where the writers are
The Shoes that Charlotte Wore

She gently hit the furnace with the butt of the pan, inspected the pilot light; out. She could see her breath from her mouth as she struggled with the black stockings. A small tear by the buttocks was starting and as she inspected herself in the mirror she grabbed the clear nail polish on the counter for a quick fix. “That should hold for now.” She though. She grabbed her red coat, black gloves, and scarf and ran out the door still dressing; down the steps and onto the busy night streets of the city. The cold didn’t stop the couple’s window-shopping with arms interlocked, and it most certainly didn’t stop the hookers who waved at the passing cars of men. Walking up and down their turfs to keep warm in their mini skirts and tube tops they desperately tried to keep the blood flowing through their bare legs. It was here on the corner of 6th and 7th street that she worked in the dim glows of the pleasure district, in the famous Savannah club. Although she never took side streets and she never stopped to talk to anyone, she felt the difference in the air and something lurked in places she could not tell. The cold made the numbing feeling in her toes unbearable as she tried to quicken her pace. Even the sidewalk seemed to be numb with pain that the chill brought. There the pink lights of the Savannah club greeted her with the open arms of cigar clouds, dirty money, and the smell of whiskey seeping out of the walls.

            “Hey little lady.” Said the bouncer, a tall thick black man. His size was intimidating to strangers but his demeanor was anything but. He was nice to the girls and nice to her.

            “Hey there boss.” She replied smiling, “How’s it in there?”

            “Kind of slow tonight but I’m sure things will pick up later on.” He replied opening the door for her.

            “Got a light?” She asked pulling out a parliament from her purse.

            “Sure.” He replied taking his lighter out of his pocket and lighting her cigarette.

            “Thanks babe.” She said exhaling a ring of smoke while walking off. A few of the regulars greeted her as she walked past them towards the dressing room adjacent to the ladies restroom. One of the new girls was on stage dancing monotonously to a Michael Buble song. Her awkward stances, turns, and poses indicated she was not yet comfortable in the 4-inch stilettos they were required to wear. She carefully twirled around the pole while trying to undo the sequence bra with one hand behind her back and the other on the pole.

            “Hey Trixi,” the manager was a handsome man in his late sixties. Married three times and had two children; Family life didn’t work for him so he opted for the life of a strip club owner instead. Chris was very business savvy and although strip clubs often are associated with sex fiends, scoundrels, and all sorts of sexual philanthropy, the Savannah club was a classy burlesque club with it’s own jazz band. The dancers never performed to the likes of Metallica or Kidd Rock, they only performed to classy music with a good tune; always elegant and sophisticated, captivating and alluring, the burlesque dancer had to enchant the observer with her eyes and lure him with her hips. Full nudity was a complement to the performance not a necessity and Chris encouraged his dancers to do only what they felt comfortable doing. His business smarts and innovative ideas earned the Savanna club high ratings and reviews that other clubs in the industry never received. It had an old Las Vegas kind of glamour that customers loved.

            “Hi Chris.” She responded smiling as usual. He was attending to some clients at the bar and continued talking to the three suited men after she passed. She slipped past the black curtained hallway and past a few doors to the last door, which was the dressing room. Some of the other girls were already there seated in front of their vanities.

            “Hey girl.” Shana said not even looking over at Trixi who sat down at the vanity next to her. She was applying mascara to her already long lashes. “Linda and I are going out to Demetri’s tonight. Wanna come?” She said smacking her gum.

            “Maybe.” Trixi replied. “Not sure yet because I have to take my mom to the airport tomorrow morning. She’s going to Pennsylvania to see my grandma before she crocks.” Trixi looked herself over in the mirror and plugged in her curling iron and started brushing her hair.

            “That sucks. Hope she’s ok.”

            “Yeah, well she’s pretty old and she’s already had a heart attack. I’d go with my mom but I really need to work to pay off those damn student loans.”

            “Uh huh. I hear you. Those loans are triflin’ girl. You better take care of those before they take care of yo’ ass.” Shana said applying a dark cherry lipstick to her full lips. “Hey look at my boy.” She pulled out a picture from her purse. “I got his pictures taken yesterday.”

            “Oh my, he is getting cuter and cuter by the day. I think you’ve got a future heart breaker with those green eyes.”

            “Yup, you know girls are always fallin’ for those light-skinned guys with colored eyes. I’m going to have to keep his ass in check.” She said taking back the picture and placing it on the corner of the vanity mirror.

            “Hey y’all.” Came a soft voice. It was Linda. “Damn it’s cold out there.”

            “Hey girl.” Shana replied.

            “Trixi are you going with us tonight?” Linda said hanging up her scarf and coat on the coat rack.

            “I don’t know yet. I have to get up early tomorrow.”

            “You’ll miss out. I hear your college football team is back from that game they did in Texas and they’re gonna be there. You sure you don’t want to go?”

            “Yeah, I don’t know but I’ll let you know.” She replied and started curling her hair.

            “Even though their asses lost, I’ll still chill wit them. Even if they are the enemy.” Linda said laughing. Linda was from Texas.

            “Girl, please.” Shana replied.

            A knock came on the door and a few seconds later Chris came in. “Sorry ladies but have any of you seen Roxy? She’s suppose to go on in 5 but I haven’t seen her come through yet.”

            They shook their heads no. “Maybe she got drunk and passed the fuck out outside again. God knows that girl is good for it.” Shana said refusing to bit her tongue when it came to her dislike for Roxy. Trixi eyed her to shut up.

            “Ok well, I’ll just have Lady go on next. She’s been entertaining some folks at their booth that came in all the way from Georgia. Seems the Savannah club has fans all over. Even brought their ladies with them.” As he left, noise of applause spilled into the room momentarily and then was drowned out again when the door closed. The muffled noise of music started again and a new dancer took the stage.

            “Damn.” Trixi said putting her coat and gloves back on.

            “Where are you going?” Shana asked alarmed. “You’re on after me so you better not go too far.”

            “I wont. I’m just going to go around the block real quick and see if I find Roxy. I don’t know, maybe she did pass out somewhere or is staggering her way over here. I think I should at least look.”

            “Why bother. She does it to herself. It ain’t your fault and definitely not your responsibility. That girl is grown, she knows what she’s doing.” Shana said fixing her black fish net stockings that came up to her thighs. Linda continued to put on her make up, ignoring them while humming a song.

            “I know that.” Trixi snapped back. “I just feel sorry for her sometimes you know? She has issues and she’s not all there all the time and after they took her son away you know she just hasn’t been the same. He was her life and now that he’s not with her anymore she seems so lost.”

She walked out with out waiting for Shana to refute her again. She stopped at the bar and told the bartender that she’d be right back. Chris was nowhere in sight and she thought maybe he was out back having a cigarette. She never knew why he smoked outside when everyone else smoked inside. The cold air hit her like a frosted punch in the face as she stepped outside. Her nose instantly turned red in response to the freezing wind that blew in her face. She walked past several people that were obviously going to the Savannah club and rounded the corner. Several streetlights were out making the street darker than ever. A crescent moon loomed overhead and a blanket of clouds covered almost every star in the sky making it impossible for anything to give light to the obscurity of the street. She heard someone cough from an apartment in one of the buildings. She looked up and could see a dim light through the window but no source of where the cough came from. The only noise on the street was the sound of her footsteps and she tried to walk softer so that her heals wouldn’t clank so loud on the pavement but it was to no avail, the sound of her footfalls echoed through the streets in a wave of noise that could be heard a mile off.  Suddenly she heard the sound of a bottle fall in a nearby alley. She stopped and listened. The bottle rolled and hit something and a few seconds later a man came running out in the opposite direction. Her heart stopped. He didn’t see her. Perhaps it was because his brimmed had was pulled low or maybe because he didn’t look back, just kept running. She wondered what he was running from and as she neared the alley in which he ran out from she looked down the dark path in wonder. She grabbed at her chest to quiet the heart that pounded loudly and feverishly. Slowly she put one foot in front of the other as she strained her eyes to see through the darkness. A piece of paper crunched under her feet and she cursed herself under her breath for making noise. She steadied her breathing to try to hamper the warm air from escaping her mouth and mixing with the cold air in case someone might see the vapor of her breath. Again she slowly walked on as she past mounds of trash and boxes scattered about by the bums who frequented the alleys in search of leftovers. As she neared the back of the ally a shoe peeped out from behind a dumpster. She looked around and behind her to make sure no one followed her into the alley. Satisfied that she was still alone she proceeded again towards the dumpster. The closer she got the more clearly she could see and for some reason was drawn to the shoe that as she got closer, looked like leather boots. She remembered that sometimes she wore leather thigh high boots when performing. A small sparkle on the boot caught her eye and she could tell it was studded. She remembered Roxy had studded boots that she always wore. She remembered Roxy saying that she got them in Louisiana the last time she went to visit her son who lives with his dad there. A strange smell filled her nostrils. She covered her nose with her gloved hand in hopes of drowning out the odors of rotting food and dirty baby diapers. Then, as if the space was suddenly filled with light she saw as bright as day the leg and then the rest of the naked body sprawled on the ground in disarray. She screamed and ran as fast as her stilettos could take her out of the alley and back onto the street. She grabbed her cell phone in her pocket and dialed 911.

 

The police showed up in minutes but it felt like an eternity to her. She hugged herself crying on the street while the dispatcher talked to her on the cell phone until the cops arrived. She wiped her tears with her sleeve. A female police officer approached her first and asked if she was ok and if she was the one that called. She nodded yes and choked on the word. She asked where the body was and Trixi pointed down the alley. Two male policemen who were listening went to inspect it. The woman cop put a comforting hand on Trixi’s shoulder and told her everything was going to be ok. A few seconds later an ambulance arrived followed by the coroner. He didn’t look in any other direction other than the alley. He said hello to one of the cops that was securing the area with yellow tape. A few onlookers loomed down the street and a few others peeped out of the windows at the spectacle below. A nice looking man with dark brown hair approached Trixi.

“Miss, I hope you don’t mind but we really need you to give us a statement back at the police station. I know it’s pretty cold out here and I think it will be much more comfortable for you there even though you are in a not-so-comfortable situation.”

“Sure.” She replied as he was already opening the door to one of the police cars. She got in the back and another police officer got into the driver seat. She noticed that the man that opened the door for her got into another car to follow them. She took her phone out and called work. Dana answered. Dana is Chris’ manager.

“Hey Dana, it’s Trixi. I need to talk to Chris please, it’s an emergency.”

            “Oh Trixi, are you alright?”

            “I’m fine, Dana. Just need to talk to Chris.”

            “Ok let me get him for you.” She responded placing her on hold.

            A few moments later Chris was on the phone. “Trixi where are you? You were supposed to go on after Shana. I had to give the new girl an extra set.”

            “Sorry Chris but I can’t tonight. I’m on my way to the police station right now. I have some bad news.” She took a breath. “Roxy is dead.”

            “What?” He answered. “How did this happen? Are you sure?”

            “Yes, I’m positive. I don’t know what happened, all I know is that someone killed her and I think I saw the murderer getting away.”

            “Awe man, this is terrible. Poor Roxy, that girl didn’t deserve it.”

            “Yeah I know. I’ll be in tomorrow though. I have to go now. I just got here to the police station.”

            “Hey, don’t worry about coming in tomorrow. Take the night off and if you’re good to go by the following night, then come in. I’ll see if Marissa can take your shift. She’s been asking for more hours anyway.”

            “Thanks Chris.”

            “Anytime. Let me know if you need anything, ok.”

            “Ok.”

            The police officer escorted her inside of the bustling waiting/lobby of the police station.

            “Sit here.” He said pointing to an open seat against the wall. The chairs looked like they were from the 1960’s and were bright orange solid bucket type chairs that were hard on your ass if you had to sit in them too long. She hoped she wouldn’t have to.  The police officer left and the guy that followed them entered. He didn’t look her way but kept walking past her. Trixi couldn’t see where he went but in a few minutes he came back and signaled for her to follow him. He lead her through another busier room filled with desks, paper, and police officers going back and forth like a busy newsroom only this was a police station. Phones ringing and people talking drowned out the noisy copier in the middle of the room busily printing page after page. She followed him to a room and he closed the door behind them. The noise was drowned out with the closing of the door and he asked her to take a seat. It was his office and there were plaques on the walls, a very nice sturdy wood desk with his name on it, Ian Lankin, Detective.

            “Do you mind if I record our conversation?” He said sitting behind the desk taking a small recorder out of a drawer along with a note pad.

            “No. That is ok I guess.”

            “Ok.” He said pushing play. “First lets start with your name.”

            “Trixi.”

            “Trixi?” He repeated with a half sarcastic tone. He held his pen in his hand like he was about to write but stopped.

            “I mean, Jennifer Franco. Sorry, Trixi is my nickname. I go by it so much that it’s hard not to answer with it.” She nervously replied as he scribbled her name on the pad. Terrible handwriting.

            “What is your relation to the deceased?” Can you positively identify her?”

            “Um, yes. She was one of the dancers. I worked with her. She goes by Roxy but her real name is Charlotte Bovee.”

            “And where do you work?”

            “I’m a burlesque dancer at the Savannah club. It’s about a block away from where…where…” She trailed off thinking about the bloody body behind the dumpster and how it looked like pieces of Roxy’s hair was carved out of her head. Lying face down that was all that Trixi saw besides the puddle of blood and the studded black boots on her lifeless feet.

            “That’s ok, you don’t have to finish the sentence. Lets move on. So the two of you work together, do you hang out at all out of work?”

            “Um, sometimes. Roxy, I mean Charlotte worked two jobs so she didn’t really have much time to hang out. That and she had a little boy. I think he’s around seven but he moved to Illinois to live with his dad last month because she lost custody. She’s from there too. I think it was because she kind of had a drinking problem.”

            “Did this drinking problem affect work at all?”

            “Sometimes it did. There were a few times she showed up so drunk she could hardly walk. Especially after they took her son away she started drinking even more. It started getting pretty bad because she’d sit in the dressing room crying right before she had to go on and we’d have to do everything we could to calm her down and get feeling good again to go on.”

            “I know this is a weird question concerning your line of work but have you noticed her with any strange men or men you might have found suspicious?”

            “That is an ironic question.” She said smiling nervously again, “there’s a lot of strange men that come around the club but mostly the owner, Chris is pretty good at making sure those guys don’t bother us. He doesn’t want trouble in the club so he’s quick to make problems go away.”

            “But you haven’t seen her around anyone suspicious? Has she acted different in the last couple of weeks or days, besides the trauma of losing her son, have you noticed anything else different?” He continued writing and periodically looking up at her in between questions searching her eyes for clues. Trying to see if something would trigger a reaction other than what he expected. One thing he learned quickly after six years as a police officer was not to trust anyone, not even the witness.

            “No, nothing that I can think of besides losing her son. It was a really bad custody battle between her and her ex. She actually moved out here to get away from him because supposedly he was abusive and that’s why she ran so far away with her son - to get away from him.” She sat patiently with her hands on her lap like a schoolgirl in front of the principle. Her mind kept wondering off to the pictures in her head of Roxy’s naked dead body behind a dumpster. Naked and bloody except for the boots that were still on her feet. It was unreal and bizarre because she had just seen Roxy the night before at work and she was actually happy for a change because she was going to see her son in a few weeks and now she was dead. Killed horribly by some madman and left to rot in an alley filled with rats biting at her flesh like a delicious rotting carcass. Jennifer shuddered at the thoughts. Ian was still writing on his pad.

“Ok so tell me what you were doing before you found Charlotte.”

            He looked up at her. Her face was pale with a terrified look in her eyes. “Are you feeling ok Miss Franco?” He asked concerned that the shock might have passed and now she was faced with the truth that her friend was dead and she just witnessed her dead body in a most unconventional way.

            “Yes, I’m fine. I think.” She looked down at her sweating hands on her lap.

            “I know that this is probably very hard for you. If you need to talk to a counselor or a psychologist I can recommend one to you. These types of things are always hard to cope with, believe me. I’ve been on the force over 6 years now and it never gets easy walking into a crime scene.”

            “Um, I think I’ll be fine for now.”

            “Ok. Go ahead.”

            “I was at work before I found Charlotte’s body. My manager Chris was looking for her because she was supposed to be at work and she didn’t show. I was worried because, like I said earlier she’d been having a rough time since her son was taken away. I went around the block to see if maybe she was on her way and just drunk somewhere because she’s done that before. You know, she passed out next the building one time and another time some stranger was practically carrying her to work. So I went out to look for her and when I turned the corner the street was empty. No cars, no people, even the streetlights were out so it was really dark. I saw someone running away from the alley.”

            “You saw someone? Can you describe what he looks like to one of our artist so we can get an ID on this person?”

            “How did you know it was a he?”

            “Normally men commit violent crimes like this and I know that’s profiling but hey, it’s a fact and there’s nothing wrong with noting facts with all things considered of course but go on.”

            “Well, he didn’t see me and I hardly saw his face so I don’t think I could help much with that but I do know that he didn’t have any facial hair. He wore one of those brimmed hats like the ones you always see men wear in old movies from the 40’s and he had a black coat on. Kind of like a pea coat but not sure if it was one.”

            “Do you know roughly how tall he was or how much he might have weighed?”

            “Um. I think he was around your height and he seemed like a normal built. Not fat and not skinny, just normal.”

            “Ok so he was around 6’1, you’d say?”

            “Yes.”

            “Did you see his hair color, eye color?”

            “No, sorry.”

            “What about his face, is there anything else you can remember about his face like say his nose size, ear size, mouth?”

            “No, sorry. It was so fast and I didn’t really look at him much because one second he came out of the alley and the next his back was towards me running away.”

            “Ok. I think that’s good enough for now. Here’s my card if you remember anything else. It has my cell phone on there so you can reach me anytime.” He said reaching over the desk to hand her the card.

            “Thank you.”

            She gave him her cell phone number in exchange and he walked her out of the office and back to the lobby. A different officer drove her home. It was past midnight and the whole ordeal made her tired but despite the need for sleep she could not because every time she closed her eyes she saw Charlotte’s black boots and her dead body. The smell of the alley was still so strong even though her apartment smelled like cinnamon sticks from the candles. She took a hot shower and scrubbed her body with a washcloth and dial soap three times. She felt dirty even though she didn’t touch anything. Just the sight of the alley, the trash all over the floor and the…yes, that too; she felt contaminated and the more she tried not to think about it, the more she felt sick to her stomach with it. She finished her shower, dried off and started to brush her blond and black hair when everything came up. She hurried to the toilet, bent over it and threw up.

 

            At 6am she turned off the TV. She had been up all night watching the only thing that was on: Infomercials. She picked her mom up and drove her to the airport. She tried her hardest to keep it together because she didn’t want to tell her mom that she found a co-worker’s dead body in an alley. Her mom didn’t approve of her profession as a burlesque dancer. Although she knew Jennifer was working at the Savannah club to pay for college, they didn’t talk about because her mom didn’t want to hear about it. She was embarrassed for her daughter because she knew men gawked at her. It was humiliating for her as a mother to know that her daughter took her clothes off for money. It didn’t matter that she was paying her way through school with it and it certainly didn’t matter that she herself had no money to help Jennifer get through school. The fact-of-the-matter was that she’d rather her daughter work two sensible jobs where she kept her clothes on than one job that required her to take her clothes off. Jennifer made small talk with her mother about her grandmother and then hugged her goodbye after helping her with her luggage.

            Jennifer could not bring herself to go back to the quiet and emptiness of her apartment. She wished she had a dog or a cat to keep her company and then maybe her thoughts wouldn’t be filled with lunacy. She drove around and stopped at a coffee shop. She read a couple of news articles on her IPOD and sipped a hot vanilla latte. The sun peeped out of the clouds and went back again. She watched people pass by and the many cars that came and went. When she finished her cup, it was time to go. “No use in hanging out in a coffee shop all day. Only weirdo’s do that.” She thought while throwing the cup in the trash and walking back out the street. “Maybe Shana is up.” She thought looking at her watch. It was only 8am but worth a try. She didn’t want to be alone. Shana didn’t answer her phone so Jennifer did some window-shopping since none of the stores were open anyway. She busied herself during the day with chores and outings and at night kept the TV on so she wouldn’t have to listen to the creepiness of the night.

            After taking one day off of work she decided being alone with her thoughts was not in her best interest. She still had not recovered mentally and although she still could not sleep, she’d rather be working than be alone. She tried to phone Shana again but again she got her voicemail. One thing about Shana was that she hardly ever answered her phone. Made Jennifer wonder why she even had one if she doesn’t use it. Standing in front of her closet she pulled out a red sequence dress with fringe at the bottom and her black mary janes from under her bed. “I think a flapper look tonight.” She loved the red dress because it wasn’t form-fitting, came down to her knees and although it was a spaghetti strap, it left everything to the imagination. She put on some vintage-style black thigh-high stockings, a peak-a-boo black bra and matching lace thong. She put her hair up and then put on the dress followed by her coat, gloves, and scarf. In her pocket was the card Ian had given her the day before. For the first time since they met she wondered how he was doing and if he found any new evidence in the case. In fact she found him to be pretty attractive with his dark brown hair and breathy yet masculine voice. She left the card on the nightstand and went to work.

            Chris was glad to see her but worried. He kept asking her if she was ok and if she needed anything. She continued to reply that she was fine regardless of the sickness in her stomach or the images that kept flashing in her mind. Shana had the night off but Linda was there. Linda was the only one that didn’t have a stage name. Even Shana’s name wasn’t real. Her real name was Blair. Jennifer confided in Linda about Charlotte’s murder.

            “Yeah, I heard about it from Chris. He had a meeting with all of us yesterday. I’m so sorry for what happened to her and sorry you had to see that. Her family must be so sad. Chris said they’re sending her body back to Illinois when they’re done with the autopsy. So sad.”

            “Yeah but that could have been any one of us. I mean, it was right around the block from the club. You know how close that is? A lot of us walk these streets every night to and from work. Kind of scary isn’t it?” Jennifer asked almost whispering.

            “Yeah it is but we can’t be scared forever. We have to get on with our lives, you know. I think Roxy would have wanted us to. I miss her too.”

            The door opened and two women entered chatting. The second they saw Trixi the instantly came to her side with sympathy and concern. Trixi assured them she was just fine. In fact, she felt better being at work again rather than at home by herself. There was comfort being surrounded by people who cared about her and it didn’t matter that it just so happen to be a strip club.

 

            “This is very bizarre.” The coroner said handing over a brief report of the visual part of the autopsy.

            “What’s so strange about it?” Ian asked skimming through the report.

            “I don’t know but it reminds me of the Jack the Ripper killings in England. I know neither one of us was alive at that time but if you look how neatly done each incisions was and the cuts are perfect. Absolutely flawless I say. The cuts were definitely done with some kind of surgery instruments; maybe a scalpel or something just as sharp. Definitely not a knife and there’s no serrations anywhere. Just strait even cuts. Looks like your killer is someone with a very steady hand.”

            “Could be.” He responded closing the manila folder.

.           “We won’t know for sure if Charlotte Bovee was on any kind of drugs for another week. We’re sending samples out for testing today.” The coroner added as he cleaned off his glasses and then placed them back on his face.

 “Sounds good. I’ll be back next week for the complete report then.” Ian said.

            “Sure I’ll give you a call when it’s ready.” The coroner replied and headed back to his office.

            Surely the coroner’s report should be able to help him track down this killer. Precision cuts along the torso and around the breasts that whoever this sick fuck was placed the breasts near Charlotte’s head. At home Ian reviewed the many photos taken that night of the crime scene. He didn’t think someone did this because they didn’t like the girl. Perhaps it was a crime of passion but at the same time there was no hurt lover to be found and no recent love interests. He checked her phone records, her apartment, even her trash can but found no clues in her home. Her ex-husband’s alibi checked out as well and it would impossible for him to be in two places at the same time, especially when you factor in the that he was over 1700 miles away. He looked over the photo that the killer wrote on the wall with Charlotte’s blood, “taken.” What did the words mean? There was a strand of hair found near the body and it was being analyzed for DNA. Tomorrow those results would be in and he can compare it with every criminal in their database whose DNA they had on file. Then there was the girl, Jennifer who stumbled upon the body while trying to find her friend. He wondered if she was doing ok or if the experience had left her scarred and frightened. She was an attractive woman but he didn’t like strippers and didn’t like her hair color either. The phone rang. It was Jacob.

            “Hey man, there’s been another murder and it’s just like the last one. Not that far off. I’ll text you the address.”

            “Ok, I’ll be right there.” No sooner did he grab his coat and was out the door that the text came with the address. It was a block away from where Charlotte’s body was found. When he arrived, Jacob was there and the crime scene was already taped off.            “Another alley murder.” Jacob said approaching Ian who practically parked his black Acura Integra on the curb. “This one looks like he spent more time on it than the last maybe because a lot of these buildings are condemned due to rotting wood and asbestos. Some of them are scheduled to be demolished in a few days.”

            Upon entering the alley the flashes from the camera blinded him. Ian closed his eyes for a second and when he opened them he saw spots for a moment.

            “Thanks a lot.” He said sarcastically to the officer taking pictures.

            “Anytime.” The officer replied mockingly.

            “The body hasn’t been identified yet. A bum found it a few hours ago while rummaging through the garbage here. He’s at the station right now giving a statement.” The sight of the body was more gruesome than the last and Ian had to keep from looking away.

            “Pretty bad huh?” Jacob asked. Ian just nodded in response as he looked over the remains that scattered the ground. The woman was naked except for her tennis shoes still on both feet. “Her guts were taken out and thrown all over along with her ovaries that are over there in that corner.” Jacob said pointing and went on, “Didn’t remove the breasts on this one but did cut off some hair because there’s a huge chunk of it missing. Looks like he scalped her too. We haven’t found the mission chunk of hair anywhere so we’re guessing he must have taken it with him. Probably a souvenir; we’re thinking this murder is connected with the Charlotte murder because the words ‘taken’ are written in blood next to the head and the precision cuts are the same as with the Charlotte murder.”

            “That’s pretty disgusting.” Ian replied not being able to turn his eyes away from the gruesome display of flesh. Luckily it was too cold for the flies and too cold for the worms to eat away at it since the body looked to be there for a few days. A large dark spot was next to the body, which might have been a puddle of blood. The flesh was already showing signs of decay although the icy cold of the winter air had practically frozen the body in its desolate location.

            “Yeah, and look at this,” Jacob squatted down and pointed at a piece of intestine on the ground and Ian leaned over him, “the thing that is kind of weird about this is that this looks like someone was eating it. I mean…they don’t look like they were ripped out and torn up or strategically cut like the body was. The pieces look serrated and scattered about and there isn’t enough of it around to put the large intestine back together again so leaves me to the conclusion that the killer might have ate it.”

            “That’s fantastic, he was hungry.” Ian said turning away for a moment to regain his composure. It was the most horrible crime scene he’d ever seen.

            “You know, some cultures do eat pig intestine. I heard it’s pretty good and there’s a place not that far from here that has it on the menu. Have you had dinner yet?” Jacob said with a cynical smile.

            “Not yet but don’t ask if I want to got there either. I don’t think I can stand trying that after seeing this woman’s half eaten body parts.” Ian replied repulsively. Jacob was such a dick sometimes and always tried to find some fun in everything.

            “Ok, wanna go to Denny’s then?”

            “Sure.” Ian replied still starring at the body, “Hmm…he leaves the shoes on but strips the body to gain access to the inner organs and then writes the word ‘taken’ in the victim’s blood. Jacob, did you read the brief from the coroner yet?”
            “Yeah why?”

            “Did it say anything in there if Charlotte was missing any internal organs?”
            “No, I think all of them were intact. You know that girl that reported the murder?”

            “Jennifer.” Ian added.

            “Yeah, I think she disrupted him before he could take out any of Charlotte’s organs and that’s why hers were intact. Makes sense to me.”

            “Yeah, I was thinking the same thing.”

            “That Jennifer girl sure is hot though.” Jacob said grinning.

            “What? She’s a stripper!” Ian responded.

            “Who cares, I’d get a lap dance from her any day.” Jacob laughed.

            “That’s nasty. You know how many diseases those women carry? And you know how many other guys they rub on every night? Besides, strippers only have two stories and that’s it, they’re either paying their way through college by slutting around or they have kids to support from different dads and still slutting around.”

            “Wow, I’ve never looked at it that way and here I thought about getting a cheap thrill from some chick and she could have kids at home waiting for their mom.” Again being sarcastic. It seemed to Ian that Jacob never took anything seriously but then again it kept him sane when things got insane. “Could you imagine that kid on career day standing up in front of the class talking about how mom takes her clothes off for money? Classic!” He started laughing again.

            “Lets get out of here. I need to check on that bum first and then we can go eat.” Ian said changing the subject.

           

            The following day Ian checked the DNA report against every criminal on file and found nothing. The bum was too drunk to give a valid statement the night before but he didn’t show up the next day so they sent two officers to find him. A few days later the full report came back from the Coroner showing that Charlotte Bovee had 2 times over the alcohol limit in her blood and tested positive for cocaine but neither the drugs nor the alcohol killed her, she died of a heart attack. All of her organs were intact unlike the second body found which remained a Jane Doe. The Jane Doe’s autopsy report came back several days later. Her large intestine and liver were missing and the pieces found confirmed they were eaten. The only clues left were traces of saliva on the few pieces of the large intestine that were found. Ian had the pieces checked for DNA and compared the results in their criminal database and again received negative results. In fact, the DNA tested from both the hair follicle and the saliva showed to have extra chromosomes and therefore not human. The coroner suggested maybe an animal ate some of the body after it was killed. Ian sent the DNA results to another lab to see if any animal matched it. Since the Jane Doe’s family had yet to come forward and she didn’t not appear on any missing person’s report, Ian called the only person he thought might know her. A knock on his office door followed by Jacob asking if he was busy. Ian shook his head no and Jacob told him an old woman was there with information on the killer. Ian thought finally a break and agreed to see the old woman. Moments later Jacob was back holding the hand of a small black elderly woman who held her cane tightly in her free hand.

            “Thank you sonny.” She said in a frail voice to Jacob as she put her large purse on her lap while still holding her cane. Jacob stood leaned up against the wall opposite them both.

            “This is Mrs. Donovan, Mrs. Donavan, this is my partner Ian Lankins.”

            “Oh pleased to meet you.” She said extending her hand in which Ian shook very carefully as to not break any of her frail bones. Her wrinkled hand felt soft and squishy in his and he was glad the let go of it.

            “I understand you know something about the recent murders that could help us, Mrs. Donavan.” Ian wasted no time; Jennifer was on her way to the station and he was going to escort her to the coroner’s office to see if she could identify the latest victim.

            “Oh yes, I remember that night. It was terrible, in fact I was so scared I stayed inside for days.”

            “Can you tell us what you saw, Mrs. Donovan?”

            “Well that night it was rather cold out. Colder than usual and I sent my son out to get some more wood for our fireplace. I live with my eldest son who takes care of me and I was alone at the time and lookin’ out the winda’. I saw a tall slender man walking with a woman on his arm. She looked to me to be drunk because she was leaning into his side. They disappeared down the alley on the side of my building and then a few seconds later I heard a scream. I got concerned and peaked out my livin’ room winda’ because it overlooked that part of the alley.” Her voice trailed off as she stared at her purse handles a few seconds and then made eye contact with Ian. “My eyes have never seen such horror before. That poor girl was being cut open by a monster.”

            “A monster?” Ian repeated.

            “Yes, a monster. That man wasn’t there anymore. I think he turned into that monster because it was wearing his clothes and they were kind of tight on it. Which reminds me that when I saw that man walking with that woman, his clothes were a bit baggy. I didn’t think much of that at the time because you know kids these days be wearing their pants practically around their ankles and they call that fashion.”

            “Ok, so Mrs. Donovan, let me get this strait; a man was escorting a woman down the alley. You heard a scream and looked out your living room window and saw a monster?”

            “Correct.”

            “Can you describe this monster to us?”

            “Well it was dark but I can tell you what I do know.” Ian nodded for her to proceed, “It was tall and looked to be quit muscular because its arms bulged in the clothes. Almost like they were about to come apart from the seams. It ripped off the girl’s clothes after it killed her and cut her stomach area with its fingers. I was so frightened I couldn’t move otherwise I’d have called the police right then and there. I couldn’t see much because it’s back was towards me. Looked like it was writing something on the wall. Then I think someone was walking on the street because it got distracted and turned back into the man. I swear my eyes have never seen such things before and I started to pray over again over again, God help me! The man took off running and I went over to my phone in the kitch’n and called my son’s cell phone. He was still at the store and I told him to hurry up home. When he got there he said there was policemen everywhere. I apologize for not coming in sooner but I was so scared. My son had to talk me into coming down here today and even know I still want to go back home and lock the doors.”

Ian showed her a picture of Charlotte Bovee he received from her family. It was a picture of her by the Christmas tree taken the previous winter. “Yes that is the woman I saw that night. That’s her.”

            “Can you do me one more favor Mrs. Donovan? Can you give a visual description to one of our artist please?”

            “Why yes, I’d be glad to but don’t think this old woman has lost her marbles. That monster was real and it looked like those aliens you see on those TV shows where people talk about their encounters with extraterrestrials. I hate to think that that’s what it was but there’s no other explanation for what I saw.”

            “That’s fine Mrs. Donovan.” Ian got out of his seat and walked her towards the door. “Thank you for all your time Mrs. Donovan and if we need anything else we will call you. Jacob will take you down the hall to the artist.”

            “Oh, thank you too sonny. Thank you for believing a poor old woman like myself.”

            “Good-bye Mrs. Donovan.” Ian said once again shaking the frail old hand. Jacob escorted her down the hall and returned within moments.

            “Oh my God, did you hear that?” He exclaimed as if Ian wasn’t listening to her the whole time. “That’s the same thing that old bum said about the other murder. Funny though that thing was still hanging around that dead body days after it killed her.”

            “Yeah.” He replied too shocked to make anything of it. His cell phone rang. It was Jennifer. She just got there. “Hey listen, I gotta go. Can you finish up with Mrs. Donovan and then I’ll see you later?”

            “Sure. What’s up?”
            “Nothing, just going to see if I can get an ID on that Jane Doe. I called Jennifer. Maybe she can ID her since no one has come forward.”

            Oh I see, taking the hot stripper out. You’re such a catch. Who else would take a girl out to see dead bodies?”

            “Not funny.” Ian replied and walked out with Jacob still laughing.

            Jennifer was waiting outside. He walked with her to his car and opened the door for her. She found it very flattering that there were some men out there that still did that although she said nothing else besides “thank you.” She asked if there was any break in the case and he said no but there have been some new strange developments that he would tell her later. Jennifer braced herself once again for what she was about to see. Fortunately there was no vivid display of flesh, just a dead body neatly placed under a white linen that was pulled out of a cooler where the coroner placed all the deceased for preservation while autopsy was being performed. The woman’s face was clean and there were no signs of a vicious death in which Jennifer envisioned she must have faced.

            “Does she look familiar to you?” Ian asked after a few moments of silence.

            “Yes. She worked with me too.” The words choked up in her throat and her eyes started to water.

            “Do you know her name?”

            “Yes…it’s Shana. I mean, sorry...that’s her stage name. Her real name is Blair Davis.” Jennifer put her hand over her mouth in horror and the tears started to run down her face. Blair’s usually dark skin was pale white, eyes closed and lips cracked from the winter air that ravished her body for days. Ian put his arm around her shoulder in a gesture of comfort and she buried her face in his chest. She could not stop the tears. She could not contain her grief.

            “That is all, thank you.” He said to the coroner who covered the face back up with the linen and put the body back into the wall. Ian walked Jennifer out with his arm still around her. She wiped the tears away that were subsiding as he helped her into the car.

            “How about we take a little detour?” He said not wanting to let her leave in her delicate state. She nodded yes and he drove up the mountain to a lookout point where they could be alone. He opened the door for her and they both leaned on the hood of the car looking at the city below them. She stopped crying but sat there quiet with her eyes fixed on some trees below.

            “I’m sorry about your friends.” He started in a sincere voice.

            “Thank you.” She replied.

             “Maybe I shouldn’t have asked you to go. I didn’t think about how it would affect you if you knew her.”

            “No, I’m grateful that you asked. Besides, she’s been missing for a few days now and I was afraid something bad happened to her. Even though it hurts to know she’s dead at least I know what happened. I only hope that the killer is found and these murders are put to an end.”

            “That’s another thing I wanted to talk to you about. Although there’s been more evidence found and eye witnesses have come forward this case has had some bizarre turn of events.”

            “Really, like what?”

            “Well both eye-witnesses claim they seen some kind of monster that resembles an alien near the bodies.” Her eyes widened as she listened, “Yeah, weird. They don’t know each other, I mean, one guy is a bum and the other one is an old lady. We interviewed both of them at different times and haven’t released any of this information to the public. It’s just very strange that both accounts are of a strange being that turns into a human.”

            “What? You mean they saw him change into something and then change back?” She asked shocked.

            “That’s what they both said. They described him just the same as you have except the bum was able to give us a better profile of what his human face looked like because it was daytime when he saw him. I don’t know what to make of all this yet. I’m waiting for DNA matches to come back from a lab that specializes in animal DNA.”

            “Oh.” She replied not wanting to ask too many questions. She didn’t want to know how Blair died. She didn’t want to know why he was testing for animal DNA and she didn’t want to think about Blair’s death. Looking down at her wristwatch she noticed it was getting late in the day. “Hey, um…thank you for everything, really. Thank you for all you’ve done and thank you for letting me cry on your shoulder.”

            “You don’t have to thank me for that. I would think anyone would at least give you a shoulder to cry on.”

            “Yeah, you would think that but not all guys are as nice as you are. You even open the door for me.” She said smiling but trying not to show that she was attracted to him.

            “Oh, well...thanks then.” He shrugged.

            “Hey, I have to get going if you don’t mind dropping me off at work? I have to open tonight so I have to get there extra early. The usual bartender called in sick today and so I have to take her place mixing drinks.”

            “Sounds like fun, sure I’ll drop you off.” She thought of ways of how to see him again without making it seem obvious that she was looking for something more from him.

            “This is it on the right.” She said pointing out the Savannah club. He pulled up to the curb in front of the door.

            “I’ll wait till you get inside.” He said.

            “Hey listen, I was thinking that maybe we can get together later and you can finish telling me more about the case since I had to cut you short today.” She said thinking she devised the perfect plan to get to know him more.

            “Actually I already told you just about everything there is to tell. Right now I think I just need to focus on this case, finding the killer and also a motive.” He responded. Her plan backfired but she tried not to look disappointed.

            “Well, Ok then. Call me if you need anything else but just as long as it isn’t to identify another body. I don’t think I can take looking at another one.” She said opening the car door and stepping out. “Thanks for the ride.”

            “You’re welcome and yes, I’ll be in touch if there’s anything else.” He responded. She smiled briefly and then walked to the door of the Savannah club, unlocked the deadbolt and waved bye.

 

            “Hey where are you?” Jacob whispered into the phone.

            “I’m on my way back. Why are you whispering?” Ian answered.

            “Hurry up and get here I have something to tell you. The feds showed up right after you left with that chick and they’ve been in with the Chief talking about our case. Looks like the case is getting turned over to them. I’m finishing up some documents so when you get here, let me do the talking ok and just go along with whatever I say, Ok?” For once Jacob sounded serious and Ian took him at his word and agreed to go along with whatever he was going to say. When he got back to the station the Chief was in Ian’s office with Jacob and two other men going over the Charlotte files.

            “Oh Detective Ian, you’re here.” Chief Jansen said, “These two gentlemen are from the FBI. We’re handing the case over to them. Detective Jacob was just briefing them on the case.”

            “Oh OK. Sorry to hear we won’t be working on it anymore.” He said trying to be brief while looking at Jacob for answers. Jacob acknowledged him with a nod and continued giving his brief.

            “We haven’t gotten much to work with. A sample of a saliva sample was recently sent to a lab for testing. We’re thinking some sort of animal might have eaten some of the large intestines of the second victim, a Miss Blair Davis. Other than that the eyewitnesses’ accounts are not very helpful at all since none of them saw the killer. These are the reports of their statements, names, and contact information here.” He said handing over several manila envelopes to one of agents. “Furthermore gentlemen, you will see on the official coroner report that both women died of a heart attack. Perhaps the mere shock of their situation killed them, I don’t know but I’ll leave it up to you guys to figure out.”

            “Is that all, detective?” The chief asked.

            “That’s all I have.” Jacob responded.

            “And you Ian, do you have anything to add?”

            “No, I think he pretty much said it all.” Ian responded.

            “Very well,” Said Chief Jansen, “carry on. I’ll walk you two out and if you have any other questions please let us know.” He said to the FBI agents as Jacob closed the door behind them.

            “What are you doing?” Ian whispered even though they were already gone down the hallway and far enough for them not to hear him.

            “This is crazy, look at this.” Jacob said going through one of the desk drawers and pulled out a briefcase. “Remember how both witnesses said they saw the killer and gave their descriptions to our artist?”

            “Yeah.”

            “Well you didn’t see the face that was drawn. It’s the exact same face.” He withdrew both sketches and placed them on the desk in front of Ian. “Look familiar to you?”

            He eyed both and picked up one and held it up close, “No way. This looks like one of the FBI agents that was just in here.” He said in disbelief.

            “It does and you know what else, that guy didn’t say one word the whole time he was here. The other guy did all the talking. I offered him some coffee and he gestured that he didn’t want any. He didn’t say ‘no’ or anything. The moment I saw them walk walking with the Chief I knew something was up and I didn’t trust them one bit so I changed the witness statements and hid the sketches. Ian…I think our killer is in the FBI and he’s working on his own case now.”  Jacob said with a frustrated tone.

            “This is creepy.” Ian responded. “What are we going to do? I don’t even know if we can go to the Chief with this after you withheld evidence.”

            “No, you’re right we can’t go to the Chief. I say we stick a tale on this guy. Follow him around everywhere he goes and see if we can catch him.”

            “That’s crazy. For one, he’s an FBI agent, two, he’s working on a case that is no longer ours, three, he apparently turns into a killer alien that eats people. If we get caught, our asses are going to fry for spying on an FBI agent without probable cause.”

            “I know. That’s why we need to be careful. Look, this doesn’t seem right to me either but something tells me we need to protect the witnesses and at the same time prove he is the killer.”

            “Well I guess I have no other choice. I’ll help you.” Ian responded.

            Over the next few days they secretly moved Mrs. Donovan to her niece’s house in Washington and sent the bum, Richard to Ohio where he said he had family. Jennifer was nowhere to be found. Ian called her daily and left countless messages on her phone but she never called back. He went to the Savannah club and asked the manager if she was working but she had taken the week off stating she was going to visit her sick grandmother out of state. For the moment Ian was satisfied that she was out of town but he still worried for her safety because she was not returning any of his phone calls. His fears of the killer getting to her overshadowed the short time he had to bring him to justice.