The young officer bent over my still body reaching for my wrist to check my pulse. After a moment he rose, shaking his head at his partner who had parked the police cruiser facing into the alley so that its headlights could offer more light. The second officer used his hand radio to call for the forensics team and a homicide detective. The two men then set about making sure that the area was secure. I watched numbly, still unable to move or make a sound. Within minutes of the call-in, distant sirens could be heard; they grew louder as the emergency crews approached the crime scene.
The ambulance crew was the first to arrive on the scene; jumping out of their vehicle they rushed forward, medical kits in hand. The officers tried to wave them off but one of the EMTs, a young lady about my age, ignored them and continued to move towards me while her companion, an older male, changed directions and ambled over to talk to the officers. The female medic froze when she saw the pool of blood around me, and I saw the light of hope die in her eyes. She came forward anyway
and checked my pulse before withdrawing and beginning the long wait for the forensics team to start their work. Once all the evidence was gathered from the crime scene, the EMTs would transport my body to the city morgue. Two more sector cars arrived on the scene next, followed by a homicide detective in an unmarked vehicle, and finally the forensics team was last on the scene. A crowd of onlookers had begun to form on the opposite side of the street. They were kept at bay by a uniformed officer.
The homicide detective, wearing a cheap dark suit, entered the alley as soon as he arrived. He inspected the scene without touching anything. He was of average height with piercing blue eyes, curly dark hair and a neatly trimmed mustache. He stayed near me until the forensics crew arrived. He had a sad but de- termined look about him; his presence somehow comforted me. The forensics team did their work quickly but carefully, taking photographs of the scene and then collecting various samples. The city medical examiner took charge of my body: he was a pudgy balding man with glasses. He examined my body thor- oughly and spoke quietly into a mini-recorder. The detective had moved off to consult with the original officers on the scene and he was joined by a second detective. She was a tired looking woman in her middle to late thirties. As soon as the forensics team was done with the preliminary cataloging of the scene, the detectives joining the medical examiner and began to search through my pockets and hand bag.
“Hey Bob,” said the male detective. “How’s it fucking hanging?”
“Still got that potty mouth I see,” Bob, the Medical Examiner, retorted. “I would have thought you’d have cured him of that by now Wendi.”
The female detective, Wendi, shook her head with a sigh of the long suffering.
“Not fucking likely,” the male detective replied. “You find anything unusual?”
“Not really,” Bob answered with a shake of his head. “It’s
what it looks like: her jugular was slashed with a very big knife. She bled out. The attacker was strong and big and knew how to use a knife; the cut was clean and very precise. There’s bruis- ing consistent with large hands on her arms and shoulders. She was killed here in the alley but was probably grabbed elsewhere. There are also signs that she vomited recently.”
“Veronika Kane, age 21,” said the male detective as he read my license. “God damn it. It was her fucking birthday.”
“Hold it together, Frank,” said Wendi. “At least this one didn’t have to go through what the other ones did. I wonder why he killed this one so quickly.”
The male detective, Frank I guess, didn’t say anything for a moment. As he continued to search through my purse, Wendi searched my body; both wore latex gloves.
“I’ll leave the rest of this in your capable hands,” Bob said standing up and heading off towards his car. “Come by tomor- row for the autopsy report. Maybe preliminaries will be ready from toxicology.”
Wendi waved goodbye to the departing medical examiner, but Frank didn’t seem to notice his departure.
“I’m guessing she put up more of a fight than our guy is fucking used to,” Frank finally said in reply to Wendi’s question. He’d retrieved another card from my wallet. “She’s a fucking jiu-jitsu master with credentials from the University City Dojo according to this.”
All those years working out, learning to defend myself, the competitions, the grueling hard work, the broken bones, all of it had been a waste. Why was God punishing me? Why had He let me be killed in such a brutal way without even a chance to fight back? Why was I being forced to stand here, unable to move or speak? Why was I being forced to watch this horrific scene out of a Law & Order episode? I suddenly recalled what a born-again friend had once told me, “Hell isn’t a fiery pit. It’s existence without God, all alone for eternity.” Was I in Hell? Had I truly been so bad that I deserved this end?
I had worked hard my entire life, earning A’s and always com- ing near the top of the class in school. I was athletic. I had played several sports but favored the martial arts, both hand-to-hand and sword forms. My parents were immigrants from Russia; they had fled the Iron Curtain of the early sixties to find a new life in America. My father opened the University City Dojo and my mother worked for a telecom company. I was a lone child. Now my parents would have nothing. I never did drugs, and last night had only been the second time I’d ever gotten drunk. I had overcome the teenage peer pressure to have sex, saving myself for someone I truly loved. Was it because I went to church infrequently, didn’t confess my sins every day, wasn’t born again, wasn’t a Jehovah’s Witness or a Mormon? Somehow, I’d always believed that being a good person was good enough, that God as a loving father would accept me for who I am. Apparently I was wrong.
“It’s really a shame,” said Wendi. “She might have been able to kick his ass or at least get away if she hadn’t been drunk.”
“How do you know she was fucking drunk?” Frank asked. “A little deductive reasoning,” Wendi answered. She raised
my limp hand and turned it over so that the purple entrance tattoo that had been stamped there was visible to Frank. “She spent some time at the Electric Factory. The stamp is dated. We can start tracking her movements from there. I’ll bet you twenty bucks that when toxicology comes back it will show that she was drunk. It was her twenty first birthday after all, and Bob said she’d vomited recently.”
Frank shook his head, a sad expression on his face.
So, a short life’s hard work came down to one mistake. One
failure. Some people spend a whole lifetime avoiding conse-
quences; apparently I wasn’t so lucky. The truth of what Wendi
said hit me hard. Though my attacker had been much bigger and
stronger than me, I knew that things would have been different
if I hadn’t been smashed. The chances of my having been able to
escape were very high; I had managed to free myself of his grasp
twice. With my full faculties I was sure that I could have eluded him. I wanted to cry, to scream, but neither tears nor sound would come. I just stood there frozen, surrounded by lights and people, but I was dead and alone now. I would never see my parents again, never hold my mom or laugh with my dad. A whole life of promise and hope was lost to me. I’d never marry or have kids of my own.
“Hopefully the fucking forensics team will turn something up,” said Frank. “If Veronika’s death gets us the fucking clue we need to nail this asshole, her death won’t be completely meaningless, though I fucking doubt that that will be much of a consolation to her parents.”
Frank stood and moved to the nearby wall where my assailant had written on it with my blood. He withdrew a sheaf of paper from his pocket and compared the notes on it to the writing on the wall.
“It’s fucking exact,” he said. “The wails of the spirits shall herald the Dark Master’s victory over death.”
“I still think there’s something wrong with that translation,” said Wendi. “It just doesn’t sound right.”
“Look Wendi, we’ve fucking been through this before,” exclaimed Frank in exasperation. “If you want another fuck- ing translation bring it up to Templetown. Just because Penn is preeminent in archaeology doesn’t mean they fucking know everything. Since there might be a fucking religious context involved in this case maybe your old man will be able to help.”
Wendi grimaced in frustration but finally nodded. She was a pretty woman in that girl next door sort of way and unlike her partner, she was dressed elegantly in a grey Theory suit with red silk blouse and stylish but utilitarian shoes that matched the suit. Her eyes were brown as was her curly, shoulder length hair.
“Alright,” she replied dejectedly. “I’ll take it over in the morn- ing. I think we’re done here.”
“Rest in peace Veronika Kane,” said Frank as he looked over
my fallen body one last time before he and Wendi withdrew from the alley and headed for their respective cars.
The paramedics were finally allowed to come forward. I watched with a sense of finality as they lifted my body onto a gurney, wheeled it to the ambulance, and a few moments later quietly drove away. The forensics team returned to bag all of the trash and debris they could lay their hands on. When they’d taken everything that wasn’t nailed down, a clean-up crew was called in to get as much of the blood off the ground as they could. The result was that this alleyway was now the cleanest in the city, though it was now haunted by a ghost and marked with a water proof chalk outline of a body. The writing on the wall was also cleaned away, it had been extensively photographed, and the ubiquitous yellow police crime scene tape remained as evidence that a crime had taken place here recently. Once the clean-up was completed, I was again left alone, still unable to move or call for help.
Ghost Wars Saga Book One
How was I supposed to know that getting smashed on my 21st birthday would lead me to becoming the 9th victim of a serial killer that’s been stalking Philadelphia’s streets for months? Now I’m a ghost and unlife is pretty scary. Reapers, wraiths, ghouls, gargoyles: all of the monsters that I thought were storybook characters are real! On top of it all, the powers that be in the ghost world want to enslave me and use me in their own diabolical plot to manipulate the people of the living world. Too bad I didn’t turn out to be the kind of ghost they wanted me to be, and I’m not about to let them turn me into one of their puppets. These ghosts are responsible for my murder and the murders of eight other women.
A rebellion is coming, and the ghosts that run this place are about to find out just how big a mistake they made when they had me killed.
My name is Veronika Kane and being murdered isn’t the end of my story.
Wail of the Banshees is an Urban Fantasy Novel and the first book in the exciting Ghost Wars saga which features paranormal horror and action set in living Philadelphia and the ghostly world of Limbo.