The remains of the mouldy hashbrown, stuck to the underside of the protruding boot kept drawing PC Birkenshaw’s attention. It was a welcome distraction from the constant buzzing of the flies that had already appeared. His gaze wandered inexorably up the length of the leg to the torso and finally the face, rapidly disappearing under the swarm of flies. He had radioed in the call of an unidentified corpse in the parking garage; CID and the forensics team were on their way and it was his job to ensure the scene remained undisturbed. The only thing likely to do that were the bloody flies.
His gaze slipped back to the boot and once more slowly ascended to the face, which crawled with a black seething mass. He had presumed, on arrival, that yet another transient had succumbed to the elements, either that or a junkie had OD’ed, but he had been surprised by the sight of a man with a bullet hole in his forehead. Don’t get many shootings in East Anglia, still that was the sign of the times, he thought. If the powers that be didn’t keep cutting their bloody budgets, violent crime wouldn’t be on the increase. At least Birkenshaw’s pension was still intact. Although he doubted he’d make it to retirement, some shit was bound to stab him or shoot him long before then. Maybe he should consider handing in his notice like Jack had, find a safer line of work, more rewards less likelihood of dying in a parking garage with this morning’s breakfast mashed into his boot.
Hypnotically his eyes drew back to the hashed brown, his thoughts steering his gaze, and once more the climb up the body to the now completely obscured face; just an undulating darkness that was starting to seriously creep him out. As he watched he started to pick out individual creatures within the writhing mass, he could see them laying eggs within the bullet hole. They buzzed incessantly as if annoyed by his presence. Or was it more basic than that, annoyed that they had to fight for the privileged inner depths? Or because they had to push their way passed their compatriots into the delicious ruptured flesh? He watched as more flies crawled over exposed eyeballs and up nostrils. Birkenshaw started to imagine the sound that their feet made as they scraped across the congealing goo of those eyeballs. He was starting to feel sick. He pulled himself physically away and tried to think professionally about the scene.
The flickering orange flourescent light that illuminated this corner of the parking garage, where the body lay, was broken, the buzzing hum of the tube ran in counter point with the constant buzzing of the flies. Once again he found himself drawn back to those bloody flies. Birkenshaw hated flies, his flat suffered from cluster flies every summer, the last thing he wanted was to be pestered by them at work too. He walked determinedly towards the corpse and swatted his hand over it, trying to persuade the insects to desist. He became more annoyed as the cloud parted for his arm and then resettled, buzzing more loudly to express their own irritation.
‘You fucking fuckers, FUCK OFF!’ Birkenshaw kicked out in frustration at the cloud which continued to ignore his futile attempts to prevent them completing their task. Birkenshaw spun around and stomped a few paces away fuming at his ineffectual attempts to deal with the flies; to deal with his life it suddenly dawned on him. When he’d first joined the Force he’d loved it, had excelled at it. But his meteoric climb to CID had never come. He had squandered his chances on mucking about with the boys, and girls, all of whom had now moved onto better things. He was still stuck walking the beat and everyone elses too because they’d left him behind. He was stuck in a shitty little flat in the dodgy end of town, paying a mortgage he couldn’t afford whilst still doing the same job every day which was inevitably going to lead him to be shot by some scummy lowlife. He needed a change. Maybe he should take this moment as a sign. This could be him lying in a puddle of oily water, covered in flies desperately trying to lay their eggs in his orifices. He turned back to look at the remains.
Something caught his eye, professionalism returned for a moment. Anything to take his mind off his cyclic thoughts. Something had glinted on the tarmac next to the body. It reflected from the light cast from his torch, which he had forgotten to turn off when he had first radioed in. Once more he moved up to the body, but this time with a determination of being a police officer. As he knelt down he unclipped his torch and scanned it over the tarmac to the side of the victim. Ah ha! There it was, he took out his pencil and pushed the tiny object further into the beam of his light. It appeared to be a tooth, a gold tooth and as he spun it around to see it from all angles he realised that it was hollow. What was the point of having a hollow tooth? He pulled out a Jiffy bag from his back pocket and, putting on a glove, Birkenshaw picked up the tooth to inspect it more closely.
‘So that’s why you’re hollow,’ he exclaimed to cavern of the garage. There was something inside, he wondered if he should prise it out, but thought better of it and instead dropped it into his plastic bag.
‘Yes,’ said a deep voice behind him just before Birkenshaw heard a thunderclap and felt a heavy impact to the back of his head. ‘That would be why the tooth is hollow.’ The voice continued as it bent down to pick up the Jiffy bag and then left without a backward glance.
Jack T Canis lives in South Wales, UK with his wife and three children. He started his professional career as an archaeologist, but through the years has also been a self-employed armourer making mediaeval armours for re-enactors, live role players and museums; an administrator for the NHS and in recent years a qualified person centered counsellor specialising in bereavement and loss, now retired. Currently he is a full time carer for his youngest child who has additional physical needs and is a part time writer.