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[right [pic https://i.pinimg.com/564x/83/42/20/834220263a9142a6ccdf458ae2b02124.jpg]] [font "Times" [size15 Dr. Crane stood there, watching the shrinking form of Mrs. McConnell disappear into the brush. He looked to the tree again, seeing the scrawling, scrabbling scratches reaching up the trunk, craning his neck a bit to see up. It hadn't gone very far.
He glanced in the direction she left in, and unbuttoned his coat. Setting it aside, he paced back, took a running start and pushed himself up off the ground, against the trunk and up into the tree's shift from trunk to limbs. There was a hollow there he could take hold of, pulling himself up and crouched, balancing. There he spotted the limb.
Staying low, he moved, balancing on it and looked along the thick arm of the arbor. He crept forwards, seeing the scratches on the top and sides of the branch. He put a hand out, spreading his fingers. This paw was huge. Larger than a man's.
He sighed softly, feeling something solidify in his hypothesis. But. If he made a wrong assessment... From there he looked down at the impact on the ground, seeing the bits of flesh, the tufts of dark fur. He thought back to the slaughtered livestock... But here... his eyes moved to the gobbets of flesh.
He dropped down from the tree, then, and onto the ground easily from that height. There he approached one mass of flesh. He picked it up, turning it over in his hands. An organ. He picked a bit at its details, seeing it certainly separate from its owner, just over yonder a ways... But uneaten. Nothing on this body was eaten. Just... he glanced around... but not all of the organs were here. He had no way of knowing if it was scavengers in the night. What was scavengers, what was a predator... the body had been here overnight. He had no way of knowing until he cleaned it and looked closer.
"[#00CCFF Strange...]" he mused, looking back over toward the constable who was approaching him. Behind him was a blond man, smaller, with bright green eyes that were on Nathan's. His assistant, keeping pace beside the larger, bearded constable.
The man looked over the scene with a frown. "[i So, was it a beast?]" His eyes moved from the organ in the doctor's hands back to him.
The doctor hummed. "[#00CCFF Based on the livestock deaths, and how numerous... I want to suspect...]" he glanced back at the tree. "[#00CCFF But I cannot be sure yet.]"
"[+lightgreen This is the first human death,]" Armand mused. Nathan nodded. "[+lightgreen Does this mean it's a new one? Is it escalating?]"
The constable looked between the two of them, "[i It was a bear, most likely. Or a big cat, judging by that tree, and the gaping hole in the man's throat. Bitten purposefully.]"
The doctor's brow furrowed, "[#00CCFF What's strange is... there are no scratches on the body. None at all.]"
"[i Well, we have to tell the people [i something]. I need you to be [i certain] it's one of those beasts, or it's a natural predator.]"
The doctor's face twitched, feeling doubt lodge in him. He hummed a bit, reaching for syllables that turned into an absent stammer. "[#00CCFF Nothing's been [i eaten],]" he repeated aloud.
"[i Eaten,]" the constable responded. "[i Disgusting...]"
Nathan's eyes arose to the man, blinking a moment. The smell of blood was thick around him. It had soaked into the ground. It was in the dirt. Exsanguinated. He exhaled carefully. "[#00CCFF We will take the body now. And I will take these remains.]"
Later, the doctor exhaled on the night's air, seeing it empty before him. His head tipped to one side to the other as he thought over earlier. The body lay in Armand's hands for the time being... His eyes dulled. It had been some time since he had done this. Perhaps it wasn't wise to involve himself in the town's dramas more than he was entrenched already. Funerals. Medicine. Lives. Deaths. So many deaths.
[font "Georgia" [size14
[tab ] Scar nodded slightly, more to herself than to him by any means, and glancing to the sky, trying mentally to track how much time had passed from the last time she'd glanced to the sun's position there. A part of her recognized that she'd likely open the route to more information later if she did not push so much now to find out what was happening here. She just barely shook her head, as though to clear it, and looked directly to Nathan once more, having decided.
[tab ] [b [+seagreen "I believe that you are correct in that statement. Perhaps it would be best if I left you to do your work-- I've taken up more than enough of your time today sticking my nose in places it shouldn't be. "]] She said, speaking with a more even tone than perhaps betrayed before-- and offering a small curtsy. [b [+seagreen "Perhaps I will see you again soon."]] She offered as a last note, and beginning to head back in the direction she had set the long forgotten basket.
[right [pic https://i.pinimg.com/564x/83/42/20/834220263a9142a6ccdf458ae2b02124.jpg]] [font "Times" [size15 He had the distinct feeling that he had made a faux pas somehow, feeling his stomach tighten a bit as the woman continued to back from her. Nathaniel wondered if his suspicions were coming on too aggressively for the woman, remembering himself for a moment as a gentleman that was at one point in his life of breeding.
"[#00CCFF I apologize if I startled you.]"
The doctor blinked, surprised by the woman turning the invitation back on him. Initially his head tipped, blinking. Beyond that, he was shocked at the invitation to dinner at all. Nathaniel wasn't often someone who got invited places, any longer, not since he separated from the Hackett family. It had given him quite the hit on his reputation after all of that.
She wasn't peculiar to him, with the people he had grown up with. It occurred to him that Anna, Matthew, Winifred and all of them weren't, the longer he was away, what people would call normal, and at times even respectable. At one point it would have brought him a bit of pride to have been considered such. It made him ache to think about now, and the man found himself dropping his eyes, bewildered at the strength of it.
He swallowed, brows pressing, and brought his gaze back up to Mrs. McConnell. "[#00CCFF I believe you'll find plenty interesting here,]" he said, finding the word a bit vague, feeling a bit of an understatement even. This was not his first case like this in recent times. It seemed his life had a habit of spiraling like this into more and more unrest. But what could he expect anymore? "[#00CCFF Unfortunately, there is still the matter of the manner of death, and I'd like to get back to assessing that, if you would.]"
"[#00CCFF I- thank you for your invitation,]" he responded, remembering himself and shaking out of his thoughts a bit, inclining his head to her.
[font "Georgia" [size14
[tab ] [b [+seagreen "I'll be sure to reach out if I find myself needing help processing, thank you."]] Scar said shifting her weight a bit and glancing back in the direction of the scene around them. [b [+seagreen "And for the most part, my husband and I have been planning, organizing, he's waiting on some deliveries and sorting out the types of things he'd like to make. And as for what we were doing last night? We were at home, discussing, planning out our lives together here. We made dinner together and touched base with how we're dealing with the move."]]
She knew she shouldn't be here. She didn't have an excuse other than her own curiosity. [b [+seagreen "I was told to go home, and I don't like to waste the day. I know that I'm not trying my best to make friends here, but at times it just feels like that's not a possibility, and to be completely transparent I was curious to know that something-- anything, was interesting here. If-- if you ever want to discuss..."]] she trailed off slightly, not certain where she was going with her thoughts. [b [+seagreen "You should come call on us, I think my husband would enjoy meeting you."]]
[right [pic https://i.pinimg.com/564x/83/42/20/834220263a9142a6ccdf458ae2b02124.jpg]] [font "Times" [size15 New in town. No history. New prospects.
"[#00CCFF Is he having a hard time gathering the funds or breaking ground?]" he asked, tipping his head.
She didn't know him, so she felt no remorse, and was numb in this moment, be that from shock or a lack of empathy he would need to gether more information is what he gathered from that. It wasn't something he was unfamiliar with, per se, however that equipped him with the ability to recognize it in others.
"[#00CCFF I see...]" he responded, shifting a step closer to the woman and her proximity to the scene of the actual kill. Nathan was positive on that, based on the evidence he could see. What was strange was her ability to manage to stumble upon the crime scene itself so soon, before he had gotten to it. "[#00CCFF Well, let me know if I can help you process any of that should you need it.]" the man invited.
And she didn't know this man, or claimed not to, so she wouldn't know anything about the man's whereabouts. Nathan hadn't mentioned it, but he was positive that this was a creature. And he had yet to gauge the town's ability to comprehend that, as yet, so he hadn't mentioned his belief in foul play. There was a lycanthrope amongst this flock.
"[#00CCFF Being new in town,]" he continued, inclining his head to her again, "[#00CCFF I bet you and your husband are busy setting up your homestead. What all were the two of you up to last night?]"
He frowned a bit, wondering if she was deflecting away from herself about this note about not being welcome. Turning his attention to the other women of the town. "[#00CCFF So you were simply following your instincts,]" he summarized, brow quirking a bit. "[#00CCFF and that drew you towards this area?]"
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[tab ] Scar considered the doctors words and demeanor for a brief moment, searching for quite the right words to explain her thoughts, though still wary she had already said more than what would be considered polite. [b [+seagreen "My husband has taken on a shopfront property in town with the intentions of outfitting it as a bakery or some similar form of establishment, though I belive he is still in the midst of preparing the foundations for his work."]] She offered to her surprise conversational companion's first question. That one was perhaps the easiest to answer.
[tab ] [b [+seagreen "As for a lack of trepidation... I think I simply find it altogether too easy to put the thoughts of that man as what he once was, rather than what he is now. I never personally met him, if I do remember correctly, and altogether that assists in the strange process of being able to separate myself, my emotions, from the horror of the true situation in the current moment, and becoming overwhelmed by it. Though, in truth, I wouldn't be surprised if I found myself in mourning or fear for others in his situation after some time spent alone with my thoughts."]] Was the basket even still worth it at this point?
[tab ] She looked up again to meet his seemingly contemplative eyes briefly as he asked his last question. [b [+seagreen "It gets so easy to fall into the security of a routine. A small town, like this one. And if we never venture outside of our home towns, the world is altogether so much smaller than it could be if we let ourselves explore. There is something terribly drawing about a posting warning one away from an area-- fear seems natural. But so does curiosity. I'm not certain I can properly judge their balance of fear to curiosity, but I know that I, and my siblings, have always taken issue with letting curiosity overwhelm our fears, and allow us to gain a foolish bravery simply for the prospect of something new."]]
[right [pic https://i.pinimg.com/564x/83/42/20/834220263a9142a6ccdf458ae2b02124.jpg]] [font "Times" [size15 The doctor stood by, watching as she shifted uncomfortably. A part of him didn't like making someone so uncomfortable, especially when aside from her armed attempt to scare him off with a large branch she had been relatively cordial with him. Not everyone in this town was such a thing. It was a small town, and he was a stranger to it. And his position, straddling the line between doctor and mortician didn't make people comfortable. He wasn't a man of god and made little pretense about it.
"[#00CCFF I don't believe I've had the pleasure of acquainting myself with you and your husband as of yet. I myself am new to the town,]" he explained, inclining his head. "[#00CCFF What does your husband do?]"
The doctor nodded partially with a lift of his shoulders, "[#00CCFF Perhaps eventually, for now I wonder at your lack of- trepidation in the face of the place that a man met a grisly end.]"
He didn't stop her when she started edging away from him, his brows arching a bit at her comment about not being liked. It wasn't as if he couldn't comiserate but he wondered, again, at her eagerness once he got down to it to leave.
"[#00CCFF The realities of life,]" he repeated, interest in his tone as he brushed his hair over his shoulder. "[#00CCFF How do you mean?]"
[font "Georgia" [size14
[tab ] [b [+seagreen "A bit of a walk from here particularly, but in the general area of this, yes."]] Scar replied politely, glancing over the area as Nathan did as well, wondering what he was seeing that she had yet to notice. Her eyes looked over the area.
[tab ] [b [+seagreen "I suspect that I am going to be shooed from here as well."]] She remarked, more to herself than to the other man, and sighed slightly-- not so much from frustration but more as a function to release energy, before remembering her basket. [b [+seagreen "I left the basket of sandwiches that I brought up closer to the path, I should probably best retrieve it before animals get into them."]] Scar stated, giving the both of them an out to further conversation. [b [+seagreen "I am afraid the ladies of this settlement have not taken to me, much less to the realities of life outside of their homes."]]
[tab ] She picked up part of her skirt and shifted herself a bit, as though announcing her intentions to return to her basket in the very least.
[right [pic https://i.pinimg.com/564x/83/42/20/834220263a9142a6ccdf458ae2b02124.jpg]] [font "Times" [size15 Nathan's head tipped a bit. Only a month ago, interesting. Very new to the community, and oddly in line with these attacks. He could feel his thoughts spinning into darkened, suspicious corners as he politely averted his eyes from the lady so as not to let on about his suspicions. But his eyes flickered back to the lady when she mentioned her blood-averted husband. Nathan knew how he managed his own inclinations, and it translated as a blood aversion...
He came nearer, keeping his hands folded behind himself, the picture of quaint curiosity, and hummed absently to acknowledge that the woman was speaking, his eyes moving over the spot. It wasn't as if it were a crater, but Nathan could smell the blood in the air here. His gaze moved over the area, and saw the bits, saw a tear of clothing caught on a tree shoot.
He straightened, giving her his attention when she introduced herself. "[#00CCFF I am Dr. Nathaniel Crane, it- is a pleasure.]" he found himself hesitating on the pleasantry, but said it anyways. He, too, was new to the area, though a might more seasoned than Mrs. McConnell and her husband.
"[#00CCFF Did you say you lived near here, Mrs. McConnell?]"
[font "Georgia" [size14
[tab ] [b [+seagreen "Well,"]] Scar started, thinking over the past few months since they had moved into this town. [b [+seagreen "We only moved here hardly a month ago. But it seems to be they've happened a couple of times over two weeks."]] She explained, thinking back on it.
[tab ] [b [+seagreen "It's been a handful of my chickens, and the neighbor's sheep are the ones that I've seen. Jayder nearly fainted when he saw that, I'm quite glad that he's still in town. He's never been fond of blood."]] Her teeth bit into the side of her cheek a bit as she stood thinking, trying to remember anything even vaugely helpful. [b [+seagreen "Reminded me a bit of when one of dad's dogs went a bit off and got a hold of one of the geese visiting the pond. Lots of blood, no purpose to it..."]]
[tab ] Scar shifted herself a bit, looking to her branch and trying to let it sit at her side in a less-- intimidating? Sort of manner. [b [+seagreen "How rude of me. I haven't even introduced myself. Scarletta McConnell."]] She introduced, nodding her head to the stranger.
[right [pic https://i.pinimg.com/564x/83/42/20/834220263a9142a6ccdf458ae2b02124.jpg]] [font "Times" [size15 Nathan's eyes didn't leave her, flickering over to take in her body language. He could taste her pulse in his mouth, swallowing it. Nervous, yes, but had the distinct lack of panic in it. She wasn't thrumming with terror, perhaps considering that she was willing to use that branch in her hands. She hadn't relinquished what he was assuming was an improvised weapon, so she was ready to fight him.
He inclined his head towards her, "[#00CCFF Naturally,]" was the response. Nathan had a strong feeling she was playing amateur sleuth, cosnidering she had been at the edge of the scene, barred only by the constable's arms keeping her and hers away from the body.
The doctor took her removal of attention from him as an invitation to step away from his improvised safe distance, by the tree. Considering she released her branch to gesture around, she wasn't about to strike at him with it. His eyes moved back to what had drawn his attention in the first place; the pale, long, deep scratches of something that had climbed the tree. There was something about the wideness of the toes that was prickling at the back of his mind. Large. Too large for any of the wild cat species local to this area, and too articulate for a canid. Rather, a naturally occurring canid, or feline.
"[#00CCFF What was the frequency of the attacks* on your animals?]" Nathan enquired, glancing over to her. He had put his coat back on to follow the trail, not knowing how long or how far it would lead him. And so the man stood; tall, angular, and all in black before her. A lock of hair fell over his ear, escaped from the low ribbon at the back of his head, pale face framed by high, bound collar, and raven hair.
He stepped closer, arms folded behind himself.
[size10 *it's been a couple times per two weeks, the attacks, within these past month or so]
[font "Georgia" [size14
[tab ] Scarletta's eyes widened as she saw the strange man that had been at the place the body had been found, and let her branch drop partially, though still keeping a good hold of it. He was much different than the others around the town that she had met so far, quieter and a bit out of the ordinary in demeanor. He did not speak, but rather took in the scene that she was standing in front of in an almost appraising manner.
[tab ] Which did make sense, really, given that the man seemed to be working with the police. When his eyes eventually came back to meet her she could see the very question they were asking without uttering a word. [i Aren't you not supposed to be here?]
[tab ] It seemed, more often than not, that Scar had a particularly bad habit of showing up places where she wasn't wanted, though this particular scenario was much a first for her. [b [+seagreen "I was walking back towards my home, as I live not far from here."]] She said answering the question. She turned and glanced around at the scene before her. [b [+seagreen "It must be where it happened. Its the very same that's happened with a handful of our chickens and our neighbors sheep. Though they were not moved."]]
[tab ] [b [+seagreen "Now I know animals get big. I've heard tales of moose and seen pigs raised for slaughter. But what type of animal does this--"]] Scar pointed at the marks along the trees-- [b [+seagreen "I have never heard tell of."]]
[right [pic https://i.pinimg.com/564x/83/42/20/834220263a9142a6ccdf458ae2b02124.jpg]] [font "Times" [size15 Nathaniel kept moving, trying to move with the forest as best he could while keeping a vague direction in mind, an objective. If you tried to move in a straight line in a forest, it got hard. You started fighting the forest itself, as if every branch and rock and root were deliberately moved into your path. But, if you let it move you, instead, and took a wending trajectory, things were easier.
And he needn't move exactly with just his eyes, as the scent of blood kept him in direction. And as it thickened, he knew he was going the proper direction. The next part of the investigation was going to have to see what was scavengers, and what was potentially something else. The idea that it was something else was because he had seen the size of the bite on the throat. It was larger than any predator around these areas. Bears were but myth about these parts, and big cats didn't get anywhere near that size, nor wolves. So, that led him to believe in something else in these parts. But he had to be certain.
And as he came closer he recognized the shape of a person, hesitating initially. He stopped cold as he came around the tree trunk and saw a woman wielding a tree limb at him.
The man's head cocked to the side as he regarded her, hair falling over his shoulder, blinking slowly. He had seen her when he had come to the scene and she had been dismissed. Wariness held his body still as he gazed at her standing over what looked like an impact spot. There were branches broken and leaves disturbed from the area all along the basin of the area the woman stood in. His eyes glanced just behind her, seeing long, naked streaks across the tree's trunk. It wasn't their length that caught his eye, it was their contrast against the dark bark.
His eyes moved up, Nathan having not moved from his position, hands still steadied against the tree trunk he was standing beside. And, above the impact area, there were longer marks along the large limb above her. Startling blue eyes turned back to her, against a pale face. He stood up from the tree and came to the edge of the area, glancing around at the varying gobbets of flesh. His eyes were interested, focused with a certain intensity on the pieces and ribbons that were left here.
He hummed, returning his gaze to Scarlett. His gaze asked if she hadn't been asked to go home just earlier? But they slid away from her again, down, away.
[font "Georgia" [size14
[tab ] Scar continued on her walk through the woods, keeping a fresh eye for any amount of deep browned red among the foliage and the path. [i Maybe this is foolish, even for me. What do I even expect to do upon finding something, any how?] She sucked her lips against her teeth, grimacing deep in her own thoughts and preparing to veer back towards her own property when she caught sight of that splash of red she was looking for.
[tab ] As her eyes followed the dark spill of red off the slightly more traversed area, she took in a breath and set down her basket off to one side before heading forward. She found a large branch that had fallen to the ground and picked it up instinctively, on the off chance she would need a weapon. With each step forward the tang of metal filled her nose, until she found the remnants of the... incident. Beneath a tree and mingled with the fallen leaves of the previous season was the blood, the innards of the man-- honestly, that more than anything she could've seen from the body told her of the horror of the attack-- and reminded her even more of how the chicken she had found had looked that way-- why would something have take the insides and left the shell.
[tab ] An animal wouldn't leave behind its meal, unless perhaps it were rabid. But no man would do this in this fashion....
[tab ] Scar remained solemn as she looked over the different... leftovers... trying to determine anything that could possibly give a reason-- a clue. Was everything there? She wasn't certain what all went inside of a person, there were heart, lungs, and stomach, yes, but she wasn't a surgeon. What was in chickens? Surely they were moderately similar, right?
[tab ] The crack of a branch from behind her caused her instincts to jump into action as she turned, wielding her own branch and prepared to strike if necessary.
[font "Times" [size15 Nathaniel's eyes moved over the scene as he returned to it. It was clean. That was the scary part. Even blood soaked into the earth collected in a pasty stain on fallen leaves and undergrowth and made it dark. Here, there was nothing. That meant the body had been moved. Blood had pooled inside the body cavity, alongside other fluids. The warmth of the day had done nothing for the aroma of the body, either. What he saw as the small intestine was leaking something dark into mingle with what blood was left in the body cavity.
The physician exhaled softly and looked at the neck. Bent at an angle that was all wrong and throat gone. Missing. Bone gleamed in the sun filtering down to the floor. But it wasn't torn. The bite was deep, gruesome. But careful. He leaned closer. It looked very purposeful. Perhaps to silence the victim? Was that why the body was moved?
Blood. Nathan swallowed, eyes raising towards the forest again as the smell washed over him again. Trees. Green. Life. Blood. Refreshing.
He stopped, blinking. There was a smear on the bark of a tree. There. He stood, coming over to it.
"[i Doctor Crane, tell me something,]" the constable said, following him.
Nathan glanced back at him, pulled from his thoughts. Good. He needed to focus. He looked back at the tree, "[#00CCFF The body was moved.]"
[right [pic https://i.pinimg.com/564x/83/42/20/834220263a9142a6ccdf458ae2b02124.jpg]] And as such was evident to Scarletta as she finally found her mark. Rather literally, there was a big disturbance in the fallen leaves of the previous season, piled in the hollow as they were. And that dark stain was smeared across them. From underneath a rather sizable tree, there were scratches on one of the limbs above, and blood spattered across the dark bark. The litter underneath.
The doctor kept moving, leaving the constable behind, who watched over the body, reluctant to leave him. He glanced back only briefly to judge the distance between where the body lay and where he stood now, next to the first evidence, for a moment. Their brief eye contact spoke of his investigation. He would be back.
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