The phone rings at 4:44 a.m. sharp.
It’s Dempsey, calling me to a crime scene that was discovered by a civilian just ten minutes ago.
“Get your ass over here now,” he tells me while I’m slipping into a pair of pants. His voice is grave, somber.
“Oh, and Holland…”
I pause, my ear taut.
“Don’t eat anything beforehand.”
I hang up, and mentally ready myself for what I’m about to witness.
The sun is just about to pierce through the night sky by the time I pull up on the street corner. The air of late September is cold, making me crave that cup of coffee I didn’t have time to stop for even more. I exit my jalopy and speed walk past forensic vehicles and brown police cars—due to the early hour, the scene isn’t yet packed with morbid curiosity from the public, something which we’ll need to take advantage of as much as possible.
Sliding past the yellow DO NOT CROSS tape, I spot Dempsey in the distance, and I allow the bleak alleyway to envelop me like a spider’s web holding its prey captive.
I brace myself as I walk forward, but nothing could’ve quite prepared me for this.
Two unclothed corpses, both seemingly female, have been positioned on the ground, their backs leaning against the walls opposite of each other. From where I stand, I can already tell they’ve been mutilated, limbs and faces alike. A few light stands have been set up, giving the corpses these eerie, shadowed expressions—it feels like I’m standing on the stage of a twisted, life-size puppet show.
I approach Dempsey’s crouched down shape, taking a deep breath through my mouth to compose myself. He acknowledges my presence with an almost imperceptible tilt of his chin but stays quiet. Something of a telltale of his: he doesn’t want to be disturbed. I can only imagine how many theories are swimming through his head right now, and silently move in to conduct my own observation, whipping out a notepad and a pen.
The two women seemed to be approximately the same age—mid twenties to early thirties, if I must guess. The first corpse, dark-haired, has had both of her legs amputated. The absence of stubs and the presence of burnt flesh indicate the remains of her thighs might have been cauterized to limit excess bleeding, suggesting one of two things: the victim was still alive when the limbs were sawed, or the perpetrator didn’t want a bloody mess on their hands. I inch myself closer, noting the lack of trauma on the arms, torso, and face. Then I notice the back of the head; hair tangled and grimy with dried blood. I retrieve a pair of white gloves from my pocket and slip one on. Gently, I push the hair back, revealing a deep, crude cut that’s been afflicted to the back of the skull. It’s been split open, nearly cracked in half all the way from the nape to the apex of the head, but what makes me feel like I’m hallucinating is what I find inside.
I position myself at a different angle, perhaps in denial, perhaps in fear. After a few minutes, I conclude the evidence in front of me cannot be ignored: the brain has been completely removed, in one way or another, leaving the inside of the skull unnaturally empty of any matter.
My stomach churns.
I move on to the other corpse, the one with hair that’s been dyed the color of amethyst gemstones. This one, as opposed to its predecessor, has had both arms severed without any mitigation—there are no signs of cauterization as far as I can tell. Whether that was deliberate or not remains a mystery, and I add ‘exsanguination’ to the list of possible causes of death.
I quickly take note of the intact legs, torso, and skull before reluctantly tackling what’s been done to the poor woman’s face. The eyeballs seem to have been completely gouged out as all that is left are two hollow sockets, covered in mangled flesh and coagulated blood, possibly what proved to be a more arduous job than what the perpetrator had expected. Still, the trauma is just as gruesome, the technique used very similar to the other, and it leaves no doubt in my mind.
These murders are linked; performed by the same person, or people. They were carefully planned, and oddly executed.
Nausea waves its familiar flag, one I have no choice but to ignore.