The clouds in the gray sky seemed too fat, too low, and too ominous as if they were intent on suffocating the town. Anja couldn’t ignore the foreboding that pricked at the back of her neck and made her hairs stand on end.

She stepped from the car and pulled her coat closer to her. The wind whistled, then howled, then roared until she finally gave it her attention.

“Is it just me or does winter come earlier each year?” she asked her partner.

Dickson was busy reaching for his Styrofoam cup but spared her a grunt. She smiled. That was all the answer she needed. He reached for the second cup but she stopped him with a shake of her head. The precinct provided the worst coffee in what Anja thought might be the universe. She’d take her chances with freezing until they could swing by the nearest Starbucks. And then, there was the practical aspect. Even after four years she never knew what her stomach would think of the crime scene they were called out to.

Anja and Dickson made their way around the crime scene technicians and the few officers who’d arrived before them.

“This way guys.”

She nodded at Rodriguez and followed close behind Dickson, her stomach already leaden. She didn’t know much about the victim other than that she was a woman possibly in her mid twenties. Unlike Dickson she couldn’t think of her as just a body, just a case to be solved. She was someone’s daughter, friend. Was. The word suffocated her almost as much as the clouds did. Her heart hammered into her chest when Dickson and Rodriguez stepped back so that the crime scene was in view.

Anja stared at the woman in the snow with her thick, black hair sprawled out behind her like a darkened crown. She was so familiar to her she could’ve been Anja’s friend or sister.  From the neck up she looked peaceful as if she’d just lain there for a nap. That was until you took the rest of her body and the blood into consideration. She’d lost so much blood it formed a puddle around her body. Some of it leaked and flowed away from her like a crimson river in the snow.

Dickson took a sip of his coffee and shook his head, “Blood in snow always does a number on a crime scene.”

Anya agreed with him but she didn’t respond. She was too busy staring at the gaping hole in the woman’s chest cavity. She swallowed the bile that rose to her throat. It was like a bad scene from a low budget horror movie. One that she’d seen more times that she wanted to.

“Was her ribcage broken?” Anja asked looking from Dickson to Rodriguez fighting the rising trepidation she felt.

Rodriguez answered first, “It seems so.”

She focused on deep, shallow breaths, “Did they take something out of her?”

“What do you mean?”

She tried to regain control of her thoughts. Rodriguez and Dickson looked at her expectantly. She sighed. They didn’t want to know what she meant. The truth hovered on her tongue but she said instead, “This looks like a botched surgery. Did they remove something?”

Before Rodriguez or Dickson could get a word in Miranda, the pathologist, who’d just stepped between them spoke up.

“They did.”

Black spots formed behind Anja’s eyes as she tried to keep her focus on her breathing.

“Gonna tell us what they took Burke or you want us to start guessing?” Dickson asked. Miranda glared at Dickson. Anja had yet to meet a pair who seemed to hate each other as much as those two.

The pathologist started walking away and said, “I don’t have to tell you anything. You can wait for my report.”

Miranda and Dickson launched into a squabble worthy of a high school cafeteria.

“They took her thymus,” Anja said. After the words were out, she wished she’d made it sound like a question instead of a fact.

The voices around her faded away as they both turned to look at her.

“How did you know that?” Miranda asked.

“I…” she started, stopped and composed herself. “I didn’t. It was just a guess.”

Dickson narrowed his eyes at her. It was a bullshit cover and he’d likely seen right through it. Before the questions could begin, she backed away from them saying she need to get her coffee from the car.

They didn’t believe her but Anja didn’t care. It beat having to face down their curious stares or answer any questions. There was no answer she could give that wouldn’t have her committed to the nearest mental hospital.

She couldn’t tell them that the victim’s name was Rachel and her boyfriend led her to this very spot where a group of men waited for them. She couldn’t tell them that the deep cuts in Rachel’s chest weren’t made by knives but with fingers. Even thinking about it made her question her own sanity. So, without a doubt she couldn’t tell them that in exchange for bringing Rachel here, the boyfriend was able to walk away with his life. She couldn’t tell them that in three weeks the boyfriend, Karl, would be found in a field, close to the riverbed.

She couldn’t tell them any of these things without being asked how she knew.

It was then things would get weird because if she told them that she’d been dreaming about this every night for fourteen of the twenty-six years she’d been alive, they’d sent her straight for a psych evaluation.

The dread in the pit of her something rose to her throat.

She couldn’t tell them that it was going to happen again… and again, and again and there was nothing any of them with their police uniforms, badges or holstered guns could do about it.

Anja buried her face in her hands and tried to fight the urge to wretch. When that failed, she found a small patch of frozen grass near the car and emptied the contents of her almost empty stomach.

“Are you okay?”

Rodriguez’s voice made her whip around. She nodded feebly although that was a lie. She wasn’t okay. Neither was the world. And, little did Rodriguez or anyone else know, the world would never be okay again.

Photo Credit: www.freedigitalphotos.net per Pixomar
Photo Credit: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net per Pixomar

© Rilzy Adams, 2013


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