The Long Way Down – Part 1

“I don’t know why you need all that crap in your coffee.”

Abigail smirked as she pushed down the lid on the honey. She expertly swirled a straw through the hot liquid, watching the combination of cinnamon sugar, creamer, and honey turn the coffee from its original brown to a caramel hue.

“I like my coffee as sweet as I am,” she deadpanned. She secured the lid as she turned for the counter. Her partner, Gwendolyn, was right in step with her. “Besides, Cap’s not going to be happy that we stopped for coffee before hitting that crime scene anyway.” She produced two 1 dollar bills from her right jacket pocket and handed them to cashier. “I might as well get something I want before I have to go look at a dead body.”

“All that sugar is horrible for you,” Gwen replied as she dug into her purse. Her wallet was on the counter and she reached as if she was locating a secret compartment. “Got it,” she muttered as her debit card came back out with her hand.

“$8.47,” the cashier repeated, as if Gwen had forgotten her total in the thirty seconds it took her to find her card.

“Yeah, and that pack of cigarettes is doing you a world of good,” Abby mocked as she held the convenience store door open. Gwen picked up her black coffee, tucked the pack in her inside jacket pocket and exited the store.

“You know I only smoke at a crime scene,” she retorted as she pulled the passenger side door open. “And again, I don’t know why you wouldn’t let me drive when I was already in my car when we got the call.” She was answered by a slamming car door as Abby dropped into the driver’s seat.

“For starters, you drive like my great grandmother,” Abby huffed as she pulled from the store parking lot back into traffic. “I despise that stupid pickup truck of yours. It smells like cigarettes. You know, the ones you only smoke at scenes?” Gwen scoffed and took a long sip of coffee. “Oh! And may I add,” she smiled as she caught a traffic light perfectly so that she could make a left turn. “We just look better in my car.”

“Well, your car window won’t roll down,” Gwen remarked as a cigarette dangled between her lips. “So you don’t look that great.” She raised a lighter but found her cigarette flying towards the closed window as Abby deftly flicked it away. “I swear to goodness, if you don’t leave my cigarettes alone…”

They spotted some police cruisers with their lights on up ahead. Abby slowed to a stop and parked next to the lawn of a modest townhouse, located in Greenville Estates. Gwen scrambled out of the car and lit her cigarette as soon as the sedan was in park. “What happened to all that nicotine gum I got you for Christmas?” Abby asked.

Gwen shot her a look over top her sunglasses but decided to ignore her. The two detectives quickly crossed from the car to the front door of the address they had been given, 619 Wilson Avenue. A uniformed officer, Frank Wilson, moved the caution tape aside.

“About time you two showed up,” he griped as the women entered a sparsely decorated living room. “Cap said he called you two 45 minutes ago,” Officer Wilson frowned when he saw coffee in each of their hands. “Did you really stop for coffee?”

“Look Wilson,” Gwen’s words spilled out around her cigarette. “Where’s the body? And who are you to be getting in my business this early in the f…” Abby wrapped her arm around Gwen’s shoulders and led her to the stairs.

“I hear footsteps and voices up here honey,” she chided. “Let’s put our skills to use in a more productive manner shall we?” Gwen shot her another look over her sunglasses as they reached the second floor of the townhome. “And take those stupid things off. It’s morning; you’re not hungover.” Gwen yanked away from her grasp and headed towards the master bedroom. As she stepped on the white carpet, her jaw dropped.

“What are you doing?!” she yelled. Officer George Sanchez looked like a deer in headlights. “You’re not supposed to touch the crime scene idiot!” She stomped towards him and jerked a shiny object out of his hand.

Abby leaned against the door frame and took another sip of her coffee. “Really George? Did you learn nothing from being suspended last month?” Officer Sanchez’s head dropped in shame.

It was one of those fancy watch phones,” he mumbled. “I didn’t think this was a part of the crime scene.” Gwen sighed and tossed the watch on a nearby dresser. She pointed two fingers at her eyes, and then turned them to Sanchez, and then back to her eyes. She then continued stomping to the master bathroom that was behind George. Abby giggled and followed her.

“Isn’t she lovely in the morning?”

“Yeah,” George grunted. “She’s an absolute peach.”

The master bathroom was a mess. The mirror over the sink was shattered, with shards of glass lining the counter. The floor was covered in water, as a bath mat had been shoved into the toilet to clog it and water was still escaping from the bowl. Just beyond that was the true crime scene.

“There’s not much I can do until we get him out of the water,” said Robert Garrison, the department’s lead crime scene supervisor. He was cautiously perched on the side of the bathtub, one gloved hand on the wall, the other darting a flashlight back and forth.

Captain Shane Meadows nodded grimly. “We’ve been standing in this bloody water for 30 minutes too long then.” His eyes shifted to Gwen and Abby. “Mourning! Richards! Where in the john blame have you been?” Abby finished her coffee in response. Cap rolled his eyes as he stepped between them. “I swear you two are trying to send me to an early grave.”

“All due respect Cap, you have 2 teenagers left at home and you hate your wife. No one is pinning that murder on me,” Gwen sneered as she looked over Robert’s shoulder. “But do we have any idea what happened here?”

“No forced entry, so it was someone the victim trusted,” Robert answered as he stepped off the tub. “No missing items, we just have a body that the housekeeper found and a bunch of water everywhere.” The victim was submerged in the tub and despite the deep red color the water now had, it was still easy to see how the body had been sliced open from the neck down to the navel.

Gwen leaned over the tub and took a long drag off her cigarette. “You can tell that wasn’t a one slice job,” she nodded at the wound. “Someone spent a lot of time making sure this guy was split completely open. Almost like a dissection.”

Robert pulled out his phone. “I’m going to get this ball rolling so I can get him back to the lab,” he massaged his forehead as he spoke. “I wish you would’ve called me since you had plenty of time to stop for refreshments on your way here.”

Gwen shrugged as she finished her coffee. “Well, we did have a deadline to meet there Bob, so you’re lucky that Abby and I made it here at all.” She jumped as she heard a booming voice reenter the bathroom.

“You know, I really take a lot of ridiculous stuff from you too, but today is really not the day,” Cap stopped a few inches away from his detectives. “I was supposed to be on a flight this morning to Jamaica. You remember how everyone told me, ‘Go ahead Cap, go on vacation. We can handle it.’? I’m up at 5 am, about to get in an Uber with my wife for the airport and this happens!” he gestured with both hands towards the tub. “My poor, poor wife of 20 years is at home, trying to get us new flights, so that we don’t lose out on our very expensive rooms that have been booked for 3 months!” He pointed a finger directly at Gwen. “If I have to stay here and listen to you two crack wise again, heads will roll!”

The bathroom was silent. After a few seconds, Robert quietly slipped out and Cap followed him. Gwen and Abby looked at each and then started reexamining the scene. Gwen stubbed her cigarette on her shoe and began to laugh.

“Do I even want to know?” Abby asked as she looked at her shattered reflection in the little bit of mirror that remained on the wall.

Gwen sat on the tub and pulled on a pair on rubber gloves. “Cap said heads would roll and it looks like this guy already got the party started.” It was the first time either of them had acknowledged that their victim was sans head, as it had been severed off the body and was nowhere to be found.

“You’re sick Gwen,” Abby frowned. “You should be euthanized.”

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