Detective Liz Richards was not having a good morning. First, she spilled coffee on her favorite slacks, and then dropped her breakfast burrito on the floor. This would have been ok, she had never been a graceful person, but in her frustration, she called out to her beloved dog, Grover, to come clean up the tasty mess that had been deposited all over the floor. The tears came suddenly when she remembered that she sent Grover over the rainbow bridge six weeks ago. His little brown tail wagged until the end, ignoring the pain of the cancer eating through him.
“Shit,” Liz said, “I miss that little dude.”
Liz arrived to work about twenty minutes late, in pants that were just a little tight around the waist. Liz was a not large person, but middle age had expanded her mid-section and no amount of time in the gym seemed to help. She brushed her gray, fly-away hair behind her ear with a hand that had seen too many days unprotected in the sun, while she muttered about the bullshit that is aging with grace. The Detective’s outlook was not improved when she saw the station commander waiting at her desk.
“Liz, it’s so nice of you to join us on this lovely morning!”
“Captain,” she grimaced.
Detective Richards and Captain Evelyn Wallace had both started on the force in the early 90’s. At the time they were one of only a few women officers and so they became close. Both as workout buddies and friends. Wallace advanced quickly through the ranks, while Liz took things slowly and tried her hardest to avoid extra responsibilities. In the end, the added stress of being a Captain hadn’t affected Wallace much. Both women had still aged like cheese; Evelyn like a fine cheddar that people spent thousands on; and Liz like the 3200-year-old block of cheese that was recently found in Egypt, described as a “solidified whitish mass; probably poisonous”.
“Detective Richards, this is Officer Harris,” the Captain gestured to a young man who still had more acne than facial hair, “He is fresh out of the academy, where he was trained to be a hostage negotiator. He graduated at the top of his class, and his Dean thought he would excel at the task here in Anchorage.”
Liz raised an eyebrow. She could only remember two instances in the last twenty years were there was a hostage situation.
“I see, welcome to APD Officer Harris,” said Liz
“Which brings us to our next item of business,” a sly grin played across Evelyn’s face, “We need someone to show Officer Harris the ropes around here, and since he is our new negotiator, we need to experiment a bit to see where he will work day to day. I didn’t want to assign him to just any beat cop on his first day.”
Liz pursed her lips.
“As the lead Detective I thought you could help him out for a few days. I even have an assignment for you both: a wellness check, up on Hillside.”
“Rookies and rich people. Must be my lucky day,” smiled Liz as she thought of ways to ‘accidentally’ drop Evelyn’s side arm into a bowl of jello, “Come on kid, let’s go check it out.”
Liz always loved the drive out of Anchorage. Leaving the hustle of the city and suddenly emerging into the Alaska wilderness still took her breathe away after twenty years. She and Grover used to spend their long summer weekends in the mountains of the Kenai Peninsula, while they were draped in the purple of lupins and fireweed, or took short walks along the boardwalks of the Potter Marsh. Grover loved to bark at the sand pipers and gulls that called the brown waters of the marsh home. An old pair of trumpeter swans used to honk right back at him and scare the family of muskrats that lived under the wood of the boardwalk.
Detective Richards was jolted out of her reverie by the sound of rapid tapping. For a moment Liz was worried that her old Subaru had finally given up the ghost, instead she looked over to see Harris drumming out the opening solo to Billie Jean on her dashboard.
“Could you not?” she asked.
“Oh, sorry,” replied Harris as he pulled out a pen and his notebook and wrote down something quickly.
Before any further annoyances could occur, they turned left into the land of Hillside McMansions, the home of millionaires from down south who convinced themselves they were roughing it with seven bedrooms and dirt roads. They quickly arrived at the house in question: a three-story monstrosity with bay windows that cost more than Liz would make in her life and millions of dollars’ worth of imported Douglas Fir.
“Well, let’s get this over with,” said Liz.
As Liz and Harris walked to the front door, she noted that there was a Range Rover parked in the driveway, with room left over for another car on the far side of it. Harris looked over to see what she was looking at.
“Maybe they went somewhere?”
Liz admired the door as she rang the bell. It was a piece of art with a carved tree placed in front of handmade frosted glass. She was so lost in the details that she jumped when something hit the other side of the door. The rookie fumbled for his pistol.
“Put that away,” chided Liz, as the familiar form of a heart shaped nose and two padded paws pressed against the glass, “or maybe not,” she reconsidered, as the paw prints left behind streaks of blood.
The heavy wooden door swung open with ease when Detective Richards tried the handle. The Foyer was a mess of mud, blood and fur. A pair of muddy hiking boots were piled haphazardly next to an equally disheveled looking dog. They sat in sharp contrast to the cherry wood desk that was piled high with mail and other official looking documents.
“That’s a good boy,” whispered Liz to the small bowlegged animal.
Harris entered the house right behind her and swore under his breath, as his legs almost went out from under him on the slick flooring. The Detective caught him by the arm and shook her head at him, as she followed the trail of mud and blood further into the house.
“Quick reaction time,” he said.
The inside of the house was just as magnificent as the outside, adorned with exotic hardwood floors and covered in magnificent art pieces, including a life size abstract piece of a dog shaking water from its fur with the title “Walter” bolted to the wall in silver just below it. To the left was a less conventional piece of work; WHORE was written in large red spray-painted letters that had dripped down the walls.
“Hold on to your stomach rookie.”
The trail of blood led them past a marbled bathroom. The faucet on the footed bathtub was still running causing water to flow over the side and down a metal heating vent. On the ground next to a shelf was a large metal statue of Anubis, the Egyptian god of the dead. Its heavy copper base was deeply dented and stained with browning blood. A red hand print was stamped behind the toilet and smeared around the door frame. Liz signaled to Harris to turn off the water.
“With gloves,” she snapped, as he tried to do it bare-handed.
The blood splatters lead down a set of stairs to the basement, where the overflowing tub had left nearly an ankle-deep quagmire of blood, mud and household cleaning products floating in disarray. Lying face down in the slurry at the bottom of the stairs was, Liz was forced to assume, their wellness check.
Officer Harris was just a few steps behind her and gasped at the sight.
“Oh, umm, is he, umm, I think, how would you like to?”
“Officer, I need you to go outside and call immediately for back up and a bus.”
“I can help…”
“Harris, now is not the time for negotiating. Do as you are told.”
As the Officer stumbled back up the stairs, Detective Richards turned back toward the chaotic scene. She wrestled the man over onto his back and checked for a pulse. He had been dead for some time, and the wound on the back of his head was the sickly grey of dead meat. Confirming the man’s demise, she retreated upstairs, not wanting to cause further destruction to the crime scene.
Screaming could be heard before Liz exited the basement. She sighed and mustered up as much dignity as she was able to in her too tight pants that were now wet and covered in gross up to her knees. Rounding to corner to the foyer, she saw Harris trying to calm down a richly dressed, middle-aged woman in a fur coat. Who wears a fur coat in August? Liz asked herself.
“Please ma’am. I need you to calm down. I’m a hostage negotiator with APD, we have everything under control here.
Harris’s attempts at mediation failed when the woman slipped past him and into the house. Liz wasn’t sure if the angry screams that burst from the woman’s lips were because she saw the mud and blood, or because she saw a strange woman standing in her home. Regardless, the woman lost what was left of her dignity and stumbled toward Liz. Her shoes lost purchase on the slick flooring and she and her expensive fur coat slide into the living area. As she struggled back to her feet, covered in the offal she slid through, she saw the writing on the wall.
“Whore! Who are you to come into my house and call me a whore?” screamed the woman.
“Detective Liz Richards with the ADP. Please come outside, we have a few questions for you.”
The two women walked outside, one muttering whore under her breath and the other rolling her eyes. Harris stood in the driveway looking embarrassed and talking quietly to a man who had arrived at the same time as the wife of the deceased.
“And who is this?” asked Liz.
The woman looked down at her feet, “This is my friend.”
“Friend,” the man asked perplexed, “after all of this you say, ‘Friends’?”
“Gary, you know I’m married. Oh my god! Did you write that on my wall? You asshole!”
The woman in the fur coats’ eyes suddenly focused beyond her lover and settled on the black Range Rover behind him, “Is Evan home? He can’t be home, he is supposed to be away for business all weekend. Is that why that stupid fucking dog of his is covered and mud and bleeding everywhere?” She turned on Harris, “Why the fuck are you two here?”
Before anyone could answer, another car pulled into the drive, much to Liz’s disgust it was neither the bus to transfer to dead man to the morgue or back up for a murder scene, but an electric blue Subaru STI, the definitive Alaska cool car. The Detective knew that APD wasn’t exactly known for their promptness, but this was getting a little out of hand even for her patience.
A tall shapely blonde, who couldn’t have been more then twenty-five, stepped out of the car Liz just hoped she was over 18, or today was about to get even more complicated. The wife glared dangers at her. They younger woman looked the wife once over and said, “I thought you were supposed to be out of town. Evan said he was leaving you divorce papers.”
Liz and Harris stepped between the two women before they could attack each other.
“If you could all just stop for a minute, we need to speak with you. We want to be able to help you in this situation,” Harris attempted to say calmly, “the man inside the house is dead and we need to find out what happened.”
Everyone sagged a bit under the words and stared agape at the Officer.
It was to stunned silence that back up finally arrived, in a cacophony of sirens and bright light. A team of forensic experts flooded the house with tape and cameras. The body was brought out. Other detectives took over the duties of questioning the three remaining lovers. In Anchorage, crimes were never creative. It was always the spouse or the lover or the spouse’s lover. It was rare to catch all three in the same place though.
“Nice negotiating skills Rookie, we almost had a quadruple homicide on our hands,” Liz slapped Harris on the back.
“Yeah,” he sighed, “yeah.”
“Liz, stop giving the kid such a hard time, I think he did a great job with today’s little experiment. He found a body, didn’t let anyone die, didn’t puke in the crime scene,” Captain Evelyn joined them.
Harris smiled nervously at the two women, “Who do you think did it?”
“Aren’t you going to take them all downtown and start sorting that out?’ asked the Captain, “This experiment isn’t over yet, you can negotiate, but can you interrogate?”
“Yes, sir. I mean Ma’am, I mean yes, I will go do that now,” Harris stuttered out.
“Fucking rookies,” said Evelyn.
“Fucking rookies,” Liz agreed.
“Which one do you think did it,” asked Evelyn, as the two of them sat on the deck, taking a moment to breathe in the chaos.
“None of them. It was this fuzzy little murder-beast.”
She gathered the very muddy and scared Walter into her arms.
“Oh, do tell.”
“Well, my theory is, Mr. Dead Hypocrite found out his wife was cheating, and he spray painted his own wall to let her know, he knew. He left the divorce documents on the desk out front. Thinking he had a few hours until his young lover showed up, he took the dog for a walk and both returned home muddy. He must have planned to take Walter with him when he left his wife. He started to run a bath to get all of this grossness out of Walter’s hair. Somehow while he was getting the dog in the tub a statue fell from a shelf in the bathroom and struck him hard across the back of the head. Slightly dazed, he discovered that he was bleeding quite intensely and left the bathroom. As he approached the basement door this little dude scrambled out of the tub and wrapped himself around his master’s feet, sending both of them careening down the basement stairs, leaving our victim unconscious at the base of the stairs where he eventually drowned in the water he didn’t turn off.”
Evelyn nodded, “So, you’re keeping the dog?”