Reporters are trained to develop a sixth sense, a nose for when a story smells fishy. And something about this one wasn’t right. First of all, Captain Evers was too eager to share. He was never willing to parlay with the press unless pressured. Additionally, the cops were giving us the “it was a gas explosion” bull-shit again.
I walked back to the news van and pulled out my notebook. Scanning quickly through my most recent press release list from the PD, I counted five “gas explosions” in five months. One a month in fact. That’s what they call a pattern.
I immediately called my brother. As I listened to this cell ring, I kept saying “pick up, pick up,” under my breath. On the sixth ring, it went to his voicemail. Typical.
“This is Detective Sean Fox, I am unavailable….” I waited for the beep.
“Sean, this is your sister. I want to talk to you. I feel like we haven’t had a nice visit in a long time.” I was trying to keep the eagerness out of my voice. “Meet me at Tom’s at 7 pm. Dinner and drinks on me.” I hung up and knew he would be there. I needed to know what the cops were hiding. Lying to my brother was a small price to pay for getting a story — a real story. Now, I just had to convince him to open up to me. That was easier said than done.
My brother was a good cop, and sister or not, he knew better than to tell the press something that Captain Evers was purposely hiding. There were times when I was surprised that Sean had chosen to become a cop, but then again, being nosey was part of being a detective as well as a reporter. We liked to puzzle together the pieces and get our story — we just had different motives for wanting the story. My brother would probably say he was helping dole out justice. I am more honest with the world than that; I want the truth so I can sell it to make a name for myself. It’s not pretty, but it’s the cost of being a field reporter.
The small talk was winding down. We had talked about mom and dad, and Sean told me he had just ended yet another in a number of relationships with a woman who couldn’t handle being with a cop.
“It’s the long hours. I think at first they don’t realize that it’s never going to let up. There is no slow season on crime,” Sean said as he finished his beer.
I didn’t really care why women didn’t want to stay with him; that was his business. I was trying to figure out how to change the subject without being too obvious and deep in thought, I didn’t hear what he asked me.
“Earth to Mary,” Sean was saying as he looked at me with one eyebrow raised. “Did I lose you there for a minute?
“Yes,” I said. “I was just zoning out a bit. You know, work stuff.” I looked at him expectantly.
Sean folded his arms across his chest and leaned back in his chair. As he glared at me, he said, “Ah ha. Here’s the truth then. You didn’t want to have a nice dinner, you want a story.”
I shrugged. “Come on, Sean. You know me.”
He cut me off before I could continue, “Yes, all work and no play. Even when it comes to having dinner with family.” He stood up and reached in his wallet dropping $20 on the table. “That should cover my part.”
As he tried to leave, I blocked him. “Stop. Sean, don’t leave. It was wrong of me to lie to you, but…”
He shoved past me and was out of my reach before I could do anything else.
I shouted at him, “I know there have been five incidents in the last five months. I know Captain Evers is covering it up. And I know they’re not gas explosions.”
He stopped. He came back over to me and whispered, “Don’t.” He looked tired and he rubbed his temple before he continued. “I don’t want you involved with that. Do yourself a favor and find a different story.”
“Why? Is it something horrible?” My voice sounded eager and I checked my enthusiasm as Sean glared at me. “Serial killer? Arsonist? What?” Sean just kept shaking his head.
He placed a hand on my shoulder and said, “Stay away from that story, Mary. You don’t want to be involved with that craziness.”
Craziness? That left me confused. What would a cop of over a decade consider crazy? I was gearing up to press him some more when he turned and left.
I grabbed my stuff and dumped some money on the table and caught up with him just as he was getting in his car.
“Please, Sean. I need a good story.”
He sighed. “This is not that story, Mary. Trust me.”
“Seriously, what’s got you so nervous to talk about this one? Just give me a hint. A tiny, teeny hint. I’m your sister.” I was begging but didn’t care. Anything to get the story I desperately needed.
I will never know if it was the pleading or just that he really thought he could change my mind.
“Get in,” he said as he slid into his sedan.
He drove us to the crime scene that the Captain had talked about that day. As we walked up the steps and past the crime scene tape, my brother stopped and turned to me.
“Listen, Mary. I am showing you this, but after I do, I fully expect you to walk away from this. Nothing good can come from being mixed up with… Whatever this is.”
Walk away? Did he know me at all? Clearly not. And why was he being so vague? Did he not know what was really behind these doors? Or was he just trying to creep me out? He was my older brother after all, that wasn’t completely outside the realm of possibility.
We entered the brownstone and walked into the hall of what appeared to be a nicely kept household. My brother went up the stairs and I followed close on his heels. He stopped as we came to the first doorway. He gestured for me to proceed into the room.
“Go ahead. Take a look,” he said. “I will wait out here. I’ve already seen it.”
I shrugged as I walked past him into the room. It turns out, my brother was right. Seeing it once was enough. The first thing that hit me was the smell. I instinctively covered my nose and mouth. I only took three steps into the room. I didn’t need to go in any further. I scanned the room trying to take it all in.
Horrific doesn’t begin to cover what I was seeing. There were two twin beds in the room, one on either side of where I was standing. The beds were covered with delicate pink ruffled comforters. On top of each bed was what I assumed were the remains of the two girls who shared the room. Though to be honest, it was hard for me to say that what I was seeing was human, let alone female remains. I knew enough about anatomy to recognize what appeared to be two bodies completely removed of their skin. What was stranger was that I could also tell there were no bones. How the hell does someone remove skin and bones but leave everything else intact? Something else occurred to me as I turned to leave. Where was the blood? This had to be a secondary scene. You can’t remove skin and bones without leaving a mess.
I shook my head at that thought. I went back in the hall and leaned on the railing breathing deeply for a minute. “What? I mean. How?” I couldn’t get words out.
“Come on. Let’s go get some fresh air.”
We left the crime scene and went to the closet coffee shop. We just sat there for several minutes before I began.
“Sean, have all five ‘gas explosions’ been like that?” I gestured vaguely in the direction of the house we’d just left. I shut my eyes, which it turns out was a bad idea. I saw the remains posed on the beds when I did that. Posed? Why did I think of them as posed? Because I knew that was true. Someone had posed them like that.
Apparently, I was going to have to pry the information out of him. “Sean. You have to give me more than that after what I just saw. Why are you guys covering this up? People should know about this?”
“Stop right there,” he said. “How would the public knowing about that help anyone? It would just create panic. Honestly, we don’t even really know what’s going on.” He sighed. “The Captain doesn’t want the press running with it mostly because it will make the whole force look like incompetent assholes.”
“Why? Clearly you have the work of a serial killer. A very sick one.” I sat back in the booth and tried not to think of the smell or what I had just seen.
“We don’t know that actually. You saw it. We have remains. We have no easy way of identifying the remains from any of the crime scenes. I am sure you noticed the lack of skin.” Once he started, he told me everything he knew. “Did you also notice the lack of bones? There are no finger prints. No teeth. We have to use bone marrow DNA samples because there is also an alarming lack of blood. We haven’t even found primary crime scenes for any of them.”
I shook my head. I couldn’t believe what he was telling me. How could they have nothing after 5 months?
“Listen, Mary. You may have noticed the horrific nature of this story, but there are other reasons I want you to steer clear of this one.”
I gestured for him to continue.
“The Feds are taking over. They have a special unit working these cases. Did you notice we haven’t moved the bodies yet? They were discovered late last night and yet those two little girls or what’s left of them is still laying in their beds instead of on a morgue slab.”
I looked up at this. I hadn’t thought of that. Why leave them after processing?
Sean continued, “The Feds are working this from a paranormal perspective. They think aliens or some shit are involved.”
“I’m sorry. Do you really expect me to believe that the government – our government – thinks that e.t. and his cousins are killing little girls and leaving their insides behind?”
He sighed again. “Yes. That’s why you should stay away from this one. I don’t want you mixed up with the weirdos working this.”
I shook my head. Could I walk away from this? Reporters who were associated with paranormal stories didn’t usually end up with all the glory. They usually ended up working for the National Inquirer tracking down bigfoot and captioning blurry photos of the Loch Ness Monster and UFO sightings.