Word Count: 12,800
young adult, suspense/thriller
publisher: FIDO Publishing
Buy links: FIDO
Blood oozed from the corpse's ear. Vince stooped down to examine the body. Foul death odor filled the air.
The man's mouth gaped open and his eyes were wide in terror. Something horrible had happened to him, yet only a small gash existed in his right ear.
Vince looked around the area. The local police force hadn't found any clues since five o'clock this morning when he'd gotten the call. Now the sun had begun to rise and people gathered around the yellow tape, murmuring worries about a possible serial killer.
Could anyone blame them? This was the second killing this month. Both victims had the same cut on the side of their head, but so far, they seemed to have nothing else in common.
"There you are."
Vince turned around to see Captain Spinner and another cop standing behind him.
"This is the guy I was telling you about," Captain Spinner said to the other guy. "Sergeant Elder, this is the famous Vincent Maxwell. Ex-cop, turned private investigator. Vince, this is Sergeant Fred Elder."
Fred stuck his hand out, his eyes wide and his mouth gaping open like he'd just seen a celebrity or something. Why, he didn't know, but Vince shook his hand anyway and nodded. "It's nice to meet you, Sgt. Elder. Captain, can I ask why you called me so early in the morning?"
"Maxwell." The Captain wrapped his arm around Vince's shoulder and walked him to the side.
"How long have we known each other?"
"A long time." Vince couldn't remember how long exactly. Ever since his surgery, he'd had trouble retaining dates. "Seven or eight years."
"And in that time frame, I've watched you grow as a man and a cop. But here lately you've become the best detective I've ever seen. You have a gift, and I have a madman on the loose." He sighed and scratched his forehead. "We have no leads or clues. I can't link the two victims, and I need your help." Spinner looked around and lowered his voice. "Before there's another stiff."
"What do you want me to do? I gave up homicide." After facing his own death and a long recovery, he wanted to work with the living.
"Yeah, I know, but you can't enjoy following cheating spouses for pennies."
True, the work bored him to tears. The men he trailed were reckless and they left clues like breadcrumbs. All he had to do was lay in wait and snap a few photographs. Assignment finished and on to the next job.
Plus, something odd had happened to him after his tumor had been removed. He couldn't explain it, but his senses had grown sharper. Cases had become clearer, and he'd learned to predict the perpetrator's next move effortlessly.
Spinner chewed his nail as he waited for an answer.
Physically fit and able to handle the mission, Vince craved the excitement. However, he'd grown accustomed to life without a boss.
"Okay. I'll do it, but I'll handle things my own way. And I work alone."
"No problem." Spinner held up his hands to indicate he'd back off.
* * * *
Spinner watched Maxwell walk back to the crime scene. He turned to Elder and motioned for him to come over.
"Elder, Maxwell’s taking the case. I have no doubt he can handle the work. However, I'm a bit worried about his physical condition. Keep an eye on him. He's a good man and a better cop. I'd hate to see something happen to him."
"No problem, Captain. I've been dying to watch Maxwell in action."
* * * *
Sitting at his old desk, Vince scanned the photos of the first crime scene. He'd read about it in the newspaper, but the authorities never released the entire story for fear of tipping off the perpetrator or creating a copycat.
"Stay one step ahead of your enemies." Vince heard the words in his head exactly the way his father use to say them back in the day when he was on the force. But Vince had to play catch up.
He took a sip of his black coffee and read a police report. The first victim was an African-American woman in her fifties. Divorced, kids moved out of town and a meager job at the grocery store on the corner from her apartment. He picked up a photo. Her place was furnished pleasantly, but nothing too expensive stuck out. According to the statement from the victim's sister, nothing had been stolen. Nor did she own anything of value to steal.
So why would someone break into her house and kill her? Whoever had done it had another motive. Maybe someone who knew her. Her ex-husband? An angry boyfriend?
No answers came to his questions. He steepled his index fingers and rested his chin on them. His eyes closed and he took slow deep breaths.
The thought popped out of nowhere, urging him to visit the victim's sister. He shuffled the papers and photos into a pile, grabbed his jacket and rush out of his former office. Something tingled in his brain, telling him he'd find answers there.