Body after body is pulled from the water in an endless cycle of horror. Each one with eerily similar signs to the other. Mentis loses count when the 18th is pulled from the water. It takes 2 weeks and an endless cycle of new faces from various policing departments far and wide to search every inch possible of the oceans harnessing depths below. At the end of one such day, as the night draws in once again, the chief, alongside a hierarchy of other credentials finally stop the search when it’s been 6 hours since the last body was found.
It’s been a long and tiring few weeks, both on Mentis’s body and mind. The events have taken an understandable toll on everyone. Erickson has been on his back, finding any chance to ridicule him or step on his toes while Stinton has been following in his footsteps. Asking Mentis questions with hidden notes of resentment and egocentrism. Mentis has been doing his best to function on little sleep and food. He’s already adjusted his belt to 3 settings tighter. Every time he got so much as a break he would get a call about another body being found and rush to the scene with a moment of hope that it may be different to the others. That there may be evidence on the body that it’s a suicidal death or just an accident. His hopes were always dashed when he unzipped the bags and saw those harrowed empty eye sockets. Men and women of all shapes and size. Even a boy as young as 10 have been found. The worst thing is, not all the bodies were complete. Legs here, arms there. Years or depredation on somebodies meant it was a jigsaw puzzle trying to work out what went where. Some of the older bodies have been checked by the coroner who estimated they could be around 40 years old.
All evidence points towards it being a dumping ground of a serial killer but they have no clues to who it is and where they are or even if they are still killing. They haven’t found Miss.Simms body so who knows. The earliest body they have found otherwise is already 6 months old. Standing at the edge of the field with Erickson by his side. They look over the grass coated with a layer of body bags. Covering the field like a haunted quilt that nobody would ever dare to wear. Even Erickson is quiet. Stinton is hovering in the wings, observing the scene with a face of terror, Mentis sent him to the side when they were halfway through the body count, Stinton became obviously detached and shaky, who knows how this is going to affect the young lad.
“I’ve never seen anything like this” Erickson is surprisingly considerate. Cases don’t normally affect him, or Mentis for that matter but this one has them both keeping them emotions back with a pitchfork.
“How many is there?”
The chief’s voice appears behind them. All the important people are here. Erickson looks a lot like his dad. Tall, dark, a perfect ladies man. Unlike Erickson though the chief doesn’t drink or anything else of the sort meaning he looks pretty ripe for someone of retirement age.
“73” Mentis forgets to call him sir but on such an occasion the chief decides to let it slide.
“Do you recognize anyone? Do we have any ID’s?”
Erickson answers his next question whilst Mentis signs a document handed to him.
“No, sir. No identities for anyone of them yet. We’ve got a lot of people working here and nobody recognizes any familiar faces and as far as we can tell they haven’t been reported missing”
Erickson has always been respectful to his father and very professional of their relationship. If only he could exert that professionalism for the rest of his job, he would make a good impression. As it stands though, the Chief keeps him on but always lumbers him with others in the department to try and keep him out of trouble.
“Miss.Simms has been the only one” Mentis intervenes. “I’ve asked two men to do a last sweep on the spot where I saw her jump”.
Mentis expects a whiplash from the chief about going behind his back but just as the chief opens his mouth the shout he’s been waiting for arrives.
“I think we found her!”
Mentis rushes to the aid of the two men dragging the body up. Not yet in a body bag it gives him a chance to do the once over. It’s the same lady who jumped of the cliff and started all this.
“It’s Miss.Simms. I don’t believe it” Erickson has only ever glanced at the case information.
“We can’t be sure Erickson”
“Yes, we can. Look at her left arm. You see that tattoo on her wrist”
It’s a tattoo of a swallow in drowning waters. Mentis remembers seeing it from the paperwork and thinking how tasteless it was. He’d never seen a tattoo like it. It was a strong confirmation that it’s Miss.Simms in their minds. A grunt of disapproval escapes his lips. Mentis did the hard work and yet Erickson turns up in his drunken state and can identify the body as quick as he can down a pint.
The chiefs authoritative voice snaps them back to focus.
“Erickson. Go call her parents. Get them down to the station. Mentis, I want you to get all these bodies sent to the coroners and start digging for information. Literally, if you must. Witnesses, evidence, anything you can find is brought to me first”
With Mentis’s nod of agreement and Erickson’s’ figure already in the distance the chief heads back to his car. Now alone, Mentis does a quick check on her body and checks her stomach for the words like the others. This is the only body they recognise and it may be a clue to the killer, a good starting point. Scrawled on her stomach the letters are fresh, possibly a few weeks, maybe they were put there the day she was on the edge of the cliff. These words are different though. They cause hairs to stick up on the back of his neck and he scans the area for any suspicious activity. Standing up he retreats towards the cars and gets straight onto the phone.
On Miss.Simms stomach, scrawled in capital letters across her abdomen are the words “YOU’RE NEXT”