Chapter One: A Third Victim
They found the body in the basement, amongst the drip drip of the water pipe and the musty smell of long forgotten heirlooms. The coroner estimated that it had been stashed there at least a month ago. The skin had turned a mottled purple with dark blotches that were scattered over the body. Gender was impossible to tell as it had rotted so bad, like fruit on a radiator. What was left of the eyes stared out blankly at a horror only this person could have known. Detectives have to deal with this sight so often they almost become desensitized to it. This is how you can always tell a newbie from the veterans. Newbies are always the ones retching uncontrollably and questioning their beliefs.
How could God allow someone to do this to another human being? How can there be so much evil in the world?
Danielle Brooks was not a newbie. This wasn’t her first murder case, though she still had rushed to it with a sense of justice that can only be held by the truly naïve. The call had come into her office just after noon that day, right as Danni was enjoying her lunch break. She couldn’t deny the ringing in her office much more than she could deny her lungs free oxygen. One of her fellow detectives was calling from the scene, his voice hoarse with disgust.
The original call had been made by Mr. Maier from 953 Cecil Lane, a monstrosity of a house. He and his wife had just arrived home from vacationing in Mexico for two and half months when they were assaulted by a revolting smell that has no equal, the stench of death. They made a quick run through of the house and came across the body in only a short time.
When Danni finally arrived the majority of the detectives were already there. Mrs. Maier, Evelyn as she begged to be called, had broken down on the yard out front. Her husband stood next to her, his hand on her shoulder, the remains of vomit staining his sapphire blue shirt. The families from neighboring houses had already started to gather with the perverse fascination of those who live. They stood in clusters behind the yellow police tape, gathered like lemmings, and craned their necks for a chance to see what was happening.
This fact alone disgusted Danni more than anything. She had gone into this line of work to bring down the sociopaths who were capable of this kind of atrocity. She had come here wanting to fight the good fight, to give a chance for good to prevail over evil.
But these sick people with their fascination of evil made her job just that much harder.
“The bastard’s gone and killed another one. This is the third victim this month.” Detective Sanson was the first to speak to Danni as she edged her way into the house. Once through the doorway the stench stopped her dead in her tracks. She brought her hand up to her face, covering her mouth and nose and trying to keep the smell at bay.
It didn’t work.
The smell seeped through her fingers causing Danni to remember a science fact from long ago: whatever you smell is actually particles of that object floating into your nose. She felt like she was breathing the rotted flesh, particles of the victim entering her mouth and nose. It felt like cannibalism and she almost lost it right there, chewed spinach and chicken making its way up her throat along with the burn of bile.
“You gonna be alright Brooks?” Sanson questioned as he watched her out of the corner of his eye and shuffled a few steps over. What he was really worried about was not that Danni may be traumatized by what she was about to see, but that she may ruin his spit-polished shoes if she were to retch.
“I’ll be fine,” Danni replied as she trekked bravely into the manor.
The house was spotless and everything about the home screamed money.
A long corridor lined with professional photographs of the Maier family led the way to the stairs down to the basement. Nothing appeared out of place. Not an obvious clue to be found, just as with the last two cases. Two guys from forensics had turned off the lights and were scanning every inch for even a spatter of blood or bodily fluids with black lights. The process so much more meticulous and less glamorous than CSI would have you believe.
The stairs to the basement creaked, a loud eerie squeal that iced the blood, the kind most commonly heard in horror movies right before someone dies. It made Danni shiver and her heart skip a beat as they made their way to the scene. She never got used to this. The smell only got worse and on the third stair from the bottom the victim’s rotted corpse became visible. Bile rose once again in her throat. “Jesus,” she whispered under her breath, whether as a plea or an exclamation it was unclear.
Other members of the forensics team were taking pictures of the crime scene, the camera flashes blinking on and on like fireworks on Canada day. The mood was somber as is to be expected in this kind of setting. Various experts mumbled to their colleagues discussing theories and interpretations. “Not a trace of blood to be found, the body was stashed”, “Could it be a copycat?” “Naw … there couldn’t possibly be two people sick enough to commit this kind of crime.” A few even told jokes to lighten the mood but the laughter never lasted longer than a few seconds and was always followed by a brief but extremely uncomfortable silence.
Danni was always disgusted with those who found humor in this job. It was disrespectful and wrong.
“Detective Brooks,” a deadpanned voice uttered with a sneer. “Nice of you to join us.” It was Detective Munro who was now taking steps towards her. He was head of the Police department of the town of Williams (population: 17,000) and was one of the department’s top detectives. He was respected amongst the communities, cited as a hero among men.
He was also the most arrogant and sexist prick that Danni had ever met. She found him to be condescending and an opportunist. He was short with thinning hair and a body in dire need of exercise, lumpy but not fat. His face almost took on the characteristics of a weasel with his long thin nose and beady eyes that were puffed up from insufficient sleep.
“Sir,” Danni acknowledged him with a curt nod, carefully avoiding looking at him while trying not to see the corpse at the same time.
“Squeamish?” Munro chuckled as he noticed what she was trying to do. He continued to chuckle as he moved on to ask Aaron how forensics was holding up. It was going to be a long day.