There was something about the crunch of the snow beneath his boot that he found distasteful. It wasn’t inherently a bad sound, of course, the soft crunch from heel to toe as your foot sank down into the softened ground. It could have been the mud he knew was beneath the slurry, mucking up the sole of his boot, tracking him through his path as he moved beneath the wavering loose stretch of police tape that had been left to block the path. It shouldn’t have bothered him, it wasn’t the first time he’d walked through the snow, but he supposed it could be a number of things. Then again, if you asked anyone who knew him it was far more likely to be simply because Nikoli Viscardi found something to grump about at all times.
A sigh filtered between his lips as he ran his nails along the stubble that dotted his jawline, a side effect of having skipped shaving that morning and most likely the day before, dark and hooded eyes scanning the ground as he easily picked up signs of just how many people had been through there. Traipsing about like they owned the place, mucking up the crime scene, and making actual tracking nearly impossible, even for him. The scents all mingled together, the footprints sloshed through one another, and the only thing that really stood out was the metallic tang of blood that had long since soaked into the moist earth where the body had laid.
“It’s right there.” This caused Nikoli’s eyebrow to twitch upwards, the dark length of it bouncing up not once but twice as if it wasn’t sure if it wanted to advertise the fact that he was annoyed, but, in the end, it deemed it a good enough action.
“You don’t say.” Sarcasm dripped from the low words as he pointedly looked over the imprint of the body in the broken leaves and dead grass. “The blood definitely didn’t tip me off.”
“Right.” There was a pause from the Deputy that had stopped a few feet behind him, the nervous tick of grasping at his belt and pulling at it making it obvious he had no intention, or specific want, to be anywhere near the whole thing, to begin with. “Well...if you need anything.”
“I’ll probably ask someone else.” Nikoli’s head turned and those eyebrows both popped upwards in a springing manner, dark eyes of brown settling on the nervous face of the young man. “You look about as pale as the snow, and I’m not interested in carrying you back if you pass out. I’ll be fine from here.”
“I’m not..I mean it’s okay… I just.” The stuttering caused a grumbling noise, something deep and rumbling, from Nikoli, and it stopped the Deputy in his rambling. After a moment he lifted a hand and waved it. “Hey, fine, look, you do what you gotta do. I’ll be in the car. Sheriff says I ain’t goin’ nowhere until you’ve had your whole look.” As if he had to make a point, the Deputy stood for a moment longer in silence, receiving nothing but a pointed and bored look from the other male, before clearing his throat and turning to trudge back up the small incline of mud and slurry towards where the patrol car had been stopped.
“Fucking small town shit.” He grumbled it openly, though there was no one there to hear him.
Small towns weren’t his thing. This wasn’t exactly a secret, mind you. His boss knew full well that he hated the idea of stepping outside the life of the city he lived in. The pace changed. Not just with obvious things, like crimes and the like, but literally everything about it was slower, and in a frustrating way that you could do nothing about. People talked slower and for longer periods of time, quite often about absolutely nothing. They tended to walk, drive, and even think slower, and while Nikoli was well aware of the prejudice and unfairness with which he made such a judgment, it did not change his opinion of the matter in any way.
It only took a few moments for the deputy to get out of hearing range, but the moment he heard the telltale thud of the car door slamming shut behind the nervous man he pulled his phone from his jeans pocket, tapping the large flat black screen to life and quickly sliding the lock from one side to the other. He had barely hit the last number before the screen flashed and the sharp trill of his ringtone disrupted the otherwise silent woods around him.
“You know, it’s irritating how you do that.” Nikoli’s voice could have been proof enough of the irritation, as he lifted the phone to his ear and frowned down at the muddy mess of boots and scuffle marks.
“What have you found?” The cold voice on the other line seemed unamused, or unworried, by his own irritation. Instead it was calm, moving straight into the reason for the call to begin with.
“The humans have mucked the scene up too much to really track from this point.” Leaning forward he picked up a bit of torn cloth, turning it about in his fingers with a frown and shaking his head. “It smells like half of the town has already been through here…”
“I did not ask you what you did not have, Nikoli.” The calm tone had taken on a sharp lilt, impatience all but palpable through the line. “You are there for a reason, and if I wanted to listen to a list of reasons why your job was hard I would ask your therapist. Now, what do you have?”
“You don’t pay me enough for therapy.” Standing upright Nikoli fell silent for a moment, the flecks of gold in his dark eyes picking up the light that filtered through the trees as his gaze flicked from one side to the other, taking stock of the scene in front of him. “I’ve seen the bodies, the wounds are made to look like their marks, but they aren’t. Whoever it is knows enough about them to try and implicate them. Even through all of this I should be able to smell something, but there’s nothing here. No fur, no hair, no saliva. What doesn’t make sense is why here? This town isn’t on the list, we don’t monitor this area because there are no reported packs up here. In fact, I can’t find any evidence that there are any, even standing here.”
“So why implicate them?”
“That’s the question, isn’t it?” Nikoli turned around slowly, one step at a time, his eyes scanning the thick line of trees around him, before glancing up the slight embankment to the dirt road he had been driven along to get to this point. “To get someone’s attention.” He paused for a moment, finally tossing the bit of torn cloth aside, watching it flutter to the mud for a second. “To get our attention.”
The line went dead and Nikoli slipped the phone into his back pocket once more, before turning and trudging back up along the slope. The deputy peered up from the newspaper he was reading behind the wheel of his cruiser, earning a slight roll of his eyes before he pulled the door open and slid into the passenger seat.
“Find what’chu lookin’ for, did yuh?” He took his time folding the paper once more, tucking it into a space between the side of his seat and the center console of the old vehicle.
“No.” Nikoli’s single word was more grumbled then it was said as he pulled the seatbelt across his chest and snapped it into the hook.
“Well we tried to tell yuh. Ain’t nothin’ out here to find.”
“There...ain’t nothin’ out here…” He put emphasis on the mimic of the way the younger man was speaking and narrowed his eyes on him. “...because you idiots don’t have a damn clue what you’re doing. Come on, I don’t have all day to watch you fuck around with a newspaper. I have to get back into town.”
It was a blissfully quiet car ride back into town, likely because the deputy beside him had attempted to speak on the way out and had been greeted with either silence or smart remarks. It seemed to have done the job it usually did, however, as he glanced only once or twice at his grumpy passenger and seemed to decide to focus on driving.
That, of course, didn’t make finally getting rid of him any less gratifying. A thought which occurred to Nikoli as he stood on the sidewalk in front of the brilliant red sign that marked the apparently only motel within the town’s limits. Even in the bright sun that glistened off the salted roadways behind him, the sign was bright and gaudy, emitting that flickering clicking sound that often came from poorly wired electricity.
“It’s going to be a long week.” The words were said under his breath, a grumbling noise and low tone that seemed to emit somewhere from within his chest, accompanied by a slow shake of his head as he finally moved.
“Did you see him?” Christine’s head lifted from the studying she was doing on the bright screen on her laptop, and she perked her right eyebrow upwards at her friend. Eliza had taken up a position on the other side of the flimsy cubicle wall, her hands folded over the metal edge and her chin balanced on them in a way that sent entirely too much of her abundant curls into her face.
“The guy they sent to check out that body.” Eliza’s tone sounded exasperated, but it was well earned. Christine had a tendency to lock her attention on one or two things, generally not coming up for air until she’d figured out whatever puzzle she’d found.
“Right, the FBI guy?” Leaning back in her chair she stretched one leg beneath her desk, lifting the pen from beside the mousepad and tapping it against her other hand. “No, I haven’t gotten out to the station yet today.”
It was something she had to do, honestly, but not on her list of things she wanted to do. The death of the teenager had shaken a lot of people in town and she wasn’t exempt from that particular group. Curiosity was strong, the need to hunt down the story, to find out what had happened, dangerously close to winning out. It was fighting hard with the fear that settled in the pit of her stomach, however, and she wasn’t even sure what she was afraid of.
“Chrstine, are you even listening?”
Blinking a few times she lifted her head and frowned at Eliza’s annoyed expression, offering a shake of her head. “No, not really. Look, I should probably head down there, so…” Offering what should have been some kind of apologetic look, though it apparently did not read that way judging by the look on the other woman’s face, she pushed herself up from her seat and grabbed the oversized purse that sat on the desk next to her mussed pile of papers.
It was almost worth finding out whatever she was about to come across at the station just to put Eliza’s gossiping behind her. The woman was always on about something or another, and it often poked at her own discomfort. No one should know just how much that woman knew about her neighbors. Christine found she was entirely too grateful that Eliza Davenport was not a journalist and spent her days on the phones at the office taking calls. If it were up to her the front page would be splashed with adultery and who stole the parking space in front of the pharmacy Wednesday.
The drive to the station was a relatively short one. Not that that would be a surprise to anyone, Doewater Creek wasn’t exactly a massive town. There was no one sitting at the front desk when she pushed through the clouded glass door, and though she did stand for several minutes impatiently to see if anyone would show up, it was simply not like her to display too much patience. Instead, she found herself quietly leaning around the desk, peering passed it and into the empty room beyond.
It was odd to find the station completely empty, especially on a Monday morning. The roster of officers in employment within Doewater Creek wasn’t exactly long, but to have the entire station empty meant there was something happening somewhere, and she hadn’t heard about it just yet, which was curious since she would have been sent on location if something large was happening.
With a small frown dancing across her lips, Christine shrugged a shoulder and moved around the small reception desk and into the hall to the right. In the past the coroner's office was generally an empty room, not really one used all too often in town, and though she had marked its location on a previous visit or two, it hadn’t ever really been a location of interest. Not like it was now, especially with the door cracked open at the end of the hall.
As she inched closer down the tiled length of the space a sound became more and more apparent. Like a soft snuffling, followed by a series of odd grunts and noises. This left her frozen for a moment, blinking at the harsh yellow light bleeding from the opening and out into the darkened space she was in now.
When the sounds abruptly stopped as she called out, Christine paused once more. There was that internal fight again. On the one hand there was the need to investigate, something that had gotten her into plenty of trouble in her time. Often for sticking her nose in places it didn’t quite belong, or for digging into situations or stories that no one wanted bled out all over the front page. The other side, she assumed, was more primal.
Flight or flight. Run or push forward.
The sudden and almost violent snapping sound that erupted from the room caused her to jump, automatically bringing her feet in a quick and abrupt shuffle backwards for several steps.
“What the hell..” It didn’t take long for curiosity to win out over the pounding of her heart, however. Forward Christine charged, her lips set in a line, her shoulders squared. In the span of a few seconds she had closed the distance between herself and the cracked door, her hand slapping it soundly on the broad side and swinging it inwards so quickly that the knob on the other side thudded heavily against the wall.
There, standing in the center of the room was a tall man, his dark hooded eyes studying the buttons of the shirt he was currently closing down the front.
“Uh, were you shirtless in here?” Why that was the first thing to blurt from between her lips Christine would have to focus on another time. At the moment it seemed completely relevant, and was quickly followed with a second question. “Who the hell are you and what are you doing in here...with your damn shirt off?”
A dark eyebrow slowly lifted over one of his eyes as he turned his attention towards her, his hands dropping from a half done job on the buttons, leaving the top portion wide open.
“Hello?” This time the word was laced with irritation as, without a word, he turned and grabbed a wallet from the small metal tray table nearby, stuffing it into his back pocket. There was no answer forthcoming, either, when he simply moved across the room, around her, and out into the hallway. “What the actual fuck?”
Christine turned about to watch him from her viewpoint in the door, catching the brief glance over his shoulder in her direction before he pressed a phone to his ear and disappeared from the hall and out the front door a moment later.
About the author
I am a single mother of three! My largest passions is creating worlds within the written word. I'm so excited to begin sharing this love and passion with the world. Talk to me and follow me on Instagram @thatchickcharliesl !