There is something about the smell of blood — it never leaves the memory. When blood is experienced in mass quantities, there is a smell, and it smells like no other airborne emanation, except blood. It is the essence of life, but it emanates of death; it smells warm, even when it’s cold. It isn’t red, it isn’t maroon, it isn’t vermilion, it isn’t burgundy, it isn’t crimson, it isn’t scarlet — it’s blood. And blood in mass quantities, especially in an unfamiliar crime scene, casts a dark shadow from the floor upon the entire room, upon the entire building, upon the entire world.
This is not how Emily Johannsson hoped to spend her Saturday, but she also was not surprised.
As a 22-year-old college senior (second-year senior, to be exact), Emily was intelligent, accomplished, classy, elegant, and ambitious. Her double-major in criminal psychology and criminal justice seemed (at the beginning) like a bit too much to handle in her five-year goal of completion. However, she worked, she worked hard, she worked relentlessly, and after her current internship, she would only need one class (a mindless degree capstone class) to graduate with her coveted double-major.
Her future was a galaxy of possibilities.
Part of her success as a college student hinged on her determination to prioritize her academic career over her social life. Because, as anyone who met her could easily infer, her culpability in social circles would have been every bit as successful as her academic endeavors. She was an elegant and beautiful young woman, standing just under six-feet tall with deep green eyes, streaked with black lines like a mysterious forest on a moonless night. Her hair flowed think and straight to the middle of her back; its hue varied from light brown to deep auburn, depending on how the sun or light gleamed in the foreground. The depth of her hair and eye colors contrasted perfectly with her fair pale skin. The occasional freckle dotted the otherwise perfect landscape of her facial features.
And yet, this gorgeous, brilliant, accomplished, ambitious young woman had very few friends, never had a boyfriend, and focused the bulk of her energy on honing her academic prowess.
She held her breath as she walked into the apartment behind the Crime Scene Investigation supervisor, Pat Simkowski of the Oklahoma City Police Department. She stepped carefully (in fact, trying to step exactly where Pat stepped) as they entered the vacant apartment at the midscale complex along the river.
At first glance, the apartment seemed like a common empty apartment (with the exception of that unforgettable smell). There were a few sporadic unexplained bloodstains on the floor, and (for some reason) there was Ajax powder sprinkled along parts of the bathroom and kitchen counters. But the only thing Emily could smell was the blood.
It was an ordinary and unremarkable first-floor one-bedroom apartment; it looked like every other one-bedroom apartment Emily had ever seen — an open living room area with a patio door on the side, a small kitchen, a small dining area, and a small hallway with a closet and a bathroom. The apartment’s only bedroom was at the end of the small hallway — the room fluttering with activity. As Emily continued through the apartment, it felt like everything was moving in slow motion as she followed CSI Simkowski into the scene of the crime. The occasional camera flash flickered through the doorway as they grew closer, but once she walked in, she saw the entirety of the scene, the body, and the blood.
There were lights mounted on stands positioned at each corner of the room, casting a bright white illumination upon the scene. In the back of Emily’s mind, it occurred to her that this was completely different than the TV show — On every episode of CSI or CSI: Miami or CSI: New York she’d ever seen, it seemed like the investigators always investigated a dark (or at least dimly-lit) scene. The contrast had never occurred to her until she saw the bright lights of a real crime scene.
The lights poured their beams upon the empty carpeted floor where Emily saw the decapitated body of an unidentified woman. Part of her skin was burned and the carpet within a few feet of her body was melted.
The woman’s body was completely naked with the exception of a diamond wedding ring on her left hand.
In any normal situation, Emily would have categorized the woman as laying “face-down;” but she had no face — she had no head — so the best and most appropriate way she could describe it (which she filed-away in her memory for later) was “front-down.”
“Dumb shit,” Pat Simkowski said. He was a burly man in his late-50s with dark white hair that matched his dark white sense of humor. “Sick fuck. Dumb shit.”
Pat Simkowski was the CSI supervisor for the Oklahoma City Police Department. Technically, he was a civilian, but was also still considered “law enforcement.” However, he did not look the part of a highly-trained crime scene investigator like the ones on television; he looked more like the kind of guy who would be the #2 guy on the #2 team of a second-rate local bowling league. This is not to say he was fat or stupid or ugly or dopey — he was just an average pudgy older guy. In another ten years, he’d likely make extra money portraying Santa Claus at one of the local malls. Early in his career (several decades prior), he actually did carry a slight resemblance to Nick Stokes, they tall-dark-and-handsome character from CSI: Las Vegas. But now, nearing the twilight of his career, he’d put on the old age weight, grown an old guy bushy mustache, and often used phrases such as, “Back in my day…” and “When I was your age…” But generally, CSI Pat Simkowski was a pleasant and loveable guy (even with his consistent variety of expletives).
“Dumb, why?” Emily asked.
“Do you smell that?” Pat asked.
“The blood?” Emily replied.
“No, the lighter fluid,” Pat said quickly.
“Oh,” Emily muttered.
“Shit,” Pat said with an awkward chuckle, “I don’t even smell the damn blood anymore.”
“I only smell the blood,” Emily remarked.
“Look at the carpet,” Pat said, pointing his pudgy gloved hand to the floor. “It’s melted. These apartments are built with flame-retardant carpet. It’s designed to melt itself out, not burn.”
“Oh,” Emily said again, hearing herself sound partly fascinated and partly disappointed.
“Fucker tried to set the body on fire, and burn the place down to cover shit up, but just ended up melting the damn carpet. Her body didn’t even burn that much.” Pat shook his head as though he was rolling his eyes the way an old redneck cop would. “Dumb shit,” he said again.
“And he cut off her head?” Emily said, immediately regretting the fact that she’d just stated the obvious and would likely immediately be ridiculed for it.
“Well, Intern,” Pat said, turning to her with a grim smile, “unless you see a head attached that I don’t see, then I’m pretty sure your observation is pretty accurate.”
Emily hated it when Pat called her Intern. As a college senior working on her double-major in criminal justice and criminal psychology, she was required to do a law enforcement internship, but in the singular week she’d been there (knowing she had a long semester ahead of her), Emily never regretted her chosen internship. She would be spending the entire Fall semester as CSI Pat Simkowski’s intern, earning double credit for the time as it applied to both of her degrees. Additionally, she was the only intern in Pat’s office, which obviously earned her the moniker of Intern, although she wasn’t the first intern and she would not be the last.
The two of them — Emily and CSI Simkowski — were accompanied by uniformed officers of the Oklahoma City Police Department. Each of them cast their gazes diligently throughout the vacant apartment, looking for anything resembling a hint (or a clue, or something) regarding why there was a headless partially-burned body in the bedroom. And why was there Ajax on the countertops? And why was there an isolated blood stain in the bathroom And why was there isolated blood stain next to the front door?
Indisputably, the most obvious “clue” in the apartment was on the wall directly above the decapitated body. Written in (what everyone assumed was) the victim’s blood was the hastily painted phrase, “POST HOC ERGO PROPTER HOC.” Upon entering the bedroom with Pat, Emily stepped to the left of the doorway and paused, staring at the cryptic dried-but-dripping message.
As she stood motionless, a man in a formal business suit walked into the room and stepped immediately to his right. He said nothing, only scribbling the words from the wall onto a small handheld notepad.
Emily looked at this man, then back at the wall, then back at the man. The man in the business suit did not return her glance. He clearly was not a detective. He wore no gun or badge, his attire was too expensive and classy for a cop’s salary, and he seemed to stand there with a sort of Ivy League snob air about him. He was tall, not unattractive, and his dark hair and dark eyebrows seemed overpowered by his dark deep hazel(ish) blue(ish) eyes. The expression on his face portrayed a slight indication of confidence and arrogance rather than interest or concern (considering there was a dead, naked, headless woman only a few feet from him).
“Well, that shit’s unique,” CSI Pat said, pointing at the wall and looking at the man in the suit. “Something Satanic?”
“Latin,” spoke the voices of both Emily and the man in the suit, in unison. The two made eye contact for the first time. Emily felt slightly intimidated when their eyes met.
“Ah, Intern knows Latin?” Pat said, now kneeling next to the body, snapping pictures of the woman’s corpse from multiple angles with an antiquated handheld digital camera, which seemed circa 2004. “Looks like we got the smart kid,” he said to the man in the suit.
“Indeed,” the man said. He reached his hand across the doorway toward Emily. I’m Dr. Carrick Nichols.” He spoke with a faint (but noticeable) British accent, indicating his heritage, but he had clearly been in the United States for at least several decades. His tall, thin, and cadaverous frame had a tendency to look down upon people, even if they were taller than him. Emily ventured to guess he was in his late 30s or early 40s.
“I’m Emily Johannsson,” she replied, shaking his hand across the opening of the bedroom doorway. “I’m interning for CSI this semester.”
“Interesting,” Dr. Nichols replied.
“You two brains would get along,” Pat said from across the room. “She’s majoring in the same criminal psych shit you do for a living, Nick.”
“My name,” Dr. Nichols replied sternly with a pause, “is Dr. Carrick Nichols. Not Nick.” His British accent seemed a bit more pronounced as he spoke with frustration. “This is roughly the tenth time I’ve told you this.”
Pat did not acknowledge this stiff British reprimand.
“Yeah,” Emily said, breaking what she perceived as an awkward tension between the two men. I’m double-majoring in Criminal Psychology and Criminal Justice at Merriam University in St. Louis.”
“So, Miss Johannsson,” Dr. Nichols said, seeming to further accentuate his British accent, “are you familiar with Latin, or do you simply know it when you see it?”
Emily inhaled to reply.
“Yeah, Intern,” Pat said, “What the fuck does that even mean?”
Within the short time Emily Johannsson had been interning with Pat Simkowski in the Crime Scene Investigation office, she’d quickly grown accustomed to his loose and frequent use of the word Fuck. Because although his physical appearance bore a striking resemblance to that of Richard Riehle, his mannerisms, demeanor, and especially his language resembled those of Samuel L. Jackson.
Emily cast curious gazes upon Pat and Dr. Nichols, wondering if she should speak or simply shrug. She chose to speak.
“It means, After, therefore because, in Latin,” she said, trying not to sound too brainy.
“Correct — or, at least, close enough,” Dr. Nichols said, sounding both surprised and unimpressed in the same statement.
“Close?” Emily inquired.
“Technically,” Dr. Nichols stated with enlightened authority, “it means, After this, therefore because of this. You dropped the word this, probably because your Americanized English tends to drop and add words frivolously. American grammar loves to add words where words don’t belong and drop words where words are needed.”
Emily grinned slightly. Dr. Nichols reminded her of Rex Harrison — specifically his role as “Professor Henry Higgins” in My Fair Lady.
“So she’s right?” Pat said, his inflection indicating surprise.
“Yes she is,” Nichols replied, casting his gaze upon Emily, not Pat.
“Look at the big brain on Brett!” Pat said with a smile. “You a smart mutha fucka!”
Everyone in the room with the exception of Emily and Dr. Nichols immediately recognized this as a quote from Pulp Fiction — not-so-coincidentally Pat’s favorite movie. A few chuckles were sprinkled into the heavy dark air in the room.
“Where did you learn Latin?” Nichols asked, giving Emily an inquisitive look.
“Well,” she replied, sounding oddly cautious with her words, “in high school, I sang in the Concert Choir and Madrigal Choir.” She paused, shifting her head from person to person, seeing that they needed more explanation. “A lot — actually most — of the songs we sang were in Latin. So I got a Latin/English dictionary and just read through it.” She paused again. “I guess I just picked it up from reading it and performing the works of Mozart, Fauré, Rutter, stuff like that.”
“Interesting,” Nichols replied with mild surprise in his voice.
“So,” Emily said, changing her tone, “what now?” She was hoping to change the subject.
“Third letter,” Pat replied.
“Third letter?” Emily asked.
“Yep,” Pat said matter-of-factly. “C-S-I — Crime Scene Investigation.” He paused. “Crime, which you can clearly see from the headless broad on the floor. So first, a crime has to occur, and clearly it has. Her head didn’t just fall off. She’s not the bird from Dumb & Dumber.”
A few more light chuckles from the surrounding officers could be heard. “Our pets’ heads are falling off!” one of them said, quoting the film.
“Scene,” Pat continued, “which is here, where you’re standing; secure and document everything here without disturbing anything. Investigation, for when we take all the evidence and data from the scene back to the lab and work with detectives to try to figure out The Three F’s.”
“What are The Three F’s?” Emily asked. She wasn’t sure if she should be writing this information down.
“The Three F’s: Who the fuck did it, why the fuck did they do it, and where the fuck are they? — The Three F’s.” Pat grinned.
“But,” Emily said, “wouldn’t that be The Three W’s? Who, why, and where?”
Pat looked up at Emily with an expression on his face which she interpreted as either exasperation, frustration, or confusion — or all three.
“No,” Pat said. “It’s F, not W.”
Emily glanced at Dr. Nichols. “Is he for real?”
“I’m afraid so,” Dr. Nichols said, nodding with his eyes closed.
“We’re done here,” Pat said. “Call Mad Dog.” CSI Pat Simkowski had a quip for everything. Mad Dog was his nickname for the department’s Chief Forensic Pathologist.
Pat was full of movie and TV show references, and it never seemed to get old — or, at least, not to him.