Flash Fiction Challenge: The Dead Body
I’m a wordpress blog newbie. Please excuse the paper plates and lack of furniture. I’ve just moved in. Things will change shortly.
I’m also a terribleminds newbie. Been reading blogs and standing in the corner watching the dancers. So I thought I’d step out on to the floor and shake it. This is my first contribution to one of Chuck’s contests.
This piece is bang on 1000 words, plus the asterisk scene breaks and the title, which I hope are free. I don’t want to start by breaking the rules. Time enough for that later. I hope you enjoy it, or at least get through it. C’mon, it’s only a thousand words.
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I’m Detective Wray Zell – LAPD-Homicide, in case you’re the type of fixated asshole individual has to know everything. Whether shit-faced at The Prosaic Pig—cops’ booze-hole, networking the supermarket—”nunyerdambizness why I have 50 boxes of KD”, or sweating the kid’s PTA meetings—when the ex remembers I exist, all my stories start with a corpse. And end with a corpse-maker.
First glance, this one’s no different. But don’t look if you’re one of those weak-stomached pansies. Neighbor heard a gunshot, called the cops. When I showed, the place was already crawling with CSI white-suits. Plus one guy on the couch in a really messy suit with a gun in his hand—and his brains on the wall. The investigator shooting the stiff nodded.
“Luis. Another case of had-enough-of-this-shit, huh? See anything out of order? Robbery? Dope?”
He waved at the skeevy one-room dive. “Fuck could ya tell? Fuckin’ dump. Looks open and shut. Except for this.” He turned the dead hand palm-up. The fingertips were burnt black. Minutes ago by the juice on them.
I sniffed. “Christ, that’s what smells like fucking BBQ here. Figure he was tortured—plugged—and posed?”
“Dunno. No signs of struggle.”
True—no sign of violence, unless you consider a 6-inch hole in a guy’s head violent. If the filthy hotplate on the counter was the torture device, no way to tell human grease from rancid bacon. I nosed around, didn’t touch nothin’. I’m good at my job. But I didn’t have Clue One this time.
“Rope it off. Bag everything. I’ll check with the lab later. Tell the igors we need results yesterday. Got a creepy feeling about this one.”
Four days later I’m in the lab grinding the geeks.
“No patho on the body yet. But we have the scene DNA.” He stops.
“Waddya want, a kiss?”
“No—a confession. You roll around naked in there? You’re all we see. Everywhere.”
“Fuck I am. I didn’t even breathe in there.”
“Whatever. The scene’s junk. Now we wait for the cadaver.”
That made my day. What it didn’t make was any sense.
Life got busy—PTA, KD, little bourbon, murders, little Scotch. I stowed the case, until the CO called me in. We get along fine. Even finer the less we see of each other.
“Siddown, Wray,” he says. Wray, huh? Shit.
Soski’s there too, the lab’s head frankenstein. I figure I’m up for demotion again, over the DNA mess.
“Cap, I touched nothing. I swear.”
“I know that.”
“Leo, tell him.”
“We ran the body DNA twice—didn’t like what we found. You won’t either.” He ran his hand over his bald head. “Zell—the dead man is you.”
Shit? Go blind? Pick one. I couldn’t. Soski says DNA doesn’t lie. I say it had its fingers crossed. Fingers—yeah! Oh. Shit. No fingertips, no fingerprints.
Soski says, “You got a twin?”
“Leah—lives out Monterey way. Beautician. Why?”
“Well—that corpse is your identical twin brother or everything we know about DNA is wrong.”
“No brothers. A month of us and Ma told the old man to visit the vet or get used to doing for himself.”
Ma was in the Palms by then. Calls me ‘Leah’ when I visit—dead end there. My show debuted at Saint Anne’s, so that’s where I went. No, it’s not a fucking museum.
The chart read:
May-21-1958: Zell, Zelda.
Fuck’s with that? Either Leah has a dick or the nurse failed anatomy.
02:19:58 – post-partum hemorrhage: Dr Oswald, RN O’Connell to Room 403; RN Whitcomb attending Mrs Zell.
Whitcomb—the signature on the chart—the nurse who didn’t know a dick from a—. I tracked her down, next room to Ma’s in the Palms. Isn’t life serendipitous?
Unlike Ma, she was all there. When I said I was a cop, she started shaking. “I knew this day would come. Book me, Danno.”
A Five-O groupie. Maybe she wasn’t quite all there after all. “Ma’am?”
“Who ratted? Never mind. It’s time I came clean.”
May as well make her day—my hunch was piss-poor as Bud Light anyway. I played along, took out my notebook. Didn’t bother with a pencil. “Just the facts, ma’am.”
“We stole that baby.”
Now where was that fucking pencil?
She burst into tears. “What did it matter? Poor kid bled out right after her girl was born. She was all alone, father was some deadbeat junkie.”
I sighed, put down the pencil. One girl, one dead mother. Meant squat to me.
“But those rich people would only take a boy, not a girl. We’d just delivered identical twin boys minutes before. Mother was still doped up, hadn’t even seen them. So we swapped. Susie snuck the better-looking boy out the back way in a pillowcase, Doc faked up a stillborn death certificate, I fudged the birth record, and we were clear with the cash. The new mom had her twins—except they weren’t. Who was ever gonna know?”
I shook now. “You remember the twins’ mother’s name?”
“An odd one. Imelda Mell, Velda Labelle, something like that. Beautiful gal. I wish I could explain to her now. My nephew had cancer, needed an operation. That money saved his life.”
“Zelda Zell? May 21, 1958?” I asked.
“Good guess, son.”
“It’s my birthday.”
Never found out why my brother ended up dead in a flophouse with no fingertips. Maybe he discovered the truth, hunted me down, tried to take me with him—his last joke on a cruel world. Never even found out his name. Nobody in his building knew him. Probably for the best. RIP, bro. Damn good try.
Cap got my charges dropped—after we had a good laugh over a couple dozen high-res pics of the mayor and the DA with their pants down.
Leah never found out she was some stolen junkie’s kid. Good thing—I like her.
But Ma did get to meet Nurse Whitcomb again—calls her ‘Wray’.