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Madam Crime

Chapter 1

Slowly, inch by inch, she was discovering the crime scene. To say that the house was a mess, it's like saying that there is a bit of sand on the beach. The place was dirty and smelly. All around were piles of the newspapers, dirty dishes with rotten leftovers, and garbage collected over the years. Apparently, for the owner, it was all worth to save. All of it had great value.

She hated this type of case. This was one of the worst scenarios, as she called it, 'the hamster's dump.' The trash and junk seemed to live its own life. For weeks, months, or maybe even longer. Who knows.

The house itself looked like a crime scene for a sense of aesthetics. Usually, people have a need to surround themselves with beautiful things - she thought - but not in this case. Here, there was absolutely everything. Where was the end of the fucking dumpster and where does the crime scene started?

It was hard to say. She looked around the house again. It was truly overwhelming. She found herself unable to concentrate.

Somehow, today it seemed even more difficult than usual. Not only because of the horrific stench of decaying corpses. After so many years of work, she kinda a get used to it. At least as much as you can get used to the feeling of squeezing convulsions of your stomach, from being around the stinking, rotting human bodies. Her female friends were always laughing at her, that this was the secret to her outstanding figure, that 'you simply can't eat anything with such a job.'

The reason for her distraction was the rich fetor in the air. The mix of garbage, choking smell of animal's excrements and definitely a poor rotten human being.

There were many useless objects characteristic of those suffering from compulsive hoarding, also known as a hoarding disease. Taken after parents, acquired after a significant loss or a trauma.

What is more, she suspected the Diogenes syndrome because of no evidence of using the washbasin and the sink. There were full of all the weird obstacles, which suggested that the owner didn't use them in a long time. It is a syndrome often associated with a compulsive collection, claiming extreme neglect of personal hygiene. It looked like the owner was suffering some kind of depression or catatonia. Perhaps the post-traumatic stress or some other mental disorder.

It was like the cave full of death. The only living thing was the parrot, and she was letting everybody know about this in a very obnoxious way.

This animal from hell was making her crazy. "Can somebody silence a damn bird?" She asked at the edge of endurance. Usually, calm and focused, after such not-like-her yelling, the eyes of all the members of the team was on her.

"Not really, M'am! The damn animal is loud likes this from the second we've entered the apartment - said one of the men working in the crime scene, pointing at the big old bird. - We've already called someone to come with a cage and get rid of this fucking beast."

She turned away unwillingly and observed the parrot. The bird looked very scared but firm. Although not in the cage, she wasn't flying between the rooms in amuck, which was the only thing Magnolia was grateful for this day. The animal was acting more like the people in shock, seeing the bloody car accident. Paralyzed. Fixing her eyes on the massacred corpses, screaming but not able to move.

Evidently, she was terrified of a large number of strangers at home. Not to mention of its owner, who God-One knows how long was lying here. Filling the house with the rotten stink, which had to be equally irritating for the animal, as it was to people. "It's a miracle the creature survived in such a condition" - she said looking at the mean bird closely. - I would even risk the statement that some things even grew out here" As a proof she raised a tray of food that was growing a thick layer of mold on the top. The old parrot fixed her eyes on Magnolia Carmichael. A long and cold look was intelligent and weirdly offensive at the same time. There was something nasty about her behavior. There was something incoherent in fact that those panicking screams were not accompanied by adequate movements. She had the odd impression that she would perceive the creature with more compassion if it behaved less creepy. The trapped animal, seeing the advantage of the opponent, usually tries to escape or attack. One or the other. But she seemed to get its obsession with the collected objects after her owner. She watched terrified, reacting to touching priceless for her and ex-owner, objects by police. Their Treasures. She was staring all the time when they were investigating the crime scene. Interesting - Magnolia thought - Was it possible that she was so close with her master, that she had taken mental illness from him? They are saying that animals are quite often taking their behavior after their owners. Maybe that was the case.

At least it looked like it. Animal's constant cry gave this place a horrifying atmosphere. She decided, as far as possible, to ignore her. She stands in the doors to the next room where the corpse was. Or rather what, after a long period in a warm place, was left of it. Waiting patiently for the crew to be done with taking photos. "Thank God you had a parrot with food and not the bunch of hungry cats," she said to the rotten body laying on the bed.

"There would be nothing left." the old man answered her. Even though she was talking more to herself. Rough laugh mixed with typical for smokers wet cough has unmistakably belonged to her favorite coworker. "That's the damn truth! - Yelled the African American elderly man with a strong southern accent. - Only dogs love us immensely. I always say that!" He looked around trying to figure out what he supposed to do next in this chaos. He laughed again, this time more to himself "I just don't know why my wife is not very pleased with me when I say that... Well, it just confirms my theory, isn't it? You need to trust me when I told you, that I'm arguing with Eleanor more often than with Colonel! I'll be dead before Y'all hear this dog complaining about me for not cleaning dishes after dinner..." For a moment she thought about Eddie and Eleanor's marriage. She was a dinner guest at Eddie's more times that she could ever count. Whenever the weather allowed them, they were sitting on the small terrace on the back of their old house. The beloved dog, Colonel, always at her legs, keeping them warm after sunset, so she could enjoy the glass of wine after dinner. A wonderful couple, with over 40 years of history. She envied them. Sadly, she was quite sure that she will never have it. Somehow it was hard to imagine to have a life like that. Even though she would really like that, it just looked unreal. She needed somebody who will respect her work and her temperament. Somebody who will constantly challenge her and help her to grow, but not by pointing in which direction she should go. She wasn't interested in somebody who will dominate her, nor a submissive and a mellow person. She was very picky about her objects of affection and private life. Magnolia was truly loyal to the rule that it's always better to be alone than with somebody wrong. Never to settle, just because we are afraid to be lonely. And that's why, the only person who was waiting for her at home right now, was her own dog, Gatsby. "Here, here!" She approved Eddie's theory. But he was not done with his praise for dogs. "They love us boundlessly and immensely. The most grateful animals in the world!" She smiled involuntarily, thinking about her pet. "And cats?" He asked rhetorically. "All you have to do is die. 'Love me and feed me, and screw you, I will eat you!' - he said the last one in the mocking tone that apparently supposed to sound like a cat. - That's how cat's love looks like." The technicians had already finished taking pictures in the room, so while continuing the conversation, she started to looking around, trying to ignore the screeching noises of the demonic parrot that was coming from behind. "Let me ask you something - continued Eddie - Have you ever heard about the cat, that was faithfully waiting for its master? Hmm? All those beautiful stories like Hachiko or Capitan, a faithful friends, that sleeps on the grave of its master in Argentina. It would never happen with cats. And that's the truth!" Concluded excitedly, Eddie.

A tall man in the technician's suit informed them that the other room was photographed and she could finally approach the victim in his bedroom. She moved closer to the body. Gently, with her hand in the surgical glove, she pushed the polyester shirt that she was wearing. In spite of many years of work, hundreds of hours at the crime scene, and a strong stomach, this view forced her to shake her head with disbelief. Who would want to hurt this guy? Especially in this way? But her thoughts quickly skipped from the body to her forenoon. At that moment she was very grateful for the asshole she had the doubtful pleasure to encountered this morning. Guy just randomly squeezed in front of her for the last free parking space in front of her favorite breakfast bar. At that time she was cursing him, because, after that silly situation, she just did not have time to eat before somebody called her to the crime scene. Her favorite deli sandwich probably would not stay long in her stomach with this stink of collected garbage, parrot's feces, mixed and the morbid smell of s long dead body. 'No breakfast for me? Good. What a waste of food and money would that be' - She thought, taking another shallow breath through her mouth.

The deceased's chest was cut multiple times. Dozens of very shallow wounds at various angles decorated the swollen like a horrifying balloon rank torso. Despite her feminine name, filled with cheerfully moving inside the injuries worms, didn't bother her. She saw worst than that. The smell in the other hand was unbearable. The body in the hot, dirty and closed apartment was in the stage of the deep decomposition. 'Did someone torture this poor old man? Did he expect of what happened to him?' - those thoughts were running like always during the case in her mind. The body, lying peacefully in his bed with no trace of fight or the self-defense was ironically quite disturbing. Was he unconscious while somebody was murdering? Drugged? Or maybe he knew that he had no chance to survive. Mentally ill? So he wasn't aware of what was going to happen? Perhaps he knew his murderer. The crime of passion, which was what it was, in that case, would suggest that he did know his executioner.

Focused on inspecting the body, she felt that the hairs on the neck rise sharply and this nasty sting of anxiety freeze her blood. It took her a minute before she realizes what had happened. Finding the source of this unpleasant feeling made her feel even irrationally worst. This time it was not the view of the body. Nor was it the bursting in her nostrils with the sad reminder that we are just a piece of meat with the relatively short expiration date. It wasn't even the disturbing surroundings of piles of garbage. She tried to focus all her senses to find out the origin of this painful feeling. Nothing - she thought - There is just nothing. Besides the whispered conversations and footsteps, the room was entirely peaceful and quiet.

QUIET? That's it! This unexpected calmness after all this parrot-from-the-hell clamor was the last thing she expected. Magnolia froze, hanging motionless above the deceased. Was the stupid bird too tired? Maybe she just lost her voice after hours and hours of non-stop yelling. Perhaps the animal just dropped dead, which would be not a surprise. The bird looked like an old sweep chimney brush. She had to be very old and neglected. Plus all that stress with losing the owner, and of course dozen of strangers invading her home. That had to be a lot of extra pressure for a sick animal. She listened patiently.

Although she was happy that the wild gibberish was finally done, this weird uncertainty about the reason was killing her. Ironically, now in absolute quiet, she couldn't focus on her work anymore. "You've waited a bit, you can wait few more minutes buddy. You will be ok without me for a moment. " She said quietly to the corps and slowly took off her gloves, came back to the living room. She has stood on the threshold and looked around. Because of all the loud noises, she didn't even realize that more people joined them.

Lost in her thoughts, she stopped for a brief second to look at the new people on the crime scene. With the sad smile, she thought - To work in this field, you have to have to grow a thick skin. For somebody from outside it might look cruel, insensitive or even barbarian, but all those jokes and horrifying comments from detectives, coroners, technicians, and police, are for a reason. We need to find a way to release the tension. Otherwise, the job would just eat us alive. When I first started, I couldn't bear my colleagues, joking around like they didn't care about the tragedy that we were witnesses. For a long time, I couldn't sleep, I wasn't able to imagine any social or romantic life. There was just no place for that. I buried myself in work, trying to give everything. And I did. I gave too much.

At that point, nearly on the edge of the mental break, I've realized that people are only people. So to stay sane and be able to do their job, you need to find a balance. At all costs. Because otherwise, the price will be to hight to pay. Some people are saying that the World is based on two adversities. Two different elements. Like white and black. Light and dark, Yin and Yang. Good and evil. Whatever you wanna call it, in my profession, we are by choice surrounded by the disastrous side. Let's be honest. Nobody calls detectives for an emergency to eat some cookies. Homicide of the hated neighbor? Well, that more of our jam.

That's just our way to stay right and sound. To keep our sanity safe. Hide it away from the extreme and nasty nature of our work. - She smiled to herself, trying not to look too satisfied - and that's why every time when unusual people are showing on the crime scene, their way of showing how much they are not used to the views, smells and terror like we have to deal with on everyday basic is quite amusing. And it looks like, today is our lucky day. The animal control. Poor guys. Fortunately for them, this is not how their normal workday looks like. Luckily for us, they are like a fresh wind, stimulating us, helping us to relax and focus on the case and not on the brutal and horrifying part of our day. And today, it was not such a lucky day for those two terrified boys. Usually, the animals are running away. Sometimes they are informing us, that something happened. For example, dogs, barking all night long, alarming the neighbors. Quite often, if the animal is in the tank, terrarium or the cage, and the corpses are discovered too late, it might also be too late to save their companion, who died from starvation next to their owner.

Everybody slowed down with their work to take a look at the 'puppies,' how Eddie used to call the scarred people who didn't belong among us.

Their faces were red and sweaty. Terrified eyes were nervously looking around, with stiffed bodies trying not to touch nor see too much, and to see as much as possible at the same time. Human nature: no matter how disgusting and scary that might be when you look at the body for the first time in your life, it's tough to turn away your head. Mesmerizing and hypnotizing us to keep looking.

Oh, puppies - she thought with the grim. She turned again to look at the big bird. The parrot looked back with the mean curiosity. In characteristic for this species way, she moved her head on the side. Focused. Looking at new guests. Her beak was fully open. Closing slightly for a moment and opening again. Magnolia shuddered with the unpleasant feeling. The animal acted weirdly like a human who tries to say something and stops himself in the last second. Beside quite footsteps, the room was soaked in complete silence. After a minute or so, the bird, like he had settled its mind on something, broke the silence with terrifying, and if that was even possible, louder scream. Did she recover, or just like most animals, wasn't very fond of the veterinarians. Maybe the mix of the smells of different animals that 'Puppies' from the Pet Control brought with them was irritating her - thought Magnolia. But something was different. For the first time, besides the noise, the animal also moved from its original place.

The parrot started jumping from the pile of garbage to the next one, flapping her wings like crazy. Flying below the ceiling and throwing smaller and lighter items into the air. Oh no - thought irritated detective - we can't afford that mess! "Hey, GUYS!" she yelled at the 'puppies.' "Are you planning to do something about this?" They looked back at her. Probably even more terrified, because like everybody else, nobody ever expects from her to be able to yell. Or anything else besides looking like somebody's wife and future soccer mom. "Like right NOW! This damn animal will devastate all evidence! Right NOW!" finally it worked, and young men in the identical outfits from the Pet Control started clumsily trying to catch the bird. But the parrot evidently wasn't planning to be caught. At least not to fast, and definitely wasn't intending to make this job easy for them.

Few more technicians joined this ridiculous chase. After total chaos of screaming, both animal and people trying to agree on the tactic to hunt the prey, Eddie decided to join them from the other room. He looked with pity at the pursuit to incapacitate an enormous bird. Finally, the bird from the depths-of-the-hell, apparently too tired and weak to fly around, sat at the tallest pile of old books and magazines. Eddie took a deep breath, smiled to Magnolia, and slowly approached the still screaming animal. He was mumbling something to her, or maybe just cursing incompetent rookies form the Pet Control for the way they screw they job - she wasn't sure. What she knew though, was that whatever it was, it was working.

Just a moment later, Eddie reached his right arm to the mountain of garbage where she was sitting. Gently lean his hand next to her and waited. Confused bird shut up momentarily and again move her head on the side, looking closely at him. Like she was considering if she can trust him. Still, parrot's human-like behavior give Detective Carmichael goosebumps again.

After what it felt like hours, calmed by old man's stillness she drove closer. Sideways, leg by leg, up to his arm and clutched to him. Eddie slowly moved his body, closing his arms with the uncertain animal between. Almost hugging her. Enabling her to spread her wings and run away. She was clearly exhausted and confused. Whit its beak still half open, she was nervously looking around. Trying to have everyone on its eye. One of the 'puppies' smoothly approached Eddie, and to the amazement of the animal, he had stabbed her with a syringe. "It's an anesthetic," he said proudly "that should knock her down in just a moment." Maybe they were not entirely useless - thought Magnolia, but quickly change her mind after a look at the room. Total anarchy. Even bigger than before. She gave her friend holding a half-unconscious parrot a thank-you-smile and turned off to go back to her job.

Finally, there was peace and quiet tangled with the everyday turmoil of working around people. 'Puppies' were about to take the animal. They put it safely in the blanket and cage, ready to transport. She pulled on the new pair of latex gloves and in the second that she was about to lean above the body, her heart skipped.

She took a deep breath and ran back. One of the Pet Control man was holding the parrot. Barely conscious she wasn't fighting anymore. Injected drugs, like promised, almost put her to sleep. During the last seconds of being half-awake, she decided to treat them with the beautiful melody. A sad last song, like after all, she wanted to be well remembered.

Few people smiled or laughed, but not detective Carmichael. She felt a weird warmth flooding her body. She knew this melody. She knew it very well. What is this song - she thought stubbornly - I recognize it from somewhere. Her brain was working hard, trying to find a source of this memory was almost itching.

She hated when that happens.

She knew this melody, but from where?

The answered was right there, somewhere. Hidden deep in her head.

This sound was accompanying her for the whole day, letting know about itself. Playing over and over in her brain. The full day long. She even dreamed about it, but unfortunately for her, when she woke up, she had no recollection about it. No whatsoever.

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