sand and ash
The skin had turned grayish white in death. Though, Sam supposed that could be a result of the ash-like substance covering most of the flesh. Detective Samantha Cass had never seen anything so odd. People were made of flesh and blood. They were composed of wet materials that just didn’t produce ash when burning, and she was definitely seeing burn marks.
Squatting closely to the victim’s head, voice monotone, Sam muttered, “How did you get here, kid?”
“It’s obvious that she was dumped here.” Detective Jessica Falin cocked her head to the side, mouth turned down, but her eyes were wide and filled with glee. “Do you think the Captain will finally sack your ass, when you add this case to the growing pile of unsolved mysteries on your desk?”
Face tightening and her eyes narrowing, Sam did her best to ignore Detective Falin. She focused on the young woman, no more than a girl, lying at her feet. Burn marks around all orifices, especially the face, the child had obviously been through hell.
The eyes and the surrounding skin had faired the worst. Sam could see bits of bone around the orbital sockets. Ash filled the eye holes, as the victim stared sightlessly into the star studded sky. Dying in the middle of a forested area of Ohio, she could have screamed for hours without anyone hearing.
“We’ll need a finger print analysis. I want to know who this was, as soon as possible.” Sam rubbed the back of her neck, doing her best to keep her tone as calm and respectful as possible. Not an easy task.
Jessica’s posture snapped stiff and straight. She took a step away from Sam’s crouched position, her arms wrapping securely around her chest, as she hissed, “Since when do I take orders from you?”
Fighting not to roll her eyes at the fit throwing viper, Sam ran her hands through her hair and resisted the urge to give the strands a firm yank or two. Jessica had always been combative, but lately, her hatred seemed to be focused solely on Sam.
Climbing carefully to her feet, lips pinched Sam wanted to get this over with as soon as possible. “Look. If you have a problem taking orders from me, I suggest you make an appointment with the Captain. I’m lead on this case, so get in line or get the hell out of my way.”
Feeling her blood pressure climbing, Sam turned her back on Jessica and the body, and walked away. Sam needed to rein in her temper and finish investigating the scene. Something that would be hard to do if she killed Jessica in the middle of all the evidence.
Leaving the body for later, Sam forced herself to walk the area looking for tracks. The more she looked, the greater her frustration grew. Whipping around to face Jessica, Sam made her way back to the body and inquired, voice stiff, “How did the parameter get trampled?”
Waving dismissively, Jessica sneered, “I suggest you ask whomever was first on the scene. That wasn’t me and it definitely wasn’t you.”
Sam practically stood on tiptoe in an attempt to get up in the Amazon’s face, but it was an accomplishment that she was doomed to execute. The bitch towered over her by at least a foot. Sam needed a stepping stool if she wanted to go nose to nose with Jessica. Not that she allowed that to stop her from trying. “Pack in the attitude and get the fuck out of my face. So what if I know you secret. Not my problem, not my fault. As long as you’re not hitting on me, I don’t care who you slide between the sheets with.”
“You don’t know shi-“ Jessica’s smirk seemed brittle and frozen in place, as her eyes began darting around the area at their co-workers.
“Save it. Everyone was running around spilling their guts. Not to mention that you had your hand on my ass,” Sam managed to lower her words into a hiss. She wanted to scream at the woman, but pushing her out of the closet would hardly endear Jessica’s good will. Not that her attempt at discretion appeared to be appreciated by the other woman.
“I don’t know what you think happened, but-” Jessica was still attempting to deny the fact that she had hit on Sam. Her words had a mocking lilt, as her hands slashed through the air.
Sam’s teeth clenched, and then she interrupted, “Enough. You want to pretend that it didn’t happen … fine. You aren’t the only one pretending that I wasn’t needed to enforce my No with a harsh physical gesture, with more than one of my fellow cops. You want to pretend, then we pretend. But that means that you need to pull your head out of your ass. Or at the very least, revert back to the uptight know-it-all you were before you spilled your guts and became this impossible fish wife, with a stick up your bum.” Refusing to allow Jessica to continue their hissing match, Sam turned back the body and started yelling out orders. “I want the first on scene’s account. And where the hell is the M.E. I want out of Hocking Hills before the hour is up.”
More than two hours from home, in an area that was supposed to be beautiful, especially in October, Sam wanted to scream. The leaves flowed in every color from brightest green to the palest of yellows, from shades of deepest red to the earthiest of browns. On any other day this would be paradise, but not today. Today, the glories of nature were ruined by death and decay. Today, the land was soaked in the demise of youthful hopes and dreams.
This child, her death, marred the beauty. Sam shook her head, attempting to dispel identifying smell. Instead of a world full of crisp refreshing breezes, she smelled charred flesh and loss of bodily functions. Instead of being reminded of the coming months of snow and sparkling landscapes, Sam knew that death came to all seasons with equal disdain. The final humiliation that every soul goes through, as the light leaves their eyes and the body evacuates everything in the bowels, reaches everyone.
Sam had a sour taste in the back of her throat. She wanted to attribute the taste and her chest pains to the aroma in the air, but she dreaded that Jessica’s words would come true. Would this be another unsolved mysteries for the stack growing on her desk. Even worse, this felt like one of those crime scenes with a well practiced edge. Sam could feel it in her bones. This sicko had killed before. Before long, he would kill again.
(still being edited and looking for an agent)
Sam and Nick, sneak peak, Not for distribution outside Author’s Permission © Tracey Clark