8:11 a.m. For those of you still freezing in the cooler...
I get off the telephone with dispatch and leave the cooler. Technically, since the call came in before midnight it's my case. Usually, though, I would pass it on to the next shift. But not tonight. Not on a murder.
I leave the autopsy suite and cross into the other building, turning off lights as I go. Back in the office, I grab a notepad and jot down the time of the call and some more specific details. Dispatch told me that it was a stabbing. Apparently, the front desk clerk was alerted to something strange when a complaint was called in from another guest about screaming and pounding in the adjoining room. The clerk walked down the open outdoor corridor and knocked. No answer. He knocked again. Still no answer. After several more tries, he used his master key to open the door.
When the clerk first walked in, it was as dark as a crypt. He flipped a switch. The room revealed itself in a distorted pattern of light and shadow from a lamp tipped over on the floor. He walked tentatively over the threshold, calling out to whomever might be inside.
The first thing he noticed was the bed. No sheets. No blankets. It had been stripped. He thought that was odd. Then his eyes moved above the bed and he froze. Heavy dark droplets of arterial blood spatter arced across the headboard and onto the pale, pink pallet of wall. The clerk turned away in a panic, intending to leave immediately, but his eyes fell on the closet door. It was open just a crack and something was sticking out of it. Without thinking, he grabbed the doorknob and opened it further. The tiny closet was heaped with clothes, sheets, blankets and pillows. He was horrified to see a bloody, lacerated hand flop out from under the pile like a cold, dead fish. Gagging, he turned and barely left the room before wretching all over the sidewalk outside.