“What do we got?” NYPD Detective Holden Cruz asked as he ducked under the yellow police tape. On the other side, he held the tape up long enough for his partner, Detective Kathleen Engvall, to duck under as well.
Brian Brown, a man only an inch shorter than Holden, shook his head. “It’s not pretty, Detectives,” he said, shouting above the wind. He pulled off a glove, ran his hand through his black hair, and pulled the glove back on. “Body hadn’t been in the water long when we arrived. It was still floating when we got here, so… I wouldn’t say it’s been here for any more than an hour or two. Lungs haven’t filled with water yet.”
“So the victim wasn’t drowned?” Kathleen asked.
“No.” Brian shook his head. “Christ, I wish she had drowned. It would’ve been… so much better for her,” he said. On the bank of the river, Holden could make out Hannah Lovejoy’s crouched figure as she snapped pictures of the body, which had already been pulled up to the bank.
“Well, who found her?” Holden asked.
“Two dipshits that were going to jump from the bridge to see who could last the longest in the cold water,” Brian said. He shook his head, shivering. “Idiots are lucky. Water’s not even all the way thawed out yet. We’ve been below freezing every damn night since the last snow. It’s been thawing out for about a day and a half, but it came damn near refreezing completely last night. We’re sitting pretty at forty degrees now, but only the top foot or so is thawed out. They saw the body before they jumped. Surprised that managed to stop the morons, actually,” he said. “Come on!” he shouted. He walked backward so they could hear him as they made their way toward the scene. “She’s cut up pretty bad. If her prints aren’t in the system, I probably won’t be able to identify her easily. If we get lucky, she’s reported missing and I can run dental records against her teeth. If not…”
Holden nodded. “That’s fine!” he said above the wind. He pulled his jacket tighter around his neck in an attempt to fight the snow whipping at his face and neck. When they made it to the bank, Holden’s eyes widened. He and his partner were still relatively new to the homicide department, and this was certainly not something they had seen before.
“Oh, my God,” Kathleen whispered.
The victim was naked, lying face up in the snow. Brian squatted down beside the body and gestured for them to do the same. With a sigh, Holden did, quickly followed by Kathleen. “Judging by the bruising around each cut, I’d say the long cut up the torso came first,” Brian said. Being lower to the ground had thankfully gotten them out of the direct wind, eliminating the need to shout. “This one here, beneath the rib cage, I’d say that was next.”
Holden’s hazel eyes scanned the woman’s corpse, looking for a reason of any kind as to why someone would do something like this to another human being. “Okay,” he said quietly, lifting his gaze to Brian’s face.
Brian reached out and touched the deep cut beneath the victim’s left eye. His index finger traced it all the way down her cheek. “I think this was next. And then this, in the hip bone,” he said, moving his fingers to the wound in question.
“The fuck?” Holden asked, disbelief clear in his voice. “Those are letters.”
Brian nodded. “Right. It’s a signature of some kind. CGK,” he said.
“Do… do you know what it means?” Kathleen asked.
“No, but we’ll figure it out eventually,” Brian said. “I think the eyes came out next, and then it was most likely the tongue. I don’t know when she died. I won’t be able to figure that out until she’s in the morgue. I’ll be able to figure out a lot more about her and the monster that did this to her after I do the autopsy.”
Holden nodded. He lifted his head, thankful to look away from the corpse, even if only for a moment. “You done with pictures, Hannah?”
Hannah nodded. Her black hair, pulled back in a ponytail, thrashed in the wind. “I’m good. Move all you want,” she said. She rose to her feet, patted Holden on the shoulder. “Good luck, Cruz, Engvall. You’re sure as hell gonna need it.”
Holden slid into the driver’s seat of his cruiser and stuck the key in the ignition. Letting out a breath he could see in the cold air, he turned the key and reached out to turn on the heat. Kathleen sat in the passenger seat, hands held out in front of the vents.
Holden pulled the door closed, clearing his throat. “There’s a pair of gloves in the glove box if you want ‘em.”
“You don’t need them?”
He shook his head. “I’m good.”
She let out a sigh, pulling open the glove box. “You’re a lifesaver, Hold.”
He chuckled. “I do my best.” He shifted in his seat, locking his seat belt into place. “Whoever did this to that poor woman…” He trailed off, finding himself far too short on words to finish the thought.
“Whoever did it is a damn monster,” Kathleen said.
“Yeah,” Holden agreed. He figured ‘monster’ worked better than anything his scattered mind could have managed to come up with. He rubbed his hands together before clasping them between his thighs. “You know, when we first got promoted to homicide, I convinced myself that it wouldn’t ever get any worse than, you know, the muggings gone wrong or the drive-by shootings in the bad part of town. I never once allowed myself to think we’d see something like this, especially in our rookie years.”
“I know, Hold,” Kathleen said after a moment. “It’s terrifying what people are capable of when left to their own devices, isn’t it? Seeing that shit on TV is one thing. Seeing it in person and knowing that the case file for it’s gonna end up on your desk before the end of the day? Terrifying.”
Holden only nodded.
Back at the station, Holden sat at his desk, wrapping up his report on the scene by the river. He read through it one last time and pushed himself to his feet. He grabbed the paper, made his way back to the copier.
“Plans for the night, Hold?” Kathleen asked.
“Just me and Shelby. I think we have to watch a romance movie or something,” Holden said.
“Here,” she said, holding out a hand. Holden handed the paper over to her. “Romance, huh? Too much sappy shit for me.”
He chuckled. “I don’t mind it. Hell of a lot better than sitting around and thinking about what that monstrous bastard did to that poor woman.”
“Fair. That’s why I’m hitting the bar tonight,” she muttered. “You go on home, Hold. I’ll get your report to LT and get your copy back in your file. Is it on your desk?”
“Yeah. You sure?”
“Thanks, Kay.” Holden squeezed her arm. “See you tomorrow.”
“See you then, Hold.”