A few days late, but here’s a dark story for day 12.
The shrill call of the phone tore through the dark bedroom. Its incessant noise dragged him from his slumber, and earned a groan of annoyance from his wife. A phone call at this frankly ungodly hour could never be good.
“Yeah? Uh huh. Send me the details.”
He didn’t sit up or even open his eyes. He put the phone back on his bedside table and rested his head once again. Wordlessly his wife pushed and shoved him out of the bed. He stood, waiting until he was certain he had awoken sufficiently for his feet to convey him to the en suite bathroom. Jumping in the shower, he scrubbed himself under the scalding water. Still not entirely awake, he turned the faucet all the way to the coldest setting. He gasped as it took his breath away. More awake now, he stepped out of the shower. He could hear the coffee maker doing its thing. Damn he loved modern technology. Though his wife would be irritated no end at the rude awakening, she had used the app on her phone to brew him a strong, black coffee ready for when he headed out. No detective enjoyed a late night call. Another murder. It made him question his faith in humanity.
As he dressed, he kissed her cheek and headed for the kitchen. Shoes on, he shrugged on his heavy winter coat, filled a flask with piping hot, black coffee and far more sugar than could be healthy, and headed out the door.
~ ~ ~ ~
The heavy snowfall of the previous day had not let up at all throughout the night. The roads were treacherous – covered with slush and unseen patches of black ice waiting to spin him off the road. The flask was clasped between his knees for easy drinking. The dome light, magnetically stuck to the roof, bathed the tree-lined road in a wash of red strobing round and around. It always struck him on the way to the scene of a murder, the red strobing light almost seemed distasteful, washing the area around his car in an ominous red colour, much like the blood he would almost inevitably be faced with.
He rode on through the darkness, the stereo turned up loud filling the car with the vocals of Brian Johnson and the heavy guitar riffs of Angus Young. It was his ritual. Blaring AC/DC at full volume helped him clear his mind. It left no room for thinking about anything. Turning into the residential road, the house was already secured. Yellow and black crime scene tape cordoned off the property. Marked cars filled the street with a kaleidoscope of blue and red light. Neighbours stood on their doorsteps in dressing robes and slippers. The cold, snowy weather and the early hour did nothing to deter them. This would be by far the most interesting thing discussed over coffee in the office.
As he stepped out of his car, coffee in hand, his long time partner, Detective Anderson joined him.
“Another wonderful start to a wintry morning Mark.”
“It’s too early for that chirpy bullshit, Anderson. What do we have?”
“One occupant, forty seven. Lives alone. Chris Roberts. Wife has been called, but they separated years back. Two kids, both at college. Someone’ll call them.”
“So what are we thinking, home break-in gone wrong?”
“Come on in and see for yourself.” Anderson lifted the tape and waved Mark Kovacs under.
“He’s in the dining room,” Anderson offered.
The two detectives paused part way up the pathway, Kovacs casting the intense light from his LED flashlight across the lawn. It was a mess. Any prints were useless. The patchy lawn was torn to shreds, whether by first responders, paramedics, or officers setting up the cordon. Kovacs shook his head in disappointment, then stashed his light in his pocket. There would be no need for it under the eye-wateringly bright crime scene lamps that would be all over the property.
Blue slip-on boot covers on, the two detectives entered the house. The front room off to the left seemed untouched. It could use an introduction to a vacuum cleaner but otherwise, nothing seemed suspicious. The bathroom to the right likewise, a clean would not go amiss but everything seemed in place. Proceeding through the house everything seemed similar. Two bedrooms and a utility room all showed no indication they’d been ransacked by an opportunistic thief, or some lowlife looking for a way to pay for his next fix.
But the small kitchen-diner was a different story. The space was in disarray. Playing cards and poker chips scattered the table and floor. Cartons of chinese take-out and cans of cheap beer were littered all over the place. And right in the middle of all the chaos was the victim. Sprawled across the table dressed in a well worn Broncos jersey bearing the moniker MANNING across the shoulders and a huge number 16 on the back, and a tatty pair of sweatpants, was the now-cold corpse of Chris Roberts. Blood pooled under him, thick and sticky. A kitchen knife was wedged in his neck. The body was riddled with stab wounds. But that didn’t seem to be the cause of death. His head was a mass of swelling and bruises. He had clearly been bludgeoned with something sturdy.
“This is an angry, rage filled assault. I’d say he knew his attacker. The place is too neat for a burglary. And the level of trauma doesn’t stack up.” The ME offered an opinion unrequested.
“Thanks Doctor. Do we have any suspects yet, Anderson?”
“Not yet. We’re working through the usuals though – wife, lover, coworker, that kind of thing.”
“Anyone else live here? Who found him?”
“You’ll want to speak with Officer McNicholls. He’s out on the cordon.”
Detective Kovacs headed back through the house. He stopped at the door. There were signs of force on the door frame, but puzzlingly on the inside of the property. Bloody marks showed where hands had touched, though no prints would be lifted. It looked like gloves had been worn. Something didn’t add up.
“McNicholls. What happened here? Do we know who called it in?”
“Detective Kovacs. Well, yes, it was me.”
“You? What do you mean?”
“I was patrolling the area. There’s been a higher number of break-ins than usual. As I drove by everything looked off to me. I was certain something had happened, so I called it in and awaited back up. The garden, the front of the property, nothing looked right. As I approached the front door, there was evidence the door had clearly been forced.”
“Excellent work Officer. Were there any signs of the attacker still here?”
“Nothing I’m afraid.”
Kovacs nodded his understanding before heading back inside. A deep seated sense of dread settled in the pit of his stomach, and the first cold fingers of suspicion and worry reached into his brain. Anderson came over.
“McNicholls give you anything worthwhile?”
“Hmmm? Oh, no. Nothing.”
“What’s eating you partner?”
“He said he called it in. Saw that the garden and front of the house looked like something had gone down.”
“Huh? But there’s nothing odd that I saw out there.”
“Yeah and get this. He said he radioed it in the minute he saw signs of forced entry around the door.”
“Nope. Come see this.” He led his partner to the door and showed him the signs of forced entry on the inside of the door frame.
“That’s not right. Should be on the outside, no?” Anderson went to open the door, clearly to look at the outside of the frame. Kovacs stopped him dead.
“No. Leave it for now.”
Kovacs only shook his head.
“Wait. You don’t think McNicholls is somehow involved?”
“Follow the evidence. Let’s not say anything just yet. But keep in mind, you said yourself the outside looked normal. And the door has no sign of forcing on the outside.”
“Shit, what next?”
“I’m going with the ME. I need to know what was used to bludgeon Mister Roberts. That will give me more of a steer. I need someone to keep an eye on McNicholls. Something doesn’t feel right about this, nor him.”
“Man, I don’t like this. You got me worried now.”
“It may be nothing, Anderson. But right now, I got the beginnings of a bad feeling coming on.”