How It Is Around Here
On Monday mornings, I send out a story via email: ultra-brief tales of 1,000 words or more, usually in genres including horror, science fiction, and the supernatural. Those stories collectively are called Once Upon A Time. I’ve also published several ebooks and compendium volumes of those stories so far.
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How It Is Around Here
It was pissing down with rain and bitterly cold, and the worst possible place to be in such weather was the middle of a field — so of course that’s where the crime scene was.
The inspector trudged downhill towards the small cluster of uniformed and plainclothes officers, his coat’s collar turned up against the elements, and he silently wondered why murderers couldn’t at least wait until the summer.
“Morning, sir,” said the local constable, looking like he was just about old enough to drive but maybe not clever enough for the task. “Bit of a nasty one here.”
The inspector nodded, choosing not to ask the young man about the non-nasty murders he’d apparently encountered in his brief career so far, then he walked past all of them and went into the tent.
There was always a tent, and he was glad of it because it kept the rain out, but its usual purpose of shielding a grisly scene from the public’s eyes wasn’t required today. There was no-one else around at all, and that was a good thing. The corpse wore a bright yellow puffer jacket, visible against the patchy grass from a mile off before the cordon and the tent went up. It lay there like a bundle of hay, and the inspector felt a note of unease chase through him.
The victim was a man in his mid-thirties, though it was difficult to pin down his exact age given the state of his face. The inspector had seen a few cases approaching this level of violence, but they were rare, and usually it was personal. The body had no identification of any kind; no phone, no wallet, no car keys, bus tickets, or in fact anything at all in any pockets except half a packet of throat lozenges and a couple of used tissues.
There was probably a grim joke in there somewhere about treating nasal congestion by making a few extra holes in a man’s head, but anyone who dared to make in the inspector’s presence would be washing Friday night booze-vomit out of the back seats of patrol cars for the next five years. It wasn’t about respect for the dead; it just wasn’t funny. The inspector went back outside.
“Just dumped him out here in the open, then,” he said.
It wasn’t really a question, but the local constable nodded anyway. The withered grassy surface of the field and a night of heavy rain had turned the place into a swamp, and getting any footprints would be a pig of a job. There were no tyre marks at least up to the tarmac where the inspector’s own car was currently parked, and uniformed officers were already talking to the farmer.
But it wasn’t the farmer, the inspector thought. Farmers were a lot of things, but they generally weren’t sufficiently out of their damned minds to put a few dozens holes in a man and then leave him in their own field like a blood-soaked canary, ready to be spotted by the first poor bastard who happened by while walking their dog.
It had been a woman, while indeed walking her dog, who apparently found the guy. She thought something looked strange from up on the road, and had a debate with herself before finally giving in to curiosity and going down to make the gruesome discovery. She wouldn’t be forgetting that experience any time soon. Or ever.
The inspector looked around, taking in the muted scenery. It was a nice enough place, he supposed, but it sure as hell wasn’t the city that he’d had to leave too early in the morning to come down here, and which he might not get back to tonight at all.
“So what else is around?” he asked, and this time another of the local officers spoke up, a slightly older man with a jet-black beard that was a bit too neat.
“Not much, sir,” the second man said. “There’s a school about a half-mile to the east. A bit past that, the local vet’s surgery. And back the other way there’s the farm. I think there’s a dairy too, if you keep going all the way down the B-road.”
“And the Germans,” the first officer added. The inspector could hear the twang in his accent now; he was definitely from around here. A country lad.
“Germans?” the inspector said, unsure if he’d heard correctly, and the first officer nodded.
“Big house, brand new, about five minutes away. They finished it less than three years ago. Just bought the land and then built the whole thing. Lots of money. They’re called Van-something.”
“Sounds more like Dutch,” the inspector said, and the second officer interjected on his colleague’s behalf.
“It’s Von,” the man said. “Von-something. Definitely German. We had to warn off the local kids from vandalising their gates. They learned about the second world war at school last year. That’s just how it is around here.”
“Little pricks,” the inspector said, and the first constable nodded. He shifted his feet in discomfort, and the inspector immediately knew that the young man must have relatives amongst the aforementioned teenaged thugs. Typical rural community. He really couldn’t want to get back onto the motorway and away from here.
“Alright,” the inspector said wearily, “one of you get over to the Van-Something residence and find out if their fancy new house includes security cameras with a view of the B-road. Nobody dragged a body the whole way from the village. The rest of you can wait here for forensics, and get rid of any sightseers.”
The inspector started to walk away, then had another thought, and made a half-turn back. “And tell the Van-Somethings I’ll be dropping by in a wee while. Ask them to put the kettle on.”
The local constable nodded smartly. “Right away, sir,” he said. “But begging your pardon, inspector, I never did get your name from dispatch.”
Nosy little bugger, aren’t you, the inspector thought, but it was also a reasonable question. Somewhere nearby a cat had started yowling like it had trapped its foot. It was going to be a very long day.
The inspector adjusted his coat’s collar, then turned and resumed course back to his car.
“It’s DI Maclary, son,” he called back over his shoulder. “Now get to bloody work.”
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