Red by Catelyn Lanier

A senior investigator finds the body of a missing girl - but who murdered her? By Catelyn Lanier

A red sleeved little arm protruded limp from a pile of dead leaves. The rest of the body lay hidden beneath the coffin of crackly brown and yellow foliage.

"Has anyone touched her?" Ana scanned the small group of people gathered around.

"We waited for you," Holly, the crime scene tech, murmured just as the sun broke through the trees, shaking off the morning fog.

Ana sighed deeply and longed for the cup of coffee she hadn't had time to get. The day was going to be long, and she hated to admit it to herself, but her first homicide had her just a little bit excited. She'd worked in the Violent Crimes Unit for the past eight years, but this was her first time calling the shots. But that excitement was tempered by the sight in front of her. She knelt down next to the slender arm, with its pale white hand, frozen blue veins visible in the upturned wrist.

"Gloves, please." One of the techs handed her a pair of white ones which she quickly slipped on.

"Photographed already, yes?" she said, a hairline crack in her normally strong and authoritative voice.

"Yes, and I'm ready." The voice came from a young man Ana didn't recognize.

Taking one last look at the scene in front of her, she began brushing the leaves from the girl's arm, her shoulder, her bruised neck, her face, her deep brown hair. The face that lay in front of her would be described by some as angelic, eyes closed, lips pale from the freezing temperatures. Ana hated that word, angelic. She couldn't imagine an angel looking so lifeless and emptied of all warmth. She knew this girl. Had watched her in a school play alongside her own sister. Elisabeth had played the part of Mary in the Nativity. This girl had been an angel.

Suddenly, Ana felt like someone had punched her in the gut. She stood up and took a few steps away from the scene, cameras clicking as they focused on the body. She moved away, not able to get enough fresh air.

Ana had noticed there was no ice on the body, so it had not been here during the last rain, about three weeks ago. However, there was no telling whether she'd died here or elsewhere.

There was one thing she knew for sure though, something the girl's mother had said when she'd first gone missing. Butterfly earrings. She'd been wearing them the afternoon she disappeared - but not now.

"I didn't think it would be her," she whispered to no one.

A car pulled up to the edge of the woods a couple of hundred yards away. Ana watched her colleague, Alex, emerge and walk towards her.

"It's Sophia McClellan," she said when he was close enough to hear. "CSU is working with her now and the ME should be here within the hour. Knowing Paul, he'll stop for breakfast before he comes."

"Sophia? That was three years ago. Are you sure it's her?"

"Her missing poster is hanging on the wall above my desk. I'd know that face anywhere. Dead or alive."

"Time to bring in the uncle for questioning." Alex pulled his cell phone from his coat pocket. "These are his woods after all."

Ana opened her eyes and stared up at the ceiling, head pounding with the leftover effects of vodka and a heavy dose of regret. She turned her head to the right and saw his shirtless back, his tousled black hair. She never should have slept with someone so close to the investigation, but she'd not been thinking clearly. Plus, the investigating was cold. Dead. They had no more viable suspects, no hard evidence, nothing that could lead them to Sophia's killer. And after all, Jakob McClellan was the only uncle they'd not suspected. He didn't know anything at all.

She slowly slid from the bed, feeling awkward in her nakedness, something that never changed no matter how many men she slept with. If she remembered correctly her clothes were in the living room. What a blur the night had been. They'd barely made it in the door before the clothes came off and things got really hot really fast. She couldn't find the living room light switch so she searched for her things in the dark.

"Damn it!" She'd reached for a cabinet to steady herself and had thrust a sharp protruding nail into her hand. The puncture was deep and she could feel the blood running warm down her hand.

"This is fucking fantastic." There she was, naked and bleeding, in a house she should not have been in. She stepped into the kitchen and began quietly looking in drawers for a band-aid, praying he'd sleep through what little noise she made. She noticed a bureau in the dining area and looked there. After shutting all the drawers, she went back to the second one. Had she made it up in her mind? Opening the drawer again, she saw, in a tiny ceramic jar with no lid, two butterfly earrings. She picked them up and quickly realized she was covering them and the jar with blood. She slammed the drawer in a daze. The blood began pounding in her ears. It couldn't be. There was some mistake. He opened the bedroom door.

"Good morning, trying to make a secret escape?" He smiled. A lump formed in her throat. She had to get out of there. She smiled right back.

"You caught me, I'm just looking for my clothes."

He reached for a light switch and suddenly she was blinded. He saw the blood.

"I had a run in with a nail," she said casually, spotting last night's dress which she quickly ran to put on.

"I'll get you something for that."

"Thanks." She slipped into the dress, found one shoe and was looking for the second when she turned and saw him standing there, watching her. There was blood on his hands.


  1. very good indeed, you´ve really created a threatening atmosphere.
    hope there are more to come

    Michael McCarthy

  2. Strong dialogue, but the ending was a bit of a disappointment; too vague. Are we supposed to gather that he has just murdered again, and how come she hadn't seen the blood on his hands the night before when they'd made love?

    You make good use of language and write well.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. Beryl - My take is he found the jar (now bloody from her wound). I think (as Michael states) there's a nice tension here, but the story could easily (easy for me to say) be taken a little farther. Get to typing, Catelyn, we want more ;-)

  4. I second the well created threatening atmosphere. And in general, it was a well written story. I thought the last sentence was not literal -- rather it was what the main character thought, that there was blood on the uncle's hands because it was obvious he killed the girl. My only problem with this story was that the murderer would keep these earrings in the open knowing that as a relative he could be an object of an investigation and his house could be searched at any moment, even if he pretended to know nothing.

  5. I like how you got so much in so little time. Great Job~