Detective Carruthers walked down the tiled hallway, weaving around empty gurneys and construction supplies. The east wing was getting a facelift and expansion to support the influx of the recently deceased. As the city population grew, so did the problems within it.
Carr pushed through a heavy double-swinging door to the inner sanctum. Roy was at his desk, methodically writing out the next batch of toe-tags. It looked like meticulous and depressing work. At least he’s making headway on his caseload, he mused.
“Be right with you, Carr. Finishing up here.”
Carr nodded and glanced about the room, a dimly lit sarcophagus lined with medical forms and old newspaper clippings. It was a stark contrast to the Chief’s office. No trophies here, just reminders of the daily struggle outside. Plenty more losers than winners, by the looks of it.
“Chief called ahead, said you wanted to see the body.”, Ray stood, pocketing the toe-tags in his lab coat.
“Yeah, the big man wanted my eyes on this one. Not sure what I was looking at, maybe you could assist.”
Ray nodded, gesturing to the door. They walked a few doors down the hall to the storage annex. Multiple shiny hatches all set in a tiled wall. Two large drains on the floor to take care of any liquids, cleaning or otherwise. A high-pressure hose was coiled on a hook, dripping water.
“You might want one of these.”, Ray held out a mask, while donning his own.
Carr held the mask up to his face, not liking the turn this was taking. Contagious? Diseased? His gut rumbled, as if to protest.
Ray opened the hatch and pulled out the tray, shrouded body with irregular lumps under the white plastic sheet. Ray slowly pulled the sheet back, down to the waist. Pale skin gleaming in the overhead lights, odd mottling around the joints and mid-section.
“I’m still waiting on some lab results, but I can safely say I’ve never seen anything like this before.”, Ray flexed his fingers, adjusting his blue surgical gloves.
“Look at the inflammation around the shoulder joints, and the elbows. Its the same at each junction.”
Carr couldn’t believe what he was seeing. It resembled a human body, but was segmented into oblong parts, like a doll. Where the arms would connect to the shoulders, there were a concave sockets. The detached arms lay on the tray, rounded ends with red mottled capillaries.
“Any idea what this is?”
“Not a clue. I’ve never seen limbs detached like this. There’s no bleeding at the junctions, just skin and surface blood vessels. I’m not sure what the crusted material is, could be similar to a scabbing after a epidermal incursion.”
“That’s enough then. Anything else?”
“Oh, right. Nearly forgot. When I was preparing the body, I found this in the pocket.”, Ray handed Carr a small matchbook.
Carr turned it over, revealing a red rose logo. He had seen this before, the Red Rose Lounge, down by the waterfront. It was one of the oldest pubs in the city, built before the shiny towerblocks and renovated lofts started crowding in. If there were any answers, they might be there.
“Appreciate it, Ray. Looks like I have a hot date down at the harbor.”
Ray chuckled, walking Carruthers out to the front entrance.
“Take care, Carr. I’ve got to get back to the grind.”
“Absolutely. If I need anything else, I’ll let you know.”, Carr tipped his hat and walked to his trusty steed. Closing the door, he started the engine and shifted into reverse, backing out of his spot. The waterfront wasn’t too far. The sun was setting, warm colors caught by the cloudy skies.
Looked like rain.
“That would be the least of my problems.”, Carr said to no one, turning things over in his mind. He wondered about the last moments, how the body ended up in that state. Where it was recovered wasn’t too far from the Red Rose, which would explain why no one called it in.
The waterfront wasn’t exactly the safest place in town. Marginal by day, and increasingly dodgy at night.
Carruthers pulled on to the elevated expressway, engine thrumming. Overhead, street lights winked on, casting shadows on the roadway.
Whatever it was, Carr hoped not to meet it in a dark alley.
(To be continued.)