Melanie’s alarm blared, bolting her upright from a sound sleep. I need a vacation day from my vacation day. She tiptoed quietly to the bathroom to avoid waking Seth. Usually, he slept through her alarms. Usually. Not so amiable as he’d been the night before, he stormed into the bathroom and shouted to his wife through the shower curtain.
“Where, in hell, where you last night?”
Had she not been so cranky from lack of sleep, Melanie might have ignored his brusque tone. As each droplet of water pounded into her throbbing skull, she was in no mood for his bellowing like a jealous lover. She jerked the shower curtain aside and poked her shampoo-covered head out, dripping water all over the tile floor.
“How dare you? First of all, if you have a problem with me going out then maybe you should stay your ass at home instead of scampering behind those morgue girls. Second, I’ve never begrudged you time with your friends or to pursue your writing, so screw you!”
Even if he wasn’t face-to-face with a crazed soapy banshee, Seth would have known he’d crossed the line. She deliberately used poor grammar only when she wanted to pick a fight. It made the Grammar Nazi in him scream out in agony. He took a moment to breathe before responding, knowing the words he chose and the inflection would mean the difference between making up and a fight. He chuckled softly, knowing she was pretending not to care what he had to say.
“Stay my ass at home, huh? Message received. I’ll be here, with dinner ready, when you get home from work. Tonight, I’m all yours.”
The curtain parted again and she peered at him suspiciously through the gap.
“Really? You mean it?”
“Fo’ reals, yo”
He pretended to gag on the slang, making Mel giggle. Whew, dodged a bullet there. Laughing means all has been forgiven. She proved it a second later when Mel apologized too. After she raced off to work, Seth made a visit to the morgue. He set an alert on his phone so that he’d leave on time before entering.
“Hello, Angels of D-, um, sorry. I was expecting someone else.”
“This is a crime victim investigation. Who are you and why are you here?”
“Agent Dictator, I presume.” Seth scoffed, extending his hand in greeting. “I’ve heard all about you.”
The snickers and snorts of repressed laughter tittered through the room as colleagues of Agent Dictator stared at the floor to avoid eye contact. Bill made his way from the back of the room and met Seth by the doorway.
“Kim and Angela aren’t going to be working on this one. Come with me and I’ll take you to them.” Bill gave Seth a friendly shove and ushered him out into the hallway. “Man, you must have a death wish. Those guys will be up your butt so far you’ll think your proctologist has been flirting with you. Try not to tweak ole Dick’s nose anymore today. He’s got a whole lot of butt-hurt from the TV interview. I wouldn’t be surprised if he tried to give you a hard time now. The lovely ladies of the morgue are in here today…”
In grandiose style, Bill held open the door and Seth followed
“Guess what Seth just said to your favorite agent.”
He proceeded to relay the story to Kim and Angela. They stifled their own laughter to avoid having the FBI play hall monitor in their work space. Still chuckling, Bill shook his head and clapped Seth on the back.
“You’re a riot, buddy. Look what I snagged for you. Here’s what we’ve got so far. Technically, since the FBI is involved I really shouldn’t be showing you but it’s not like you’re the killer…are you, Seth? Ha! You should have seen the look on your face. How ‘bout it, girls? He looked like he was gonna pee his pants. Don’t do that in front Agent Dictator or he’ll haul you in for questioning. Hang out over here with Kim and Angela so you can read over the information sheets and I’ll pop back over later. Heh, you’re not, are you?”
Still laughing at his own joke, Bill disappeared into the hallway. Seth took a minute to greet his “Angels of Death” before delving into the packet Bill had procured. He scanned over the first page, including patient’s name and her description, looking for something exciting.
“Did you hear what the killer did to her?” Angela asked; her voice was barely above a whisper.
“He burned a message into her stomach; you know, like a brand. It said, ‘My Pet’. Isn’t that awful?”
“That’s not all he did to her, though.” Kim replied.