is the Night
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An Excerpt from Brindle Chase's Dark is the Night
Another day, another murder. As if the Antoinette murders
weren’t enough to keep us busy, a mysterious death was all we needed.
When will people learn to stay away from alleys? Especially in the Flats.
Greg, my partner of four years, maneuvered into a parking spot near the
crime scene and we got out.
“What do you think, Kat? Overtime?” Greg chuckled. It was
said in joke, but it was likely. I shrugged. Down time was more precious
than extra pay. “There’s Mac. Get the details from him.”
Greg motioned toward the alley and then moved over to crowd control. Kat
was everyone’s nickname for me. My real name is Katherine and the
abbreviated version they used didn’t bother me. I responded to a
lot of names. Katherine, Kathy, Kat, Kate, Cop, Bitch. I nodded and slammed
shut my door. Greg always let me take the wet work. We both understood
I was better at it.
“Roger that,” I said and took a sip from my espresso. Its
seeping warmth oozed through straight to my bones, fending off the winter
I looked ahead and saw Mac. They had taped off the site and secured the
perimeter, but we were the first from Homicide on site. Mac was Vice Squad,
but a damn fine detective. He had been closer when the call came in, so
he detoured to baby-sit it for us. He must have been the first plainclothes
officer to arrive.
I shot a glance at Greg who was talking with the blues to see what they
had before I slipped under the yellow tape and headed over to Mac. He
was directing the photographer but noticed me and gave a terse nod, followed
by a smile.
“Whatcha got, Mac?” I asked. “All we got on the way
over was a possible murder in the alley behind the Diamond Head.”
Mac Talbot was a distinguished guy. Taller than average, maybe six one,
early forties, and a subtle touch of salt at the temples. That made him
kind of handsome in my book. It was the moustache that ruined the impression
though, not to mention he was married. I try not to be picky, but then,
I didn’t have time for relationships anyway. But yeah, I had noticed
him before. Nice guy, just not my type. But then, who was?
“They thought it was an accident, but the rookie F.O.S noticed some
blood splattered over here on the wall. It doesn’t match the victim
I don’t think. Hard to get the blood over here from where the body
fell,” Mac said grimly. That was a sharp eye by the First On Scene.
The blood was practically the same color as the rust colored bricks.
Confirming a blood match would be simple. I had the necessary equipment
in my kit. A thousand scenarios came to mind that could put the body’s
blood on the wall ten feet away, but you had to go with your instincts,
and Mac’s told him it wasn’t a match. Mine told me Mac was
I nodded, meeting Mac’s purposeful stare. His brown eyes were sharp,
hawk-like and they had that cunning depth most detectives had. It was
like he was looking straight through your thoughts to the truth. I’ve
been told my eyes do the same thing, but it usually wasn’t what
people noticed first about me. I wish it were.
The boys always treated me differently. I tried not to jump to conclusions
but it seemed because I was a woman, or maybe it was because I was the
top detective. Whatever the case, apparently talking to me like a robot
made it easier not to stare at my chest. It didn’t exactly stop
them either. I was what some referred to as top heavy, but they weren’t
that big. However they made treating me like one of the guys impossible,
I guess. I was used to it.
“How contaminated is the scene?” I asked. I needed to know
what I was up against. Every additional officer poking about the site
risked a clue getting trampled. Unlike the TV shows, we didn’t really
have all that super high-tech crime lab crap. At least, not here in Cleveland.
We did things the old fashioned way and we were damned good at it. But
each clue was a fountain of knowledge and we couldn’t afford to
lose a single one.
I looked over the scene. It was pretty gruesome. Subject number one was
still hanging upside down by the heel and shin from the fire escape’s
metal rung ladder. His face remained twisted in a horrified death gaze.
It hadn’t been painless. The way his head hung tight to his shoulders
was odd and the angle told me his spine was a mess. Against the wall,
six feet from the body was a faint blood spray. That was all we had for
subject number two, if Mac was right.
“Six. The rookie was sharp and sealed it off right away. Even shooed
his partner out of the alley to make the call,” Mac answered and
motioned toward a young kid in blue guarding the rear of the alley.
Six men had been in the alley. Mac and his partner of seventeen years,
Gilley, the rookie and his partner, a forensic photographer, and an examiner
from the coroner’s office. A little more traffic than I would have
liked, but it was better than most scenes I had gone over.
“The body already tagged?” I asked, shooting a glance at the
meat wagon parked out front.
“Not yet, but I had it thoroughly photographed. Steve will send
“So one body, who doesn’t appear to have any wounds that could’ve
spurted blood this far and this direction, and we have a fine spray of
blood nearby?” I affirmed, examining the blood on the fire escape.
“Left that to you, Kat. We just babysat it for you.”
“Good boy. Give the rookie a raise.”
Mac wasn’t a novice even if homicide wasn’t his area of expertise,
and Gilbert Thompson was just as competent. I liked to do my own lab work
and they knew it. My partner, Greg Collison, liked the particulars. He
would gather names and testimonies if there were any. If not, he’d
identify our victim and start looking for links there. Blood trails were
my specialty and paper trails were his.
I nodded to Mac and gave Gilley a smile as I turned back. I opened the
trunk and got my kit out, then hefted it back into the alley. Sifting
through a crime scene was grisly work and it wasn’t my idea of a
picnic. But it had to be done. I was good at it. My thrill came from putting
together all the clues until I was able to nail the killer.
To some, only the obvious would stand out. The body dangling from the
fire escape was pretty cut and dry. The blood on the brick wall several
feet away was also indicative of something not right. But everything else
told a story. Each little thing in that alley might have played a role
in what had occurred there.
A footprint in the mud. All the trash along the walls. Scratches in the
paint of the steel framed ladder system. All of it could have been involved
and all of it had to be examined. We never knew what might tell us who
the murderer was and you’d be amazed what the smoking gun ended
up being sometimes. I’d find it, if I took my time and I always
It took three hours, but I went over the scene a second time, just to
be thorough. I had twenty-eight blood samples, seven unidentified fabric
samples and twelve different footprints from the area near the second
blood stains, which I had confirmed as not being the victim’s. The
rookie was right. This didn’t look like it an accident.
© Brindle Chase, June 2011, All Rights Reserved
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