100 Themes Challenge, Minot Edition: #9
THEME: 9. "Death"
STORYLINE: D Is For Damien storyline, Minot spinoff series, untitled/unwritten story
RATING: R (adult language, adult themes, violence)
WORD COUNT: 4700+ words
SUMMARY: All righty, some 'splainin' for this rather disturbing piece. There is an extensive backstory which I'll try here to summarize. Once long ago, Deputies Tracy Hatcher and Kennard Scott were partners/coworkers at the Ward County, ND Sheriff's Department. Scott carried a torch for Hatcher but she only had eyes for Dep. Max Kristeva. Hatcher offered to be Kristeva's "friend with benefits" when his transgendered girlfriend moved away and left him in the dumps; he briefly obliged her before breaking it off, which left Hatcher in the dumps, so she turned to Scott for comfort, and the two became an item. Then for some reason I have yet to fathom, Scott got hooked on amphetamines and his relationship with Hatcher grew so rocky that he cheated on her and she finally dumped him, offering to take him back only when he got clean. Cue lots of false hopes. Cue Scott growing so despondent he tries to take his own life by overdosing and only the fact that for some reason he's being spied on by cult hitman/heavy Jay Campion is his life saved. (Campy, being an addict himself, calls 911 and gets Scott's heart started again before the ambulance can arrive.) Starts looking like the two deputies will never get back together. Cue Hatcher getting kidnapped while stopping to assist a car seemingly broken down at the side of the road, followed by four days of unspeakable torment at the hands of two louses named Perry and Lou. (This is the subject of an unfinished, REALLY graphic and brutal novella, which was my way of dealing with the anger and sorrow reading about the Kitty Genovese case brought on me.) Hatcher manages to keep her wits, despite all this, and escapes; as her luck would have it, Kristeva happens to be the one she runs across first, as he's out looking for her along with everyone else, and she's transported to the hospital. Scott visits her there, admitting that in the four days she's been missing, he hasn't touched a single upper, and seeing how she's lived through something so horrible, he again vows to get clean. Hatcher is glad to see him, but still can't quite believe him. Well, it's difficult, but he does kick the habit, and the two get back together at some point. But Scott has trouble letting certain things go...
DISCLAIMER: I am not seeking grammar/style/publication critique for this item; I'm not trying to get published, and am content with my writing style, and just wish to entertain others. Feel free to point out errors that aren't just a matter of style preference (e. g., typos). Comments and questions on characters, plot, etc. are more than welcome. All characters, unless otherwise stated, are copyright © tehuti/tehuti_88. If you wish to share this item with others please send them a link.
"This is really not pleasant."
The comment was a rather inane one--what murder scene was pleasant?--but Det. Kristeva pursed his lips and kept any comments to himself. He glanced a little uneasily at his partner; the two of them shared a brief look before heading past the sheriff's deputy waiting at the door. Kristeva lifted the yellow crime scene tape and let Devetko pass under before following.
"Yeah, thanks for the heads up," he whispered under his breath when the deputy was out of earshot; Devetko peered back at him in the dimness of the entry vestibule. "Damn, I was actually hoping this time there'd be something pleasant. Like streamers, and unicorns."
"He has a point," Devetko said, a bit hesitantly. "After all why would they call us? This is outside city limits. Sheriff's Department territory."
Kristeva offered a vague shrug. "Guess they still love me there. Otherwise I haven't a clue." He paused. "Staties are here too," he added, nodding at a pair of state police officers standing where the vestibule opened into a larger room.
Devetko frowned. "What the hell is this...?"
They entered the main room. It was just a small house, outside city limits, one small house in a practically abandoned and mostly boarded-up subdivision that looked to have gone under long ago. All they'd seen on the way in, besides numerous other emergency vehicles, was a stray cat or two. There hadn't been any calls to this area in who knew how long. So to receive word of a homicide--a double homicide--practically in the middle of nowhere was surprising. But it was even more surprising when Lt. Kincaid had requested that the two city detectives head out to assist, due to the "severity of the crime," which the Sheriff's Department likely wasn't equipped to handle on its own.
"'Severity of the crime,'" Kristeva had deadpanned on their drive there. "Judging by Kinnie's tone of voice, that could mean he has a hangnail, or somebody's been decapitated and gutted and had their skin made into a lampshade."
"Something tells me it isn't the former," Devetko had mused.
"I guess all that's missing is the lampshade, then," Kristeva murmured now, as they entered the room and looked around.
"Huh--?" One of the state policemen turned to raise an eyebrow at him and he gave an irritated wave.
"Bad Ed Gein humor. What are we looking at?"
"Oh. Well, two dead, from the looks of it. Both male. Age and ID unknown so far." He gestured at the floor. This looked to have been a small kitchen or dining area in the past; blood streaked the floor and there were drag marks in the dust. "From the looks of it they were transported here after being initially wounded elsewhere, and whoever this was finished the job here. Except..."
The two detectives lifted their heads; Devetko had been about to stoop down to look at the blood trail more closely. "Except--?" Kristeva prompted.
The officer gave a slight shrug. "Except it looks like he took his precious time with them, is all."
The other two shared another look, then moved into the next room, which seemed to be the den, or what used to be the den.
There were still minimal furnishings, including a dilapidated couch whose stuffing was leaking out the sides, one cushion missing. Somebody was slumped over on his side, one leg bent, the other sticking out in front of him. His arms were behind his back. The lighting was such that many more details were withheld, but when the officer shined his flashlight on the body Kristeva and Devetko both involuntarily flinched and averted their eyes for just a second.
"Okay, okay," Kristeva said, and the light was turned aside. "Christ. What kind of injuries are we talking about, exactly?"
"Gunshot wound to the stomach, which really should've killed the guy, except whoever this was must've intended for him to stay alive long enough for the finale. Worked him over pretty good, all sorts of cuts and bruises. The blood's dried in a lot of spots and some of the bruises are partly healed so it looks like it took a matter of at least several days."
"All this blood looks like a hell of a lot more than just a 'working over,'" Kristeva said with a frown.
"Well...he got a bit creative at a few points."
"Just assuming, Detective. Some of the cuts are...pretty interesting. Almost aesthetic."
"Glad you like the guy's artistic sense," Devetko, kneeling beside the couch and poking in the debris, said; Kristeva raised an eyebrow this time, knowing that the officer's comment must've rankled him, to elicit such an uncharacteristically sarcastic response.
The officer shrugged and rubbed the back of his neck, abashed. "Sorry, Detective, just not used to this kind of shi--um--stuff."
"We are adults here, bud," Kristeva said, taking a step closer to the body. "You can cuss all you want, y'know."
"Oh. Okay. Well then...what was I saying? Oh. Creative. Well, a lot of these cuts, you can tell just by looking at 'em--"
"They're nonfatal." Devetko had stood and was bending over the corpse to get a closer look along with Kristeva.
"Uh-huh. Almost like the, whatever they call it, death by a thousand cuts or whatever that shit is. Like I said, some of the blood and stuff dried so it took him a while to do it all. There's some burn marks here and there where he likely poked him with a cigarette to wake him up whenever he passed out. I think you noticed that already..." He craned his neck to look at the debris Devetko had been looking through; it was littered with little numbered evidence placards. "Each one of those is where a cigarette butt was found, in case you were wondering. They're going to send them off for DNA testing."
"Doesn't sound like whoever it was was too concerned about being identified," Kristeva murmured.
Another shrug. "Guess we'll find out if they get any results! Anyway--toward the end there was some genital mutilation..." both detectives raised their heads and peered toward the dead man's lap, without even thinking "...and then the guy's tongue was cut out, and then his throat was cut, thank God for small mercies."
"Sexually oriented...?" Devetko murmured the suggestion to his partner. Kristeva shrugged and they both stood.
"This is only one. Where's the other?"
"Oh. If you thought this was nasty, wait'll you see him." The officer turned and gestured toward the main part of the room, which was even more lost in shadow. "Before you go, though, take a look."
The detectives paused, trying to see into the dimness, then moved forward. The officer shined his flashlight again to reveal a wooden chair. It sat in the middle of the room where the television set would have stood, had there been one; they frowned at the stains covering it, and Kristeva waved impatiently until the flashlight was placed in his hand. They stared at the seat of the chair.
"Blood and urine," the officer said, "to answer your question. Whoever was sitting there pissed himself."
"I'm guessing it's the other victim," Kristeva said.
"Uh-huh. Well. Safe assumption. They found blood and urine on his pants, at least."
"He saw." Kristeva peered back at the couch, Devetko following suit. "Everything."
"Safe guess is whoever this guy is made him watch. Oh. As for the other vic, you'll find him in the bedroom."
Another shared look between the detectives; "This day just gets better and better," Kristeva said, and they entered a tiny cramped hallway, nearly having to squeeze their way through to reach the little bedroom near the end. A pair of crime scene investigators were still in here; the trio of police waited until they were done, then barely managed to step aside and allow them room to exit with their bags of evidence. They spread into the room and stood around the bed occupying most of the space.
"Now here's the weird part," the officer said, sounding rather pleased with himself, but Devetko spoke up before he could finish.
"This mattress," he said, frowning and looking it over from corner to corner. "This wasn't originally part of the mess here, was it?"
The officer's face fell. "How...how did'ya know?"
"Kinda obvious, bud," Kristeva said, waving at it. "It's the only thing in this place that's newer than ten years old."
"Oh." The officer had to regather himself. "Well...yeah, that's the weirdest thing. The only thing they can assume is whoever this guy is, who did all this shit, brought that mattress here, specifically for this reason. You'll notice the box spring and bedframe are ancient. The bedposts were still useful enough, though." He fell silent; seeing as this corpse's arms and legs were spreadeagled, and cinched to the bedposts with zip ties, any further commentary on that was pointless. "More cuts and burns. More genital mutilation, though it's a little...well, more excessive, here." Another rub to the neck; he blushed a little. "I'll spare you the details, they'll be in the report."
"The amount of blood kind of makes it obvious he got a little more creative with his knife," Kristeva said, deciding to leave it at that for the younger officer's sake.
"Yeah, that's a nice way of putting it. Anyway, this guy's throat wasn't cut. But...again, I guess that's kind of obvious."
Kristeva stood up from where he'd been examining the huge bloodstain to the mattress and they all looked at the man's face, though it wasn't exactly possible, considering the plastic bag over his head.
"Yeah," Devetko said now, "kind of obvious."
"Call one of those CSIs back in," Kristeva said. "I want to get a look at him if possible."
"Oh. Sure. Hold on a sec." The younger officer hurried from the room, bumping against Devetko as he did so. "Sorry!" he said hastily, Devetko biting down whatever retort he might have had.
"I take it you'd rather be someplace else today," Kristeva said.
Devetko gave him a look. "Wouldn't anybody?"
"Well, sure, except maybe Ed Gein."
"I just don't like the look of this, is all. If it turns out being part of something bigger. We hardly need to deal with more stuff like this."
"I dunno." Kristeva frowned at the corpse. "I get the feeling this is it," he said, in response to his partner's perplexed look. "It seems...final, somehow. Doesn't have any sort of mark of part of a serial job."
"You could honestly tell just by looking at it--?"
"No, I couldn't. I'm not a profiler or any shit like that. Just something my gut is telling me."
Devetko looked as if he wanted to object, then bit his lip and thought better of it. After all this time they both knew better than to argue with Kristeva's intuition.
The officer returned, ducking his head into the doorway--"Here he comes," he announced--then disappeared from view and one of the CSIs reentered, reaching up to pull down his mask. Kristeva's mouth twitched when they saw it was in fact a woman, and she scowled over her shoulder at the departing officer before making her way around the bed.
"I just wanted to see if we could get a look at the guy's face," Kristeva said.
"Yeah, we were getting to it, but you guys got here earlier than expected. Already got samples from under the fingernails but I don't think we'll get anything from them, looks like they were restrained the entire time. Judging by the injuries it also looks like whoever this person was tended to the more serious ones to make sure they would live long enough to see the end. As for the end, this guy was killed second."
"Obviously," Kristeva and Devetko both said at the same time that she did.
"I assume Officer Know-It-All told you about the urine stains...?"
"He did." Kristeva waved his fingers around his head. "His face...? Please?" he added, when she glared at him over her shoulder.
The CSI grumbled a little but leaned over to carefully undo the tie around the man's neck. "Already got all the pictures we need of him with it on, but of course we need some with it off...my camera's in my bag by the door, if you could grab it, Detective."
Devetko stooped to retrieve a digital camera from the crime scene kit and turned it on. As soon as she saw that he knew how to use it she moved aside a little to let him get photographs of the process of removing the bag.
"Make sure to get his good side," Kristeva said; they both glared at him now and he shrugged. "Somebody had to say it!"
A small commotion came from the hallway and another figure appeared. "I was told there was another body...Max? Chance?" The two detectives stood and turned; a sheriff's deputy stood blinking in the doorway. "What're you guys doing here?" Deputy Scott asked, confused.
"Looks like everybody's been invited." Kristeva waved him in; the crime scene investigator grumbled again but gestured impatiently at Devetko to keep taking photos. "Congratulations, you made it in time for the best part. The grand unveiling."
"Do they have any idea who these guys are yet? What happened exactly?"
"No clue. Might be sexually oriented. They haven't been here very long. That reminds me." Kristeva furrowed his brow at the CSI, who had undone the tie and was now carefully pulling the bag loose. The flashes from the digital camera kept lighting up the room. "Who called this in? Who found the scene?"
"Anonymous call. Traced to a disposable phone. Guy said we'd find two bodies at the location, gave the address, hung up. The end."
"That's weird," Devetko mused.
"Meh." Kristeva shrugged halfheartedly. "Not too unusual. Nobody wants to get involved nowadays." He peered at Scott. "You sure you want to be here--?"
"You think I can't handle a dead body?" Scott said, a bit defensively. He flushed and lowered his head a little when Kristeva stared at him. "Sorry...yeah, I'm fine being here. They called me out, I want to be useful for a change. I figure...these guys're already dead, what harm can I do."
Kristeva pursed his lips and shrugged again, turning back to the body. "No time like the present, then." He leaned forward as the bag was pulled off and the CSI placed it in another bag and zipped it shut. The flash on the digital camera started going off like crazy as Devetko shot photos from all angles he could, until the CSI reached out to take it away from him, removing it from his hands and speaking as if he were a small child.
"That's more than enough, thank you, Detective."
Kristeva's mouth twitched when Devetko rolled his eyes and said something under his breath, relinquishing the camera. "Just trying to be thorough," he said aloud, then, just after the CSI had exited the room, nudging her way past Scott, "sir."
Kristeva let out a snorting noise that made both of them glance at him. He stepped around the bed to take the departed CSI's place and bent forward to get a better look. "Eyes and mouth swollen and bruised...looks like he beat the shit out of him first. Assuming he suffocated. Oh, I'm sorry." He lifted his head and looked ceilingward. "Asphyxiated. There. Now I'm all intelligent and forensics-y and stuff." He looked back down at the dead man, and then frowned. "Huh...that's kinda weird."
"What?" There was a flash; he blinked and looked up to see that Devetko had now produced his own digital camera, a much smaller and more compact make than the CSI's, and was again taking pictures. He shielded his eyes in time to avoid the next flash.
"Nothing...just...I could swear I've seen him before. But that doesn't make much sense." Kristeva looked back down and his frown grew almost into a scowl. "Not on a missing poster...or online. I'd remember if I saw him there. Not some sort of age progression artist's rendition or anyth..." His eyes grew a little. "Artist's rendition." He stared at the dead man a little longer, then gestured for Devetko's camera. The other detective handed it to him, looking puzzled. Kristeva switched on the LCD display to show the most recent photo; he clicked through to a decent frontal shot, peered at it closely, then started digging in his pocket. He withdrew his wallet and flipped it open and rifled around in it a bit with his thumb, found something, then bent his head forward to pull it out with his teeth.
Devetko rolled his eyes again--"Gimme"--and took the wallet, pulling out the folded paper Kristeva had been tugging at. He unfolded it carefully to reveal an artist's rendering; his look grew confused but guarded as well, and he peered toward Dep. Scott.
"What--?" Scott said, also furrowing his brow; he craned his neck, first looking at the flash-lit image on the LCD screen--his face registered no recognition--then glancing at what Devetko held. Instantly his eyes grew and the blood drained from his face.
"Couldn't recognize him at first what with all the blood and bruising," Kristeva said in an equally guarded tone, putting away his wallet; he took the drawing and held it beside the camera, looking from one to the other. "This is the one she called Lou. Tracy's case."
"Then that means...Perry is the one on the couch," Devetko said.
"Guy kills Perry first, makes Lou watch," Kristeva said, holding up both images in the direction of the den, then bringing them back toward the bed. "Then finishes off Lou in the bedroom. Lou got the extra-special treatment."
"Tracy said Lou was the one who treated her worse," Devetko said.
"Perry was a brutish psychotic asshole but Lou was the real sociopath," Kristeva mused. "After all, he might've treated her like shit most of the four days but she did say she got through to Perry a little bit, pretended to go along with him and that she liked him and stuff and he'd do a few nice little things for her. That was how she got away from them, in the end. He was the one who did the screaming and threatening but she said Lou was the one who really scared her. She said he had no soul." Then, without a further word, he turned to look directly at Scott. Devetko saw this and did the same, though more out of curiosity.
Scott noticed their attention and blinked, taking a step back. "What--?"
"You seem awfully quiet," Kristeva said.
A few more rapid blinks; the color started to return to Scott's face. "I didn't recognize him either! Either of them. And now--like this--" He glanced around the room, in the direction of the hallway and back. "I'm...I'm just kind of startled, is all. This isn't how I...how I figured this'd end."
"End?" Kristeva pursed his lips. "Yeah...was kinda hoping we'd get the chance to catch them and put them where they belong." He returned Devetko's camera. "Guess this takes care of that problem for us," he said, tearing the image in two, then four; the sound of shredding paper made Scott flinch.
"You have to admit this is still beyond weird," Devetko said with a frown, tucking away his camera. "It was pretty big news we were looking for them and all, but who the hell would do this? I mean, it's kind of obvious it's related to Tracy's case. I mean, how could it not be? Revenge of some sort? A vigilante?" His brow furrowed and he took a step away from the bed as if to get a more general look. "Who'd be gunning for them even more than us...?"
"Yeah." Kristeva had pulled out a toothpick and was chewing on it, staring at Lou's body. "Wonder who."
"Well..." Devetko pulled out his cell phone now, shrugging. "I'll call the lieutenant and let him know. The sheriff, too. I'm betting he'll be happy somebody handled this for us, at least." He got a look of distaste--Devetko had always been the more straight-and-narrow of the two--and worked his way past Scott and out of the room. They could hear his voice receding into the den.
"Deputy...?" Scott's head jerked up and he met Kristeva's eyes; it was odd for the detective to call him by his rank, when they knew each other so well. "You have any theories to contribute before we skedaddle?"
Scott frowned slightly. "What makes you think I'd have a theory? I just told you I'm as surprised by this as you are."
"True." There was a very, very long silence as the two policemen stared at each other; Scott started to fidget a bit but didn't back down, in fact only stared back even more defiantly. Finally Kristeva relented, bobbing the toothpick on his tongue. He made his way around the bed and had to brush past the deputy on his way out.
"Can't say you look nearly as upset as you did when you first showed up here," he said when they were chest to chest; he was slightly taller, and so looked down while Scott peered up.
Scott started to scowl. "Can't say I feel upset anymore, either. In fact I think I feel rather happy. Same as Tracy'll feel when she finds out."
"Will she? Trace never particularly struck me as the vindictive type."
"Yeah, well, people change."
"Also true. Sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse." He exited the room and slipped into the hallway. "Look forward to your report. Make sure you don't leave anything out."
Scott remained standing in the doorway to the small bedroom, straining his ears to try to hear what the detectives were talking about now, but it all sounded like routine stuff; when he entered the den they didn't cast him a second look. Devetko was still on his phone, now talking to someone at the Sheriff's Department, while Kristeva was browsing the photos on the CSI's camera, toothpick moving from side to side. The deputy was able to exit the house without anyone seeming to notice. He strode across the garbage-strewn lawn, trying to keep his breathing level, but as soon as he got in his squad car and slammed the door shut it escaped him in a whoosh so loud that it startled him, and he sucked in another breath to fill his emptied lungs. He stared out the windshield at the house, glanced at the passenger seat where Hatcher should have been sitting, looked back out the window again. Every muscle in his body felt as if it were about to evaporate into water.
A shrill beeping ring made him jump and gasp, striking his elbow on the steering wheel. He winced just briefly, realizing the noise was only his personal cell phone; he grabbed it off the seat where it had fallen and squinted at the caller ID, but it was a number he didn't recognize. Still, for some reason he felt he knew who it was.
He stared at the phone for a moment or so, unable to push the talk button. He peered around himself a bit nervously, but nothing seemed out of the ordinary--CSIs and police entering and exiting the house, crime scene unit vans departing, a stray officer reinforcing the yellow tape, a few onlookers gathered just beyond it and peering at the house in the hopes of seeing what was going on. Nothing strange at all.
The phone just kept ringing. Scott finally pushed the talk button and raised it to his ear.
"Signed, sealed, delivered," a tinny voice said in singsong. "Just what the deputy ordered. Oh...don't worry," it went on when Scott said nothing, his voice having vanished somewhere deep in his throat. "You don't need to say anything. Let Jay do all the talking. You won't need to fret, nobody's seen me, well, except a nice saleslady at the mattress place. You'll find I paid in cash, which is untraceable, but as for DNA, they're going to be finding some of that, which I left behind specifically for them. Have a reputation to maintain and all. But again, don't you fret, there's nothing that can even remotely be traced back to you, nothing but good ol' suspicion, and that never holds in a court of law, now, does it?" Scott winced again when the tinny voice laughed. "Besides," it went on, "it's not like any money was exchanged between us, after all. Even were I to end up questioned, I could easily say I just happen to like sweet Tracy Hatcher and couldn't stand what those animals did to her. I'm very good at fooling a lie detector, should it come to that. But I doubt it will." He heard a sound of air, which he somehow knew was the inhalation and exhalation of cigarette smoke. "So now that's two favors you owe me. I actually kinda like it, having a friend on the police force." An almost girlish giggle.
"I'm not your friend," Scott said under his breath.
The giggle cut off. "Oh! He does speak! Well, I guess we'll have to just keep it professional, then. Don't for a minute think I have to rely on your good graces, Dep. Scott. I'm just being fair, is all. Like I said before, I'm not in any great need of your assistance at the present, and I'll try not to ask for anything too big or involved, but just keep it in mind, you owe me a favor." Another exhaling sound. "Why don't you run along and pay a visit to sweet Dep. Hatcher. Tell her hi for me. And that all her problems were taken care of. Quite creatively, too. Just like you asked."
This time, the laugh was a little more raucous than before; Scott couldn't stand it any longer. He hung up and jerked the phone away from his ear. Suddenly the car seemed stifling, suffocating. He fought to open the door and nearly fell out when it abruptly sprang open; the few policemen standing nearby glanced in his direction, puzzled, but he ignored them, slamming his door and leaning against the car, gasping for air. He glanced around, trying hard not to look frantic, but saw no familiar faces other than the ones he knew from the force. The few onlookers were complete strangers. They stared back at him stupidly; one took a photo with their phone. He craned his neck to look all along the nearly abandoned street and at the other cars parked around but saw no one else. The other houses looked empty from here.
He halted in his searching and his stare whipped back to one house almost directly across from this one, but an additional block away. Just by chance he'd spotted a flicker of light; it was gone now, but he did see a vague figure standing in the yawning black doorway. As soon as it noticed his stare it lifted a hand and waved; he could just barely make out the cigarette it held. He easily imagined the same creepy smile he'd last seen on the man sitting beside him in his car, parked at the side of the backstreet in the dark. He'd lit up a cigarette then, which Scott had scowled at, detesting such casual rudeness when he'd blown a cloud of smoke at the car roof.
"Keep the cash, sweetheart. I think I'd rather you owe me a favor. Besides--" and there'd come that nasty laugh "--they don't pay you guys nearly enough to handle the kinds of fees I'm charging."
Scott let out his breath and the memory flickered apart. The figure in the doorway was gone. He peered back toward the house to see that the two detectives had exited, Devetko still on his phone, Kristeva still playing with his toothpick; the second detective glanced in his direction and their eyes met. Scott quickly broke the stare, yanking open his door and getting heavily back in the car, slamming it shut behind him. He revved his engine a little too loudly in his haste to back out of the rutted driveway, unable to put enough distance between himself and the crime scene fast enough.