It wasn’t a body as much as pieces. Four to be exact. Two arms and two legs. And they weren’t the first sets of limbs to be found. Discovery of the first had sent the media into a frenzy. With the second, serial killer was splashed across every headline and flung from every news anchors lips. After the third, they gave the killer a name…The Butcher. This new find might just send the city into a full blown panic.
The call came in a little after 2 am. They called in Detective Anita Owusu, who wasn’t on duty. She was not a happy camper, drumming her perfectly manicured nails impatiently against the steering wheel the entire ride. The street lights would occasionally glint off the purply-gray polish on her squared shaped nails, drawing her attention.
“What’s the deal?” she asked Suarez who approached her as she arrived. “This isn’t our case. Why are we here?”
Her partner rubbed the back of his neck and couldn’t quite meet her eyes. Her stomach fluttered, nervousness wasn’t an emotion she’d ever seen him wear.
Following Marino’s voice, she looked over to find him standing next to Jackson in the tall grass. They glowed, spotlighted by the work lights that formed a harsh line against the blackness surrounding them. Suarez grabbed her arm when she took a step toward them. She waited for him to speak, but instead he pushed up her sleeve, revealing the tattoo on her left wrist.
“What’s going on, Suarez?”
Instead of an answer, he studied her face for a moment before dropping her arm and heading toward the scene. An uneasy feeling trailed behind her as she followed him. Marino and Jackson stood awkwardly as they drew closer.
“Sorry for bringing you down,” Jackson said. “It’s just…”
He exchanged an uncomfortable look with Marino. Then, they both looked to Suarez.
“Just show her,” Suarez said.
She hated being treated like the odd man out and after all her years on the force she didn’t deserve it. The three of them not only knew something, they worried it would upset her. The idea that it was because she was a woman made her angry.
“You got me outta bed for this, so let’s see it,” she said with an edge.
Marino and Jackson parted, allowing her a clear view of the limbs that lay in a square on the grass. The legs parallel to each other and the arms, the same. Slender and delicate, they were undoubtedly female. Just like all the others. Suarez passed her a pair of gloves and Owusu knelt down next to the morbid display as she slid her hands into them. The first thing she noticed was how clean the cuts were. The media’s moniker was even more accurate than they knew.
Starting with the leg on her left, she scanned them each carefully before settling on the left arm at her feet. She was used to tamping down any outward indications of panic, but it was gathering and swelling to a level that she couldn’t control. She tried to swallow, but her throat had gone dry. The sound of her jackhammering heart pounded in her ears.
“Owusu?” Suarez sounded tinny and distant.
She jumped up and ripped the glove off of her left hand and pushed up her sleeve. Holding her arm out in front of her, the butchered limb lay below, out of focus. She studied the black Enso circle that surrounded the open heart made of barbed wire at her wrist. She had designed it herself, an overly stylized reminder of her past. Of how protecting her heart needed to be a priority. Even more telling, the tiny “m&d” that filled the small gap where the circle didn’t quite meet. An homage to the first to break her heart. Her mom and dad.
She looked down at the ground and back to her wrist several times. The tattoo on the bodiless limb was an exact match. There was no doubt. She lowered her arm in an effort to hide the shaking, but she wasn’t able to stop the tears. She watched as they splashed down, striking the victims hand. A scream formed in her throat as they rolled down toward the perfectly manicured, square shaped, purply-gray nails.