Last time on Jane Crow, Jane swallowed her pride (and sororocidic tendencies) to have lunch with her step-sister Charissa. While she seemed to have turned a new leaf, Jane couldn’t quite bring herself to trust Char… until her sister warned her that the Count Augur fortune had changed her very fate!
After lunch I walked out on the wharf to look at the sea. As I strode, I pulled out my phone and called Chivas.
“Dig up anything?” he asked.
“Possibly. I’m going to head to the hotel in a few and start doing some research on augury. I thought maybe if we knew a little bit more about how this fortune telling stuff was supposed to work, it might help us know what to look for.”
“We’re looking for someone with a magic knife,” Chivas said.
“Definitely Yellow Center buisness,” he continued. “The cause of death was three stab wounds.”
“No, wait,” I said, confused. “I thought the body was unmarked. The police thought natural causes.”
“I don’t want to go into detail over the phone, but I’ve got something else for you to research. Meet me at the hotel in thirty.”
Since the hotel was only two blocks away, it gave me a little time to take the air. Usually I’m too busy juggling things to take time alone in my head, and even then there’s too much going on inside to step back and look at a bigger picture. But there’s something about the sea that calms me. Not being in the water–I’m not much for swimming or sailing and pools and lakes do nothing for me–just the ocean. I think it’s the waves. So many waves, each of them washing over each other, breaking against anything that disturbs their canvas. And each of them just a small part of this massive endless unknowable.
I walked to the end of the wharf and leaned over one of the metal rails and lost myself for a blissful quiet moment.
Give me another minute, I’m enjoying remembering that.
I met Chivas back at the hotel and we headed up to his room to compare notes.
“There’s something called the Unwounding Knife,” he started once we were away from public ears. “I don’t have a lot of details; I was thinking you could find those. Supposedly it can cut the insides of a person without disturbing the skin.”
“And you think that the guard was killed with that?”
“I talked to Hills after the autopsy, and he suggested that we look into it. There might be other possibilities; I learned long ago not to discount theories just because they were unbelievable.”
“‘When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?'”
“We never eliminate the impossible.”
“Do you accentuate the positive?” I teased.
“The Unwounding Knife,” he repeated. “I also want you to see if you can find anything similar in any urban legends or folk tales. I swear it rings a bell, but I just can’t place it. Not the name, the M.O… maybe look for paranormals with healing abilities, faith healers or the like.”
“Got it,” I said, adding them to the mental list of things to throw into the mental lotto ball machine.
The key to breaking cases, I think, is to keep all of the disparate parts floating around in your brain, hence the lotto ball image. Then, over time, as they bounce against each other, two balls will stick together. They’re ideas you might not have considered connected, but because they’re all flying around in there, randomness brings things together you might not have logically put together.
Chivas, of course, was way ahead of me.
“Cross reference all of this to Abner Cyzinski’s known history. These cards are our MacGuffin, but I don’t think that’s all they are. Whoever took them thought they were worth killing for… and killing in a particularly odd and difficult manner at that.”
“You think it was some kind of sacrifice? Paranormal killers tend to avoid paranormal means unless there’s a greater meaning to it. Guns, knives, poison… none of those draw the kind of attention that curses or magical swords do.”
“Unless attention was the point.”
“You think the perp wants us to know he or she has the fortunes?”
“I think that this is some kind of shot across the bow. I don’t know if he or she cares whether the FBI knows, but I do think that there’s someone out there for whom the message was intended.”
I knew there was. Lisa Vassey had gone as apoplectic as Russian witches could get without iron teeth telling me she wanted the cards found and brought to her. I couldn’t tell Chivas, but the Invisible Coven, who his partner really worked for, was probably his best suspect.
“I’ll keep my mind open,” I lied. “So that was the upshot from the coroner? The skin wasn’t cut but the insides were?”
“Yep,” Chivas said. “Apparently it freaked him out when he started the autopsy, he was convinced he had accidentally cut large lacerations in the intestines opening the chest cavity. Fortunately, he was enough of a pro to have gone back over each incision and realized that there was no way his scalpel could have caused the damage. From there, he was able to recreate the attack pattern despite the lack of damage to the epidermis.”
Chivas looked up at me for a moment, like he was waiting to see if I was going to giggle at the word ‘epidermis.’ I maintained a stoic face of professionalism.
“Three wounds,” he continued. “One piercing one to the lower abdomen that perforated his stomach. This was followed up by a slashing cut across the same area, this time opening up his large intestine and cutting through his kidney. By this point his gastrointestinal track was filling with blood, but most gut wounds are lethal because the blood leaves the system. The killing blow was actually made here…” Chivas ran his pointer finger across the lower side of his neck, the universal sign of throat cutting. “The esophagus filled with blood. The man drowned on it. The coroner never would have thought to look there for a wound except for how full the lungs were when he examined them. Once again, the skin was unmarred.”
“Magic paring knife is sounding more and more likely,” I said. “What’s next?”
“Dinner, I think,” Chivas said. “Tomorrow we can do some research and check in with the local department to see if anything else they’ve got can ping our radar.”
Tomorrow sounded good for research, but tonight I had my own agenda. Char had suggested getting some professional divination advice, and I knew just the marker to call in for that. Of course, dinner sounded pretty good too, and Chivas’ expense account was way bigger than mine.
“What sounds good to you?” I asked.
“Weird as it sounds,” my partner said with his rare but quirky wit, “I’m kind of in the mood for steak.”
© 2013 by Douglass Barre, All Rights Reserved.