Legal Theft: Running with Revolutionaries

The Captain’s favorite detective had just staggered out of his office. This surprised me, favorites usually got the good hours, and the station clocks read four a.m. His shaky hands and creased shirt were a testament to length of the shift. Apparently it’d been a long night for both of us, not that I was feeling sympathetic. He wasn’t handcuffed to a desk.

The detective motioned my booking officer over. They proceeded to discuss me from inside the break room, giving me an excellent opportunity to eye my file on the officer’s computer screen. I couldn’t entirely suppress my smile. Trespassing.

I could see them from the window, wondering how to keep me after bail was posted. The detective leaned forward, I could see his finger tips pressed to the break room window. It must be frustrating, to think I was either lying or in danger, and know there was nothing he could do about either.

But as I said, I was far from sympathetic. He did his job well, I did mine better.

They emerged after a minute and the officer hung back, apparently ready to see the pro-detective work his magic on the girl they’d caught running around with revolutionaries.

I am a thief, and this week I’ve stolen a first line from The Gate in the Wood. Check out her original The First Switch  and the rest of the thieves at the Legal Theft Project. 

Legal Theft: No Happy Hour Tonight

From a distance, no one would be able to tell that the towel tied over her skirt was not part of the dress. To anyone walking the beach she looked like a normal girl, maybe a university student, who’d found a sunny part of the cliffside to relax on. It was not the smartest thing to do, out quietly alone and napping, but it wasn’t unusual.

The police got their first call as the sun went down. The girl was still there. People were getting concerned. The dispatcher offered the normal platitudes, they’d send someone to check on her and remind the student that the shore wasn’t the safest place to doze.

At the station the news spread fast. There was another one.

Detective Lauren Aguilar took a deep breath and knocked on her partner’s door before pushing it open. As usual an impressive stack of work blocked most of Cole from view. He looked up. “Hey. I can meet everyone there. I’ll actually show up this time.”

She shook her head. “No happy hour tonight.”

*****

“How long do we have before the press picks this up?” Lauren was driving, Cole was listening to the dispatch as those first on the scene swept the area. No one had found anything yet and they were not optimistic. At this point it sounded like the officers were waiting for the detectives to get there and let them get back to less grisly jobs.

“A week maybe. A few no-name blogs are reporting. Some have already named him.” He grimaced, remembering the tongue in cheek suggestions. No doubt the authors thought they were being clever.

Lauren didn’t bother calling him on the gender specific pronoun. Serial killers were male, its how these things went. Still, her jaw tightened. “Don’t tell me what they came up with.”

Cole didn’t.

They drove in silence until she broke it. “I still don’t know why you asked to be switched to this.”

It wasn’t the first time she’d needled him about it. He wasn’t the type to seek out this type of case. Serial killers were big press and a lot of recognition when the killer finally slipped up, which they always did. But while she was eager to work high profile, Cole kept his head down and away from the sensational cases when he could.

“Cole?” She pressed when he didn’t answer. “I’m not complaining. Brass is tired of me going after the hot cases. I think your request is why we got it.”

He pointed to the turn off. Lauren turned the plain grey sedan down the sandy road and into the makeshift parking lot. Outside the headlights the only illumination came over the rise where the crime scene waited.

“I don’t think this is a serial killer.” He said they started the short hike up to the cliffs, flashlights bobbing as they walked.

The doubt caught her attention.  “Really? Three, now four, bodies, all pale small young women, long dark hair, wearing skirts or dresses with heels. Four girls with their legs covered to hide the wounds and left out for people to find.” Tension straitened his back at her description. She continued as if she hadn’t noticed. “This is textbook.”

“Except the cause of death, it’s been different each time.”  He said.

Lauren nodded. Serial killings were not the common occurrence every detective show painted them to be. Cole was right to be skeptical. “Okay. But everything else points to a serial killer. What do you think it is?”

Cole sighed, his mouth a grim line. “Right now, a message probably.” They’d reached the edge of the tape. A few deputies trudged over to welcome them.

She didn’t get a chance to ask to whom, or what else Cole knew, because it was obviously more than he was saying. Her partner showed the police officers his badge and ducked under the tape. Lauren frowned and waved her own badge in the officer’s face impatiently. She bowed under the tape gracefully and followed Cole over to the body.

Downright criminal, as always. This first line was stolen from the talented Kathryn over at Nine Pages. Check out the rest of my scoundrely brethren here.

Overcliff Street

The blood had all but washed from the cobblestones when he arrived on Overcliff Street. His fellow officers, currently scowling at the evening crowd and keeping any of the too curious from the alley mouth, let him pass with only a glance.

Cole sighed when the metallic scent filled his nose. The rain and the city didn’t cover the sharp scent. He stopped a few steps from the body. Red covered her abdomen, from the laces of her bodice to the swell of her skirts. Her eyes were still open, light brown hair falling about her face. At least she wasn’t a Westwood, Cole thought and promptly felt guilty about it.

“Detective?”

Cole looked over his shoulder to nod at Hamish. “Who found her?”

The older man took a step so he was at Cole’s shoulder and frowned down at the corpse. “No one found her, a dockworker saw it happen. The murderer was cloaked and cowled, pulled the girl into the alley way. It wasn’t until she screeched some nonsense that he ran.” He paused and glanced back at the slowly forming crowd. “Not that it did her much good. The belly wound got her quick by my measure.”

Cole gave Hamish a brief scowl but looked again to the red spread over the pale dress. “Did anyone pursue?”

“He tried to help the girl. By the time they looked for the man… gone. Wouldn’t stick around if I was him.”

“Shouted nonsense?” Cole asked and bent to a knee. Small pieces of something were floating in the puddles of bloodied rainwater. Cole picked up one and crushed it between his fingers. The scent of lavender filled his nose.

“That’s what the dockworker said. You think she wasn’t quite all right?” Hamish tapped his temple.

“Her attacker ran, but not into the street.” Cole snapped his eyes to the shadows waiting down the alley. Hamish sighed, not pleased the younger detective was ignoring him. Cole stood and stepped over the corpse. “I’ll meet you at the morgue.” Cole said and started walking.

“Your brother’ll skin me if you get hurt.” Hamish called after him but the young lord was already half way around the first corner.

The narrow alley walls almost touched both his shoulders as Cole moved into an easy lope, if he was right he wouldn’t have far to go, and his instincts rarely failed him. He’d only turned the third corner when the sound of someone hacking stopped him.

Up ahead a figure sagged against the alley, trying desperately to prop themselves up against a pile of refuse. Wet choking wracked the man’s body. As Cole stepped closer the man groaned and bent, vomiting metallic smelling liquid onto the cobblestones.

“I’d heard death curses were unpleasant… ” Cole commented as he shouldered the man into the wall. The man was a head shorter than Cole, and even if he hadn’t been weak and shaking, Cole wouldn’t have possessed any difficulty holding him still.

“You don’t-“ The man coughed. “She was a monster.” He was almost intelligible, purple bruises and leaking sores covered his mouth and his neck was swollen. Cole didn’t know what the witch had done, but it looked like the man was dying from a dozen illnesses at once.

Cole shook his head. “I don’t care. Who are you working with?” They needed to find the rest of them, before something like this or the kidnappings occurred again.

“You don’t care?” The man coughed again, black blood over his teeth. “She’s a witch, monsters, all over the city.”

Cole snarled a little and shook the man. “You’re dying. Your road ends here. Tell me!”

The man looked at him then, clarity coming to his pain filled eyes. He glared at Cole with hate even as his shuddering breaths turned to gasps. “Monsters. Monsters, all of you.” He wheezed. The man choked, his eyes going wide and then freezing. Cole swore and let the corpse drop.

The man was dead, but Cole had his scent now. With some luck they would find the rest of them.