The call came around Two thirty am.
He answered on the third ring, with a succinct, “No.”
“Did I wake you?” the gruff male voice belonged to his partner, Nick Henry.
Correction. Former partner. He handed in his gun and shield two months ago. He hadnt heard shit from his former squad, or friends since…
There was no use thinking about it.
Travis ran a rough hand over his face, and sat up in his bed. He didnt bother turning on the lights. “The answer is no,” he repeated.
“Its a bad one, Travis.” Henry went on as if he didnt hear him. “The Captain wants you in on this.”
Travis grunted. Yeah, like that fact the Captain wanted him, would be enough to persuade him to come back in.
To Captain Tully Pullman, everything was all about appearance and dramatics. His homicide division had the highest clearance rate in the Tri-city area. The man was by the book, and every chance he got, he was in the media, crowing about how none of the other Precincts had the kind of detectives he had. Too bad all his bragging, put him on the shit list with the Brass. where Travis was concerned, he was just another asshole.
While Henry spoke, Travis hauled off the sheets. He noted they stank of sweat and body odor.
He winced. He hadnt cleaned them in a week. He made a mental note to do that later that morning. He scratched his chest, and swung his feet off to the side of the bed.
Travis walked into the bathroom, the mobile phone still attached to his ear. He put the phone on speaker, and put it on the counter and turned on the water.
“Are you listening?” Henry barked.
Travis glared at the mobile. “Yeah!” he answered. “The answer is still no!”
He splashed cold water on his face, and peered at his appearance. He winced at his reflection.
When had he gotten so old?
Tufts of cinnamon brown hair, streaked with grey stuck up from his scalp. His face was gaunt, the sharp edges of his cheekbones would have made a supermodel jealous. Dark shadows rimmed his blood shot eyes indicating he hadnt been sleeping well. which in truth, he hadnt slept a night since he quit his job.
He hunched his shoulders, the sun kissed freckles there dotted over his back and chest disappearing into the dark curls of hair that spread across his chest and abdomen.
He had been in great shape; he remembered, his lips curling.
now his collar bone jutted out, and his shoulders werent as huge as they used to be. Just wide and lean.
Forty-three, unemployed and he looked like a crack head, he thought derisively, that was his life now.
“I never saw anything like this in my twenty years of service.” Henry was still speaking. “I have heard of Vampire cults. But someone actually drinking blood… there are transmitted diseases…out there.”
Travis stopped brushing his teeth. “What did you say?” something in him stirred. Interest, and unease.
“Goddamn it, Travis! Havent you been listening to a word, I’ve been saying?” Henry bellowed.
Travis grinned through a lather of toothpaste. “No, H. You talk just to listen to hear your own voice.”
Henry let out a string of curses, and Travis laughed. “I will be there in twenty. Lets be clear on one thing. I will take a look at the crime scene. I am not promising anything.”
Travis pulled up to the address, Henry gave him twenty minutes later. It was a quaint little neighborhood, he noted. Designed for what was that internet slang again? Designed for Hipsters. Aesthetic and neatly compact buildings along one street, and little fenced in homes on the other.
His fingers on the keys, he hesitated before turning off the ignition.
Why was he here? He wondered. It wasnt like he was doing the Homicide division any favors?
He turned off the ignition, and pocketed the keys. He glanced down at the console.
He wasnt liked by many in his division, even Henry – his partner, could barely stand him.
He reached for his Voice Tracer Digital Recorder, for all his wealth of intellect there was one thing he could never fix, so he became incredibly adept at hiding it. He pocketted the Voice Tracer, and kept it close, the way other detectives kept their notebooks close.
The walk to the apartment building was well lit, he noted this as well as the fact there was no doorman. He glanced around. The lobby and the numerous video cameras. Interesting.
The apartment itself, had an elevator, but it was out of order, he noted. while the walk up was invigorating, he also noted how long it took to get to the sixth floor.
thirty minutes. If one was in good health, it probably took less.
A tall balding man met him at the stairwell, the scowl on his dark features made Travis smile. The man still wore Armani as if it was never going out of style, his slim build giving away to a little fat in the middle. The older man had style, something Travis gave him credit, and he – himself, never had time for.
“You look like shit” Henry grumbled, as Travis entered the hallway.
Travis didnt say anything, but followed Henry down the entry way. “Nice building.” He said. “No security though.”
Henry grunted. “There are security cameras in every hallway, every stairway. Even the elevator.” he muttered, the disdainful way he spoke of the elevator caused Travis to raise an eyebrow.
“Your heart must be thanking you.” he taunted.
“Fuck you, Travis.” Henry spat. They turned the corner. “The cameras were installed last year, after the victim moved in.” he gestured to the door that was manned by one of the officers. “Officer Mann, was the first one to arrive.”
“Has anybody canvas the area yet?” Travis asked.
The Incident Officer blinked owlishly at Travis offering the clipboard to sign in. “Well, we canvased the neighboring suites…”
“I want the neighborhood done.” Travis murmured. “This isnt your first time securing a crime scene is it, Officer?”
“But its 3am..” the officer stammered.
Travis narrowed his eyes. “I see, so you just screwed up already. That will be mentioned in my report. I want officers canvassing every house.”
“Ok, sir, but you..could you…” the officer once more offered the clipboard, but Travis didnt acknowledge him.
He shoved a pair of Booties over his runners, snapped a pair of gloves on.He walked past Mann, and into the room. Henry muttered an oath behind him.
The smell of lemon grass hit him, the cloying scent made his stomach coil. He clenched his fingers around the Tracer.
“Lemon grass,” Travis muttered.
“Lemon what now?” Henry asked.
“Lemon grass or citronella.” Travis replied. “Its what we are smelling.”
The apartment was a two story loft. The family pictures on the wall in the foyer were neatly aligned, where he stood.
A young woman standing with an older man and woman. She was pretty, a gap tooth smile. Her small chin. Her eyes were sparkling with laughter.
Travis studied the pictures awhile longer, his finger stroking over the girl’s arms. she wore her shirtsleeves short in some pictures, while in others long, he thought.
“You gonna stand there all day,Travis?!” Henry barked.
Travis’s lips curled into a smile. “You gotta a better place to be, old man?” he replied. Henry humphed.
Travis stuck his hands in his pockets and walked down the hallway, into the rest of the loft. Black chinese folding screens divided the space.
The kitchen was neat and tidy. He threw it a cursory glance. A row of herbs lined the counter top. Each labelled with neat cursive writing.
“So what do you think of the little garden she has there?” Travis drawled.
Henry glared at him. “What do I think?!” he asked. “Do I look like look a black Martha Stewart to you?”
Travis winked, “I think you would look very fine in garden gloves.” he went on. “In fact I can see it now..”
Throughly incensed, Henry stalked over to the counter. “I am a man, a man doesnt care about his green thumb!” With his gloved hands, he plucked two of the potted plants and shoved them in Travis’s face.
“Basil, Chamomile, ” he snorted with disgust. He put the two down and read off the other plants. ‘What kind of person plants…” he breaks off. “Rosemary, Sage, Citronella and Blessed thistle, Good Lord, this one says Vervain!”
Vervain. Travis stiffened. “Indeed what kind of person plants these hideous things.”
Travis pivotted on his heel and walked into what must have served as the living room. A huge flat screen tv mounted one wall. Again, neat little photo frames were meticiously on other side of the tv.
The comfortable looking couch, with a shawl thrown over it had been moved, the scuff marks had blackened the laminated wood floor.
“That was moved when we got here.” Henry muttered.
Travis didnt say anything, something caught his interest. He crouched, and he swiped at it. It was gritty on his fingertips. He frowned. Staring at his hands, he saw the tiny granules of white crystals on the pads of his finger. Sticky.
He sniffed it. Fruity.
“What the hell are you doing there, Travis?” Henry sighed. “Oh god please tell me you are not going to lick it…”
Travis touched his tongue to one finger. He grimaced.
“Oh my god, you are an animal! An animal!” Henry exclaimed. “You are contaminating the crime scene!”
Travis shook his head, and straightened. “Nah, that right there, was olive oil and salt.”
Henry frowned. “Like a vinaigrette?”
Travis shook his head. “No.” he glanced around.
Olive oil, salt, Vervain, Blessed Thistle, Sage… Travis knew there was something vaguely familar about these odd elements.
“Where is the body?”
Henry sighed. “Now? You want to see the victim?” he growled.
Travis fixed him a stare. Henry grumbled something under his breath, and gestured for him to follow.
“Victim’s name was Faith Connor.” Travis murmured. “She was twenty -three.”
Henry grunted. “She lived here by herself, she had no room-mates.”
The smell of blood and decomp was becoming stronger as they neared the foot of the stairwell.
“A room mate would put too much stress on her,” Travis thought outloud, “She was until a year ago living with her parents.”
Henry snorted, “Maybe her parents got tired of her mooching off them?”
Travis’s eyes narrowed. Henry was slow on the uptake. “No, I dont think thats it.” he replied drily.
Henry led him into a small room cornered by one of the folding screens. “I will warn you, it is creepy. No one wants to go inside!” he hissed.
There were a number of Crime Scene Investigators already fidgeting about, their faces pale, some making the signs of the crosses but Travis didnt notice them.
The sweet scent of death swirled violently into the air, and with it another perfume. Incense, he thought.
He stepped forward.
The room was darker than the rest of the loft, it took a moment for Travis’s eyes to adjust.
Sconces on the wall were lit, the flames flickering as the wax dripped over the metal unto the floor below. At first he didnt see her, the young woman in repose in the middle of the room.
He took a step toward her, then he realized what had his co-workers in a tizzy.
Flames from the candles snapped and crackled, as they illuminated the circle the surrounded the young woman.
A double protective circle that framed a perfect pentagram.
Travis inhaled deeply.
The circle was drawn meticulously. She wouldnt have it any other way, Travis thought. He stepped closer, careful not to disturb the circle.
The filmy translucent nightgown smoothed down her body in a neat line. Her hands outstretched to the east and west, her feet outstretched as well. “The Goddess position,” he murmured to himself, more to anyone else.
Blood had pooled under her, her hair soaking most of it up, becoming matted and clumpy. The candles flickered again, and Travis’s eyes fell to the floor around the girl.
Tiny rivulets of blood, had trickled away from her body, in the direction of the five corners of the pentagram, then started to congeal there.
Travis’s stomach turned in revulsion.
“Tell me,” he said finally, “Did you at least take pictures?”
“Some.” came the reply.
“I want more, do not disturb the circle. I want pictures taken from every angle, and then I want this room processed.”
There was twittering behind him, Travis slowly turned on his heel to stare at the men and women behind him. “Do we have a problem?” he demanded. “Maybe I am not making myself clear?”
There were grumbles, prayers said, and reluctantly the CSI’s moved into the room. Light flooded into the room, a moment later.
Travis gestured Henry to follow him, “Do not smudge the salt please.” he instructed. Once inside the circle, Travis crouched to examine the girl more closely.
“Not a vampire cult huh?” Henry asked.
“I dont even want to know where you got that idea from.” Travis muttered.
Travis eyes took in the closed eyelids, the slightly parted lips, her reddish teeth, where blood had spurted up into her mouth. Someone had taken great care to wipe her mouth. He gripped her chin, twisting her head to the left and the right. Not even a drop of red in the corners of her mouth.
“Neighbors didnt hear her screaming, they had been out all night. Superintendent will let us look at the tapes later on in the morning.” Henry murmured.
Travis frowned. Holding up Faith Connor’s hands, he examined her arms. Scars. Fresh lines over old ones.
“What is that?” Henry asked.
“Self mutilation.” Travis murmured.
He didnt have to see Henry’s grimace. His own insides turn. For all outward appearances, Faith Connor appeared to be a healthy happy young woman. On the inside, she was breaking, and she had no way of communicating that to the outside world.
Travis let his eyes travel over Faith’s body. The night gown too absorbed the blood beneath her, and around her abdomen area.
He scooted around her, his frown deepening. He glanced down where he knelt. Blood pooled beneath her, yet didnt make enough of a mess. He chuckled. Faith Connor would have loved to know that even in death, she was neat and tidy.
“Whats so damn funny?” Henry demanded. “You are one strange dude.”
Travis glanced up at his partner. “Really, Henry? Who says dude anymore?”
Henry flushed, the red creeping up his dark skin. “”Dude” will never get old. Ok. It has been around for years!” he snapped.
-this drabble was started on my old computer when it crashed. it took me forever to find it on my wp posts. horrible paragraphing. ha ha