It was the usual carnival by the time I got there. The flashing lights, the mess of ambulances, firetrucks, and us, the boys in blue. The yellow tape held out the public like the velvet rope at a nightclub. Or maybe not. Maybe it was holding us in. I ducked under it and walked toward the center of the activity.
I saw Detective Eaves crouched down over the body, smoke floating slowly upward into the damp night air from the cig in his mouth. There was something about the way his body was, the way he hung has head, that even from a distance he looked scared. No, more than that – hopeless.
He stood up as I reached him and my earlier observation was confirmed. I’d never seen Eaves this shaken. Not like this.
“Christ Ted, look at this shit. Look at it. When was the last time we saw something like this?” He gestured down toward the body.
There was little blood, except around the low “V” collar of t-shirt, and at the neck. The head was gone, the neck ending in jagged cuts. Zig-zags. Dirty work. Looked like the guy had decapitated the poor sap with a fucking straight razor.
“22 years ago,” I said, lighting a cigarette of my own. Back in my first week on homicide. What a week that had been.
“I don’t like it,” Eaves said. “I don’t mind telling you I’m spooked.”
“Yes, it is a little unnerving isn’t it?” I said coolly. “The nature of this crime isn’t what worries me.” A cyclist sped by down the boulevard, rubbernecking at the scene.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean as usual, Detective, you’re looking in the wrong place. I’m more worried that whoever – or whatever – took off the head of our young friend here was also capable of that.”
I pointed, up and over the rows of emergency vehicles, toward the top of the closest streetlight pole, those unnaturally tall, unnaturally straight steel pillars that the city had made whatever artist so many years ago, and dotted the Ocean Boulevard at regular intervals. At the top of the pole, staked on the point like it was on display on the ramparts of a medieval castle, was the head of the body.
“He’s bragging,” I said, staring up through the fog. “This is a warning. There’s going to be more.”