The summer sun burned with a hatred for all life caught underneath its brutal glare, it’s menacing stare matched only by the unblinking eyes of Allison Charlene, as she looked up at the heavens as if to locate Heaven’s Pearly Gates from her position on Planet Earth.
Her 26 years could have served as a government study of Murphy’s Law, Rule #1: If it can go wrong, it will. Allison, a professional secretary for an up-and-coming law firm, hated her job more than she hated her pay, her boss, and the creepy people that made up the client list.
At 5’9, 115 pounds, Allison was rail thin. Dark red hair, pale skin, blue eyes, and a splash of freckles completed her appearance. She wasn’t ‘supermodel gorgeous,’ but she was an attractive, professional woman. All of the clients commented on it. It was enough to drive a woman crazy.
Today, she had an interview and it had been a doozy. “Why are you so unhappy, Allison?” She hadn’t known what to say about it. Allison had looked at the ground, hot tears filled her eyes as she shrugged without a word. The interviewer continued. “You have a decent job. Your pay is adequate for what you do. You’re so unmotivated to live with zest, why bother going on?”
Allison knew these pointed questions to be true. After all, it was her life they were talking about. As a high school dropout, she’d never have a top tier paying job, but she made good money for a dropout. She wasn’t waitressing or holding down multiple jobs to stay afloat in this ruined economy. Yet, some part of her life was unfulfilled, and she had no idea what to do about it. That’s when the interviewer suggested something that changed her life forever.
It was noon by the time I made it to the post office, and the heat and humidity was enough to drive a man, even a cop like me, to murder.
“Hey Thermopolis, why did you let it get so hot?”
I turned around to see an old man, named Johnston or Johnstone, who stood behind me. His grizzled face, trimmed in white hair, and his pale gray eyes set him apart from most. Well, that and his penchant for urinating in the park.
“I didn’t have anything to do with it,” I said, as I tossed him a wave and hurried into the building. Lilly had told me to meet her at O’Shea’s for lunch, but I insisted on sending this package off prior to meeting her. The line was already at the door.
“Jeez man, did everyone choose today to send something off?”
It was either that, or this new war in Europe had captured the hearts and minds of the American populace. Gone were the days when two countries decided to fight it out for whatever reason. Now there were hashtags, social media influencers, actors from Hollywood, the whole megillah who had something opine about it. Wars weren’t fought in the trenches and solved in mortal combat anymore. Today, it was talked to death by hosts of daytime television, criticized by ‘experts’ who’d never seen actual war.
The fascination with the war would pass. It had a shelf life of about fifteen minutes in the American attention span.
I’m an American. I can say that.
My phone rang as the line took one step forward. I palmed it and looked at the screen.
“Hey, I’m in line.”
“Forget lunch and your package. Well, don’t forget it but bring it with you. We’ve got a body.”
So much for a summer of love. I stepped out of line and walked toward the exit.
“Out at the lake, north side next to the pines. A couple of teenagers found her.”
“Wonderful,” I muttered, as I pushed the door open and walked to my Dodge truck. “That’s just wonderful.”
“Yeah, well hurry up. The vultures are here already.”
“Alright, I’m on my way.”
It took ten minutes for me to reach the north side of the lake. A new-ish Toyota sat on the right side of the dirt road, but the metal gate was pushed open. I stopped and stepped out of the truck.
I looked around the car and tried the door. It was locked. “Hmm,” I muttered, as I got back into my truck and drove down to where the flash of red and blue lights greeted me. It was time to meet the victim.
Lilly waited for me on the other side of the yellow tape, but first I had to pierce the layer of journalists that flocked the perimeter of the scene. Cameras followed me as I walked to the scene. “Follow him,” or “Get a close up of his profile,” were spoken as I made my way under the tape.
“Wow. You decided to keep the beard, huh?”
“Hey, Lilly. Yeah, I guess so. Where is she?”
“She’s over here on the bench. The kids found her sitting out here staring at the water.”
“Huh. Is that her car out there by the road?”
“Yep. She drove here. These stupid kids saw her sitting here and decided they would play a practical joke on her. They crept up behind her and pushed her. Of course, with her being dead, she fell over on her face. Scared the crap out of the kids. So, they decided they’d better pick her up and dust her off before they called the cops.”
Lilly nodded and said, “Yeah, Tammy is angry. She tore into them.”
Tammy Bowen, our chief medical examiner stood by the bench and inspected the corpse of Allison Charlene. She gave me a nod when I walked up.
“How’s it going, Tammy?”
“I don’t know. From what I can tell she had a heart attack. I’ll know more when I have her on the slab and can inspect her without the hyenas waiting for a sound bite.”
“What can you tell us now?”
“She’s been dead for about an hour now given the lack of rigor mortis. There’s no sign of violent death besides this puncture wound from a needle in her right arm. Like I said, I will know more later.”
“Alright, thanks Tammy.”
We watched her and the EMTs load the corpse into the ambulance. From what I noticed; Allison Charlene had passed from this life into the next without a care in the world. Her eyes were clear, no sign of anguish or worry had darkened her features, she appeared to have simply passed away.
“What do you think, Konan? Is it murder?”
“I don’t know, Lilly. It could have been a suicide for all I know.”
“Tammy will find something, I’m sure,” Lilly said, but I wasn’t convinced. “She did look at peace though, didn’t she?”
“Yeah, she did. If it’s a murder, I’ve never seen anything like it.”