The blood had all but washed from the cobblestones when he arrived on Overcliff Street. His fellow officers, currently scowling at the evening crowd and keeping any of the too curious from the alley mouth, let him pass with only a glance.
Cole sighed when the metallic scent filled his nose. The rain and the city didn’t cover the sharp scent. He stopped a few steps from the body. Red covered her abdomen, from the laces of her bodice to the swell of her skirts. Her eyes were still open, light brown hair falling about her face. At least she wasn’t a Westwood, Cole thought and promptly felt guilty about it.
Cole looked over his shoulder to nod at Hamish. “Who found her?”
The older man took a step so he was at Cole’s shoulder and frowned down at the corpse. “No one found her, a dockworker saw it happen. The murderer was cloaked and cowled, pulled the girl into the alley way. It wasn’t until she screeched some nonsense that he ran.” He paused and glanced back at the slowly forming crowd. “Not that it did her much good. The belly wound got her quick by my measure.”
Cole gave Hamish a brief scowl but looked again to the red spread over the pale dress. “Did anyone pursue?”
“He tried to help the girl. By the time they looked for the man… gone. Wouldn’t stick around if I was him.”
“Shouted nonsense?” Cole asked and bent to a knee. Small pieces of something were floating in the puddles of bloodied rainwater. Cole picked up one and crushed it between his fingers. The scent of lavender filled his nose.
“That’s what the dockworker said. You think she wasn’t quite all right?” Hamish tapped his temple.
“Her attacker ran, but not into the street.” Cole snapped his eyes to the shadows waiting down the alley. Hamish sighed, not pleased the younger detective was ignoring him. Cole stood and stepped over the corpse. “I’ll meet you at the morgue.” Cole said and started walking.
“Your brother’ll skin me if you get hurt.” Hamish called after him but the young lord was already half way around the first corner.
The narrow alley walls almost touched both his shoulders as Cole moved into an easy lope, if he was right he wouldn’t have far to go, and his instincts rarely failed him. He’d only turned the third corner when the sound of someone hacking stopped him.
Up ahead a figure sagged against the alley, trying desperately to prop themselves up against a pile of refuse. Wet choking wracked the man’s body. As Cole stepped closer the man groaned and bent, vomiting metallic smelling liquid onto the cobblestones.
“I’d heard death curses were unpleasant… ” Cole commented as he shouldered the man into the wall. The man was a head shorter than Cole, and even if he hadn’t been weak and shaking, Cole wouldn’t have possessed any difficulty holding him still.
“You don’t-“ The man coughed. “She was a monster.” He was almost intelligible, purple bruises and leaking sores covered his mouth and his neck was swollen. Cole didn’t know what the witch had done, but it looked like the man was dying from a dozen illnesses at once.
Cole shook his head. “I don’t care. Who are you working with?” They needed to find the rest of them, before something like this or the kidnappings occurred again.
“You don’t care?” The man coughed again, black blood over his teeth. “She’s a witch, monsters, all over the city.”
Cole snarled a little and shook the man. “You’re dying. Your road ends here. Tell me!”
The man looked at him then, clarity coming to his pain filled eyes. He glared at Cole with hate even as his shuddering breaths turned to gasps. “Monsters. Monsters, all of you.” He wheezed. The man choked, his eyes going wide and then freezing. Cole swore and let the corpse drop.
The man was dead, but Cole had his scent now. With some luck they would find the rest of them.