Winchester-Nabu Detective Agency Year Five:
Case File No. 26-234
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Where We Left Off:
The Winchester-Nabu detectives had the opportunity for some up close observations of Jersey devil-deer.
Murder in the Mews:
Death. It’s the season to honor it. It comes to all of us eventually. It’s a roulette game every second. When is your time? Do you think animals give it any thought? I bet you do. I know they have instincts which aren’t about thought as much as inherently knowing which action to take. Yet, if you spend time observing animals the way we do at the Winchester-Nabu Detective Agency, you might be inclined to agree that, yes, animals ponder death.
It can be seen in their eyes when they size us up. Are we friends or foe? And to be honest, sometimes that answer is a split one. I may be friend, but Gus may be foe, and Oliver is the witness. We get checked out by the wildlife. Often it’s easy to figure out what they’re thinking because they let us know: blue jays want peanuts as quickly as possible; chipmunks want the peanuts also, but aren’t as sure if they can move faster than Gus.
On this occasion, Death was not a rider on a pale horse. It also wasn’t an insatiable hunger out to devour for sustenance because the full body was found at the top of our tiny mountain pretty much in tact. In this case, the Grumpy Old Man discovered the body of a female Jersey devil-deer. The way he described it as an eyewitness, “It looked like a coyote or something tore its ass out.”
Of course I have photos which you can skip over, but I will say, his description wasn’t without merit. The ass of the beast looked like it had exploded into a bloody, gelatinous mess. Very gross indeed. However, after a visual inspection, Gus and I disagreed with the Grumpy Old Man about the culprit being a coyote. Why would a coyote take something like a deer down only to leave it there and not eat it, not tear off chunks to take to a den, or not cause any other damage to it?
The reason I think it’s important to note the “exploded ass” of the body is because of a friend’s personal story: She was dating a man (I think they were in their 20s) and she got to his apartment to find he had been deceased for a while. Yes, there was the odor which fictional accounts always mention; but there’s more. She said that the body evacuated all of the digestive system contents. Maybe not all — the stomach may have been too high up in the chain of the process, but the intestines and rectum were not. In any case, she was traumatized by the death and by the scene before her.
Gus may have been third on the scene, but he was first to glean the specific details that would turn this into an active investigation. He was less than five yards away when he puffed up his tail and crouched to a stalking, slinking crawl. He maintained a calm demeanor as he cautiously approached. Gus let me know that we weren’t in any immediate danger. Something was definitely shady though. We noted our initial observations and took photos then left the victim for a couple days.
The next time we hiked up, the vultures were busy doing their jobs. I wanted them to keep pecking and pulling the innards of the carcass, but they noticed us and left. Even before Gus and I did our first inspection, I had noticed the vultures circling. They worked so fast! There was only a small amount of meat and soft tissue attached to bones and a little bit of a furry pelt attached to the skull. Gus and I stayed for a while hoping that if we backed up enough, the vultures would come back so we could watch them work. But they didn’t. We collected only a few bones that day.
I forced Gus (gently by carrying him half of the trip) to make a third trip to the carcass. I had packed a garbage bag and made sure I had my work gloves. Gus did not want anything to do with the crime scene. He was doing everything possible to avoid getting to the top. Tricky Boy tried telling me there were things needing our attention in the woods about every fifty feet. I had a goal in mind: relocate the remains closer to the detective agency. That way, as the bones are revealed, we could have a better look for signs of injuries without having to make the hike. As I bagged up the remains, Gus took off for home. Fortunately, it didn’t take me long and I met up with him on the back porch.
It was a stinky endeavor, but not as nauseating as when we salvaged the half of a body of a buck devil-deer. That one had to be taken to the body farm further away from the house. With this one, you can only catch a whiff once in a while and it’s not a knock-out punch to the olfactory sense.
More inspection during the relocation allowed us to determine that this was not a vehicular hit and run either. There were no fractured bones of all the bones we collected. In a strange coincidence, I got to examine and photograph another beast not far from our crime scene; a victim clearly hit by a vehicle with broken leg (the orange spray paint indicates it was reported and will be cleaned up by a crew). What’s notable in these photos is that the hit and run victim does not have the “exploding ass” as seen with our victim.
The victim of our case could have been hit by a car at a slower speed and perhaps the organs were somehow damaged in a way where there were no visible fractures to the bones by the time we got to look at it. For example, could a rib be dislocated and puncture the lungs or heart and then days later, we find a rib somewhere at the scene looking as if it was in tact on its own, but no longer attached to the manubrium (breast bone)? Thus, the death was accidental and not natural, but harder to determine. That’s one possibility.
The lack of bite marks and fractures also tell us why a coyote or similar predator seems unlikely as they would probably rip and tear into the body leaving significant indications of their attack. There simply isn’t any evidence of a coyote, wolf, werewolf, bobcat, mountain lion, or volkolak attack on this victim. They would have taken it for food.
Natural Causes / Disease Theory:
Another theory comes to us from the white paper at the USDA APHIS website regarding the pandemic and wildlife exposure (not transfer) of the virus that causes COVID-19; “None of the deer populations surveyed showed signs of clinical illness associated with SARS-CoV-2.” Their studies leads with:
The U.S. Department of Agricultureâ€™s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) recently completed a study that analyzed serum samples from free-ranging white-tailed deer for antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19). Results of the study indicate that certain white-tailed deer populations in Illinois, Michigan, New York, and Pennsylvania were exposed to SARS-CoV-2.
There’s currently no evidence that zoonotic transfer (from animals to humans) plays any role. — USDA APHIS pdf file of questions and answers
However, Gus and Oliver went over the photographs and came to an alternative explanation. We were looking at something much less natural or accidental.
Vultures have a unique ability or maybe it’s a curse. Much like the zombies of iZombie or Detective Chu from the comic book Chu, vultures can get information about who they are eating when they consume bodies. We needed someone to interrogate the vultures who fed on this carcass. Since they wouldn’t talk to me or Gus, we had to reach out to the Blue Jay Gang and pay for the information.
Johnny “Stool Pigeon” came through for us in exchange for five peanuts. It was a considerable bargain. Johnny couldn’t approach the two vultures on his own. He required an introduction by a mediator. See if you can follow along.
The Jersey devil-deer herd has a working relationship with humans and other creatures of the magickal realm. We learned about this way back in Year One of our adventuring and investigating. One species they interact with is the Earth Pig. We haven’t done much investigating into them and don’t have a lot of information. You can see a photo in that past case file. Earth Pigs aren’t pigs of the earthly (mundane) world. They are magings found in the soil. These creatures also get along with vultures and tree spirits. This allowed Johnny “Stool Pigeon” a perfect networking opportunity to go between the vultures, the Earth Pigs, and the Jersey devil-deer herd.
The blue jay traded one peanut with an Earth Pig named Suzi to be a mediator. Suzi, like typical Earth Pigs, moves at a slow pace which tested Johnny’s patience. He doesn’t have any at all to be honest. Their energy levels are polar opposites. The soil-dwelling pigs take their time. Suzi eventually caught up with the wake of vultures at another site and made contact with the two who had been spotted at our crime scene.
We got our information a few days later. By then I had moved all the bones from the Fairy Garden to Gnome Grove at the behest of The Grumpy Old Man who wanted to mow in the Fairy Garden.
The vultures had visions of Gallia straining to get away through the woods. Her mind was dizzy and unfocused. Painful sensations ran through her intestines. She was too disoriented to know which way was safe so she kept pulling herself along to anywhere that was away from where she first felt the pain. Her legs weren’t strong and weren’t cooperating with what she asked of them. Sky, trees, leaves – spinning around her as she stumbled.
“Why? You?” were the only words the vultures could make out from Gallia’s thoughts.
The vultures sensed that at one point, Gallia tried looking behind her, but her world was too unsteady. There was a split second of large black wings — the kind like stretched skin not covered in feathers. Fighting for her legs and hooves to make purchase on the upward climb with many felled trees in her way — a sense of doom consumed Gallia. She wouldn’t see her family again.
Everything went black while her heart continued to beat until that stopped too. The vultures confirmed it was a poison that killed Gallia and that it was not an accident.
“Poison,” Oliver said as we discussed the details as a team. “That means it was someone with the mental fortitude to intentionally serve it to another being. Not a mindless beast driven only by instincts.”
“Okay,” I said. “Not a zombie. That doesn’t help much.”
“But the wings,” Gus said. “Don’t forget the vultures saw through her eyes and they saw black wings.”
I began doodling leathery wings as I tried to come up with a list of known creatures extant and extinct that would have them: bats, vampires, wendigo, full blood Jersey devils, some Jersey devil-deer hybrids, certain dragons and similar beasts in that category, plus seraphim and cherubim and specific varieties of angles (wing styles weren’t specified in ancient texts).
“Let me run another test on a sample of vitreous fluid.” Oliver rolled a sealed tube specimen with his paw on the floor of his newly renovated office. He had something specific in mind that he wanted to check in the deceased’s eye fluid.
Testing that vitreous fluid proved to be the key to the case. It showed that Gallia was poisoned by a lethal amount of iron. That narrowed down our list of suspects to one type: vampires (or vampyr, they go by many names). The myth is that vampires can’t digest anything other than blood and that they’re “allergic” to metals like iron and silver. Reality is not that simplistic.
Vampires need minerals that are found in blood such as iron which clings to hemoglobin. It is possible to sustain their undead lives as long as they get the necessary minerals whether or not the substance of blood is present. Blood just happens to be the easiest way to get all of it. It’s the fast food of vampires. They are also individuals with diverse taste like living humans. Perhaps you truly enjoy a celery and wheatgrass juice. I would not. But banana, dark chocolate, and peanut butter is my ideal smoothie.
What this new information reveals is that one vampire in particular had the plan to trick Gallia into consuming a lethal amount of iron and then feed on her until her death. We don’t have the identity of this perp, but now we can add them to our Most Wanted list.
Our next step was to ID the victim. We decided to call her Gallia (pronounced “guy-yuh” or “gal-uh” depending on dialect) after the tragic poaching case in Ohio where eight people face 91 felony charges for poaching, stealing meat from hunters, wire fraud, and other grand things. Gallia feels like a better name than Doe Doe.
We’ve considered predators; compared hit and run photos; and researched viral infection. Instead what it took was a game of Telephone (do you remember that?) between us, Johnny “Stool Pigeon” of the Blue Jay Gang, Suzi the Earth Pig, to the vultures and back.
After a significant breakthrough, we narrowed down our list of suspects to one species: a vampire.
Case Status: Open
**Please check out the note regarding a bucks in “rut” season and how dangerous that can actually be.