LEVEL UP • by Robert Edward Sullivan

The only reason the murder of Glory Essence got assigned to lead detective Clark was because her body was found in those brand new cookie-cutter homes just outside of town, and the developer had some pull and wanted the case “taken care of immediately.” She was found in an unfinished house by some punk kids looking for a place to squat.

The only reason it continued to get attention was detective Clark was killed by a falling support beam in the very same house, the moment he walked through the door frame without a door, looking at the dead hooker, the house, and going, “What a fucking shame.” The officer that was right behind him was pretty sure he was referring to the unfinished house.

The only reason this didn’t have much more significance at the time was three days later, new lead detective Lewis — the day he was assigned to the Glory Essence case — was killed in a car accident. No one connected it to Glory, of course. Not yet. Autopsy results had yet to surface. No one liked to say “foul play” even though everyone was thinking it. There were no skid marks before that large oak tree, which was struck at 80mph, so there was some interest in those results. That is, until word got around about the jug of Jim Beam that survived the crash. It was empty. Of course, everyone knew Lewis’s love for whiskey. Everyone knew of Lewis’s love of driving after consuming whiskey, as well.

The only reason there wasn’t much attention paid to the results, which would’ve shown no alcohol in Lewis’s system, was that the lab tech that was handling the paperwork for that autopsy suddenly quit and moved to whereabouts unknown. And the tech that took over his work load, well, he was forced to resign after being caught with that prostitute down in the morgue. His work load was parsed and distributed to the rest of the techs, and somehow the results of the Lewis autopsy got misplaced. Granted, when word and rumor spread around that some life insurance benefits would be lost if drunk driving was involved, “misplaced autopsy” became coptalk for “let’s look the other way.”

There was a news reporter that started to figure something out, after he tried to track down those results and after he talked to detective Kent — who was now lead detective.

The only reason the reporter had no clue that there was someone right behind him in his office, was he was starting to think things weren’t right with any of all of this. The reporter had no idea there was a killer that had been hiding in his house for three hours, and was watching each word the reporter typed. He did not know that as he wrote the summation of his initial findings to his editor via an email — an email that suggested that perhaps detective Kent knew more than he let on about all the discrepancies regarding the Essence case — that there was some nylon rope about to be applied to his neck.

Primarily, his findings suggested that Kent, who did not get lead detective several years ago because of his own indiscretions regarding several prostitutes, seemed perturbed at the reporter’s questioning. “Annoyed” is how the reporter put it. “As if suddenly he had more work to do as a result of my questions,” he typed. “And the smile he gave me when I asked him about the new burdens of suddenly becoming the lead detective… was creepy.”

Before he sent out the email, and before he was strangled to death by Kent, he worried about his safety for a brief moment, suddenly thinking of the reasons why Kent might be annoyed, and what it meant if Kent did know more then he let on. But then there wasn’t enough oxygen going to his brain or body. Moments after his body slumped to the floor, Kent erased the yet-to-be-sent email to the editor and wrote a new one stating that the pressures of journalistic life were overwhelming, and he was going to take a trip. Kent then dug in the reporter’s wallet, fetched his credit card, and bought a ticket to Belize. It took longer than he wanted, because the stupid Priceline site was down, and Kent wanted to find the best deal he could. That, and he liked Bill Shatner.

It was just a coincidence that the reporter looked enough like Diego. Diego was Kent’s pimp friend who killed Glory Essence, per Kent’s instruction. Kent put Diego on the plane, gave him all the reporter’s shit, and said he would be shipping him some more boxes once Diego got set up down in Belize. He told him, though, that if he came back they would put him away for the murder of Glory, because the new lead detective (which Diego did not know was Kent) had a warrant out for Diego’s arrest This Diego, the pimp that Kent went through exclusively for all his prostitute needs, would actually be very thankful to him. And since Diego couldn’t read much English, had no idea that Theodore Sampson, the name on his new passport, was a reporter for the major newspaper in the city. He was thankful for Kent getting him such a fine-looking fake ID, and would be on the lookout for those boxes. He, of course, did not know Sampson’s body would be in them.

Kent was given a solid handshake by the chief when he turned in his paperwork which stated that due to diligent detective work, a degenerate pimp named Diego was responsible for the murder of Glory Essence, and perhaps others. Kent would wait several weeks to solve the case of Theodore Sampson, mostly because it wasn’t a case yet. By that time, he’d have all his stuff moved into the lead detective’s office, one level up.

Robert Edward Sullivan lives in the Midwest. Soon, he will live in the Pacific Northwest.

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