Out Of Uniform

Germaine Capps

Writer

THE PRODIGAL DAUGHTERS

CHAPTER ONE

SIX DAYS AFTER:
They were both found slumped in the doorway. The residents of this highest of high-brow neighbourhoods would have been forgiven for thinking they were looking at two crumpled mannequins, but for the fact their heavily made up eyelids were conspicuously closed and no mannequins skin looked as realistically porcelain white as that of the two young women.

Had this been a scene replicated just a few miles away on Sunset Boulevard or even Western Avenue, then it wouldn’t have been all that much out of place – after all, down there it happened all the time. But, not ‘up’ here. This was Beverly Hills. The home of Rodeo Drive, old money and the Beautiful people. And these girls were beautiful, in a delicate sort of way. Very delicate, very beautiful but very dead!

Contrasted against the night but bathed in the warm glow of the shop’s lights, the women wore the usual attire of ladies who lunch – the cream Versace skirt suit, the Manolos, perfectly manicured fingers and the salon-fresh hair.
But it was the designer handbags that told the casual observer that a crime had been committed that balmy night. The dainty Gucci and much bigger Zefferelli Couture symbols of status, had been forcefully prised away from their victims’ clutches ransacked and discarded, their contents strewn on the sidewalk like so much litter around the victims’ pedicured feet. Even the gold chain that served as a handle to the former bag had snapped in what must have been a brief but terrifying ordeal.

Nothing out of the ordinary caught Sherilyn Monetti’s eye as she read through the list of what had spewed out of the opened bags: eye liner, lipstick, other make-up items, gum, pens – the usual female paraphernalia. Of note, however, was the empty purse of one of the vics. The female detective pondered the obvious questions that must have given her colleagues over at Vice a headache: ‘what had been in the vic’s purse and why did only one of the women have a purse on her? Had the other been stolen? Women of means – assuming that’s what they were – always carried a purse, stuffed with the odd few dollar bills, but sporting an enviable array of plastic – unobtainable to most outside the exclusive enclave. ‘Precious plastic that could have identified the victims’, Sherilyn muttered under her breath.
Eye strain had begun to set in from three gruelling hours of staring at the monitor. Head tilted skywards, Sherilyn leaned back into her chair the spine creaking as it supported more of her weight. Gone was the background chatter and playful banter of the other detectives in her Division office. Only she and two other fellow workaholics remained at their desks cocooned within their cubicles.

It was getting late, but the Chief was on their case for answers and closure to this case that had baffled even the more experienced in the HOC (Homicide and Organised Crime) Division. So going home to her pied-a-terre over in West Hollywood anytime soon was simply out the question.

And talking about questions, one still kept coming back unanswered, no matter how many times she scrutinised the report and pictures of the crime scene. ‘How had the girls been killed?’

With no immediately visible signs of violence on the girls’ bodies it had been hard for Beverly Hills P.D to put a classification on the crime. But for the empty purse and bags the boys over at BHPD were eager to put it down to anything other than homicide – for obvious reasons. Pressure from above to keep violent crime figures down and sustain the popular myth about the world’s most prestigious address being a haven of glamour, grandiose houses and gilded living; where the worst thing an ill wind blows through it’s palm-tree lined streets is a five-minute wait for a table at Cipriani’s.

Certainly not something like this!

The case had to be closed. And fast. Sherilyn glanced over the document-strewn table and picked up the folder marked ‘confidential’. The twenty-seven year old Italian-American rifled through the sheaf of papers inside, till she came across one which she pulled out. Slowly, the detective ran a slender finger, admittedly not quite as pedicured as the vics’, down the rows of text and scientific mumbo-jumbo. She was the proud owner of a degree in Social Anthropology, not Advanced Toxicology, but she at least could surmise that the Coroner had not been able to find anything in the victims’ blood or elsewhere in their systems to suggest what had led to their demise.
‘They may not have been drunk or drugged, but they had no doubt been abused,’ she thought grimacing at the autopsy photos.

Baffling? Not quite.

Lying naked on the autopsy table, stripped of their thin veneer of respectability, the young women no longer appeared like any other member of the noveau-riche. They had instead taken on the less-desirable look of the other silent visitors to that room – the ‘battered’ and the ‘mutilated’.

Like an artist’s blank canvas, the females’ almost china-white skin served to sharply contrast against the pale-pink welts, black semi-circular marks and other bruises that covered their torsos. Marks no doubt made by male fists. Marks, which, according to the Coroner’s report, were of varying ages – some going back months. Marks which someone had taken the trouble, it appeared, to cover up repeatedly, with some sort of make-up.
Their inflictors had also taken the trouble to leave the women’s faces unscathed.

And ‘down below’, the story only got much worse. Intrusive examinations showed vaginal scarring – synonymous with repeated rough sex. Lack of fresh semen within both girls almost but ruled out the possibility they had been raped that night.

Surprisingly, there were no recent internal injuries and no internal bleeding: leading the Coroner to conclude unequivocally that the shocking patchwork of bruises were unrelated to and neither gave any inclination of what led to the untimely demise of the young women.

Sherilyn read this to mean, ‘Cause of Death – unknown.’

Tough cop that she was, Sherilyn could not prevent the wave of compassion that washed over her gazing down at these girls. Crumpled up in the doorway of Zhivago’s, a fashionable boutique on Rodeo Drive, they looked like any other unfortunate victims of a mugging gone wrong. But lying there on the cold slab, their desecrated bodies told an altogether different story.

And there was something else about them which drew her sympathy. Something she couldn’t quite put a finger on. They may have worn the garb of the well-heeled Beverly Hills set, but their slim, almost malnourished forms seemed not to belong there - almost as if the image they were portraying had been borrowed.
Even their facial features seem to whisper, ‘strangers’.

And as if to compound her sadness, the detective remembered that their prime suspect, indeed only suspect, was walking around as free as the proverbial bird.



Germaine's Profile

I currently work for tfl as a supervisor. it’s a job that daily brings me in contact with people from all works of life and invariably feeds my own natural curiousity about what actually makes them tick.

I often channel this into my other passion, writing crime fiction.

An excerpt from my current project, ‘the prodigal daughters’ is included here.

Owing to the sometimes sensitive nature of my subject matter, i prefer writing under my pseudonym, germaine capps.