“Dear gods, do you think a beast or a hunter did… that?”
Osborne, with wide eyes, points to the missing chunk in the neck pale corpse of a hunter laying in a pool of sticky blood, hunched over. His tenor voice shatters the contemplative silence. The autumn morning sun beats down on him and the older black-grabbed Church Hunter like a sledgehammer, causing the eldest of the two, Jan, to squint and adjust his wide-brimmed hat. Jan crouches down. He strokes the black stubble on his chin, looking over the gaping wound that likely caused the hunter’s death, given its location. Scant few flies just now begin to buzz around the corpse drained of blood.
Surely, it could have been a more gruesome sight. In his decades of being a Church hunter, he witnessed macabre scenes that he could recall almost perfectly, so burned into his brain crystal clear. Among them included memories of bodies so thoroughly torn apart they could hardly be considered more a sanguine smear on the streets. Entrails hung on awnings like ivy. But this scene disturbed him just because of its simplicity. A mere instinct-driven animal or man-turned-beast wouldn’t have left the body in such a relatively pristine state; there would be viscera and blood everywhere. The victim’s clothes, from the long pigeon gray coat down to the trousers, shewn no tears or even bloody prints from being roughly handled. To add to the weirdness of the scene, he recognizes the elliptical pattern of the injury.
Teeth marks, if only one looked close enough at the wound. He notices deeper indentations where the canines would be. Not unexpected in an area with a bestial plague, but it didn’t necessarily mean anything yet. Especially when the bite otherwise had a typical shape for that of the bite of a man.
f he could find footprints, perhaps he could have his answer.
His apprentice pulls a handkerchief from his coat pockets and holds it over his mouth. Truly, Jan couldn’t fault him for his sickened and shocked reaction; Osborne hadn’t been out in the field yet as a black Church Hunter. Bodies in a clinical setting, after all, aren’t quite the same as seeing them in more lively contexts. In the classroom, a body is a learning tool. On the field, a body is a tragedy.
What kind of person tears into someone with their teeth and neither eats them nor kills them using other methods of violence? And drains their blood almost entirely? Jan thinks whilst worrying at his lower lip with his teeth and furrows his eyebrows. The answer would hopefully not only come to him in time, but before the next murder which would surely happen. He could feel it. This mystery behind the culprit bothers him and causes his stomach to tighten.
And yet, someone murdered this hunter in cold blood by tearing out his jugular with their teeth. A more thorough examination of the body at the clinic would be necessary to confirm this, as well as uncover anything not currently visible. Regardless, most “ordinary” (if one could use such a word) murders committed by non-afflicted humans in Yharnam involve weapons as the cause of death.
Another detail caught his eye. With the strange trail of blood leading to this spot, he knew the hunter couldn’t have died there. They did not have the appearance of streaks to indicate the victim dragged himself to the spot. Rather, splotches on the cobblestone road show the way to the body. He clicks his tongues, jotting down observations in a small book, small enough to fit in one of his palms.
Whoever slaughtered the man left no footprints, so the blood must have followed their trail.
With a grunt, Jan stands up, putting his gloved hands in the pockets of his long, heavy coat in the process. When he received a summon from the Healing Church earlier, he could just hear in the back of his mind screaming that they gave him a case that wouldn’t be so damned clear cut or easy. After all, the culprit bothered to carry the body but didn’t bother to properly hide it. Perhaps a warning, a harbinger of things to come? What unspeakable things would they unearth in time?
“Well...” he begins to answer in his slightly gravelly baritone with a frown, “The bite in the neck would normally suggest a beast. However, when a beast kills someone, they are usually far more maimed. Almost unrecognizable. The dentition here on the neck is also quite human,” he gestures to the bite with his right index and middle fingers, “Perhaps an odd sort of cannibalism was involved. Something drained this poor soul of blood, but there isn’t enough around here to correspond to what was lost. Even the trail on the street and below the body isn’t comparable to the amount a grown man’s body is supposed to have.” Jan turns partially to face Osborne, his youthful apprentice.
He continues his answer as he points to the trail that eventually leads to the dry crimson spray on the streets. “Someone early on in the transformation could conceivably have killed him. But, as I said, beasts tend to be far more destructive and chaotic. Less calculating, due to the madness of therianthropy. Whoever or whatever did this had enough restraint to not only fatally injure our Good Hunter without destroying his body but to move him out of the streets. But they didn’t cover their blood trail, and that’s the oddest part.” The last sentence draws out long and ends abruptly.
Of course, he fails to mention that little tidbit eats at his mind and nerves. In his book, he begins to scrawl down his feelings over this case in elegant cursive:
Suspect left little discernible physical traces yet left victim out in the relative open. A challenge? A wordless statement? Most likely not the last or the first. Will have to keep word on anything or anyone out of the ordinary. Something’s not right.
He slips it back into his pocket along with his tiny pencil after underlining the last sentence multiple times, really digging the graphite into the book. The gloves end up smudging the writing slightly in his vehemence.
Earlier, at around daybreak, a messenger from the Church informed Jan of the murder in Central Yharnam. Some old woman had discovered it on her morning stroll and had been so hysterical about it, one of the Church doctors gave her sedatives after she gave them the necessary information. From there, they sent out the two hunters to analyze the scene in order to determine whether or not a victim of the plague of beasts caused it. Though a beast or someone in the process of becoming one would definitely be eliminated, other possibilities would possibly require more consideration. Their superiors did not specify what these “possibilities” might be, and would not elaborate when questioned.
The white hunters could keep their damned secrets. Jan just wanted to keep Yharnam safe from another hunt. To keep his children safe. To keep the everyday people safe. And if he had to kill someone with all of their faculties … well, he would gladly do so.
“Ugh...What do you...” he stops, swallowing, “...think the doctors will find upon the autopsy?” the younger man asks, voice muffled from the cloth still over his mouth but thick.
Sighing, the taller, older Black Church hunter pulls out an unevenly rolled cigarette and a worn lighter out of his coat pocket. Click. A pale yellow flame flickers in a pleasant, slight breeze before it touches the end of the cigarette and turns it glowing orange and red. The pungent scent of tobacco alight causes the younger man to let out a small cough, and he inches away from Jan as the man takes a long drag. Boots click on the cobblestone as he leans against the wall opposite the corpse, staring at Osbourne with weary eyes. After exhaling the smoke through his nostrils, Jan answers in his distinct accent:
“Something we, and the Church, don’t like.”
The alleys fills with his bitter, frightened laugh made raspy by the smoke.