Gary the monster squats against the wall, as if trying to reduce the bulk of his body, all three meters of it. I try not to look at the monster. I know he gets unsettled when eyes are upon him. It’s difficult, though, as his face, neck and hands are covered in blood. By now I’m used to his grey complexion and the segmental crystals protruding from his skin. But the blood of someone else on him is unnerving.
I also try to ignore the victim. A middle-aged, caucasian man, head and arms detached, body splattered in the middle of the room. I’m not sure why, but it’s easier to look at the missing parts ripped apart and scattered around than at the main body.
One of the arms is missing the whole upper arm. Easy to explain. The monster has large teeth that are like slabs of stone. They may actually be sharp slabs of stone. One aggressive bite could have done the job.
The head of the victim is facing the bathroom. The matted hair is brown, unkept. I can see an ear. It’s not covered in blood. It looks operational, like it can still hear.
I didn’t join the force to handle this level of mess. Murder has not a place in the island of Rosalinda. Not even one murder case I had been involved in until now. I was happy with that. I am used to talking to the victims.
But I will deal.
We will deal.
A deep breath and I am already dealing.
We will do a good job, we will follow the procedures and will end up with a case-study file. We will collect all the information, tick all the boxes, write the report and whatnot. And then we will move on.
Not right now, that’s all. Maybe in a minute. I cannot deal with this right now.
Breath in, breath out. Better.
Breath in, breath out, just like a succession of waves lapping on the beach and then receding.
The monster seems to be stable.
I look at the sea in the distance. The room opens into a balcony that overlooks the beach and there is the strip of white sand and then the progressions of blues. And the horizon dividing the sea and the sky. I have always liked the horizon. The horizon is straight, clear, one can trust the horizon to be there no matter what, unchanged, unadulterated. It’s not like this whole shit about the human or the monster condition.
Details. I need to focus on the details. What do we know? It’s a small apartment, nothing fancy, nothing special. One small couch against a wall, a semicircular table and two chairs against the opposite wall. A separate bedroom, a separate bathroom, both opening into the living room with the victim and the perpetrator, and then the balcony. A budget apartment. Economy tourists are always surprised by the low prices of some apartments in Rosalinda, especially the ones located next to the sea and with a beach view. They don’t understand that the beach is just too long, there is space for everyone, both upscale mansions and rundown apartments like this one can mingle together.
How did the monster manage to get into the room? The ceilings are too low for him. He must have crawled up the stairs and along the corridor. Or maybe entered through the balcony, an easy climb for him, and then slithered into the room. I will ask him later. I don’t want him getting all agitated. And it’s not going to change things anyway.
The sun is high in the sky, the sand in the beach must be scorching. I cannot see the tourists, but the beach is surely brimming with them. I know they are there, doing whatever it is that tourists do. I can hear the subdued murmur of their activities. Instead of the hundreds of bodies lying down or walking back and forth from the water, and instead of the cacophony of their chatter and their screams, I see a deserted beach and the calm extension of turquoise water transitioning into the dark blue of the ocean, and there is that distant sound that I know comes from them, a muted and uninformative sound, as if carried by the wind from the opposite side of the island.
Tourists are either amused or insulted when they learn we cannot see them. It’s not like we have a choice, but most of the locals prefer it that way. Some have even forgotten about the existence of the tourists altogether. In my case, I am well aware about their presence, as tourists are involved in most crimes. But that’s something for Officer Babette to worry about. For some uncertain reason she is the only local that can see and interact with the tourists. We believe she is a tourist at heart and she can connect with them.
The entrance door opens and Seb steps in.
“What took you so long?” I reproach him, but he smiles. As usual, he flaunts his beauty and his youth as a key that easily opens any doors. He’s relentlessly annoying, but happens to produce good work most of the time. I’m unlikely to get anyone better from Catalina to work for me here in Rosalinda. If only he tried to excel, but I think he tries not to, maybe he thinks that that would diminish whatever sense of self he has. One only needs to look at his uniform to get discouraged. Such a disgrace. Possibly it has never seen an iron. And the sleeves rolled up to his armpits is not precisely a sign of professionalism, although I can give it to him that in a tropical island comfort trumps etiquette. I also know that the locals are unlikely to expect allegiance to the code and regulations, and may even prefer the incompetence that Seb portrays so well.
“You told me to bring all this shit,” he replies, releasing two large duffle bags from his shoulders and onto the floor. “And I called to the Catalina station as you asked me to, and that took forever, lots of chitchatting, they are so bored over there, you cannot believe it, they think that all the interesting shit is going on over here. When I told them about this,” he says, pointing to the monster and the cadaver, “they were just flabbergasted, I can tell you that.”
Flabbergasted. I’m surprised to hear that word coming out from his mouth, which maybe says more about me than about him.
“Are they going to send someone from Catalina? That’s the only thing I told you to ask.”
“No,” he snaps, and I can tell he is fishing for a stupid remark, but he settles with a shrug. “They said it’s up to us.”
“I guess you didn’t mention that we have never dealt with a murder here, and that they have much more experience than us, and that some supervision might be appropriate?”
“Nah, but you know what they are going to say if you put it like that. I mean, it’s quite a clear-cut case, ain’t it?” Seb nods in the direction of the monster. “It’s not like we are going to mess it up and charge the wrong guy.”
Instead of getting exasperated, I turn around and recite his rights to Gary. “Gary, I am going to charge you with murder.” I try to discern if he is listening. I am ready for any bad reaction. For a while there’s no movement and I think he may be sleeping, but then he nods. His hair, like a bundle of weathered ropes, swings forward and then smacks his face. “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you.” Of course he will have an attorney, I feel silly mentioning that. Among many other things his father has an army of attorneys. “Do you understand what I said, Gary?”
Gary nods again. “Sorry,” he says. I know he has tried to use his lowest voice, but it still comes out loud and deep, like the sound of a tuba. The apartment reverberates.
“You don’t need to say anything, Gary,” I tell him. “Seb, why don’t you go ahead and make yourself useful, take some pictures and then search for fingerprints. And you called the doctor, right?”
“Yeah, he’s on his way. But why exactly do you want me to look for fingerprints? What do you expect me to find?”
“Just do it. Let’s go by the book on this one, if you don’t mind.”
“Whatever you say, boss. Good thing it is a clear-cut case, at least. No real investigation. No mystery to solve.”
“What a mess you have created, Gary,” Seb says while taking pictures of the cadaver. “Too much sun on that head of yours? Going a little crazy in there?”
“Leave him alone, Seb.”
“I just… felt hungry, I think,” the monster roars. “It just made sense. I’m so sorry. I don’t know how it happened. But I didn’t think about it. It was quick.”
I like the idea of it having been quick.
“Well, your father is going to be very pleased with you, eh?” Seb hassles the monster, snorting at his own joke.
I tell Seb to shut up again, this time I yell, but he is right. I am not looking forward to discussing the case with Jeremiah, the Governor of Rosalinda and Gary’s father.