Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Little Red Riding Hood

(The first course homework. We spent part of the lesson discussing the classic fairytale, Little Red Riding Hood, exploring the plot and writing a sypnosis. The homework was to rewrite the story in our own style. The resulting story came from a brainstorming session with a workmate while driving home one day. Being such a huge C.S.I. fan, I knew I just had to spin the story from the aftermath, with an investigator working through the crime from the other side. I hope the few technical details are correct. If not, all I can say is "Well, C.S.I. got it wrong too!")

The wolf's headless corpse lay sprawled in the middle of a slowly congealing pool of blood. The severed head lay lopsidedly against the wall, a look of surprise on the canine features. Forensic pathologist Lewis Fisher crouched by the edge of the blood pool, taking in the scene. A camera flash roused him from his thoughts. He glanced over to the wardrobe, the second largest piece of furniture in the room after the impressive, ornate four poster bed. The open doors revealed the body of an elderly lady, slumped against the back of the wardrobe. Someone had kindly spared her modesty with a tartan blanket, as the wolf, for some bizarre reason, was wearing the old lady's nightdress. The matching bonnet lay on the floor, dyed crimson by the spilled blood.

"What do you make of this?", Detective Daniel Walker asked from his vantage point by the bedroom door. Fisher looked over.

"The cut on the neck looks clean. I'd say a single blow, sharp implement", he replied. "Poor thing never knew what hit it, most likely. At least it didn't suffer."

Walker shook his head.

"How about the old lady?", he asked, nodding towards the wardrobe. Fisher spun on his heel.
"There's not a mark on her, that I can see", he stated. "If she wasn't stuffed in the wardrobe, it would be natural causes. Of course, Doc Hastings will need to confirm that."

"Are you wondering about the same thing as me?", Walker asked. Fisher shot him a look.

"Ham and mustard in a brown bread sandwich for lunch?", he replied, the sarcasm dripping. "How am I supposed to know what's rattling around in your head?"

"How did you guess?", Walker grinned. "No, I'm wondering exactly why the wolf is wearing the old lady's sleepwear? You think our murderer did it?"

"At the moment, it could be wearing a clown outfit for all the difference it makes. Let's gather the evidence and perhaps that little piece of the puzzle will fall out the other end."

The morgue team came in to remove the bodies, leaving Fisher alone in the room, the cloying smell of death still lingering. He walked slowly around the bedroom, taking in every detail of the old lady's life. Flowery perfumes stood on the dresser, a lace napkin protecting the polished wood surface. Lace, in fact, trimmed everything on the bed. Clothes and pastel twin sets hung in the wardrobe. He stopped at the dresser and slowly reached down, standing up a fallen bottle. His face creased in thought and he peered closer. Each perfume bottle seemed to have shifted a little, the napkin rucked up beneath them. He knelt down, looking under the dresser, and noticed the scratch marks on the floor where the dresser had been knocked.

He stood, cursing sore muscles from a particularly intense gym session the evening before. He made his way over to the bed, the covers thrown back, the linen creased and wrinkled. A photo frame stood on the bedside table, next to an old-style alarm clock and an empty glass. Fisher picked up the photo and saw a young girl, smiling and happy, wearing a red riding hood. He smiled, thoughts of his own daughter at that age filtering through his mind, before returning him to the gruesome reality of the room. He set the photo down carefully and walked over to his kit box.

Fisher knelt and opened the kit, taking out his alternate light source lamp. Standing, he stepped over to the curtains and pulled them, the room descending into semi-darkness. In the gloom, he flicked on the ALS and played it over the room. His sweep quickly revealed the unmistakable splatter of blood on the wall, arranged in a vaguely horizontal pattern of droplets that covered half of the room.. Fisher gazes at the illuminated drops. Slowly, he swung the lamp in a wide arc, then repeated the move, quicker this time. He nodded to himself.

Walker poked his head around the door.

"Lewis!", he exclaimed, "Looks like we've got a witness."

Fisher followed him out of the house, stripping the latex gloves from his hands. The bright sunlight outside blinded him and he blinked to clear the glare. Somewhere out in the forest, the dull thud of an axe on wood could be heard. Fisher blinked and looked down to find himself standing before an extremely agitated pig.

"Is it true?", the pig squealed. Short and very well dressed for a pig, and carrying a basket of sticks, the porcine witness hopped from one trotter to the other. "Is that evil wolf actually dead?"

Fisher raised an eyebrow and glanced at Walker, who exhaled softly.

"Yes, it's dead. You seem to have something against it though", Fisher asked. He heard Walker taking out his notebook.

"It viciously attacked my brother", the pig exclaimed. "He had just finished building his straw house, when that vile creature came along, huffed and puffed and blew it down. And then... and then!"

The pig collapsed into sobs. Walker nodded.

"I remember this case. That poor little pig is still in a coma. Looks like our suspect list just grew", he said. Fisher nodded. A though came to him.

"How did you gather those sticks?", he asked. The pig looked around wildly.

"I... uhh... I... erm... found them", it stammered, Walker glanced over at Fisher, arms crossed.

"What are you thinking, Lewis?", he asked. Fisher nodded at the wood basket.

"The wolf was decapitated with an axe", he said.

"Whu? What? Wait!", the pig said, anxiously. "It's nothing to do with me! Yes, I hated that wolf, but I could never.."

Walker slipped his notebook into his pocket and slipped the handcuffs from his belt.

"I think we're going to have a nice, long chat down at the station", he said, menacingly. The pig backed away, dropping the basket. Sticks spilled everywhere.

"No! It's not me. Ask that little girl", the pig said, quickly. "She saw me out in the woods, we said hello. She can tell you I was nowhere near here."

"Does she have a name?", Walker demanded. The pig shrugged.

"I didn't get it", it said, apologetically. "That bright red riding hood should be enough for you to find her."

Fisher looked up quickly.

"A red riding hood? Are you sure?", he asked, urgently.

"Yes, absolutely", the pig stuttered, shocked at Fisher's forcefulness. Fisher leaned over to Walker.

"I think she's related to our old lady in the wardrobe", he whispered. "Her photo is in the bedroom."

Walker nodded slowly.

"I'm still going to take the pig in. Sweat it out a little, see if the story holds", he said.

"Good", replied Fisher. "I'm going to see what Doc Hastings has for me."

The morgue was filled with its usual overpowering smell of disinfectant. Fisher tugged at the protective overalls and tried to get the visor to sit right on his face. Doctor Samuel Hastings looked up from his work.

"Problem, Lewis?", he asked curtly. Fisher shook his head.

"Good, let's get started then. Here's what I found"

Fisher glanced over at the bench holding the wolf's head, then back at the rest of the corpse lying in front of him. Several metal dishes held the internal organs and the Y incision gaped wetly, the empty chest cavity exposed.

"Cause of death was decapitation. Single blow. There are several lacerations on the chest and forearms. Many old wounds, but nothing else relating to this case. The evidence, however. Very interesting."

Hastings stepped over to a tray set at the top of the bench. He pointed to each bagged sample in turn.

"Human skin under the claws. Skin and blood in the teeth. I've had the samples analysed. There's a mix, from the old lady over there and a close female relative of hers. Oh, and this."

He held up one of the evidence bags, which contained a single fibre.

"Odd colour, isn't it? Bright red."

Fisher leaned forward in his chair, resting his chin on his hands. The young girl sat on the opposite side of the cold, metal table, wide-eyed and obviously scared. She pulled her green riding hood and jacket tighter around her, trying to hide in their depths. Strands of blond hair escaped the confines of the hood and she seemed quite pale, from what little Fisher could actually see of her. Detective Walker sat next to him, an array of evidence on the table in front of him. The girl's father sat opposite, his arms crossed, defensive body language pouring across the table.

"We're not saying you've done anything wrong, Miss Doe, but wherever we look in the case, you seem to be a footstep away", he said, softly.

"Look", her father interjected, angrily. "Jane's a good girl, she won't be involved in something like this. Her own grandmother? A wolf? I mean, come on. We just want to go home and grieve for my mother. She has lost a grandmother today."

Walker took his turn to lean forward.

"Mr Doe, your daughter is caught up in this somewhere", he stated, sliding the bag containing the red thread across the table. "Your daughter does own a red riding hood, doesn't she?"

"Well, yes, she does", Mr Doe said, somewhat flustered. "Where did you find that?"

"It was taken from the wolf's chest, Mr Doe. Your daughter was in close contact with that wolf around the time it was killed", Walker replied. He turned to the girl. "Around the same time as your grandmother. You know what's going on here..."

"Dan, quiet. She's upset", Fisher said, holding an arm in front of Walker. He turned his attention to the girl."

"I think I know what you're hiding, Miss Doe. May I see your arms, please?", he asked. The girl, shaking, offered her hands to him. Gently, Fisher rolled back the sleeves of her jacket, revealing the angry red scratches covering her skin. As soon as he laid eyes on the sight, she burst into tears. Her father sat, stunned, gazing at the injuries. Fisher spoke softly.

"Why don't you tell us what happened, Jane", he said. She looked up at him and he saw something in her eyes, a look that a girl of her age shouldn't be able to give, one filled with a lifetime's worth of fear and pain. His heart sank.

"You were going to see grandma, weren't you?", he asked, almost rhetorically. She nodded, almost no movement at all. He continued.

"Only, it wasn't grandma, was it? It was the wolf, dressed like your grandma. We checked the wardrobe. No fingerprints, but there were scratches made by claws...", he tailed off as the girl began to speak, so very quiet, her voice seeming to come from a distant place.

"Such big eyes, Such big ears."

She looked directly at Fisher.

"Such big teeth!", she wailed suddenly and collapsed into sobs. Fisher nodded.

"But someone saved you", he continued. "The pig? Or..."

It came to him, a flash of inspiration. A memory of a sound half heard at the time.

"Dan, there was another axe in the forest."

The woodcutter pulled his axe back over his head and swung down, the tree trunk splintering as the finely honed blade dug in. He worked it loose and prepared to swing again.

"That looks sharp", Fisher said from behind him. The woodcutter stopped in mid-swing and looked round. Fisher stood with his crime scene kit in his hand, Walker loitering in the background, not so subtly suggesting that the woodcutter was going to comply with every request about to be asked of him.

"Yes, it is. I sharpen it every day", the woodcutter replied. Fisher cocked his head.

"It looks perfectly weighted. May I try it?", he asked. The woodcutter looked bemused for a moment, then shrugged and hefted the axe, offering the heavy wood handle to Fisher. He took the axe, straining to hold it in one hand, while he inspected the blade. His eyebrow raised and a half smile appeared. He set the kit down and knelt, supporting the axe with his knee. Snapping open the lid, he drew out a swab and tore it out of the sterile paper packet. Fisher worked the swab into the join between the axe head and the shaft. He glanced up at the woodcutter and smiled.

"Thank you", he said and returned the axe. He then took a spray bottle from his kit and sprayed the swab with the reagent. It instantly turned a bright pinky purple.

"That's canine blood", he said, simply. The woodcutter looked from him to Walker and back.

"Is there a problem?", he asked, defiantly. Fisher packed the swab in an evidence bag and stood up. Walker finally finished his loitering and stepped over.

"It was you who killed that wolf", Fisher said, certain of the facts. "You heard that girl's screams when the wolf attacked her. It was you who came to her rescue and slew the creature."

The woodcutter nodded.

"And I'd do it again in a flash", he said. "I've done nothing wrong, I saved her life."

Walker stepped behind him, preparing the handcuffs.

"The courts will decide that, sir. But I think you're a hero, personally. And that's what I'll say in the witness stand."

The woodcutter sighed, relieved. Fisher nodded his agreement.

"The evidence shows it was self-defence, sir", he said. "I wouldn't worry. You're going to live happily ever after."


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