Something Fishy

An FTPD: Homicide Story

by Lewayne L. White

part 1 of 2


“Look, kid,” Dagan growled, playing ‘bad cop’ this time. “Everyone in this interview room knows you’re lying.” Dagan gestured toward the wall-length magic mirror. “Everyone watching this interview knows you’re lying. It’s as plain as the nose on your face.”

Time for “good cop.” “We know you’re just a kid,” I said. “A little wooden boy. You’re obviously somebody’s puppet. We just need to know who’s pulling the strings.”

“Look, lady,” the kid snapped back. “I wasn’t carved yesterday. I know a good cop/bad cop routine when I see it.”

He nodded toward Dagan. “This Detective Michael guy is supposed to act all tough and scary.”

“And then I’m supposed to act all nice and nurturing and gain your sympathy, right?”

The kid winked at me. “Sure, Detective Lilly. You probably do it all the time right? Use those big brown eyes to make the hoods melt, get them to rat out their pals.”

I snatched him up by the straps of his lederhosen and snarled right in his face. “No, usually I just kick the crap out of the perp until he’d rat out his own grandmother.”

The kid started to sputter. I thought I caught words like “brutality” and “my rights” but I just tuned him out until he quit yammering. Then I turned toward Dagan. “Did I hear the city guys using a chipper out back?”

Dagan nodded. “Yeah. They’re working on another giant beanstalk.”

I looked back at the puppet. “The city crews have spent the last three days chopping up that thing and feeding it to the chipper. Chopping and feeding. Chopping and feeding. I bet they’d never notice if three feet of pine shaped like a boy got in the way of the axes.”

The kid’s mouth said, “You can’t do that.” But his eyes said, “You’re crazy enough to do it.”

“Dude,” he said to Dagan. “Help me out here. If I squeal, I’m toothpicks.”

Dagan shrugged. “If you don’t squeal, you’re wood chips.”

“Lady, please,” he said to me. “Puss In Boots will turn me into his personal scratching post”

“So it was Puss?” Dagan confirmed.

“Yeah. Well it was one of his alley cats, anyway,” the kid said.

“Why?”

“The puppet maker wasn’t making his payments. I mean, how much business you think he’s getting?”

Dagan nodded. “Keep going.”

The puppet shrugged. “Look, this guy Big Bad Wolf, he’s been marking his territory left and right. And Puss, well you know... Cats and dogs, man.”

“Puss has to remind people that he hasn’t been neutered and declawed,” I said.

The puppet nodded. “Yeah. So he does the puppet maker, and lets everybody know it’s the cost of failing to do business with Puss In Boots.”

“And he paid you to leave the shop door unlocked, right?”

The kid’s nose, which had been shortening, started to lengthen slightly.

“Don’t even think about lying,” I growled.

The puppet hung his head, and his nose began to shrink.

“Okay, yeah,” he said to the floor. “I just left the door unlocked, so the guy could go in.”

Dagan sighed. “Why’d you do it? Money?”

The puppet shook his head. “Puss promised that he’d turn me into a real boy.”

“What?” I said. “You let your dad get whacked for-”

“Do you know what it’s like to be a little boy forever? And not even a real one?”

He looked up at my chest, and said, “No, I guess not.”

Before I could respond, he added, “You’re a woman. Would you even look twice at a puppet? I mean, c’mon, I’m not even anatomically correct.”

“This is probably more information than we ne-”

“Puss said he’d get one of the fairies to turn me into a real boy,” he said, voice cracking. “Then she’d turn me into a man!”

Repeating the final words, he grabbed the crotch of his lederhosen and gave a hoist. “A man!”

* * *

Later, after processing the puppet into the system, Dagan and I sat at our desks, drinking coffee. The two desks face each other, and aside from being the same grey department-issue metal hulks, couldn’t be more different.

Dagan’s desktop contains nothing but a lamp, blotter, a half-full pencil holder that his niece made, and a picture of a sprite he’s been seeing.

My desk looks like the site of some interoffice war. Folders lay scattered about, leaking paper. My desk lamp bulb is perpetually burned out. The visible parts of my blotter are stained with notes, spilled coffee and unflattering caricatures of co-workers. My pens are all concealed in my desk to prevent them from going MIA. And, instead of picture of my “sort of” boyfriend Casey, ex-Mudville slugger, I have one of his battered baseball caps slung over my lamp shade.

Pushing aside a short stack of paper, I looked at Dagan.

“Go ahead and say it.”

He shrugged.

“You know you want to...”

Dagan shrugged again.

“Okay, I’ll say it,” I said. “Casey gave us a good lead.”

Dagan nodded.

“But, I’m not staying with him just to make our jobs easier.”

“No reason why you should,” Dagan said. “We’d have gotten to Puss anyway.”

“Right,” I said.

“You’ve proved that you can still function as a cop without being compromised by your relationship to Casey,” Dagan said.

“Who is associated with a Big Bad Wolf, a local crime lord,” I said.

Alleged crime lord,” Dagan said.

“Stop it. We both know Wolf’s dirty.”

Dagan nodded. “But we aren’t so sure about Casey, are we?”

I took a sip of coffee to delay answering.

“Ace,” Dagan said. “This isn’t about upper management approval, or occupational ethics. It’s a lot simpler. Do you like Casey or not?”

I shrugged.

Dagan snorted, took a sip of coffee, and said, “You’ve gone toe-to-toe with homicidal bears, giant spiders, and stuff with tentacles, fangs, and fiery breath. Why’s this Casey thing such a big deal?”

Before I could formulate an answer, our phones rang, and I picked up. “Homicide, Detective Lilly.”

I glanced over at Dagan, who finished his coffee, tossed the cup in the trash, and stood to put on his jacket.

“Be there in ten,” I said, then hung up.

Rising to throw on my jacket, I told Dagan, “Candyman’s dead.”

He fished the keys out his pocket, and said, “Where we headed?”

“Nutcracker Sweets,” I said. “Candyman and the Sugar Plum Fairy had an appointment.”

* * *

We got to the Sweets in about eight minutes.

Painted in a sickeningly sweet combination of Cotton Candy Pink, Candy Apple Red, and Whipped Creme Cream, the Nutcracker Sweets is a well known hot sheet motel. The Sweets caters to a mixture of clientele, human, non-human, and fairy; and has a variety of suites with a variety of themes. The words “Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth!” blinked in pink neon above the head of a painted anthropomorphic candy bar. The candy bar, named Mixed Nuts, was the Sweets mascot. He grinned lewdly down from atop his giant revolving post, one eye squinted in a suggestive wink. The NO VACANCY sign he held in his hands was lit.

Dagan pulled into a parking space across the street, and we got out of the unmarked. Looking at Nutcracker Sweets, Dagan shook his head. “Subtle.”

“Makes you wonder if they turned on the ‘no vacancy’ to keep gawkers away, or if word of a homicide at the Sweets just brought in the weirdos to fill the place.”

“I don’t really want to think about it,” Dagan said as we crossed the street.

Yellow crime scene tape formed a perimeter around the Sweets, and uniformed cops wandered around, protecting the perimeter, and making crude comments about some of the ‘residents.’

Crime Scene Witches arrived about the same time we did, and we told them to wait until we had a chance to take a look at things. This is often a sore point, but I really prefer looking at the scene and making my own observations before being told everything.

Dagan said, “Rock, Paper, Scissors.”

We counted and threw. I got Rock. Dagan got Scissors.

“I’ll check the scene,” I said. “You start getting statements.”

He nodded, and headed to the manager’s office.

“Room thirteen,” a uniformed cop said, then added, “Guess it really is an unlucky number.”

I shrugged, and headed to the room.

Crime scene tape crossed the doorway, and a uniform standing guard lifted it for me. I thanked him, and ducked under.

Standing just inside the door, I surveyed the room.

Cheapskate room, I thought.

Double bed, single room with microscopic bathroom.

No honeymoons or presidents here.

This was a room meant for getting down and dirty and back to the office before lunch was over.

In this case, the occupants got down, dirty, and dead.

Candyman, a minor league crime boss, lay sprawled on the bed. His arms and legs were tied to the headboard and footboard with what looked like silk cords.

He was unwrapped, and someone had taken a big bite out of him.

I was suddenly reminded of all the chocolate Easter bunnies I had eaten as a child.

Okay, on to the second victim.

I walked through the scene, making mental notes.

Clothes scattered everywhere. Searched, or tossed off in the heat of the moment?

Empty bottle of cheap wine on the floor, along with two glasses. Lipstick on one glass.

Empty cardboard pizza box, open atop the dresser.

Handful of crumpled greasy napkins scattered around.

“Not even paper plates,” I muttered to myself.

I looked over at Candyman’s headless body and said, “No disrespect to the dead, but you’re a major league cheapskate.”

A trail of something sticky and red led from the bed to the bathroom. Since I didn’t see Sugar Plum in the bedroom, I followed the trail to the bathroom.

Sugar Plum lay in the shower, apparently also having suffered the Easter Bunny treatment.

“Who shut off the shower?” I yelled out to the uniform at the door.

“I did,” he responded. “I figured you wouldn’t want all the evidence washing down the drain.”

“Just make sure you mention it in your report.”

“Yes ma’am,” he responded.

“Officer?”

“Keystone, Ma’am.”

“Don’t ever call me that again, Officer Keystone.”

“Yes, Ma- Yes, detective.”

I looked back at Sugar Plum.

Obviously not a murder/suicide. It’s difficult to bite one’s own head off.

Besides, everyone, except maybe Sugar Plum’s husband, knew she was sweet on Candyman.

Maybe the husband found out?

“Ma- Excuse me, detective?”

“Yes?” I replied, stepping into the bathroom.

“Did I mention we had to cut the security chain?”

I looked back out at the door. A chunk of chain dangled from the slot beside the doorframe. The rest of it dangled from the door.

“No, you did not mention that.”

“The deadbolt was locked as well.”

I looked at Plum, then at Candyman.

“So you’re saying this was a locked room?”

“Yes, Detective.”

I sighed.

* * *

“No kidding?” Dagan said. “A locked room mystery?”

“Not necessarily,” I said. “This isn’t like back home. Fairy Tale Land is loaded with weird and supernatural stuff. For all we know, a water sprite slithered out the showerhead, and wasted them.”

“A hit sprite?” Dagan said with a smile.

I shrugged. “I don’t know. Look, ignore the whole ‘locked room’ thing, and treat it as a straight homicide.”

He nodded. “We have two people, both married.”

“But not to each other,” I added.

“But not to each other,” Dagan said. “One of the victims runs some low end rackets- scams, fraud, and suggestions of counterfeiting. His wife is out of town on business.”

“The other,” I said, reading from notes, “is a housewife. Her husband, Georgie Porgie, runs a chain of apothecaries. He was also out of town.”

My cell phone rang.

“Lilly.”

I listened, then flipped the phone closed.

“Central located Mrs.Candyman at a resort. Local cops notified her, and she’s on her way home.”

“How’d she respond to the news?”

“Cop I talked to said she lost it. Tears, wailing, the whole bit. He said she either deserves an acting award, or she’s genuinely heartbroken.”

“Lovely. How about Mr. Porgie?”

I shrugged. “No one’s been able to get in touch with him. In fact, no one seems to know where he went, other than ‘out of town.’ Central’s still trying to trace him.”

“So, now what?”

My phone rang again.

“Lilly.”

I listened, then rang off.

“Got another one,” I said. “Same M.O.”

* * *

Old King Cole was a merry old soul, and he was fond of huge parties. When we arrived at his castle, the revelry had been going on for three days. It would likely be going on still, except that Cole and the two girls he’d had in his chambers with him were dead.

I wandered through King Cole’s bedroom, surveying the carnage. Cole himself lay sprawled on the bed. One of his companions, apparently a human female blonde, lay within his arm’s reach. The pillows on the bed had large sprays of red where their heads should have been.

A human female brunette lay nearby, as if she had been running away when she lost her head. Her body had fallen onto a chair, then slid to the floor.

Several empty bottles of wine littered the floor, along with empty ice buckets, some food scraps, napkins, and a variety of intimate devices. Clothing looked like it had been thrown about the room by an isolated twister.

Pulling on a pair of gloves, I carefully sifted through the mess. I found a smashed electromagical device that looked like it might have been a video camera. I left it where it was, making a mental note to point it out to the Crime Scene Witch in charge when we let them in.

Maybe CSW could retrieve some useful evidence. Video of the killer in action would be awesome.

I looked at a couple bottles of wine. The labels alone probably cost more than my take-home. Business must have been good for Old King Cole.

Pushing aside a crumpled blouse, something silk that would only look cute on the right person, I discovered another empty wine bottle.

“Jeez, how much can a guy like Cole drink and still-”

I looked at the bottle more closely.

Using one of the spells enabled by my FTPD badge, I sent Dagan a mind burst.

Clue!

A few moments later, Dagan stood at the door to the room. “Something interesting?”

I held up the bottle.

“Wine,” he said. “In Old King Cole’s place. Imagine.”

“It’s that same over-rated grape juice we found at the Sweets crime scene.”

Dagan surveyed the party wreckage. “No way Cole would buy that stuff. The guy’s got a cellar loaded with vintage.”

“Make sure CSW dusts this thing, and checks for residue in the bottle.”

“You think the killer used the wine to drug the victims? Make them easy to waste?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “Cole and one of his dates are laying in bed. So was Candyman. But, Plum was in the shower, and this one,” I pointed to the brunette, “looks like she was moving pretty fast.”

Dagan frowned.

“What?”

“Where are the heads?”

I looked around the room. “Taken as trophies?”

“Maybe at the Sweets no one would pay attention to someone leaving with a bag or package.”

I nodded. “But, here the perp would have to walk through a castle full of people.”

Dagan shrugged. “Out the window?”

I turned to look back toward the window, and something clicked. I looked down at the victims again, and saw trickles of something red and sticky leading from the corpses on the bed, to the other girl...

to a tapestry hanging on the wall.

I unholstered my pistol, and started to walk toward the tapestry. I heard Dagan’s pistol clear the holster as he stepped up beside me.

We approached the tapestry, trying to keep as silent as possible. Without speaking, we threw, and Dagan got Rock.

He nodded, and I whipped aside the tapestry.

We both yelled, “FTPD!” and were surprised when the sound echoed back from a cavernous room.

“It’s a pool,” I said. “He’s got a pool attached to his bedroom.”

The enormous room gleamed with gold and porcelain, and appeared to contain a hot tub, a lap pool, and a small diving pool. A rack of monogrammed towels stood next to the bar, which in turn stood next to a row of deck chairs.

I looked down, and saw the trails of blood reached to the edge of the lap pool. We followed the blood and looked in the water.

“There was a trail like this in the Sweets,” I said.

Dagan raised an eyebrow. “Is the guy hacking off the heads, then rinsing the weapon off?”

I shrugged. “We haven’t even figured out if he’s using a weapon. CSW said the ragged nature of the wounds suggests biting or tearing.”

“This is weird. What happened to simple homicide like shooting, stabbing, or bludgeoning?”

I shrugged again. “Well, let’s let CSW in. Make sure they get samples from these little trails. Maybe test the pool water, too.”


Proceed to part 2...

Copyright © 2006 by Lewayne L. White

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