There wasn't much left of Ethan Frame when a would be mourner inadvertently stepped into his grave. The boy had been laid to rest in a tightly sealed plastic sheet under three feet of earth and rock near Woodlawn Cemetary. The funeral the mourner had been attending was for an unrelated corpse who had enjoyed a more traditional burial dressing. This unlucky woman was a cousin of the deceased being buried nearby. She was stepping between a pair of trees on her way to the grave site in a pair of Christian Louboutins when her foot punched through the layer of sod above Ethan. His bag was punctured and the suction caused the poor shrieking woman to become stuck. Of course she couldn't see what gripped her foot under the loose mud, and struggling only seemed to lodge her foot more firmly in the murky hole. Shrieking didn't seem to help either, but that didn't stop the terrified woman.
her leg was finally pulled out by fellow mourners, Ethan's broken body
came with it. This trim little boy had weighed barely 70lbs in life,
and in death most of that had melted away. The bottom of his plastic
bag, in a tipped position, was heavier than the top. The end revealing
Ethan's frozen grimace under clear plastic was what came up with the
woman's foot. Her 900$ heel had lodged between his sharp little ribs
and the toe of her foot had hooked his chin.
hadn't been for a small water main break the boy might have lain there
forever. A corroded pipe nearby was slowly turning the water around
Ethan Frame into thin muck, covered over by a roof of tightly woven
grass and sod.
Daniel Munoz had been tailing the
coroner like an excited puppy all morning. He had headed down to the
chilly basement morgue the second the news had broken at the station
that a young boy's badly decomposed body was coming in.
Christ Munoz, you're starting to creep me out and I don't say that
lightly", joked Dr. Santos. Santos was called Santa by everyone at the
station due to his corpulence and white fluffy beard. Santa was one of
the only people at the station that Munoz could stand, though it would
have been very difficult to dislike the friendly and intelligent
coroner. Munoz had asked the fat doctor once how he managed to remain
singularly calm and good natured in such a horrific job. Santa had
laughed, "They're in no hurry by the time I get them! So, I take my
time. I take my time, and they take my time, and nobody is in a rush.
No lives to save, it's too late." This was very true. Many of the
people who wound up in the care of Dr. Santa were indigents or missing
persons. Though he had plenty of expertise, it was rarely required.
have a feeling about this kid, Santa, I've been itching for something
big", Munoz suddenly switched to a whisper, forever fearful some other
eager detective would try to steal his work. There was nobody more
eager than Munoz. "Are you going to be able to tell if there's
something wrong with his skin if he doesn't have any skin left?"
laughed, "Ah laypeople, why do I put up with this shit", Santa put
leaned his dimpled hands on a dead hooker, "Munoz, even when it doesn't
look like there's anything left, there's something left. As long as I
have some tissue to work with, I can figure out nearly anything I need
to. Now from what I understand, the kid was bagged up good and tight,
so you just might get lucky. This kid might look good enough to take
you to prom."
"Real nice, pervert. From what I understand the kid is barely ten if he's a day."
stopped him, "Don't tell me anything about this kid, I don't want your
guesses about serial killers and circle brands and scabs coloring my
assessment. When I find something, you'll be the first to know, OK?
Munoz knew better than to press Santa. He also
knew there wouldn't be anything to find at the body site. Years in a
semi public place with a high amount of foot traffic was unlikely to
have left behind some pivotal clue, all of the pertinent evidence would
be in that body bag. Daniel Munoz was enthusiastic about his job, maybe
too enthusiastic, but he was not a busybody. He smiled thinking of how
many detectives and officers were likely swarming the scene at that
moment taking pictures and marking the placement of leaves and twigs,
collecting samples of dirt and grass.
Munoz was eating
scrambled eggs with cheese at the diner across from the station and
going over his notes from the murdered whore case when Santa sent him a
photo text. The skin was mottled and degraded but there it was, a
circle of scar tissue that had never had a chance to begin healing.
"Looks like you got your serial killer", read the attached text. Daniel
Munoz finished his eggs, tipped his lovely waiter 20$, and headed back
to the station with a devil's grin and darting eyes.
wasn't much for Munoz to see in the morgue, he was an expert in human
behavior, not biological behavior. Santa was the biological and
anatomical detective here. There wasn't much for the small handsome
detective to do aside from waiting. Still, Munoz wanted to be there.
He spread his files out on his desk. Munoz didn't know much about
anatomy but he knew he was looking at an impossible killer.
progression of a serial killer, particularly one with such a distinct
sexual bent, is much like the progression of any hobby or passion. The
initial work is sloppy, full of mistakes and impulses. A child pulling
the wings from a fly. This work becomes more refined as time goes on.
Practice makes perfect. Daniel had three bodies now, but it appeared as
though the progression was moving backwards. This serial killer was,
unlearning? The first case, the boy that had been found years ago, was
perfect. No novice killer there. Daniel Munoz recognized and respected
craft, however morbid. A pragmatic approach helped to keep the mind
clear enough to work on cases that would jar a person of more fragile
The second in the timeline would be
Ethan Frame. The child had been murdered and disposed of in a frenzy,
but he had been dispatched with surgical precision compared to the most
recent victim. The whore had been brutalized. The only thing all three
of them had in common was the killer's need to mark them with that
perfect circle, that tidy little round edge, almost as though it had
been stenciled onto their skin. Well, maybe only the boys' skin. The
whore's circle had been a mess.
Could this be a pair
of killers? An experienced serial killer with a novice partner striking
out on his own? No, the whore's murder was too raw. A novice trying
to impress his tutor wouldn't have left that ragged scene behind. None
of the killings had been promoted as serial killings and none of the
details had been made public, a copycat wasn't possible. It had to be
the same killer, but why was the killer forgetting how he liked to
kill? That was the only explanation that fit, though it didn't fit
perfectly. Serial killers and rapists didn't forget what they liked,
they developed a repertoire over time that was as complex a signature as