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Whatever the reason, I thirsted like a walking corpse staggering aimlessly about the dunes. I couldn’t say no when someone guided me to a spring, not even if the squished remains of scorpion tails littered the floor, their venom a cloud thick enough to see.

Samples from Salain’s Case Journals

37-2 y. 4206

Hafarra Retoro & Leo Retoro – Double homicide today. Thought it was going to be a fun one. Ha.

First body was a young woman. She’d been shot once through the heart. One of the cleanest deaths I’ve dealt with so far, though the bullet lodged in the back of her ribcage. Hemorrhaging on her back with lividity and rigor consistent where she’d fallen. No surprises.

Second body was found in the next room. Middle-aged man with seven bullet wounds to his face, torso and arm. Four went through, but I dug out a bullet from his jaw and another two from his chest. He also had multiple stab wounds to his face and neck consistent with a small eating knife found at the scene. A lot of force—the detectives said fury—went into those blows. Victim tried to fight even after being shot, as evidenced by the torn and bloody clothing clutched in his fists and the intriguing amount of skin lodged under his nails.

Plenty of witnesses, plenty of evidence. Detectives didn’t have to detect much to crack this one. Boring case. So, so boring.

09-3 y. 4206

Mona Toreono – Today gave me a truly interesting homicide. Woman had been a singer for a lot of local places. Worked within a small group that call themselves the Musician’s Guild though they don’t quite have enough influence to enforce decent wages, or so I’ve been informed.

She was found spread out on a small outdoor stage in the courtyard of a local lounge. She’d been gagged and tied and raped multiple times. No witnesses because the lounge had been shut down for the night and nobody heard a thing because a light sandstorm had been screaming its way through the streets.

All around the body someone had set out the instruments belonging to the lounge musicians—they’re on the top of the detectives’ list right now. I found traces of vaginal fluid on every single one of those instruments. And her vaginal walls had been scratched up pretty badly. Still matching everything up and trying to put together a timeline.

She’d been alive most of the night. A lot of bruising and fractures, most of it antemortem and partway or all the way healed. She also had a number of scars, mostly along her torso and upper thighs. I’m still in the progress of documenting each and every one of those wounds, but I think it’s safe to guess that she’d been abused for a while before now. Possibly years.

When I mentioned this to the detectives, they said that Toreono had lived alone, that none of her neighbors remembered seeing anyone coming or going from her flat. They’re looking into whether she commonly visited some friend or family who might have been responsible, as well as investigating the Musician’s Guild a little closer.

I think my favorite part of this case was that all those instruments had been set out around her purposefully after being used to molest her. Not a single one had been thrown or shoved aside. Each one placed carefully, even the strings realigned if they’d been coming loose. I swear the pattern there means something, but I haven’t figured it out yet.

31-5 y. 4206

Massini Verona – A well house mystery today. Man was found in the back of a well house with both wrists deeply cut. Someone had shoved his body inside an empty crate so he hadn’t been found until he’d started to rot and the flies had joined him. Thought it a case of suicide at first and that the recent heat wave had kept his arteries open enough for him to bleed out.

Yet, during the autopsy, I found he’d had some bleeding in his brain. Seems as if Verona had died of a stroke. Based on the scarring in his brain, I suspected he’d dealt with problems prior to his death. The detectives wanted to know if him cutting his wrists may have brought on the stroke, though I’m pretty sure the two were technically unrelated. Most likely it’d been a coincidence—Verona cut his wrists in an attempt to end his own life, became frustrated and stressed when it wasn’t working, and then the combination of the previous head injuries, stress and pain triggered a blood vessel rupture in his brain.

Whoever found him first and swiped his possessions had likely shoved him in that crate as well. At least, that’s my deduction. I’ll leave it to the detectives to figure it out for sure.

44-5 y. 4206

Chava Kalotti – Asphyxiation death, found in the kitchen of The Floating Palace. Dana talking about their hot bean salad made me hungry—we’ve already made a plan to eat there after they reopen. Technically it was Dana’s case, but I helped her on the autopsy. Man was strangled by his own waterskin cord. Brutally. Lots of perimortem bruising and he’d had his larynx crushed, which wasn’t a surprise.

What was a surprise was his lack of defensive wounds. According to Dana and the detectives, the kitchen had been mostly immaculate as well, no true signs of a violent scuffle. Kalotti had a needle mark on his neck and ecorock in his system, which Dana assumes is the reason he hadn’t put up much of a fight. Given the fact that he likely wasn’t a heavy user, since there was a lack of marks along his arms, the amount of ecorock in his system had been enough to make him drop.

His last meal had been a bunch of dried pasta cakes. Typical breakfast. Nothing strange there. But he also had some inflammation in his digestive track that was likely from some sort of constant abuse or inconsistent diet. Probably unimportant.

We didn’t find much else of any note. I heard both Arman and Jevette postulating that it could be a hit done by someone experienced. Aaaand then in the next breath they were talking about how it could be one of his friends confronting him about a debt who just used whatever was on hand to kill him. Hurts my brain to think about.

So I told them what Kalotti had had for breakfast and that he had old, dried goat shit on his boots and moved on to a different case. Doubt this one will keep their attention for long, not since they found out Kalotti had vague ties to the Nattali gang. I watched the care just fade from both of them.

1-6 y. 4206

Mona Toreono (Follow-up) – The instruments were placed into the shape of a vagina. A blazing vagina. No wonder I couldn’t figure it out. Erado actually solved that mystery for me—guess he’s seen enough of them to know.

Oh, and it was some obsessed woman in the Musician’s Guild who had killed Toreono. Jealously over Toreono flirting with some men or something like that. I was only half-paying attention to the detectives.

This is a teaser for my upcoming novel, Murder in Color, a gay romance/fantasy murder mystery novel of about 100k words.