As if being violently murdered wasn’t bad enough, the girl’s death seemedall the more indignant when you consider that her last meal consisted of adouble cheeseburger and large fries, washed down with one of thosedisgusting cups of Coke that were more water and ice than cola.
I wasn’t anybody special, just a two-bit reporter from a local suburban ragthat had grown up with aspirations of being a bodacious fucking crimewriter, but had gotten sidetracked and bogged down with cutsie-pie storiesabout child beauty queens and heroic dogs who woke up their owner while the house burned down around them. I tried to rationalise it by telling myselfthat at least I was paying the bills with words, but deep down I knew I had sold out.
The scene inside unit nine at the Esquire Motel was a grisly mess. Not thatthe place was a stranger to violence. Since the early 1970s it had been ahaven for junkies, hookers, pushers, pimps and crims on the run, allsearching for a cheap room to either hide in or operate out of, and being amere stone’s throw from the sleazy neon of Fitzroy Street made the Esquirethe perfect refuge of choice.
But it’s doubtful the maid had ever thought she’d open a room to be met bythe degree of carnage which assaulted her eyes when she entered to change the sheets on this particular morning. The body was lying face down on the floor near the foot of the bed, and it obviously wasn’t a natural orvery peaceful death. Whatever this girl had done, she didn’t deserve toexit her miserable existence like this. Hell, maybe she didn’t do anythingat all – some people find a whole world of hurt coming down on them justfor being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
My lungs ached for the sting and taste of a cigarette, anything to take away the dizzying nausea that overcame me as I looked at the gaudy shower of crimson that lined the bedroom wall. Cast-off splatter, the forensic boys and girls called it….when a blunt weapon, often a simple lead pipe or baseball bat, is brought down repeatedly onto someone’s head, the blood flying off the implement and hitting the wall with each successive swing.
“Jesus, what a scene”, the homicide detective muttered under his breath as he brushed passed me, surreptitiously helping himself to the fifty dollar note I had waiting under my yellow legal pad and palming it into the pocket of his charcoal coat jacket. I’d first met him nearly a decade ago, when he was fresh-faced and new to force and would frequent the small video store at the tail end of Acland Street which I worked at part-time. He’d do what he could to track down the customers who had run off with the new releases and in return for the favour I’d slip him a couple of hardcore xxx tapes from under the counter, something for him and his partners in crime-busting to help while away the down time at the local cop shop. Since those days, the grungy video store lost its business to the big chains and mutated into a trendy coffee shop and the detective had worked himself up into a prime position in the homicide department, with the ulcer and hardening of his facial features to go along with the eighteen hour days and inflated pay packet.
Why the guy kept in touch with me I was never really sure. Maybe he took pity on me. He knew what my dreams were – I’d bored him with them over countless shop counter conversations – and he no doubt knew that I’d failed to make good on them. Then again, maybe he just had fond memories of jacking off to all those videos I’d handed over to him all those years ago, and was just trying to pay me back for the pleasure. Truth is, he was probably just another cop on the take who knew I was good for a quick fifty whenever a crime came to light that might pique my morbid writer’s curiosity. Whatever the reason was, he never stopped long enough for me to ask. It was always just a quick phone call telling me what had gone down and where to be at what time, have the fifty ready and keep his name out of the papers.
Not that the paper I was working for would even consider publishing a story about something so morbid and real as a young woman getting her brains spilled out onto a motel’s ugly grey carpeted floor, which made the motive for my being there even more questionable and dubious.
I didn’t try to fool myself, I knew exactly why I was there – I was drawn to violent crime and corruption and the underbelly of society the same way a moth is driven to a flame. When it took place in the backyard of the suburb I spent my younger days growing up in, the attraction was as intoxicating as a junkie feeling that early morning rush of heroin as it coursed and surged through his veins and transported his brain and synapses into a temporary state of blissful nirvana.
The detective knelt down as the forensic investigator, finished with examining the body and taking a seemingly endless succession of photographs of the victim as she was discovered, rolled the girl onto her back to examine her from the other side. There was a silent gasp that emitted from everyone in the room, so strong it seemed to suck the air out of your lungs for the briefest of moments.
Her bangs of shoulder length blonde hair were tainted red, and stuck to her face like bad wallpaper. Her eyes, which in life would have radiated with a deep crystal blue, stared wide open in death, their dilated pupils carrying an unmistakable emotional imprint of the horror they were witness to in their last moments, before their lights were extinguished forever…..before some sociopath unleashed all of his hatred and fury on the girl’s head.
She must have been very beautiful, once.
No one in the room had any idea who the girl might have been. No tattoos, nothing in her ratty leopard skin shoulder bag save for a long expired tram ticket and the usual flotsam and jetsam that one would expect to find in the possession of a girl this age. A few measly bucks sat on the top of the old dressing table, which probably helped rule out robbery as a factor. The lack of any ID hinted that the killer didn’t want the girl being identified in any hurry. It would be up to fingerprints and dental records to try a figure out who the girl was, assuming they could put all of her teeth back together. I wondered if the whole thing was likely to wind up in yet another white cardboard box marked ‘Cold Case’.
The mainstream press had gotten wind of the incident and began to make themselves heard at the apartment door. I’d gotten everything I needed so I decided to head down to the hotel lobby and back out into the reassuring, less-real world. The fresh air hit me like a good swift kick to the guts. I staggered across to the footpath and hunched myself over, releasing everything I had seen in that stifling room into the gutter.
I straightened myself up and lit a cigarette to try and get rid of the lingering taste and smell of vomit. I started staggering back to my car. I hated myself because I couldn’t wait to get home and start typing it all up.
Copyright John Harrison 2008