A QUICK BITE

The crime scene tape flapped in the wind, the flashing lights and crackle of radios disturbed what would otherwise have been a quiet time of night. The club’s doors had shut more than an hour ago, the last patron having stumbled, giggling on their way, either straight home or to ease their sudden urge for greasy food to line their alcohol drenched stomachs.

A stomach churning stench of urine and human waste hung in the air like a fog in the small alleyway, the smell seemed to sink into the pores, clinging to the inside of your lungs. It was a smell that never seemed to leave.

She lay there, her glassy, sightless eyes staring up to heaven, her jeans wet at the crotch, the stain obviously the source of the offending smell. But that wasn’t the worst part, that would be the guts that spilled from the large gash in her creamy flesh, spread out like they were on display, which in a way they were, they had been very deliberately arranged that way, neatly and shown off to their full extent.

Her handbag lay beside her and from what the officer poking around inside it could tell, everything that usually inhabited a woman’s bag appeared to be there. Purse, phone, mirror, a few items of make-up and a hairbrush.

The police yelled back and forth to one another as they did their best to keep bystanders away from the mouth of the alley, tried to stop them taking pictures on their phones or calling friends to gossip, but no doubt within minutes the news of the body would be all over the local social media pages.

Crime scene photographers were already hard at work, their white overalls standing out in the dimness of the night, the police floodlights trying valiantly to make a dent in the darkness.

Members of the public milled around, patrons that had been in the club and had heard the commotion, the startled screams as the young woman’s mutilated body had been discovered, or people that had been making their way home from various other late night bars and restaurants, drawn by a morbid curiosity that seemed so ingrained in humans. They were all chattering excitedly amongst themselves, treating it more like an entertaining spectacle, than the tragedy it was. To them the body laying cooling on the wet ground was not a person, it was a thing and the whole process was their chance to see something they would normally only witness on television. Only one woman seemed bothered by the loss.

Miss Angelica cursed under her breath as she caught sight of the body, that of Miss Layla, one of her girls. This was why she preferred that all bookings went through her or took place at designated feeding spots like Cassian’s place. This could have been avoided and was yet another loss, the troubles of last week still not forgotten. The last thing she needed was more danger to her girls, she had only just authorised them to go back out and here was one killed right under her nose.

She pulled out her phone and double-checked her list, though she knew she had made no mistake, Miss Layla wasn’t scheduled to meet anyone, so Miss Angelica had no way of knowing whom she had fed before her untimely end. Well, wasn’t that just great? She stabbed at the call button, waiting impatiently for someone from the Guild to answer. When the call was eventually picked up she didn’t bother saying hello.

“There’s been an incident, Miss Layla has been killed... Gutted on the floor as far as I can tell... Yes, the police were here before I arrived.  I need a message to go out to all the girls, I want to know where they were, who they were with, who they fed and if anyone saw or spoke to Miss Layla to know whom she was meeting. And I need it yesterday. Also put in a call to the local registered establishments to see if anything suspicious or unusual has happened there.” She didn’t wait for a confirmation before she ended the call, she knew her orders would be carried out.

 

Slipping the phone back into her pocket she eased closer to the barriers, trying to catch an officer’s attention, wanting to gain as much information as possible. She didn’t get very far before she was pushed back, all her questions ignored.

 

DCI Jacobson held the handkerchief over her nose and mouth to prevent herself from inhaling any more of the rank smell the body in front of her was producing. The victim had obviously lost control of her bladder at some point while she was still alive as her jeans were wet at the crotch and had dripped down her legs. Her stomach had been slashed from just under her ribs to almost her pubic bone. The intestines had been pulled out and spread around her, over her head like a macabre skipping rope, her fingers, wrapped around the organs like she was holding them, only added to the effect. When the flesh had been sliced the knife had obviously perforated her bowel, the stench rising from the body, growing more pungent the closer Jacobson leaned. And no one had seen a thing, which wasn’t uncommon for London but could seriously hamper their investigation.

 

Cassian thanked Elena as she brought the drinks to their table. The club had been closed for almost an hour, the staff cleaning up, cashing up the tills and checking the stock for the next night. It had been a long day and he had insisted that Amethyst sit down and relax now that the night was almost at an end, but as usual she had refused unless he did the same. She had probably been wise to suggest it, if he was left to his own devices he would work right up until the sun rose.

He looked at Amy now, barely touching her drink, her eyes unfocused as she stared off into space, lost in her own little world. Unable to stand it he reached out and gently took her hand, shaking her out of her musings.

“She’ll be OK, baby, Avery is looking after her. She’ll be up and about before you know it, you’ll see.”

Amy gave him a weak smile in return, but it didn’t reach her eyes. He stroked the back of her hand with his thumb, rubbing in light, soothing circles.

“Talk to me.”          

Amy sighed, taking in a deep breath and letting it out slowly, she had never been one to talk about what was on her mind, Jason had always told her that that was a sign of weakness, that to even have worries was ridiculous, let alone voice them. But he wasn’t here, wouldn’t ever be again, he finally had no control over her life. But even though she trusted and loved Cassian with all her heart, they had only been together a few weeks and she was still finding it difficult to open up to anyone that wasn’t her sisters. Tears welled up in her eyes as she finally vocalised the thoughts that had been circling her head for the last three days.

“It’s my fault, Cass,” her voice was so low, almost a whisper, that even with his acute hearing he couldn’t be sure he’d heard her properly.

“Your fault? Sweetheart, how in the world could it be your fault?”

She gave him a look that let him know she thought he was being rather dense and even that little thing made him smile, showing him just how much stronger she had grown in the past few weeks.

“He wanted me. He didn’t want her, she was just a means to an end for him. If it hadn’t been for me she wouldn’t have been in that position and wouldn’t be in this situation now. She wouldn’t be turned into something she will hate. It’s all my fault. I’m to blame.” Tears leaked their way down her cheeks as she looked up at him, needing him to be her anchor. He vowed he wouldn’t let her down. He squeezed her hand a little tighter as he spoke.

“Baby, it is in no way, shape or form, your fault. He was crazy. A crazy, cruel arsehole that cared about no one but himself. You could never have predicted what would happen, none of us could, we all thought he was dead. Sapphire will be fine, and she won’t be blaming you, you know she won’t. As soon as Avery calls we’ll head over there and you’ll be able to see for yourself.”

Amy nodded, swiping at the tears, visibly pulling herself together before his eyes. He was so proud of her and that core of inner strength she always doubted she had, the one that he had sensed from the second he met her.

“I’m just so worried about her, you don’t know my sister. She likes to be in control, she likes everything to run on a schedule and to go exactly according to plan. She likes everything her way. She won’t cope with this. She’ll hate it. She hates anything weird or abnormal. She never used to bring friends home or introduce us to people, she was always too ashamed of us.”

Cass sighed, he could see where that would be a problem for one as straight-laced and uptight as Saph.

“She’ll learn to adjust, everyone does. And we’ll all be there to help her. She has Avery with her, he’s good with people, you know that.”

Amy opened her mouth to answer but shut it again when Cassian’s phone began to ring.

“Is that Avery?” she asked as he looked at the screen.

“No. It’s the Guild.”

Amy could hear the surprise in his voice, guessing that calls from them were not an everyday occurrence.

Cass answered the phone, a hint of wariness in his voice.

“Cassian Libertas speaking,” Cass frowned as he listened to whomever was speaking to him. “A Donor, are you sure? No of course you wouldn’t have made a mistake...No we only had Miss Marissa and Mr Richard and they had been authorised by yourselves... Yes, of course, anything at all we’ll let you know. Thank you.”

Amy couldn’t hear the other side of the conversation but what she did hear didn’t sound good.

“What’s wrong? Cassian?”

“Just a minute sweetheart.” Cass stood, crossing over to Elena at the bar. He had a short, low conversation with her then gestured for Amy to follow as he made his way to his office.

Amy barely had time to get comfortable in one of the guest chairs when Elena came through the door, closely followed by Nikos who was devouring an extra large hotdog.

Cassian wasted no time.

“I just had a call from the Guild. It’s not good news. One of their girls was found outside Serenity in town, it appears she was gutted and not in a very pleasant way.”

Amy gasped in horror. “Gutted? I’m assuming you don’t mean that she had a rather big disappointment?”

Cass shook his head. “I’m afraid not, darling.” He turned back to address the rest of the room. “The police are there now so the Guild can’t get close enough to clean up the scene themselves, more’s the pity. They called to let us know what happened and to ask if we had had any more incidents or trouble tonight. I told them we only had the two Donors authorised by themselves and no one else. That’s right isn’t it?”

Elena and Nikos nodded in unison, confirming the fact that Cassian had already known.

Cass nodded. “Well, there doesn’t seem much else we can do to help but keep our eyes open. Obviously with Serenity being a human establishment the Guild never expected one of their girls to be there. But it does appear that she had been fed from. I need you two to keep your eyes and ears open over the next week at least. Make sure that all Donors are authorised, all feeders are on their best behaviour, don’t hesitate to call me if there is even a hint of a problem. Got that?”

“Yes, boss,” Nikos answered around a mouthful of pork sausage and bread. Elena simply inclined her head in an affirmative.

“Then you may head home, we’re done for the night.”