A/N: Hello and welcome!
This story is dedicated to the wonderful ladies in my FB group. I'm so thankful for their support and their excitement regarding this story right from the moment I posted the first glimpse of the banner. Seriously, they're all awesome!
Many thanks to Payton79 and Pamela for coming along on this journey as my pre-readers. Their input is invaluable. Once again, Diane (OTB) is the supremely talented artist who created my banner.
And finally, huge thanks to SunflowerFran for featuring this story on the Pay it Forward blog! If you're a newbie author working on their first fic or an experienced writer hammering out the details of their upcoming venture and want to be featured there, don't hesitate to contact Fran or myself via PM. They also have reviews of some fandom classics, so if you're looking for recs, don't forget to hop over and check the blog out!
Alrighty then, I'm done talking for now. Let's begin.
CHAPTER 1: MESSAGE
I stuffed my hand into my pocket, pulling out my handkerchief to wipe my brow. I could've cursed Mother Nature for the heat wave, but lying was not my strongest suit. The reason I was sweating bullets had much more to do with the task that lay ahead than the weather.
Footsteps crunched on the gravel behind me right before a hand landed on my back.
"Stalling?" Tyler asked.
I mustered a casual smile, hoping it didn't come out like a grimace. "Of course not. Just cleaning myself up so that I don't contaminate the crime scene."
His eyebrows rose, his smirk widening as though my answer had amused him. I went on talking in an attempt to distract him. "Unusually hot today, isn't it?"
"Winds straight from hell," he agreed. "Anyway, let's get this show on the road. Get ready for your first case, partner."
I nodded. "I'm ready."
He eyed me for another moment before heading toward the house. He snapped his gloves on and pushed the door open, so I followed suit.
The stench of blood and decay hit me even before I'd taken a step inside, and I had to choke back bile. Indeed a great way to begin my career as a homicide detective.
Tyler looked at me through narrowed eyes. "Yeah, this is a bad one to begin with. You gonna be okay?"
I rolled my shoulders—a nervous tic of mine—and nodded again. "Of course," I replied steadily.
Tyler merely shrugged in response and turned back to the body lying in the foyer. The medical examiner was already at work, so he kneeled next to her. I remained standing for the time being.
"Someone wanted to send a message," Tyler remarked.
The ME nodded. "The slash across the face does point toward that. The stab wound alone was enough to kill her, but this was done deliberately afterward."
"Time of death? And we don't have the murder weapon, do we?"
"Forty-eight to seventy-two hours ago," she answered. "I can have a more definite answer for you once I've finished my examination. And no, the weapon is missing."
Tyler nodded, sweeping one more glance across the scene. "I'll leave you to it, Doctor. Thank you." He turned to me. "Take a look around the house. If you see something that needs to be bagged and hasn't been, get one of the forensic people to do it. I'm going to speak to the first responders and set up a canvas. Probably going to have to send someone for trash can duty to search for the murder weapon."
My eyes widened, and he shook his head. "Don't worry. I'll spare you the horror today. This is enough to deal with on your first day." He waved a hand toward the body covered in crimson nearly all the way from head to toe.
"Thanks," I replied.
Carefully stepping around the body, I started my search with the living room. The forensic techs were already there, sweeping potential surfaces for fingerprints. My eyes fell on the collection of photographs that lay on a side-table, arranged in little, silver frames. I gave them a cursory glance, finding nothing out of the ordinary there, before turning my face away from the smiling one of the woman who now lay tragically mutilated in her own home.
I rifled through the drawers before moving on to the kitchen, and then the victim's bedroom on the first floor. I started with the shelves that hung on the walls, but they held nothing worth notice—simply novels and knick-knacks. I moved on to the bed, sitting on it while peering into the drawer on the nightstand. There were a few photographs of the victim in there, but these were different from the ones I'd seen downstairs. Those had been candid pictures, while the ones I'd found now were professional head shots, not surprising considering the victim had been a model. Other than that, all I found there was some allergy medication and an iPod.
I placed everything back and was about to stand, when I felt a strange protrusion where my hand rested on the mattress. Frowning, I stood and pressed the spot once, confirming that there was something down there. I peeled the bedspread off and then lifted the mattress.
My eyes widened when I saw what lay underneath.
It wasn't a smart phone, either, but one of the older ones that could do very few tasks other than making calls and sending messages. I didn't even know they made those anymore.
I picked it up and tried to turn it on, but it wouldn't start. My eyes scanned the room, landing on a charger that hung off one of the plugs. I rushed across the floor to plug it in, waiting expectantly as the screen lit up with the battery symbol after a moment.
The sound of Tyler's voice made me spin around. I held up my find, and he came closer.
"What's going on?"
"I found this under the mattress. It was discharged. I've just plugged it in, so it might take a moment or two to start."
"They already found the victim's phone downstairs," he remarked, echoing my thoughts.
"Exactly. And this one was hidden. Not very well, but hidden nonetheless. I'm thinking it might hold something for us."
As soon as the main screen appeared, I quickly opened the call log.
"Just one number," I said, scrolling down the entries. "No pattern. Looks like they were talking at odd hours, but not regularly. Wait a second. There's just one call from a different number that came three days ago at eleven in the night."
Tyler leaned closer and squinted. "Send them both to Ben. He can get started on tracing the owners. What's that little thing flashing in the corner?"
I gave it a closer look. "Looks like some kind of a message . . ." After a few tries, I finally managed to locate the folder that was responsible for the blinking sign. "No, wait. It's a recorded call. Huh. I didn't know these old things could even do that. It doesn't tell me what number this call came from, but the time stamp matches that of the call from the mystery number three days ago."
"Well, let's hear it."
My thumb moved a little clumsily over the little buttons to hit Play. I made sure the volume was turned up to maximum before holding the phone between us.
There was nothing but static for a few minutes, before a voice uttered the victim's name.
"Carmen, darling. Where'd you go? Come out, come out wherever you are." A sinister chuckle followed, and I looked up to meet Tyler's narrowed eyes.
"You can't hide from me, Carmen. You've been going behind my back, haven't you, darling? Do you know how much it pained me to hear of this? You're listening, aren't you? I can hear you breathing. If I can get my hands on this phone number, do you think it'll take me more than an hour to . . . Well, you're a smart girl. I'm sur—"
The recording cut off abruptly after a short, distressed whimper.
I cleared my throat. "Sounds like we have a revengeful, sadistic bastard on our hands."
"Call Ben now," Tyler ordered, his voice quietly chilling. "We need to find this man right away."
A/N: Despite all evidence to the contrary, this will NOT be a murder mystery! There is a murder, yes, because apparently, I can't write a story without one. *facepalm* E/B's relationship will be our primary focus. We just have to bring them to each other first. ;)
Chapter 2 will be up on Friday, and from there on, we'll settle into a weekly schedule.
Teasers, photographs, and other details about my stories can be found in my FB group: Fanfiction by ForeverRobsessed. The link is available on my profile here.
See you next time!
FIC REC - The Words Left Unsaid by Leah C. Drawn - "Please, Isabella Swan, tell me you're fucking half as in love with me as I am with you. I need you to say it because I feel like I'll die right now if you don't. Tell me that you won't ever want anyone else, that you only ever dream about me, that you would fucking crumble to bits if I ever stopped loving you." BxE AH