THE POLICE CERTAINLY had their hands full.
The scene was indescribably gruesome like something from a horror movie: a series of gross, multiple murders that left the first set of people to come upon them retching violently and the paramedic filled with bewilderment at the extent of savagery that the deaths typified.
The squad cars kept pouring in with their dazzling roof-top lights flashing relentlessly. There were dozens of police officers about, cordoning the areas with yellow tape and marking off the positions of the victims, as well as the trails and pieces of clues that littered the place. There were also medical examiners and team of evacuation workers from the Health Department present to remove the bodies and transfer to the Crime Lab where a thorough forensics examination and autopsy would be carried out.
A couple of the rookie officers could not stomach the gory sight and preferred instead to watch from some distance away, while another officer got sick and was seen throwing up in the side of the street.
The first thought that crossed the mind of the lead investigator when he got to the scene was that this must be the result of a turf war among gang members. For starters, it wasn’t hard to decipher that all four victims were members of some punk ass group that frequently terrorized passersby. But regardless, no one had seen anything like that before. The local boys could be brutal and unforgiving, but it was unlikely they were capable of anything so horrific and cruel.
All four victims were mere boys of high-school age – one had his head almost severed with the aluminum lid of a bin bucket, another had had his eye viciously gorged out, apart from the fact that his head had severely been bashed in, the third victim looked like the top and secondary layers of his skin was rotten, chewed brutally by a sort of disease, while the final victim was strung up on the fence with barbed wires (how that was even possible was a mystery) that cut deeply into his neck, wrists, legs, arms and torso, bleeding him out.
After checking the victims in what would be sensationally referred to by the media as the Alley Four, the police detective, a distraught looking black man with deep-set eyes, got a bottle of water from his patrol car, gurgled out his mouth that was thick with saliva, washed his face and frowned grimly.
“The hell if I know what this neighborhood’s turning to!” he muttered in disgust, looking at a deputy nearby. “What’s wrong with these kids; going about murdering each other like this?”
The deputy hesitated, frowned and looked over at one of the bodies being wheeled along in a stretcher by one of the paramedics, covered in blood-stained sheets. “You think kids did this, Sir?” he wondered.
His superior squinted at him. “You don’t?”
The deputy shrugged. “Well, I don’t know, Sir.”
The detective muttered a swear word. Then he marched down the street in agitation.
A team of two rookie detectives, male and female, from the nearby precinct arrived at the house in the quiet close later that same day.
It was the girl’s father who came to get the door after the bell was rang twice. Mr. Forester was a burly looking, baldy man in his fifties. “Hello, Officers,” he said curiously, staring at the officers. “How may I help you?”
“Good afternoon, Sir,” said the female detective kindly, yet seriously. “Mr. Forester?”
The man paused, stared at the two faces as though attempting to read their minds to understand why they were at his door. Then he said, “Uh, yes, I’m Mason Forester, a law-abiding citizen (the officers actually grinned lightly when he said that). What’s this about, Officer?”
“We have no doubt that you’re law-abiding, Mr. Forester,” said the first officer lightly. “I’m Detective Chanice, my partner here is Detective Jonesby.”
Forester looked at them curiously, waited for them to go on.
Chanice smiled thinly. “We’re looking for this person.” She brought out a piece of plastic ID from her pocket and held it up. “She’s your daughter, I presume?”
Forester’s eyes narrowed as he stared at the photograph. “Yes, that’s my daughter, Gertrude,” he answered, slightly edgy and tensed now. “What has she done, Detective?”
“We don’t know for sure, Sir;” Jonesby put in. “That’s what we’re hoping she’ll tell us. Is she home?”
Mr. Forester nodded hesitantly, “Yes, sure, she’s in her room.” He appeared quite uneasy. “She’s been holed up in there all morning because she isn’t feeling very well.”
“May we speak with her?”
“She might be able to help us in our investigation, Mr. Forester.”
There was a moment’s pause. “Sure, please come in.”
As it turned out, the cops had discovered the purse belonging to Gertrude Forester in the alley while combing the scene for possible clues that may give an idea what really went on down there, or who the perpetrators might be.
The teenage girl sat frozen in the chair, shivering nervously in the critical gaze of the detectives. Her parents also sat nearby, both obviously livid that she hadn’t deemed it proper, prior to the officers showing up at their door, to tell them that she’d actually witnessed some murders the previous night, and that she’d been molested by a bunch of street thugs.
“Who did it, Gertrude?” asked Detective Chanice. “Did you see his face? Can you give us a description?”
The girl sat with her legs clamped together in a timid gesture. She hesitated, looking dazed. Then she shook her head slowly. “It was very dark,” she began in a small, frightened voice. “I didn’t get a good look at this person. I was really afraid most of the time.”
The detectives kept staring at her quizzically while her parents sat still, shifting their gazes between their daughter and the officers and hoping that the case wouldn’t get entangled around Gertrude.
“Please,” continued Chanice, imploring, “just think for a moment; anything you can remember might be helpful. And you’re not in any trouble, we assure you. Is there anything you can remember from last night after the boys dragged you into that alley?”
The girl gasped nervously and glanced over at her parents. Then she turned back to the officer interviewing her. “I don’t know. I couldn’t see him well because it was very dark. He stood in the shadows all the while. But he was quite tall.”
“Very tall.” The girl paused, thinking. Then she glanced over at Detective Jonesby who stood at approximately 6-feet. “He seemed taller than him, and bigger.”
The woman looked at her partner, grinned slyly. “Are you sure?” she asked, turning back to the girl.
Gertrude pursed her lips. “It was dark,” she repeated. “I didn’t really stare at him. But he looked really tall.”
The officer nodded slowly. “OK. Anything else you remember?”
She nodded. “I thought at first that there was more than one of them.”
“Really?” said Jonesby. “Why d’you say that?”
“I didn’t see anyone else, though. But everything seemed to be happening at once, very quickly; it couldn’t have been just one person there in the alley. And besides, the object that struck the first boy came from the other side of the alley, not directly from the person standing in front of us.”
“No?” Jonesby seemed puzzled.
“No, I saw that because I was standing right behind the boy when the lid was flung from the side and it knocked him down.”
The detective studied the girl quietly. “Are you positive?”
“But you didn’t see anyone there beside the one person standing in the alley?”
She nodded again.
“OK,” Detective Chanice came in again. “Did you by any chance see if this dark person was carrying any kind of weapon?”
Gertrude Forester clenched her lips and shook her head. “He wasn’t carrying any weapons that I could see. He kept to the shadows all the while, never stepped out from the dark place at all.”
“Of course,” said the detective, nodding thoughtfully. “He was using the shadows to conceal his identity.”
Then Jonesby shifted in his seat with a miffed look in his eyes. “Perhaps because it was too dark, as you say, so you didn’t see his hands, right, Miss Forester?”
She sighed, nodding timidly. “Yes, perhaps.”
“What about your friend?” said Chanice.
“Yes, Frances; you were both together last night, right?”
Gertrude nodded quietly.
“Where does she live?”
With Frances’ address in hand, the two detectives headed down to her home a few blocks from the Foresters’. They met the distraught teenager at home with her mom, and proceeded to ask basically the same sets of questions that they’d asked Gertrude an hour before. The answers they got were about the same: it was dark, Frances was terrified out of her skin, so didn’t get a good look at this mysterious killer taking out the boys.
“But that’s not all, Sir,” said Frances quietly, her eyes lit with trepidation, “I think the person was evil.”
“Evil? How do you mean,” said Detective Jonesby, narrowing his eyes curiously.
“I could feel it in my body,” replied the girl. “He was like the devil himself. He killed those boys with magic.”
“Your friend say there were probably several people there last night who murdered the boys,” Jonesby prompted her.
Frances shook her head, wide-eyed. “I’m sure it was just one person, Sir; that’s why I said it was the devil. He stood still where he was, yet all those things were happening around.”
The detectives didn’t know what to make of that weird twist in the murder narrative. So they sat there before the girl and her mother, staring at her quietly, thinking probably that she must still be in shock and didn’t know what she was talking about.
At the end of the interview, they smiled and said, “Thank you, Miss. You’ve been most helpful.”
But they didn’t really mean it.