A Crime Scene Unlike Any Other
Fifteen years on the job and I never encountered anything quite like it before.
And I had seen a lot.
“Inspector, come look at this.”
I let out a sigh and headed towards my junior detective in the corner of the alley.
“What is it?”
“If I knew, I wouldn't have asked you to come look at it.”
Detective Earhart squatted back on his heels, allowing me space to squeeze in next to him.
“What do you think?” He pointed to a set of tracks in the sooty dirt. The ground between the tracks was discolored a dark red.
I stuck a finger in the reddish dirt and tasted it with the tip of my tongue. Metallic and coppery, with a hint of rotten fish. I ignored the last flavor during my analysis.
“Blood. Most likely from our victim.”
Earhart stared at me, mouth slightly open.
“I meant shape of the prints, Inspector. I assumed as much about the blood.”
“Oh. Of course.” I wiped my finger off on the leg of my pants, pushing the memory of rotten fish as far away as possible.
“You know, sir, that this alleyway has a backdoor to the butcher shop.”
“Yes, Earhart, I'm aware.”
“And the mortuary.”
“And the waste management research labs.”
“Thank you, Earhart.”
I turned my attention to the prints he had dragged me over here to see. They looked like horse prints, but smaller. Daintier.
“As long as you're aware, sir. I mean, no telling what they dump out here in the alley.”
I leaned over the prints, squinting at them and ignoring my junior detective.
A pony? But what would a pony be doing in the alleyway. Better yet, what would a horse of any size be doing back there?
I stood, brushing myself off and clandestinely spitting, ridding my mouth of the foulness. Once composed, I turned back to Earhart.
“Let's take another look at the body, shall we?”
The girl's body remained slumped against the fence, an expression of surprise frozen on her face. She couldn't have been more than twenty. The cause of death was obvious enough. Not many people could survive impalement that left a bloody round hole through their chest the size of a doughnut.
While we had the cause of death, we had no murder weapon.
“This seem odd to you?”
Earhart bent down to inspect the wound closer.
“Awfully neat. Practically a perfect circle. Wonder what caused it.”
“So do I.”
Something glimmered at the edge of the wound, catching the dim rays of sun.
“Hand me a bag,” I said, pulling out a pair of tweezers. Earhart held the collection bag open as I lifted a gold thread and examined it.
“What is it, sir?”
“Hair? Although, it's too shiny to be real hair. From a wig, perhaps. We'll have the lab run tests on it and see what they can tell us.” I tucked the hair into the evidence bag and Earhart sealed it.
“Do we have any identification yet?”
Earhart shook his head. “Nothing on the body and no pocketbook or wallet anywhere nearby.”
Robbery? Could be the motivation, but doesn't seem likely. The method of death was so violent, but clearly planned. No one picked up a weapon from a trash heap and left that precise of a mark.
“So no identification and no murder weapon. Looks like we have our work cut out for us on this case.” I waved to the coroner smoking at the end of the alley. She nodded back and crushed out her cigarette before joining us at the body.
“Detective Summerton. Glad to see you've been assigned to this case.”
“Doctor Dunn. Have you had a chance to examine the body?”
“I did. Just waiting on the all-clear to have my team move it to the lab for a closer inspection.”
“What can you tell us about it now?”
Doctor Dunn shook her head. “Not much. She died last night, I'd say around 9. Cause of death seems pretty clear. Puncture was done by something sharp and tapered, like an awl.”
I thought back to the hoof prints.
“Or a lance?”
“You mean like the kind jousters use, sir?” Earhart piped up from behind me.
“Exactly what I mean.”
Doctor Dunn shrugged. “Sure, why not?”
I nodded and tapped Earhart on the shoulder. “Let's head back to the station. We have a lot of work to do. Doctor Dunn, you can go ahead and move the body. Inform us at once if you find anything more.”
“What do you have in mind?” Earhart asked, scuttling along beside me, my longer strides outpacing his short legs. I would have slowed down, but I was in a rush to get back to my desk.
“Jousters, Earhart. We need to compile a list of every jouster in the area. One of them is certain to be our man.”