No, really, it isn’t.
The anti-piracy message was playing on the TV, but it could fuck off. There was a murder to solve, one I may have committed, and I didn’t need some Hollywood propaganda filling my head with what I ‘wouldn’t do’.
I had, in fact, done most of the things the TV was currently informing me that I would not do but, considering my present predicament, it was perhaps best not to try and argue. It wouldn’t have been an issue if I could recall exactly whether or not I had done the deed, however. I was mostly sure that I was innocent, and so had taken up the case not to clear my name – you cannot clear a name that has yet to be tarnished – but on the grounds that my proximity to the crime meant that I could get an unchallenged look at the evidence.
Finding anything of any specific value was somewhat undone by all the blood. It was universal, from ceiling to floor, and it made picking out individual objects difficult. Blood makes good camouflage, it seems, especially when it permeates everything like a sticky red film. It was in my hair.
My hair that I had had freshly cut that morning.
There was blood in my hair.
I couldn’t see it – what mirrors were present were saturated with crimson – but I could feel that unpleasant sensation of hair sticking together. I ran a hand through my hair, separating the strands, only to find it resetting a few moments later. My hands were also dripping with blood, I noticed. That was, admittedly, a suspicious sight.
The room was a bed room, discernible only from the presence of a bed, and not very big one at that. That is to say, the room wasn’t big. The bed took up a good quarter of the room and would have drawn the eye on its own, without the mutilated corpse laying resplendent upon the soaked sheets.
I don’t mean resplendent do I? No, that’s quite the wrong word. It’s a block in my mind, shutting out the horrors of that image with non sequitors. Either that or, little by little, I’m losing my mind and not noticing.
In any event, a cursory glance around the room told me nothing that I didn’t already know. If there had been a weapon – and there had – it had not been left in the room. The astounding amount of blood implied some form of explosion, but I smelled nothing that would back that up. Then again, what does an explosion smell like?
My reputation as a detective, while technically correct, places perhaps more credit upon me than it should. Because I am a well spoken and somewhat gifted amateur it must therefore follow, in the minds of some, that I am infallible. The common misconception is that I know all there is to know and flick through it like a mental Rolodex to cross-reference every clue, every rumour, every single atom of intrigue. This is not true.
If I’m feeling particularly kind I could cite a dozen professional police officers whose intellect and deductive powers far exceed my own. Of course, I am rarely feeling kind to any degree, let alone “particularly”, so for the sake of verisimilitude I will say this: I am the best at what I do, but that does not mean I am infallible, nor does it mean I am the best at everything. Most things, perhaps, but not everything. Everyone needs to consult from time to time.
I may have needed a consult to deal with this. My strength lies in piecing together the contradictions and the inconsistencies, the actual acquisition of those pieces being something to which I am out of practice. Still, I soldiered on, sifting through the sodden papers that littered the floor, the contents of the desk drawers, the wardrobe. In truth, I searched everywhere I knew would not contain anything of worth. Only the corpse itself would tell me anything, and I wanted to avoid that as long as possible. Foolish in hindsight, especially considering the appearance of the thing were I to be caught there, but the simple do not hold a monopoly on foolishness.
At last, all forms of procrastination exhausted, I turned my attention to the corpse. It was looking at me with a glassy eye. A raging fear came over me and I plucked it out – there were no eyelids with which I could hide it and I was not having the thing staring at me as I worked. I hurled the eye over my shoulder and heard it impact with a wet “plop”.
I heard the scream in the same way you hear the music of a neighbour, as a strong vibration of the world around you. It started highly pitched, working its way into an audible form after a few moments. It was then I turned and saw the woman, stood in the now open doorway, her white face made whiter by the reddened surroundings.
To her I must have looked like some hideous Victorian spectre made flesh, stooped over a corpse and plucking out bits of flesh. Again, with hindsight I would, perhaps, have not removed the eye. I would have at least checked over my shoulder before I did so. Even the most skilled interlocutor would find it hard to explain away that image.
There was a click-clack as the woman primed a shotgun. I hadn’t noticed she was carrying the weapon, the screaming having been the focus of my attention, but as I watched the unspent shell drop into the advancing pool of blood my attention snapped to the shotgun and refused to budge. My intuition told me that she was unused to firing the weapon and that it was not in fact hers. She had cocked the shotgun like a character in a TV show, expending a perfectly serviceable shell for the mere threatening sound. The owner of such a weapon would not do that, they’d know the correct way to threaten someone with a shotgun is to merely point it at them and say nothing. No, she had fallen into the trap of thinking that the TV-style threat was more useful, and perhaps it was to her. Perhaps it gave the woman the courage to stand up to the blood-stained predator in front of her. To a man with some knowledge, however, it indicated a weakness on her part.
Not that this weakness was helpful, you understand. A shotgun is a popular weapon precisely because you don’t need to know much about firearms. At that distance, in that room, she was likely to hit me regardless of where she aimed. The spread of the weapon would make up for her timid nature. And timid she was, the woman was shaking violently and I could have sworn I head the firing pin rattling dangerously close to the shell. I considered what I could say to calm her down.
My mind rebelled and, instead of an intelligent and disarming explanation of the situation, I leapt out the window.