Prompt: “Oh no! What’s in the box?!”
Prompt: Where did the box come from?
Prompt: What do you do with what you found in the box?
By Laura Nettles
The Styrofoam cooler was leaking. Blood. Detective Roberts took out a pen he had found at the motel they were being put up in while on this case, and poked the box. It did not budge, the weight of something, or someone weighing it down. Wedging the pen under the lid, he pried it open and slowly lifted it to reveal the contents. A foul stench engulfed him despite the breeze once the seal was cracked. Something was dead.
Covering his mouth with a gloved hand, he swallowed back the contents of his stomach. The taste of bile on his tongue burned.
He peered inside the cooler. The contents stared back.
The head of a woman, roughly decapitated was nestled in the Styrofoam. No ice to slow the decay, or wrappings to shroud her were present. A case of ruthless murder with no remorse. A slash and dump. Again. Like the four others from the past few months. Their bodies had never been recovered, just their heads in coolers, suitcases, and other containers left in the baking sun to decompose.
He would catch this killer.
“Any leads detective?” the local cop asked.
“It’s the same guy. Same disposal process, same rough cuts, no rest of the body. He’s moving down the interstate. May have already passed through.”
The clicking of an old film camera sounded in his peripherals. None of the team used those anymore.
Lifting his head, he caught the glimpse of sunlight off a lens in the bushes near the crime scene. Detective Roberts, slowly got up and nonchalantly notified the cops, who circled around the backs of the trees to pen in the peeping Tom.
As they filtered through the trees, Deceive Roberts noticed the photographer still like a deer knowing it’s being stalked.
The peeping Tom turned and snapped quick photos of all the officers they could see then held their hands up in surrender.
“I know who you’re looking for!” she yelled. “Just give me exclusive rights to the story!”
Detective Roberts’ blood chilled. It was her. Again.
He signalled to the cops now accosting the journalist to bring her to him.
After a tromp through the underbrush, she was hauled under the tape and stood in front of him.
“Ms. Parker. How wonderful to see you again,” he grit out.
“Stan,” she greeted.
“What do you know?”
She smiled with painted red lips that matched her hair. “Ah, ah! Exclusive rights first.”
He ground his teeth. “Fine. I will only talk to you, but I have no guarantee about my co-workers.”
“Deal.” Her whitened teeth glinted. He knew he was going to regret this.
“The box came from Wal-Mart about a mile from here,” she began.
Detective Roberts sighed. “And how do you know this?”
“I helped him pick it out.”
“What!” he yelled. “Why shouldn’t I arrest you right now for aiding and abetting?”
“Because I was under duress. He was trying to abduct me when I sweet talked my way out of it. You know how good I am with words.” She grinned at him, not at all cowed by her own confession of helping a killer dispose of a body.
“Sure. Do you have a name? Description?”
“Oh honey, no names. But I can describe him to a sketch artist just fine. Also, he’s got my nail marks on his face.” She fluttered her long nails in Detective Roberts’ face. “Deadly weapons when they need to be,” she elaborated.
After the sketch was complete along with a description of the vehicle, it was broadcast on the news networks. Tips started rolling in like ocean waves.
Once Detective Roberts finally go a chance to get a good look at the picture and profile, his lungs froze. He recognized him. The man who took his sister ten years ago and gave her back unrecognizable. He had escalated.
“Diane,” he called to the woman in charge of the evidence. “Please bring me the head from the cooler.”
“Right away, sir.”
Moments later she returned with the sealed clear bag with the woman’s remains and placed it on the desk in front of him.
“Danny Cahoon. You won’t get away with it this time,” he vowed, staring into the dead woman’s slightly shriveled eyes.
He left the office, bag in tow.
Tracking down the hovel Danny lived in was a piece of cake once they had his name and probation information.
The gate to the dilapidated house shrieked when Detective Roberts strode through it. His feet carried his purposefully to the front door where he knocked viciously.
“Danny!” he yelled, fist still pounding on the paint chipped frame. “It’s the end of the line!”
Movement could be heard from inside the house. A back screen door creaked open. The sound of a muffled run.
It was cut short by the sound of two large men hitting the ground.
Detective Roberts walked around the corner of the house to the back where his fellow officer had tackled Danny Cahoon to the dirt. Danny was struggling, but the officer already had a cuff on one wrist.
“You’re done.” Roberts said, taking the bag from his belt and brandishing it at the downed man’s face. The woman’s head was leaking blood inside the plastic, but her eyes were still open, staring down her killer one last time.
Danny’s nail sliced face scowled and paled. He went still in the cuffs. “She deserved it.”
Detective Roberts punched him in the mouth, the skin on his knuckles breaking as the shards of Danny’s teeth dug into them. Shaking it out, he began.
“You have the right to remain silent…”