The Pink Pearl certainly lived up to its name. Personally I prefer leather to lace, but this brothel catered to the type of person who values a veneer of respectability, even in their darker past-times. The women, and the few working boys, that I passed were all breathtakingly beautiful in that delicate, ethereal fashion. I felt like a giant striding through a shop full of fine porcelain. Even the bouncers were clean shaven and well dressed, although they all had that edge to them. Madame Glorianna is very serious about keeping order in her establishments.
I found it odd that Madame Glorianna had decided to remain outside. When I worked with her directly, we dealt with some very ugly situations and her composure had remained as steady as a troll hunter’s.
As I followed my escort, an older woman named Chloe, with platinum hair and lovely arse up the stairs, I heard a lovely voice singing an old Inuw song. I had almost forgotten the songs of our brethren on the ice. Such is the pain of exile, a disconnection from the places that made you what you are, a banishment to the present, the theft of your past.
I shook my head and followed Chloe up the stairs. Now was not the time for regrets. I died that day on the fields of Drajinskyg, and my second birth turned that honourable passing into a blemish. It was not worth thinking about. Not now, at least.
The stairs to the fourth floor were guarded by two large men. Chloe nodded to the burly pair. I could smell blood clearly now, though I doubt many others could. Not with all the competing odours from the brothel and the city. I caught a whiff of vomit as I passed.
“Its that room,” said Chloe. “I’ll answer all your questions, but I am not going back in there messir.”
“Ragnar,” I said. “I can meet you downstairs if you like. I’m sure one of your lads can direct me to you.”
She smiled quickly, relieved, and fled down the stairs.
The smell of blood was heady, mixed with stale fear sweat and rage. I have to say I was excited. I strode to the door and pushed it open, careful not to touch any surface that might still have print or scent.
The first thing I saw was the man. A Nordan, one of my people. Enormous, this one had giant blood somewhere in his family line. Sea Wolf by his tattoo. Long hair the colour of wheat at harvest time. He was dismembered. His hands and feet had been hacked off. The fingers were gone from the hands. The genitals were a mess of cuts and stab wounds. The blood pooled neatly around him. His clothes and weapons lay neatly to one side.
I was so engrossed in my dead countrymen and all the possibilities I saw within that I nearly missed the woman. She too was naked, bound to a chair, although that may have been the client’s doing. She had struggled against her bonds. She’d been raped, of course. Her eyes and tongue had been cut out and then her heart had been opened with a precise thrust with a long thin-bladed knife.
I chuckled. This was obviously a jealous lover. Some men became attached to women that they bought, a chemical reaction that they foolishly confused with real bonding. He had slipped into the room while the pair were sleeping. The assailant had used magic or, more likely, some kind of potent alchemy to paralyze the giant. Then our mystery killer had tortured the man to death, in front of the woman, while he was helpless from the drug. Thus the blood had pooled so neatly and my countryman had died without a struggle; I hoped his deeds were already enough to merit the high halls. The fact that the Nordan had merited this kind of attention meant that he must have been seen a competitor for the woman’s affections.
The rape had been frantic. The killer had not achieved satisfaction, possibly even felt guilt or regret. He’d put out her eyes and tongue because of guilt and spite and finished it quickly even though he’d planned a far slower end in his dreams. His sickness underlay everything in the room. I licked my lips.
Wolves in the wild weed out the sick and unworthy. I think that this is noble.
The killer was skilled. He had planned this attack meticulously, but his preparations and stone cold facade had frayed when it came to the woman. Perhaps she’d mocked him in the end. Smart girl if she did. I suspect that our friend would have had something truly grim in mind for the woman who ‘betrayed’ him.
I looked around the room. The clan would come for the weapons. Sea Wolves range far afield and their kin are numerous. I would have to explain to Madame Glorianna how to handle my people. The last thing we needed was a raid on the Pink Pearl. I checked the walls and windows, then sniffed the bodies, trying to identify the paralyzing agent. I picked up a peculiar scent and set it to memory.
I went and saw Chloe afterwards. She did not like talking about the death. The woman, known as Sapphire, was one of her star attractions. The Nordan was one of her ‘regulars’ meeting at his regular time. The girls in the rooms on either side hadn’t heard anything unusual. It was the silence that had alerted them in the end; Sapphire and her Nordan lover were very enthusiastic usually. The windows were barred. I asked about Sapphire’s other regulars, but Chloe said that she could not divulge this information. That answer struck me as odd.
“So her other man was an assassin?” I asked. Chloe looked away.
I laughed. Sick prey indeed.