Fear has a taste. It sharpened the taste of the blood in Brad’s mouth. Oh god, it hurt. Can I keep my shit together long enough to text Sara that I think I’m going to die? Dumb, dumb, dumb. Lost my phone after the first whack with the bat. The second would’ve smashed it anyway. Dumb! Dumb to get involved, dumb to think I could get out, dumb to think Chris could help, dumb. That’s it really.
‘Weren’t smart enough to stay alive were ya, you piece of crap!’
Please make it stop! Please!
The stink of rotting garbage or the decaying filth and muck that sucked at his shoes wasn’t what turned DS Chris Martin’s stomach. Strangely enough, it was the seagulls that really got to him. Wheeling above his head, the scavengers screamed, squabbled and swooped, as much at home in the decay and putrefying rubbish as the animal who had used this as a personal dumping ground.
He moved further around so he could get a better look at the battered body of what had once been Brad. DS Chris Martin had been searching for Brad for two weeks now. The young, homeless teenager had vanished off the face of the earth and now Chris knew why. He had been taken somewhere, held, tortured by the look of him and battered to death. No one should die like that, especially not a 16 year old. Even the dumping was brutal and Chris swallowed hard, trying to swallow the guilt of being too late. Left as rubbish for the gulls and the rats, didn’t say a lot about the significance of a life. But it said a lot about the people who had done this. Brad hadn’t been hidden in garbage bags or buried, he’d been left in open view where the dump workers would find him. Whoever, left him there, knew the police would be called, that the word would get out.
The news would have reached other street kids by now. This was a warning, pure and simple. Except that there was nothing pure and nothing simple about it. The beating and killing of Brad was a clear message of power, utter control and total ruthlessness. Chris straightened, his rage now burning ice cold. His partner Joe behind him asked, ‘It’s him?’
‘Yea, it’s him.’ Chris took a deep breath and turned to scan the crime scene with his mind. This was the part of his police work he didn’t talk about. He thought about it as reading the scene, picking up the vibes. The sixth sense or intuition he had inherited from his family meant he found things others missed. Most cops hated what they called the CSI effect, the ‘hero’ detective walking in and finding a vital clue just by standing there and looking. Crime scene investigation was meticulous and painstaking work, carried out by scientists, forensic photographers, fingerprint technicians to name just a few, all under the watchful and note-taking eye of the Officer in Charge Detective. They didn’t like it, but sometimes Chris would pick up one thing that set him off on the right track, making him even more of an outsider. Which accounted for the sarcastic use of his nickname, Sherlock.
Taking another raged deep breath, he fought for the control needed to put aside the rage and absorb what he could see and, more importantly, what he couldn’t. He stayed crouched close to the ground and scanned the garbage. Then he straightened, moved further around the body and scanned from a different angle. He sifted through feelings of fear, hopelessness and anger and his eye stopped at a spot about two metres off to the right of the body. A wheel was sticking out of the rubbish. ‘Joe, that wheel, check and see if that’s Brad’s bike.’
Joe climbed over the rubbish, removing a pen from his pocket and carefully raised the edge of a cardboard box and peered underneath. ‘You got it. How the hell do you do that, Sherlock?’
Chris ignored the sarcasm and returned to his scanning. Brad hadn’t died here. He scanned trying to find anything else that might have belonged to Brad but his senses were now blank.
His head filled once again with the screaming gulls. He turned away and took a vicious kick at a bucket close by. Bending down, he chose a can, took careful aim and biffed it at a group of seagulls, scattering them screeching back into the air. ‘Seagulls! I hate bloody seagulls.’
His partner Joe remained silent. He knew well enough the frustration, the sense of being inadequate, of being too late. ‘You’ve got shit on your hands now.’
‘Yea, like the animal who used this place as his message. So help me god, I’ll find you, you bastard. You just made this personal.’ He took a deep breath. ‘I want you so bad, I can smell you,’ he added.
‘No, that’s just your hand you can smell.’ As usual, his partner’s humour was inappropriate and not funny, but sometimes at a crime scene, it helped. Brought him back to what he was meant to be doing. And what was he meant to be doing? He was meant to be helping these kids get their lives back. This showed him exactly how powerful the people were that he was trying to keep them away from. Someone was using street kids to support their operation, vulnerable kids who trusted no-one. They were sucked into a game where first they became ‘family’ developing the loyalty and dedication to gang life until they became disposable, eventually dead. He’d been looking for Brad for two weeks and he knew jack-shit. In fact, at the moment, he was Jack-shit. He looked down at his hand and realised, that he was okay about having shit on his hand if it meant that it kept him feeling the rage. He wanted to feel. So many of his cases were seen through a filter of logic and deduction. This time, he wanted to feel. He wanted his stomach to heave with the stench. He wanted to scream at the outrage of abduction and the torture of this beating. And he wanted to mourn for the lonely, clever boy who had stumbled into the hornet’s nest and got stung to death.