Prologue

A swinging light above me shines across the center of the room. I slowly lift my head up, trying to free my hands from behind me. It's no use, I'm bound to this wooden chair. From the shadows, just outside the range of the light, walks in a man with a black trench coat and aviator sunglasses. He removes his hands from behind his back and reveals a small wooden club, which he taps in his hand.

"Why do you insist on following us, Mr. Redel? Don't you realize this is too much for you to handle?" he asks with a dark voice.

I laugh at the irony, "I'm the one who usually does the interrogating…"

He waits for a moment, and then chuckles to himself, "That may be, but what about the torturing?"


Chapter 1: The Unlucky Victim

The steaming cup of coffee in my hand warms me as I walk through the drizzle in the dark morning. The streetlights are still on, and the police cars that pass by flicker their headlights. I tug up the collar on my black jacket and pull the brim of my hat down low as I cross the street. My black boots splash in the puddles on the pavement as I walk.

The sky is a dull-grey over the city, with no signs of a morning sun or a falling moon. The skyscrapers and buildings are mostly dark, with the exception of a few yellow window lights. Neon signs illuminate store windows and bar entrances along the walkway. A strong breeze rolls through, seeping through my jacket, blowing the rain sideways into my face, and threatening to knock my hat off.

My partner Ashley, runs up alongside me with her hood pulled up and her arms tucked inside her jacket. Her brown hair is dark with rainwater, and her sea-green eyes look depressed with the weather. She's a bit shorter than me, even with her brown leather boots on she only comes up to my chin. She's dressed in all black attire with an oversized jacket.

"You could've just stayed in the car," I suggested, offering her some of my coffee.

She takes the cup and sips it happily, "Oh no, and miss you solve another case?"

I smirk at the comment, wondering if she truly believes I'm as good as they say. We stop at a four way intersection, looking to see if any cars are around. It's pointless, because the law here basically prohibits night travel, but I've been a cop too long to not be careful.

"Why did we park so far away?" Ashley complains once we've crossed the intersection. I can finally see the police lights flashing down the road about 100 yards away at the base of an old apartment building with brown bricks and broken windows. The foundation is cracked, and it looks to be ancient. Three police cars are blocking the road in front of it, with one officer wearing a neon-green vest awaiting the morning rush. Yellow caution tape is strung around the perimeter of the building, preventing anybody access inside. Ashley and I walk right past, waving to the traffic officer and ducking the tape.

We walk up a small set of stairs to the front door, pulling it open and revealing a dark hallway inside. It's gloomy, with broken tiled flooring and holes in the ceiling. The hallway is lined with numbered doors, and at the end is a staircase leading to the next level. To the right, as soon as you enter, is the old front desk where people would get their keys and such. I almost have a heart-attack as somebody pops up from behind the desk with a yell. Ashley jumps backwards shrieking and grabs my arm for support, slamming us both into the back wall. She fumbles the coffee cup, and I snag it before it falls to the ground.

"Welcome to the slums! How may I help you?" Alex asks, another police officer whom I've done many cases with. I relax a little once I recognize his face with his dark-brown hair matching his eyes. I always tell him to get a haircut, because when he wears a hat it turns into a mop.

Ashley releases my arm, "Damn it, Alex!" she retaliates while trying to stifle her smile.

I remove my hat and shake off the excess water, doing the same with my coat, "We need a room."

Alex chuckles, "Oh, how nice! Newlyweds?"

Ashley reaches across the front desk and smacks his hat off, "Where to, smart-ass?"

He picks up his hat and re-adjusts it on his head, "Floor 3, room 49. Follow me."

The rain seems to be picking up outside, with the sky still darkened. Raindrops rattle against the building and windows, eating away at the silence. We follow Alex down the long, grey hallway and up the steps to the third level with our footsteps echoing the whole way. It's identical to the first and second floor, with little more than a few wooden benches outside the doors. Some of the numbers on the doors have since fallen off, leaving a brighter colored brown on the door where they once were. Alex opens a room on the right side of the hallway near the end and walks in. The place smells fowl, with the scent of decomposition. It's easy to see why, when we come across the mangled body of man sprawled out in the center of the empty area. He lies in a puddle of dried blood, with long, unkempt black hair.

We aren't the first ones inside, and we're greeted by two other detectives…my rivals.

Frank Dasani, the guy who went to school with me and signed up together. We used to be good friends, working as partners, until I came through on a big case that he didn't. Since then, he's resented me and always tried to out-do me. He also has brown eyes, much darker than Alex's. His hair is short and black, neatly cut. He looks like a tough guy, with broad shoulders and a strong jaw, and he pretends to be.

His partner on the other hand is a good looking blonde by the name of Jenny Malkin, who, like Frank and I, competes with Ashley. Although it's uncertain whether or not she actually went to any type of law-school, she still has a job. It must be her looks that landed the job, with her curly blonde locks and piercing blue eyes. At least, that's what most people see. I, on the other hand, notice how well she works. She knows more than you'd think, but Frank has her on a leash and doesn't let her do much of the actual detective work.

Frank grins at me, "Sleep in this morning, did ya' Josh?"

"Well, chief said this wasn't too important, so I could sleep in if I'd like," I say nonchalantly, hiding my smile by drinking my coffee. Frank narrowed his eyes and glanced to Jenny who had nothing to contribute. They continued their work, snapping pictures and setting up evidence markers.

"Tell us what happened," I instruct Alex.

He walked over to the body and knelt down, pointing to the man's chest. "There's a series of cuts on his front, all vertical," he said. It was hard to tell with the man's shirt on because it was stained and soaked through with so much blood the cuts were invisible.

"What about a weapon, did we find one?" I ask, kneeling down beside him.

Frank shakes his head, "Nope, but the window is broken."

I follow his gaze to an open window on the back wall. A pair of white curtains flap around in the wind and raindrops hit the hard wood flooring inside. I slowly stride over to it, chugging the rest of my coffee and crinkling the cup up. The glass around the windowsill is shattered into tiny shards, with bits and pieces crunching under my boots while I peer outside to the street below. It's still dull out there, but the traffic has begun and the police now have their hands full with onlookers. I poke my head out the window and look straight down, seeing shards of glass sparkling on the ground from the police lights spinning around. Once I've had enough of the rain soaking my hair, I return to the others.

"Looks like something was either thrown out the window or they broke it from inside," I observe. "The majority of the glass is outside on the ground, propelled by something in here."

Ashley walks over and peeks outside to see what I was talking about, followed by Alex. The other detectives just grunt, like it's nothing special. I stand by them, invading on their space and annoying Frank so much he can barely contain it. He knows as well as I do that this is a case I'll finish way before he even gets started.

"Any drugs on him?" I ask Jenny suddenly. Frank stops snapping pictures and glares past me to her.

My question seems to startle her, and she stares at Frank as she answers, "N-none that I found…"

I nod, "Well, once we get the autopsy report we'll know if he was on anything."

"What do you think happened?" Ashley asks from behind me, preventing an awkward silence.

I study the body for a moment, trying to see what the victim saw before his death. There are so many questions you have to ask, how'd they get here? Why were they here? When did they get here? Who was with them? What killed him?

Already it seemed as if we we're lost, because you don't just die from slash marks alone. I mean, yes it's likely you could die from cuts as deep as these, but not before you reach help. Although, if you were under the influence of drugs, that could be a road-block. But if you weren't, and you were capable of movement, you could make it to a hospital in time. Even the position he's in doesn't make sense, with his arms and legs spread out and his head turned away. If you were dying from cuts, you would hold them closed and curl into a fetal position.

"The blood is all pooled underneath him, so it doesn't look to me like there was much of a struggle," Ashley points out. She's right, he was killed right here and never moved. It's easy to tell he wasn't just dumped here either, by the amount of blood present. I'm surprised it hasn't seeped through the floor yet.

I find myself looking back at the window. "What role does that window play in this? An escape route?"

Frank sighed, "I doubt it, that's a three story drop with no soft landing spot."

I rub my chin, now not wondering how he died, but who killed him. It was obvious to me this was no suicide, for if it was he would've been the one outside the window. To me, this looks almost like a hit and run that you'd see on the streets. Why did the killer flee with such a dangerous route? Couldn't he just run down the staircase and out the front door? It must not be an escape route…maybe it was already broken.

"We have pictures, let's search him," I order.

We check him in and out, fumbling through his clothing and checking his pockets. Eventually, we come up with a wallet, stashed in the back pocket of his jeans. I flip it open, finding a driver's license inside with a couple of bucks and a business card tucked away.

"His name is Jean Winehart," I tell the others. I pass the license along to Ashley and retrieve the business card. It's from a warehouse downtown called Atlas, which supplies construction material like lumber and drywall to other companies.

Alex snatches the card, "So, we got a name and his workplace, let's see what we can find out about Mr. Winehart…"


Thanks for reading!

Chapter 2 coming soon!

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