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Thread: A wake of vultures

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    Lightbulb A wake of vultures

    I haven't been around for a while and have been working on a story of my own. Here is a small sample, (will post more if there's interest...)


    CHAPTER 1 - A Writhing of Maggots

    Inigo Montoya: He's dead. He can't talk.
    Miracle Max: Whoo-hoo-hoo, look who knows so much. It just so happens that your friend here is only MOSTLY dead. There's a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive. With all dead, well, with all dead there's usually only one thing you can do.
    Inigo Montoya: What's that?
    Miracle Max: Go through his clothes and look for loose change.

    ---The Princess Bride


    There is blood all over the room. It’s on the walls and it has seeped into the cracks in the floor. There are globs of it on the doorknob and bloody splatters on the lampshade, the light switch, and the walls. There is even a large pool of it congealed under an old fashioned occasional chair, where the victim's corpse is securely zip tied. As if by some occult magic flies have appeared for a macabre banquet, on the lampshade, on the light switch, on the walls, but mostly under the final earthly remains.

    That’s the thing about a bludgeoning, the blood spatters everywhere.

    Sherman Melvin Jacob was short, overweight, unkempt and more than slightly casual about personal hygiene. His nose was flattened from a beating he suffered as a youth and a complexion that looked like someone set his face on fire and then put out the flames with a golf shoe. Sherman Melvin Jacob was one other thing. He was absolutely, positively and unequivocally dead.

    Someone had done a very meticulous and thorough job of making certain that Sherman Jacob's death was horrific, up-close and personal... very, very personal.

    His run down little house just a block south of Skokie’s main drag, Dempster street... had a rickety fence overgrown, carpeted with weeds. It was a small frame house that badly needed painting, the last structure on a block that had been cleared for a TIF district, showing a sad face to the world.

    The interior was worse than the places described in the tabloids about hoarders. Filled with old newspapers, crushed Golden Arches bags filled with greasy burger wrappings, dirty clothes, crumpled styrofoam coffee cups and the mummified remains of franchise pizzas in their boxes that weren’t worth eating when fresh. Jacobs abode closely mirrored his disheveled self.

    It wasn’t always like this, not when his mother was alive. Back then it was clean and neat. Mama Jacob had a pride of place that was not transmitted to Sherman. He was a “loner” for the most part spending most of his time on his computer. He was not a pleasant or likable person, but he was doggedly persistent.

    His one redeeming attribute was that he was a “squirrel whisperer”. Diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, a milder form of autism, he was a loner in high school, antisocial and awkward, (which earned him his broken and misshapen nose).

    Jacob began interacting with his neighborhoods friendly gray squirrels in 2012. Once hand tamed, he idly wondered what one would look like with a hat on its head. The resulting picture became an internet sensation. Pleased with the result, he posted many more.

    The squirrels helped Jacob come out of his shell.

    “The squirrel’s actually a good way to break the ice”, he explained when asked, “because I’ll be sitting here petting a squirrel and other people will come over and we’ll just start like feeding the squirrels together and talking about them.”

    It would take a while before anybody missed Sherman Melvin Jacob, About three weeks to be exact.

    George Papalounis, the owner of The Little Club in Skokie, one of the people who had talked with the squirrel whisperer on occasion walked past the front of the house and noticed the smell. It was the sick, sweet but metallic smell of death. George remembered that smell from when he was in the war. He called the cops.

    Operator: “Skokie 911, what’s the address of the emergency?”

    Caller: “Hi, I’m, on the street in front of this house and I think I smell something dead”.

    Operator: “Give me the address.”

    Caller: “8117 Bronx St near the corner of Carroll.”

    Operator: “Bronx St.? You said, at Carroll?”

    Caller: “And there’s a (inaudible) out the back, yup, yup. And I think I smell something dead but I just... I don’t know.”

    Operator: “Okay, well I already got a call started and an officer is on the way. Uh, can you see anything, or you’re just smelling something dead then, is that what you’re saying?”

    Caller: “Yeah. It smells like a dead dog or something, but the place looks abandoned and I know the squirrel whisperer guy lives here… or at least he used to.”

    Operator: “OK, I’ve already got an officer on the way. What is your name?”

    Caller: “George.”

    Operator: “George, what’s your last name?”

    Caller: “Papalounis, George Papalounis. I’m the owner of The Little Club”

    Operator: “George.”

    Caller: “Yeah.”

    Operator: “And a phone number?”

    Caller: “(847)583-0000”

    Operator: “OK, we’ve got a squad on the way. If anything changes before we get there just give us a call right back, but officer should be there soon.”

    Caller: “Thanks.”

    Operator: “OK, not a problem.”

    Dispatch: “Skokie 203”

    Officer: “203 Skokie, go ahead”

    Dispatch: “Skokie 203, check for wellbeing. 8117 Bronx St corner of Carroll. See the complainant, George Papalounis.”

    Officer: “10-4 Dispatch. En route 8117 Bronx St., corner of Carroll, Check for well being. See complainant George Papaloonies. Any further info?”

    Dispatch: “Complainant states strange smell at this location like something dead. Nothing further at this time Skokie 203”

    Officer: “10-4 dispatch. On my way. ETA about 3 minutes. Skokie 203 clear.”

    Officer Tom Skrzyniarz was a good cop, an active cop and an experienced cop. During the previous year Officer Skrzyniarz had conducted 421 traffic stops, had 43 custodial arrests resulting in 3 Felony, 32 misdemeanor, and 4 ordinance charges. Twenty of his arrests were DUI related and he assisted fellow officers in 34 additional arrests. In his twelve years on the Skokie force there wasn't anything that could happen in a small city like Skokie that would shock or surprise him. On the way to the call he thought to himself; “Strange smell like a dead ‘possum maybe. Oh well, it’ll give me a chance to get out of the squad and stretch my legs.”

    Officer: 203 Skokie, 10-23 8117 Bronx street.

    Dispatch: 10-4 Skokie 203.

    Rolling up to 8117 Bronx, Tom Skrzyniarz thought that the block looked like a scene from an “end of the world” movie. All of the surrounding structures had been razed by the same genius urban planners that failed to account for the lack of available Federal funding needed to finish their grandiose plans. What remained was this one forsaken house surrounded by overgrown weedy lots. This was starting to look like it might be something more than a simple dead animal call.

    Exiting the squad Tom observed a short balding nervous looking guy that was most likely his complainant.

    “Hi, I’m Officer Tom Skrzyniarz sir. Are you the person that called about the foul smell?”

    “Yes officer, I’m George Papalounis. I was walking past here looking to see if the guy I know as the squirrel whisperer was out. I haven’t seen him around in a couple of weeks, and as I was walking by I noticed this terrible smell, so I called.”

    “O.K. Mr. Papaloonies, you mentioned a “squirrel whisperer” what’s that all about?”

    “Well officer, you see, the guy that lives in this house is kind of a strange duck. He’s not too sociable, but he has this way of taming squirrels. He gets them to eat out of his hand, pets them and even puts little hats on the and takes pictures?”

    “Hats? This guy puts hats on squirrels?”

    “Yeah, I know it sounds kinda funny, but it was really sort of interesting and I would stop here and talk to him and watch the squirrels with him once in a while when I go for my walk. But I haven’t seen him in a couple of weeks and today there was this smell, so I called.”

    “So, how close a friend was this guy? Did you visit much? Did you know him well or anything else about his friends or family? You say you haven’t seen or talked to the guy for a couple of weeks?”

    “That’s right officer. I didn’t know him very well at all. We just were more like passing acquaintances rather than friends. I would stop by here on my constitutional occasionally when he was out with the squirrels and we would chat, mostly about the squirrels. He did stop by my place, The Little Inn for dinner once in a while.

    I guess it’s been more like three weeks to a month since I saw him last. The last time was just after the last rainstorm. He was in my restaurant with a lady friend for dinner. Seemed a bit strange, him being with her. I had never seen him with a lady before and she was quite a looker. Tall, pretty, honey blond hair, the kind of a gal you would turn around and take a second look if you saw her on the street. Probably was some kind of business dinner. She looked like a real estate agent and you can see that his house here isn’t much. Maybe he was looking to move into something better.”

    Okay Mr. Papalounis, you just hang out here for awhile if you can. I'm gonna check things out but I may need to talk to you further after.

    Tom began moving carefully toward 8117 Bronx taking his time to carefully observe as much of the scene as he could without making written notes. From past experience he knew that this was the best way to make sure that his written report would be as accurate as it could be. The sergeant was a bit anal about clean and accurate reports and from experience Tom knew that a happy boss was an easy boss.

    The front gate looked as though it hadn't been used in quire a while since there was quite a tangle of weeds surrounding the gateposts and the greenery hadn't been trampled down. Walking up to the stairs, he once again noticed no evidence of recent usage and there was no mail in the box that stood forlornly to the right of the door.

    He rang the bell and spoke loudly; "Officer Tom Skrzyniarz, Skokie police... is anybody home?" There was no response. He then rapped strongly on the old wooden front door and repeated; "Officer Tom Skrzyniarz, Skokie police... is anybody home?" Still no response, just silence. He did notice a faint smell of what might have been a dead squirrel or cat. Nothing overwhelming, but there it was, none-the-less.

    Moving off the porch Tom checked out the yard to the west of the house. There was nothing unusual to make note of except for the overgrown condition of a yard choked with weeds. No sign of either people or animals having disturbed the thick vegetation. Moving back toward the east of the yard Tom followed what was once a walkway to the back yard. This side yard was also overgrown. The three windows on this side of the house were grime encrusted and opaque. Taking his time he continued his careful progress to the back of the house.

    The backyard was as overgrown as the rest of the property with the singular exception of a pathway through to the alley and the semi-abandoned municipal parking lot to the north. Someone had been making entrance and egress from the house by this route, but the degree of overgrowth showed that it hadn't been traversed for some time.

    As Tom approached the rickety back stairs leading to the rear entrance to the house, the smell of putrefaction seemed to increase. Carefully mounting the stairs and looking to see if there was anything that would show human activity he approached the closed door and sharply knocked. The door swung slowly inward with the force of his knuckles on the wood and the smell of rotting meat assailed his nostrils like a wind out of hell. There was definitely something... or someone dead inside.

    "Officer Tom Skrzyniarz, Skokie police... is anybody home?" Tom announced while reaching for his Kel light flashlight with his left hand while drawing his 9mm service weapon with his right.

    "Officer Tom Skrzyniarz, Skokie police... check for well being"; he announced as he flicked on the Kel light and carefully entered the building.

    When just inside the door, he found himself in the kitchen. Sweeping the light slowly from left to right while keeping his service weapon at the low-ready position, he mentally recorded the fact that the kitchen had not seen use as a food preparation area for some time. Paper plates piled on the sink; dirty plastic ware with the rotting remnants of food on the drainboard and the stove veiled with a coating of dust. The only evidence of life were the many paw prints in the dust on the floor. Paw prints that appeared to be from squirrels and cats, but only two sets of human footprints leading into the rest of the house but only one back out again toward the door where Tom was standing. As he was making these observations, be noticed that the longer he was in the kitchen the putrid smell increased in intensity. Something deep in his consciousness made him want to leave this place. There was danger here and instinctively Tom knew it, but, as he was taught in his many years as a cop, you perform as you train and his training overrode his instinct. He moved further into the darkened house.

    Moving through the kitchen door into the dining room he swept the beam of his light from left to right staying alert for any movement or anything else that would trigger his action response. The antique dining room table was piled high with old newspapers, junk mail and other flotsam and detrius. There was an old pizza box computer with a tiny monitor on a table against the wall. It was also covered in dust and looked like it had been quite some time since it had been powered up.

    The old dining room floor was replete with animal paw prints embedded in the dust and under those he could barely make out two sets of human footprints leading to a room to his right but only one set leading out and back to the doorway where he stood.

    Carefully walking to the side of the footprints so as not to disturb the scene, he slowly worked his way to the doorway of the room on his right. Getting to the opening he stood for a minute listening.

    Nothing… silence... and the smell of death was now almost overwhelming. He could feel the contents of his gut churning and he really didn’t want to go any further. Tom, a well trained experienced cop mustered all of the resolve he could to take the next step.

    In one fluid motion he stepped over the dusty footprints going into the room and launched himself to the left of the door frame while sweeping his light to the right.

    The beam illuminated a sight that was something Tom had never experienced in all his 12 years on the force. It was something out of a nightmare... something out of a grade B horror movie. It was a human body, or at least what used to be a human body. The flesh was in tatters on the upper skull and there were dark sunken holes where the eyes should have been. The visage of this specter looked almost like a melting wax candle. There could be no doubt that whoever this used to be was dead, long dead. Yet as Tom’s senses absorbed the scene he realized that the corpse was moving… almost as if it were breathing.

    Tom’s mind finally made the connection that the corpse was covered in maggots. A writhing, pulsating river of maggots cascading over the torso, down the legs and onto the thickly congealed stain of blood that had soaked into the threadbare carpet. That final realization finally overcame Tom’s years of police experience and training. His instincts took over and he retreated from the scene back through the dining room, through the kitchen, out the back door and off the porch. His feet never touched the rickety stairs and he plunged, headlong through the backyard and into the alley where he could no longer contain his rising gorge and his lunchtime doughnut and Boston coffee with two sugars painted the pavement between his navy last oxfords.

    --tort-
    sic semper tyrannis mortem
    A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself: but the simple pass on, and are punished.
    ---Proverbs 2:23

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  3. #2
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    It's an interesting read. I'm up for another chapter.

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    Color me intrigued.. I'll be a proof reader if needed, although to your credit I only noticed 1 misspelling upon casual perusal.

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    More please...

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    I'll take seconds please .

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    Interesting Tort...I could be convinced to read some more . BTW , good to see you about.
    Someday I'm going to pull my life together. But that day is not today. Today I'm driving a stolen police car.

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    Interesting, please post more.

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    Seems like there is some interest. I will post more next week, probably Wednesday. Thanks for the feedback.
    --tort-
    sic semper tyrannis mortem
    A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself: but the simple pass on, and are punished.
    ---Proverbs 2:23

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    Wow, that's REALLY reminiscent of the olden, SB days with AA. Looking forward to it.
    Someday I'm going to pull my life together. But that day is not today. Today I'm driving a stolen police car.

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    Post A Wake of Vultures - Chapter 2

    As promised, it's Wednesday and here is Chapter 2.
    ---tort--



    CHAPTER 2 - A Mischief of Rats

    "The Cops in Northern Cook County are not prejudiced and do not engage in random police brutality. They hate everyone equally and they treat everyone miserably."

    Sgt. Andy Novak had long ago become disillusioned with the idea of being a crime-busting cop. He found that his professional life consisted of periods of boredom infrequently broken by occasions of being exposed to either irate citizens or absolute scumbags. There wasn’t too much “public service” left in his experience of police work.

    Pulling up to the address he saw that Tom had started stringing the crime scene tape across the front of the property and as he checked in with Dispatch he saw Tom emerging from the side yard to the East of the property.

    “Tom, you look like shit. Whata we got here?”

    “Well Sarge, what we have is a stiff in the house that looks like he had a close encounter with a herd of stampeding elephants followed by a full body massage by every maggot in the north suburbs. It was bad enough that I tossed my cookies in the alley behind the house. I haven’t done much... a cursory premise check. Once I found the body I tried not to contaminate the scene any further.”

    “Anything on who our deceased might be or why he partied with the grim reaper here in this house?”

    “Nothing much Sarge. This was called in by the Greek guy that owns the Little Inn on Golf road. He was out for his constitutional and smelled something walking past here. I guess he knew the guy that lived here in a casual manner.

    The Greek said that he was kinda weird… tamed wild squirrels… petted ‘em… even put hats on ‘em. But I’m not even sure that the stiff inside is the same guy.

    Anyways, the Greek guy said that the guy he knew had been in his restaurant about 3 weeks ago with a female… quite the looker. Looked like one of those plastic real estate broads according to him.”

    "O.K. Tom. Not too much more we can do here between us. Let's just make sure the place is cordoned off with the crime scene tape and I'll take a quick trip inside the house to get a quick photograph of the scene then I'll call out the lieutenant.

    I'm just as happy to dump this in his lap. It will be a nightmare for the NORTAF crew with our lieutenant bloodhound in charge.

    You make sure the tape is up and start on your report while I call in to get Litkowiak out here along with the NORTAF crew and someone from the Medical Examiner's office."

    Lieutenant Kevin Litkowiak looked, colleagues often said, how a detective in a movie looks. And he played the part well. His suits were tailored. He always seemed to be chomping his trademark cigar... had a booming voice thick with a Chicago accent. He had a hearty laugh and a respectable handshake. He loved to buy others drinks and trade stories. He was the friendliest and warmest man many of his peers had ever met, and he was quick to cut himself down with abundant doses of self-deprecation.

    It was hard not to love Detective Lieutenant Kevin A. Litkowiak. He was a Skokie cop but he was attached to the North Regional Major Crimes Task Force – NORTAF.

    NORTAF was a crime investigation cooperative between the Northern Chicago suburban police departments of Lincolnwood, Skokie, Morton Grove, Niles, Glenview and a few others. They pooled their resources to bring major crime investigation resources to the smaller towns and villages.

    When there was a NORTAF homicide investigation you would usually find Litkowiak's partner, Detective Sergeant Paul Berg, a stout man with a trim mustache, a brown comb-over, and skeptical, probing eyes. Where Litkowiak seemed to seek the spotlight, Berg was fine working in the shadows. The Robin to Litkowiak’s Batman.

    Litkowiak was the star of the NORTAF Homicide Squad. He had solved some of the suburbs most notorious murders, plus scores more that got barely a blurb in the papers. He was tenacious and crafty... developed close contacts on the streets. He had a knack for tracking down eyewitnesses...and was a master at getting suspects to talk. “That crystal ball” in his stomach, he called it.

    Great detectives, he once said, had “the ability to get inside to a person’s soul whatever way you can and get the person to say what you need to hear.”

    What set Kevin Litkowiak apart, prosecutors and fellow cops believed, were his people skills. He understood human nature. He could read people... knew how to talk to people.

    He was empathetic...didn’t talk down to them... not judgmental. He had a way with people.

    Instead of putting the call out over the air and alerting every busybody that has a police scanner, Andy calls Lieutenant Litkowiak on his cell phone.

    "Hey lieutenant, I got a real stinker for you at 8117 Bronx. The deceased looks like he's been worked over by a platoon of Mixed Martial Arts fighters. Tom Skrzyniarz caught the original call and he's busy taping off the scene. You're gonna need to call in the NORTAF crew, an Assistant States Attorney for a search warrant and somebody from the Medical Examiner's office."

    "Andy, is there anything out of the ordinary, aside from a dead guy that's been beaten to a pulp, that I should know about?'

    "Well, lieutenant, that type of judgement is over my pay grade. As many years as I've been on the force I can honestly say that the only time I've seen a body this mangled was some idiot that walked in front of a locomotive. All of you are gonna have to work in full hazmat suits, hoods, booties, double gloves, the whole nine yards."

    "O.K. Andy, I'll roust Paul Berg and have Boerema from the States Attorney round up a judge to sign a search warrant. I probably have to call Hensen from the Medical Examiner's office to meet us there with his crew. What is the neighborhood like? I seem to remember that most of the houses in that block have been demolished."

    "That's right Lieutenant, the house would have been third from the corner, but everything on the block has been leveled except for the murder scene. And, across the alley is that derelict municipal parking lot, but it's pretty overgrown with weeds."

    "Tell you what Andy, from the sound of it, I'm gonna want the location around the house roped off as a primary scene and then an outer perimeter along the parkway in front and maybe half way through the parking lot in back as the secondary buffer zone to keep the brass, the press and the gawkers out.

    I'll have dispatch roll another unit to your location to help with securing the area and my crew should be there in 30 minutes or so."

    Litkowiak broke the connection and sergeant Novak headed back toward the yard looking for officer Skrzyniarz to fill him in on the plan.
    sic semper tyrannis mortem
    A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself: but the simple pass on, and are punished.
    ---Proverbs 2:23

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