Sitting in the middle of the dining room table was Esme. Not all of Esme, just her head, eyes wide open, staring from the crystal bowl. Her hair had been cut into a short spiky chopped mess, and blood had pooled in the bottom of the bowl. Her body had been positioned in a chair next to an antique cabinet with her hands cupped in her lap, collecting pools of blood that had seeped from her neck. Her legs were twisted in the same twist tie I’d seen in my office that day.
I looked around the room. Everything looked the same as it had when I’d been there in the afternoon. The table was set with a series of white Nortaki china, crystal goblets, and a table runner across the middle. The runner was under the crystal bowl containing Esme’s head. The last time I’d seen the bowl it had been empty. I avoided looking at the head and tried to concentrate on the details of the room. I’d never been to a crime scene so I didn’t really know what I was looking for, but there didn’t seem to be signs of a struggle. I looked behind Esme’s body and saw a slight darkening of the brown walls where blood from Esme’s neck had sprayed the surface. Other than the blood, the room looked pristine. Pristine if you didn’t consider the trail of blood from the body to the head on the table. It looked like a set up for a horror flick or a bad joke. Only the acrid smell of expelled body fluids made the scene real.
Lauren wrapped her arms around her middle and bent forward, the remains of her fast food dinner spewing forth onto the floor. Holding her hair back with one hand, she spit vomit onto the hardwood floor. Her mouth hung open and spit dribbled from her lips. It seemed she couldn’t catch her breath as she dropped to her hands and knees. She didn’t seem to notice the chunks of her dinner under her hands.
“Oh my god, oh my god,” she said. Sucking in a deep breath, she vomited again. This time she didn’t try to pull her hair from her face.
I stood silent, stunned. I followed cheating spouses, did skip traces, took photographs of people committing insurance fraud, and I stood guard to protect people, but I wasn’t a cop, and I’d never seen anything like this. Between Lauren’s barfing, and Esme’s decapitated head I didn’t know how to keep myself from fainting. Finally, I looked up, which helped me swallow the bile building in the back of my throat, and concentrated on the ceiling for a moment.
Watching Lauren, and smelling the regurgitated fish filet, was too much. But I couldn’t vomit. I had to get my head together. Call the police. But I couldn’t move. I was the professional here, right? Oh, I so didn’t want to be the professional. I wanted to go back to the car and have a do-over. Lauren started to stand up, and I regained my composure, trying to be the consummate professional.
“Don’t touch anything. I’ll call the police,” I said.
She barely got herself into a sitting position on the floor rocking back and forth, whispering. I couldn’t hear what she said. I leaned closer, and choked back my vomit when I smelled hers.
“What?” I said.
“Henry. Where is Henry?” She wiped the vomit from her hands onto her skirt.
I pulled my cell phone from my hip holster and dialed 911. I put the phone to my ear and listened. It seemed like an hour before the dispatcher answered.
“911, what’s your emergency?”
“There’s been a murder.”
“Ma’am, are you okay?”
“Yes,” I lied. “A woman was murdered, and we just got home and found her.”
“Ma’am. What’s your name?”
“Mimi Capurro. I’m here with the owner of the house. She isn’t doing so well.”
“Has she been injured?”
“No. She found the body. She’s not handling it very well.” I looked back at Lauren who was still rocking and mumbling.
“What’s your location, ma’am?”
Why do they always ask that, when they know where you are? Then I remembered I was calling from my cell phone. I gave her the home’s address.
“Okay, I have a car on the way. Is anyone else in the house with you?”
“I don’t know. I’ll go check.”
I crept down the hallway, switching from the handset to my Bluetooth headset. I heard the dispatcher snap at me. “No, ma’am, don’t go anywhere. The police will be there any minute. They’ll look for anyone else in the house.”
Knowing full well the killer could still be in the house, I didn’t even know if we were safe, so I pulled my nine millimeter from my shoulder holster and climbed the stairs.
“Ma’am, are you there?” The dispatcher sounded more concerned and less confident now.
I didn’t answer. I was trying to climb the stairs quietly, and I wasn’t really listening to her.
“Ma’am. Stay put. The police will be there any minute. Ma’am?”
She sounded distraught now, so I felt compelled to say something. I whispered, “Call me Mimi, please. I can’t stay put, I have to see if the husband is alive. I may be able to help him, if he’s still alive. I’m okay, I have a gun.”
Now that was the wrong thing to say. The dispatcher went on alert.
“Mimi, did you say you have a gun?”
“Don’t worry. I’m a private detective. I’m licensed.” Not that I’d ever had to shoot anyone before. But I could if I had to, I was sure of it.
“Please Mimi, stop where you are. I need you to stay put until the police arrive.” I’m pretty sure she was screaming at me, but I’d blocked her out.
I climbed the rest of the stairs and plastered my back against the wall, creeping along until I reached what I hoped was the bathroom door. Reaching across the door and turning the handle, I pushed the door open and flipped on the light, pointing my gun in front of me. The room was empty. I breathed deep, grabbed a hand towel from the counter and headed to the next room.