*Psychological Thriller 18+*
Hide and Seek
“… Seven ... Eight ... Nine … Ten! Ready or not! Here I come!”
The unusually hot rays of a summer afternoon’s sun beat down on Joey as he counted to ten in the latest game of hide and seek with his younger siblings in Brooklyn. Unaware of the thick, humid air that hung in the dirty, abandoned brownstone, Alex and Jennifer sought separate hideouts in the crevices of their favorite playground. Now just a shell of its former beauty, the building offered no overhead protection from the sun’s unforgiving assault. As far as they were concerned, this was no different from any other free summer afternoon.
As usual, Joey didn’t have a problem finding Jennifer. She was the youngest and had little, if any, imagination. She always chose the same spot in which to hide – a closet located just to the left of where the front door would be.
“Aw, Jennifer! There are so many places to hide in this building! Why do you always hide in the same spot?”
“I’m afraid you won’t find me, Joey!”
She held back a sniffle.
“‘I’m afraid you won’t find me, Joey!’” he mocked his little sister.
“Stop! So what?” she unwound herself from the space and faced him.
“Fine. Let’s just go find Alex, ok?” Joey said as he took his little sister’s hand. He was suddenly hot and feeling impatient.
“Alex! Alex! Come out, come out wherever you are!” they yelled in unison.
Their voices fell flat. The air felt terribly wrong. Fear gripped Joey’s heart and the little hairs on the back of his neck stood at attention. He shivered as he held his sister’s hand a little tighter.
“Alex? Alex! Where are you?”
Still, there was no response from his little brother and this made Joey’s heart quicken. There was a loud shuffling and then a crash could be heard coming from just ahead of them.
Joey tugged on Jennifer’s small hand and dragged her along as he ran in the direction toward the sound. When he got to the door, there was no knob. He paused, and then burst through it with his shoulder only to be knocked back by the stench that rushed up to greet him. He gagged and fought the urge to vomit. Little Jennifer cried out at the smell and with a twitch brought her hands up to cover her nose and mouth.
In the corner of the room was an old stove that had been pulled away from the wall. Not far from it, stood Alex, frozen in silence. Joey followed his brother’s line of vision and rested his eyes upon something no child should see.
Joey spied blood smeared all over the side of the stove and on the ground around it. Out from behind the stove he focused on what his brother was staring at – bare feet. With a shiver, he pulled his sister against his body, simultaneously covering her eyes. Jennifer shook in her big brother’s protective embrace. As she squirmed in his hold, Joey took a few paces closer to the body and stood in front of Alex to purposely block his view.
The victim was on the ground, naked. His skin discolored and bruised. Stepping backward, his mouth an “O” of horror, Joey turned his head sideways and saw his own expression on his brother’s face.
“Alex! Look at me. Come on! Look at me!! Alex?”
Alex turned toward him, his eyes lit with terror yet unseeing.
“Good. Good, now come to me, Alex! Come on! We have to get out of here!”
Joey anxiously reached for his brother with a thin, trembling hand.
Lights ablaze, several police radio motor patrol cars surrounded the brownstone while one lone policeman stood guard. Other uniformed officers prowled the perimeter of the building searching for any clue that would tell them what took place there. Emergency Medical Technicians assigned to the three ambulances that were parked just beyond the RMPs could be seen examining the children. A tall, muscular man dressed casually in black pants and a short- sleeve shirt strode confidently toward the solo patrolman.
“What do we have here, Officer Brown?”
“One male, DOA found by three children; two boys and a girl; all siblings under the age of twelve, sir. They were playing hide-and-seek when they stumbled on it.”
Standing a solid, heavily muscled six feet tall, Detective Mason Jones was an imposing figure – the kind of man who meant business. A seasoned detective, he routinely worked homicide cases.
Jaded by his experiences, he thought he’d seen it all. Nothing really ever surprised him anymore. This case was going to change all that. Right now, all he knew was that some children had chanced upon a DOA. He particularly didn’t like it that young children found the body, but at the same time, all he really wanted to do was go home to his new wife and have a nice dinner. They’d argued over something stupid that morning and he knew he was wrong but his ego wouldn’t let him admit it to her right then and there. Now, he was looking forward to not only making it up to her but making up with her as well.
Why is he taking so long to spit it out, the detective thought to himself.
Even though he had just arrived at the scene, he was already frustrated with not only the situation, but also the young officer. He just wanted to get home to his wife.
“Go on,” he encouraged the patrolman as he stepped over the threshold and signaled him to follow.
“Like I said before, the kids were playing hide-and-seek. Alex, age nine, wandered into a back room looking for a place to hide. According to his statement, he stepped behind the stove, and got a whiff of something that smelled bad. He said ‘it got to him’ but he thought it was just a dead rat and he wanted to see it. There were large pieces of discarded linoleum and broken bricks lying on the floor so he shifted the debris around and found the body.”
Detective Jones raised an eyebrow. He knew there was a dead body in there somewhere but he couldn’t see it from where he was.
The patrolman noted the look on Detective Jones’ face.
“I think you’d better have a look yourself, sir.”
“Alright, let’s go do that then.”
The patrolman and the detective walked together through what might have once been the entry foyer.
“You’d better take one of these, sir. The stench is pretty bad.”
The young patrolman handed the detective a cigar.
Even after lighting the cigar to mask the odor, the detective still cringed. But that was nothing compared to what he saw. Movement in his peripheral vision seemed to slow to a crawl. He could hear the voices of all the technicians buzzing and movement blended together in a surreal moving mural.
He slowly approached the body for a closer look as he pulled on a pair of gloves.
The male victim was completely naked. He appeared to be about thirty years old, well built, tall and tanned. Though in an advanced state of decomposition because of the oppressive heat, the detective guessed the murder took place at least forty-eight hours prior to its discovery. He bent down to get a closer look and gently moved the victim’s head to the side. There was bruising about the neck, forehead and forearms. The victim’s knuckles were cut. His penis and scrotum appeared to have been either crudely sliced off or rodents had begun to chew at the bloody flesh. Blood had caked all around the area and on the upper thighs. It was hard to tell what had happened without a complete examination.
“Jesus! What kind of monster does this? I don’t suppose we have identified the victim?” he asked the young patrolman.
“No, not yet, sir, but we did find an empty wallet.”
“Ok. Maybe it was a robbery. Where are his clothes?”
“We didn’t find any clothing, sir.”
“The clothes may have had evidence on them. Could be why they were removed by the perp.”
“That was my thinking, sir.”
Jones rubbed his bald head. It was going to be a long night. It appeared that his make-up session with his wife would have to wait.
He nodded and turned to scan the crime scene once again. He watched the fingerprint specialists, crime scene unit experts, and medical technicians as they worked. It seemed he always did that while he pulled off his gloves. The ripping sound they made always impacted him and what he saw. It made grisly scenes like this one feel real to him. It was hard for him to believe otherwise; that something like this could happen to another human being.
He turned again toward the patrolman and said:
“Cover him up. I’m going to go see what I can get from the kids. If you need me, I will be home in about an hour. Call me there.”
Frowning, the detective stepped out onto the street and walked over to where the ambulances were parked. He spent some time with each of the children separately. They all had different perspectives leading up to the discovery, but for each of those kids, the story ended the same way: dead body. Now, there was nothing more he could do but wait for the lab reports to come back. Letting out a deep sigh, the detective got in his car and headed home. He hoped he could still make it there before his wife went to bed.
In all his years of service to the NYPD, Detective Mason Jones had seen a lot of things but this, by far, was one of the most disturbing scenes he’d ever witnessed. He felt badly for those kids. This was the kind of thing bogeymen were made of. For that reason alone, he swore he would find out who did this no matter how long it took.