Strange Death

Strange Death

(c) Alan Baxter

‘Remind me again why I don’t have a quiet office job,’ said Detective Hardy.

The constable beside him laughed, a short, bitter sound. He squinted up into the rain falling from the black, menacing sky then looked back down at the corpse lying in the alley. Watery blood ran from numerous gaping wounds, reflecting the streetlight. ‘The glamour?’

Hardy echoed the constables humourless laugh. ‘So let’s see. Male caucasian, around twenty-five, fit looking. Multiple lacerations and bite marks. Throat torn out. Discovered by a wino. That cover it?’

The constable nodded. ‘The wino was in quite a state, shouting about a monster eating someone.’

Hardy raised an eyebrow, glancing to the end of the alley where the constable’s car was parked. The constable’s partner stood there with a bedraggled old man. The old man had his back to the alley, his shoulders visibly trembling. ‘He saw the attack?’

‘So he says. He turned into the alley and saw the monster. He screamed, the monster ran, he ran too. He found us right outside the alley. Those are some pretty massive bite marks?’ The constable sounded almost impressed.

Hardy nodded.

‘Even a German Shepherd wouldn’t have a mouth that big.’

Hardy sighed. ‘Well, let’s ask him some questions.’

As they walked Hardy looked at the constable. There was a broad cut down his right cheek, still leaking blood. The rain washed the blood pink over his collar. ‘What happened to you?’ Hardy asked, trying to light a cigarette without it getting wet.

The constable raised one hand to stroke the wound. He smiled at Hardy. ‘A little fracas earlier on. Nothing serious.’

Hardy shrugged. He let it go as they reached the constable’s partner and the trembling wino, terror still evident in the old man’s eyes. ‘Can you tell me exactly what you saw?’ he asked. He drew deeply on his cigarette.

‘I d-don’t know,’ the old man replied, his voice gravelly from years of drinking and smoking whatever he could find. He looked nervously at the constable. ‘I heard this growling and crunching and saw this beast! I screamed like a girl the second I saw it and… I musta made it jump, cuz it just bolted.’ He looked at the constable again, fear bright in his eyes.

Hardy glanced at the constable, who grinned at him. ‘What do you mean by beast?’ Hardy asked the wino.

The old man raised both hands. ‘Like a giant dog or a wolf, only it stood on two legs like a man.’

‘Sounds like a werewolf,’ the constable said with a smile. His partner chuckled quietly. The wino whimpered.

Hardy laughed. ‘A werewolf!’

The constable looked at him sharply. ‘You don’t believe in werewolves?’

‘Certainly not!’

‘So what else could have made bite marks that big?’

Hardy shrugged. ‘I have no idea, but it wasn’t a werewolf!’

The constable smiled, a disturbing twist to one side of his mouth. Hardy stared at him for a moment, then looked to his partner. The constable’s partner smiled softly and shrugged. He had dark eyes that glittered in the low light. ‘Did you call the homicide team?’ Hardy asked.

The beep of a car horn prevented the need for an answer as two more cars pulled up. Hardy went and spoke to the men that climbed from the cars, grimacing at the rain. He pointed down the alley. The men nodded. Hardy returned to the constables and their charge. ‘You better take him in.’

‘I don’t wanna go!’ the wino said quickly, eyes wild. His hands started trembling violently.

Hardy smiled. ‘Standard procedure. We got to get a proper statement from you.’

The constable squeezed the wino’s shoulder. ‘We’ll take good care of you.’ His smile was broad as he opened the back door of his car and helped the old man in. He and his partner got in the front and they drove slowly away. The old wino looked back as they went, his ashen face bright in the dark frame of the rear screen. Hardy ground out his cigarette in a puddle as he watched them go.

A homicide photographer paused as he passed Hardy. ‘Who were those two uniforms?’ he asked, gesturing after the car.

Hardy shrugged. ‘No idea. I’m on temp assignment in this district.’

The photographer stared after them. As they disappeared from sight he said, ‘I don’t recognise them.’ He set the flash on his camera and strolled on, leaving Hardy alone in the pouring rain. Hardy chuckled to himself as he walked to the street, using an unusually long fingernail to pick a small wad of red flesh from between his teeth.