The Detective and the Mortician
Detective Tony Munroe came into the room like a tornado ripping through a small and isolated town. His prey wheeled around in shock and Tony confronted the mortician, the latest evidence at the forefront of his mind. The newspaper in his hand was held aloft like a ticking time bomb and he poked his finger repeatedly onto the picture that accompanied the article as if he was personally punishing it for being in existence. With a rough and growling voice, he demanded to know what the now cowering man thought of it.
The mortician looked down over the Detective’s shoulder to the headline that ran ‘Pall Bearer’s third victim identified’ and his heart sank. Then the picture caught his eye and he reeled visibly. The last time Russell had seen that face it had been blue with decay and red with dried blood. The moment he opened that box was etched onto his consciousness in a way nobody should have to live with. The first time he had received a box it had been a hand, then a foot and, he had to be honest, when the third time it had been a severed head, he had hoped that all of the parts had belonged to the same person. But he had been wrong, so wrong. The Detective had informed him that all three were from different bodies and now even the papers were dubbing the killer ‘The Pall Bearer’ because he was leaving the body parts at his funeral parlour.
He studied the Detective’s face as he continued to rant. This was not good, not good at all.
He was certain of it now. The man thought he had done it, or at the very least was somehow connected to who had. This was great, just great. He rolled his eyes because in some strange way he found it wryly amusing. As if it wasn’t bad enough that the maniac was sending them to his mortuary, without the police thinking it was him. He pulled himself up sharply. He must be losing it; nothing about this situation was funny. He knew how Richard felt now but luckily for Richard, he was out with Fred at the moment, supposedly sorting out things for the Lester funeral and Russell suspected the cop would be in a hurry to get back to the station once he’d seen the box and would be long gone well before they got back.
He spied the brand new box from the corner of his eye and for a moment, seriously considered not drawing the Detective’s attention to it. After all, in the mood he appeared to be in, he might just decide to go ahead and arrest him anyway. But his conscience got the better of him and he turned away from the still ranting Detective to go and retrieve the brightly wrapped parcel that had been waiting for him when he arrived this morning.
“There’s been another one,” he said slowly as he retrieved it from its place upon the counter, “I haven’t opened it this time. I thought you might want the honours.”
Only then did the irate Detective close his mouth and take the parcel from him. His prime suspect looked decidedly calm.
Tony looked down at the box and ran his fingers across the ribbon that led to the bow. He knew it would not contain fingerprints. None of the others had. He also knew that even though the outside screamed present, the contents could not have been more opposite. This time the killer had used wrapping paper that was blue and the smiling cartoon penguin that made up the pattern somehow looked sinister even to his experienced eye. The penguin knew what or, more appropriately who, was in the box. The silver bow glistened under the light and Tony gently eased the label out from under it. The penguin smiled benignly at him and he swiftly turned it over, intrigued as to what the killer had to say this time, but he wasn’t going to do it here, not in front of him.
“Have you read it?” he asked watching for any signs that could give away his guilt, like sweating, altered speech, anything.
“Not this time, no. I thought you should see it and I didn’t want to touch it any more than I had to.”
He still looked calm enough, Tony thought, and he certainly wasn’t sweating, which for such a large man was surprising, especially in this heat.
Don’t you ever open up the windows in this place?” Tony questioned, amazed that anyone would want to feel so oppressed.
“No. I take security very seriously.” Russell drawled as he eyed the box in the detective’s hands.
Tony raised his eyebrows. Secure, right. Because someone leaving boxes like that on his doorstep would really make him feel safe.
“I need to take this back to the station, but don’t think we are done here.”
No, they weren’t done and both of them knew it.