Lukewarm Murder

INCOMPLETE: My entry for the Sherlock Feature Week Competition.

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    ‘Doing my thing’ was possibly the only skill that got me into working for the police in the first place. I could equally easily have become a researcher, a scientist, a mathematician…anything, really, that required few people skills. Instead, I joined the police force—not because of a heroic desire to help my fellow citizens which would have been odd as I never talk to them, but because of an ability I had to understand the dead. I could look at a dead body—any dead body—and see the story on its skin of exactly how it died. The tiniest scrape, the most minute bruise under a fingernail—I saw it all. Bodies spoke to me. People didn’t. My career choice had been simple. 

    Simon pulled into the NYPD car park with a groan. “I hate this bit.” 

    “What, the bit where you stand outside biting your fingernails while I do all the work?”

    He snorted. “No, the bit where I have to run around assuring everyone that you’re not working dark magic, you’re just…Hell, I don’t even know what you do.”

    I slid out of the car with a grin—rare occurrence, for me. “I just observe, Arkwright.”

    Simon followed me, catching up in time to open the front doors with his spare hand. “Fine then, Sherlock—you stick to talking to the dead bodies, I’ll keep talking to the live ones. You know, actual people. Heartbeat and all.”

    “Deal. Did Dr. Suresh say where the victim was?”

    “Morgue Three. It’s lined up for dissection, but I told her to leave it until you worked your voodoo.”

    “I’ll take that as a compliment.” I flashed my ID at the guard. That feeling of power would never get old. 

    Simon was quiet as we walked to the morgue. In the perpetually busy station, he was a island of calm at the edges of which I clung, relying on him to allow me to live as I did—the human embodiment of the Fortress of Solitude. Without Simon, I would be even more alone—lonely—than I was now. When I’d first joined the force, I’d been unknown and uncared about—just another policeman with a bit of talent. Then I’d met Simon, who shone like a sun and pulled me towards him with his infinite gravity. I reflected his confidence and power like the moon. With his help, I’d gone from No One to Detective William Ransom, one of, if not the best detective in the force, with the ability to understand dead bodies and solve almost any crime within the space of a few days—well, almost any crime. There’d been one I’d slightly messed up, but that was ages ago. Simon made me a someone. I owed everything I was now to him.

    Morgue Three was a small room, tucked round the back of the waiting area that family members of the victim were sometimes put. Many times there’d been unfortunate incidents that involved someone innocently looking for the bathroom and instead ending stumbling upon a dissection. I stopped outside the scratched wooden door and glanced at Simon. He jerked his thumb over his shoulder.

    “I’m gonna go get coffee. That place gives me the creeps.”

    “Fine. I won’t be long.” 

    Simon headed off towards the coffee room—the most frequented place in the entire station, I sometimes thought. Watching him stride off, so confident, so strong, gave me the energy I needed to push down on the worryingly sticky handle that led to the inside of Morgue Three and enter, albeit without quite so much strut as Simon had.

    “Ah, Detective Ransom.” Dr. Suresh looked up from the stack of papers she was studying. The blue lights that covered the ceiling cast her in an almost ghostly hue. Shadows darkened her eyes to the point where I couldn’t make out if she was looking at me or not. I froze, body half in and half out of the room. She stepped forwards at this, allowing me to make her face out more clearly. “Are you quite alright, Detective? You look a bit ill.”

    My mouth opened and closed like that of a goldfish. Had my vocabulary had a voice, it would have been squealing loudly in my boots, rather like I felt like doing. 

    Dr. Suresh raised an eyebrow. “Would you like me to…fetch a nurse?”
    “No—no. Just…” I gestured weakly to the corpse that lay covered by a blanket on a table in the middle of the room. Dr. Suresh gave a quiet laugh. 

    “Yes, of course. You want to be left alone with the body. I quite understand. I’ll be outside, Detective. Right by the door.” She brushed past me. I distinctly felt a shiver go down my spine, possibly due to the light, but something inside me felt uncomfortable. I put it down to anticipation.

    The door closed behind me with a faint, grating click, and at last I was alone with the corpse.

    I approached it slowly, head tilted to one side. Under the sheet I could see feet poking up, scarlet nail polish on her toes only just showing through. There was a clipboard laying by her side, details scrawled on it in Dr. Suresh’s hasty handwriting. 

    “Idella Monroe…” I breathed her name as though doing so would give her the breath she no longer had. Saying a victim’s name always seemed to make them pulse with life to me, but Idella’s body lay on the cold, uncaring table as silently as ever. I reached forwards and made to lift up the corner of the sheet.

    A clammy, icy hand grasped my wrist and jerked me to the ground. 

    I fell, heart pounding, eyes misting over with fear. Two bare feet, scarlet painted toes glinting in the blue light, landed on the floor next to me. One tensed, then slammed itself into my ribcage. I went sprawling, breath coming in ragged gasps, side aching, feeling my pupils dilate in terror. 

    “William Ransom.” My own name was spat at me like poison. “Detective William Ransom.” A foot met my side again, and I heard a faint cracking. Against my own will my mouth opened and I tried to scream, but no sound came out, instead just an almost silent exhalation of breath. The scarlet paint on Idella’s feet swam and blurred until they were spots of blood on the pristine white floor. With only the faintest of noises they turned and retreated. I tried to move, but I felt paralysed, more a corpse than the one seemingly walking in front of me. 

    “I’m going to kill you.” Squinting, I could just make out the shape of Idella’s naked legs a little distance away. A smile crept into her voice. “Scared? I hope so. You have no idea how long I’ve been looking forward to this.” The legs grew bigger as they approached. In the near-silent room, a drop of liquid fell to the floor from her hand. To my eyes it looked red, but blood was swimming in my brain and clouding my senses. It could have been any colour.

    I managed to exhale sharply—a grim parody of speech. Idella chuckled and squatted down behind me. 

    “I hope you don’t think I faked my own death—Dr Suresh is wonderful, by the way, if a little expensive—just to scare you.” Sharp fingers gripped the sides of my face and a bitterly cold needle barely scraped my neck. It felt like frozen fire. “Of course, fear does play a part in this, rather like it played a part when you wrongly accused my brother of murder.” She spat these last words out like she had with my name. I summoned all the breath in my body, barely able to choke out syllables.

    “I don’t…I’m not…no—”

    She jammed the tip of the needle—a syringe, most likely—into my neck. I let out a sob of terror.

    “Don’t play games with me, William Ransom. My brother was called Mason, did you know that?” With every word her fingers dug tighter into my flesh. “He liked dogs, did you know that? He once saved a bird’s life, he loved the colour blue, he wanted to be a pilot, did you know that? He was innocent!”

    Through the dream-like haze I was caught in, a brief flash of a body came to me—all cut up and mutilated, no beauty to the death, no dignity. Mason Monroe—the name rang a bell in the back of my mind, albeit a small, rusty, and quivering-with-terror one. “I remember—”

    “Of course you do, of course, I know, he…” Idella’s voice had taken on a syrupy edge, one that sent icy quivers through my gut. She sounded mad. She probably was.

    Breath slowly coming back to me, I twisted my head to look at her, ignoring the syringe that pressed into my neck. “Your brother—”

    “Mason.” She whispered his name like a prayer.

    “He confessed, Idella. He told me that he was glad he killed the bastard.”

    She spat in my face. “You’re a fucking liar, you know that? A goddamn fucking liar.” For a split second, her eyes misted over as though she really was a corpse. “My brother would never kill anyone.” She whispered this so quietly I almost didn’t notice as the thrust the syringe into my neck and slammed down the plunger.

    Pain shot through my body, a thousand times worse than before, an excruciating fire that coursed through my spine like a thousand needles. Animalistic cries wrenched themselves from my body, convulsing me like some kind of grotesque marionette. Idella’s screeching laughter shot through my ears.

    Then, another noise. Loud enough to cut through to my brain, sharp enough to drive Idella’s howling from my mind. From my sideways position on the floor I could just make out her gargoyle shadow jerk away from my body before another larger shadow approached, gun levelled with her head. A voice called my name—probably shouting, but to my darkening senses, it was no louder than a whisper.

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