Fiction by Dennis Lowery
She looked down on the woman. The right arm had a bouquet of skulls that grew from stems. Nice ink work; something she knew about. A fall of dark hair covered it from elbow to hand. She suspected the tattoo ran all the way to fingers. The rest of the body untenanted; not a hint of ink. Not like the skin-rider she carried. She felt it twitch and tugged down the long-sleeve that had crept up past wrist. Emotions stirred it so she took three deep, even, breaths and felt it settle under the cloth.
“She was beautiful.” The medical examiner commented as he turned to her.
“Yeah, too bad she’s dead.”
The tone was cold even for a detective with a reputation like Penelope Olivia Edgar’s. Yet, he saw the slight shake in the hand that held her Java Joe’s paper cup. “You okay, Po?” He knew not to call her Penelope. Everyone, both in the department and on the street knew better. To them she was, Po — and PO usually meant pissed off.
She knelt beside the body. “Pictures taken?” The first rule she’d learned: don’t touch anything until the crime scene photographer had done their work and documented everything and its position in relationship to the body.
The medical examiner nodded squatting next to her.
The woman’s head rested on sheet music and a keyboard. Her long hair was carefully curled and shaped into its own arrangement of petals matching the flower in hair swept back from her face. The open eyes were a sea green — the kind of shade that changed with shifting sunlight. Now, they were as dead as shoals.
“She wanted to sin but she was too shy.” She looked innocent lying there… blameless… but many dead bodies did.
"What?" The medical examiner was puzzled.
Her head nodded at the woman on the floor. "It's a line from a song..." She brushed a lock of her own hair away from her face as she rose from the body. "Changing Lights by Broken Bells."
The M.E. stood, not as smoothly. Two decades older, with stiff knees. He had worked with her for two years, since she made detective, and still didn't have a clue what went on inside her head. He'd known many cops over the years but none like her. But she got results in her heavy-handed, 'don't suffer fools gladly' kind of way.
Po nudged, with the pointed toe of her boot, the large pistol next to the left hand. “Revolver.”
She stooped, rocked forward on her knees, and palms flat lowered her head and sniffed like a bloodhound on the scent. “Fired recently.”
Cocking her head and lowering it, she looked down the barrel. Fat, near the size of her thumb, dull gray lead-tipped rounds filled all but one opening in the cylinder. “Looks like only one shot.”
“Not in her, though.”
It was a mostly monochrome tableau.
White and black keys.
Black notes on white paper.
Black ink on ivory skin.
For color; just a flower in the woman’s hair, nail polish, red marks on the sheet music and a blotch of spilled wine that spread like blood at her side.
“Any identification on the body?” Po looked around. She didn’t see any clothes.
“Nothing on her.” The medical examiner’s eyes panned the room. “Nothing here or in the rest of the apartment… uniforms checked and I double checked.”
“So just the tats, a couple of piercings,” she pointed at the body’s left ear and nose, “a bracelet and ring.” She waved over an officer standing off to the side.
“Newman, you the first on scene?”
“Don’t give me that single-sex crap. Call me detective, Po or ma’am… there’s nothing swinging tween my legs.”
Newman knew better than to run with that comment. He let it go.
MORE TO COME…