Mystery in Mayhem

Submitted into Contest #158 in response to: Write a story where the law plays an important role.... view prompt


Crime Mystery Thriller

This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

           It was another dismal day in the City of Mayhem, where criminals outnumbered law enforcement three-to-one.

           The dark, grey clouds hovered over the city like a blanket. Thunder rumbled so loudly, that it rattled the windows of the 1986 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme that was parked in the shadows on Porter Street. Shards of metal fell from the rusted-out fenders as the door swung open.

           Out of the shadows walked a tall figure in a dark overcoat, a fedora pulled tightly upon his head as he sought protection from the heavy droplets of rain that began to fall as he made his down the street. The shadowy figure approached a man perched up against a steel lamp post and asked him for a cigarette. The man obliged then flicked his lighter as the bright flame lit up the face of the darkened figure.

           He was in his early forties with a muscular build. His strong, square jaw was covered in thick, grey stubble. The ashes lit up like a cherry as the man sucked back on the cigarette. He exhaled and watched as the rain pierced the cloud of smoke.

           “Thanks for the smoke, Louie,” the stranger said.

           “Don’t mention it, Frank,” the man replied.

           Frank Greco and Louie Esposito were both detectives for the Mayhem Police Department, and they were working on a case that had the department baffled.

           For three weeks, the two detectives were trying to track down a suspect in several homicides within the city, but there was little to go on. The forensics team had no luck recovering any fingerprints, hair samples, footprints, or anything else that could help to identify the perpetrator. The killer had covered his or her tracks well. The only common denominator was at each crime scene, a letter ‘D’ was left nearby the victim.

           After running background checks on each victim, they could find no connection between them. There were both women and men of various ages and differing appearances. There was no connection in their employment history, nor was there a connection between their families other than the children of two victims attended the same elementary school.

           “Did you get anywhere with the wife of the latest victim, Louie?” Frank asked.

           “Nah, she said her husband called her when he was leaving work around 3:00 pm and said he was going to stop past the supermarket for some milk on the way home, but that was the last she heard from him. We checked the parking lot at the supermarket, but his car was not there. We tried to get security footage from the store’s cameras, but there were only cameras on the entrances, not the lot, so we are at a dead end.”

           “So, maybe it happened some other place, or the perp was aware of the location of the security cameras,” Frank suggested.

           “Well, I just hope we catch this homicidal maniac before another body shows up.”

           The two men parted ways and went in search of more leads. Louie was certain that this criminal was going to slip up eventually, so he needed to be diligent with every piece of evidence they collected, which wasn’t much at this point.

           Louie headed back to the locations of all four crime scenes from the last three weeks, hoping to find something that was overlooked. The first victim was found in the stairwell of an abandoned apartment building on thirty-second street on the south side. The victim’s name was Howard Williams, a professor of modern sciences at Mayhem University. He was thirty-eight years old, approximately six-feet tall, was slightly overweight, and had dark hair with hints of grey showing through.

           Professor Williams had been found with his throat sliced. Much of the blood had been drained before his corpse was placed in the stairwell, but on the wall above him was a letter ‘D’ written in blood. The body was discovered by a homeless woman seeking shelter for the night. She ran down the street until she spotted a beat cop walking down the sidewalk. In a panicked voice, she ranted on in hysterics. The police officer assumed she was just another looney that was strung out on crack or meth, and he was ready to have her picked up and sent back to the station to detox for the night, when he heard her say the words, “dead body.” From that point, he listened more intently and followed her back to the abandoned building.

           The second victim, a computer programmer at a small business downtown, was discovered on a popular hiking trail on the outskirts of town. They assumed the body had been brought there sometime between midnight and 3:00 am when the trails are normally empty. A hiker spotted a pair of feet sticking out of a creek that ran through the trail and called the police. Her name was Nadia Petrovitch, a twenty-six-year-old, blonde-haired semi-attractive woman who was in the process of emigrating from her home country of Serbia. The ‘D’ near her body, was discovered carved into a tree next to the creek. Her body had been weighted down with heavy rocks to hold her under the water. It was determined by the coroner that drowning was the cause of death.

           The third victim was a teenage girl, Brooke Casey, a senior at Mayhem High School. She worked part-time at a shoe store in the mall as a salesperson. Her body was found hanging in a noose from a tree just three blocks from where she went to school. It was close to Halloween, and some teens who discovered the body thought it was an elaborate decoration someone had set up to scare the little Trick-or-Treaters, but when they got closer, one of them recognized her as a student at his school and called the police. According to the coroner, her neck had been broken prior to being hanged. The letter ‘D’ was burned into her cheek, possibly with a soldering iron or heated up rod.

           That brought them to victim number four, Paul Foster, a pharmacist at the local clinic pharmacy. He was last seen leaving the clinic just after 3:00 pm and his body was discovered later that night in a dumpster behind a nightclub. The coroner’s report suggested that he had been bludgeoned to death by something solid and curved, possibly a baseball bat or something of similar shape. The letter ‘D’ was carved into the victim’s abdomen with a serrated blade.

           Louie reread his notes from the original investigation of each crime scene and added a few sidenotes of questions he still had. He decided to call up his partner, Frank and see if he was getting anywhere with his investigation.

           According to Frank, he still couldn’t find a connection between the cases except for the mysterious ‘D’ but said he would keep searching. Their shift was ending, so they said goodnight and headed back to their homes. Louie was a block away from his house when he spotted Frank’s Oldsmobile turning the corner a block ahead. He thought it was strange that Frank would be heading in the direction he was, because his house was the opposite way, so Louie decided to follow him in case he was following up on a lead and needed some back-up.

           Frank’s car pulled off a sideroad just outside the city limits. All that was down that road was the entrance to an old quarry that hadn’t been used in years. Louie stayed back a safe distance and turned off his headlights so Frank would not see him approaching. If he was meeting an informant, he did not want to spook them and scare them off before Frank could find out his information.

           Pulling off to the side of the dirt road, Louie watched as Frank exited his car. The headlights were aimed toward the quarry, and he spotted Frank circle around the front of the car to the passenger side. He opened the rear door and took out a “bunny suit,” the HAZMAT-type suits worn by the forensics team. He slipped the suit over his clothes, pulled on surgical booties over his shoes, and thick rubber gloves.

           Louie then watched as Frank walked to the rear of his car and popped the trunk. He then watched in horror as he witnessed his partner remove a large object wrapped in plastic from the trunk and throw it over his shoulder. Frank then carried the object to the edge of the quarry and threw it over. Louie immediately called for back-up on his cellular phone so Frank wouldn’t hear anything over the police radio.

           Frank then removed the protective clothing and tossed them into the trunk of his car. Louie did not want to be spotted, so he quietly spun his car around and headed back up the dirt road. He spotted a short laneway off to the left and pulled in, waiting for Frank’s car to pass. Minutes later, he heard gravel crunching beneath a car’s tires, and prayed he wasn’t discovered.

           Seconds after Frank’s car passed, Louie heard sirens and was elated to see the flashing lights of a police cruiser. Louie backed the car out of the laneway and drove up behind Frank’s car. He could hear Frank trying to convince the officer that he was just there investigating a lead that was given to him about a case, but he was taken aback when he heard Louie’s voice nearing from behind.

           “What are you doing out here, Frank?” Louie asked.

           “Louie, I didn’t see you pull up. I was just telling the corporal here, that I was following a lead on the serial killer case. You can vouch for me, right?”

           “You got a lead, Frank? That’s funny. When I called you just a little while ago, you said you didn’t have anything new to report. Where did this lead come from?”

           “Yeah, that’s right. The call came in after I got off the phone with you. I didn’t want to bother you in case it turned out to be nothing.”

           “I see, well, why don’t we go check it out together then, Frank? I mean, since we are already here, we can head back and see if we can locate this evidence.”

           “I took a quick look already and didn’t see anything, but maybe we can come back when it is light and check it out. What do you say, Louie?”

           “Nonsense! We have flashlights. It doesn’t hurt to have another look. If we wait, our evidence could be lost. This could be the break we were looking for!” Louie exclaimed.

           Reluctantly, Frank got back in his car, and the two detectives along with the police corporal drove back toward the edge of the quarry. Louie grabbed the flashlight from his trunk and asked Frank to get his flashlight from the trunk of his car. Frank tried to convince his partner that the batteries were dead in his flashlight, and he had forgotten to replace them. The police officer grabbed his flashlight, and the three men walked toward the edge of the quarry where Louie witnessed Frank throwing something over earlier. Frank stood back away from the edge as the other two shone their lights toward the quarry floor.

           The light reflected off something about eight feet from the quarry wall. Louie asked the officer to call in back-up for a possible victim. Frank nervously backed away toward his vehicle. Louie spotted him and called him over.

           “Hey Frank, your informant might have had valuable information. I think we found victim number five. Look and tell me what you see.”

           Frank hesitantly took the flashlight from his partner and aimed it down into the quarry, purposely avoiding the corpse below. Louie guided his hand, so the light shone directly on the plastic-wrapped corpse.

           Minutes later, several police vehicles arrived, and they all followed the makeshift roadway that spiraled down to the base of the quarry. After they reached the corpse, the forensics team took over taking pictures and measuring the distance from the quarry wall to determine the trajectory of the body on its descent to the quarry floor.

           As they rolled the plastic-covered corpse over, they discovered a large ‘D’ spray painted on the plastic and knew that they had their fifth victim of the Mayhem Murderer, as the media was calling him.

           The scene was carefully catalogued, and the body was brought to the coroner’s office for examination. Frank sat in his vehicle pretending to do paperwork, but he was just trying to avoid speaking with anyone. Meanwhile, he saw Louie discussing the case with their captain. He grew anxious as the captain continuously glanced in his direction. Louie walked back toward the crime scene as the captain went and spoke with two officers that were standing by. Frank breathed a sigh of relief but was startled seconds later as his passenger door swung open, and Louie climbed inside.

           “So, what do you think, Frank? Do you think we might catch the perp this time? Forensics estimate that the body has only been dead for a maximum of four hours. They are trying to run the ID on the victim now.”

           Frank stared at his partner and had little to say in response when he heard a tap on the driver’s side window. The two officers stood next to Frank’s car and asked him to step out of the vehicle. Frank tried to put up a fuss and at first, and refused, but when his captain walked up behind them, he knew there was no other choice.

           The captain asked Frank to open the trunk of his car, but once again, he argued that they had no right to order him to open it. The captain told Frank that either he opened the trunk, or he would have it impounded until they obtained a search warrant. Frank stalled as long as he possibly could, then turned the key and popped the trunk.

           Louie and the captain shone their flashlights inside the trunk finding the bunny suit, gloves, a partial roll of plastic matching what was wrapped around the victim, and traces of blood splatter. The captain ordered the officers to take Frank into custody and book him as a suspect in the murders of the five victims.

           When the coroner’s report came back the following day, it was determined that the victim, identified as Lori Swan, a bank teller at First National, died after being forced to swallow small shards of glass that tore apart her digestive tract and caused her to hemorrhage internally. He claimed that it would have been a slow and painful death, and she may have still been alive when she was thrown from the cliff.

           After gathering the evidence from Frank’s vehicle, they were able to charge him with the murders of all five victims. If Louie had not accidentally spotted his car that night, the killing spree may have continued. Louie received a commendation for his part in solving the case while Frank was sent to prison with five consecutive life sentences.

           When asked about the mysterious ‘D’ that was found with each victim, Frank replied that it meant “Detective.” He assumed that everyone would think it was the initial of the killer and he left it as his signature.

           It came out in Frank’s testimony, that he found each of his victims at the supermarket where he knew there were no cameras. After knocking out the victims with Chloroform, he would throw them into the trunk of his car. If they had a vehicle at the store, he would make a call to a low life he knew nicknamed, “Chopper” who ran a chop shop. Frank would let them know about vehicles they could grab, and in turn, they would give him tips about some of his cases.

           Mayhem’s streets may never be safe, but with Detective Louie Esposito on the job, they stood a fighting chance

August 06, 2022 03:09

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Bonnie Clarkson
23:27 Sep 26, 2022

Good story. Plenty of action. Good imagery like "Shards of metal fell from the rusted-out fenders". You're not that bad at dialogue. I suggest you use more. There are some easy fixes. Instead of "was parked", just "parked". I suggest going through the whole piece looking for "was"s. You used "connection" three times in one paragraph. The paragraph that starts with "nah" is 2 1/2 lines long: split it. Personally, I think you could drop "so we are at a dead end." You've already said there are no connections or leads. "went to his car", or di...


Greg Gillis
19:56 Oct 01, 2022

I appreciate all of the suggestions you have given me in this, and my other stories. I find that I am rushing through the editing process, and perhaps I should be more diligent with future projects. I have yet to determine which genre I enjoy writing most, but I do enjoy experimenting with each and getting the opinions of others. That is how we grow as writers, am I right?


Bonnie Clarkson
00:49 Oct 02, 2022

Since you are experimenting with genres, I would like to suggest you try rewriting the story for children, probably 8-12 years old. Of course you would have to change the victims, forsenic team, and cigarettes. The mysterious figure at the beginning of the story -- with fedora and long overcoat -- reminded me of old (like 1940's-1950's) movies. For children it wouldn't matter because they probably haven't watched them. I would suggest making a detailed outline of the story to decide what you will keep and what you will change. Maybe offerin...


Greg Gillis
20:11 Oct 02, 2022

That's interesting. I considered doing a children's book one day, but thought the process would be more complicated. I will gladly read your stories. My schedule has been rather hectic lately, so reading has been set on the back burner. I promise to read yours though.


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Gregg Voss
23:12 Aug 17, 2022

I realize this is a serious story, but I couldn't help think of Mr. Mayhem, the guy from the Allstate commercials. :-) Pro tip: My personal editor has hammered me time and again for starting sentences with the word "It". Maybe that is something to consider. Keep writing!


Greg Gillis
00:45 Aug 24, 2022

Haha! I have Mr. Mayhem in my mind now. Thank you for the suggestion. I appreciate the constructive criticism.


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Tod Moran
22:20 Aug 17, 2022

This is not well written. There are serious lapses in diction. The opening sentence is para. 3 is 40 words long and is missing "way." How is one "perched" against a lamp post. And does it matter if it is steel? The character is not a stranger, they know each other. Errors like that take me out of the story.


Greg Gillis
00:47 Aug 24, 2022

Thank you for your critique. I will certainly try to watch for future errors like that.


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The Jazz King
17:26 Aug 14, 2022

Very neo noir. Loved it.


Greg Gillis
00:48 Aug 24, 2022

Thank you very much.


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