|Illustration by Mark Satchwill|
Written by Katherine Tomlinson
Illustrated by Mark Satchwill
Esme Morales felt like shit. She’d finally told her mother she was working Thanksgiving, without revealing the assignment was by choice, and the ensuing phone argument had consumed her entire lunch break. She’d scarfed a power bar and chugged some water, but now, three hours later, she was starving, with the beginnings of a brutal caffeine withdrawal headache.
“Hope you haven’t eaten lately,” the young uniformed cop said as she and Edgar walked up to the crime scene.
Her partner perked up. Nothing like a little blood and guts to chase the boredom.
“What do we got?” Edgar asked, which always irritated her because he knew it irritated her when he dropped into CSI-speak but did it anyway. It was one of the friction points in their partnership.
She preferred to concentrate on Edgar’s little flaws so she wouldn’t focus on the real problem, which was that he was a lazy, fat-ass prick who did the least amount of work possible to collect a paycheck but couldn’t seem to stand back and let her do the job without him.
It made her crazy.
She squeezed her eyes shut to beat back the headache and tried to concentrate on what the uni was saying.
“…he hasn’t been here more than a couple of hours.”
Esme looked around the location in disbelief—across from a high school, right around the corner from a donut shop—the guy’s body should have been found within minutes.
“Too much to hope there are security cameras pointed in this direction?” Edgar asked.
“We’re checking now,” the uni said, then added, “sir.”
Kid, you are sucking up to the wrong detective, Esme thought. He won’t even remember your name the next time he sees you.
It bothered Esme that she thought of the young cop as a kid. She was only 34 but days like this, she felt a worn-out 50.
“Let’s see it,” she said, sounding bitchier than she meant to.
The young cop glanced at Edgar. He gave the kid a “What are you going to do?” shrug.
The victim was lying face up, but was beaten so badly it was impossible to tell if it was a man or a woman.
“Any ID?” she asked.
“Didn’t find any,” the uni said, which irritated her because his tone of voice suggested he hadn’t looked all that hard; that he didn’t think it really mattered.
“Did you look in his socks?”
The cop grimaced. “You really going to make me search his socks?” he asked.
“Glove up,” she said, thinking man up.
She snapped on a pair of gloves herself as the kid fished a small card out of a sock so filthy it looked organic rather than man-made.
And that’s how it’s done, son, Esme thought. The expression had been one of her training officer’s favorites. It had irritated her when he said it to her because she knew it was a subtle slam on her gender. Tom Boyer had been an old school sexist and proud of it.
She glanced at her partner.
Edgar’s attention had wandered to a red-headed forensic tech packing away her kit. Esme wanted to smack him. Hello. Dead guy here. Instead she took the card from the uniform.
It was a military ID, still current. Flannery. Michael. Middle initial D.
Ah shit, a veteran.
“Who found him?” Esme asked.
The cop jerked his thumb over his shoulder. “Couple of high school kids.”
Misfits was Esme’s first thought as she sized them up. One was a hulking big kid, too soft to be a football player; the other was a runt, skinny and shorter than she was.
“Hi guys,” she said as she approached. “I’m Detective Morales. You mind if I ask you a few questions?”
“My name’s Christopher Robin Nolan,” the small one said before she could ask. “Call me Rob.”
She looked at the other one. “And you are?”
She waited and finally asked, “Marcus what?”
Esme could see the kid didn’t like her tone of voice. Too bad. She was getting all kinds of bad vibes from him.
Now was that so hard?
“So you found Mr. Flannery?”
Rob’s gaze sharpened.
“That was his name? We just called him Juicer.”
“We saw him around,” Marcus said. “Begging for spare change outside the donut shop.”
“Yeah, dude had a sweet tooth,” Rob snickered.
Esme shot him a glance, then noticed his bloody hands and the blood staining his dark hoodie.
“How’d you get blood on your hands Rob?” she asked.
“I was going to give him CPR,” he said, dropping the smirk and going all earnest.
“I’m a Boy Scout,” he added.
And I’m Angelina Jolie.
“You were going to give him CPR but you didn’t?”
“No point,” Rob said. “Dude was already dead.”
“Yeah,” Marcus said, “it’s not like he can raise the dead like Jesus.”
“Shut up Poo,” Rob said.
“Poo?” Esme asked, one eyebrow raised.
The big kid blushed. “It’s a nickname,” he said. “Like Winnie the Pooh. On account of Rob being Christopher Robin.”
Esme saw Rob smirk. You little shit, she thought. You gave him that nickname and it has nothing to do with A.A. Milne.
She handed each of them her card. “Make sure the officers have your details, we may need to ask some follow-up questions.”
Rob studied the card.
“Esme,” he said, “that’s a pretty name.” He gave her a big innocent smile. “For a pretty lady.”
I wonder how long you had to practice that smile in the mirror, Esme thought. Trying to pass for normal.
The big kid got a weird look on his face.
Oh no you don’t.
He leaned over and vomited out his last three meals. Esme wasn’t quick enough to avoid some of it splattering on her shoes.
“I think we’ve got a serial killer on our hands, Edgar said with just a little bit too much enthusiasm. “Three bums murdered in a month? That can’t be coincidence.”
“They aren’t called bums any more, grandpa,” she said, but her heart wasn’t really in busting him. “This one doesn’t fit,” she added.
“Sure it does,” Edgar said, pulling out on Magnolia and nearly side-swiping a red Honda. He swore at the driver like their near-collision was her fault.
“He was homeless. He was beaten to death. What do you want?”
“Evidence might be nice.”
“This guy, Flannery, he was a vet. He was younger than the other two victims. And he was killed in North Hollywood and not in Venice.”
“The bodies could have been dumped in Venice,” Edgar said, just to be contrary.
“I want to talk to those two kids again,” she said. “Especially the one who looks like Justin Bieber.”
“Who’s Justin Bieber?” Edgar asked.