I’d been called to a lot of strange crime scenes in my day. Weird ones, ones where the body is mutilated. Ones where the cause of death was so unclear that we walked away with dozens of possible murder weapons.
But those were always in the city. Once or twice a small town or hamlet would have a bizarre murder that needed a pro’s help. But still, I’ve never been called out to the desert before.
It had been a long 14 hour flight, and then 6 more hours of slow driving before I actually arrived at the scene. They had wanted the best for this case, so they flew me in from New York to Northern Sudan.
A Sudi prince had been missing for two weeks. He was last seen leaving a friend’s party with two young women. No one would give up the girls’ names. No one had seen where they went. And now, his body was found in the middle of the Nubian Desert.
That wasn’t the part that had interested me. Yes, it was the ludacrious amount of money that the family was offering to pay me did make the long flight and the unbearable heat worth while. But how they found the body, that was the hook. That was what got me to jump on that plane.
The Mercedes SUV came to a smooth stop, announcing that we had finally arrived. I reached for my sunglasses inside my suit coat. I knew it was going to be hot, but I had no idea it was going to be like this. My co-workers complained about my sweat on days in the low 70’s. When the plane had landed, they told the passengers that it was 100 degrees. I could only imagine that it was worse in the actual desert.
I reached into my other coat pocket and pulled out my gum. If I was going to make it through this trip, I’d need a way to calm my nerves.
I stepped out into the heat, and slowly made my way over to the body. There was no police tape. No cameras. No CSI unit combing through everything. I took in a deep breath. This was going to be a challenge.
There was a single individual hunched over the body. I would have said they were gathering DNA samples, but I saw no equipment at all. I looked to the right of the body and there was the family. The father of the Sudi prince, stoic and unemotional, a grieving mother, wailing at the loss of her baby boy, and strangely, a military officer.
As uncomfortable as I was in the heat, I wanted to play my cards right. Not rushing in. Not asserting any authority, but very low key. I pretended to clear my throat to gather everyone’s attention.
All eyes turned. The individual hunched over the deceased, however, didn’t.
“Umm. I’m Detective Ronald Thornbush. I am looking for..um…I had the name here.”
I fished in my pockets for a slip of paper that wasn’t there. It was an old trick that brought out the Alphas every time.
“You are looking for Mr. Abu Diams. That is me. You are the detective from America?”
“Uhh…yeah. That’s me,” I replied, still surveying the landscape. “I was called to investigate the supposed murder of your son, is that right?”
“Supposed?! It is very clear to me that he was murder, Mr. Thornbush. There is no question in my mind that…”
“Actually, it’s Detective,” I clarified.
“Detective Thornbush. And I will be the one decided how your son passed away.”
The indignation poured off Mr. Diams’ person. Clearly a man that didn’t take attacks on his authority well. Good to know.
“May I see the body?” I question the three. At that, the mother began wailing again. She took off towards the desert. The military man chased after her. Again, strange.
“This way,” Mr. Diam replied.
We made our way towards the body. It was more fascinating than I had hoped. I had been told that a Sudi prince had been murdered, had his beard and head shaved, and was dressed like a Francisan monk. The idea was too crazy to not get me across the Atlantic Ocean. But this…to actually see what was not described to me made it more intriguing than humourous.
Someone had indeed shaved the prince’s head, but not bald as I had assumed. Instead they had shaved it to resemble a middle aged man with a horseshoe hairstyle. But this prince was far from middle aged, and the evidence that the razor used on his head was quite dull showed. His beard and mustache were also shaved, in an equally crude manner. Either someone in a hurry, or someone that didn’t know how to shave.
I stopped down to get a better look.
The mouth had been sown shut. With brilliant red yarn. Or thread. I immediately wish I had my CSI team with me. That kind of information up front would assist me in moving forward. The sowing was expertly done from what I understood of sowing. Upon his eyes were placed two coins. One silver, and the other copper.
The prince had been outfitted in a brown robe as well. Complete with a rope for a belt, and a rosary in his hands.
“Someone went through an awful lot of trouble to make this look like a religious murder,” I thought aloud.
“And you would be the fool for assuming that my son was involved in any religion,” Mr. Diams scoffed from behind me. “If that is the best that you can do, than your competitor is right to receive your payment.”
I jumped to my feet. “Excuse me? Competitor? You are making your son’s death a game?”
“No. Mr. Thornbush. I am trying to find his murderer as quickly as possible. It is you that are turning into a game. And from what I can see, she has every right to win.”
“She?” I turned around to meet my competitor. It was the individual that had been by the body the whole time. She looked up and smiled, my smug ex-wife.