Lana grunted and rolled over, reaching blindly for her phone. Her hand connected with an alarm clock; her eyes opened to the red-hot glare of 4:33. With another buzz she pulled the phone to her ear.
“DISPATCH: Reported double homicide. Two females, 6456 Braunt Drive, Homicide reported at 0400. Detective Medina, Juan–” A voice said in automated Spanish.
The voice rolled over to an autopilot part of Lana’s mind that collected information, organized and assembled. She slipped on a APD Homicide sweatshirt over the simple cotton tank that she wore. She had fallen asleep with yesterday’s cargo pants on her slim waist and awakened with the dregs of yesterday’s caffeine in her mouth.
She crushed her feet in combat boots, feeling her head throb behind sleep deprived eyes. She grabbed her gun, holster, and body vest and slipped out of her one room apartment overlooking a city she fought to protect, leaving behind a trail of Spanish slur.
The sun shyly peeked out from a curtain of trees on the far side of the park. The sky blushed pink, prescribing warm weather. Flowers lined cobblestone walkways that streaked through the park, beginning at the vertices of the octagon at the center. The grass was dewy with morning; the air tasted as salty as the Pacific Ocean but was void of the smoke and sweat smell of the city.
Lana remembered coming to the park as a child, enjoying its quiet. It had once been a pretty haven of foliage in the midst of a city. Quiet and beautiful. Now, trash littered the park where tourists had thrown fast food, where dogs had relieved themselves, and where two naked, dead bodies now laid contorted at Lana’s feet, bruised and battered.
She hated how police lights and sirens infested the area; it stained the park with roughness and grit from the city. It was more hated than the blood of the two victims which seeped into the earth.
She looked down into the face of two faceless women. They were unremarkable in appearance, just two teenagers who had not been lucky as they stumbled drunkenly back to where they were supposed to be. Tourists, Lana though. They were both too much: too tanned, too bleached, and too skinny. Their clothes–once skimpy dresses draped over skimpier bikini’s–was strewn away from them, ripped and bloody. They were distinguishable by one of the girls birth-mark under her right arm. She had a broken bottle in her hand, where Lana was sure skin particles lied. She mentally noted to tag the coroner on that. The other girl’s fingertips smudged with dirt from digging in the ground.
Lana crouched down beside both girls, seeing hand imprints along their wrists. They had been held down. Bruised on their stomachs, faces matched fists. She deduced at least 2 different men, from the foot prints. Her eyes zeroed in on their crotches, which smelled terribly of fear released and smoke. They had both been burned. It had been a small fire, not spreading past this area. Maybe a cigarette lighter?
The grass around was not burned, not even a little bit. Her eyes trailed upward and saw a purple hand grip on the back of the birth-marked girl. They were lifted up. She envisioned the girl being held with her feet in the air. It would take three. Two to hold the body, and another two light. She tried to orchestrate it another way in her head, but her conclusion remained the same. The burn was too precise to be done with one person.
Lana shifted, sensing the arrival of her partner.
“Vargas.” He moved to stand beside her.
She moved from her crouch, brushing at grass stains on her pants.
“Two women found around 0400. Anonymous tip reported from a payphone,” the footage from the street camera would have to be checked, “Bruises around the crotch and noted vaginal tearing indicate rape on both females. Thick lacerations on the wrist suggest they were held down by a man. Burned flesh in said area suggest at least two men. Possibility of DNA evidence.”
“Why not one?” His voice was gruff with sleep.
He only nodded and they crouched together. She pointed to the inner thigh of the birth-marked girl. “There is no spread of the fire. Small, maybe a cigarette lighter.”
“Or a match.”
“But they would have to contain it. The fire would have spread. Look at the grass under her.”
He rubbed shadow on his chin.
“And green. There is no evidence of fire. She was lifted. On her head. Look how it is contorted.” She moved her hand to the head, taking the gloves he gave her.
They both stretched to look at the head of the birth-marked girl. She pointed to the bend of the backwards head and then moved to the other girl.
“One held, while the other burned. Getting rid of evidence. Both raped, ” Medina brushed his hand along the birth-marked girls hair, ” not dragged. No marks. Two men, evidence of different shoe sizes in the grass. One subdued while other burned. Three men? –no, not enough evidence. Some head trauma on one, likely unconscious. Both wallets are missing. Neither have Identification or passports. Tourists.”
Lana had once been annoyed by his detail-less statements, even once complained to him about it after he had plucked her from a sea of officers to be his partner. But now, as their partnership had gained tenure, she’d come to understand, eve appreciate his simplicity. It helped her arrange her thoughts. She now caught herself echoing his terse statements. She supposed the old saying was true: once you were in a relationship, you started sounding like the other partner.
Lana lifted from her crouch once again, listening but not hearing Medina’s muttering, her brain storing it, as the coroner approached.
“Detective Vargas, Detective Medina.” Chief Coroner Romain Greene held his hand to them, then thought better of it when he noted their gloves.
“What have we here?”
“Double homicide. Rape on both counts, burns in the vaginal region, laceration on the wrist. Bound with hands. We believe two men. Head contortion suggest the females were lifted and then burned. One was hit hard in the head–see the head trauma there–so the other could be burned. Her neck was slit. ” Lana recounted. Her eyes trailed scar along the birth-marked females neck.
He tsked as he crouched next to Medina.
“Too sad.” He said binding his dreads behind him, slipping on gloves.
Dylana Vargas Perez looked up at the sun that was just starting to wake the day, she heard tourist eager and ready, she felt a gentle ocean breeze ruffle her hair. It was still too early.
I need coffee.