Sugar and Sorrow

12

“Investigator Nathan Keller, sir! Mister Snider is already inside, waiting for you.” Said one of the CSU personnel to Keller as soon as he stepped out of his service car.

Keller gave him a nod and briefly stretched his latex gloves. He wanted to make sure they fit perfectly. He was called in to investigate a possible murder on one of the Authority’s head researchers. It was an unusual call; it had been an unusual week in general. Keller specialized in the cartage desk, where he’d investigate corruption among the Authority personnel. He would rarely see a murder case unless the suspect was confirmed to be an RPC personnel.

Keller reassured himself that there is no point in complaining to the Division Commander. He believed he could solve a simple murder case. He was a Homicide Detective in the NYPD, after all. However, as soon as he strode in slowly to the living room, he had a feeling that this case wasn't a murder case—he knew it. The stench was too strong; there’s no way nobody had noticed the victim’s disappearance even after one afternoon in this neighborhood.

Nevertheless, curiosity took control of him and he carried onwards. The foul sickly sweet stench of rotting flesh filled Keller's lungs as he entered the room. Keller brought out a can of aromatics he had kept since his old detective days. He swabbed his index and middle fingers onto the gelatinous aromatics and brushed it against his upper lip. It helped in repelling the foul stench.

It was quite dark when Keller entered the apartment complex; the shadow cast by the large motel sign across the street had kept the sunlight from striking the windows. One of the CSU personnel switched the lights on at six in the evening. The same CSU personnel also announced his arrival to the crime scene, as usual.

Looking around, Keller saw a plethora of birthday decorations as far as the eye can see. A large “Happy Birthday” sign adorned in red ribbons sat atop of a television that had seemingly showed old family videos. A round stale chocolate cake, candles extinguished and swarmed by flies, rested atop of the coffee table in front of the television.

Finally, Keller stood in front of the victim, where he observed the corpse carefully. The corpse wore spotless trousers, a white shirt with the sleeves rolled back, and a partially undone necktie. Keller then observed the flesh tissues; the brownish complexity of the skin was not a racial derivation; it’s how rotting flesh looks when left to rot for weeks.

Flies were already feasting on the corpse even before the first responder had arrived. Keller tried to rotate the corpse to get a better view. However, as soon as he touched the corpse’s arms, maggots and flies scurried out of their covers. Keller heard one of the CSU personnel gagged and one even rushed out of the living room. He would have understood the feeling if he had picked a different path in his life.

He let out a brief sigh in disappointment; Sierra-8 investigators and CSU personnel were trained for these situations. Keller abstained from looking at the ceiling and the rope; it didn't matter. He understood the “How”, all he needed is the “Why”. He turned to Investigator Clyde Snider, Keller's former partner before he got reassigned after Keller got his promotion.

“So, nobody touched the stiff before I came here?”

“Nope. None of them had the guts. Honestly, even I don’t.”

Keller gave a blunt chuckle. “Figures. You got the psych report on him?”

“It’s awaiting declass; should be sent in…” Clyde glanced at his wristwatch. “…five minutes or so.”

“So who’s the first witness?”

“Technically, nobody; HR sent me to check on him after he overstayed his vacation by two days.”

“Right well, you were here first; what do you think?”

“Well, it can’t be a murder, I mean, this place is tidier than my apartment… aside from the maggots.” Sneered Clyde.

“How about the tapes? You watched it yet?”

“No, I haven’t touched anything until you came here since, you know, you’re the senior investigator. Anyway, you have fun, I’mma go find some fresh air.”

After a conversation that felt like a second, Keller was back to the everlasting gloom of the crime scene. He was right, it wasn't a murder, but who would take their own life on their own birthday? If it’s not his birthday, then whose is it? No signs of a roommate were found around the apartment and the rotting nature of the flesh indicated that nobody had seen him in at least a week.

He sat down on the sofa right in front of the television. A video camera was attached to the television. Keller pressed the play button on the camera and a video began to play. The whole room suddenly fell silent, not because the sound of the video drowned out the background conversation but rather everyone tuned in together.

The video showed footage of a tropical bungalow. Two children, approximately aged ten to fifteen each was shown to be building a sandcastle on the beach. A grown woman in a red swimsuit approached the two children and told them to face the camera. It was clear that this was a loving family. They seemed happy. They were happy.

The video came to an end; the screen showed the exact same imagery as before Keller touched the camera. The victim had been watching this footage. The timestamp on the video said that it was taken in 2016; 2 years prior from today.

One of the CSU personnel tapped Keller's right shoulder, informing him that the victim’s psych report finally came. The CSU personnel handed him a tablet with a copy of a document with some redactions here and there.

The victim was a senior researcher working on an undisclosed RPC object. He had a family before he joined the Authority. The document said that his family—one wife and two children—all died when the wife picked up the children from school. The victim was back at Site-002 when it happened. He wasn’t informed of their deaths until after the end of his shift.

An outgoing call from his apartment phone indicated that the wife had reserved a seat at a restaurant to celebrate his birthday. His family died on his birthday. The document also said that he had suffered from depression and had even attempted suicide.

Keller was right, it wasn’t murder. The victim took his own life in hope of celebrating his birthday with his family again. The room was still silent but he could hear some whispering behind his back. Keller put down the tablet and reclined on the sofa. He tried not to think too much of the victim; it went with the job. However, he couldn’t stand the sight of him dying alone and he began to tear up.

The motel's neon signs began to shine bright pink lights, Keller can feel the gentle warmth on his cheeks. “Damn.” He said to himself. ”Now everybody can see my tears.”

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