The Case of the Art Critic – a Forensix mystery, Part 3 of 7

After several hours in the lab sifting through evidence and getting nowhere, I decided it was time to head over to the bar. Notepad highlighted a route that took me through the City Park. The evidence ran through my head; the blood-stained drawing had been torn in half. The other half was missing. D.B.’s fingerprints hadn’t been found on anything else. He didn’t strike me as the careful type. The oak leaf was still green and soft, not something a litter fey was likely to have. It also had traces of glitter in it.

The park was well lit and maintained. I followed the sidewalk that wound through it to the lake. The dryads, a wide variety of flower fairies, garden gnomes, and water sprites noticed me but didn’t seem to object to my presence. They didn’t seem welcoming either. The park might have been in the heart of the City but it was a fringe area between the Urban Fey and their more traditional Nature Fey relatives. I felt uneasy in this borderland.

I was careful not to stray from the paved sidewalk and avoided the few cracks here and there. I turned the evidence over in my head again, wondering where the missing half of the drawing was; it wasn’t crumpled up on the floor. The killer must have needed it for something. While the Dumpster Bogey loved trash, I didn’t think he was in the business of proactively collecting it during a murder.

My shoe caught on a tree root and I landed face first in the grass which quickly shot up and around my ankles. Vines snaked out from trees and bound my hands. I looked up to find a gang of dryads surrounding me. The grass loosened just enough for the birch dryad to pull me to my feet with her silvery hands. They were all taller than me by a good two heads. I looked up and around, trying to figure out how to talk my way out of this.

“Nice afternoon for a stroll,” I managed as an opener.

The smell of lilacs overwhelmed me as another dryad said, “Your kind don’t usually come into our park. What are you doing here?”

“I just wanted some fresh air.”

The birch twisted my arm and asked the others, “What do you want to do with her?”

I winced. “Look, my grandmother was a maple dryad. Really. You would have liked her.”

The third dryad snorted. She smelled of pine. “Lies. Your leaves would be quivering if you had any. I say we make her one of us.”

The other two seemed to think this was a good plan. I didn’t. “Wait, wait. I’m on important business from Lord Neon.”

A male voice said, “In that case, girls, I suggest you hear her out.”

Birch loosened her grip on me. A satyr stepped between Lilac and Pine. He said, “What is Lord Neon’s envoy doing here in the park?” He smiled at me suggestively. Long red curls hung wildly down to his waist. “Do you have a name, pretty thing?”

“Forensix. And you would be?” I was trying to work my wrists free from the vines with little success.

“Ah, Lady Forensix. We’re honored to have one so close to Lord Neon visit us. You’ll have to excuse the girls; they get so protective of their grove. Is there something you need here?”

“I was just walking through the park on my way to somewhere else.” I tried to pull away from Birch.

He smirked then said lightly, “Ah, well then. I can’t blame you for wanting to return to your roots. You did say your grandmother was a dryad.”

The satyr gave a wave of his hand, causing the vines and grass to let go of me. I stepped back onto the pavement. He kissed a dryad on the cheek. “Come along, girls. Let’s not interfere further with Lady Forensix’s business.” As they started to walk away, the satyr stopped and shook a wad of paper off his hoof. It rolled towards the sidewalk. “I do hate litter.” He looked back at me once before disappearing into the trees.

Curiosity always gets the best of me. I stretched out on my stomach with my toes still the pavement and barely reached the wad of paper with my fingertips. I quickly got up and back on the sidewalk before the grass got any funny ideas. I smoothed out the paper. It was a sketch of… something. I couldn’t tell what. Frowning, I put it in my pocket.

Notepad inquired, Another clue?

“I’m not sure.”

I straightened my coat and continued on my way, noting the satyr had neglected to give me his name. I had walked through the park hundreds of times and had never been bothered so long as I stayed to the sidewalks. Such encounters occasionally happened in the wilder, overgrown areas but most Urban Fey knew not to go there. As I exited the park I grabbed a passing traffic light fairy and had it take a note to Neon about the incident.

copyright 2014 by Kimberley Long-Ewing, all rights reserved