Lights flashed red and blue, reflecting on the ceiling and down the dark passageway. Shadows ran in fear as they were chased by flashlights pointing sharp beams left and right. Radios chattered in excited animation, the discovery heightening the sense of drama. The first responding officer turned his grey etched face back to the large green dustbin in the alley and emptied his guts into its orifice. An older officer watched in dismay and gave him a hard slap on the shoulder. Sympathy in small doses. The older officer knew the feeling of the first find. Stomach wrenching visuals that this poor sap would never erase from his retinas. The sound of approaching footsteps took his attention away from the young officer and he turned to greet the suits wading through black and whites, making a grim determined bee-line towards him.
“Officer Garrett? I’m DI Jones and this is DI Perkins. We’ve been assigned this case,” came the monosyllabic introduction of the suits.
Officer Garrett shook hands with the two detectives, directing them towards the yellow tape marking the beginning of the crime scene. DI Perkins passed the young officer still trying to hold down his stomach contents and gave him a gentle pat. Everyone here knew how serious it was to find their first murder victim. The question was how bad could it possibly be?
Perkins didn’t have to wait long to find out. The entranceway to the block of flats had bloodied handprints scattered across grimy walls. Something had been dragged across the floor and into the lift where the marks ended abruptly at the dirty lift doors. Each officer did a little side step dance, trying to avoid the evidence and not step on the forensics in their white overalls.
“What do we know so far?”
Garrett replied, “Our young officer Davids was called out with reports of screaming and potential domestic disturbance. He found this when he attended the scene.” He hesitated, waiting for the DI’s to catch up as they took notes. “But it’s upstairs where it gets interesting.”
They took the stairs, hands at their sides in case fingerprints still lurked on the banisters. The stairwell door opened onto the third floor. Bright lights flashed from suspended spotlights and torches still searching for clues. Footsteps and chatter hung in the stagnant air filled with the heady smell of fresh blood. It was hard not to cover their noses, but the veterans walked through, ignoring the nauseating smell of the dead. Younger officers stepped out of the way of the suits and their superior, watching for their reaction to the scene. As they turned the corner, entering the main hall of the apartment that took up prime position on the third floor, all three men gasped.
Suspended above their heads were large pieces of flesh, some of it still dripping from blood seeping out, pulled down by gravity. Large silver hooks used for hanging freshly slaughtered livestock hung suspended from the ceiling, secured by large screws and a two by four to make sure the ceiling didn’t come toppling down with the weight on the hooks. DI Jones was the first to recover from the sight and slowly examined the dripping chunk hanging closest to his head. It had signs of torn muscles and serrated cuts. He couldn’t make out if it was human or animal. Some pieces looked more animal than human, haunches and feet removed so only the larger parts of the torso hung up on display.
“Who owns this apartment?” he threw the question into the air, assuming someone would provide the information instantly.
“It’s a shared apartment sir. The tenants are Julia Webster and Hugo Del Fuego. Both in their early twenties, no prior convictions or complaints about them and have been tenants of this apartment for the past three years.”
“Okay, has anyone located them since we responded to this…scene?”
“No sir! We haven’t been able to find them.”
A sudden screech had Perkins and Jones reaching for their tasers. The high piercing scream emanated from the kitchen to the centre back of the large apartment. Something was trapped in one of the kitchen cupboards. Officers close to the area jumped out of the way, the sound a physical force moving them towards each other, their sweaty bodies heaving with adrenalin pumping furiously through frightened arteries. Bundled together, they watched the kitchen cupboards, anticipating their worst nightmare trapped behind the unassuming grey doors.
Garrett moved forward on his own. Slowly, he reached a shaking hand towards the cold metal handle of the closest cupboard door on the right. Another shriek made him jump and he swore under his breath, a bead of sweat rolling down the side of his face. His fellow officers watched, the audience holding bright spotlights pinning him to the spot. Silence filled the heavy atmosphere of the apartment. Everyone watched as Garrett’s fingers slowly pulled at the cupboard door. It opened with ease and lights flashed against metal pots and their matching glass lids.
Deep breaths were released and taken as he moved to the next cupboard. Another shriek ran through Garrett’s body, sending cold shivers down his spine. What was small enough to trap itself in the cupboard and scream with such velocity? He moved away from the handle he was about to pull, choosing one closer to the sound. The door creaked open and the mass of officers leaned slightly forward as one body, trying to peer past Garrett’s large back and bend torso to see into the dark recesses of what looked like an empty cupboard.
Eyes reflected back in the torch light, drawing a small scream from one the younger officers. Garrett jumped back, a natural reaction of fight or flight. Scratching nails tore themselves from the inside of the cupboard and something screeched again, breaking out into the open space in front of its trapped confinement. Perkins shone his light towards the creature, trying to make out what it could be. Bits of green and orange peeked out from under the crimson darkness covering most of the creature’s feathers. It was a large parrot, bright beady eyes watching its audience with as much fear as they held secretly in their hearts.
Someone giggled. It was their only way of dealing with the situation and it seemed to release the tension that had held the room on tenterhooks only a few moments ago. Another piercing scream from the distraught bird made the same officer jump and he fellow black and whites guffawed loudly, going back to their business.
Perkins and Jones moved in to do their job. A white overall carefully trapped the blood soaked parrot and removed it from the scene, still screaming and screeching. The sound was unnerving to all those around, though no one voiced the common opinion that the bird was imitating the noises it had heard at some point during the evening. No, instead they moved out of the way as black body bags were carefully laid under each hook dangling with its quarry of rotting flesh and the slow process of photographing and bagging the evidence began. They would have to wait for reports to come back from pathology to find out if some of these pieces were the parts belonging to Hugo Del Fuego and Julia Webster.
Climbing back into their grey saloon five hours later, both Perkins and Jones breathed in the fresh evening air in relief. It had been a stressful crime scene with blood covering most surfaces, bedrooms tossed and the rest of the apartment coated in flesh. They had passed many a grim face at the scene and they didn’t think any of the responding officers would have a decent night’s sleep tonight.
“God knows what happened to those youngsters Bob. We need to locate them as soon as possible to rule out the possibility of them being part of the mixed grill up there.”
The grunted response was good enough for James Perkins. He had worked with his partner long enough to know that words would not escape his lips until he had processed what he had seen. A coffee and cigarette would have them back to normal in no time. He started the engine and pulled out into the late night traffic of the upmarket Meadowvale area. The residents of this district would wake up to media reports sensationalising what had transpired tonight. No one would feel safe in their own home. Standard protocol whenever something like this happened. Sometimes, he wished he had stayed with the Crime Prosecution Service instead of applying to become a Detective Inspector with the Bagley Crime Unit. Simple decisions were sometimes harder to justify than difficult ones he thought to himself as he drove back towards the head office where hot strong coffee and reports were waiting.
Bob Jones sat in silence in the passenger seat, watching the street lights flick past as they sped through the deserted streets. What could have possibly caused someone to create such havoc in someone’s apartment? Unless the people who owned the apartment were involved were to blame for the carnage, he couldn’t see anyone surviving such an attack. His mind flicked through the images trapped behind his closed eyelids. Something didn’t feel right about the crime scene.
There were no footprints leading in or out of the apartment, nor were there proper fingerprints lifted from the hand paintings found on the surfaces in the entranceway to the building. And he had checked…twice! No, something didn’t add up. Someone had carefully planned this down to the last detail. But why? Why hang pieces of meat from the ceiling on meat hooks? What was the significance of the meat hooks? They obviously had been installed for this purpose as the pictures he found whilst searching through the apartment showed they were not part of the normal décor. What was the significance of keeping the bird alive? There were too many unanswered questions. He needed to sit down with the photographs taken at the scene and go through his notes. He could feel an aching knot developing at the base of his neck. It was going to be a long night.