Windows of the Soul
A/N First of all, I have never seen, nor do I watch CSI! Most of the ideas and nifty comments made come from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and John Douglas. The forensic information came from old college schoolbooks of mine; of course the story has been embellished to add to the mystery and excitement. Thanks to my wonderful Fimbrethiel who makes my words sound better, read better, and make sense!
A/N from Fim: I *do* watch CSI religiously! I've always had a morbid fascination with forensics, so when Denise approached me with the idea of co-authoring a murder mystery, I jumped at the opportunity. She gets the majority of the credit for this story - without her research and creativity, this story would not be here.
Lindon, 1640 of the Second Age
The rain poured down, sheeting the windows, while lightning rent the sky. The cobblestone streets were awash. Thunder rumbled heavily, and a sudden peal shook the walls of the palace.
The blade sliced neatly through skin, tissue, muscle. No ragged tears, only clean lines, leaving thin rivulets of blood to trail down death-pale cheeks. There, he thought, it could not see him now.
He looked down into the dead blue orbs staring back at him, seeing him, knowing him... knowledge of his deeds blazed out as if his accuser was standing next to him, shouting out his secrets. He shook himself. No, they were dead, no image recorded in their depths that were severed from blood and tissue.
They were useless.
"Erestor, there is someone at the d—aaahhh!" Gildor's words hitched as the next driving thrust into his body tore the breath from his chest. He was currently resting on his knees, stretched forward at the waist on Erestor's bed, his hands clenching desperately at the rungs of the headboard to keep himself from being slammed through the wall as Erestor pummeled him from behind.
The dark Elf paused and listened for a moment, but heard nothing except the rattle of rain driving against the windowpanes and the steady rumble of the storm overhead. "No, there is not; it is simply thunder," was Erestor's growled reply, before resuming his onslaught.
A sharp rapping was undeniable the harbinger of an unwanted guest - most definitely.
Gildor's arms were outstretched, muscles quivering with the strain of keeping himself upright. "Door - nngggg - Erestor -"
This interruption is most untimely, Erestor thought dimly. "Go away!" he barked, his body tight and tingling with impending orgasm.
Reaching below Gildor's well-muscled body, he grasped his lover's length and stroked firmly. Gildor nearly howled, and bucked back against him.
"Erestor?!" the voice called, full of concern.
"Go. AWAY." Erestor hissed, renewing his assault on Gildor's poor, aching arse.
His hand pumped the thick, pulsing shaft rapidly, and Gildor's passage undulated wildly as he spilled in spurting jets of creamy fluid over Erestor's pumping fist, wailing loudly with the strength of his orgasm. The strong ring of muscle tightened almost painfully around Erestor's swollen member, and with a hoarse shout, he climaxed powerfully in Gildor's shuddering body. Falling forward heavily, his weight sent Gildor crashing down on the bed where they lay panting, utterly exhausted.
Unfortunately, that untimely knocking came again. Muttering a lengthy string of curses in the High Speech, Erestor untangled himself from Gildor's sweaty form and stood, shrugging on a light robe as he stalked to the door. "Coming!" he shouted in annoyance at the persistent knock.
Throwing open the door, he was greeted by the smirking face of Captain Dórion, who took in Erestor's flushed face, tousled hair and the unmistakable reek of sex hanging heavily in the air. "From the look and sound of it, you already did," he remarked snidely.
"This interruption had better be of dire importance, Dórion," Erestor hissed, greeting the Captain with distaste.
Over Erestor's shoulder, Captain Dórion eyed Gildor's nude body sprawled face down on the rumbled bed, then allowing his eyes to roam appreciatively over Erestor's partially clad form. "Impressive..." he murmured.
"Get on with it," Erestor demanded. "What brings you here so late at night, disturbing me from... my leisure?"
Sobering, Captain Dórion turned a suddenly somber eye to the dark Elf. "I am here at His Majesty's request, Erestor," he said by way of apology. "Gil-galad needs you."
Erestor's dark eyebrow quirked in an unasked question.
"There has been a murder, Erestor."
Dark and deserted were the halls as Erestor and his assistants, Gildor and Saelbeth, followed Captain Dórion, their boot heels clicking noisily in the intricate tile work. Erestor stared after the broad back of Dórion, wishing that it had been any other who summoned him to a crime scene. He and the arrogant head of the palace guard had clashed before. Why the Captain still persisted in his pursuit of Erestor, he did not know. Erestor had never encouraged him in any sense, yet Dórion was relentless. Having Captain Dórion witness his liaison with Gildor was sure to stretch an already tense working relationship nearly to the breaking point.
Erestor was not unaware of the power of his appeal, and had used those tools at his disposal in the past.
Black as raven's wings was Erestor's hair, straight and heavy, thick and silken; it hung to the back of his knees. His skin was as pale as the season's first snow, the whiteness broken only by almond shaped onyx eyes and the ruby redness of his lips. Erestor was tall and slender, his figure suited to that of an archer. He moved with poise, his motions graceful as a dancer's, and many underestimated this deceptive fragileness for weakness or were taken unaware by his beauty.
But Erestor was a private, analytical Elf, his mind always occupied by the complexity of the psyche. Most of Erestor's thoughts were dark; one could not see or experience what he had and not be shaped by those events. While most Elves could enjoy the galas held almost nightly in Lindon's vast Halls, Erestor's shrewd eyes saw only security breeches, dangerously dark corners, and opportunities for mayhem.
Following silently behind Erestor, Gildor and Saelbeth carried heavy black bags, tools that Erestor had perfected and used in his investigations. Erestor heard the excited buzz of the crowd gathered in the hallway before he reached the servant's wing. Stopping at the entrance to the corridor, he observed the crowd of servants and nobles that talked nervously among themselves. His eyes swept over each face, memorizing the features for later perfect recall. Most he recognized, but a flash of gold caught and held his eyes. That face he did not know, and he would have remembered if he had. This Elf was unknown, and Erestor stared a moment longer than was his wont.
Captain Dórion stopped, noticing for the first time that Erestor was no longer behind him. Erestor waited until Dórion drew close, then ordered, "Captain, this hall is to be cleared and each person returned to his or her room. I want a guard on each door, and they are not to leave or speak to anyone until they have been interviewed." Erestor's piercing gaze bored into the Captain's, but the foolish Elf spoke anyway.
"I do not take orders from you, Erestor," the Captain stated defiantly, the hurt over witnessing the Noldo's recent tumble with Gildor plain in his voice. But even as Dórion said the words, he knew them to be untrue. Not only was Erestor advisor to the King, he was also head of any investigations in Lindon. Erestor also was a Lord, and nobility outranked the palace guard, Captain or no.
One sharp black brow arched and Erestor's eyes bore into the Captain's. "Do you not, Captain?" he asked, his tone mocking.
The battle of wills did not last long. The Captain swore angrily under his breath, but he backed down. "It will be done, Lord Erestor," was the Captain's only response before spinning away and barking sharp orders to his men.
Erestor waited until most of the bystanders had been cleared before moving to the open door. His teeth ground together when he heard the sound of voices coming from his crime scene, and again Erestor paused on the threshold, his snapping black eyes landing on the Elf in charge.
"Why are there healers present? I was under the impression that there was a dead body here?" Erestor's calm voice halted all conversation, and all eyes flew towards him.
Gil-galad recognized the look in Erestor's eyes. The King knew his Chief of Special Investigations was very watchful of his crime scenes. He glanced quickly at his herald before addressing his Advisor. "There is a body, Erestor. When I received word, I thought it prudent for a healer to be in attendance. They were called at my direction. We were unsure what we were dealing with at first."
Gil-galad's words did nothing to ease the look of irritation that briefly crossed Erestor's face. Erestor swept a hand before him gesturing toward the door, clearly an invitation for Gil-galad and Elrond to leave the room. "I will need to speak with each of you, and of course I do not need to tell you, my Lords, that there should be no discussion outside this room." None present wished to push Erestor's patience. Gil-galad gave his advisor a slight smile that was not returned as he and the others filed past Erestor.
Erestor stood in the doorway, his mind taking in the picture before him. The room was typical of a servant's quarters, bearing the standard furniture; a single bed, nightstand, wardrobe, and a small dining table. The room was not orderly, rather, it looked as if the occupant had just arrived home and was in the process of shedding the uniform worn by all females in Gil-galad's service. Said uniform was tossed across the small bed, and a pair of well-worn shoes sat on the floor close by. The door to the wardrobe was slightly open and a single teacup sat on the small table.
Turning his head, Erestor examined the door to the room. It appeared normal, untouched. As Erestor stepped into the room, Saelbeth went to follow his superior, but was brought up short by Gildor's arm preventing him from following.
Saelbeth watched as Erestor methodically began walking in a strange pattern about the room. He started at the very edges, following the perimeter, and gradually worked his way around the room in progressively smaller circles until he finally reached the very center of the room. Saelbeth looked to Gildor, confusion clear on his face. "What is he doing?" he whispered.
Gildor glanced sideways at the young assistant, understanding completely the lost expression in the smaller Elf's eyes. "If you want to understand the artist, you have to look at the painting," was Gildor's cryptic reply. He could see that if anything, Saelbeth appeared even more baffled, but Gildor also knew full well that the one to explain it best – the master himself - was inside the room, doing what he did best.
Erestor finally gestured for his assistants to join him. Young Saelbeth pulled from his bag his sketch pad and charcoals. One of his talents was drawing, and as he began sketching he remembered Erestor's instructions to him; draw the room to scale, leave out no detail no matter how insignificant, and date and time the drawing. Saelbeth worked in silence, hastily sketching the room and furnishings, the clothing strewn about - the pages of the sketchbook were rapidly filled as he moved about the room, changing the perspective with each drawing. His eager young mind listened to the conversation between Erestor and Gildor, soaking up the knowledge that came from Erestor's smooth, calm voice. "What do you see, Gildor?" Erestor asked, his tone soft and even - what Gildor teasingly called his teacher's tone.
"An ordinary room," Gildor answered, looking about.
"Exactly," was Erestor's answer. "What does that say to you?"
Gildor frowned and forced himself to think hard about what his mind was processing. "Well, to begin with, there is no sign of a struggle." Once he started, Gildor became excited at the fountain of information he was able to see. "There is no sign of forced entry, the door is intact and the lock unbroken. It looks as though the victim was not expecting company."
Erestor stopped him there. "What makes you think that, Gildor?"
Gildor gestured about. "There is only one tea cup. The victim's closet is slightly open, the day's clothes still tossed upon the bed," he frowned in thought and looked to Erestor for confirmation.
Erestor only hummed and crossed the room, stopping in front of the victim, where Gildor joined him. Saelbeth finally forced himself to look at the reason they were in the room. He gulped, his face turning an alarming shade of green.
"If you intend to vomit, please do so outside in the hall, Saelbeth, away from my crime scene." Erestor's voice was kindly but stern. He did not look at his young assistant, thus making it easier for Saelbeth to force his bile away and shake himself mentally. He did not want to embarrass himself in front of Erestor!
Silently the trio looked at the poor Elf whose life had ended so violently. The victim was seated upright, her head resting against the back of the chair. Gleaming silver hair was neatly and carefully braided in a manner typically worn for formal occasions. Her hands were ringless, folded demurely in her lap, and the dark blue silk robe she wore accentuated her tall, slender form. The robe was elaborately decorated with silver etchings and buttoned from neck to toe. "Telerin, no doubt," Erestor murmured, noting the victim's build and hair coloring.
What made the picture so very obscene was the peaceful posture of the elleth's body, which was at odds with the ghastly ruin of her face.
The elleth's eyes had been removed, and down her cheeks were thin blood trails that disappeared into the neck of the robe.
Erestor sighed, allowing himself a brief moment to mourn a life snuffed out that should have been immortal, and sent a brief prayer to the Valar that her soul was now safely in Mandos' keeping. But the moment of grieving was fleeting. He had a job to do, and the dead Elf would not receive justice by him being soft. He now had to stand for the victim, and that required his full mental focus. Emotion could not be allowed to come between victim and justice.
"Gloves," he snapped, and Gildor immediately handed him a pair from the black bag, in anticipation of Erestor's request.
Erestor slipped on the special gloves, which had been made for him with specific instructions for their design. The gloves were fashioned completely from the thinnest, softest doe skin that could be found, the seams flat stitched along the back of the fingers, leaving the palm and inner surface line and crease free. While Erestor had not as yet perfected a method of recovering and recording fingerprints, he was working on it. These gloves enabled him to touch items and bodies without leaving his own fingerprints behind.
Erestor studied the victim for several minutes, the room silent except for the rapid scratching of Saelbeth's charcoal against the sketch pad. Erestor's eyes traveled from the elleth's face down to her hands. "No defense wounds," he murmured, and Gildor took notes as Erestor examined the elleth's body. Not much of the victim's body could be seen, the robe covered much. But Erestor again studied the face of his victim. "Such precision in the removal of the eyes. This is someone who knows how to handle a blade, exceptionally so."
Gildor's questioning frown was caught by Erestor who invited his assistant to lean a bit closer. "Look here, Gildor. The cuts leave no frayed edges. No excess blood was spilt because the artery behind the eye was neatly cut. This was done slowly and with an extremely sharp instrument." Gildor nodded his head in understanding, moving back and giving Erestor room to circle about the victim.
"The robe, I believe, hides the rest of the tale. Wrap her, Gildor and transport her to my lab. I want a guard posted until we can perform the autopsy," Erestor ordered.
Gildor, with Saelbeth's help, unwrapped the special sheeting Erestor used to wrap bodies in. It was of a silk material, plain white in color. Erestor used this to avoid transference of fibers from the victim to the sheet and vice versa. Many fibers he found could be matched back to a specific garment or area of the palace. Erestor had a lab full of well-labeled sample fibers from about Lindon, which he used to compare against unknown fibers.
Carefully, with Erestor's eagle eye upon them, Gildor and Saelbeth wrapped the body completely. Gildor next went to the door and called for Captain Dórion to come in. Once the orders had been given to a surprisingly cooperative Captain, the body was removed.
Gildor watched as the body of the elleth was carried away. Looking sadly about the small room, he asked Erestor. "Do you think there will be more?"
Saelbeth looked at Gildor and Erestor, puzzled. "More what?" he asked.
"Killings," Gildor replied. Saelbeth and Gildor looked at Erestor, who was staring grimly at the closed door.
"Yes, something tells me this killer is just getting started..."
To be continued...