Lindsey pawed at her lips and glanced back down the corridor. “This needs to be kept a secret,” she said. “It’s taboo for a ghast to feed on another ghast.”
Theodore circled the body. It was a gargoyle: large but feminine with pimpled limestone skin. The throat was discolored and impacted just like Anthony’s. The face was locked in a familiar look of terror. She rested on a sagging gurney tucked away in an obscure chamber of the Hollows.
“I’ve seen this before,” Theodore said. “We’re investigating the murder of a human who was killed the same way.”
Lindsey gasped through grit teeth. “A human was killed?! You’re sure?!”
Theodore nodded. “A farmer. If this is the result of ghast hex, then I’m certain it’s related.”
“No, no, no, no!! This is terrible!” Lindsey let out three simultaneous wails. “This is coming right off the crisis with the Red Caps! A dead civilian will set back our relations with the capital by decades! We can’t afford this!”
“What do you mean?” Oboe said.
“We depend on human for jobs, trust with the capital is already strained. If there’s a scare they’ll start firing ghasts. And THAT will be bad because there aren’t enough haunting territories to go around! We’d have a faminine! All because of one deviant!”
“Well, what if it’s not a ghast at all?” Oboe said. “Wouldn’t that fix everything?”
“Stop! Don’t try to give me false hope!” Lindsey clawed at her face. “There’s no mistaking ghast magic for any other kind! Fairy magic doesn’t look anything like this and humans have to sterilize theirs. There’s no denying this magic came out of a ghast body and if we try to cover it up it will only damage trust even more!”
“Where was the body found?” Theodore said.
“A goblin found her slumped outside a cave on the surface,” Lindsey said. “It took a whole team of skeletons to carry her back underground.”
Theodore rubbed his jaw. “We came here to confront a suspect. I think we stand a better chance if we work together. Can you spare some law enforcement to support us?”
“That’s not possible,” Lindsey said. “The only thing the crown allows us to have is a sheriff, and I can’t send her.”
Theodore scrunched his face. “Why not?”
Lindsey hesitated. “…You’re looking at her. That’s why I sent for your help.”
Theodore turned back to the corpse and realized it was a grim reflection of his future.
“Fiona here was looking into the disappearances of several smaller ghasts,” Lindsey said. “Imps and crawlies. I’m guessing whoever she was investigating turned on her.”
The ghast chieftain grabbed a satchel from the corner of the room and fished out a small notebook. She handed it to Oboe.
“If these cases are related, you should take this. It’s her investigation notes.”
Peeking inside, Oboe frowned at a dry forensic report. “Thanks?”
Lindsey startled Theodore by grabbing him by the shoulders. “The Hollows can’t afford a scandal.” Her voice was cracking. “I need you to catch this killer before anyone else gets hurt! Please!”
Theodore didn’t need convincing. He was scared and in over his head, but one look at the ghast Chieftain told him it paled in comparison to the fear she felt for her people.
“I’ll do what I can,” he said.