Macney stared at the photograph. She was beautiful, there was no doubt about it. She had the stance of a model- one hand on her hip, arched back, chin up, stern look on her face. But there something about her that let you know she wasn’t a full-blown professional. It wasn’t just the body. The pink, health skin and muscular legs shoulders certainly didn’t fit. Real models had drawn, almost grayish skin and the skeletal structure of a holocaust victim. But that wasn’t it.
It was her face. She had a slight smile- just a little curls of the lips. It wasn’t much, but it gave her away. Real models had the blank stare of true detachment. But this girl still enjoyed it. If he forced himself he could almost imagine a little girl excited to play dress up- they way she’d been once upon a time.
“Vain much?” a uniformed officer snickered as he walked by.
Macney wasn’t sure of his name, he was knew. He thought it might be Johnson, though. Without taking his eyes off the well- framed photo he asked the guy, “What?”
“You know- an entire wall of photos of yourself. A little overboard, don’t you think?”
“You ever play sports as a kid?”
“You ever win any trophies?”
“Sure,” the uniform said, looking at him in confusion.
“Well, these are hers ,” Macney said, and with that he turned and walked out of the room. He passed by a couple guys in lab coats with goggles and large kits. One seemed to do doing a sweep for fingerprints, but the other was putting vials into his bag. That alone let him know that what waited for him in the next room was bad. He braced himself and walked into the bedroom, ready to behold whatever was waiting for him.
The first thing he saw was what appeared to be a giant cocoon made of mud, lying in the middle of the bed. Underneath the thick blackish-brown substance he saw a texture that let him know there was something else underneath. He couldn’t tell what it was, just that was smoother than skin. The shape and size lead him to assume that the body was hidden somewhere within that, but that was only logic. There was no making out skin color or even how the body’d been arraigned just from seeing this.
“What am I looking at?” he asked the room in general.
“Well, without running back to test this material out we can’t know for sure, but it’s some kind of feces,” came a voice from behind him. He wanted to turn to look towards that voice, engage it in conversation. But suddenly knowing what he was looking at made it that much more horrible, and that much more impossible to look away. It wasn’t mud- it was shit. Enough shit to cover the entire body. How the hell they’d manage that?
“I’m gonna take a wild guess and say it didn’t all come out of one person,” he said.
“Nope, didn’t come out of any person, actually. We’re pretty sure it’s dog shit,” said the voice, coming around to stand next to him. From his peripheral vision he could make out Rogers, his favorite tech. Rogers had grey hair on his temples and a permanent squint in his eyes that let you know he was a veteran to the field. You don’t look that worn until you’ve seen your fair share of seriously messed up scenes. And Rogers, at least from what Macney knew of him, had seen the bottom of the barrel. Macney reached into his pocket and pulled out a glove, snapped it on to his hand.
“Am I gonna contaminate anything?” he asked.
“Nope, we were waitin’ for you. Figured we’d unwrap her together,” Rogers said, nodding to the photographer in the corner to approach the body so he could snap away as they started to unwrap the form. Macney reached a hand out, tentatively, as if afraid to disturb it. He felt the mass through his glove and the first thing that hit him was how hard the feces was. It wasn’t until that second that he’d noticed how frigid it was in the room. The AC must have been cranked up as high as it would go.
“It’s hard,” Macney said, and he picked off a small chunk. It broke off easily, like stale fudge, and he dropped it into the plastic bag Rogers was holding open for him. He picked off another chunk and held it up for closer inspection. He could see the tell-tale dog fur, but nothing else distinguishable.
“I suppose it’s not hard to find a whole lot of dog crap lying around in a city this big, huh?” Macney asked, more to himself than to anyone else. Rogers said nothing, he was used to Macney’s process and the questions he posed to no on in particular. He was used to the debriefing they did afterwards, after the tests were run and the time of death determined. He stood with his bags and vials ready to collect the evidence, and his mouth shut.
Macney waved for Rogers to find an opening and start the peel-back process. Rogers and his aid started to break off large chunks of the mess, collecting it in hazmat bags and taking samples every layer or so. Rogers suspected they wouldn’t learn anything useful from the material, but he took a large sample anyway. He’d always bragged that no one would ever accuse him of not being thorough.
As they reached the material underneath Macney understood why it had looked smoother than skin. It was- it was plastic. The entire body had been encased in a large plastic bag. Macney knew this was significant and started jotting down notes, already forming hypotheses about the killer’s psyche, or character as he called it. Rogers and his aid waited. Macney looked up with a sigh and nodded. Rogers started cutting back the plastic.
Immediately the smell of bleach filled Rogers nostrils, so strong that he actually had to turn his head for a moment.
“What it is?” Macney asked, inching forward cautiously. He caught the scent and waited for it to clear, then he stepped over to the side to lean over. With the plastic cleared away he could make out the girl’s face. She looked almost as she had in the picture outside, save that her eyes were open and her lips parted in what he would have described as a gasp, if she wasn’t dead.
“I don’t get it,” came a voice to Macney’s left. He looked up and saw the photographer paused with his camera down. “Why go to all the trouble to wash the body in bleach, bag it, and then cover it in crap?”
“He wanted to protect her,” Macney said, looking down at the girl’s face again.
“Then why cover her in shit?” he asked again.
“Aren’t you supposed to be photographing this?” Macney said without looking up again. The photographer coughed a tiny bit and started snapping away again with a fervor.
Macney pulled the plastic down and looked at the neck. There were deep bruises on each side indicating significant pressure. Macney placed his gloved hand over the bruises to check the shape. He started jotting notes in his pad again, then stood up straight and started pacing. Rogers perked up, noting the detective’s usual brainstorming ritual and waited for the real questioning to begin.
“How’d we find her?” he asked without looking up from his feet.
“Her aunt,” Rogers answered. “She was supposed to go shopping with the vic on Sunday. After she didn’t hear back from her for a couple of days she came up to chec on her.”
“No, sign of struggle,” Macney said, again more to himself than anyone else. “Our perp must’ve been waiting for her in here. How was the apartment when the aunt came?”
“Quiet, locked up- no signs of forced entry. The aunt got the super to open it up. I think one of your uniforms is interviewing them,” Rogers said, peering over his should to see if could catch a glimpse of the young female he’d seen interviewing the aunt when he walked in.
“Gonna have to get them both down to the station,” Macney said, jotting another note down in his pad. He stepped close to the body again, took a closer look at the neck. Rogers made to start cutting the remainder of the plastic and Macney nodded at him. Rogers cut and pull with the trepidation of someone walking through a field of landmines, afraid to disturb anything he hadn’t seen yet. As he peeled down the rest of the plastic the rest of her body came into view. It was the same basic shape Macney’d seen standing in the frame- muscular shoulders, lean stomach and torso, narrow hips attached to legs that were way too muscular for a model. She’d have lost the definition if she’d continued in the business, he knew.
“He wanted to preserve her,” Macney muttered.
“Then why not use formaldehyde? Why bleach, it distorts the natural skin color,” Rogers observed.
Macney scribbled in his pad, then resumed his pacing. “Ok, so there’s no struggle- he either had to be in here waiting for her or the vic knew him.” He took a step towards the door and yelled to no one in particular- “We got any leads on boyfriends, fashion designers, crazy relatives or stalkers this girl had?” No one answered as he made his way back to the body. He didn’t expect them to, he expected them to start making phone calls and tracking people down.
“No sign of trauma on the head,” Rogers observed. “And the bruises are pretty isolated- he must have had a good hold on her neck before she started struggling.”
“Then it must have been someone she knew,” Macney said. “Anything goin’ on down there,” he asked pointing to the groin area.
“No, not recently. If this girl was having sex it wasn’t anytime near when she got killed. Until we take a look at the internals that’s all I can tell ya. I’ll also do the full gauntlet tox screen, see if she was drugged,” Rogers said, looking over the body and making notes on his metal clip board.
“We see anything at all similar to this before?” Macney asked.
“Not one of my cases, and you know I’ve seen almost all of ‘em,” Rogers answered. “You might wanna consult FBI, though- this is pretty damned meticulous to be an isolated event.”
“Could it be his first kill?” Macney asked, half-hoping the answer would be no and he wouldn’t have to look for more of these popping up around the city.
“Doubt it. There’s too much reparation- the bag, the feces, the chemicals, all of it. There was a lot of planning involved in this, not a crime of passion,” Rogers said, looking at different areas of the body and making notes on his chart.
“That means it’s probably not a boyfriend or stalker, huh?” Macney asked, already knowing the answer.
“Not unless this girl was into seriously creepy guys with OCD,” Rogers said without looking up.
“So no fingerprints, no bodily fluids, shit random dogs- not a single thing we can use?” Macney asked, irritation rising in his voice.
“I gotta do a lot more back at the lab and see what the bleach washed off, but I’m guessing by the look of her that the guy never even touched her. Gloved hands, might’ve even been wearing an infection suit….” Rogers continued his check list.
Macney looked back out into the hallway and sighed, having daydream nightmares of what a clusterfuck the FBI would make out of his case if they got called in. Didn’t matter how much work he did if the feds came in, he’d never see it again. “Please find me something, Rog,” he said without looking back at his friend.
“If there’s something to find, you know I’ll find it,” he said.
Macney nodded and left the room without looking back.