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They were holding hands, fingers tangled together as if they had once been in love. I found that particularly strange given that witnesses say the two victims didn’t know each other.
The boy’s pale-skinned face had streams of dried blood running down to his neck. I noted the purple bruises covering his throat. Vines made up of sharp thorns filled the holes where his eyes had been.
The rest of his body seemed untouched. His watch was still in his pocket, meaning this was not a robbery. If it had been, he would have made the perfect victim. His bright clothes were clearly more than most could afford.
Another sign of his wealth were his hands, too smooth to have had to work for a living. Following the boys entangled hand to the girls, I saw the opposite. There were small cuts all along her hands, accompanied by dirt under his nails. She wore a thin, torn apron over a simple dress, also having a few holes itself.
At first I couldn’t see anything to have caused her death. The boy’s was so obvious, whereas the girl showed no outer cause.
I leaned down to examine her closer. I felt the wet mud beginning to seep through my trousers. I pushed the thought of how I would wash them without mother seeing out of my head.
I couldn’t see any sign of head trauma or bruising on her neck. I did, however, notice an unusual bulging in her throat.
The crack her jaw made as I forced her mouth open sent chills down my spine. For a single moment, I let my cold focus slip, getting caught up in thoughts of who she was before I got here. At one point she had been alive, living and breathing, and here I was, violating her final resting peace.
I shook my head as if to shake the thoughts out of my head. I had to focus, if not for myself, then for her, to find who ended their lives so early.
Glancing into her mouth, I could see something had been lodged in her throat. Reaching a hand in, I pinched what felt like a flower petal, soft and delicate. Gently, I pulled it out.
It was a violet flower with five petals. It looked familiar.
“The Rampion Bellflower.”
I jumped up onto my feet, one hand grabbing my hat before it could fall off and reveal my long blonde curls. The voice belonged to a tall, thin young man.
“Excuse me?” I asked, trying to regain myself.
“The flower, it’s a Rampion Bellflower. Also, in some cases, referred to as the Rapunzel flower.” He pointed a long finger at the flower cupped in the palm of my hand.
“Rapunzel? As in from the fairy tale?”
“Yes, I suppose so…” His voice trailed off as he turned his focus to the two bodies laying at our feet. I watched as his hazel eyes darted all around, soaking up every detail.
“Who are you?”
“I was sent from another city to help.” He didn’t even give me the courtesy to look at me when he spoke.
“That’s not what I asked.”
He stopped and looked at me, his eyes hard and full of unknown determination. Rolling over me, his eyes finally stopped at mine, “Ah, I understand now. You have to act tough to compensate for what you don’t have.” A deceiving smirk spread across his face as he raised an eyebrow at me.
I felt all my blood rush to my cheeks as I understood what he was saying. It only took him two seconds to discover my biggest secret. I attempted to ignore his comment, “Who are you?” My voice sounded too high for a man’s and I instantly regretted having spoke.
He sighed, “My name is Eli Williams. Do you need proof of my allowance to be here?”
I held out my hand, “If you wish to stay on this crime scene.”
He tugged a piece of paper that was tucked inside a book and handed it to me, his impatience shown clearly as he crossed his arms and tapped his foot. I took the paper only to find that it was completely blank, “Is this a joke?”
His mouth fell open, yet he was quick to regain himself. He took the paper back and looked it over multiple times, as if he squinted and turned it enough the words would fall out, “You don’t see any words on here?”
“It’s a blank paper. Clearly you shouldn’t be here.”
His previous cocky confidence began to fade once more. He pushed his dark brown hair back from this forehead with a shaky hand, “This is impossible.”
His voice was so low, I almost hadn’t heard what he said. I grabbed his arm, leading him to the crowd of onlookers.
“Please! I was sent to help, I swear.”
Every part of him was now pleading for me to let him stay, “I’m sorry, Mr. Williams.”
I handed him off to the officer handling the crowd to deal with, but I hadn’t gotten far before his voice reached my ears again, “Check between their hands!”
I turned around to see him watching me like a hawk. I wasn’t sure why he would say such a thing. What could be there?
Back at the bodies, I attempted to continue with my investigation, yet his words kept bouncing around in my head. He was just a phony trying to disrupt a crime scene, although he could be on to something. What harm could it do to check?
I reached down, feeling the lack of warmth on their skin. Taking a deep, shaky breath, I pulled each finger apart, one by one. I wasn’t sure if I would find anything, but the possibility that I might have missed something was worse than nothing at all.
As I pulled their hands apart, I gasped. There, between their hands, was a small piece of folded parchment. Quickly, I unfolded it to read:
Let down your hair”
Just as he had said before about the flower.
I looked up at the crowd, sure that my eyes were practically falling out of their sockets. Looking where I had left him, and then across the rest of the faces there, only to find he was gone.