The town was going crazy, fear creating irrational behaviour.
Two young women had been found brutally murdered with their throats slit, in only two days. There were also two missing persons’ bulletins out for a Jaqui Lomax and Katherine August. Both of them were young, vibrant women on the brink of the rest of their lives.
One of them, Katherine August, had been missing for nearly three and a half weeks. She had last been seen outside of a well known and well reputed medical centre in town. Her friends and roommates had stated that she had been very upset that day which seemed due to the fact that she had broken up with her boyfriend three days before. It had been her choice and it had been relatively amicable, neither one of them had violent pasts or a history of domestic violence. In fact neither one of them had ever come in contact with the Police, except in 2011 when Katherine had lost her passport when they were due to be off on holiday together.
When interviewed the boyfriend turned up clean, he was in disbelief and denial that anything bad could have happened to her. There was no reason why anyone would want to hurt her so in his mind no one would have done that. Her other contacts all were cleared too. She had good people in her life, strong, caring individuals, whether lifelong friends, acquaintances or work mates. Her parents were beside themselves. Their faces belied the crippling fear that was crushing down on them, not willing to accept the worst and only hoping for the best.
A counsellor had been appointed to help the family to come to terms with the idea that due to Katherine having been missing for such a long period of time there was a strong possibility she was not going to return. She had pretty much vanished into thin air, although that isn’t possible because there is always, always something left behind.
Des and Wilma August, Katherine’s parents, were a young, vibrant couple, or at least they had been until their daughter had gone missing. Now both their faces were scarred with the tragedy of the unknown, with the idea that this may not turn out the way that they want, that there was no control over this event.
They were adamant that Katherine was not the kind of girl to just take off and not let them know where she was or what she was doing. Of course the fact that we never really know what’s going on inside someone’s head was on the minds’ of the investigative team, but Des, Wilma and others’ believed that this was not how Katherine would behave. She had a healthy, loving relationship with both her parents and her friends. The only stickler was that she had broken up with her boyfriend, and that had been cleared but there was also suicide to be considered and of course her family and friends were horrified and all vehemently denied this possibility, Katherine just had too much to live for and so much potential.
The department had two bodies and three missing persons – maybe not related at all, maybe connected in some sick way by the killer. It was not unusual for a killer to change what he did with the bodies or to change where he dumped them or killed them. Anything was possible with these often intelligent, extremely sadistic beings. The police knew they were dealing with a very different individual. He wasn’t insane or mentally ill. That was what made it worse as some serial killers did what they do for the pure pleasure they received – the devil didn’t make them do it – or God. They had the free will and took it from their victims.
A couple of plainclothes were checking out the medical centre to see if Katherine had actually seen or been seen by anyone that day. The precinct had organised a neighbourhood knocking session and they were out there endlessly. There would have been a few bruised knuckles at the end of each day. Everyone was desperate to catch a killer. There was no doubt in any cops’ mind that the killer was one and the same for both murders. His M.O was so complete. He dumped the bodies in areas where they would be discovered eventually but not immediately. No indication of any type of sexual activity. No fingerprints, cigarette butts, pieces of his hair, skin, cloth, saliva – nada and both of the victims’ throats had been slashed. The bastard must wear a mask and some type of overall. You couldn’t handle a body this much and not leave something behind. He must be pretty smart, calculating and definitely analytical, also extremely meticulous and possibly very obsessive. Not a whole lot to get started on, other than the bodies…
Granted, the precinct was small, but there was not one person who worked in any of the departments that wasn’t up on the play. Everybody knew what was going on, who discovered what and when last the murderer had stanched his madness with a kill, no matter how briefly. Max was very uncomfortable and like everybody else he believed the killer was from out of town – without a doubt. You don’t grow up in a small town and not know who lives where and what they do – in their spare time or otherwise. Max collected his car keys off their hook and flung them jinglingly around his forefinger. Things were really looking up for him. Detective Luke Devlin, quickly becoming Max’s new hero, had instructed him to return to the site where the woman and her handbag had been found and to recheck all the points. Apparently it was still cordoned off and he doubted if any of the townsfolk would have tampered with anything. Everyone except the killer seemed spooked; he thought, and pondered on his grandma as he headed for the door. He nodded with authority at Rita, the Raunchy Receptionist. Whew! She sure was keeping something good, real hot in those tight skirts and eye-popping shirts she wore. He wondered if he should broach the subject of her making herself a target because of the clothes she wore, but figured he’d pretty much screw up any chance he had of getting next to her naked. Which was absolutely and totally the only thing he wanted to do – all day and every day for the rest of his life. She didn’t have a bad reputation either. It was not like she had done half the precinct or worse – was actually bisexual. Oh no… Rita was a really nice girl, but damn, she was hot! Unusual, it was just something about her.
He reached the place marked X and began to search around. Checking that all the drag marks, blood splatters or drips, tyre patterns et cetera had been correctly marked and inventoried. The grid pattern wasn’t too complicated and he managed this simple task. As he quietly worked his way around the perimeter of the crime scene the sun shifted and rose to its peak in the sky. The sun was warming his back as he bent to straighten the numbered flags that were patchily strewn across the trampled grass. He glanced at his watch to see if it was really time for lunch or was it just his stomach imagining things. The sunlight glanced off its’ glass watch face, blinding him briefly with a jab of light. Funnily enough he was not too blind to see a glancing reflection off to his left – a brighter, more stabbing light. It was something bigger than a watch and he needed to go and find out exactly what that may be, in the middle of a forest park where vehicles are prohibited unless you are with the police, like himself or some other such authoritative position. He clambered over the tape and strode towards the place he believed the light had reflected from. The bush became thicker and harder to wade through but Max was not going to give up until he found what he was looking for. And he did, eventually.
A brown Toledo was semi-stashed behind branches and some scattered leaves. Max proceeded cautiously and the more material he removed the more it looked like Trixie’s brothers’ car. He opened the passenger door and peered inside. Nothing seemed out of the obvious other than the fact that it was abandoned. He glanced up at the still covered windscreen and saw that it was quite badly smashed. Not only that but there was a miniature, red spider-like pattern in the centre of the bigger, glassy spider-like pattern of the smashed window. Max knew it was blood. He didn’t need to touch it – to test its’ viscosity. But for some reason he felt impelled to. There was nothing he could do to stop it. His hand rather steadily and far more confidently than he felt, went to the windscreen and very carefully dabbed himself a finger in it. It was so gentle a jab that barely a full stop worth of blood stuck to his forefinger. Then of course he had to squelch his thumb into it, rubbing at the minuscule dot that just smeared into a faint pink streak on the inside of his thumb. Max stood back from the car and gazed at his blood-squelching fingers. A thin blonde, medium length hair had stuck to the nails’ jagged edge of his forefinger. It glinted in the sunlight – lulling him… Max was Jolted back to reality as atrocious visions of the possibilities of what he had found crammed up his brain. Not everything registered and nothing was in the correct order. Even though he knew this was Liam’s’ car, Trixie’s brother, his first reaction was what he considered later to be a sick fascination with the circumstances. A faint hope took root in his heart that there really was something wrong so that he could be the one to have found it. Bummer was he actually knew Trixie – like, really knew her well and had known Liam all his life, not that they were best friends or anything. Somehow an iota of his police training crept through, taking over and he was on autopilot. He sucked in a great breath, kept calm and ran back to his car to radio in what he thought he had found.
The coroner’s van was the first to turn up although the police were very close behind. Max stood looking rather sheepish – he felt as if he may have cried wolf. He had been instructed not to leave the site unattended or to touch anything. So here he stood.
Head of the department, John Malviston and his off-sider Luke Devlin strolled towards him. They didn’t look like they were in a hurry or concerned or anything, very casual and somewhat off putting to Max. They continued strolling towards him, chatting away, waving arms – halting and pointing at each other with a short laugh and then they were there. John and Luke stood in front of Max and asked a few questions – routine stuff like how he had discovered the vehicle and what time, that sort of stuff. And then they wanted to see the actual site where the car was nestled almost invisibly in the surrounding jungle like forest shrubbery and bush.
Max was delighted to be the only one able to show them the way to the site, a sense of importance had its’ way and squeezed itself all up into Max’s already tight shirt. He strode forward with a sense of purpose and as eager as a hound dog to do good. As they tramped towards the abandoned car Max told the detectives that he felt a little stupid that a coroner had turned up. There wasn’t a body. He had already looked in and there was no one in front or back of the car.
“There’s a little spot of someone’s blood on the windscreen – and it’s on the outside of the vehicle….” Max tapered off as he realised he was not being listened to at all.
“So are you telling me you checked the car –like inside?” asked John, “Zat what you’re saying son?”
Of course he had looked in the car to see if there was someone! Max nodded, feeling that although that was not the incorrect answer, it still wasn’t the right one…
It had possibly been drunken teenagers too scared to go home with dad’s pranged up vehicle. Not hurt enough to warrant hospital care, Max kept to himself.
Luke and John glanced at each other and carried on squeezing in through the crowding bush towards the vehicle they could now see. The car had been driven well into the bush – as far as it would go and then had been completely hidden with broken branches and foliage. It was recent as the branches were only just starting to go limp in the heat.
“Shit Max, how lucky was that? Getting to locate some vehicle in the sunshine…” Luke whistled through his teeth and winked at the young policeman, “Any theories there?” Luke asked.
“I think someone might be playing a game – Y’know, some kids thinking it’s funny to leave a suspicious vehicle in the same vicinity as a murder victim?” Max, the newly confident rookie said, hesitantly, his shirt collar feeling infinitely tighter than it did a second ago.
“I think that the “someone” you are referring to is more than likely the killer and yes, he likes playing games. I can also bet you a hundred that there is a body that belongs to this car an’ if not in it – then very close to it.” John said, as he coughed and then strode away, leaving Max feeling just a little bit smaller than he did a second ago too. Natural attrition would indicate that his shirt shouldn’t be feeling tight but it did all the same.
Then John turned back. “Hey Max! Did you check the trunk!”? He yells.
Max shrinks a little more; his collar chokes him a little more. “Ah – No, Sir!” He shouts back, wishing something would swallow him whole – bringing him right back to thoughts of Raunchy Rita, but the last thing he needed right now were tight pants.
“Move your arse Max – come open the trunk.” Luke gestured to him and he jerked himself out of the Raunchy Rita stupor and followed, feeling duly told off.
The trunk needed an official police key which took a little while considering where they were. Max successfully located the crowbar in the trunk of John’s car, headed back towards the vehicle site and finally cranked open the trunk of the abandoned Toledo. The boot made a heavy clunk as the parts of the lock to the boot basically fell apart. No whistling air of the modern dynamics warrantable of a modern car. Luke hauled the boot open with a grunt as it tried to suck itself closed and keep its’ hidden prize.
The puff of air that hit them was putrid, all three of them gagged, stepping back with grimaces painted on their faces and perhaps a colour or two different to boot.
Trixie was looking at them. Her head had been removed from her neck and was carefully positioned in her pale blue hands which were turned palm up to gently cup the hacked and torn mess. She seemed to be staring straight at them. She had been there long enough to be chillingly cold, but not long enough to have decomposed at all. The rest of her torso lay folded at the bottom; a small amount of blood had congealed on dirty rubber mats where her head should have been. She had obviously been killed somewhere else. There was nowhere near enough blood to warrant this as the actual murder site – this was the dumpsite. Although not an afterthought, it was a calculated decision, like everything this killer was involved in. Luke felt extremely saddened that these bodies were dumped – like trash and yet they had once been living, breathing beings. They had been somebody’s someone. And everybody needed somebody, and he included himself in that too, as loathe as he was to admit it.
The nasty sound of vomiting interrupted his thoughts and he turned, hoping that it may be the rookie but no, it was John throwing up. He remembered the first time he had seen John get sick like this and it had surprised the hell out of Luke. Apparently he got over it then and could work. Some sort of protection or something. Anyone who didn’t know John would expect to turn around and find the rookie, Max, chucking up his lunch – not the old guy in charge. Poor Max looked a little green. He had taken about four steps backwards, crowbar still in hand. He looked like he had not only smelled but actually eaten something bad. The girls’ lips were a purple brown – her mouth closed. A little crusty white “vee” of dried saliva had almost crystallised in the corners of her mouth. Her eyes were cloudy and blue – maybe just a little heavy lidded, like she was stoned or had just woken up.
“You O.K. Max? … John? All right?” Luke asked over his shoulder as he bent over the open trunk to get a better view.
“Yup.” Mumbled John, spitting and grumbling, “Fuck has anyone got anything I can wash my mouth out with? Or some gum maybe?” Luke handed him a toffee.
“Max, are you ok?” Luke asked again.
“Yes sir, I’m fine!” Max’s voice whistle whispered out of him, high and breathless. John looked across at him and shook his head. He wondered what the hell was going to happen to the police force when he retired. How do these guys even get in? He chuckled, thinking about how he was thinking and yet he was the one heaving his lunch. The kid must be feeling screwed sideways at the moment. Jesus, the toffee tasted awful.
“Is this your first, kid?” He asked, chucking a couple of Tic-Tacs’ into his mouth that he’d found in the Toledo’s glove box.
Max looked over at the big guy. It most definitely was. It was his first and he thinks that he’s made up his mind to make it his last too. Maybe this was not what he thought police work was all about. And to be truthful, it hadn’t been. He loved all of the community stuff and helping young kids or punks and hopefully made them think about their lives a little more before making those dumb-ass decisions.
He nods slowly at John Malviston, yes it was his first body.
“And I bet you’re thinking that this job is not for you….”
Max nods again – thinking he will understand, support him. Maybe even take him under his wing and none of this will be so bad. Perhaps the Chief will find him a job working with kids more and stuff like that…
“Well kid – you’re fuckin’ right.” John says and walks off in the direction of Luke and the corpse. He’s shaking his head and mumbling something under his breath. Max looks at him like a forlorn puppy. He pulls himself together, thinking he will prove John Malviston wrong, most definitely. Funny how things said by others can change the things that you do – but somehow he felt his back straighten, his father –god rest his soul, would have said it was because he was finally growing a spine. Max strode confidently behind John, repeating to himself: I will be successful, I will climb the career ladder….I will be successful; I will climb the career ladder…
© Kait King, 2015