Cedric did not spend nearly as long in the hut as his uncle had.  Less than thirty seconds later, he emerged, looking a bit faint.

"Are you alright, Cedric?"

The merboy nodded, clearly not trusting himself to open his mouth.  De Winter shrugged disbelievingly but made no further comment on the matter.  Instead, he disappeared into the hut once more to gather evidence, leaving his nephew swaying slightly in the yard.

Fern could stand it no longer.  She must find a way to see inside.  On silent feet, she slipped from behind the outbuilding and crept around to the back of the hut.  There was a small, squarish window situated there, just above the level of her head.  Standing on tiptoes, she made an effort to look in, but she could not see anything but the inside of the roof.  That wouldn't do.  She glanced from side to side, scanning the ground for any object that could increase her elevation, and quickly settling upon a broken crate.  She lifted it and relocated it to just beneath the window before stepping carefully on top of it.

The hut was dimly lit inside, two patches of sunlight pooling on the ground--a large rectangle from the doorway and a smaller one from the window.  Fern became aware that the shadow of her head was cast upon the floor, so she shifted her position so that it was less obvious before looking more closely.  She could see Seymour de Winter, standing with his back to her and his posture pensive, near the center of the hut.  He was staring down at something, studying it, but it took Fern a few moments to realize that the object was a disembodied human hand, its fingers frozen in stiff claws of terror.  It rested amidst a dark stain of blood in the dirt.  On the detective's left side, there sat a woman's head, torn off gruesomely at the neck, which presumably had belonged to the same person as the hand had.  There did not seem to be, however, anything else left of the victim, for there was no body present, nor any other body parts insofar as Fern could see.  She could understand why the merboy might have taken ill at the sight.

"I know you're there, little thief," muttered de Winter without turning around.  "I do believe your spice-cart aroma has intensified."

The End

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