Two a.m. was never an easy time to go to a job. But here they were again, hedged by police tape walls and squinting in the dark illuminations of floodlights.
“It don’t look good, Hurles.” He dragged at his e-cig, blew the filtered, no-emission, smokeless, digitally-altered remains of what may have been fumes into the air as dramatically as he could, and gave his partner a serious look.
Julie Hurlesman turned to the prostrate female form on the floor before rolling her eyes, to give him his illusion of dignity. “You’re right, Tray.” She responded cooly. “I don’t see any silver lining in this case.”
Richard Tracy shrugged away from the wall he’d been moodily supporting and effectively shrugged his oversized lapels higher round his neck. Finally abandoning the e-cig to one of many pockets within the long coat, he instead used his right hand to pull his hat brim even tighter down his brow. Satisfied with the final results, he hunched over to stand behind the squatting Hurles.
“Tray,” Hurles said with a decade of patience, “You’re blocking the spotlight again.”
Tray pretended concentration on their assignment as he sidestepped a foot to her left. She pretended not to notice, then intently tried to eliminate distractions as she began her usual examination.
Swirling dust motes and remnant e-cig particles outlined the shadow puppet hand orchestrations of her careful, thorough search. Tray looked on, more distracted in his somber thoughts of how he could finally get Hurles to use the nickname he kept asking her to, instead of the one his mother always used.
“Aha!” Hurles whispered. Tray immediately drew closer, even forgetting to flail his coattails behind him as he squatted next to her elbow. Hurles never made a verbal exclamation unless she’d found something really important.
“What?” He asked excitedly, also forgetting to use his gruff voice.
Infinitely meticulously, Hurles lifted the damp, lanky, unwashed locks from the pale face of the prone body before her. Damp eyelashes bordered a bottomless pool of darkest sadness. A deep brown iris contracted slightly at its sudden exposure to the glaring light beyond Hurles and Tray. The lashes slowly closed and reopened in calculated effect of misery. The rest of the long, drawn face held its agonized expression.
Tray took in a surprised breath. This was important. “You don’t mean -?” He began, turning to Hurles and regaining some of his former composure by raising his thick eyebrows over a fierce glare of suspense.
“Yes, I do,” Hurles told him, meeting his eye and successfully keeping her expression both neutral and normal for the circumstances.
They simultaneously moved their faces slightly to watch, as the woman on the floor heaved the heaviest sigh in human existence. She lifted just enough to turn away from the two investigators, her hair falling naturally from Hurles’ fingers like rain-soaked tree fronds. She lay still once again.
Hurles withdrew her hand, and unobtrusively wiped it on her jeans. She stood. Tray followed suit.
“Another one,” Tray concluded in a deep, gravelly voice. “A victim of her own emotions.”