Death Stills: A Short Story Part One

The blue flashing lights of four black police sedans are silent in front of the two-story house. Everything seems perfect on the outside, embellished in blue siding with a charcoal colored roof and chimney. Yet, from the open front door, you can see dirt and blood commingled into the rug. Upon entering the foyer, there is a putrid blend of rotting flesh, urine and excrement. There is also bare footprints, of various sizes, going in and out of the house with the trail halting at the door’s entrance. The 35mm camera clicks go off throughout the house, capturing every moment of the past few hours.

The forensic photographer, Billie Adelson, does not blink an eye when he captures the first body on the living room floor. At the foot of the fireplace, the body of a middle-aged and overly tanned man lay face down, except–the neck and head are at an abnormal angle. The blue sweater and khaki pants he wore have no bloodstains, gashes or so much as a wrinkle. The man is wearing dress shoes which color closely resembles his khakis. Billie captures photos of the blood-mud fusion foot impressions smeared in a semi-circle around the deceased. There are no discernible signs of a struggle and a weapon to determine the cause of death. The dead man’s last cloudy gaze fixed directly into the entrance of the dining room and kitchen.

A detective wearing coverings over his shoes, stops to speak to Billie before he enters the dining room area. He motions to the top of the entrance, where the words are written by fingers in ash, “We EAT here?” Billie snaps some shots of the words written grotesquely on the wall and zooms in on the messy script. The detective moves past Billie and walk into the dining room.

The atmosphere is heavy with the blend of stagnant blood, decomposition of meat, and food left out on the table. Surrounding the elaborate dining room table, sat two more corpses. All are motionless and perched in their seats. A blonde woman in her thirties or early forties sat at the head of the table, farthest from the entrance. Her glassy eyes were so wide it seems as though it bulge from her head. Billie gulps loudly and the detective looks at him with concern but said nothing. He nods and Billie continues his tour of photos. The blonde had a black scarf with white and red roses which was made into a bow and wrapped tightly around her throat. Upon closer examination, Billie notices traces of blue-black bruises near her jawline. He also notices her posture seems posed, like a mannequin. As he examines her visually and notices that her hands lay on both sides of the salad bowl on the placemat in front of her. Her palms of her hands face up. On the right side of the blonde is a pallid brunette teen, judging from her development she was probably between the ages of thirteen to sixteen. Taking the time to close in with the focus on his camera, Billie captures the neck trauma and multiple puncture wounds. Her eyes, now glassy and almost colorless, stare downward but her chair was positioned towards the blonde rather than under the table. Her hands were also set with the palms up on the table as the blonde woman. Behind the teen is a large portion of blood that is still pooled on the tiled floor and gathers near the rear corner of the room.

Two detectives, a male, and a female are comparing notes. The female said, “I believe there was post-mortem manipulation of both bodies. I have a hypothesis that perhaps they were killed in or around the room and then were posed at the table for some significance which I am bewildered, but…another instance shows that there may be multiple murderers.” The male detective nods in agreement and moves to examine the slashes in the girl’s neck.

The female detective notifies Billie that there was a final body upstairs, in the bedroom adjacent to the staircase. Before taking the first step to climb the stairs, he sighs. He has been in the business of forensic photography for 12 years now, he is still fairly young in the business. The odors, blood and corpses do not unsettle or irritate him. But today, in particular, it is taking a toll. Just two weeks ago he buried his mother. A week before that he found her alone and dead in her apartment. After all these years seeing strangers dead, seeing a loved one dead that he has emotions and memories attached, gives him a different perspective on the business now. Everyone is someone, to someone else.

Once he arrives at the top of the stairs and looks straight into the room, where the final display must be recorded–the moment, the essence of departure, and what remains. The male investigator was working on lifting fingerprints on a mahogany desk near the window, which was open. The bed is directly in front of the door and a deceased young woman lay face-up across it. In bloodsoaked yellow sheets and comforter, her pearly arms and legs sprawled out to where they resemble a starfish on a beach. As though she prepared to sleep, she wore a nightgown, which was lavender in contrast to her pale white skin. The nightie is long and covers most of her limbs except for her head, thighs, and arms. She had a collection of blood on her dress where her heart rests silently in her chest. Then the camera flash goes off again, documenting the stills of her soft shoulders to her delicate but bloody fingers and feet. Billie shakes his head and then continues to take snapshots of her bloodstained feet. He focus on the possibility that the smeared footprints from the living room and foyer, some may belong to her. But hers are just some of the many barefoot impressions captured on his camera. Numerous footprints are bigger than his and he wears size twelve in men’s shoes.

He looks at the investigator and inquires, “who is she?”

TO BE CONTINUED…

This original blog post was written and copyrighted by Juana M. Gumbs. All rights are reserved by her in January 2021 (C)

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