Life is full of surprises, why should death be any different? I’ve seen more than my share of corpses. It’s an occupational hazard, but this was a new one, even for me. “You’re saying he
Life is full of surprises, why should death be any different? I’ve seen more than my share of corpses. It’s an occupational hazard, but this was a new one, even for me.
“You’re saying he was alive while his brain was scooped out?”
“Did I mumble, sweetheart? Doubt he was around for much of it though.” The medical examiner leered at my too-tight shirt. Even his hair wanted to get away from him.
Disgust flashed across my over-painted face, but he didn’t notice. That was the point of the shirt after all. I shuffled a step to the side so he could focus on washing his hands.
He turned around to face me. “What’s the matter? Too graphic for a pretty thing like you?”
I pretended to gag. “Um, what about signs of struggle? Or a, uh, toxicology report?” I asked, adjusting my glasses.
“Toxicology won’t be back for a few weeks. Who’d you say you were with again?”
I glanced down at my notepad. “I’m filling in for Cheryl as liaison for the mayor’s office while she’s on maternity leave.” I pushed a lock of hair behind my ear. “I-I didn’t realize I’d have to take these reports.”
“Don’t worry about it, sugar.” He leaned in too close. “How can I make this easier for you?” His breath stank like sardines. Don’t hit him. Don’t hit him.
I took a deep breath. “The, uh, incision to remove the, uh, you know.”
“Um, yes. Was it clean or sloppy?”
“Oh, it was very clean, definitely looking for someone with training for this one.”
“Or a lot of practice.”
“Well, look at you, a regular Miss Sherlock Holmes.”
The clomp of cheap shoes echoed in the empty hallway. Behind me, the door opened with a gust of bad cologne, followed by a man’s voice, “More like H. H. Holmes. Angola, why is it that every time I see you it’s with a dead body?” The smell of sardine-breath and cologne mixed to create new levels of revolting.
I winced. “Answer’s still ‘no,’ Jim.”
“I didn’t ask.”
“Yeah, but you were going to.” I turned and batted my $5.99 fake eyelashes at him.
“What’s going on?” The medical examiner said from behind me.
Jim grabbed my arm. “Don’t worry about it, Donnie; I’ll take care of this one. You just go back to your sardines.”
“And maybe try a breath mint, for Pete’s sake.” I shouted back as Jim dragged me down the hall.
After we were comfortably out of earshot, Jim let me go. “What were you thinking, Ange? I should arrest you for this.”
“Yeah, but then who’d do your job for you?” I pocketed my glasses and re-straitened my shirt.
“So am I. Look.” I pulled a picture from my jacket pocket. “That scarecrow back there used to be Lewis Hilsberger. He’s been missing from his apartment downtown for two weeks.”
He took the picture. “Thanks for the ID, but I’m telling you, Ange, stay out of this. There’s bad stuff out there these days.”
“So this isn’t the first body like this?”
He squeezed the bridge of his nose. “I didn’t say that. Listen, just go back to whatever widow or bookie hired you and tell them Mr. Hilsberger is no longer missing. Then move on to the next case.”
“And what if they want, oh I don’t know, closure about his murder?”
“Then tell them the appropriate authorities are working on it.”
“Yeah, yeah. Right after I head up to missing persons and tell Detective Bo Peep that homicide picked up another one of her lost sheep.” I pushed past him toward the door.
“Come on, Ange. You of all people should know it’s never simple. Take the night off, let me buy you a beer.”
I opened the door to the night air. “Sorry, Jim, I already answered that one.”
I sent a quick text to my assistant, Lucky, telling him to start a search for cases similar to Lewis Hilsberger’s. I left out any mention of the body’s condition. I’d look into that.
After I change back into myself.
The reflection that followed me in the ground-floor windows was a young business woman who was clearly more interested in men than business. Shirt too tight, skirt just long enough to be professional, a face that took two hours to put together—at least, it took me two hours—but without the glasses, they were my eyes staring back at me. Oh, and to complete the ensemble, the kind of impractically high heels you can only really pull off if you’re under five feet tall or dating a giant. I was neither of those things.
It was a long, cold walk home in those heels, even though it was only a couple of blocks. Both my apartment and office were over Haskins’ Bar, a nice enough place to drink if you don’t care about atmosphere. Old Man Haskins owned the building and I got a good deal on rent, since his son worked for me.
I briefly considered stopping in for a drink to warm up, then ducking up the staircase in the back room, but there was no way in hell I was walking into a bar on a Friday night dressed like that. Instead, I turned down the poorly lit alley that led to the back entrance. The only way to the upper floors if you weren’t on good terms with Old Man Haskins.
I should track down whoever designed this and shoot them.
I fished my keys and expandable baton out of my purse. It wouldn’t be the first time I’d had to discourage some punk on my way home.
The girl in the apartment above mine used a Taser, but she was also in court a lot more often than I wanted to be.
So far, just having the baton had been enough to scare off the creeps who hung out in the alley. And if it really came to it, there was always my gun.
The alley was mercifully empty, allowing me to slip inside without shooting anyone. Always a good thing. I trudged up the stairs to the second-floor landing.
I froze just shy of the top of the stairs. The landing was empty, but the door on the right—my door—was ajar.
To Be Continued…