The man lay face down, his arms and legs bound behind his back by a single length of rope. There was a worn chair off to one side, and on it were laid a shirt and suit jacket, both of which looked to be draped with care as if to avoid wrinkles.
The man’s back was bare, and on it was a crude, almost child-like image of a butterfly painted in a dark brown substance. The body of the butterfly, a simple, sausage like shape with two projections near the top, ran nearly the length of the man’s spine, and the wings, two ‘B’ shapes, one backward, extended to his shoulder blades.
“A butterfly,” Drake muttered unintentionally. This, he had not been expecting.
“A butterfly,” Chase repeated. “Can’t confirm it yet, but it appears to be drawn in blood.”
As Drake processed this information, he moved closer to the body. The uniformed police officer stepped aside to allow him access.
The blood, if that was indeed what it was, didn’t appear to have come from the man’s back. In fact, aside from the drawing, his flesh appeared unmarked.
Drake moved closer still, stepping near the man’s head and crouching on his haunches.
The vic’s eyes were open, and what he suspected were hazel irises had turned a slight milky color in death. He was clean shaven, and his hair had recently been cut—short, professional.
His pale lips were open slightly.
“He was placed here after he was already dead,” he stated matter-of-factly.
Chase appeared beside him.
“How can you tell?”
Drake reached into his breast pocket and pulled out a pen, and then used it to indicate the area around the victim’s mouth.
“See here? The sand is the same height as the rest of the area around the body. If he had still been breathing, his breath would have blown it away.”
Drake squinted hard. In moving his pen around, he noticed what looked like a small amount of dirt at the corner of the man’s mouth, which didn’t fit with his otherwise manicured appearance. He got the impression that this was the type of man who would be mortified if caught with a piece of spinach lodged between two perfectly white teeth.
He moved the pen toward the man’s face.
“It looks like—”
But the sound of the curtain being drawn back gave him pause.
“Tsk, tsk, tsk, Drake, my man. You should know better than to touch the body before a doctor is in the house.”
Drake turned to see Beckett moving toward him, his shock of white blond hair spiked high atop his head. He was grinning, showing off a winning smile.
“You’re not a real doctor.”
The man shrugged.
“That’s right, I only play one on TV,” he turned to Chase next. “And who’s this?”
Chase extended her hand.
“Chase Adams, Homicide.”
He shook her hand, a short and perfunctory process, unlike his own experience, then turned to the body on the ground.
“Beckett Campbell, at your service.”
He whistled loudly.
In one fluid motion, he pulled a set of purple lab gloves from the pocket of his leather jacket—how many doctors wear leather jackets, Drake wondered—and slipped them on.
“I think there’s something in his mouth, dirt maybe,” Drake offered.
Beckett held up a finger.
“In time, my friend. In time.”
He straddled the victim’s body, and then closed his eyes as if in some sort of trance.
Chase moved forward.
“We think the vic died—”
Beckett sucked in a deep breath and waved his arms dramatically.
“Silence while I do my work.”
Drake rolled his eyes, and Chase looked over at him. He shrugged and turned back to the charade.
Beckett squatted over the man, looking as if he was going to sit on his back, and then gently prodded his ribs with two fingers. Apparently satisfied, he moved his hands upward, ending at the base of the man’s neck. After cradling his head briefly, Beckett stood straight, and then stepped over the body, moving toward where Drake had been moments ago.
Before he crouched, he turned to Chase, still beaming.
“I was only kidding. You can talk as much as you want.”
Chase said nothing, and her face gave away less, and Beckett shrugged.
“No external injuries as far as I can tell,” Drake offered.
Beckett gestured toward a small black bag that he had set down after entering the curtain. Drake fetched it for him and then the coroner withdrew what looked like a scalpel missing the blade.
“No, no external injuries. Except, of course, the injection site near his neck.”
“The injection site. Small pinprick on the left side of his neck. Little red dot, you know?”
Drake, incredulous, walked over to that side and hunched down low.
As he did, Beckett asked Chase for an evidence container.
And there it was, something so small that Drake couldn’t really blame himself for having overlooked it. A tiny red dot on the man’s otherwise flawless skin.
“Area still looks a little puffy,” Beckett continued. “Must have been some pretty serious inflammation to
have lasted for… what? Eight hours since he died?”
Chase confirmed the timeline.
“Damn, I’m good,” Beckett muttered. “Oh, and there’s also this.”
Drake moved to the other side of the body again, and watched as Beckett eased the metal device into the man’s mouth and used it to push his lips to one side like a dentist attempting to clean his molars.
And that’s when Drake saw it: a flicker of movement, a dark shape wriggling toward the back of the victim’s teeth.
Drake felt his stomach lurch, and now regretted the second bottle of whiskey.
And the third.
“Jesus,” he muttered.
“No, not him, I’m afraid,” Beckett replied. “Unless Our Lord and Savior was reincarnated as a caterpillar.”
As the dark form wriggled completely out of the man’s mouth, Drake looked away. His eyes fell on Chase, and he was glad to see that he wasn’t the only one who was feeling queasy.
Beckett brought the plastic specimen container close to the victim’s face, and then put his tool in front of the caterpillar. The insect crawled on top of it, which Beckett used to put it in the specimen container.
After screwing the lid closed, he put it in a clear plastic bag and held it out to Drake.
“Looks like your killer has a thing for butterflies,” Beckett said, hooking a chin toward the corpse. “But I guess you knew that already, didn’t you?”
Butterfly Kisses drops at midnight! Grab your copy by ordering from any of your favorite retailers!