First, he returned to MacAskell’s barn. A doctor from a nearby village had been summoned to conduct an autopsy, and Seymour desired to know the results. The doctor met him at the barn door.
“I set aside his clothing for you as you asked.”
“Thank you. I shall inspect it shortly. Have you determined a cause of death?”
The doctor shook his head. “There are no wounds upon him aside from that on his side, which seems to have been inflicted after death, by an animal of some sort.”
Seymour frowned. “Indeed. Could this have obscured a preexisting injury?”
“What do you mean?”
“Say there was a stab wound in that precise location and the animal was drawn by the smell of blood. Could it have, shall we say, eaten away the evidence?”
“Possibly, but that really is not my area of expertise.”
“Of course. My apologies.” He entered the barn, approached the stack of clothing that lay folded upon a shelf and emptied all of the pockets. He found a few scraps of parchment, a button, a box of flint and tinder, and a small glass vial filled with a clear, colorless liquid. It was leaking about the rim, and a few drops fell upon his palm as he lifted it to study it. He sniffed his hand where the liquid had fallen. It had no odor.
He felt as if the vial could be of import, but he could make nothing of it at the moment. He needed time to think.
“Perhaps. But I…”
The barn door swung wide open, casting sunlight throughout the barn, and a tall, severe woman entered. “Good afternoon,” she addressed them. “My name is Alice Ambers. Mr. MacAskell told me I could find you here.” She turned to Seymour specifically. “My daughter says that she found you loitering about my fence, and I would like to know what you have to say for yourself, merman.”
He smiled, exposing his sharp teeth. “Ah, yes, I was just planning on setting out to speak with you myself, Ms. Ambers. My name is Seymour de Winter, and I am a detective, currently investigating the strange circumstances of the death of one Mr. Harold Roberts, hog farmer, whose corpse was found buried this morning in Mr. MacAskell’s barnyard.”
She seemed to be at a loss for words for a moment. “But why should that bring you to my farm? Have you lurked about the fences of all of the neighbors?”
“A woman was seen leaving Mr. MacAskell’s property over your fence.”
“That wouldn’t have been me or my daughter, in case you are wondering.”
“You seem a tad defensive, Ms. Ambers. I never accused you.”
“Well, what am I to say? You seemed to be on the verge of it. I may not like Mr. Roberts, but I did nothing to harm him.”
Seymour shrugged. “That remains to be seen.”
She stormed off. The doctor looked to her receding figure, to Seymour, and back again. “Do you think she killed him?”
“I think she was involved, but—” he stopped suddenly and blanched.
“What is wrong?”
Seymour lifted his hand and gazed at his palm with an expression of horror. “Mother of Rezyn! I am a complete idiot.”
The skin on his hand had turned an awful shade of yellow where the strange liquid had made contact, and his entire right arm was beginning to go numb. He felt faint and nauseous. He was beginning to shake.
“Stupid,” he snarled to himself. “How could I be so stupid?”
With that, he fell, unconscious, to the floor.