May 11, 2010
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The body was still sitting in his chair, vacant eyes staring out at the door that had been locked since before the man’s death. Adrian could almost believe the victim was still alive, except for the dried blood matting the graying hair and the milky film over what had once been vibrant brown eyes. The sickly sweet smell of decay filled his nostrils and only because of long association with the stench did he manage not to choke on it.
“Victim’s name is Kevin Mann, age 40, single. The maid said she smelled something off and used the spare key to unlock the door,” his partner told him, reading the facts from the file he had ignored. “Preliminary cause of death is gunshot to the back of the head. There was no evidence of forced entry, all the windows are closed, the door was locked. How did the killer get in?”
Adrian wandered over to the window behind the body and looked out. He let out a low whistle as he saw the flourishing garden below. The building was smooth brick, impossible to climb a few feet up, let alone three stories. “I think the question isn’t how did the killer get in, it’s how did they get out.”
Loren didn’t respond verbally but her lips tightened until they were a thin line. The two detectives watched as the crime scene was carefully detailed, markers placed where significant evidence had lain. Pictures taken to document exactly how the body was positioned, including an extreme close up of the bullet wound that had taken the dead man’s life. Adrian knew that it was only through years of experience that he would be able to examine that particular photograph without needing to throw up.
He was almost grateful when his cell went off, giving him an excuse to turn away from the busy people categorizing someone’s death. Watching them do that almost made him regret becoming a cop, because in order to catch a killer you had to dehumanize a victim. His relief was short lived.
“Gray, we got a problem,” the voice on the other line said in response to his simple ‘Gray here’. Adrian could already feel pressure building behind his eyes. “Another body’s been found.”
“S**t,” Loren shot him a look of surprise; ever since Emily had been born he’d been trying not to swear. He pulled the phone away from his face momentarily to answer the question in her look. “They found another body.”
He placed the phone back at his ear to listen to his fellow detective explain why they needed him and Loren. “It’s the same MO as your guy. One shot to the head, in a locked room, on the second floor with no way to climb up. Address is 920 Courthouse Lane.” All the way across town from the nice home they currently stood in.
“We’re on our way,” Adrian sighed, hanging up and replacing the cell in his pocket. “Let’s go, Loren, we might have a serial killer on our hands. The guys here know what to do without us.”
The drive to the other side of the city was silent, as it often was. Adrian gripped the steering wheel so hard that his knuckles were white and his fingers began to grow numb. Outside the buildings began to transform into skyscrapers and chic boutiques before going through another metamorphosis into rundown apartment buildings cheap stores with boards on at least one of the windows. It was a far cry from the brownstones and gardens that they’d left behind.
They pulled up to an apartment building and got out to meet the cop who’d been waiting for them. “Thanks for coming, we-“ he started but Loren held up a hand to cut him off.
“Who’s the victim? What happened here?” she asked. The cop looked slightly uncomfortable at her straightforward manner.
Adrian smiled to put him at ease. “Don’t mind her, she doesn’t waste any time on pleasantries. I’m Detective Gray and this is Detective Loren, what can we do for you?”
“I’m Detective Mark, I wish I could say it was nice to meet you, but given the circumstances…” he trailed off before giving a strained smile. “If you’d follow me I’ll take you to the victim’s apartment.”
“Detective Mark, you still haven’t answered my questions. Who was the victim?”
The cop gave another smile and gestured for them to follow before setting off, talking over his shoulder. “The victim was Dr. Dorian Stevens, age 46, divorced with no children. Cause of death was a bullet to the head.” He stopped in front of an apartment with the door wide open and they walked into a scene very similar to the one they had just left on the other side of town.
This man was not nearly as well off as the other victim, and it showed. The clothes that hung off the body were old and too large, as if the man had lost weight recently, weight that he could afford to lose. What was left of his hair was steel gray and barely clinging to the almost bald head. The stench of alcohol burned Adrian’s nose, but he was grateful that it wasn’t yet the stench of decay that overwhelmed the apartment. Everything in the apartment had the appearance of something that had once been expensive, but had fallen on hard times. Exactly like the owner.
The open eyes were cloudy, making the blue of the irises appear to blend in with the white. Dorian Stevens had seen his killer, that was obvious enough by the wound in the middle of his forehead. Another clue lay in the placement of the body, facing the window. Adrian was sure that was how the killer had gotten into this room, and into the study back at the brownstone.
“How was the body found?” he heard Loren ask as he crouched down next to the body to examine it further.
“The rent was a week late and the owner used a key to get in, trying to get it from Stevens. He found the body and ran out to call the police.”
Adrian leaned in further, studying the dead man’s expression. He’d seen his killer, but had he known them?
“How long has he been dead?”
There was a packed bag by the couch; Stevens had been ready to flee at a moment’s notice so he must have known something was going to happen.
“The medical examiner said only a day, maybe two; she’ll know more when she gets the body to her lab.”
His eyes were wide though, something about the killer had surprised him. But what?
“Gray, did you hear what I just said?” Loren’s voice cut through his thoughts like a lawnmower cut through grass. Annoying, but effective.
He blinked up at her. “No.” She rolled her eyes, but didn’t scold him.
“I said that I’ve got all the information available to us right now, let’s head back to the station and try to find some connection between our victims.”
He nodded and followed her out of the building. The ride to the station house was as silent as the ride to the apartment building as they both processed their thoughts. The sounds of the city, vendors shouting, car horns blaring, and screaming couples filtered into the car even though the windows were shut. Adrian took a deep breath fortifying himself with the sounds of his home before diving into the mind numbing work of trying to connect two people who were complete opposites.
On their connecting desks were boxes bursting with files overflowing with paper detailing the victims’ lives and deaths. Already Adrian thought that the words; frustratingly, decidedly unhelpful words, were beginning to swim before his eyes and he had yet to open a single file.
“If you sigh one more time, I’m going to give you something to really sigh about,” Loren threatened and slammed a file down in front of him with a pointed look. Adrian let out an exaggerated sigh, but he dutifully opened the file and began to skim.
Words were truly beginning to dance across the page, a lovely waltz that his wife would adore, when Loren finally let out an exclamation. “I found it. Kevin Mann and Dorian Stevens were tried for the murder of Dr. Sarah Rimm 13 years ago. They were acquitted on a technicality, that would sure give her widower a motive.”
Adrian grinned, he loved when things were straightforward. “Is Mr. Rimm still living in the area?”
“Yup, he’s a mechanic and single father, their daughter, Lisa, was three years old when her mother died.” And suddenly Adrian wasn’t so sure he could handle this case, straightforward or not, his Emily had just turned three a month ago. “Gray, we got a problem.”
There were the words he’d been waiting for. Simple murders didn’t exist; something always made them messy- some extension of the twisted mind of a killer or the reflection of the raging emotions of a crime of passion. Adrian stood and walked to Loren’s desk to read the file over her shoulder.
His eyes were immediately drawn to the little girl with her mother’s eyes and a gap toothed smile, but he tore his eyes away from the innocent image to find the problem. It wasn’t hard.
“So we’ve got a third target. Based on the pattern so far we know Rimm’s going to strike either tonight or tomorrow, no time to lose. Let’s go tell Edward James he’s managed to get himself on a hit list.” Adrian walked out without bothering to tidy his desk, knowing that it could wait until a life had been saved.
They found Edward James at home and were ushered in by a maid. ‘Home’ was almost a derogatory word for the mansion where James lived alone, his wife dead and children grown. He was in the study with the paper, waiting for them. Adrian was almost waiting for him to pull out a pipe when he gestured for the detectives to sit down.
“You’re here about the murders, then,” he grunted and Adrian stiffened, wondering just who Edward James’s connections were.
“Yes,” Loren answered, both of them aware that Adrian couldn’t keep a civil tongue in his head and would never be able to explain the situation properly. “We believe that you’re a target, Mr. James.”
The overweight man chuckled and Adrian disliked him even more. “I’ve always been a target, miss. What you mean to say is that Rimm is coming after me.” He knew more than he was letting on, Adrian was sure of it. “But don’t you worry your pretty little head over me, I can take care of myself.”
“Sir, we-“ Loren began but she was cut off by the pompous man.
“Now, now, I know you’re just trying to do your job but shouldn’t you be more worried about the drugs on the streets instead of putting your nose in my business, where it doesn’t belong.” James stood and held out his hand. “Pleasure meeting you, detectives. Mirabel will show you to the door.”
“Mr. James, should you require assistance, we are at your disposal,” Adrian managed to grind out through clenched teeth, but James had already returned to his newspaper.
The maid, Mirabel, was a severe looking woman and Adrian felt she would pull out a ruler to slap his knuckles if he so much as stepped wrong. The detectives climbed into the car but Adrian didn’t start the engine.
“What now? Call Rimm in for interrogation, hope he’ll confess?” Adrian vented, frustrated at the situation. He let out a snort. “Or hope he offs that pompous b*****d.”
“Let’s just get back to the station and-“ Loren’s words were cut off once again, but this time by the sound of a gun firing.
They sprung from the car, pulling out their guns as they sprinted for the house, bursting through the front door and racing for the study. The smoking gun was in the room, but not where they expected it to be. Edward James was still sitting at his desk with his eyes open, staring at the open window.
His meaty hands still clenched a gun as all three of them watched the body swinging slowly in front of the window, highlighted by the setting sun. Adrian shook himself from his reverie to go unhook the body from the harness and pull it inside the room.
“Well detectives, you have your killer,” James announced turning and placing the gun on top of his desk. I expect some credit for catching her…”
Adrian tuned him out as he brushed the strand of blonde hair that had escaped from the braids to fall into eyes that looked like her mother’s. Eyes still open in death, exactly like her victims.
Sounds and sights blurred together until Adrian found himself sitting in the empty station house, drinking cold coffee and staring at a picture of a little girl wondering how to write the report of her death. Loren was typing away at her computer, but Adrian couldn’t get the girl’s image out of his head. Nor the look on her father’s face when he found out his little girl was dead, had died in the process of trying to avenge her mother.
“How do you do this? How do you deal with something like this? Where’s the justice?” he asked, not really expecting an answer.
“This is why justice belongs in the hands of the courts, not everyday people. Because people can’t always think straight.” Loren responded, sounding almost as bitter as he did.
“And when the courts fail, like they failed to get justice for Sarah Rimm, what then? Do we fault those who strive for justice still? Do we persecute them? Or do we understand?”

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