Windows of the Soul
Chapter Three

They have found her. The traitor is now in their hands. Will they know? Will they understand? The eyes will reveal nothing... it is not time yet.

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"The victim is an Elven female who appears to be of Telerin descent, healthy, though perhaps a bit under weight. The signs of trauma appear to be confined to the upper portions of the victim's body." Erestor moved about the examining table, his eyes scanning the elleth's form for other signs of injury as he pulled on a pair of examining gloves. "There appears to be no form of sexual assault, but closer examination is needed to rule that out."

Erestor paused and went to a cabinet to remove several metal instruments. He placed the tools on a small table next to the one where the elleth's body lay.

Gildor laid aside his scribing duties to help Erestor in the difficult task of examining the elleth's lower body for sign of penetration. He and Erestor both sighed, relieved that no signs of sexual trauma were found, nor was there any evidence of recent intercourse. No matter how many cases one dealt with involving rape or sexual abuse, one could never become used to them. That type of trauma, the most heinous crime that could be committed by the Firstborn save murder, never became easier to deal with.

Gildor once more became Erestor's scribe as the older Elf moved away, placing his instruments back upon the small table. "No signs of sexual assault, confirmed by external examination." Erestor's voice was clinical as he moved up the body to the neck area, but became softer as he examined the victim's throat.

"Initial signs are consistent with manual strangulation. In this type of strangulation, the killer would have had to apply a tremendous amount of force, to cause this quantity of bruising around the neck." Erestor opened a drawer and withdrew a piece of wood with each inch marked off in white lines.

Gildor moved closer to the table, waving a hand at the measuring device. "Are you ready to measure the marks?" he asked.

"No, not yet. Let us first confirm that the cause of death was in fact strangulation," Erestor replied. "Tell me, Gildor, what else would indicate that cause of death?" Erestor asked, his voice inquiring.

"Well," Gildor gestured at the ruined eyes, the eyelids sagging into the empty sockets. "If the eyes were not mutilated, hemorrhaging of the eyeballs and the eye socket would be full of excess fluid." Gildor looked to Erestor tentatively and let out a relieved sigh at Erestor's nod.

Erestor moved back to his examination, but the lesson to Gildor continued. "The other signs to look for in cases such as this are the tongue being trapped between the teeth, causing bite marks and bruising of the tissue, and yes, the hemorrhages around the eyes." Erestor closed the victim's mouth and moved his gloved hands back to the neck area of the body.

"Record, Gildor," Erestor reminded his assistant, who had moved away from the scroll and quill to better observe Erestor at work. "Examination revealed bite marks in the tissue of the tongue. In addition, bruising appears on the floor of the mouth and the victim's Hyoid bone is broken," Erestor noted, pointing to the underside of the elleth's jawbone, gesturing Gildor closer so he could record and observe Erestor's next step.

"The neck area shows clear fingerprint marks. The thumb and fingertips are circular in shape." Erestor drew his wooden ruler and carefully held it next to the thumb outline in the victim's skin. "The markings are half an inch in diameter." He said, and Gildor dutifully marked all this information down.

"There is also tearing of the skin consistent with the killer's fingernails digging into the victim's skin." Erestor stepped back and wiped an arm across his damp brow. He appeared to look internally, his eyes looking at the body but appearing vague and unfocused. "It is, of course, impossible to tell, but my inductive thought is that the eyes were removed postmortem. The victim was strangled and then the eyes cut out. Yes, that is it..."

"Inductive?" Gildor has to ask, never having heard Erestor use that phrase before.

"Inductive - that is, observing particular elements of a crime and drawing larger conclusions from them," Erestor replied distractedly, his gaze drawn to the streets below, which teemed with life and vibrancy. To the citizens of Lindon, mundane matters trade and weaponry, smithing, living and loving went on.

Erestor shook his head and pulled of his gloves, tossing them on the small equipment table. "Take a short break, Gildor," he ordered before moving back to the window and staring out into the day. The storm had passed during the night, and the sunlight was bright.

Sensing Erestor's need for a few moments of solitary reflection, Gildor washed his hands at the tiny sink, then filled a heavy teakettle and set it to heat on the small stove in the lab. When the water was hot, he quietly went about making them both a strong cup of tea. The day was passing and they had not rested. Gildor knew he could use some strong spirits, but Erestor had strict rules regarding drinking during working hours.

Once the tea was brewed, he moved to Erestor's side and wordlessly handed the older Elf a cup. Gildor returned Erestor's smile of thanks with a slight one of his own. They enjoyed their beverage in comfortable silence. Finally, Erestor set his cup aside and looked to his assistant.

"Let us return to it, Gildor," he said, before moving back to the body of their victim and pulling his gloves back on.

Gildor assisted Erestor in rolling the body over. Around the buttocks was a sign Erestor had been looking for. "Livor mortis," Erestor said, indicating the area with a nod of his head. "The bruising of death. When the heart stops," he explained to Gildor. "The blood stops circulating, gravity causing it to pool to the parts of the body in contact with the ground. Or, in this case, the chair. The flesh turns a bruised color from about two hours after death, provided the body is not moved. Notice here, Gildor," Erestor pointed out the elleth's buttocks, "this coloration is fixed because the red blood cells have broken down and separated into the surrounding muscle tissue."

Erestor looked up, meeting Gildor's eyes, his gaze deadly serious. "Also, notice this intense coloration. In some cases the color can be particularly vivid, due to the presence of poisons." Erestor nodded, and he and Gildor lowered the body gently back on the table. "Let us have a look at that tea cup, Gildor."

Gildor carefully handed the cup to Erestor and wrinkled his nose. "It smells of liquor," he said.

Erestor looked into the bottom of the cup. He brought to his nose, sniffing deeply. "Look here, though," he tilted the cup for Gildor to see the bottom. "The bottom of the cup has a purplish residue in it. I cannot think of purple colored liquor, can you?" he asked Gildor.

Gildor shook his head in the negative and looked up as the door to the lab opened, revealing a tired-looking Saelbeth. Erestor put the cup back onto its parchment paper as he greeted his other assistant. "I am glad you are back, Saelbeth. We were just about to discuss what we have found so far."

Saelbeth eagerly came forward, all signs of fatigue forgotten at the prospect of learning from the master. Erestor leaned back against one of the tables and folded his arms across his chest. "There was no sign of forced entry. The door was intact, the lock unbroken. What does this say to you, young Saelbeth?" Erestor asked.

"She knew the killer?" Saelbeth replied, his tone uncertain.

"Are you asking me or telling me?" Erestor demanded, his dark eyes boring into the younger Elf's, requiring confirmation from the inexperienced Saelbeth.

"Telling you," Saelbeth stated. "She knew her killer," he repeated, his voice much more confident.

Erestor nodded in satisfaction at Saelbeth's answer. "I believe so also," he replied, beginning to pace the length of the room as he continued speaking. "The door to the room, from all reports, was left open. The killer wanted his victim found. The rooms in the servant's wing are close together, the walls thin, yet no cries for help were heard. Nor were there signs of a struggle. This leads me to the conclusion that our victim was drugged."

The speed of Erestor's pacing increased as the thoughts formed in his mind and spilled from his mouth. "The teacup has an unusual substance in the bottom of it, and from the smell, it seems to have contained some sort of liquor. This could also explain why no cries for help were heard. This idea bears further investigation, as we know from our examination of the body that no defense wounds are present. This all makes sense." Erestor stopped suddenly and rubbed a hand tiredly across his face. "If our victim was drugged, she could not call out or fight back. But what drug was used, we have no way of knowing."

Erestor paused and noticed his assistant's fatigue. "Gildor, please take Saelbeth and find something to eat, then I want both of you to rest. We will meet back here before the morning bell, understood?" Erestor asked.

Gildor wearily arched his back, eyeing Erestor closely. "Are you off to rest as well, my Lord?"

Erestor smirked at Gildor, not missing the speculative gleam in his assistant's eyes. "Yes, after I report to the King. Now both of you, out of here." He shooed them to the door, ignoring Gildor's attempts to catch his eyes once again.

Erestor closed the door and walked tiredly to a small closet in the lab. After splashing water onto his face from the bowl there, he hung up the soiled white laboratory robe and pulled a clean robe off a hook. Erestor brushed his hair out, pinning it behind each ear before setting the brush down and closing the closet door. He was now prepared to face Gil-galad.

To be continued...