Another excerpt from The Devil Inside Me! Meet Detective Davis Dunleavy, our protagonist, as he encounters the first crime scene. I’d love to hear your feedback via comments, and if you’d like to read more, sign up for my emailing list here!
Detective Davis Dunleavy slammed his car door shut and promptly pulled his coat collar up around his neck. Crime tape stretched across the revolving entry doors, where the Museum of Science and Industry placed a sign apologizing for the temporary closure. He flashed his badge at the rookie positioned at the door.
The cavernous lobby was eerily quiet. He saw a few patrons, witnesses detained by the museum’s security guard, sitting just outside of the gift shop, and a dozen or so museum employees hanging around the ticketing registers. A giant steam locomotive looked as if it were coming directly at him. He headed for the escalator.
“Supposed to be your day off, Davis?” The voice came from behind him. He turned to smile at Adele Murphy.
“How’d you know?”
“Wrinkled shirt.” She winked and jabbed him in the arm. “Just like college.”
He jabbed her back, careful to avoid her massive camera bag.
“I’m just a stand-in. Armstrong and Bucalo from Organized Crime are knee-deep investigating that bid-rigging business. The FBI has set up shop on the 7th floor. And, since my stalwart partner is out in Montana for bereavement leave, Bowers sent me.”
“That’s too bad about Jon’s mother,” Adele said. “Wait–you’re back-up for Organized Crime now?”
“I guess I am today. Any clue what this is about?”
“They didn’t tell you?” she said, incredulous.
Davis shook his head as he stepped off the escalator. They flashed their badges to another rookie and were waved to a corner of the first floor.
A marvelous yet grotesque sight greeted them. This museum didn’t play: from three-story tornadoes to a full-size German u-boat, it was a place of learning and discovery for both children and adults, and it was enormous–one of the biggest in the world. The DNA and the Devil in the White City display alone was 3700 square feet in an octagonal space. Intended to be a supplement to the genetics exhibit (famous for its chicken hatchery), ten foot tall DNA helices stood on either side of the exhibit’s entrance, but the first thing visitors saw was H.H. Holmes’ now-familiar face gazing out from the wall furthest from the entrance–a full two-stories tall, eyes leering with the effect of watching a patron no matter where they stood. Along the bright white walls were explanations and hands-on activities relating to the collecting and extracting of DNA, and what genetic markers were and how they helped identify bodies and clear suspects. An infographic proclaimed, “Your genome is an instruction manual for how you grow throughout life. You get half your DNA from your father, and half from your mother. Did H.H. Holmes pass on a serial killing genome?” A replica of Holmes’ concrete-encased double-grave was at the center of it all.
Most of the police concentrated their attention along one of the side walls, titled “Identifying Murder Victims…and Their Murderers.” Davis nudged Adele and pointed.
“Fitting,” he said.
As they moved forward, a large, antique-looking steamer trunk at the foot of the display came into view, and in it was a body. At first glance, considering the macabre nature of the rest of the exhibit, it almost looked like it belonged–except it was freshly dead.
“Hey, Chapman.” Davis nodded in the direction of the officers standing guard. “Avery. You guys have been promoted from front door duty, I see?”
Avery grinned. “Yep. Only took six months.”
“How’s life, Dunleavy?” Chapman asked.
“Better than this poor soul’s.” Davis craned his neck at the crime scene as he pulled on latex gloves. Another infographic explained that DNA could have been collected from one of Holmes’ trunks to help identify both the victim and the killer if only the technology had been available–or if they still had one of the trunks because of trace DNA.
“Yeah, crazy, isn’t it? Never thought we’d get a call for a murder up here. Figured it’d be someone trying to steal something.”
“No kidding. What have you found so far? Fill me in.”
“Whatcha see is whatcha get,” Chapman said. “No one seems to know how this girl got here. And in the trunk no less.”
“M.E. on the way?” Davis asked.
“Any guesses on the time of death?”
“Not ’til the M.E. gets here, but we know there was no body in the trunk as of 6am this morning,” Avery pointed out.
“Oh?” Davis replied, walking around the trunk. “How do you know that?”
Avery tossed his head across the room.
“The tall brunette over there. Says she was the last one in here–at least before the body arrived. That guy–” Avery nodded in the opposite direction. “He checked in on things at 8am and 8:45am, but only to make sure the lights were on. He couldn’t say if there was a body there or not.”
Davis raised an eyebrow. Avery spread his hands wide.
“I know. Said he was checking the lights.”
“Do they have security tapes?”
“Working on it.”
“Thanks, Ave.” A bright flash lit up the already very white display as Adele began to photograph the scene. Chapman shielded his eyes.
“Man. Whoever created this show really went for the White City theme,” Chapman said.
“Like Burnham did,” Avery replied.
“Burnham?” Davis asked.
“He had all of the Exposition buildings whitewashed so they looked like they were glowing.” Chapman stepped aside to make room for Adele. “Plus they used streetlights on the Midway.”
“Exposition?” Davis asked again.
“The Columbian Exposition of 1893? The World’s Fair?” Surprise was in Avery’s tone.
“Ah. The World’s Fair,” Davis replied.
“You didn’t know that?” Chapman asked, eyes wide with doubt.
“Sounds vaguely familiar. Don’t know much about this–” Davis waved his hand around the exhibit.
“You live under a rock, Dunleavy? You almost can’t miss this stuff these days,” Chapman said. “I mean, no offense, but it’s everywhere.”
“No offense taken.”
“This sounds like one for you. Like the Petoskey case,” Avery said. “Who the hell would do this?”
“Not for me, boys. The Chief called up Organized Crime, but they’re busy with the Feds.”
“Organized Crime? Geez.” Chapman screwed up his face and hesitated. “Say, Ave, this doesn’t seem like Organized Crime to me. You?”
Avery was shaking his head. He turned to Davis. “I know we’re rookies and all, Dunleavy, but when’s the last time you saw any type of gangster put a body all nice and neat like in a trunk–and then put it in a museum for everyone to see?”
“Can’t say as I have, Avery.” He snapped off his gloves.