The Boys Are Back in Town
At 5 AM the next morning Zorn arrived at the loading docks and found the shack at the gate abandoned and the place empty. He drove past dormant cranes on the docks along the water on one side and a series of warehouses, called Tin City, on the other toward the end of the wharf. The ancient beams beneath his tires sagged and groaned. A vision of the car crashing through with him trapped inside and sinking to the bottom of the channel zipped through his mind. With his heart thumping hard, he fought off the urge to park and walked the rest of the way. Off to his left, a shattered reflection of cityscape lights, from across the bay, danced on the rough water like shards of electric glass. A tug, pushing a long string of barges gave a blast on its horn as it slipped by. In front of him, emergency lights from a parked cruiser flashed upon a crowd of people. That explained the abandoned guard shack and the missing dockworkers. Among the horde were reporters hungry for a story and it appeared that extra officers had been called in to contain the crowd. He parked behind the last cop car on the left. The dawn sky brightened and the few security lights along the edge of the pier winked off just as he stepped out of his car.
An officer emerged from the crowd and intercepted him. “Morning, Zorn.”
“Morning, Joe. What have you got so far?”
“Not much. We’ve just started gathering evidence,” the cop replied.
“How about the guard? Did he see anything?”
“No. It seems he was taking a little siesta. But Kasick’s got a wit on ice, some homeless dude. Claims he saw Jesus raising the dead.” Joe rolled his eyes.
Zorn shook his head. “What about the security cameras?”
“Arceneaux still needs to look at the footage.” He pointed to the warehouse. “I haven’t seen it yet, but the body’s inside.”
As they approached the looky-loos trolling the sight, an attractive redhead holding a camera and voice recorder met them. “Hey, Zorn, how about taking me in with you? Your picture will be front page.” She flashed a smile and gave him a wink.
“Sorry, Lucy, you’ll have to wait like everyone else.” As he walked past her, the smile on her face disintegrated into a frown, and she flipped him off.
“It should be illegal for reporters to have police scanners,” Zorn groused. He took the lead and used his mass to plow through the murmuring spectators; shifting his gaze to the curiosity seekers knowing that sometimes, the perpetrator mixed in with the group to witness people’s reactions to the crime. Standard procedure was to get photos or video of the crowds. “Is Lindsey here?”
“Yes. She’s done out here.” The officer remained close on his heels. “She’s already inside working the scene.”
As Zorn moved toward the entrance, he noticed a large man, with a long, braided ponytail cascading down his back, pressing against the crime scene tape. The guy, who was as tall as Zorn, wore a pair of faded chinos, T-shirt, and black boots. Zorn placed a hand on the man’s shoulder. “Excuse us.”
The man slightly turned to peer at them through dark sunglasses. He broke out into a grin and grabbed hold of the yellow tape lifting it high enough for them to duck under.
Zorn observed a cryptic tattoo on the underside of the man’s wrist that was still puffy and pink like it was a new ink job. “Thanks.” After they ducked beneath the yellow barrier tape, the path was clear to enter the building. The officer patrolling the parameter motioned them through. Inside, the entrance opened up into a cavernous warehouse brilliantly illuminated by rows of high-wattage bulbs dotting the ceiling. The floor space was a wide path down the center flanked on both sides by boxes stacked on wooden pallets. Muffled voices from the other end of the building pulled him that way. A fly buzzed by his ear, and he expected to catch a whiff of something rank, but never did.
Nothing could have prepared him for the grisly sight as he walked around the last cluster of boxes on the right. A dead man, dressed in a T-shirt, jeans, and sneakers, was tied to a vintage wooden chair. He bore a broad grin and wide-eyed stare.
“That’s just creepy,” Joe said. “He looks like he died happy.”
“That’s what happens to a frozen body over time. The skin on the eyelids and lips shrink,” Zorn explained. The man’s clothes were mottled with moisture. Condensation was collecting on the body and rivulets trickled down the corpse’s arms and onto the floor.
Officer Hammond walked in on the scene and strolled up to Zorn. “There’s another body.”
Zorn tensed. “Where?”
“At the abandoned bus station in old town.”
“A boy about the same age as this one,” Hammond continued.
What kind of condition is the body in?” asked Zorn.
“Like this one,” Hammond replied.
The ME arrived. “What a mess.” She pulled her auburn hair back into a ponytail and secured it with a scrunchie.
“He’s been frozen,” Joe said.
“I can see that.” She pulled on a pair of purple latex gloves and turned to the cop. “And, evidence will be lost if we don’t get him on ice soon.” She moved in closer to the body.
“Any idea how long he’s been dead, Jackie?” Zorn asked.
She shrugged. “Hard to tell without being in the lab.”
Lindsey photographed the wall below the large industrial window. She turned to Zorn, “Come take a look at this.”
He rushed to her side for a closer look, and then he called Joe over and pointed at the symbol there. “Recognize that?”
Joe squinted down at it. “What about it?”
“Remember the guy who lifted the tape for us?”
The officer nodded.
“He had that exact symbol tattooed on his wrist. Come on!” He rushed out and Joe followed. When they arrived outside, he scanned the crowd. The man was gone. “He’s got to still be in the area. Get some men and look around.”
After an hour of helping search the docks and the surrounding area, Zorn returned to the warehouse. Lindsey, Jackie, and the body were gone. A fresh crew of police officers milled around the room. One had an iPad. Zorn grabbed him and led him over to the wall. “Can you get a shot of this and Google it for me?”
The officer chuckled. “Are you serious?” he asked searching the detective’s face for When Zorn didn’t answer, the officer pointed a finger at the drawing and said, “That’s a—”
“I know what it is,” growled Zorn. “What does it mean?”
The officer’ chuckling quickly evaporated and was replaced with a straight face. “Not a problem.” He held the pad close to the symbol and snapped off a shot.
Zorn watched the officer rake his finger across the screen multiple times.
“It says here that the blackbird symbolizes the human soul as well as intelligence and wisdom.” He turned the iPad around so that Zorn could see it.
Zorn nodded. “Thanks.”
“Anything else?” the officer asked.
“No, not right now.”
The officer wandered off.
Zorn looked out the window. The sun had risen high enough above the rooftops to illuminate the wall of the next warehouse across the way. He turned away from the window and spotted the officer with the iPad. “I need you to come with me.”
He led the officer around the backside corner of the building and pointed at the wall. “Get a shot of that.” After the officer clicked off a picture, Zorn drew his finger across it and it was still tacky. “It’s fresh.” He looked at the policeman. “Do you have an evidence bag?”
The man pulled one from the pocket of his uniform and handed it over.
Zorn took it, scraped some of the drying paint into it, and handed it back to the officer. “I want to know who manufactures this paint, where they sell it, and a list of all the people who have recently purchased it.” The man raced off.
Joe walked up to Zorn. “We didn’t find him.”
Zorn stood with his hands on his hips glaring at the red, drippy letters on the warehouse wall that read: The Boys Are Back in Town.