Fiction, Vignette

[48/365] drabble : untitled (pt. iii?)

The sun remains in the cold underground surrounded by death and stark-white labyrinths, but above ground it is blood on the burning asphalt, the stench of rotting meat like a cloud under the midday sun. The Rookie turns away from the window as they drive by the scene, skidmarks and tire tracks and a mangled body all that’s left of a hit and run. He wonders if it had happened too fast for her to realise it, wonders if she’d felt the steel breaking her bones and flesh apart, if the impact had killed her immediately.

In the driver’s seat, the Detective keeps his eyes on the road as he eats the sandwich the Coroner gave him with one hand, the other clutching the steering wheel tightly. They’d headed to the financial district and spoke to what few people they could, and were partially successful at establishing their victim’s identity – an investment banker who was laid off from his job mere weeks ago, he’d disappeared from the area the moment the termination letter came and he’d been booted out of his office with his belongings in a box, and none of his former coworkers had seen him since. Their victim, for all intents and purposes, had been a ghost, vanishing from sight after his termination. It isn’t a lot, but it’s something.

Now they’re on the way back to the crime scene, passing through the poorer parts of the city. The hit and run victim lies rotting under the sun – it couldn’t have taken place more than a few hours ago, but already flies are buzzing around the body. The streets are abandoned and dilapidated, the stores shuttered and locked, graffiti gracing the brick walls. At a three-way intersection, the traffic light blinks amber, and the corner pub is the only thing that seems to be alive, daytime drinkers wasting away behind windows so encrusted in dirt and grime it’s unlikely they would ever see the sun from the inside of the pub. The Detective turns right and drives right up to the curb before turning off the engine.

He leans back in his seat and munches on his sandwich, looking pensive. The Rookie passes him a water bottle, which he uncaps and takes a drink from, swallowing down his mouthful of bread and ham. The alleyway they’d parked in front of looks dark and unwelcoming and the Rookie wonders if it’s just him projecting. They’d found a man face down in his own blood and his throat slit there, after all.

“Do you know the rate of fatal occurrences that take place in this city?” the Detective asks suddenly. He sounds tired.

The Rookie racks his brain for the statistics the Academy had shoved down the trainees’ throats, the ones that he’d regurgitated on paper for his final exam. “59 different cases within the past year, putting it at about 1.17% of the national crime rate,” he recites.

“Is that what they taught you at the Academy?” The Detective laughs, although it is without mirth. The Rookie nods mutely. “That’s only part of it. Last year there were 59 different homicide cases reported. At least a dozen of those are unsolved. Hit and run cases numbered at twenty-eight, and seventeen fatal accidents were recorded. That’s not to mention the freak accidents – burning houses, smoke inhalation, electrocution, you name it. That 1.17% only applies to homicide – in terms of fatal occurrences, this city constitutes about 24% of the national death rate.”

The Detective sighs and crumples the sandwich wrapper. His fingers work much the same way the Coroner did, the Rookie notes – they both crumple the sandwich wrapper with one hand, balling it up to be thrown away.

“Death is in this city, kid. Sometimes keeping up isn’t worth your time.”

The hit and run. The man with the slit throat. The sun behind stark-white labyrinths surrounded by those who used to be human, and the moon sitting behind the steering wheel trying to find their killers.

“But someone has to care, right?”

The Detective doesn’t answer.

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