved it with her left hand, meaning she held it in her right, which is why you had to twist around to read it," Sherl monologue.

‟So?"

‟The cup of tea is on the wrong side of the table."

Morgan stepped back and realized the detective was right. From the chair, the cup of tea was on the right.

The knight speculated, ‟So someone else was here, right before she died. Someone she invited in to even drink tea with. And that person is likely our killer?"

‟Two of the six deaths involves people who were invited or allowed into the scene."

‟Perhaps it's a coincidence?" Morgan advocated.

Sherl immediately noted, ‟The picture of the equipment. It shows twelve crystals."

‟That's right," Morgan agreed. ‟The eleven here, and the one the innkeeper has."

‟But there are thirteen crystals. The twelve in the image, and the one needed to take it. One's missing."

Morgan looked aghast. ‟How did I miss that?"

Sherl shrugged. ‟Don't worry. It's a cliché at this point."


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