The 5 Stages of Grief

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Chapter 4, Sgt. Whitford

The house, much bigger than the townhouse they were in yesterday, seemed to spread the effects out a bit more. The stench, for instance, had more space to fill and therefore, at least here at the front door, wasn’t the immediate blow to the stomach, the hair-trigger gagging they’d been hit with at the secretary, Miss Wilkinson’s place. With a few more steps, his senses on full alert and ready for the worst, the smell began thickening, gathering about him like a swarm of black-flies, his mouth saturating with a vile taste as his teeth sizzled with the continuous buzz, electricity-like vibration that comes with the too many fly’s. He turned to look at the young cop behind him, see how he was making out.

Brandon held himself like an old pro. Sure, his face was scrunched by the smell, but whose wouldn’t be? Apart from that he appeared better than expected.

“You ready for this?”

“There’s a way to get ready?”

He was going to like this kid. “Don’t touch anything – okay?”

The kid actually laughed. “Like I would touch anything. I don’t even want my shoes to touch the floor.”

“Good point.” Scott swallowed his smile before it had time to take over, took a few steps forward into the living-room, bringing the adjoining dining-room into partial view.

This time the victim was not piled upon the table but sitting upright somehow, in one of the chairs. Well, most of her was. The rest, her head, he didn’t notice right away, only that it was missing. He was reminded that with some things, no matter how often you were subject to them – the body, the mind, the soul or whatever you wanted to call it – revolted on you, took over. Somewhere down deep, some inner part of your humanity told you that certain things were flat-out wrong. You didn’t need your parents or school to teach you, it was dialed in, they were just wrong. Before him, Sergeant Scott Whitford realized, was one of those things.

The body, much like yesterdays except for position, was stripped of flesh and writhing in maggots and flies. Revolting? Yes – but not new. It seemed to be held up by a white coated wire, something along those lines. Little of it was white now of course, just the ends, with a noose of some fashion hanging over the shoulders where the head was supposed to be.

He spun to check on Brandon only to see the kid’s face go from concentrated composed-disgust to absolute horror the instant his unblemished brain comprehended what sat wriggling before it. Scott turned back around, alarmed at the terror frozen upon the young officer’s face. His movement, each of them, must have caused the commotion of flies no longer feasting upon the repugnant body, but hovering in a translucent ink-cloud, octopus-like, in the space surrounding it. It must have been a movement of air current or something that caused their agitation, his analytical mind was surmising before snatching a glimpse of what had shaken the young officer so completely.

The head. It was the only part of her person with the skin still attached, though the flies were commited and doing a first-rate job. It was held upright between whatever remained of this victim’s thighs. What had once been a writhing blob of fly’s and maggots was now revealed and looked to be a woman.

“I think I’m going to be sick,” was all he heard from behind as the kid bolted out the door. Scott considered joining him, was about to turn and follow when something caught his eye. He should have noticed it sooner as it was the only thing about the scene not covered in blood. Instead, it shone as if the killer had polished it before leaving. Focusing all of his senses on the unsullied item – a knife, something like that but not quite – he took a step forward, then another. He could see it was a letter opener in sterling silver or white gold from where he stood now, some kind of polished white metal the engraving purposely facing forward most likely for the finder to read. He stepped forward another pace only to be scared out of his wits by the unexpected voice behind him. A voice, in his concentration to hold his stomach down, he hadn’t heard approach.

“Sorry Sergeant. That one got the best of me.” It was Brandon returned.

When his heart stopped galloping, returning to its proper place in his chest, he spoke. “Didn’t expect to see you back. Fuck – I nearly followed you.”

“Didn’t want to let you down. What do you think it is?”

Scott took another step forward crouching down so he could read the inscription trying with all his will to ignore the entirety of the scene before his battered eyes. “It’s a letter opener, it has writing on it.” He tilted his head sideways to get a better look. “Say’s, Joanne and Fredrick Reichmann, forever together and then a date – probably their wedding or an anniversary of something.”

“It looks to be hammered through her tongue,” Brandon commented from behind the sergeant’s left shoulder, “into the seat of the chair.” The wonder in his voice confirmed Scott’s instinct – the kid was going to make a hell of a detective one day, if he could avoid the bullshit and politics that is. Not many could overlook mankind’s cruelness to one-another and see the clues.

“Yeah, but that’s not the thing,” he answered, unconscious he’d even replied.

“What thing? What are you talking about?”

“It looks to be a message of some kind. I don’t know what it is, but would stake my career he’s trying to tell us something.” The two remained still, tacit, absorbing the scene spread before them, focusing on everything, nothing, the subconscious imprinting the brutality, inhumanity to memory. At least that’s what Scott was doing, the kid had good enough instincts to remain quiet while he did. “Let’s go. I need to call the Lieutenant, he needs to know this.” They left in silence through the back door.


After the phone call, they found where the perpetrator entered the building with little effort, as there appeared to be no attempt at stealth or secrecy of any kind. There was also no indication of forced entry, with all signs suggesting the intruder used a key.

Scott had no idea who they were holding downtown, didn’t want to know, as any knowledge other than what he found could bias his investigation. Clues were innate. It was best to handle them one at a time, adding one to the other until a pattern immerged, began to form. You had to keep your eye out for the one out of place, the one that tries to influence, manipulate the others. Clues didn’t lie as long as you didn’t arrive with preconceived notions trying to mold them into something they were not. People lied all the time, especially criminals. He tried to let the picture form before adding deception, manipulation to the puzzle.

The Coroner, when she finally found the guts to enter the building, gave him additional, disturbing news. It seems, upon removal of the body that a long tubular thing covered in gore had fallen out of what could only have been her vagina. She said, “What only could have been” because, after closer inspection it seems there was a similar item lodged in her anus. It only took moments for them to figure out the items were indeed vibrators and that both had been turned on and ran until the batteries had eventually died.

Scott shivered at the implications. This was too sick.

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