Log:20100210 - The Origami Killer - Part One

WARNING! This scene has graphic descriptions of violent gore. Do not read if you are sensitive to such things!

Setting

Crime Scene - South Side Slums

65234 Halstead Street - An abandoned and condemned house marked for demolition. It's an old-style one story ranch which has been used by squatters, insects, and nesting rodents for crash space for a long, long time.

ST

Cast

RL Date

Friday, May 22, 2009

IC Date

Wednesday, February tenth 2010. 01:00 am

The sun is down. The waning crescent moon is up. <36.7% full and fading>
The tide is high and rising.

A cold wind blows from the south, driving charcoal clouds before it and blotting out the stars in isolated patches overhead. The air is clear and elsewhere the stars shine brightly. There is about 24" of snow on the ground. The average temperature is around Twenty-five degrees Fahrenheit, Negative four Centigrade.

Scene

The call came in late for most, but smack in the middle of Hadley and Wickham's usual 9pm to 5 am shift. A body was discovered over in the slums area of the city. The abandoned house was scheduled to be demolished in a few days, but a homeless man and his dog discovered a corpse while looking for a place to squat for the night.

Barricades have been erected, and two police cars flank an ambulance which is waiting to deliver the body to the medical examiner after the detectives do their thing. The red and blue lights from the cruisers paint the crumbling façade of the small one story ranch in carnival colors that seem far too cheery considering what the building holds.

Eleanor pulls her SUV in behind one of the cruisers and she climbs out, rounding the vehicle to the back to gather her coveralls, equipment case, and duffle bag. She hands the latter to Hadley as a uniformed officer approaches. "We have a body in there, female we think, indeterminate age," he informs them. He looks pale and any bravado he might try to show is undermined by the flop sweat plastering his hair to his scalp.

The vampire is there and waiting, perhaps not necessarily for the duffle bag, but he takes it without question. Hadley eyes the officer that approaches to inform them of the situation and he arches a brow at him as though wondering if that's all he's going to say without actually asking outright. Not that the guy will have many answers. That's what he and Eleanor are here for, after all.

"Female, you think?" Eleanor reiterates. She knows what that means, and because of that she doesn't bother to ask if she needs the coveralls. She sheds her suit jacket, folding it neatly before laying it in the trunk of her car, and steps into the protective garment. The blue cotton outfit has "CSI" on the back in large letters, just in case anyone mistook her for anything else.

The uniformed cop's tag notes that he is 'Officer Mitchell', and he nods his head repeatedly in response to Eleanor's question. "Yes. We have the site secured. Go in whenever you're ready." With that he heads back to his cruiser where he leans heavily against the door for support. He looks truly shaken.

Eleanor cants a glance at her partner. "That can only mean that the body is in such bad shape the responding officers couldn't tell its sex for certain visually. So the crime scene is either very old or very violent in there. Considering the place had to be inspected fairly recently to be condemned, I'll wager it's the latter." She grimaces and zips up the coveralls before slipping on some booties over her boots and safety glasses over her eyes. "You up for sorting through the messy stuff with me?" she asks, jerking her chin at a spare coverall in the trunk.

Hadley eyes the spare coverall with a mixed expression after pulling his eyes away from Mitchell. He glances very briefly at Eleanor, perhaps wondering if he actually has a choice in the matter. But then he reaches for the coverall and goes through the ritual of putting it on along with the other paraphernalia. Fun times. "Shoot me if I start acting weird," he says but it's hard to tell if he's joking or not. He has such an awful sense of humor to begin with.

Once she has all her equipment on or in hand, Eleanor heads for the front door of the house. "If it gets overwhelming, step outside, Brian," she says quietly. "Otherwise, use all your senses in there. If you notice anything at all, no matter how inconsequential it seems, point it out. You are likely to see a lot that I might miss," she says quietly. It's something she has told him on more than one occasion now. It's become a habit, really, reminding him that his current form has gifts that can be used for good. She holds up her badge once she nears the police tape barring the way.

A nervous looking young cop whose tag reads 'Walters' is standing outside the front door of the house controlling entry to the crime scene. He looks jittery, but he doesn't seem on the verge of puking. Hadley would be able to smell that he already has at some point though, as the odor still clings to him. He glances at Eleanor's badge, swallows, and draws the tape aside so the pair can enter.

Inside, the smell of dust, mold, and decay hangs in the air, with the nose-wrinkling musk of animal urine and feces mingled in. But to the heightened senses of a vampire the smell of blood, perhaps a day or two old, is all pervasive. What was once a tiled foyer leading to a living room is hardly recognizable as such. The windows are all boarded up, the drywall is mostly missing, leaving the studs bare in many places, and the floor is piled high with garbage from innumerable past squatters. A few halogen lights have been put in here to keep people from tripping, but it is dim compared to the lights shining down a hallway, emanating from what is most likely a bedroom. Quiet voices can be heard coming from in there, most likely other officers on the scene.

Yeah, yeah. He's used to the speech on paying attention. Hadley may not like it, but even when he doesn't like it; it's hard not to put his heightened senses to work. Especially where blood in involved. He follows Eleanor and he has his own badge in sight. He eyes Walters a moment or three longer than necessary but he can already smell the blood and his energy is a little more /there/ in response to it. He clears his throat, a very human habit, and tries not to focus too much on what he's more or less designed to focus on and take in other details that might otherwise go overlooked.

Stepping inside, the blonde ties her hair back in a knot to keep it out of her face, before jumping suddenly; unintentionally shouldering Brian. "Jesus, I think something just ran over my boot," Eleanor grunts, as a rat skitters amid the garbage piles. Her heart pounds a little faster from being startled, before she closes her eyes and re-centers herself. Her energy is a little ragged around the edges in anticipation of what they are going to be looking at. She picks her way carefully through the refuse on the floor and down the claustrophobically narrow hallway, calling out, "Detectives Wickham and Hadley, coming in!" so as not to startle whoever is in the back bedroom.

Another uniformed officer with some grey shot through his dark hair steps through that doorway, followed by a female officer who also looks to be in her 40s. Both of their faces are stony and controlled, marking them as likely veterans, and their nametags indicate they are officers 'Caldwell' and 'Ortega' respectively. "Then we officially turn control of the scene over to you, detectives. We'll be down the hall if you need us," Ortega notes to them with a grim look in her eyes. They don't waste any time at all getting the hell out of Dodge the moment they're relieved.

His energy flares a little colder, startled by Eleanor and then briefly attracted to the faster beating of her heart. Hadley has to refocus himself and he's shaking his head with some measure of irritation, more likely with himself than with the rat or her, when he moves to follow the woman down the hallway, watching the floor more than her for anything that might be of interest. He nods his head to both officers when they turn the scene over to them and flee. "I need to start eating better," he mutters to himself. Leave it to a vampire to think about their stomach as they get ready to enter a murder scene.

GAME> Hadley rolls 12 against 50% : 38% success

Eleanor keeps the interior of the room out of her direct line of vision still, as if wanting to be fully prepared before she sees what is in there. She sets her tech kit on the ground beside the door frame and opens it, pulling on latex gloves and grabbing a bottle of what looks like, of all things, Old Spice. She shakes a few drops of that 'cheap father's day gift' cologne onto a medical mask before pulling it over her head and using it to shield her nose and mouth from the smell that is already making her stomach flip flop.

There is a smell instantly recognizable to anyone who has worked with bodies for any amount of time. It's the smell of an open bowel; a fetid, sour odor that makes every hair on your body want to curl back under your skin. That smell is crawling like a living thing from the doorway of the bedroom, like a creature purposely seeking out any orifice to settle in. It forces the female detective to focus on walking herself step by step through a checklist of procedures, and she misses something that Hadley does not.

Despite the dimness of the hallway, regardless of the haphazard seeming piles of garbage, there is something out of place that catches his eye. Amid a nest of crumpled up newspapers is an oddly colored piece of what looks to be origami? It's tucked into a folded canyon of a yellowing sports section of the Tribune, a shape like a sharp edged swan made of some kind of thick paper. It's a sickly bluish grey paper crane of the sort people make for sending well wishes.

Hadley pauses when he sees that thing that's not quite at home with all the other junk. He crouches down, settling the duffle beside him and makes a sound to catch Eleanor's attention. He doesn't seem too horribly affected by the foul odor, oddly, since his sense of smell has vastly improved since his own death, but this catches his attention. He's pulling on a pair of latex gloves and then he glances around before opening up the yellowing paper to better reveal what is one of those things that might be inconsequential.

GAME> Eleanor rolls 22 against 40% <+14% +15%> : 47% success
GAME> Hadley rolls 7 against 65% : 58% success

It's skin. The crane is made out of human flesh that seems to have been sealed in its folded form somehow. The skin is dry and papery-looking, giving the illusion of it being parchment at a quick glance. But to a vampire's senses there is absolutely no doubt that it used to be attached to a human being.

Eleanor looks over at Hadley and his find, and she crouches down to peer at it, shining a maglite over the surface of the intricate folds. She squints as she leans in to inspect it, then she rocks back onto her heels, putting a hand against the hallway wall to brace herself as her mind susses out the puzzle and identifies the material of the 'art piece'. "Sweet Mary, Mother of God," she mumbles through a throat constricted with the effort not to throw up. "Is that what I think it is?" On autopilot, she hands over an evidence bag and a pair of tweezers for her partner to collect the evidence.

"Yup," Hadley responds, taking the supplies and bagging the skingami as evidence. He doesn't /seem/ quite so taken aback by the art but he does have the grace to look moderately disturbed. He's always been a little hard to ruffle on scenes like they are at now. That's actually gotten a little worse since the vampire thing, all things considered. "Suppose it's from the one in there?" he asks, though more rhetorically than actually to Eleanor.

Eleanor uses a permanent marker to write a notation on a sticker which she affixes to the evidence bag. All the while she works at shutting down that part of her mind that wants to run screaming at the idea of what must be in the bedroom. She begins to compartmentalize her thoughts, and the panicky ones get pushed aside, followed by the ones that register the crane as being part of a person. It's just evidence, that's all. That skill is what allows her to do her job without screaming bloody murder right now. The bag gets set into an airtight container before she rises; slowly, so that she doesn't get dizzy after the nauseous moment. "If it's not, this crime scene just got a whole lot worse," she replies to Hadley. Then she closes her eyes a moment as if to shake off that idea. "If you're ready," she says huskily, like she's been swallowing broken glass, "We'll go in. Corners, walls, and floor first. I want to hear all your first impressions. Then the body after." Getting the visual of the surroundings first sometimes helps brace her for the horror of the corpse. Sometimes. She gives him the nod to lead the way in, since he seems to be handling it much better than she is.

The interior of the room is a nightmare. It looks like something born out of the mind of Clive Barker; so horrible as to have to be fake somehow. The brain just doesn't want to accept that this can be real, no matter how the evidence points to the contrary. The smell of blood is thick in the air, as is the gut-churning intestinal smell. Its source is settled in the center of the room.

Unlike the rest of the house, this room is free of common detritus on the floor. One of the walls still has some of the drywall intact, while the rest show wall studs and mostly shredded pink fiberglass insulation. There is no blood splattered on walls or floor, indicating that the individual did not die at this location, but was most likely moved here posthumously.

Individual is the best way to describe the body, because there is no means to honestly identify them otherwise. The corpse has been partially flayed, not randomly, but deliberately. Their flesh has been peeled back in stripes and swirls like an incredibly intricate artistic design. It resembles something a person might have henna tattooed on their body, only this time, their insides peeking out between strips of flesh form the markings. The musculature beneath the openings all seems to have been shaved down carefully to keep the canvas smooth and without undulations. The genitalia are not discernible amid the mess of shredded flesh. It would almost be considered beautiful if it was not so downright horrific. It is quite clear where the flesh for the origami came from, because set all around the body are numerous other pieces: frogs and butterflies and grasshoppers and flowers.

GAME> Hadley rolls 53 against 75% : 22% success

Upon entering the room, Brian attempts not to be drawn to the centerpiece immediately. He lets his gaze sweep around as it was trained to do rather than focus on the horror that really isn't quite so horrific as it might have been at one point in his life. Or undeath. Whatever. "There's not enough blood," he says, gesturing vaguely to the walls and around, expecting Eleanor to catch his drift. He moves but not too far because he looks at the various origami-shaped flesh pieces around the body and then lets his gaze settle on the body, his energy pitched almost to excitement.

Eleanor steps into the bedroom behind Hadley and her eyes move to the safety of the walls immediately. Normal. Then the corners of the room. Also normal. Then the floor. Definitely not normal. She ticks off the number of origami pieces displayed there, pulling her tech kit inside as the floor in front of the doorway is clear of any evidence itself. She punches the record button on her digital voice recorder before unpacking her camera. With considerable care she begins to photograph the individual folded creatures, steadfastly refusing to let herself look at the corpse itself until the pieces are photographically catalogued.

"Homicide investigation DOE-JANE-02092010, Detective Eleanor Wickham and Detective Sergeant Brian Hadley responding,” she states, loud enough for the recorder to register. “Victim discovered in the back bedroom of a condemned housing structure at 65234 Halstead Street on the south side. Victim is surrounded by what appears to be origami made from their flesh. There are 20 pieces present around them, and a 21st piece was discovered just outside the room. Five cranes, three butterflies, two swans, two frogs, three beetles, two roses, and two grasshoppers. The one outside the room was also a crane. Detective Hadley has noted that there is very little blood in the room, which indicates the victim was not killed here."

She turns the camera and begins snapping pictures of the body, then wider shots of the whole room, clicking the recorder off until she's ready to speak officially again. She looks at Hadley with a light sheen of sweat at her temples from fighting every instinct to get the hell out of there. "What about the body? What do you see?" she asks him. Better to let him give it a gander while she recovers.

GAME> Hadley rolls 83 against 40% : 43% failure
GAME> Eleanor rolls 76 against 30% <+17%> : 29% failure

Brian moves closer, as close as he can without actually disturbing anything and he looks at the body for a long few moments before noting, "The victim is positioned with its arms out to the sides and its legs spread at an," there's a pause, then, "Approximately 45 degree angle. The victim has been… severely mutilated." Which is kind of an understatement, but Hadley isn't quite sure how else to put it, so understatement it is.

The recorder is triggered on again to catch Hadley's observations before Eleanor clears her throat. "The victim's skin has been removed in sections which appear to form artwork from the negative space. The body also seems to be unnaturally flat and even, as if the musculature and possibly even the bone structure have been shaved down to create an even plane. The medical examiner will need to confirm this."

She clicks the recorder off again before she grabs piece of chalk and begins drawing circles around each origami piece to be able to number them as they are collected. As she makes each circle, she then removes the folded art with tweezers, places it in an evidence bag, numbers the circle it was in, and puts the matching number on the bag label. She continues until they are all bagged, then snaps several photos of the body with the numbered circles around it. "Brian," she says quietly, "Can you chalk outline the body? I need it marked for location before we can turn it over and see if the," she looks for a word that suits the situation, "desecration continues onto the victim's back."

GAME> Eleanor rolls 91 against 25% <+20% +15% -10%> : 41% failure
GAME> Hadley rolls 29 against 55% : 26% success

See? That's much better than what Hadley came up with in his head, which was probably more along the lines of 'really fucking messed up!' Not that he'd ever actually say that on the job. Probably. "Sure," he responds to the question and retrieves a piece of chalk to outline the body where it lays. When that's finished and the body can be moved, Hadley doesn't ask for Eleanor's help, instead letting her observe without getting too up close until she's ready. He looks over what he finds. "More of the same," he says aloud, almost thoughtful, then, "Wait, here." He reaches for his own maglite to flash on one particular piece of skin, what's carved into an ornate sort of eye. "Do you see that?" he asks, but at the same time he outlines and 'VB' without actually touching the skin.

The patterning of the removed flesh does, indeed, continue onto the victim's back. Even the victim's buttocks and shoulder blades have been carved down to be on the same level as the rest of their body. It's like someone taking a log and sending it through a planer to make a smooth and level 2 x 4 for building. Eleanor leans in to look at what Hadley indicates and she snaps repeated photos of it. "Good catch; I would never have noticed that." She continues to snap pictures of where the body had been, now represented by the chalk outline, then she turns her camera to the corpse to record shots of the victim's back.

The recorder is turned on again. "The carving continues onto the victim's back. Once more the body seems to have been purposely altered to make it a flat canvas for the artwork. Detective Sergeant Hadley has made note of what appears to be the initials 'VB', that is Victor-Bravo, carved inside the pupil of a rendered eye on the victim's back, located between the shoulder blades. Note to the crime lab that we will need to match up what sort of weapon could be used to make such ornate carvings, and look for evidence as to whether the victim was still alive when the cutting began, indicating that the body was cleaned before being deposited at the discovery site, or if they victim was already dead before the mutilation occurred."

The recorder is clicked off again and the camera put away for the moment. Eleanor digs out her phone and dials in to the lab. "Send in the morgue crew to collect the body. We'll need a full crew out here to dust for prints and bag a metric ton of garbage to look for trace evidence in it," she says into the phone. Then she hangs up and shakes her head. "This is going to be hellish to sort through, Brian." She goes about taking samples from beneath the victim's fingernails, but they look like they've been scrubbed clean. All their teeth appear to have been pulled out, when the mouth is opened for inspection. Hair samples are taken for DNA to match them as well before the ambulance workers come in to bag the body. "Whoever is doing this is making it very intentionally hard for us to identify the victim," she notes. This is all they can do on site, so she begins packing things up as the details crew comes in to do the grunt work.

As Eleanor takes the last samples that she needs, Brian watches, then glances around one last time, shaking his head. This isn't all that far away from where he lives. He really doesn't like that. "I like the stupid psychopaths," he notes, just for the hell of it. It's easier to solve crimes when the criminal isn't very smart, after all. He packs up what needs to be repacked, hefts the duffle over his shoulder and says, "I guess it's true that you're more famous for your art after it’s dead." And then he heads for the door.

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