Sunday 31 May 2015

Another case

It was time for a holiday after Joe and I had solved the last gruesome murders.

The problem was if we asked for the same time off Mike, our boss would twig that we were going away together. I did not want anyone at work to know. Joe said it was time to let the world know that we loved each other. My thought was the dynamics would change at the station and with Mike. Getting out of bed to put on the coffee, I needed a stimulant to win any dispute with Joe.
 As our discussion was turning into an argument, my cell rang. ”Meg here.” Our boss wanted us at work immediately and Joe was not picking up. Did I know where to reach him? “I will go pick him up he is probably still catching up on his sleep.” I told Mike.
They had found a body out in a cornfield by a worker on a tractor, a man fully clothed with a gunshot to his head. Mike wanted us to get out there immediately. “There goes the holiday,” was all I said.
Arriving, we parked on a dirt road, dust swirled around us, a few people stood near the field gawking. Joe yelled for everyone that was not with the police to move back to the road, as they were contaminating evidence. A few taking pictures of the area. They would be up on YouTube before we got back to the station. I hope that they did not have any of the body.
Tom the coroner was just arriving as we glimpsed down at a man with a bullet through his forehead. His hands tied over his head, legs spread, with his eyes wide open. Blood and soil covered his dark hair running down his chin, Joe commented, “Looks like a gang killing to me.” Tom stooped down beside the body “Been dead at least five hours.” Opening the victim’s mouth to see only teeth, his tongue was gone. “Think you are right Joe, about a gang killing.” Was all that came out of my mouth? Tom nodded agreement.

The young tractor worker Zach was questioned, all he said was he nearly ran over the man. His hands shook as he clasped them to stop the shaking. He worked for the farmer, asking if he could go tell his boss what happened. “Just a few more questions,” said Joe.  
The farmhouse sat between what looked like fruit trees, from the distance I could not be sure, certainly too far away for anyone to hear or see any activity in the cornfields. We scanned the vicinity and left the police officers to go over every inch of the area. Taking Zach with us, we headed towards the farmhouse, leaving the young man in the car.

A young girl answered the door, an older woman came up behind her introducing herself and her daughter. The Dad was out in the barn with his two sons. She was not aware of what had gone on in their field. Calling to Zach, I asked if she could make him a cup of coffee, he is still in shock. I explained what had happened.

Going out to the barn two good looking young men were grooming and feeding the horses, their Dad a cigarette hanging from his mouth came towards us, asking what he could do for us. Introducing ourselves his facial expression changed to concern. Looked over to the two boys as if he thought they had gotten themselves into trouble. None had seen anyone or heard any vehicles on the property.

Back at the station, Mike informed us another man had been found in a warehouse, by an employee same scenario. “We have another killer on the loose,” was all he said? Joe gave his opinion that it was gang related. Mike nodded his head.

We headed down to the basement to see Tom, I always hated going down to where he did his dissecting, it was always cold and smelled of disinfectant, the odour stayed in my nostrils for the rest of the day, I always had to go home to shower and change my clothes. Joe always joked about this but always came back to shower with me.

Tom had both the fatalities laid out on steel slabs, his assistant quickly covered the lower part of the body he was working on with a sheet. He was obviously more embarrassed by the human body than I was. Two bullets lay in separate trays.
Tom looking up, “the bullets match, the same gun was used.” He always used as few words as possible when explaining the details of a dead body. “I will have a full report tomorrow. Both tongues had been removed.”

“Meg I am sorry about our holidays.” We will work around getting time off together after this is over,” Joe promised.

Heading home to shower and change, we made love before returning to the office. Just one of the benefits of sleeping with you’re partner. Mike had a list of gang members in the area and wanted us to split them up between some of the detectives and canvass them all by tomorrow. “Let’s get this wrapped up quickly,” he scowled.

Leo the local drug dealer was our first stop. He always had an alibi if he needed one and never spent more than an hour in a cell. His lawyer by his side anytime I had ever had any contact with him. Leo had greasy black hair, slovenly dressed with clothes that never fit his rotund body. His pudgy hand covered with gold rings on his fingers except his thumbs. Probably he could not find big enough ones to fit. His cologne a sweet pungent smell.
Joe showed him pictures asking him if he knew either of the victims. No was all Leo said. 

Then his lawyer interrupting, “Why would he?” I commented with a smile, “Because he is a drug dealer, maybe they were infringing on his territory?” Leo’s face started to get a brilliant red, reached to grab my wrist, I let him get hold of it then slapped the handcuffs on. “You’re under arrest for assaulting a police officer Leo.” I laughed. I knew his lawyer would have him released in a few hours but I had made my point that he was under my control, if only for a few hours. His lawyer wanted to ride with him as I closed the car door, told him to get his own ride, as we drove off.

After processing Leo, Joe laughed, “Wasted time but well worth it, Meg.” As we left the building, Mr. Lawyer was ranting at the desk sergeant.

Back to our list, Sneaky Lyle a man that was as dirty as they come. His money came from drugs and the sex trade, he had girlie joints throughout the city. We knew he had protection from higher up but never could figure out from whom. Like Leo, he never had a conviction or spent any jail time.

As we climbed the stairs to his office, we knew we were on camera, probably even our conversation overheard. So we played it like two seasoned  actors, calling him every name in the book, just to piss him off, he might be so mad when we reached his office he may blurt out something useful. Asking Joe if he thought Lyle was gay. “I heard he liked little boys.” Laughing as we reached his door. A large man with far too much cologne opened the door, two more stood just inside, Sneaky Lyle, greying hair was long and styled, his nails manicured, he sat behind a huge desk not even a pen in sight. However, nonchalantly closed a drawer at the side of his desk a slight click sounded. “Guess you don’t need pen and paper on the desk if you can’t write, eh Lyle.” I quipped.

The two men moved towards me, Lyle’s hand went up to stop them. ”It won’t work woman, I am not as stupid as Leo.” I said, “News travels fast among thugs.”

Joe asked the questions and showed the photos, he had seen one around his place not the other. That was all he had to say. As we left, he remarked, “I am a stud in bed if you would like to find out.” He had heard what we said.

Forensic did not have much, a couple of shoe prints in the field a size eleven shoe print, a gum wrapper that could have been there before the killing. They did find tire tracks that did not belong to any of us. They were still being processed. The warehouse had loads of fingerprints, a couple stood out near the victim’s body, they were going through the database to see if anything popped out.

Tired, instead of heading home to eat we stopped at a restaurant that Joe knew the owner. Joe always told him he had the best Italian food in town, we split a bottle of wine after consuming Scotch, stuffing ourselves with spaghetti and meatballs. Both feeling sated we headed back to my place. The fresh air hit us, as we emerged from the restaurant, glad that we had dropped Joe’s car at my place, we certainly did not need to be stopped for being over the limit. We sauntered towards the river through the park to home.

I heard movement just before Joe fell to the ground, a huge man with his face-covered had hit him on the back of his head with a dark object, and he was out cold. He grabbed for me as I pulled my gun, yelled to get on the ground. He swung hard knocking my gun from my hand before I got a shot off. Then slugged me across the face throwing me to the ground, this guy must have weighed over three hundred pounds. A car rounded the corner as he leaped his bulk into the back, saying under his breath, to watch my mouth. I could not see a license plate on the back of a dark green sedan.

Joe moaned as he rolled onto his stomach blood all over his face, I called for an ambulance and sat down beside him cradling his head and waited. The doctor told him he had a severe concussion, stitching the gash on his forehead, told him he should stay the night for observation. Telling me, I would have a black eye by morning. Joe would not stay so rather than argue I called a cab.

We both sunk into my bathtub, sex was not on either of our minds, poured a large Scotch before climbing into bed, it was three-thirty in the morning.
The phone ringing woke us up it was past nine o’clock. The desk sergeant asked if I was all right. Guess, I sounded strange. Mike wanted to see us, could I pass the message to Joe as he was swamped at the desk.

Upon arriving, Mike was pacing in his office, when he saw us he stopped looking back and forth. “What the hell happened to you two,” We filled him in on what had gone on the night before, “I am sure it was Sneaky Lyle’s body guard” I recognized his enormous frame plus his overwhelming cologne. Mike yelled to his sergeant to get him picked up.

Another body was found that night, in a dumpster a block away from one of Sneaky Lyle’s joints. This time it was a woman, half clad, short skirt, no top, no panties, her makeup smeared. Sexually assaulted with a needle protruding from her arm. Her name was Kitty Mac, a known prostitute to us who worked for Sneaky Lyle. Mike said he had not released this to the papers yet.
Tom told us the killer had used a condom. He did mention the killer was a big man, as Kitty’s vagina was badly torn. She had put up a fight as he found traces of skin under her fingernails. He would let us know when or if there was a match.

Back at the station Cologne man’s lawyer was waiting for us as we went to question his client. Apparently, he had an alibi for the time that he had been at the river roughing us up. His eyes and voice gave him away, telling Joe that is our man, He was charged and taken to be processed and would be spending some time with us over the week-end until he came before a judge for a bail hearing and court date. All we knew was that he was not the person who killed Kitty.

“I am not ruling out Sneaky Lyle’s other two humongous body guards,” I told Joe. So we headed back to Sneaky Lyle establishment. Climbing the stairs, no one was at the open door so we just walked in. There taking up half the office floor lay two of Sneaky Lyle’s bodyguards dead with bullet holes in their foreheads. Mouths wide open with their tongues hanging out. “At least they still have their tongues,” Joe laughed. Sneaky Lyle was nowhere around. “Maybe if they all kill each other we will get our holiday sooner than we think.” Joe continued to laugh.
Quickly, I went behind Lyle’s desk, reached the unsighted drawer, locked. Looking around all I could find was a wine opener I jimmied it. Joe grabbed a black leather book spreading out the pages as I snapped pictures with my phone. I could hear someone coming up the stairs.” Joe kept getting the pictures. “I will try and stall whoever it is.”

 It was Tom arriving with his bag and assistant. “Don’t take this personally you two but I am getting tired of seeing you on a daily basis.” Then they got to work as Joe kept shooting, as I snooped around the office while we had a chance. Maybe even find a clue or two of who was protecting this criminals business.
A file cabinet with drawer’s wide open it had been sprung papers strewed some on the floor somebody was definitely looking for something.

A low gasp from Joe, “I have hit the jackpot all the names of who is getting paid off,” he whispered. He had just finished as Mike and Deputy Commissioner Sam arrived with the mayor following. I shook my head at Joe, he knew exactly what I was saying. Even when gangsters are killed, the big brass never appeared unless cameras are rolling.

First question Mike asked,”Where is Sneaky Lyle?” “Not here,” we replied in unison. “Find him,” bellowed Sam. “Who sprung the file cabinet?” Sam asked. “It was like that when we arrived, Sir.” adding quickly, “we have only been here for a bit.”

As we passed Tom nodded as much as he did not hear or see what we were doing. Tom and Sam had never gotten along in all the years that they had worked together. Sam liked to be called, Sam’s our man, Tom and many including us refused to address him as that.

We found Sneaky Lyle at his home, he looked surprised when we came through his door. Four men sat around his pool in shirtsleeves as Lyle sat in bathing trunks, his hair still wet from a swim. He looked more surprised when we told him two of his enforcers were dead. Shouting, at two of the bozos to get off their asses and get down to his office right away. “Too late it is a crime scene no one is allowed access, not even you Lyle,” I smiled.

Phoning Mike I asked if he wanted Lyle in for questioning telling him where he was. Mike hesitated, I could hear him talking to someone, “No leave him there Sam and the mayor will come there.” Joe told Lyle not to leave as the mayor and Sam were headed over, a look of relief took over his smug face.

“The fix is in.” Joe stated as we left so we would not be there when they arrived. Joe drove us to his place, I rarely came here, was surprised to see how tidy and clean he kept it for an old building. Hooking up his phone to his computer, he downloaded all that he had photographed. Then taking mine, he did the same backing it all on a disk. Rolling a rug back and putting it under a loose floorboard. I just stood there until he told me to close my mouth.

Then we started going through who was on Sneaky Lyle's payroll. The list was long with many well know names, the mayors name, two Councillors from his office, two well know judges,  Sam’s plus  a handful of police officers that had been on the force for over twenty years a few younger officers two who worked at our precinct. Mikes name was not there. Thank god.

When we got to the girls names, Kitty Mac’s was listed a star beside her name, looking back we saw a star beside the mayors name, going through the girls name an S was beside a young girl named Jillian, every girl had an name or initial by her name. Where the girls part of a payment scheme? We had uncovered a rat’s nest, now we had to decide how to handle it.
Were the dead corpses going to spill the beans on these men, was that why their tongues had been cut out? Were the answer to all the killing related to these powerful men in our community?
We got a call from Tom on Joe’s cell, Sam had interrogated his assistant, asking him what we had been doing while they were checking the bodies. Milan got nervous with his questions blurting out about us taking pictures of some evidence at least that is what he thought it was. “Sam knows you have them on your phones. Get rid of them before he asks for them,” Tom warned, “I will be home shortly dear.” Tom hung up as if someone had just come in.

Heading back to the office, we were a step ahead as Joe had dumped the photos off our phones. Mike sat looking very unhappy as we came into his office, quietly he told us to close the door. “Did you take pictures without a warrant at Sneaky Lyle’s?” Sam wants them all, he told me to get your phones and take them to him. “Of course he does,” I yelled. Joe tell him! “Sam is dirty Mike. So is the mayor, the list is long.”

Mike sat still, saying nothing for a few minutes. “Are you sure,” he choked. Joe read down the list Mike sat shaking his head. Sneaky Lyle is paying them off with money and call girls.
Joe continued, “These killings were to shut up the victims, they must have threatened to expose them. Kitty was the mayor’s prostitute; he could be involved in her killing.”

“Get out of here you two as Sam is on his way over here and expects to get your phones. We will meet later to plan on how to deal with all of this.”

As we were leaving the building, smelly cologne and his lawyer were on their way out. Stopping, “If you want to talk Bozo I could drop the charges against you, it’s your choice.”
Sam’s number came up three times on Joe’s phone then mine. We did not take his calls. Joe wanted to stop and get some clothes, as he was not going to leave me alone at home. His place had been trashed they had done a thorough job, looking for our evidence on them, we had luck on our side they had not found the disk. Stuffing it into a brown envelope, he addressed it to his Dad with a note attached to put it in his safety deposit box and not tell a sole even his mom. Throwing some clothes in his duffel bag, we headed to my place.

George, my manager met us at the elevator. “Somebody with a cock and bull story, tried to get me to let him in to your place saying he was your brother. I knew you did not have a brother. I told him if he didn’t leave I would phone the cops.” I thanked him with a hug.

Mike called my landline, I picked up, “Sam has been trying to reach you two.” He hollered into the phone.” Sam was with him! “He wants your phones immediately. What the hell is going on with you two?” I played along telling Mike we had come across notes and Sneaky Lyle’s list of his prostitutes, which was all we had time to get. “Did Sam need the list.” Playing dumb, I could hear Mike relating this to Sam, he answered, “Was that all?”
“Tell Sam we are sorry but that is it. We wrote the names down if he needs them, and then erased them from our phones, as we did not have a warrant,” I lied.
“Joe’s place was robbed and trashed, so he will need some time to get organized.” I added. “Just work the case,” was all Mike said before hanging up. Hidden messages to each other.

Realizing we had not eaten food since breakfast, Joe started looking in my frig, found some chicken and the makings for a salad, within half an hour we sat down to chicken smothered in onions and mushrooms with a Caesar salad a bottle of Malbec from Argentina. Heading to the shower my buzzer went off, Mike was downstairs, ringing him up. He, came in holding a brown paper bag, pouring us all a stiff Scotch, we sat. Mike looked around, as he had never been to my place, he spotted Joe’s duffel bag, nodded with a smile.

Joe told Mike what we had done with the disk. “Knew you pair were always smart,” he chuckled. Then got serious, Sam wanted us off the case, as we had not followed protocol at Sneaky Lyle’s office. Mike had agreed, as that would give us more time to work on the girls to turn them. In addition, we thought Leo was involved too. If not directly, he knew more than he lets on. We agreed.

The skin under Kitty’s nails belonged to one of the men dead on Lyle’s office floor. Now we had to prove Sneaky Lyle was responsible for her death. We still had no evidence for the other two bodies. Checking with Tom, “Have you anything we can use on the men’s deaths?” Joe’s voice sounded pleading.

A couple of fingerprints off both victims of Lyle’s boys, they work for Lyle. The one in the cornfield and the one in the warehouse worked for Leo too. I passed this on to Mike he said you were off the case. “Sam and the Mayor are dirty Tom, keep that to yourself for now.” Joe hung up and dialled Mike.

“Get over to Leo, I have not passed this info on yet. Try to squeeze him before Sam finds out.”

Leo, his lawyer sat drinking coffee, “Well if it isn’t the bitch and her side kick. What do I owe the pleasure to this time?” he laughed.

“Oh we just wanted you to come downtown to identify you’re two boys that are lying in the morgue Leo.”

“I fired those two months ago.” His face flushed his eyes growing darker, I could not resist a big smirk on my face. “Haven’t seen them for awhile either,” Leo chuckled.

“You must be getting low on bodyguards Leo, be careful Lyle wants revenge and he usually gets it from his friends in high place.” Joe chirped.

Leo demeanor suddenly changed, “Are you threatening me?”
“Not at all,” Joe laughed.

Leo went on, “I know Lyle has protection, I was approached years ago but would not pay the price my guys started going missing. The message was loud and clear pay up or leave the city. My business is well protected not by you people though. If any of the brass comes near me I have proof to put them all away for years.”

“Why not work together then?” Joe snapped.

“Oh now you want my help, no way,” Leo snapped right back, “Get out of here if you haven’t any evidence.” That is when I spotted a picture with Leo and Kitty sitting in a club, looking cosy. “Guess you know Kitty Mac was found raped and murdered in a dumpster, Leo?”

I thought he was going to have a heart attack, his face went white, he slumped forward, and his lawyer went to him helping him to sit up. “Sorry I did not know you were friends.” Picking up the picture Leo was out of his chair grabbing it out of my hand. “Do you know who is responsible?” He yelled. “Not yet, any ideas?”

Joe asked when was the last time he had seen Kitty, “I loved her, I would never hurt her,” as tears ran down his face, this was a different Leo than what we knew. “Follow the trail from Lyle’s protectors, Lyle would be following their directions on all the killings.” Then his lawyer step in telling us to go now.

“Leo knows who Lyle is paying off, and it sounds like he has something on them, I doubt if he would rat them out,” Joe said.

“If he loved Kitty he might, Joe.”

Two police cars were arriving at Leos as we drove off, the two from our precinct and the other car had two from Lyle’s payroll, and they did not see us, as I phoned Leo that they were outside his office, to get the hell out of there. Joe laughed, “Are we working for Leo now?”

Making us dinner my phone rang, Leo wanted to talk. His places were being watched, he was at a friends place, and would we come to him? I told him we would be there at eight.

“Make sure not to be followed.” He hung up. Joe phoned Mike at work, he told him to phone back on a secure line. Tom’s number came up, it was Mike, we filled him in on what had gone on today and that we were meeting with Leo at eight. We would get back to him when we returned.

We passed a treed fenced mansion twice before heading into a long driveway. A call box at a high gate opened after announcing ourselves. Leo stood at the door taking us around to a house hidden in the trees. His lawyer was not with him. Offering us a drink, Joe accepted, I declined. He pulled out a ledger, then talked non-stop going through page after page for an hour. Lyle had enticed some of his men to work for him that is why Leo fired them, a reliable source informed him.

“Kitty was feeding me information, Lyle must have found out and that is why she was killed. Lyle must have thought my guys had turned on him like they did to me, and he got rid of them. All the people on his payroll must have been getting scared someone would out them. Well I have never been a rat, but they killed a woman that I loved and she was getting out from under Lyle, she had told him she was finished. We were going away together to Spain.” Leo and Kitty had only gotten together a few months ago and fell deeply in love. “I should have protected her and did not know who to trust in my organization anymore. The ledger is yours, it is all documented times, dates, and pictures of everyone on Lyles payroll getting a payoff.”
Leo looked at me, “You are one broad with balls, lady. Watch you’re back both of you.” The conversation was over.

Mike was waiting in his car at my place. Joe poured drinks and I filled him in showing him Leo’s ledger. “I knew someone was getting paid off but never thought it went this high up.” He scanned through the pictures many of Kitty and the Mayor in compromising positions. Many pictures of Assistant Chief of Police Sam with Jillian in bed too, plus more with the rest on the payroll. 
Mike said, “We need to have a meeting with the Police Commissioner. As soon as possible, I will set up a meeting tomorrow. Keep that ledger safe till then.”
With what we have on those disks and this I was one happy girl. We would have them all in jail very soon.

Waiting for Mike’s call Joe went over to clean up his place, I offered to help but Joe told me he had it covered with a crew coming in to clean and paint the place, he just needed to let them in and supervise for awhile to make sure they knew what he wanted done.

Mike must have hit a snag as he had not called and it was noon. My cell rang and Tom’s number came up, thinking it was Mike I heard Toms voice low and he seemed very upset. “Is Joe with you,” he asked. When I told him he was at his place cleaning up, he hesitated. “Mike was found murdered in his car this morning.”
“What!” was all I could say before I broke down crying?

“They have my phone bugged in my office I found it this morning Meg and Mike made some calls from it. Be careful.” He hung up.

As I went to dial Joe’s number, my buzzer went off down stairs, running to my television and scanned to see who it was. There stood Sam with one of his dirty police officers. Grabbing a bag, I slipped the ledger into it, running next door to my neighbor. She answered on the first knock, “Please keep this and only give it to Joe Sara, no one else please.” Running back I phoned Joe, told him Mike was dead, and who was at my door. “Don’t let them in, I will be right there.”

Watching I could see George answer the door, Sam handed him a piece of paper, I knew right away in was a search warrant. They headed towards the elevator, with only one elevator I grabbed my gun and purse and headed towards the stairs. No dial tone, I descended down to the parking lot two stairs at a time. Sam had the parking covered with another one of his boys. “Meg is here,” he radioed. Playing dumb I asked,”What is going on? Are you here because Mike has been murdered?” I knew he did not know by his face.

The elevator opened and there stood Sam his dirty cop with his gun drawn. “Where are you going Meg?” Sam sneered. Trying to play dumb. “To work, I just heard Mike has been murdered.”
“I want the ledger, Meg. So let’s go back up stairs and get it.”
“I don’t have any ledger Sam.”
Sam said angrily, “Do you want me to kill you, as I had to do with Mike?” The gate went up and Joe’s car sped through. A police car followed right behind him. Four against two, not good odds.

Joe walked towards me as the car that followed him in, sped forward him hitting him and sending him flying to the pavement, just as the elevator opened there stood George diverting attention away from me to pull my gun from its holster, pointing it directly at Sam’s head. 

“Call off your boys Sam, now.” I moved closer to him, he knew if I shot him, he was dead.
Back off boys. “He shouted.” The two young cops dropped their guns holding up their hands. Guess they knew my reputation for never missing a shot.

Joe stumbled, the officer who hit Joe grabbed and had his gun to Joes head before Joe could 
react. “It’s over Meg, give Sam your gun or Joe dies.” I turned to Joe, his eyes moved to the left, I then shot right and the police officer died instantly. I handcuffed the officers together. 

Joe called Tom to get down here as we had another body for him and to bring Police Commissioner with him. We have the murderer in custody that killed Mike.

“Yes Sam, I have the ledger, you and all your dirty friends are going down.” Putting the cuffs as tight as they would go on Sam we waited.
“Sure glad you remembered our code sweetheart, or Tom would be doing the autopsy on me.”
“Joe, we should remind ourselves often, I just about went left.”

Everyone on Lyle’s payroll and Sneaky Lyle his boys are all waiting for trial. The ledger and our evidence will put them all away for a long time.

After Mike’s funeral we left for a month’s holiday to Spain, we might even bump into Leo there.

Friday 1 May 2015

Tresses of Black

A friend was murdered.

I had been on the police force as a detective for six years and never witnessed a death as horrific as the one that my boss assigned to my partner and me.

He did not know that we knew the victim and I was not going to tell him or he would take the case away from us. Joe knew that I had been friends with Marjorie for a few years, we had been to parties together. Joe never said a word, as he knew I could handle seeing her body and needed to investigate this terrible crime. Joe was my lover and true friend, he would never do anything to jeopardize our relationship. We kept separate apartments.

The call came to us at midnight, just after we had retired to bed to enjoy the last of our days off together. Our boss did not know we were a couple, only partners and we wanted it to stay that way. Our phones buzzed at the same time, he jumped up and went into the bathroom as not to let anyone know we were together.

The caretaker of Marjorie’s building found her. Water from her bathtub had overflowed to the place below. Blood filled the bathroom floor, her beautiful black hair floating in the tub not attached to her head. The scent of orange blossoms still wafted in the air. That had been my gift for her birthday. The killer had scalped her, large gashes over her entire body, the only part of her I recognized were the fingers on her hands with the crimson nail polish she always wore and the ring from her mother that she treasured. She had black hair stuffed into her mouth. I had been to many murder scenes but this one I will never erase from my mind.

The coroner arrived, did his job, his hands shook as he picked up his bag, he would have some results for us in the morning after eleven. Joe and I went through her computer. Nothing stood out. A half bottle of wine sat on the coffee table, fruit flies around the bottle, and two empty glasses. Taking out some evidence bags, I lifted them carefully for forensics. A half of a tuna sandwich lay on the kitchen counter bagged this too. The only thing the coroner would say the killer used a sharp blade approximately ten inches and the psycho seemed to have a real hate of women that could go back to his childhood. He could not explain the black hair in her mouth but the DNA would be intriguing. Sometimes killers could not help but to leave a clue. It did not appear she had been sexually assaulted, no semen found on her body. Wine traces seemed only to appear in one of the glasses.

 A short black hair under her fingernails. That was it.

A week went by with no leads, no DNA info yet on the black hair. Autopsy confirmed   no sexual assault and she did not ingest the wine, it had been poured down her throat after death. No trace of tuna in her stomach either.

Arriving at work, we knew our boss was pissed, his face red with fury, as he called Joe and me into his office. They had gone through Marjorie’s photo albums and found a picture of the three of us at her party. He yelled, “Why didn’t you say you two knew her?”
“There were loads of people at that party!” Joe’s voice matched Mike’s as a yelling match erupted. I said quietly, “We did not even recognize her at first, It was too late after we realized we knew her.” I lied about that one.

Mikes phone rang, saved by the bell, until his face went pale. “We have a serial killer on the loose, another murder. Get over to the scene! I am not finished with you two.”

The coroner was there when Joe and I arrived, telling us it was the same type of knife, haircut, gashed body, black hair protruding from her throat, and he would put money on it that it was the same killer. This women was laying face down in the bathtub in her home, her cleaner found her after she had cleaned the bottom half of the house and noticed water seeping down the kitchen wall. She went upstairs to hear the bath water still running. Calling out with no answer, she opened the door to find the body.

Same scenario two glasses of wine, one empty, half-eaten tuna sandwich left on the counter. The victims must have known their killer. Did they know each other? Was there a message the killer was leaving? Wine, tuna sandwich, black hair. What did this mean?
Sifting through her photo albums, she had the same party pictures as Marjorie just some different people mixed in. One man, sitting next to a dark haired women, she looked like our second victim. Joe remembered her now, her name was Julie, and she had more pictures of that night. I was standing talking to Marjorie in one. Whoever took these pictures seemed to be more interested in the women. There were five more pictures of women but no other men. Was the killer at the party?

Joe and I tried to focus on who else was there that night, I remembered a blonde-haired man from her building, the caretaker and a variety of other fellows, and not all photographed.
Then I drew a blank. Joe only remembered the woman.

Going back to the sandwich I smelled the contents then opened the frig to find some cold cuts wrapped in brown paper, but no tuna. Opening her garbage bag under the sink, there was no sign of an empty can of tuna. Had the killer brought it with him?

Sitting having dinner that night Joe started writing names that we could remember at the party. It had been over six months ago and we had only dropped in for a drink because it was Marjorie’s birthday. When we arrived, the party was in full swing with people coming and going.
Tomorrow we needed Marjorie’s diary from the evidence locker, all the guests would be in it. Had the killer picked the women at the party to kill? Why? There were way too many questions.

As we both came to that conclusion, Joe would not leave me, staying the night. My cell buzzed at the same time as his at four in the morning, he answered. I waited until he hung up before answering mine. Another woman murdered in her condominium. The boyfriend coming home late from a night out with friends.

The killing was accelerating.

The third women I also remembered from the party, tall slender with long flowing black hair. Joe had remarked why I did not let my hair grow long. I can remember coming back with a sarcastic remark and the women had overheard me and laughed. Thinking back, I remembered I was pissed at Joe's comment, telling him if he wanted a women with long hair go find one. He wanted to stay over that night and I slammed the car door leaving him to find his long haired beauty to sleep with.

We arrived separately before the forensic team, the coroner arriving as I drove up. Her boyfriend had thrown up all over the floor upon entering the bathroom. This did not help the forensics. Her head had been severed from her neck, the killer was getting more sadistic. Her breast cut open, black hair stuffed into her mouth. Again, only one glass of wine had been touched, the sandwich had only one bite taken out. Had this woman put up more of a fight? Was the killer worried he would be interrupted by the boyfriend coming home?  I asked the coroner to check inside her mouth, no evidence of tuna. There had been none in Julie’s stomach either. He told us the black hair stuffed into Marjorie and Julie’s mouth was from another person.

We started at square one, going back to Marjorie’s apartment block. Jim, the caretaker, a huge bulk of a man, asked us into his place offering us coffee and he wanted to know what progress if any we had made. He talked as he poured us both a cup. I noticed many pictures on his mantle of an older woman in different poses. Some where in black and white. He saw me looking, telling me that was his mother who was no longer alive. “I loved her very much,” his eyes a watery sad look, after a hesitation he continued, “she always had many parties with her friends.” Thanking him for the coffee, I noticed a camera sitting on a table asked him if he was a photographer and had he taken all the pictures of his mother. “Some, I dabble when I have time.”
“Would you by any chance have any pictures taken at Marjorie’s party?” Joe asked. He said he could not remember if he took his camera that night. He did not think so, but he knew others had cameras there.

As we entered Julie’s apartment the second time the rancid smell hit us, it was still a crime scene so not totally cleaned yet. She lived on a quiet street, again nobody had seen anyone around that night. All they knew was she traveled for her job. Looking through her belongings, she had no pictures of the party.
A photo of a dark haired man was on her side table, her sister told us when we called it was an old boyfriend and she thought that they may eventually get together again, he certainly wanted to.

First break, we would bring him in for questioning. His name was Jacob. He worked with Julie and was very nervous when he arrived at the station. Joe thought he was our guy because of his black hair which was freshly cut. We asked for a sample of his hair Joe thought he waited too long before answering, “Should I be getting a lawyer,” he asked. That made Joe mad and he slammed out of the room. Joe always got crabby when he did not get the right answers.
“Joe, you have black hair and so do thousands of other men. We need to eliminate, that’s all.” If he was the killer. Then why kill the others? Jacob finally relented to giving us a sample.

From Marjorie’s list, we tracked down everyone who was at the party, bringing them in for questioning, except a girl named Mary. And some people might have brought others uninvited. We could not find Mary at her apartment or work. Was she already a victim? All the other women were put under surveillance for their safety.

One of the women named Sue remembered Julie laughing at Jim after Marjorie said she was not interested in him. She did not know what it meant at the time until she asked Julie later. Amused, Julie had said, “What was he thinking? He is only the caretaker.” She said she owned a camera but never used it.

Derek, the blond man from Marjorie’s building admitted having an off and on affair with Marjorie the last few months but she broke it off after the party. My first question to him was why? He broke down saying he loved her but would never hurt her. She just wanted to pursue other men, so told him they could only be friends. He thought she was seeing someone, but did not know if he was at the party as Marjorie was friendly to all and always having parties. He did think the caretaker Jim had an interest in her though. After he left, I asked Joe “Do you think he is trying to divert the blame on someone else beside himself?”

Three men stood out, Jacob, Derek and Jim, but there were many other men at that party.

“No evidence except one black hair under one fingernail, not enough to charge anyone.” Was my retort. We are no further ahead since the first murder, except the black curl of hair in the victim’s mouths was from the same head. We needed to do something to bring out the killer.
Coming into the office early, we went over the case with Mike of what we thought was happening. We laid all the pictures out from the party, the names of all from Marjorie’s dairy. The killer always had a tuna sandwich and wine at each scene. No DNA from saliva found on the bread. Was he smart enough to use what looked like a cookie cutter instead of biting off a piece? Joe went back to Jacob as the number one suspect, his look told me to keep quiet if I did not agree.

“Of course,” I blurted out, “what if Derek planted the black hair or one of the other men could have. What is the significance of the black hair in their mouths?”No answers, just more questions.

We assumed the killer was likely one of the men at the party and was after certain women who were there. We decided the black hair was significant and not coincidental, and to set me up as the target as I was the only one left with black hair who had been at Marjorie’s party.
In order to trigger the action we revisited all the men on the party list. I mentioned to them all during conversation that if they had any more information to pass it on to Joe as I was off for a week’s holiday. Laughing, I said every once in awhile I had to clean up my messes in my apartment.

Joe would stay unseen in my house.

The first four nights nothing happened, but we slept uneasily, we started to think that our killer had gotten suspicious. But we were sure I would be his next target seemingly on my own.
My landline rang, picking it up, it was Derek, he sounded drunk, “How did you get this number?” was my first question. He had gone inside Marjorie’s apartment and found my number in her telephone book, sounded like snooping to me but they had each others emergency keys. Or was he looking for something else? “It is still a crime scene,” I told him, “you should not go in there.” He said he was just trying to track down my partner, did I know how he could be reached? Of course he did, he would have had Joe’s card. He said he had some information and wanted to talk to Joe. I told him to go to the station tomorrow and see him, as I did not know where he could be reached off duty. If Derek was, the killer I did not want to tip him off that Joe was here.
Close to midnight, a sound came from the carport, had Derek arrived? Joe, who I thought was sleeping was up and had his gun out. He brought me my gun laying it under my pillow with the safety off.

Then quietly he slipped into the bathroom to wait.

A long silence with us both listening intently. Did I hear soft clicks or not? Suddenly someone was in my kitchen, then an indistinct cork pop. A faint clink as two glasses came together.

Then silence.

Footsteps, a creak, my heart was pounding, he was at the fifth step five more to go. Then a shadow from the dim streetlight through the curtains, of a man in a hoody holding a tray with glasses, wine and a plate. He moved ever so slowly across the room towards me, until he stepped on my squishy toy sending the tray to the ground. Joe came out shouting, but could not shoot as the killer threw himself on the bed and on top of me.

He slashed his knife towards my body cutting my arm, my hand trying to reach my gun, his body stopped me, as he grabbed my hair, pulling hard. I squirmed away from his frantic stabs.
Joe screamed for him to drop the knife, but could not chance shooting and hit me. I could not see his face, “Bitch!” he screamed.

Joe leaped on top of him grabbing for the knife. Together they hit the floor, grappling and twisting, now I was afraid that I would hit Joe, so jumped on top of them trying to separate them as this lunatic went for Joe’s throat with the blade.

Joe yelled, “Shoot!” Instinct took over as I pulled the trigger.

It was suddenly quiet. Joe pulled himself from under the man.

It was Jim, Marjorie’s caretaker. His eyes glazed over, blood oozed from his mouth, he coughed and muttered, “She always had time for her parties and everyone but me.”
Then he was dead, staring up at us.

Derek’s body was found the next morning in his apartment with his head placed in the toilet. We assumed he had confronted Jim with some suspicions.

The team of forensics discovered in Jim’s basement workshop a woman’s body in a locked freezer. It was Jim’s mother. Her head had been sheared. Beside her body lay a bottle of wine and a whole tuna sandwich stuffed into her mouth.

Tucked into a bag beside the freezer, were long tresses of her black hair.