The smell of death surrounded them. Seeping through every cracked pane of glass and rotting corridor it threatened to overwhelm the two men stood at, what would have been, the entrance to the derelict hospital.
“Fucking hell,” Detective Lieutenant Stiles Stillinski said with a croak. “I take it it’s a bad one.”
The man stood next to Stiles nodded but didn’t answer. Wearing a pale, sickly, expression Stiles sensed Detective Lahey was more than ready to throw up.
“Dude, if you’re gonna do it, do it over there so not to contaminate the crime scene,” Stiles said indicating a spot near the edge of forest that looked out of the way of the crime scene guys and the beginnings of a fingertip search of the hospital grounds.
Isaac looked over to where Stiles was pointing then shook his head. “I’ve got to get used to it," he replied quietly. As a new member of homicide, Isaac was right, but even with all Stiles' experience he could admit that this one smelt pretty horrific.
“Some kids found the body in the operating theater lay on one of the gurneys according to initial reports."
“Reports say it’s a fucking mess.”
Isaac paused before answering. “Do they think that’s the kill site?”
Stiles shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know. When I got the call the message was a body had been found at the Asylum and it looked right up my alley.” Stiles replied remembering the call from his Dad earlier that evening. His reputation for dealing with the strange and macabre was apparently threatening to precede him - the more gruesome the better – even when his Dad was the reporting Officer.
In fact, it was even more so when his dad was involved.
In fact come to think of it where was the old guy? Stiles was fairly sure he'd heard his voice when he'd arrived on scene.
“You okay to go in?” he said quickly scanning the area for a pale coloured uniform and finding nothing.
Isaac nodded sharply. The anxiety was rolling off him in waves and Stiles placed a hand on his shoulder.
“I know you are dude. You got any Vick’s Vapour on you though? If not I always carry some – hazard of the job and all that.” Without waiting for an answer Stiles reached inside his jacket pulling out a small green tub handing it to Isaac. “Here, rub this shit under your nose. It blocks out the worst of it.”
When the two of them where fully suited up – the crime scene technicians insisted they should wear blue shoe covers, masks and gloves – Stiles and Isaac finally stepped through the front door of the building and began carefully following the line of officers who stood stoically at intervals holding torches to light the way.
Taking their time, rubble crunched under their feet as they walked deeper into the hospital. Jesus what had happened to this place? When he had been younger the building had still been intact and water tight, now it was a mess.
“The theater is in the middle of the building,” Stiles suddenly announced louder than was necessary.
“Okay. If we get lost we can just follow the smell eh?”
Stiles sighed into the paper mask and didn’t reply. He wasn’t sure he was ready to admit to his new partner that he knew the Beacon Hills Asylum later to be known as the Beacon Hills Psychiatric Hospital like the back of his hand, but knew he would need to at some point. Every twist and turn they took was as familiar to him as those in his own apartment. He knew the windowless theaters – if you could them that, because whatever had gone on in those rooms definitely didn’t involve a patients tonsil’s being removed – were located in the centre with other treatment rooms, whilst the wards all jutted out at angles, so from above, the building looked like a simple cross.
Even so the place still felt like rabbit warren. “This place should have been bulldozed years ago,” he said dodging another pile of plaster rubble. Stiles stared at the random bush that had taken root on the top of it, evidence enough the place was damp and festering.
“You know it well?”
Stiles sighed at the question. "I grew up here. Well not in here, because that would have been fucking terrible you know? Plus the place was closed when I was a kid, but I grew up in Beacon Hills yeah.”
“Really?” Isaac sounded surprised.
“Yep, my Dad is the outgoing local Sheriff 'three more months Stiles!' So he keeps reminding me. My brother from another mother is the local vet, and another of my school friends is probably going to be the forensic pathologist we are about to meet.”
“Yeah, she’s gonna shit a brick when she sees me."
Giving a quick nod to the officer stood at the entrance to Theater number 3 Stiles indicated that Isaac was with him and stepped inside.
Even under the artificial lights set up by the forensic teams Stiles could see the room was almost completely destroyed. If he remembered rightly the tiled walls had been intact the last time he and Scott had visited. But now they were bare and corroding away, as was the flooring and the paintwork on all the cupboards. In fact, the only thing that looked intact was the metal gurney with the remains of a body lying on top of it.
“Double holy shit,” he whispered under his breath trying not to breathe as he did so. The rancid smell had reached the back of his throat and was fighting its way through the barrier of Vicks he had slathered under his nose.
“Long time no see Stiles,” a familiar voice said to his left. Stiles recognised it straight away. "I thought they’d call you.”
Smiling, Stiles turned to where the voice had come from, “Yeah well my grim reputation proceeds me apparently. My Dad’s last hoorah before he retires. Anyway, what we got?”
Following Lydia! Stiles made his way over to the gurney. As he did, he threw a thumb in Isaac’s direction, “Detective Isaac Lahey, meet Dr Lydia Martin, Forensic Pathologist extraordinaire and the only person alive who can kick my arse at calculus.”
Leaving the two to nod politely to one another Stiles closed his eyes then rocked his head from side to side to clear it and shut down his senses.
He counted the numbers as he twisted his head slowly. It was an old trick but an effective one and somehow allowed him to focus on the scene sat a meter away from him.
And oh boy it was bad. Real bad. Stiles could now see the body had been mutilated from the head to groin with what looked like one precision cut in a familiar Y shape along the empty torso. This was in addition to what looked like a severe head trauma and partial removal of skull.
“The incisions look medical,” Stiles said moving in closer. The smell now was sickening but he didn't miss a beat.
“That’s because they are Officer Stilinski but they are not like anything I’ve seen before.” Having said her hello’s Lydia was now apparently stood next to him.
“Yep. The knife work looks clean and tidy. Loosely I’d say whoever did it knew what they were doing. There is bruising to what’s left of the neck, jaw and mouth and facial area, plus from what I can see the victim has been heavily restrained and part of his skull, brain and four teeth removed.”
“You think all this…?” he asked Lydia waving his hand over the empty cavity and the head trauma, “took place before or after death?”
Lydia grimaced, then nodded. “Off the record because I need to do a proper autopsy… some of it before. But don’t quote me in your report just yet.”
Looking up, Stiles searched for his partner, “You okay?” he asked.
Isaac replied with a sharp nod before quickly shooting a look across at Lydia. “You start to ignore the smell if you stop breathing don’t you?”
Chuckling, Stiles made his way down the gurney towards where the victim’s legs should have been. Christ on a bike. It was a shock to see but two bloody stumps were now the only things that remained. The whole thing was a fucking mess and yet… he quickly scanned the room. “Isaac can you find out from the local PD if we’ve located the victims missing limbs anywhere?” Something was niggling Stiles that he couldn’t quite put his finger on.
Stiles waited for Isaac to leave the room before he spoke. “He’s fresh meat Lydia. And by fresh I mean no.”
“He’s a good detective.”
“And yet they made you his boss.”
Stiles straightened up with a groan before he answered, his back growing weary of bending over crimes scenes. “You know I am, promoted last year. Lieutenant Stilinski, Homicide Division, at your service,” he replied with a stiff bow.
Lydia smiled. At least when he'd first told her she hadn’t laughed out loud like some of his so-called friends when he had told them. His promotion was something he had worked hard for. He was a lead investigator at the age of 28 and had a 96% solution rate.
No one in the state could touch him.
“Anyway back to our victim. ID anyone?”
This time a crime scene technician answered. “No driver’s license or any form of ID. No pockets, nothing so far in here. Blood splatter is minimal meaning this isn’t the kill site.”
Looking around Stiles had expected half as much. Although theater and it contents were rotting and decaying away they both held no obvious signs of trauma or evidence that any of the dismemberment that had taken place there.
It defiantly wasn’t the kill site; of that, Stiles was 100% sure.
But where was?
As he stepped away from the body, Stiles made another sweep of the room. Fuck. No windows meant the body was hidden from the outside, plus, rabbit warren type layout of the hospital meant from his own experience whoever placed the body here, knew the location well. “Time of death?” he asked the room suddenly.
If he could get a handle on time of death then maybe he would catch a lead.
It was Lydia that answered. “With the levels of decay, body temperature, conditions, three days I’d say. But I know for sure when I get him back to the morgue and run some blood work.”
Stiles took one last look at the body then turned to the blue out of town uniform stood at the entrance to the theater. “Remind me who found it?”
The officer answered formally. “Three kids, they’ve been interviewed, their parents are with them.”
“Shook up, scared. They thought it was a mannequin at first.”
Stiles shook his head. Poor buggers. Stiles imagined they had been sneaking in here to simply investigate the place just like he and Scott had done all those years go.
Suddenly Isaac’s voice cut through the silence, the sound of his footsteps quickly filling the room. “Boss we found body parts,” he announced taking a deep breath. “And it’s not good.”
“The legs?” Isaac nodded his head like he wasn’t sure. “Erm yes Sir... but there’s something else though. There’s graffiti all over the walls, black swirls, circles. I’ve never seen anything like it before. It looks fresh, maybe a couple of days old but I’m not expert. I think you better take a look.”
Chatter suddenly filled the room as Stiles stepped back indicating with a finger to two crime scene technicians to follow him to the additional dump site. The discovery of the legs could be another lead. They had to have been placed elsewhere for a reason.
Stiles wanted to pat Isaac on the back in recognition. “You did good Lahey,” he told the young detective as he followed the man’s suited back down the corridor.
Isaac shook his head suddenly pausing to stop as he did so. “Not sure you’re going to say that when you see it boss.”
“No?” Now Stiles was intrigued.
“The legs Sir? They have claws.”