Detective David Sykes stepped out of the crime scene. Memories of similar cases rushed into him like a deluge: scenes of blood and gore that would make a lesser man cower. Surely the others will see the connection. Surely somebody in the forensics team will piece together the whole scene and annotate it. Surely they will see this atrocity for what it is: a deplorable, despicable calling card left by the killer to assure the police that he is still here.
“Pretty audacious, don’t you think?” a female voice asked him. Sykes looked at his side to see Lieutenant Stella Pierce standing next to him. Lt. Pierce was his superior, although it didn’t begin that way. She started out as an affable, wide-eyed police officer who quickly rose in the ranks after blowing the lid off several drug shipments in the docks area. The media was quick to exaggerate and made her the local legend. Even the mayor jumped in the bandwagon and named Pierce as the leading advocate of the anti-drug campaign.
Sykes saw behind her duplicity. He saw behind her fake candor and clemency. She wasn’t just a cop who was in the right place at the right time and did the right thing. She was a dirty cop on the take who decided to turn on the drug bosses when she got tired of asking them for a raise.
And now she is the town hero, he thought. Sykes was a consummate cop who grew up in a household of cops. Although his belligerent manner and asperity has lead him to all kinds of trouble with his colleagues, his astute mind and abstemious work esthetic earned the respect of the police department. After some time everyone came to accept him as an abstruse eccentric and people came to understand that his quirks and emphatic statements were not meant to alienate anyone, it was just his way of processing a case.
“How’s the family, David? I heard your son won first place at a quiz bee or something.”
“My family is fine. But your information is erroneous, he didn’t win in the quiz bee, it was an Extemporaneous Speech Competition,” he knew his tone was absolutely acrimonious but he couldn’t help it. Pierce knew he was newly divorced and could only visit his kids once a week. Bringing it up was just plain spiteful. Well two can play that game, Lieutenant, he thought.
“Ah, I see the media is here, Lieutenant, no doubt waiting to edify another self-proclaimed demagogue such as yourself. Don’t make them wait,” he said with mock cheerfulness.
Pierce sneered at him and turned around to face the media. Not surprisingly, the sneer is now a toothy smile as she began her practiced statement, “Once again we are reminded of the brevity of human life. The victim, Dr. Johnson Brice, was only 41 years old…”
Sykes eyes widened when he heard the name. He spun around in time to see forensic analyst, Ricardo dela Cruz stepping out of the police line. Dela Cruz was a veteran, already in his late forties. Though the despondent look in his eyes told his age, he moved around with the vigor and dexterity of someone 30 years younger.
“Is it true? The victim is the Dr. Johnson Brice?” he whispered to Dela Cruz.
“Who told you that?” Dela Cruz asked in surprise.
He pointed to Pierce, “The lieutenant just divulged it to the media.”
Dela Cruz gave an ambiguous smile, “Gotta love her.”
“Involving the media will not ameliorate the situation,” Sykes said.
“Speaking really big words like “ameliorate” doesn’t improve your situation.” Dela Cruz knew Sykes for more than 10 years and he knew speaking with big words was one of Sykes’ quirks.
“Well, is it Dr. Brice? The Dr. Brice who owns the arboretum at Raleigh Street?” Sykes asked.
“I’d say yes if I knew what “arboretum” means,” Dela Cruz replied. “You know him?”
“I read his books. He wrote about Aboriginal Practices and Art,” Sykes said.
Dela Cruz was quiet for a moment, “Sykes, he as decapitated, just like the other victims of…”
“I know. When I catch that caitiff, there will be no absolution,” Sykes cut in.
“Unfortunately, there are no credible witnesses,” Dela Cruz sighed.
“You saw that room, the blood – it’s a message for me. I’ll find something even if I have to coerce every low-life in this town to get it,” Sykes whispered.
“Well, that’s some contingency plan,” Dela Cruz commented as he walked away.
As Sykes stared at the gurney carrying the remains of Dr. Johnson Brice he made a promise, a covenant between himself and the dead man’s soul. He will be the last victim. He will do whatever it takes to catch this serial killer before he kills again.