Utter Depravity
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The Utterly Bazaar was a very cliche location for a murder. With its foggy haze, cobblestone buildings and spectral flames that vaguely resembled gaslights, one could easily imagine Jack the Ripper stalking the alleys.

The still warm body of a freshly eviscerated prostitute made the cliche complete.

Morose and Grindle, a pair of the Utterly Bazaar's guardsmen, towered over the body. Their featureless masks made it impossible to tell whether they were disgusted or utterly numb to the gruesome scene.

"Girl's a local, isn't she?" Grindle asked, his voice imparted with a metallic echo by his mask.

"Yeah. She worked at the Door Bell'O Bordello. Looks like the bastard that gutted her took her uterus," Morose said, kneeling down to examine the spilt viscera on the dingy ground.

"There's your motive. The womb of a whore will fetch a handsome price at the Flesh Market. It's all about virgins and whores with those animals."

"Great. So we've got a strung out Bloom junkie desperate enough to kill on the loose. But why here of all places? There's no way in or out of the Bazaar but the Ways, all of which are guarded twenty-four/seven." Morose rose to his feet, shaking his head. "The Doormen swear everyone who got out before the lockdown passed under the Aetherscope?"

"If any of them had just committed murder, it would have gone as red as a Tartarean lake. Either the murderer's still here, or they can make their own Ways."

"The Circus can do that, but this isn't their MO. Same for Micky D's. No one able to come in and out of here undetected would commit such a senseless crime."

"So what do you want to do? Round everyone up and walk them under the Aetherscope?"

"No. I think I have a way to narrow down the suspects. Let's go consult an alchemist."

Less than an hour later, the rapidly cooling and stiffening body was lying on a slab in the morgue with a tarp draped over her. Morose and Grindle maintained a vigil over the body, waiting for their special guest who might provide them with their first lead.

The door creaked open, and in stepped an ageing alchemist the entire Bazaar knew by sight. He was the Ed of Ed & Al's Alchemist Emporium. His greying blonde hair was held back in a ponytail, his face adorned with a pair of spectacles and an angular beard, and he still wore his heavy leather apron over his work clothes.

"Someone send for an optogram?" he asked, setting his satchel down on the gurney.

"Thanks for coming at this hour Edward," Morose said with a solemn nod. "We're security guards, not detectives, and we need to finger the lunatic who did this ASAP, or someone else might get hurt."

"Well I can't guarantee the last thing she saw was the killer, but it's worth a shot at least."

Ed gently pulled back the tarp to reveal the girl's blood drained face, still frozen in horror.

"Oh… I, ah… oh Jesus."

"You alright there Ed?" Grindle asked.

"Yes, I, I'll be fine. Thank you," he said, taking deep breaths to keep himself calm. "I apologize, I don't deal with cadavers myself that often, especially not young and innocent murder victims. Has the ferryman been paid at least?"

"Spectral Affairs is already making arrangements on her behalf," Morose nodded.

"Good. Good. If there's any sort of fund my brother and I would gladly… I'm sorry. This is not the time or the place. Let's get this over with."

Ed opened his satchel and removed a device that looked like a large syringe with a bizarre suction cup attachment on the end. Opening the girl's left eye with his fingers, he carefully positioned the device over it. Once he had a good seal, he pulled back the plunger until the vacuum was strong enough to pull the eye straight from the socket with a horrid sucking sound.

"There. That's the worst of it." Gingerly removing the eye with gloved hands, he placed it on the table and sliced it in half. "We'll save the front half for the mortician. Hopefully, they can make the body presentable."

He reached into the satchel and pulled out a small jar.

"This is one of the finest optographic philters known to Alchemy. It's a family secret, of course, but it will fix the bleached rhodopsin in the subject's retina and produce a crystal clear negative of the last thing she saw."

Picking up the rear half of the eye with a pair of surgical tongs, he set it to soak in the solution.

"In just a few minutes, we'll have the image."

Morose respectfully pulled the tarp back over the body, and they quietly waited for the optogram to develop, the only sound the ticking of the pendulum wall clock.

After what felt like hours, Ed reached back into the jar and removed the half-eye. Picking up a jeweller's monocle with his other hand, he made a careful examination of the retina.

"Well?" Morose asked impatiently.

"Yeah, you're going to want to take a look," Ed replied. Handing them the monocle while retaining possession of the eye himself, the two guards took a look at the last thing their victim had seen.

"What the hell?"

The Utterly Bazaar was far older than most of its current residents realized. Buried beneath the century-old streets and buildings were millennia-old catacombs. Who had built those? None knew for certain, not even the vile Aristocrat who now called it home. He had stumbled across the ancient Way in quite by chance during his flight from the disgusting peasant jailors who had sought to contain him.

The catacombs were a perfect abode for a noble such as himself; vast, ostentatious, dark, and amply stocked with the preserved remains of peasants to feast upon.

Still, there were occasions when only fresh meat would do, and the Bazaar overhead had proved to be ample hunting ground. Had he been concerned with practicality, he would have eaten the whole body, or perhaps have used her as a broodmare and begat his own dynasty.

But practicality was for peasants, for inferior beings forced to make do with what little they had. He was of noble birth and heir to a vast abundance too great to count. He could pick and choose what he pleased and leave the rest to rot.

The Aristocrat knew that the womb of a whore would have sold for an exorbitant price at the Flesh Market. That only made its presence on his dinner plate all the more decadent.

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