Lucy knelt by the body, her paper-thin coveralls crinkling over her khaki’s and blouse, the booties hiding her stout loafers. Through her plastic gloves, the corpse’s chill radiated against her fingers as she examined the dead man’s hands.
From the floor above, footsteps descended the stairwell.
She didn’t bother looking up from the bluish nails and their clog of pale flesh.
“Lucy,” said Detective Marshall. He towered over her, hands in his pockets, gaze perusing the body. “So?”
“The final blow might have been the fall, sometime between 1 am and 3.” She gestured toward the man’s lower half, twisted like a cork around an ample waist. “I’m sure the concrete didn’t soften his landing.”
Doug narrowed his eyes. “An accident then?”
“No,” said Lucy. She plucked the dead man’s wrist and held up his stiffening limb. “There was a fight. I’d guess you’re looking for someone with some substantial scrapes. We’ll take samples and see if we can get you any more evidence.”
“Anything identifying who he is?”
“No wallet so far. There might be a name stitched to his clothes, but I haven’t gotten there yet.”
Nodding, Doug began a slow pace around the basement landing. His dress shoes slapped the cement in a steady rhythm, punctuated by the other officers shuffling around the tight space, collecting fingerprints from the banister and marking blood spatters on the floor.
Resuming her inspection, Lucy delved into the pockets of the man’s suit coat, and as suspected, found only lint. The back of his shirt collar provided a tag with washing instructions but no name.
Bruising purpled his neck, however, and as she traced along a clean shaven jaw, Lucy paused at the man’s indigo lips. His mouth curved in a frozen pucker, like a fish. Inserting her fingers, she brushed against teeth, and then hit a solid mass.
“Doug,” she said.
He pivoted and loomed again, keeping a discrete distance from the corpse.
Meanwhile, Lucy waggled the lodged gag free. A roll of film emerged, and she stared at the used cylinder filling her hand. She glanced up at Doug. “Microfilm?”
“Looks more like photographic film to me,” said Doug. His inky brows furrowed. “Why would someone do that?”
“Isn’t that what you’re here for?” Lucy beckoned an officer for a baggie and deposited the film. She offered the plastic sack to Doug.
Keeping his hands in his pockets, he tilted his head toward his stick-thin Lieutenant making his way down the stairs.
“Take that Renny,” said Doug. “See what they can get out of it.”
“Sir.” His pallor fading, Renny donned one plastic glove before accepting the bag. “I think I’ve got a name on our…individual.”
Doug focused on the corpse. “And?”
Holding the film’s bag to the side as if fearful it might be infectious, Renny dove into a flip book of notes. “Doctor Felix Vederasco. He was a resident in the apartment building. The Penthouse. He returned home late last night, around 11 pm according to the doorman.”
“Is anyone else missing?”
“No,” said Renny. “The manager’s been able to contact all the other residents.”
With a non-committal grunt, Doug began sweeping his gaze around the scene again. Lucy stood, and withdrew her gloves.
Tearing his gaze from the body, Renny folded away his book. “I’ll get this heading to forensics.” He swiveled, and dashed up the stairs.
“He likes bodies about as much as you do,” whispered Lucy.
Doug almost hid his chagrin.
With a sober grin, Lucy raised her tone. “There’s bruising developing around the neck. I think they’ll resemble fingers. It suggests that he was alive when the film was forcefully inserted.”
“And then he was pushed down the stairs?” Doug hunched his shoulders and scowled. “That doesn’t add up.”
“Maybe he was intoxicated, or drugged. I’ll be able to tell you more when I can conduct a thorough examination.”
“Let me know when you’re done.”
Renny tramped down the stairs again, paperwork now filling his hands. He retained his gaze on the pages when he reached the bottom tread.
“They’ve gotten us his telephone records for the past few days.” He flipped through the first sheets, his eyes flicking across the contents. “He received a call this morning, around 1 am.”
Doug tensed. “From whom?”
“There’s just a number,” said Renny, already retrieving his cell phone from his suit coat’s pocket.
He dialed while the junior coroners lumbered down the stairwell with a backboard and ebony body bag. With a cringe, Renny dropped down the last step and pressed his back against the wall, giving them room.
“Hello,” said Renny into his phone, “who is this?”
Lucy heard muffled screeching on the other end of the line. Jerking the phone from his ear, Renny stared at the mobile. After a sudden slam, the call ended.
“She doesn’t seem like a morning person,” said Lucy.
“They never are,” said Doug. “Trace down the other numbers,” he said to Renny, “and then we’ll start with your friend there. See if she’s more cordial after coffee.”
Renny nodded. His gaze drifted toward the coroners beginning to maneuver Mr. Vederasco into the bag.
Doug followed his subordinate’s focus, his jaw stiffening. “Why don’t you call from upstairs, Ren.”
“Yes…yes sir,” said Renny. He bobbed his head at Lucy. “Doctor.”
Renny locked upon the paperwork again, and dialed as he ascended the stairs.
“I should be in touch this afternoon,” said Lucy as the coroners zipped the bag closed and heaved the body onto the board, leaving a taped outline on the concrete.
Doug swept his gaze over the exposed cement, awash in darkened blood. “Slow week?”
“Fortunately, yes,” said Lucy.
“Lucky you.” Doug stepped aside, allowing the coroners to cart the body up the stairs.
“Enjoy your interviews,” said Lucy.
Doug snorted. “Better than dealing with the corpse.”
“At least they don’t talk back.”
He smirked. “Sometimes they have something interesting to say.”
“I hope I will too,” said Lucy.
Sharing a nod, she headed after Felix, leaving Doug with the bloodied floor and an unknown killer on the loose.