“How did you end up here?” Was the first thing Rob told me as I entered the scene of crime, spotting me with my little metal walking stick, whose top felt like it was actually puncturing painfully through my palm, yet I couldn’t take my hand off of it unless I wanted to fall flat onto the floor after a couple of seconds of walking. “Aren’t you supposed to be in the hospital still?”
He got up from what he was doing and brushed the dirt off of his knees. Laying on the wall as I rubbed some pain off of my hand, I noticed that there weren’t really that many people in the small studio apartment. On the side, was the token photo guy with the camera lights flashing here and there, trying to record and draw a portrait of the scene as much as he could. On the opposite side, was the regular fingerprint brush guy, his glasses and mustache reflecting the green light that emitted from the laser machine used to find and record any prints left behind. On the floor, crouched down next to the evidence, were two regular cops, probably pulled from the traffic division, from the look of their brightly neon orange vests, setting up signs and letters next to the evidence in an orderly manner, before the camera flashes and captures the scene once again.
Asides from them, there was just Rob, making them five.
Five is not a number that is used for a murder scene, or even a suspected serial scene.
Five is the number you get to clear out a rowdy party at some fraternity down at some small college.
Looking around the scene, trying to figure out why the FIBA man dropped me off here, I answered “The hospital let me out, so that means I’m alright to leave it.”
“Really now?” Rob cocked his eyebrows as if he had just caught his own son lying to him. “And do you have a doctor’s note for that?”
“Do I really look that famished?”
“Well, you are pale and thin and gimping around with a walking cane.” He smiled at his own comment. “If I was a doctor, I’d probably keep you in the hospital on a wheelchair for a couple more days and charge the government a few thousand bucks more for it.”
“Well now, if there’s no nurses naked sponge bathing me with it, then there is no point staying there at all.” I smiled with my own reply.
Rob laughed at that, chuckled then, as he looked around, realizing the curious looks from the people behind him.
“That’s right, you better look professional in front of your underlings.” I chuckled at his reaction.
“Whatever.” Rob replied as he picked up the walking cane, which was just lying by my knees, and looked at it as he turned it around in his hands. “They’re all just dumped with me for one case, so there’s not really going to be a long-going relationship here.” He looked back at them as I looked around some more, checking the place out as he continued. “Fresh out of the academy, they’re just here for some experience before moving on to something else.” He chuckled as he said this. “If lucky, they might eventually end up here, but I think most of them would probably just quit after a few months or so, after they see how ungrateful our pay and return is from all the hard work and time we put in.”
“So why the five of you here?” I said, as I checked out the apartment. It was a small studio apartment, the bed one of those inflatable ones that fills itself up with just one push of button. On the side, there were tables and chairs that were folded into their respective boxes, and a regular sized closet on the side, with mirrored sliding doors. There were no restrooms or kitchen in the studio, so there must have been a public one somewhere in the building. “In fact, why are you here? Aren’t you supposed to be working on the serial suicide case?”
“This IS a serial suicide case.” Rob replied.
Rob shook his head at this. “Have you been catching up with the news lately?”
I smiled at this. “You know how I am with painkillers and news, I tend to keep them as separate as they come.”
“Well then, just to catch you up to the present, there have been a lot of deaths around the city.”
“Not really surprising, at all.” I replied at this.
“People have been found dead inside their apartments, not murdered, not suicides, but just plain dead. Their corpses would be found in the same position they were in when they died.” He chuckled as he said this, as if he had just remembered something hilarious. “We actually found some dead people who were actually still standing, their eyes open and their face expressionless, looking exactly like a marionette on a mall on display.”
“How do you know they weren’t murdered or suicide?”
“The autopsy showed no foul play in any of those corpses at all.” He replied, as he returned me the metal walking cane. “Nice cane, by the way, did this come with the hospital discharge?”
“Let’s just say that it was a small bonus for signing up with FIBA again.”
He looked surprised. “Frequent workers program?” He smiled at his own remark. “Can you trade those points in for a flight out of here?”
“Why? You planning to retire?”
“No, but I figured you would be the one who needs the retiring.”
I shrugged at it. “No point yet, I’m still not shriveled and old.”
“And you’re saying I am?”
“Just implying.” I smiled at it.
“Damn you and your youthful arrogance.” He smiled at it as he lead me towards the corpse.
“So the corpses showed no foul play at all, you say?” I followed him slowly, still struggling as I tried getting accustomed to my own handicap.
“No, not at all, they all died naturally.” He said. “They were all from different ages, gender and race too. Nothing common tying them up at all. According to autopsy, they were all healthy and normal citizens, some of them maybe with a common cold and some with an ulcer, but nothing that would kill you completely.”
“So they all just decided to die like that?”
“Well,” Rob crouched down near the corpse as he looked around the area above him. “Basically, they were all going about with their lives and then, suddenly, their bodies decided to die, without them probably even realizing it, at all.”
“Yeah, definitely.” He replied. “The only connection we sort of have is to another case, which is actually of a real serial killer going around.”
“Yeah, one that the press has dubbed the ‘flower killer’.” He chuckled at that as he shook his head once more. “Can you believe this shit? Who in their right mind would dub a serial killer ‘flower killer’? If I was the serial killer, I would be so enraged by my name, that I would go around killing some more.”
“And that’s what’s going on now?”
The studio didn’t even have a window, with just a small vent acting as the flow of air through the apartment.
“So I’m guessing the killer uses flower in some sort with his kills?”
“Yep,” Rob replied. “He usually leaves behind an orchid with his kills.”
“And how many kills has it been so far?”
“I see.” I said, looking around. “And he didn’t start killing till after Echo disappeared too?”
Rob stopped whatever he was doing, and looked around at me. “How did you know? I thought you didn’t watch no news when you were in painkillers.”
“I do get briefed on cases before I start any of them.”
“Right, right.” Rob nodded as he went back to his work again. “But yeah, his kills started a day or so after Echo’s building was attacked and she disappeared.”
“And what’s the connection between his kills and the sudden death cases?”
“Well, so far?” Rob replied, as he looked up at me. “The only link we got on it so far, is that for every time the guy kills somebody, a couple of sudden death cases would be found around the city.”
“I see, so are you guys expecting to find a murdered body somewhere in the city today because of this corpse here?” I said as I pointed at the dead male on the floor.
“Pretty much.” He smiled as he went back to his inspections again.
“And the door was locked, I presume, and there is no point of entry found in this studio at all?”
“You got it.”
Sighing, a smile sort of crept back onto my face, as I remembered a story I read before. “This is kind of nostalgic in a way.”
“What, getting back on the groove of detective work?” Rob replied as he got up once again, looking around some more from that angle.
“Yeah, pretty much.” I said, as I gimped my way to the corpse. “The hospital was stuffing me to death.” I chuckled at it. “It was probably what kept me from getting better.”
“Well, they did need to fish out more money from you before letting you leave.”
“Right, right.” I said as I struggled to crouch down, to check on the corpse as he stared up at the ceiling, his mouth open, as if he was about to say something, as if a whisper would escape from his lips now.
After a few minutes of looking at it, and then looking around from his point of view, I said to Rob “You know what this reminds me of?”
“Remember that story by Poe? That story that was considered the first mystery-murder story in English literature?”
Rob cocked his head to the side, as he tried to remember it. “No, not really.” He replied in defeat after a minute or so.
“Well, it was something similar to this, a room locked by the victim, no point of entry, and a chimney that was way too small for anybody but a little kid to get in, but it would have been too steep for the kid to survive if he were to get in.”
“I see.” Rob replied, as he helped me up to a standing position. “How did that end? Who was the killer?”
“A chimpanzee.” I smiled at Rob and nodded him thanks as I got up on my walking stick again. “The victim was killed by a chimpanzee who had escaped from a circus nearby, and had climbed down the chimney looking for refuge, only to find the unlucky guy, who it killed out of fear.”
Rob laughed at that. “And how’s that a classic? That’s a horrible ending. Did people ask for their refund?”
“No idea.” I smiled at that, as we both started exiting the studio.
“So you think a chimpanzee killed all those sudden deaths.” Rob asked with a chuckle.
“Let’s hope not.” I replied with a smile. “I’m awfully allergic of wild killer chimpanzees.”