“What took you so long Sandy?” Asked Detective Janet Burrows, glancing up.
“Traffic”, was all the coroner, Sandra Peters, said as she wheeled in the gurney and began unfastening the straps that fastened the corpse into the ‘machine’. She pulled a multi-tool from a holster on her belt to detach the saw blade from the circular saw; so she could get the body out of the frame without damaging it further. Sandra did all of this without once flinching, retching or pausing. A consummate professional. Cold, methodical and strong.
“Help me with this”, she said, holding the corpse up by the neck and shoulders as best as her broad but short frame could manage. An assistant Janet didn’t recognise pulled a face as he slid a body bag between the eviscerated corpse and the framework of the ‘machine’. Between the two of them they managed to get the bag around the body and transferred to the gurney.
It amazed Detective Burrows that they were able to just scoop the entrails back into the body cavity long enough to zip the bag over them. The bag was soon strapped securely to the gurney and wheeled out by the assistant. Detective Burrows stopped the Coroner to talk to her but Sandra cut her off.
“Don’t say a word! It’s meat, not a person! If I know the details I won’t be able to sleep at night!” she said.
Janet smiled at the familiar statement. It was almost a catchphrase by now. The Detective found it reassuring that Sandra was no more bothered or curious about this case than any other.
The blood stained contraption barely looked any less grim with the corpse removed. She’d seen the symbols before, but now she could get a closer look. The markings etched into the frame were just as the notebook described. Runes and glyphs with meanings like ‘eternity’, ‘spirit’, and ‘bound’.
The wiring, tubing and other mechanisms were all housed within the framework. She began recording again.
“Whoever put this ‘machine’ thing together knew how to weld. Since I don’t see any welding equipment here it may have been constructed off-site and brought here. We should probably check local equipment hire places to see if they rented anything to a ‘Mark Anderson’, or a welding torch to anyone recently. This wasn’t the work of some self-taught amateur, judging by the neatness on the joins. I should look into Anderson’s work history and education.
It would also be worth asking the neighbors if they saw the machine being brought in, or if they saw Anderson welding. They may have heard something, or smelled smoke. There’s no scorch marks or smoke damage in the apartment that might indicate he did any welding in here.”
She couldn’t help but be a little impressed with the machine’s construction. Every electric saw, surgical blade, clamp, and needle were all attached to their own hydraulic arm. All the mechanisms were shielded with brushed metal housing, now sticky with blood and other fluids. It was clearly designed like an old-fashioned automaton. The various parts all moving in sequence.
The victim must have been terrified, unable to stop what was happening to him. Janet’s thoughts returned to the mirror that the vic had been facing. He would have seen it all happening to him.
“Why didn’t he close his eyes?” she said to herself, looking up at the headrest of the ‘machine’. There was a strap to hold his head steady, but nothing to force his eyes open. The case file said neighbors hadn’t reported any screaming to the police or to management. The reason that Fredericks, the apartment manager, had opened the apartment was to investigate the smell.
Again there was no gag attached to the frame, and she certainly didn’t remember seeing one on the body. Detective Janet Burrows looked around the floor to see if she’d missed anything. It took her a few minutes to find what she was looking for. A mouth guard. He must have been biting down on it until his jaw went slack. She could see the bite marks in it as she dropped it into an evidence bag.
Janet felt she had seen enough for now. Forensics would sweep the place for fingerprints, including the chair that ended up in the hallway. They’d run tests on the notebooks, the letter, the mouthguard and the ‘machine’. She had enough right now to make an initial report and begin building a character profile for the killer.
The other police officers were already collecting statements from the neighbors. The Detective would be able to decide better which of them to bring in for further questioning once she’d seen their reports. In the meantime, Stan Fredericks was waiting for her at the station. He didn’t seem like a killer, but he also seemed a little too shaken up by the experience. Almost like he was overacting.
It could just be that he’s superstitious, spooked not only by the grisly body he was the first to see, but also by the grim letter that accompanied it. The only way that she could be sure if it was genuine terror, or the performance of a liar would be to question him.