The next morning, Madeline wasn't meditating in her normal spot. Anna guessed she was either still as Brishah's pleasure house or at an inn somewhere. It didn't matter, now. The only loose thread to tug was back at the morgue, but that would have to wait until night when Duffworm returned. Cherry was no where to be found that morning either. She was likely picking up her roll as teacher in dance. There was simply nothing to do yet.
Anna found herself at a Leaf Shop across Brishah's to sit and think. Juice in hand, she half closed her eyes and began to meditate. A thin line of blue sound hummed in her head, making the rest of her mind calm and clear, like the way that night sky gave way to stars after the storm clouds parted. Now she could gather what she new of UnSub and paint the picture she needed.
The access to blue dye and flash petal meant UnSub had resources to buy both. UnSub was artistic and needed to risk discovery while making cuts on the body of the victims at night in the rain. Why Spring? Why not all year round? UnSub also had access to a place where they could drain blood. Who would know where slaughter houses would be in Annalow?
"The Library." Anna said out loud.
"What about it?" Anna pulled out of herself to find a city guard hovering over her. It was the guard who had helped her that night she found Beatrix.
"Peter. Hello." Anna fumbled with her cup and kept from spilling it in time. She took a drink, hoping to hide her blush. Damn he was good looking.
"I was passing by on patrol and recognized you. What's at the library?"
"Nothing much." Anna thought she should keep the investigation tight for now. If word got back to Major Eleanor... "Just research. I'm a researcher for the Red Guard, you see. Will you have some Leaf?" She motioned to the seat across from her.
"Oh no. I'm just starting my shift. I was just checking on you." Anna felt like she was floating. It wasn't a natural feeling for her, but she liked it. Something about those sea-green eyes in Peter's head. She smiled. "Well, I have to go. There's something of a panic in this area and the city guard had to step up their petroling." Waved and left.
"I'll come with you." Anna put a bit on the table and hopped on after him.
"Well, I'm not headed to the Library building, Miss. That's closer to the bizzar."
"No no, it's fine. I'm sort of wasting time until nightfall anyway." Anna found she liked prancing next to peter. Anna was tall for a mume and was pleased that Peter met her hight. His yellow locks spilled from under a leather helmet. The armor, White, black, and red, the colors of Annalow, fitted over him nicely, making him look stronger than he probably was. "Besides, we best enjoy the morning before the spring rains return."
"I guess so." Peter laughed.
It wasn't long before the two passed by the allyway they met at. Anna's mind returned to that night. The shadows gone, now, replaced by a few straggling citezens curious as to the scene of the crime. "Peter...Did anyone see anything that night?"
"You mean did someone see Lily Ripper?" He shrugged. "Who knows? We always get sightings after the new girls are found."
"Does the city guard keep track of them?"
"I don't think so, Miss. I mean, Lily is suposed to be tall and short. She's Borc, Mume, and even felven. No two descriptions alike, but nothing too helpful." Anna made a noise. "Sorry. Between you and me, Miss, I don't think we'll ever catch her."
"What do people THINK she looks like?"
"Well," Peter put some thought into it. "The people who claim to have seen her all agree she wears a blue hooded cloak and carries a bag over her shoulder. They all say she moves fast, like a cat or beast, but leaves a trail of the blood she's stolen. Can't say us guards have seen anything like that, however. I wouldn't know where you could even buy a blue cloak with all the talk of murder."
Anna had her finger-tip to her lips. She wondered if Lily Ripper had claimed to see herself and spent time fabricating what she looked like just to throw people off the trail. "I don't know if Lily is a she or not, Peter."
"But I think you're best bet is to listen for a description of someone who isn't carrying a blue sack at all. Someone in disguise. Someone who's trying to look like anyone other than Lily Ripper."
Peter stopped walking and looked down at the ground away from Anna. She leaned in to see his face but he turned away more. "I don't get it." Was he angry? "Is the Red Guard helping to catch Lily or not?"
"Well, I'm not." Anna lied. "Officially, the Red Guard has no jurisdiction with Lily. There's no sign she uses Heart Magic and she doesn't appear to want to overthrow the mume race. But," Anna put a hand on his shoulder. "that doesn't mean we don't care."
Peter turned to see Anna. "How would you know what Lily looks like, then?"
"She's not stupid, Peter." He stepped away. "She wouldn't want to look like what everyone thinks she looks like and get caught in the act. Think about it."
"I have to get back to petrolling."
She ignored him. "The City Guard will have to out think Lily to catch her."
"Be safe, Miss." He turned and left her. She looked up at the building they stopped in front of and she realized it was the Library. He had escorted her off his route.
"Stupid Anna." She smack herself in the head. "Stupid Stupid."
The records wing of the Library of Annalow was not what any sane person could call organized. It took Anna all day to work out the last slaughterhouse to be built in the city was 400 years ago and had long since been torn down and rebuilt as housing. The next best thing might have been a tannery, but no tanners kept their workshops on city grounds either due to the smell. They had all migrated to the south west, in the shadow of the Ramp. No one wanted to work with blood or dead animals inside the city, according to registered market.
Anna felt she had wasted her time when she left the Library. Puddles had formed on the streets of Annalow again and sprinkling reclaimed the sky. Anna walked back to Brishah's trying to think where the blood could go and not be noticed. It must be dropped into the sewers, which meant it would be nigh impossible to track, but something didn't feel right about that. It would be the smartest thing to drain into, especially on a rainy night. In fact, there was no reason not to use the waste sewers, but... Something about it nagged at Anna. Something unceromonious about it felt like Lily couldn't choose that on principal.
These weren't just little girls corpses to be discarded. They were works of art to be displayed.
Brishah waved Anna to enter. "How are you, Goldeyes? Come for the pipe?"
"Not tonight. I need to focus. What ever happened to the Red Guard I brought here last night?"
"See for yourself." Brishah glided around the edge of the main room. An Effee plucked at a sitar in the center, humming calming music at its center while her audience drank and listened silently. Tonight there was a morose and dark mood on the house. Brishah motioned toward one of the privete rooms Anna often used. Inside was Madeline, smoothly drawing from a long stemed pipe, naked eccept for a silk sheet losely wraped about her. "She's made a trade agreement with me." Brishah said behind Anna. "A place to stay for access to certain other herbs."
"Come in." Madeline hadn't turned her eyes or face toward Anna, but clearly meant for her to enter. As Anna did, she wondered if Madeline had been smoking all day. "Not all day." Madeline blew out a tendril of purple ribbons that reached across the room and curled around Brishah. Anna gaped. Madeline had read her mind without touching her.
"She's good, Goldeyes. She hasn't eaten or drank all day."
"How many pipes has she had?" Anna asked.
"That is her thrid."
Madeline reached out without looking and tugged Anna's hand, pulling her down into the pillows. "Brishah, a pipe for my friend."
"Of course." Brishah left.
Madeline had been staring the entire time at a flower pattern on the opposite wall. She never turned to Anna or Brishah and never opened her eyes more than half. "Anna Goldeyes. Take off your gloves and Jacket. You'll want to see this." Anna did as she was told, but couldn't understand why. "Did you know I used to be a Priestess?"
"I'm not now, of course. Now I'm a criminal." Brishah returned with a rumor-wood box holding a pipe and petal. "This won't take long, Anna. It would be faster if you removed your clothes, but you would be unwise to do so."
"Is it safe for you to do this to yourself?"
"To live is to risk. Now smoke and come with me." Anna didn't pretend to understand, but she knew the pipe well enough. "And on your way I will explain Alchemy." The purple fog drew in behind Anna's mind. A familiar mist of tugs and turns and purple wisps. "Slowly, Anna. Slowly. My problem was I hadn't had excess to such good petal. Your problem is you do not savor it." Anna took her neft draft as slowly as she dared. "Good. Smooth and slow and the haze will give way to the true nature of the petal."
Anna sunk lower into the pillows, letting Madeline's words tumble from her lips like dice, rolling into maths, summing up the universe. "Now, Anna, tell me about alchemy."
"There are 7 flowers that hold the powers of the gods. One of them is flash blossom."
"And another," said Madeline, "is Cocoon Flowers."
Anna turned to her host. "That's not one of them."
Madeline smiled, but didn't look at her. "That's because there are 9 flowers, Anna, not 7. The ninth flower was planted two thousand years ago just before the mume invaded Annalow. It was created by the Moblin, directed by their god Mouse. All Alchemy is created by the Moblin. Do you know why?" Anna shook her head, even though Madeline couldn't see her. "Because the Moblin like to play tricks, and they created herbs and flowers and plants of all kinds so that the nine races of Mash'ta could mimic each other. The nine flowers, for example, each hold the essance of each of the nine magics."
"And Flash Blossom? They're one of them?"
"Oh yes. Flash Blossom, with their beautiful blue glow, hold the power of the Bear. And Cocoon flowers, with their lovely purple petals, hold the power of the Crynt." Anna felt pulled loose from her body. Something tugged her like the first time her fingers lead her into that ally. There was a misty form beckoning her. "Come with me, Anna." Anna's body went almost limp. Another slow draw on her pipe and she was pulled out of her body completely.
"Where are we?" She asked. A ribbon of purple lead from her heart to the heart of her body. It was her chain or Keb. She'd never seen it before. When Anna moved, she didn't turn or float or walk, she just was as far as she could tell. As new as the feeling was to her, she felt calm. Attached to her hand was Madeline.
"Locations are such silly things here, Anna. Call this the petal, if you want. Anna, what are you?"
"I could ask you the same thing."
Madeline smiled. "I'm an explorer. I find new pathways into truth. I seek the rules of the universe and beyond by blindly bumping into the walls of a maze."
"I'm a huntress." Anna said. "I use your walls to track down my prey. I hunt the wolves that eat my flock."
Madeline's presence wrapped around Anna like a hug or a smothering. "The wolf you face is a Dread Wolf, evil and beautiful. It dresses in the bloody skins of another and hides its sent with the same skin's blood."
"Are you my wolf, Madeline?"
"You're not even supposed to be hunting this wolf, Anna. It isn't your flock the wolf eats from."
"Madeline, you have access to the Flash Blossom." Anna's calm had left. "You know how to get a hold of the right dyes for the shrouds. You receive daily deliveries from the church green house. You could be getting blue lilies for all I know."
"You risk your right to learn to catch this wolf, even. Such a huntress is you, Anna."
"Are you my wolf?" Anna was back in her body. Her fingers instictively drew her knife and she pounced on top of Madeline. "Are you my wolf?"
"Anna!" Brishah had been watching and drew her own knife.
Anna wasn't listening. "The possibility is there, Madeline. You could have dressed as a White Maiden to lure the child mumes away, used the flash blossom in one of your sick rituals, and hidden the body in shrouds dye with your blue dyes. Did you kill those children?"
Madeline's eyes still never left the spot on the wall. "Read me and find out."
Anna dove into Madeline's eyes.