Elizabeth woke to the smell of wet soil and evergreens.

Discussion in 'Creative Writing' started by Pink!, 5 June 2010 Social URL.

  1. Pink!

    Pink! Silver Member

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    So, I study English and Creative Writing at university, just finished my first year. This is one of the assessment pieces that I wrote. I need to get over my publish-o-phobia, and I figured that this would be a good place to dip my toes in the water so to speak.

    The ending is awful I'll grant you that, I was well over my word limit and just had to slap one on quickly and it shows. I hope to edit and continue this story at some point though. I'll keep you updated.

    The trees had seen a thousand lifetimes and yet their gnarled arthritic fingers still clasped at the sky as if begging for more time. Autumn had passed and their limbs were naked against the chill grey sky, their pleading all the more pitiful for their lack of distracting plumage. The land beneath them was rich from the freshly rotting leaves, the thick, cloying scent of their decomposition into the soil settling into the back of the throat of anyone who passed by. And so it was that she was found. She lay on her back, her arms beneath her, legs straight in front, her face upturned, head pillowed on a root of the nearest tree. The dew sat on her skin, turning her into a shining creature; she was the pale inside of a shell against the dark soil. If seen as a photo she would have been commended as a great work of art, all but for the neat pile of folded clothes next to her and the bindings around her ankles.


    Elizabeth leant against a tree, dragging pensively at her cigarette. “Fall off the wagon again Zab?” Dropping the butt to the damp soil she ground it out with her foot, reached into a pocket pulling out a nicorette patch and waved it exaggeratedly in her companion’s face. “No. A smoke’s the only thing that gets the smell out of the back of my throat.”
    “Yeah. Pretty rough scene.” Elizabeth turned to the man beside her looking up at him. In heels she’d be almost as tall as he was, but heels weren’t appropriate for murder scenes, especially not those located in the woods. Rick Melrose was a decidedly average man, average height, average brown hair, almost average hazel eyes that couldn’t quite decide if they were green or brown and were therefore generally the colour of teddy-bear fur until the light brought out the olive highlights. There was nothing soft in his eyes at that moment however, they were hard with the years of murder scenes like this one, cold with the anger of having to deal with another life taken by force.

    Stood in the woods as the birds sang cheerfully and the watery winter sunlight pooled in glimmering patches as it landed on dew-sodden leaves, it seemed wrong to Elizabeth that she should be seeing something so horrific somewhere otherwise so beautiful. It was expected in the city, where the dirty streets and the suffocating stench of litter and piss seemed to crave the blood of innocents; where bodies were hidden in dark alleys illuminated only by the sickly yellow light of the street lamps. The fact that humans had been sacrificing their own for years to guarantee that Mother Nature continued to gift them with light and rain and bountiful crops didn’t cross Elizabeth’s mind, to her it was simply a murder in paradise. Unacceptable.

    Elizabeth and Rick stood huddled together by the police tape that had been wound around a group of trees like morbid bunting, sectioning off the crime scene. The Scene of Crime Officers moved around the body with ballroom grace in their white body-suits, as one crouched to take a photo another would rise to jot down notes. Elizabeth and Rick had been banned from the scene until all forensic evidence had been collected and so stood, neglected, watching. “What info do we have on the vic?” Elizabeth rolled her head to loosen the muscles in her neck as Rick checked what he had written in his obligatory little black notepad. “Alice Walters. Eighteen, student. ID and wallet still in her bag, jewellery in with the clothing. Not a robbery.”
    “Can’t tell for sure until the pathologist looks at her, but it looks that way.”
    “Let’s hope the ****er didn’t wear a condom.” Elizabeth sighed and looked back to the crime scene. Eighteen. So young.

    When the SoC team had left carrying little pots of particulate evidence and bags with the victim’s clothes, Elizabeth and Rick were allowed to check over the scene before the coroner came to take the body. The detectives sank to their haunches beside the victim and began the search for anything that could lead to the killer. “Her hands are tied behind her back?”
    “Yeah, crime guys got some photos.”
    “Notice anything odd?”
    “Other than the fact that he hollowed her out like a pumpkin?” From the front Alice looked perfectly healthy, aside from the fact that she was dead. Once rolled over however the evidence of the gag-inducing smell was revealed. She had been ripped apart, spine and ribs broken, organs torn upwards, lungs caught on the ribs like a pinned butterfly, bowels perforated causing the stench.
    “I meant her face. There’s no makeup.”
    “She’s eighteen. All eighteen year olds wear makeup, even if it’s only mascara. She’s got nothing.”
    “Maybe she was just out jogging. She wouldn’t need makeup for that.”
    “Hmm.” Elizabeth took a final long look at the body and the area around it. Sighing, she stood. “We’d best go write up the initial report and let the path get on with his job.”

    Hours later after meetings at the office, briefings with other officers and a pile of paperwork Elizabeth stood in front of a camera outside of the station.
    “If anyone witnessed this crime we urge them to come forward; similarly, if there are any women out there who may have suffered at the hands of this monster there is a separate helpline that you may call to report any possible information. At this time we are suggesting that no women go out alone if possible. If this is unavoidable stick to well-lit streets and alert someone as to your whereabouts, where you are heading and what time you anticipate arriving. Please keep an eye out for any suspicious activity within your community and report it as soon as possible. We will be updating the public upon the discovery of any pertinent information. Thank you.”

    “Initial Path report’s in and the profiler is on the way.”
    “Fancy giving me a summary seeing as I did the statement?” Rick grinned as Elizabeth shrugged off her blazer, untucked her shirt and undid the top buttons returning to her non-television self.
    “Says that it took a lot of force to rip her apart like that, leading him to believe that it was a fully grown man. The heart and lungs were perforated by the bone fragments and-”
    “Rick, was she dead first? Before he did that?”
    “Um, he can’t be sure.”
    “****. Why didn’t she fight back?”
    “She could have been drugged. The toxicology report’s still gonna take a couple of days though. And she was attacked from behind, maybe he surprised her?”
    “What about her clothes? Folded neatly beside her. ****ed up.”
    “That’s what the profiler’s for Zab. We’ll get him.”
    “We’d better, we’ve just terrified the women of Britain, there’s already at least one girl dead, and as yet we’ve not got a single lead.”

    Walking through her front door Elizabeth threw her keys into the bowl on the small table in the hall, toed off her shoes and pushed them under it. Noting that her flatmate was home she walked straight to the bathroom, and turned the shower on as hot as she thought she could stand it. Pulling off her work clothes, she emptied the pockets of her dark jeans before dumping the lot into the washing basket. The mirror was slowly misting over as she looked into it. Her dark hair curled over her ears, she needed to get it cut; normally it was a pixie cut that spiked slightly at the top, the easiest haircut she’d ever had; let the hair dry naturally and then just rub a little wax through it. She rubbed at the makeup around her eyes, smearing it, giving her that freshly punched look. Sighing she braced her arms on the sink and let her head fall between her shoulders. Long day.

    Standing under the steaming spray of the shower Elizabeth let her head hang forward, filling her senses with the fresh lemon scent of her hair. The facts of the case swam in her brain, flashes of the crime scene making her stomach roll uneasily in a way that she hadn’t allowed this morning. Alone in the polar expanse of her bathroom she let her tears fall, scalding their way down her cheeks. Having been in the murder squad for a year Elizabeth had become used to death. Stabbings, beatings, suicides, they were the run of the mill things that had stopped turning her stomach months ago. This was something new though, such horrendous violence. The girl’s parents had been devastated by the news. A broken sob slipped from between her tightly clenched lips like a bullet, echoing around the tiled walls. Jules peeked her head around the door of the bathroom, “You ok Zab?” the only reply was the shower turning off and a shaky inhalation of breath. Holding one of the large fluffy towels around the shower curtain she waited for Elizabeth to step out.

    Wrapped in the towel her hair clung wetly to her head, water dripping down her face and neck Elizabeth stood puffy-eyed in front of Juliana who held out a smaller towel. “Bad case?” A quiet nod and a trembling lip caused the red head to frown. “Turn around.” Wrapping her hands in the towel she rubbed at her friend’s head, drying the hair into chaotic spikes and waves. Nudging Elizabeth’s shoulder to turn her back around she wiped the cloth quickly over her forehead and threw it in the sink. Rubbing at the still damp arms she ducked her head to look at her flatmate’s face. “Want to talk about it?” A solemn shake of the head. Pulling her friend into her arms she sighed into her hair. “Hey, Zab? Why are there lemons in the shower?”
    “It’s the only thing that gets the smell out of my hair.”
    “What smell?” Elizabeth winced and Juliana swallowed thickly. “I don’t want to know huh?” A shake of the head “I don’t think I’ll ever eat pancakes again.” Elizabeth gave a watery chuckle and looked up at her friend. “Thanks.”
    “Ahh don’t be silly.” Elizabeth leant up to kiss her friend on the cheek, Jules, misreading the situation, leant down to meet her, pressing their lips briefly together. Pulling back minutely Jules took a shuddering breath before leaning in again and kissing her more firmly, running her tongue over the full bottom lip. Elizabeth pulled away abruptly and looked wide-eyed at her flatmate. “What?” Juliana cringed and bit her lip.
    “I thought that you . . . never mind.” Rushing from the room Juliana knocked her elbow on the door causing it to crash into the sink and bounce back slamming closed.

    Zab stood staring at the door until the buzzing of her phone in the sink drew her back to herself. “Zab Peyton. Yeh. You serious? Ok, I’ll be there in twenty. Bye.” Gathering herself she opened the door and walked quickly to her room. Grabbing the nearest clothes to hand Elizabeth got dressed as swiftly as possible and set off to leave. At the door she grabbed her keys, stomped into her shoes and pulled on her blazer. Should I go and talk to her? Hesitating at the door she cursed herself for her cowardice before quickly scribbling a note and leaving it on the hallway table. ‘Another murder. Will be back late. We can talk then?’ Having closed the front door behind her Elizabeth stood in the corridor for a moment, head hung low, chin resting on her chest. Taking a deep breath she squared her shoulders and walked briskly to the stairs leading to the garage. Jules kissed me. ****.

    Having spent the entire journey with half a mind on the road and the other half tumbling into thoughts about what had happened with Jules, Elizabeth finally pulled into the second crime scene. Realising that she was almost the last one to arrive she hurriedly parked her car and got out to meet Rick.

    An unkempt field with rotting fences and knee-high grass led up to a border of woodland, the trees settled in the deep shadow of the evening. Elizabeth assumed, as she strolled through the many cars and past the various vans, that the body would be hidden deep within that claustrophobic gloom. It was as she reached the worn fence that was slowly splintering itself to the ground that she realised that she was wrong.

    The body was in much the same position as the last, except with the arms tied in front, rather than behind the body. The scene was much older, the body bloated with decomposition, its sickly sweet smell wrapping thickly around the tongues of anyone who got too close leaving a sour, throat-clogging aftertaste. Again the yellow tape ran around the scene, but this time a white tent had been erected to cover the body. The waste land, lacking the mountainous trees of the previous scene, offered little protection from rain or snooping photographers. Officers were setting up large floodlights around and inside the tent in preparation for the night fall that was creeping in at the edges, stalking out slowly from the trees as though trying to catch them unawares.

    Stood at the edge of the tent Elizabeth once again waited for the forensics team to finish collecting what they could from the weatherworn crime scene, any hope of boot marks or fingerprints washed away days ago by the British weather. Another blonde, a pattern maybe? The girl’s hair clung wetly to the ground, tangled in the long grass; had it been summer and the grass dry and pale it would have been hard to tell where hair ended and nature began; as it was, it stood out starkly against the vibrant green grass and the heavy dark mud.

    Once more the pot carrying, clipboard-wielding scientists escaped the crime scene, leaving Rick and Elizabeth alone with the victim. Despite the discolouration of the body’s skin it was clear to see that she had been beaten, there were short jagged cuts up her arms and blood staining her chin.
    “She fought back.”
    “Yep. This one probably wasn’t drugged.”
    “She must have been a pretty steep learning curve for the *******.” Elizabeth looked down at the girl’s hands, taped into plastic bags to retain evidence. “Her nails look torn; let’s hope she got a piece of him.” Brave girl. “Who found her?”
    “Boss had the helicopters do a sweep of all wooded areas. They noticed her hair and called it in.”
    “At least it wasn’t kids or a dog-walker or something.” Rick nodded in agreement and looked back down. “No ID on this one. When we get her height we’ll have to run her through missing persons and just hope.”
    “She killed the same way?”
    “Apparently. I’m not up for rolling this one; the smell’s bad enough as it is.” Elizabeth nodded and took a step away from the body.
    “Were the clothes found? Like the last one?” Rick stayed kneeling and nodded, staring intently at the victim as though he could find the killer’s name simply by looking hard enough. Walking out of the tent Elizabeth went to lean on one of the posts holding up the police tape and stared into those ominous trees. How did he get her so far from the road if she was struggling? Was her fighting what made him stop short of the woods?

    “No cigarette this time?” Elizabeth jumped and turned to Rick who came to a stop standing next to her, looking out at the trees that she had been contemplating. “None left. I did quit you know; last time was just one I found in the car. Do want one though. ****. You realise the press is gonna go mad with this?” Rick reached into a pocket, the handy inner one that women’s blazers don’t have, and offered Zab a sweet. Raising an eyebrow she took one. “Yeah well, there’s not much we can do about that. At least this body looks like a first try, unprofessional. Means that he could be a newbie killer. Means he’s probably still making mistakes. We’ll catch him.” Crunching on the sweet in frustration Elizabeth choked and stared up at Rick through tear glazed eyes. “Fisherman’s friend. Strongest menthol sweets around. They also get the smell out of the back of your throat.” Rick grinned at Elizabeth’s expression and thumbed away a tear that had escaped. “Serves you right for being so impatient.” Batting at Rick’s hand and rolling her eyes Elizabeth ducked under the tape and strolled back to her car, grinning as she heard him follow. “Zab? Can I have a lift to the station?” His car was in for servicing after a rather enthusiastic pursuit of a criminal across several fields.
    “After that? I don’t think so.”
    “Aw, Zab, come on. I don’t want to ride back with the coroner. He looks at me like he wants to weigh my insides.” Snorting Elizabeth turned and raised an eyebrow at her colleague.
    “What’s it worth?”
    “Take away? On me?”
    “Take away on you? I don’t know where you’ve been.” Opening his mouth in outrage Elizabeth quickly cut him off. “Buy extra prawn crackers and you’re on. Get in.”
    “So, what were you up to when I called? You sounded pretty breathless answering the phone.” The easy smile dropping from her face Elizabeth quickly got into her car and stared hard at the steering wheel. Settling next to her Rick frowned. “I say something wrong?”
    “Nah, it’s fine.” Starting the car she quickly turned on the radio cutting off the conversation.

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  3. Pink!

    Pink! Silver Member

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    Having sent Rick out for the Chinese, Zab sat at her desk in the now quiet office staring blankly at the paperwork that she was supposed to be filling in and picked at her nails. What had Jules been thinking? She’d never even hinted that she was gay. Did I lead her on somehow? It was during this contemplation that a thick file was slammed down on her desk causing her to start and swear. Looking up she was greeted by the grinning face of Michael Gilmore.

    “Why so sad, sugar lips?” He stood in front of her desk, hands in the pockets of his tailored suit trousers, blue eyes gleaming from the handsome tanned face with the almost too wide mouth.
    “What do you want Michael?”
    “Nothing, just bought my profile of the killer, figured that you’d want it ASAP.”
    “And you didn’t email it like usual because?”
    “Well. Email is just so cold and distant; I prefer the more personal touch.”
    “Your person ain’t touching anything tonight, Mikey. Leave Zab alone.” With great relief Elizabeth peered around Michael’s broad shoulders to see Rick striding across the office, takeaway bag in one hand and two coffees in the other.
    “Not interrupting something, am I?” The wide mouth smirked.
    “Oh for heaven’s sake, no one has interrupted anything tonight, ok?” The two men looked at one another as Rick put the Chinese on the edge of her desk. That condescending look that says ‘Time of the Month’ whenever a woman shows the slightest bit of emotion in a male dominated work place. Sighing and scrubbing a hand through her hair, Zab grabbed one of the cups and took a long, fortifying swig from the little hole in the lid. “What does your profile say, Michael?” Sitting in one of the chairs opposite Elizabeth’s desk he flipped open the heavy file. “Interesting, this one. Targets pretty young blonde women, strips them, binds them and rapes them; and yet, he leaves their clothes neatly folded beside them and their fronts in perfect condition. The rabid violence of the injuries is completely at odds with the careful manner in which he treats the rest of the crime. By leaving the front of them pristine it shows that he has some control over the violence, limiting it to only their backs, and yet the violence is so extreme. It’s also interesting how he rids them of makeup and jewellery, it’s as though he’s purifying them, ridding them of their vanity. Definitely a psychopath. It’s so carefully planned, so specific in the way things are done.”
    “So, what kind of person are we looking for? How do we tell them apart from every other bloke in the world?”
    “That’s where it gets tricky. He will probably have been abused when he was a child, most likely by the mother. I’d suggest that he’d be very neat, precise in everything he does. Maybe a history of smaller violent crimes, when the urges got too much; before he knew how he wanted to channel them. He may have been caught peeping, probably at universities, or gyms, somewhere with young women. That’s all that I can really say until we get more evidence.” Rick, who was already tucking into his chow mein, harrumphed. “That’s a lot of maybes.”
    “We’ll cross reference criminal records and see what we come up with anyway. Thanks Michael.”
    “Well, I can see when I’m no longer needed. I’ll leave you two to your meal.” Standing and straightening his trousers and jacket, the profiler paused as though hoping to be asked to stay. When no such offer was given he smoothed a hand down his tie and turned, leaving the two detectives at the desk.


    “Certain information on these two crimes suggests that they are linked; however, at this time we are not suggesting that this is the work of a serial killer. We are however still advising caution, especially for women. Again, if anyone has any information that they think could be relevant, please, don’t hesitate to call our hotline.” Elizabeth sighed deeply and looked straight into the camera. “The man who is doing this is a coward. He resorts to drugging his victims to ensure their compliance. That is why it is especially important that women remain on their guard. Thank you.”


    Elizabeth’s eyes were dry from the hours of reading through hotline transcriptions and criminal records. Her hair hung limply against her ears, falling in clumpy strands where it should be spiked. She’d slept at the office for the past two nights. She told herself that it was to save the time of travel so she could get on with her work and catch the ******* that was out there killing pretty blonde girls, but the little voice that told her not to lie, sounding oddly like the Sunday school teacher she’d had as a child, reminded her that Juliana was at home, waiting for a conversation that she didn’t know she was ready to have.

    A shadow fell across her desk and she wearily looked up. Rick looked almost as rumpled as she did; he’d stayed last night too. “Zab, gimme a lift home and then go to bed.” As she opened her mouth the protest Rick put his hands on her desk and leant forward. “You. Are. Going. Home. I dunno what’s happened to put such a bee in your bonnet, and I don’t care. You need to get some proper sleep or you’re gonna be no bloody good to us. Ok?” Nodding gloomily Zab collected all of her files together and locked them in the top drawer of her desk. Grabbing her keys and phone from the second drawer - technically more suitable for paperwork but the lock was broken - she stood looking at Rick to lead the way. “You need to get out of here Zab, if only to shower. You stink.” The comment was offered with a smile and a pat on the back, lessening the offence suggested by the words.

    As she pulled to a stop outside Rick’s block of flats she turned to smile at her partner. “Thanks Rick. For putting up with me, I mean. I know I’ve been a bit off kilter, but I’m going to sort it out. Tonight in fact.” She had no idea what she was going to say to Juliana, no idea what she really wanted, but she needed to resolve this; it was taking up too much of her headspace. She needed that space to solve the murders. “No worries, Zabby. Pick me up in the morning? I’ll bring the coffee.” She nodded as he got out of the car. “See you then.” Watching as Rick walked to the front door and keyed in the code, she waited outside until she saw his light come on. Leaning her head back on the seat, she sighed. Time to go home.


    Pulling into the space reserved for her behind her block of flats Elizabeth yanked her keys out of the ignition and leant her head back. The only thing stopping her from sleeping in the car was her pride, and her desperate desire to shower. Taking a deep breath she turned to get out of the car. A shadow pulled away from the shelter of one of the garages and started towards her. Frowning she squinted to see if she recognised them, when they continued forward she took a step back. “Oi. Stop right there. Police”


    Elizabeth woke to the smell of wet soil and evergreens, the tangy scent reminding her of Christmas. Opening her eyes slowly the world spun in visions of green and grey; slamming her eyes shut against the nausea that swam in from the pit of her stomach she drew several deep breaths before opening them again. The forest. Trees loomed above her, their branches weaving together into an almost impenetrable tapestry of greens and browns with small embellishments of the morning sky peeking through. Her limbs were heavy, in just trying to move her fingers sparkles of pins and needles ran up her arms. Rolling her head to the side made the world lurch disconcertingly, as it settled she looked around, frantically rolling her eyes to see as much as possible. Footsteps rustled and squelched towards her from behind, desperately straining to turn her head Elizabeth’s breaths came in short pants and the world began to glimmer at the edges.
    “Coward, am I?”

    Any comments and (especially) criticims are [STRIKE]welcomed[/STRIKE] desperately desired.
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