Windows of the Soul
Chapter Two

Erestor and Gildor made the long trek from the servants' wing to the High King's private rooms. Entering Gil-galad's study, they found the King and his herald awaiting them.

Gil-galad spoke before Erestor could. "I am sorry, Erestor. We touched nothing in the room."

Erestor waved away the High King's apology. He knew that they had touched nothing; he would have seen trace evidence in the room. "Who found the body?" he asked instead.

Lord Elrond rose and poured them all glasses of strong spirits, speaking over his shoulder. "It was Lord Glorfindel who found the victim."

Erestor frowned. He knew the name... who did not? But he did not know *this* Glorfindel. "Another Elf named Glorfindel?" he asked the King's herald. Names were unique - it was highly irregular for a parent to have named a child after the legendary Elda.

Elrond smiled at the Advisor. "Not 'another' Elf -- the very same Elf who slew the Balrog. The Valar saw fit to return him to us to face the coming darkness. He has been back upon these shores but days, and then to stumble across this horror--" Elrond shook his head sadly.

Erestor looked skeptical. "I will wish to speak with him," he declared.

Elrond looked concerned for a moment and opened his mouth as if to speak, but he said nothing, only reluctantly nodded. Erestor caught the hesitation and wondered about it. Why did Elrond not wish him to question Glorfindel?

Erestor and Gildor spent the remaining hours of the night questioning each person who had been present in the halls outside the victim's room. Most witnesses professed to have seen nothing; they said they were drawn to the scene by the commotion in the hallway.

By interviewing an elleth who identified herself as being a friend to the dead female, Erestor was able to piece together a fairly complete picture of the victim. Brennil was a Telerin Elf who had joined the court after escaping the ruin of Beleriand. She had journeyed to Lindon with her lover, who was a warrior. That relationship did not last. Brennil had no kin on Arda, but did have parents and siblings in Valinor. The friend, Menelui, did say that Brennil was a hard worker, and that she enjoyed her life in Lindon. She was social, outgoing and chatty, and a very friendly sort.

Erestor and Gildor questioned all the potential witnesses, with the exception of Lord Glorfindel. The interview with the Balrog-slayer was to take place in Elrond's study. The Peredhel had insisted on being present, but exactly why, Erestor did not know. But the High King's herald was Erestor's Lord as well, and he could not disobey a direct order from the half-Elf without just cause. Erestor was not concerned by Elrond's request - the advisor had confidence he would be able to see through any dishonesty.

Arriving at Elrond's chambers, Erestor knocked and opened the door after hearing Elrond's voice call for him to enter. Once inside, his eyes were immediately drawn to the blond warrior seated by the fire. Glorfindel of the golden locks was aptly named, Erestor thought, recognizing the ancient hero of Gondolin from the numerous paintings throughout Lindon that depicted the reborn Noldo's deeds. Erestor thought in passing that the artwork did not do the golden Lord justice, before focusing again on observing Glorfindel's mannerisms. The Elf's face and voice were open and friendly; Erestor could see no deceit in those fair features.

Then again, some said Maeglin possessed the face of an innocent.

After introductions were made, Erestor took a seat across from the Elda and crossed his legs comfortably, setting the golden Lord at ease. "Lord Glorfindel, how did you come to discover the body of the elleth?" Erestor's voice was low and calm, only polite curiosity bled through his tone. He looked the other Elf in the eyes, making sure to keep his face bland and only mildly interested.

Glorfindel looked briefly to Elrond, as though searching for guidance, his face uncertain, and the Peredhel nodded encouragingly. "The door was open," Glorfindel said simply.

One dark brow arched. "The door was open, you say?" Erestor repeated the Lord's words back to him, hoping to get the Balrog-slayer to continue. Erestor kept his dark eyes wide and open, inviting confessions and easy conversation. He had often found that if one allowed the silence in an interrogation to build, the suspect felt compelled to fill it. Often times, nervous babbling resulted, but one never knew what could be inadvertently revealed in those random comments.

Glorfindel fidgeted, glancing about the room, his eyes roaming, landing everywhere but on the dark gaze of Erestor. "Yes, the door was open. I saw the elleth sitting in a chair with her back to the door. This seemed odd, so I called out to her, asking her if everything was all right. She did not answer, so I went in. I touched her shoulder, and then I saw her face." Glorfindel's voice stopped and he looked anxiously at Erestor. "Then I ran and fetched Lord Elrond. Her eyes..." the Balrog-slayer shuddered, his words trailing away.

Erestor looked to Lord Elrond and received his confirmation regarding those events. He turned back to Glorfindel. "One thing still puzzles me, however, and that is what you were doing in the servant's wing? You are a Lord; your quarters are on the opposite side of the palace."

In fact, the blond seemed to become more agitated at the question, and he frowned at Erestor. "I was walking the halls and saw her open door. That is it, nothing more."

Erestor could almost believe if Glorfindel told him he had been lost. Being new to Lindon, perhaps the Elda simply took a wrong turn down one of the many dark corridors of the palace. But Lord Glorfindel did not claim that. His words rung false. There was more to the story than the blond Elf was saying, and Erestor would find the truth, one way or another.

Acting on impulse, Erestor asked smoothly, "Perhaps you were hoping to find some female companionship to pass the hours while the storm raged outside?"

Glorfindel stared at the advisor, aghast, and Elrond growled, "Erestor..."

Ignoring Elrond's warning tone, Erestor continued, "Come now, Lord Glorfindel. You have only been returned from Mandos for a short while; surely you must have certain urges? Did you approach the elleth, and when she turned you down, you lost your temper?"

"Certainly not!" the blond gasped, horrified. "I do not think of females in that way."

"ERESTOR!" the Peredhel's voice rang out. "That is *enough*."

Erestor's eyes met Lord Elrond's. His gaze said clearly that it was not enough, and it was not over. "Very well," Erestor conceded. "That will be all. For now. But we may need to speak with you at a later time, Lord Glorfindel." Erestor rose and moved to the door, but Glorfindel's words stopped him.

"That is all I have to tell you, Lord Erestor. I neither saw nor heard anything else of value." Glorfindel insisted stubbornly. That the blond now understood that this had not been a friendly conversation was obvious.

Erestor only gave the Elda a small, tight smile and an, "Until later," before leaving the room, a silent Gildor following his Lord. As they walked, Erestor considered the exchange with Glorfindel. It was interesting, he thought, that rather than indignance over being considered a murder suspect, what the golden Lord so vehemently protested was his sexual preference.

Very interesting, indeed.

*********

Saelbeth was waiting for Erestor and Gildor at the laboratory Erestor had designed and stocked with tools of his trade. Erestor quietly thanked his young assistant as he handed him a steamy cup of strong tea. "Thank you, Saelbeth. Did you make an inventory of the items in our victim's room?" he asked.

"Yes, Lord Erestor. I have a complete list," Saelbeth answered eagerly.

"Good," Erestor replied. "I want you to take that list and go over it carefully with Menelui, the friend of our victim. Make sure she can account for everything on that list," he ordered.

Saelbeth nodded, setting his teacup down, and gathering his things departed to begin his interview. Gildor watched the young assistant rush to comply with his superior's orders. He waited until the door closed before turning to Erestor. "Do you think robbery was involved?" he asked, clearly puzzled.

"No," was all Erestor offered. Understanding of Erestor's motives came to him, though, as he glanced at the victim laid out on the exam table. Erestor did not want Saelbeth to be present for the autopsy; the young assistant had not yet been exposed to that part of the job. Dealing with violent death in the abstract was one thing, getting up close and personal in an autopsy was another. Yes, young Saelbeth did not need to be a part of this just yet.

This special room had been carefully stocked by Erestor over the years. He had designed each tool, and he was continually thinking of ways of refining his techniques or modifying a way of recording evidence. It was a stark room, white with plain cabinets and examining tables. Extra oil lamps for lighting had been brought to illuminate the room brightly for night work, and during daylight hours, the extra numerous and wide windows provided the sunlight to its fullest extent.

Erestor and Gildor shed their outer robes and donned the special white robes Erestor used in the lab. The large numerous candelabras were lit, brightening the room considerably. Moving with synchronized ease coming from years of working together, each pulled on gloves and stepped to the table where the victim's body lay.

First the sheet was unwrapped and the body was gently lifted off onto another table, this one covered in plain parchment paper. The victim's clothing was carefully cut off, following along its seams. Gildor placed the robe on another parchment-covered table. He shook the robe gently over the paper several times in order to collect any loose fibers or hairs, then folded the garment carefully and wrapped it in more parchment. Paper, Erestor found, was better to store evidence in, as it did not allow moisture to gather on the objects.

Next, Gildor moved an oil lamp very close and examined the parchment, collecting the fibers that had fallen from the robe, each placed on its on square of paper for examining later by Erestor. Fibers were unique to the material they came from; no two pieces of fabric had precisely the same count of thread, color, or identical pattern. Erestor had once solved a jewel theft case by matching fibers from a thief's tunic to the crime scene.

Erestor had also brought an oil lamp closer to the body. There, in stark detail, lay the killer's handiwork. Blooming against the paleness of death on the elleth's throat were purple and black bruises, their shape unmistakably finger marks.

Erestor dragged his eyes away from the victim's neck, and scanning down her body, he looked for other signs of trauma. Besides the eyes and neck, the body looked unmarked, but a closer inspection would be required in order to rule out other injuries and look for evidence. Erestor waited for Gildor to join him back at the table, with parchment and quill in hand to record Erestor's findings.

Erestor started the autopsy...

To be continued...