Scratches

Looks can be deceiving. Even with only five years of experience so far under her belt, Casey had learned that much as a coroner. Whether you were talking about the latest person on her table or the small town she was currently stuck in, deception was possible everywhere. Lately the old saying had been playing in her head more than usual. A string of murders at the edges of the town were keeping everyone busy and especially wary.

With a decidedly unladylike grunt, Casey pulled apart the latest victim’s ribcage. “Man! Even with a thorough cut you just didn’t want to give up that fuhh…fricken,” she trailed off mumbling to herself quietly. From a safe distance her tablet was busy recording her every word so she did her best to hold off on the cursing. This town was small but it was big on the one thing Casey couldn’t stand- religion.

The Sheriff was going to want her notes on every autopsy and she didn’t need to spend time editing out her blasphemy and cursing for his sake. ‘Better to just keep my God damn fucking city mouth shut,’ she thought and grinned widely.

“With that scalpel in your hand and a weird ass smile on your face, it’s kinda hard to decide whether I should come in or not,” Casey’s part-time assistant Grace stood in the doorway, one hand on her hip the other clutching a plastic light blue coffee cup.

“Oh please tell me that’s mine,” she waved Grace in hurriedly.

“I don’t know boss, you’ve had four tonight already. Plus, didn’t you just tell me last night you’ve been feeling all jumpy and stuff?” she waved casually at the bodies on the tables behind Casey, “Like these guys have been watching you or something.”

A strange frustrated growl rolled out of the back of Casey’s throat. Stretching out far to her left and barely hitting the tablet with her pinkie, she managed to hit pause on her recording.

Straightening back up, she fixed her assistant with a hard stare, “Don’t be ridiculous Grace. All I said was that it felt like I had eyes on the back of my head, like someone was staring at me. It’s just nerves, pressure from the Sheriff. I just need to help solve these murders before the whole damn town crawls down my throat with questions.”

Grace planted the cup down on the autopsy table hard. Faint splashes of coffee flew out to land on her hands, “Whatever. I finished writing up the report for the first two victims. The papers are on your desk. I’m going home princess paranoia. See you tomorrow.”

Turning on her heel, she walked swiftly back towards the front offices. Casey immediately felt more than awful for snapping at Grace like that but now was not the time for discussing things like being watched. Not when she still had so much work to do and definitely not when there was a killer on the loose.

She sighed and reached over once more to tap her recording back on, “Victim’s multiple lacerations to the chest extend down through the ribcage into much of the chest cavity…”

A crash and a loud wet slapping sound jerked Casey awake. Wiping at the drool on her cheek with the back of her hand she jumped to her feet. All at once her chair bounced backwards, the papers on her desk scattered to the ground and her office door swung open and shut in quick succession.

Casey’s mind struggled to grab hold of the situation through a fog of sleep. Had she done all that? Well perhaps the papers and her chair yes, but the door? No, couldn’t have been her.

“Hello?” she called tentatively through the open door to the lab beyond, “Grace? Sheriff Morrison?”

Nothing moved. Nothing responded to her questions. Slowly her heart rate subsided and she leaned forward on her desk chuckling slightly. She reached for her desk phone but found she couldn’t see it. Or anything else for that matter. “What the?” her heartbeat began to race once more.

The lights had gone out. Her hands fumbled across her desk, searching desperately for her cell phone, anything with a light. “I love the Piet Mondrian piece you have there behind your desk,” a woman’s voice floated out from the darkness, “The Red Tree I think it’s called.”

“Who is that?” Casey asked, her voice barely above a whisper. Her heart was pounding in her ears. Adrenaline was beginning to fly through her veins like liquid fire.

“Oh you know who I am sweet baby Casey. Poor orphan confused angry Casey. I remember the day I sent my hounds to drag your lovely momma down. That little defiant hard set expression you wore,” the voice drifted closer as she spoke.

Clawing In Illustration by Anthony Marchionda

Clawing In
Illustration by Anthony Marchionda

A faint outline of a face hovered in the darkness just beyond Casey’s desk. She shrank backwards slightly, images from her childhood flickering in the back of her mind. The sound of breaking glass and wood splintering under invisible claws echoed inside her head. “The dogs, those big mean snarling dogs,” she murmured, her hand moving to the scar on her upper right arm.

“Yes. I’m sorry about the scratches. My pooches aren’t known for their tact,” Casey could see a mouth moving on the woman’s face a little more clearly now as her eyes adjusted.

Long dark hair, big eyes, a sly and seemingly gentle smile- this was the woman who had appeared all those years ago in her living room. This was the woman who had come calling for her mother’s soul. The woman she had so desperately wanted to kill with her tiny little girl hands.

“You had such spunk then,” continued the woman, “Is there any left in you now? I could use your help…”

—————————————————————————————————————————–

So this started out as a post for the Speak Easy writing prompt of the week but it kind of got away from me and became a bit longer than it’s allowed to be for the contest. I decided to roll with it and let the short story take me for a ride so to speak. It became more fun to play with this than cut it down to the 750 word limit. There are actually some parts I did cut which I will try to remember and write back in at a later time.

Still, it was fun and that’s what counts!

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