Chapter Five Sleepers Awake.
Back at the precinct house the two women found themselves cosseted by the remaining team. They sat with steaming cups of black coffee trying to make sense of it all.
It was obvious that all three suspects had been murdered in the most macabre fashion possible.
But were they dealing with a serial killer or a mob hit they didn’t know.
“Do you remember that she knew who I was as we left even though I’d covered my name badge.”
“Yes. I thought it was strange at the time.”
“She knew it because she recognised me as the target for a hit.”
“What are you saying?”
“My Steve was murdered!”
Steffi picked up the phone on the desk and dialled a number.
“City Morgue? Yes this is Sergeant Corrigan of the Serious Crime Squad. Is it possible to take a look at Bruno Carlotto. Yes I know it’s late but it is essential. Thank you. We will be with you directly.”
“I’ll go and get the car.” Julie said as they walked quickly out of the office.
“Thanks Julie. I’ll meet you out the front I’ve a call to make first.”
A few minutes later she was outside the door with the legend on it. ‘Archivist Arthur White’.
She knocked and entered.
“Hello Arthur.” She said to the grey haired police officer that sat at a desk strewn with papers.
“Hello Sergeant.” He gestured to the pile of papers on his desk. “Why can’t the others be like you. Look at this mess and I’m supposed to make sense of all this rubbish so I can file it away. They just don’t follow procedure.”
It was his usual grouse but she could hardly blame him as most of the Precinct fail to file reports properly.
“What can I do for you Sergeant?” He asked.
“Could you pull what ever we have on the death of Lieutenant Corrigan please.”
Arthur raised an eyebrow.
“We haven’t got much as the investigation concluded that it was an accident. If you will fill in this form I will do my best to find it all.”
“Thank you Arthur.” She lent over the form and began to fill it out.
“Are you sure you want to do this Stephanie?” Arthur said his voice mirroring his concern.
“Yes Arthur. I’ll pick them up tomorrow and Arthur?”
As she left Arthur mumbled under his breath.
“My pleasure my girl but I doubt it is yours.”
The City Morgue was housed in a building that wouldn’t look out of place in a horror movie all it needed was thunder and lightning to be complete.
Inside was the pathologist waiting for them.
“Hello Doctor Houston thank you for doing this at such short notice.” Steffi said politely.
The Doctor was a hansom man in his sixties with a bald head and a lived in expressive face. For some reason he reminded Steffi of a gorilla his eyes were so warm and gentle.
“I am always ready to help the Serious Crime Squad. But this is an odd one.” He gave a loud sniff as he led them to the shroud covered body on the mortuary slab.
“I don’t suppose you get many headless corpses through here?” Julie said and instantly regretted it as the man gave her a cold stare that sent a chill down here spine.
“You’ll be surprised what we see in here.” He said in a macabre tone of voice. He was obviously enjoying putting the wind up Julie as he gave Steffi a wink.
“You can’t get the staff these days.” She smiled at him.
“True, true. Well ladies let’s have a look shall we.” He pull the shroud down to the bodies waist. It was unsettling seeing a body without a head.
“He must have put up quite a struggle. You don’t put your head over the block willingly.” She said with a frown.
“Unless you are Anne Boleyn.” The doctor quipped. “There are no signs of a struggle. No bruises, no marks that indicate he was gripped and held down.”
“So he lays his head over the block voluntary ready for the axe man to lop it off.” Steffi mimicked the action. “I still can’t see it.”
“Probably because he was standing up at the time.”
“What!? That makes no sense.”
“His murderer could have come up from behind him I suppose.” Julie conjectured.
But Steffi saw the pathologist give a slight shake of the head.
“We’re wrong again aren’t we?”
“I am afraid so. The blow landed here at the front left side of the neck.” He explained pointing out salient features as did so. “It met no resistance and exited here at the back right of the neck. It was carried out in one mighty blow.”
He partially lifted the corpse up so the girls could see.
“That must have been one hell of an axe to do that.” Steffi said in disbelief.
“It was vorporal.” He said as he carefully laid the body back down again.
“Sorry. I have been reading to many gothic books. The word means a weapon, a sword, that never looses it’s sharpness or corrode. It’s supposed to be the weapons of kings.” He said on seeing the puzzled look on their faces.
“A sword?” Julie asked.
“Yes a sword. A double handed great sword to be precise.”
“This gets weirder and weirder by the minute.”
“There is more weirdness to come. Look at the neck.”
The two girls examined the neck.
“All I know is that it must have made one heck of a mess. The assailant must have been covered in blood as was the room, area, they were in.”
“You would have thought so wouldn’t you, but no he didn’t lose much blood or viscera at all. You haven’t see it have you?” He tutted like a disappointed college professor when his star pupil gets a question wrong. “All the connections to the head have been sealed.”
“He didn’t lose much blood or anything else that matter. I can tell you that he had a snack of Ravioli and a glass of white wine probably only minutes before his death. I can tell you that he had syphilis but I can’t tell you how he lost his head to one blow from someone in front of him wielding a dirty great sword.”
“I think we have seen enough doctor.”
He covered the body up.
“We have another headless wonder over here but at least we have the skull. The body was horrendously burnt but enough of the body survived for examination.”
“We know this one Doctor we were there when it happened and it’s not an experience I would wish to repeat.” Steffi told him.
“Oh I see. Well I can tell you that she was skinned alive. We’ve the skin attached to the wall there.” He pointed to a dark corner of the room. “She was opened up down the centre of her spine and then peeled back like you would do to an orange.”
“Type of weapon used?” Steffi said trying to hang on to some ounce of procedure.
“None. As I said she was peeled like an orange. There are no knife marks.
Like laughing boy over there the major vessels are sealed. When the body arrived it’s heart was still beating but it stopped soon after. The shock and blood lost should have killed her there and then but it didn’t.
What else can I tell you. She was coitus intactus and the skin of the buttocks show marks of being caned for pleasure.”
“She seemed a bohemian but I’m surprised that she was Virgo Intact.” Steffi replied.
“What has her star sign to do with all this?” Julie asked completely lost.
“Virgo Intact means that she was a virgin. And I’m really surprised with Bruno as her husband.” Steffi looked back at the shrouded figure on the mortuary slab. “How come the pair of you didn’t have sex with each other.”
“I think I have the answer to that officer.” Doctor Houston told her. “There are clear signs that, Bruno did you call him, Bruno was a sodalist. In fact he had sex a few hours at the most before he died.”
Once again Julie was confused by what they said, it was up to Steffi to explain.
“He had indulged in anal sex. From the sound of it he was a Homosexual while she was a Lesbian. Which explains the presence of those two girls at her apartment.” She frowned deep in thought. “Neither of you could be open about it. Joe public and the families wouldn’t stand for it.”
“They were going to marry each other knowing their partner accepted them and they wouldn’t have to have sex with each other.” Julie said.
The answer was confusing but Steffi understood most of it.
“The apartment had nothing masculine in it at all. Yet they seem gloriously happy with each other. Bruno is always buying her fancy clothes and jewellery.” Steffi mused.
“Sex isn’t the only reason a man and a woman can be together. I’ve a female friend who I have known ever since I got my degree. She knows more about me than my wife does. There isn’t a suggestion of sex we are just comfortable in each others company.” The Doctor explained. “She’s more like my little sister.
His clothes and effects are in that bag up on that table there.”
He passed surgical gloves over to them before tipping it’s contents on to the tray for examination.
Steffi gave a gasp as the shoes with their distinctive silver buckles thumped on to the table.
“Are you alright Sergeant?” Julie asked concerned.
“Yes.” She lied as she carefully turned the shoes in the light. “Julie find out who makes these shoes and who they have sold them to? The can’t have made many.”
“Hardly any at all.” Doctor Houston told them. “Jensen of forensics, he bagged them up for collection tomorrow, recognised the shoes being of elite Italian manufacture. He should be able to give you chapter and verse tomorrow.”
“Doctor did you do the pm on Lieutenant Corrigan?” She asked.
“Yes I did but there was little left to work with. He was too badly burnt for recognition we had to rely on his partner and dental records. Mainly the former.”
“Thank you Doctor you have been very helpful. Goodnight Doctor.”
Once outside Julie voiced her concern.
“What happened back there Sergeant?” She asked gently.
“I recognised the shoes. On the night Steve died someone wearing those types of shoes stood at my head.” Steffi said quietly. “I can’t remember much I just get flash backs but I remember those shoes.
Take me back to the Precinct Julie please. I’ve a date with Sir Hugh at ten, he’s taking me out for a meal. He’s picking me up at the precinct.”
They journeyed back in silence.
The restaurant didn’t shove its classiness under your nose but it was there in its understatement.
Hugh looked frail in his dinner jacket, his shirt seemed to large to hold his emaciated form.
The wine flowed as they tucked into a Beef Wellington that was cooked to perfection.
“Sir Hugh?” Steffi asked as they sat in the lounge of the restaurants bar.
“Yes Steffi dear.”
“When you were with my father after the arsonist did you have any clues as to who he or she could be?” She asked carefully.
“No not really. With a serial arsonist it is hard to pin them down. All we knew was that they didn’t like civic buildings. They torched a police station, a ambulance station and the fire headquarters.”
“Were there any fatalities?”
“No. All the buildings were old and only sparsely used. We had a warning of around ten minutes to get people out.”
“Then why did he shoot my mother and father before torching their home.”
“Your father liked playing with his cards tight to his chest. We reckoned he may have stumbled on the arsonist by accident with out realising it. The arsonist thought his cover was blown so had to remove your father quickly that was why it was so messy.”
Hugh took a swig of his whisky and grimaced.
“Where were you Hugh?”
“Your father had sent me to interview a lawyer named Thomas Jefferson who he thought was running prostitutes on the east side. When I had done I called your father and he asked me to pick him up from home. When I got there your place was already ablaze. I radioed for fire trucks before crashing into the house. You were crouched down by your parents trying to shake them awake but it was to later they were already dead. I picked you up and barely got you out of the fire.” He clenched his scared left fist that carried the mark of the flames.
“Hugh how long have the doctors given you?” She asked with a wan smile.
Oh you’ve noticed.” He said with a forced smile. “Our wonderful doctors and professors have given me six months to a year. What cheerful souls they are.”
“I’ll support you like you did me.”
“What by putting you in that God dammed orphanage? I think not.”
“You always visited.”
“Put it down to guilt/”
“Why guilt? There was no way you could have saved them.”
“Yes there was. I didn’t go straight round to your dads after he phoned me to pick him up from home. I stopped at the ‘Seven Eleven’ to buy some booze. I was half an hour to late getting to your house. If I hadn’t been late I may have gotten them out or even caught the bastard who did it.”
“You don’t know that!” Steffi said like a his.
“Can you forgive me?”
“There is nothing to forgive. I forgave you long ago. Your a human being not a superhero like Superwoman.” Steffi paused before asking gently. “Is it cancer?”
“Yes, that and cirrhosis of the liver. I’m afraid my days of cigars and whisky has eventually taken its toll on me. My loose living when I was younger has put this death sentence on me. And no you are not going to look after me.
When it becomes too much to bear I have rooms booked in the Hospice of all Angels run by the Sisters of the Paracleat.”
Steffi nodded her understanding.
“Lets talk about other things please?”
The conversation went back to trivial things if a little false was the laughter.
Later Sir Hugh dropped Steffi at her apartment and wish her a good night.
She changed into her pyjamas deliberately shunning the gorgeous negligee she had bought for her wedding night.
She curled up with a glass of red wine by the fireside in Steve’s favourite chair. It made her feel closer to him somehow.
She tapped her teeth with the end of the pencil she was writing up her notes with, in deep thought.
Somehow Steve’s death was tied up in Bruno’s murder. She didn’t know how but sure as eggs are eggs it was. It was like a row of dominoes. You push one and it falls and hits the next which hits the next and so on till the whole pattern could be seen.
She got up and crossed to Steve’s desk stuck in the corner of the room and began to go through his papers.
After a few minutes she yawned mightily.
“Bed.” She said decisively as she drained the last of the wine out of the glass. “I’ll look at this lot in the morning.”
She washed up the glass, dimmed the lights and got into bed and cuddled up to the large Teddy Bear that laid where Steve would have been.
“Good night Steve. I love you.”
A little later she was gently snoring still cuddling the bear.
Steve stepped out of the shadows by the main door and crossed over to where Steffi lay fast asleep. He carefully brushed the stray lock of hair that always dropped over her left eye back up to join the others as he sat on the edge of the bed beside her.
He bent and kissed her forehead.
“Sleep well darling. Soon you’ll understand and we will be together again.”
He got up and crossed over to the desk. Putting his fingers under the pigeonhole he pressed a raised section of veneer causing a hidden little draw to spring out exposing folded sheets of typed text.
“I love you too darling, I always will.” He crossed over to the shadow by the door and was gone.
She stirred but didn’t wake.
The room became quiet save for her gentle breathing and eventually even that faded away.
Star Labs wards at the ‘Free’.
“Evening Sister.” John Jones called cheerfully with a radiant smile. “I thought I’d pop in to see how our patient is doing before going home. Apparently pulling a forty-eight hour shift isn’t good for me.”
The Sister smiled warmly at him, having romantic designs of her own.
“They’ve just fallen to sleep.” She looked up at the indicators on the iron lung. “We’ve checked for bed sores before bedding the patient down for the night.”
The Sister took a deep breath and took the plunge.
“I go off shift in half an hour and wondered if you would like to go to the movies?”
His smile widened.
“Do you know I’d like that. What’s showing?”
“I don’t know.” She felt silly now.
“I tell you what lets forget about the pictures. I know a little Italian restaurant just around the corner that I’ve been dying to try but didn’t want to go on my own. So how about it, on me off course.”
“How could I turn down such an eloquent request.” She said as they walked out of the side ward. “I’ll see you outside in half an hour.”
“Perfect.” He laughed.
As their voices faded away into the distance the Phantom Stranger stepped out of the shadows and crossed over to the figure lying in the iron lung. He stared down as if communicating deeply somehow with the patient before, with a nod of approval, he vanish like a curl of smoke.