It was already stuffed with police officers when Detective Colebourne took bold strides into the crime scene. With his left hand in his beige trench coat, he tipped his trademark black fedora in a casual greeting to his partner-for-life, Cerney, who did not bother to return the gesture, too busy jotting down detail after detail on his well-worn notebook. His dark strands crudely swept back, his steel rimmed glasses hung low on his straight nose bridge and his winter-blue eyes focusing on the yellow pages, the twenty-eight-year-old detective sported a stern look that easily discouraged Colebourne’s intended good-natured shoulder slap. A concentrating Cerney was a never-to-mess-with Cerney, Colebourne had learnt it the hard way back when he and his partner first met, both freshmen at the police training institution. So, instead of slapping Cerney’s arms, he raised his voice to announce his arrival.
“What’s up, mucker?”
Only until now did Cerney look up from his notebook. His left eyebrow arching ever slightly, he scrutinized his ‘late’ colleague as he did a suspect. Then his gaze fell on his wristwatch as he said, “So soon, Detective Colebourne? We hardly started.”
…started packing and coming back to the station. Colebourne did not fail to catch the mockery, thank you.
“Nah, bin late lest nicht,” said Colebourne, waving his leather gloved hand. “Yoo ken, Sunday an’ aw ‘at. Thanks God we hae ye.”
Cerney held up a lean forefinger. “Anything but that fake Scottish accent.” Colebourne shrugged, accepting his failure in attempting to amuse his colleague. “Okay. Thocht mah accent soonds bonnie genuine.” He gave one last shot, and earned a razor-sharp glare from an annoyed Cerney.
His eyes behind the cobalt-shaded glasses moved quickly around the crime scene, which happened to be a designer’s clothing shop. He clucked his tongue as he spotted the luxurious brands that would cost him a month’s pay, perhaps two, just for a small article of clothes that he probably would not wear more than three times. There was blood and bits of guts everywhere he looked and the scene appeared taken straight from a slasher movie. No wonder his nose could pick up the revolting odor of half-digested bacon and eggs somewhere around. Probably the newbies…. Or Croft, who always had a weak stomach for a homicide detective. Good thing his stomach remained quite strong however while Cerney, well, he did not know a thing that could stir his morbidly stoic bestfriend.
“So,” he said, tugging a cigarette between his lips and lit, “we have a werewolf in here or something? Want to brief me on that?” He leaned closer to the tall, sort of lanky man, draping an arm around his shoulder.
Cerney replied in flat tone, “My money’s on a vampire; werewolves wouldn’t let the place and objects intact.”
“Right, right. Any information on the unfortunate guy? Or girl… Not a girl, right?”
As always, Colebourne had a soft spot for the fairer sex. Not to be sexist but he would say it gave him greater distress if the victim of this horrific murder was a female.
A murder, right, not an accident or suicide. That was why he and Cerney had been dispatched to the scene.
“The victim’s male, around thirty-five, mixed race, probably Latino. Right now the guy is being put back together for further identification.”
“Put back?” Colebourne echoed.
Cerney opened a brown envelope and handed him a stack of photos, which could very well serve as a reference for someone who desperately wanted to cut down on his or her calorie intakes. Stressed on “desperately”. The detective studied the photos for some good minutes before he turned to his partner.
“Lucky us the head’s pretty whole. I think I know the guy – dear late Gonzales was no stranger to me. Got caught a few times. Jailed twice. Lock-breaking, stealing, drug-trafficking, that sort of stuff.” His gaze traveled around the place. “So karma has finally come to bite him in the ass, huh?”
“Traces left on the doors and devices suggest your friend here managed to break the lock and shut off the surveillance cameras. An incredible feat for an individual, I admit….”
“The boy got skills, I give him that.”
“… Unfortunately, he couldn’t get pass the top-notch security system of this shop. No property lost, according to the shop manager and cashier.”
“Any light on his cause of death?”
Cerney looked at him for a few seconds, and he swore he could see more than just a hint of mischief in those piercing blue eyes. He arched his dark eyebrows in reply.
“Torn apart,” Cerney stressed with his Cockney accent. “On first glance. We have to wait for the forensic guys for further detail.”
Colebourne tried to stay calm; however, his raised tone betrayed him. “Torn apart?”
“If you want an illustrative example, imagine tying the head and limbs to each chariot that goes different directions – the ancient Chinese’s favorite corporal punishment.”
“Thanks for details. Makes sense if that’s a werewolf. I suppose we should add the shop manager, cashier and all the sale staff on the list. Hell, that’s gonna be a long list,” Colebourne muttered under his breath.
“Got it done,” said Cerney, writing down a few more words before closing up his notebook. “All are having a coffee break at the station. Most of them perfect alibi though. We’ve been waiting for your much treasured interrogation techniques.”
Colebourne scoffed indignantly, “Do enlighten me, Detective Falke, why was I summoned here instead of there?”
“Why, I thought you would want to see the scene for yourself, Detective Jagdhund.” And a smirk crept up Cerney’s lips.
Colebourne swore his friend had planned to punish him the very first minute he was late to the scene. He held up both his hands in defeat.
“I bet you’ve taken every detail down already. Now let’s see if I can break those perfect alibis to pieces.”
As they were prepared to leave, Colebourne suddenly looked to the mannequins scattered around the shop. They too were covered in gore and thus, were being wrapped in plastic to be transferred to the forensic laboratory. “Last time I saw them, these girls weren’t all smiling like this,” said Colebourne. He pointed to an exquisite-looking one with tousled neon-blue hair and matching glass eyes. “Especially this one.”
“When was your ‘last time’?”
“Some weeks ago. Maybe a month or two. We should check if they have been recently replaced.”
Scratching his stubbly chin, Colebourne took a long pause to study the blue-haired mannequin. Indeed there was a curve etched on the contours of her lips; still, it was not so simple as an artist’s crafty knife carving into the doll’s face. The smile was not external but seemed to reach all the way beneath her artificial skin, and manifested in her slightly arched eyebrows and squinted eyes. The more he looked, the stronger his illusion grew – that he was looking at something with a soul rather than an empty plastic vessel.
His gaze shifted to another doll, and found a similar expression and a similar feeling. The third one he laid his eyes on was no different.
It was as if something or someone was terribly amusing to them and they broke into a smile as once.
Colebourne rubbed his eyes until his vision turned red. No, he was not high; as a matter of fact, he had not been high for half a month.
“You’re alright?” asked Cerney.
“Yeah, just give me the creeps, really,” Colebourne remarked at last as he broke out of his trance.
“Should I put them on the list, too?” Cerney tapped his capped pen on his notebook. Keeping a straight face and a serious tone to match, he asked, “Witness or suspect? Both?”
Colebourne gave him a dirty look as the two made towards their car.
Back to the Tales of Bizarrity series and introducing Colebourne and Cerney, two unlucky detectives who have failed to solve almost every bizarre case in this series. As I write them, I develop a sort of affection for the pair. Maybe they should have their own story. I don’t know. Depends on my mood.