“Gnarly,” Jeff stated the obvious. I knew what it was, and gnarly was putting it simple. Gnarly was a euphemism.

“The cops…” I said, flicking my Winchester with my arm extended, not wanting any ash to be caught up in the crime scene, as if that was going to make a difference; hot Indiana summer wind blew dust and fallen leaves at the dead woman.  This was no regular murder, no sir, nor was this hate crime.

This was extremist religious insidiousness, and if I were to put my money someplace, I’d put it on the Silpeth Church in Hope County. How those assholes were allowed to operate in the open, with no restriction from the government, no opposition from the Catholics, was beyond me.

The red-orange sun, soon to shower Kindred, Indiana with its unforgiving heat, was still snoozing behind a couple of stray rain clouds headed to Washington. It had rained yesterday, and crickets created a ruckus whenever it did. Their constant bickering was giving me a headache. Jeff seemed fine with it. He wasn’t the neurotic type.

She stood suspended on the side of the road, crucified–seekh kebab-ed, more precisely–to a stop sign. It went inside her from where shit’s supposed to come out, and came out her mouth, the red stop circle right above her face. Her hands were extended and hung along a wooden post tied horizontally to the signpost, giving it the appearance of a cross. She looked like a scarecrow, albeit a very useless one, for crows were perched on her head, on her arms, and a few greedy ones at her feet, where all the gore was curdled up. One of them was plucking at her eyeball, the others were tearing at her limbs while they were still tender.It was a harrowing sight; the horrors of her last alive moments still etched on her face, blood streaks splattering down her legs, her mouth–evidence of the signpost’s violent penetration.Nothing dripped; whatever blood there was, and other bodily fluids, it had gone crusty, coagulated in blotches all over her naked body.

“We need to call it in,” Jeff said, ogling at the woman with necrophiliac amazement. I chose him well when I did. Better a perverted detective partner than a frail-hearted one. There’s no room for squeamishness in this job.

“We need… to take pictures first and send them to HQ,” I replied and without waiting for his confirmation, took the camera out of my bag, jutted my cigarette in the side of my face, and squinted behind the DSLR to take some pictures. I had to be thorough. After the cops will arrive, they’ll ruin the whole crime scene.

“Hey-ho,” Jeff said, snuffing his cigarette out on the ground and straining his neck around to the girl’s backside. “Come look at this, Leon.”

I walked towards her back and saw a tattoo right above her hips. It was small, covered with dirt and blood, and had it not been for Jeff’s eye for uncanny details like these (what did I tell ya? Good partner), we’d have never seen it. And months later, when our case was solved and the Selpith Church’s priest was behind bars, it would be because of this tattoo.

I extended my gloved hand towards the concealed tattoo, and scratched away at the mud and blood over it. I felt sick at the touch of her cold, hard, dead skin.

Angora, it said. One word written inside a circle, and six pentagrams etched inside the circle to give a kaleidoscopic effect.

“Oh my Lord, holy hell!” a middle-aged woman in her Pinto screamed at the top of the lungs as she drove by the scene. Funny. There wasn’t supposed to be any traffic here at this time of the morning, and that too on a Sunday. People were supposed to be asleep, and besides, this road was in the outskirts of town, and led to a dead end ahead of which fields and wilderness lay uninterrupted for miles. Whatever the fuck was she doing here?

“We gotta run. Take a few more pics, and let’s get the hell out,” Jeff said and sprinted back to our car. I tried to get closer but the stubborn crows pecked at me from their unhallowed perch.

“Pricks!” I snapped and slapped at the bird atop the woman’s head. It did not fly away, nor did it caw at me. It pecked at my finger again, drawing blood.

Before I could continue my squabble with the crow, I heard sirens, that banshee call of police cars. Turning my head around–and giving the crow a decent target to peck at my neck, which he did, that little fucker– I saw red and blue flashing in the distance, but coming closer at great speed.

I had taken enough evidence. Jeff was right. It was time to get the hell out of here. And so we did. Before the cop cars could arrive, we had already zoomed off out of town and onto the interstate.

“I’m telling you Leon, god makes people do some weird shit,” Jeff said as he ambidextrously took a cigarette out of his pack with one hand and with the other steered the car, all the while holding a flaming Zippo between his index finger and his thumb, and then lit his Marlboro with the hand still on the steering.

“That had nothing to do with god, capital g or not, Jeff. Nothing. Silpeth devotees run on satanic fumes,” I said, and lit my own cigarette, though with not with Jeff’s dexterity. People like him go far because they can multitask, but I believed that it was people like me, the ones who focused on one strand of thought and action at a time, who saw to it that things got done.