Short Fiction: First Case

corpse“Johnson.” Detective Barnes put his hand on the rookie’s shoulder. “Let me give you some advice before you go down there.”

“It’s okay, sir. They told me what to expect.”

“Hearing about it is one thing. Experiencing it is something else.”

The young officer shrugged. “Abernathy said it’s a cloying sweetness. Like fermenting, rotting fruit. Said if I’ve ever been to an orchard in the fall, I’ll have the general idea.”

Barnes looked past the rookie to his partner. “That what you told him, Officer?”

Abernathy’s lips quirked. A quick grin appeared before he managed to compose his face into an expressionless mask. “More or less.”

Officer Johnson brushed past the detective and half-strode, half-slid down the hill, the damp, moldering leaves a slick groundcover that even seasoned hikers might slip on.

Barnes hurried after him. “Johnson, wait! Before you—”

Johnson was about twenty yards ahead of Barnes when he lost his balance in the fallen foliage. He rolled the rest of the way down the hill. His momentum stopped when he landed—face first—on the rotting corpse they were there to investigate.

Abernathy’s laughter echoed through the woods, punctuated by the sounds of Johnson’s violent retching.

“Damn it, Abernathy.” Barnes made it to the bottom of the hill. “You could have prepared the guy. He’s your partner. You’re supposed to have his back.”

“Rite of passage, Detective.” His voice was muffled. He spoke into the bend of his elbow, using his arm to block the stench.

Barnes walked into a thick, odiferous wall of decomposition. There was nothing remotely sickeningly-sweet about the stench. The rank odor of rotting flesh combined with the fetor of old, expelled human excrement choked the detective.

No matter how many times he investigated a murder, the smell made his eyes water. It was a powerful, potent funk he could taste—would taste—and smell for hours after he left the scene.

He approached the corpse. Officer Johnson still lay there, covered in his own vomit. The stink of fresh bile a foul vapor over the oppressive decomp. He shook his head and turned to Abernathy. “And now, because of your little joke, we’ve got a contaminated crime scene. Happy now?”

“What’s that noise?” Abernathy asked.

“The buzzing? Probably the flies feasting on the putrefying tissue. Unless you mean that squelching sound. That’s the maggots—”

Abernathy turned, ran off the path, and threw up behind a bush.

“Guess it’s not so funny now, huh?” Barnes said.


This post inspired by the WordPress daily prompt: Fragrance

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16 thoughts on “Short Fiction: First Case

  1. Pingback: Author Inspiration and This Week’s Writing Links |

    • Sorry. Maybe I should start with a “graphic imagery” warning at the top.

      I used to write poetry, so I’m a closet fan of purple prose. (Sometimes a passage or two slips into my novels. Can’t be helped.) I know this isn’t flowery language, but I do like to paint some vibrant word pictures every now and then. Today was one of those days, I guess.

      Liked by 1 person

    • It was good. Your descriptions were perfect. I think all murder writers should have to spend 20 minutes examining the bloated carcass of some animal. I don’t know that anyone fully captures the scene. Even the flies make it hard to see and breathe. Skunks have nothing on that smell either.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Given my asthma and allergies, I don’t think I’d want to experience that, either.

      I think I’ll leave the first-hand research to you and Sue. Hopefully I can do justice to the gross things I describe without intimate knowledge thereof.

      Those things would definitely be excellent lessons, though.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Fragrance, Fetor . . . Same Difference. – TyroCharm

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