I’d always liked storms. Ever since I was a boy, they entranced me. How the rain lashed against the windows in rhythmic succession, how the lightning struck with such commanding fury. Each of them were blissful to my ear. No time more than on the dreaded night-shift. It almost made the mound of paperwork on my desk begin to feel worth it… almost.
A mound was what I tended to think of it as anyway. In reality, it was only a few pages, evidence forms for the case I worked last week. A shooting in a nightclub. But as a detective, you always need to find things to be critical of, even if it’s your own work. It’s part of the job description. Rule one: never stop asking questions.
It’s funny, that’s more than just a rule I keep for work now. I keep it for everything. It’s really hampered my ability to enjoy things as they were intended, especially books. God, going through training made me critical. I don’t think I could even look at another Agatha Christie novel without gagging at the inconsistencies. That left what I like to call the ‘good’ pile on my desk. About fourteen books, all Sanderson. The only ones I’d deemed good enough. What can I say? He has a way with words. Words that made it much easier to neglect this paperwork for a while and read a few chapters.
“Hey! Jefferson!” an annoyance called from over my cubicle. The accent was a distinctive one, from a Scottish heritage, and an upbringing in the Bronx. Lord knows how I loathe the person it belongs to. “Jackass!” the voice called again. Just as I was getting to a good part! I kept the book open but raised my head slightly to meet his gaze. Grayson glared back at me, seemingly, he wasn’t amused. Not that it was ever my intent to do so.
“What is it, Gray?” I asked him. He always seemed to know the most annoying time to speak to me, which for him; was always. I hated the guy, always have, always will.
“God,” he said, proceeding to rub the back of his head. “Is reading all you do?” I didn’t dignify him with an answer, that would only validate his existence, and I couldn’t let him develop an ego. The thought of it made me shudder. “Is there even any books that you don’t approve of?”
I motioned to the bin near my desk with my thumb. It was almost full to the brim with the thirteen I’d read this week. Each of them were Agatha Christie novels. Pulpy, pandering, and unrealistic expectations of detective work. It almost amused me, I feel sorry for anyone who joined expecting Poirot, but instead got a boss that berated you for staring too long at his coffee.
“What do you want, Gray?” I asked. “And get to the point.”
“A double homicide’s just been called in.” At the mere mention of it, I dogeared the book I was reading before placing it back in its well-deserved spot on my ‘good’ pile. “Just off of Ember Avenue. You know the club, the Nebula.”
“Who doesn’t?” Everyone knew of the Nebula. If you wanted a score or a good time, this was where you found it. I had to admit, I was no stranger to the place by any account. It was a sleazy joint, but the cash it raked in was like something out of a top-class casino. They ran people dry before they knew they were even playing the game.
“Yeah, well the boss said you might wanna head down to the scene.” Want! Biggest understatement of the year. I’m more than happy to leave this paperwork behind. “He knows you like to get a look at it before the forensics start moving things about. I should warn ya, it ain’t pretty.”
“You headed to the scene too?”
Gray nodded. For once, I was somewhat pleased to have him here. I didn’t have to drive.
“I’ll be down in five,” I said. “Wait in the car and be ready to go, I don’t like to be kept waiting.” Grayson did as he was told. I grabbed my coat from behind my chair and then my gun from the locked drawer in my desk. I always kept it handy. Some might call it paranoia, but, just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean it won’t come in handy. A model 28 Patrolman revolver, it had never done me wrong in the past. I checked the barrels, six bullets total. I holstered the gun and headed downstairs.
The car pulled to a stop on the curb just outside of the Nebula. I always made sure to gaze at my watch before leaving a car, old habits. Eleven pm on the dot. My feet landed in a puddle as I stepped out of the car, soaking my shoes through. I sighed, my breath becoming nothing but mist on the dusty air. The street was a void of inky darkness, illuminated only by the moonlight and the lights radiating from the Nebula itself. And they wonder why no-one comes to Portland? I made my way over to the scene, ducking my way under tape as I did. I flashed my badge to an on-duty officer and he let me by, advising me to head around back.
The scene I was met with was one I wouldn’t forget, not for a long, long time.
“Sergeant Wesley,” I said as I approached. “What’ve we got?”
“It ain’t good Jefferson. Double homicide.” He pointed over to a dumpster.
I gulped. Don’t be what I think…
I walked over to the green dumpster that was lashed with rain. I took a deep breath of unfiltered industrial air before peering over the edge. I struggled to hold back a gag. I’d seen a lot of things in my time, housefires, mass shootings, but of all things, it was this case, this specific case that had disturbed me the most.
The bodies were both males, with severed manhoods. A smile plastered both of their faces, a red smile, carved directly into their skin. I had to gulp down the feeling of sickness that was stirring within me. I don’t know why, but I was almost fixated on the crime scene. I’d seen bad things in my day, but this, the way it was done, it was… intimate. Not just something done on a whim, it was premeditated.
“A crime of passion,” I said. Wesley nodded.
“We figured as much too. We’ve got one witness, says she saw bits and pieces.” Wesley paused for a brief moment, seemingly struggling to find the right words. “It ain’t much, but it’s a start.”
Rule one, I thought. Never stop asking questions.
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