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.

1 comment:

  1. Your writing is so thrilling to read!!! Great story…now I have to go lock my doors and windows!