by Paul Maitrejean
The young woman's body lay on the kitchen table like a pale wax sculpture.
Rich stood over her, looking at the clear plastic tubes hanging from her neck and arms, listening to the lead investigator, Detective Humphries, talk. Humphries was an overweight, loudmouthed guy with a huge walrus mustache. Rich didn't like him much. Not at all, in fact.
"Best we can tell, the killer was interrupted just as he was wrapping things up and escaped out the window." Humphries jerked his head toward the open second-story casement and the fire escape outside. "He hasn't left his equipment behind before."
Rich nodded. This murder was the sixth in a sudden burst of killings that had taken place in the Minneapolis area. In each case, the victim had been completely drained of blood. No signs of assault, sexual or otherwise. The case had become a real head-scratcher for the Minneapolis police.
That's where Rich came in. The FBI put their best agent -- him -- on the case just two days ago. Tall, quiet, but with a commanding presence, he'd pretty much taken the helm of the entire investigation without any problems.
He glanced the victim over: Short, blonde, pretty, shoulder-length hair, dressed in a pink Aeropostale tank top and denim shorts. No signs of violence. A calm expression on her face, eyes closed as if in sleep. Humphries had said her name was Lauren James.
Rich pulled a flask out of his pocket and took a deep swallow. Humphries didn't hide his look of disapproval at seeing a law enforcement agent drinking on the job, but Rich didn't care.
"Who found her?" Rich asked.
"Her roommate." Humphries pointed at an obviously distraught young black woman sitting on the sofa, talking to a female officer. "Came home from work at four this morning and heard movement. When she walked in the window was open and Ms. James was lying right here, as you see her now."
"Is she sure she heard movement?"
"Swears to it. Even says the body was still warm when she found her."
"She didn't get a glimpse of the killer?"
Humphries shook his head. "She says no. We'll be questioning her in more detail later."
"I'll handle that."
Humphries shrugged. "All right." He raised one of the tubes with a latexed hand and examined it. "Looks like there's still a bit of blood in these lines. What in God's name would possess a person to drain another person of all their blood? What a freak."
Rich contemplated. "Is there anything special about the victims' blood type? Maybe that's the one thread connecting them."
Humphries dropped the plastic tube and frowned. "Thought of that already. They're all O positive. You can't find a more common blood type than that."
Rich took another swallow from his flask. It was still early in the morning but that didn't stop guys like him. Bad habits are hard to kick. Really bad ones are even harder.
"Get these IV lines bagged up pronto. I'll take them to the field office and have our own experts analyze them."
"Yeah, okay." Humphries' tone betrayed a strong dislike for federal agents taking his evidence. He flagged down one of the crime scene techs, a brunette with too much lipstick. Rich liked too much lipstick.
Humphries set the tech to work removing and bagging the IV lines, then got a call on his cell phone. He stepped away to take it.
Rich watched the tech carefully draw the needles from Lauren's flesh. "Kind of a gruesome, huh?" he said.
She smiled. "I've seen worse. This is Minneapolis, after all. But you're FBI. I'm sure you've seen stuff that makes anything I've seen look like a walk in the park."
"Oh, you have no idea." Rich swirled the contents of his flask in thought. "I could tell lots of stories. What's your name?"
"Kelly." Rich spoke the name as if tasting a new flavor. "I'm Rich."
"And single?" She gave him a playful smile.
He chuckled. "Incidentally . . . yes."
Kelly bagged the IV lines, labeled them with a fine-tipped black marker, and handed them over. As he took them she caught his wrist and scribbled a phone number on his exposed skin. "I'm interested in hearing some of these stories, Rich. Give me a call sometime."
She smiled, a little self-consciously, and walked away.
Rich covered his wrist with his jacket cuff, grinning. Nothing like meeting a girl at a murder scene.
"The coroner's on his way." Humphries came back from his phone call. "You gonna stick around and get his take?"
"No, I think it best we move fast on this," Rich said. He held up the evidence bags. "I'll take these down for analysis now and bring you up to speed on the results. Call me with whatever the coroner says."
"You got it."
Rich left the building, passing squad cars and ambulances, the bustle and noise of people and engines and radios filling the air with their raucous din. The morning sun hurt his eyes, even after he slipped on his sunglasses. When he finally reached his car, he got in, dropped the bags on the passenger seat, and closed the door, grateful to be out of the chaos.
He unscrewed the cap to his flask and took another swallow.
The last red droplets clung to the corners of his mouth.
He looked at the number on his wrist.
Sometimes good things just fall in your lap. --###