Ella Strong stood from her crouch beside the victim’s body. The smell was getting stronger, but she stopped breathing with her nose and turned towards the medical examiner. “It looks like the others,” she said.
Sandra Ellis – The Medical Examiner – gave a short nod. Deep crease lines etched in her forehead. “Yes. Same as the other women. All strangled with a red tie, which was brought with the killer.”
Ella sighed, scanning the living room for the victim’s phone. She was hoping the same evidence that was on the other victims’ phone, wouldn’t be there. If it was the same as the others, she had failed another woman.
“Do we have an ID from her purse yet?” Ella asked aloud. Her partner, Steve Evans, was still searching through the victims’ handbag. He looked up from her wallet and nodded. “Yup. Her name is Lisa Renner, 27 years old.” Steve stood with the wallet in hand, joining Ella and Sandra. “Have we found the phone yet?”
Ella began to shake her head when her eyes glimpsed the floor beside the couch. A black phone casing lay just underneath it. She sighed, tucking her notepad into her pants pocket, and heading towards it. The gloves on her hands were necessary, but they made a squelching noise when she moved her hands and fingers.
She leaned down and picked up the phone, pushing the home button. The display lit up and as the screen sprung to life, a picture of a smiling Lisa at Disneyland appeared. The phone was locked, but her latest notifications weren’t hidden. Ella scrolled past the social media notices until she reached the one that she was hoping not to find.
“Mark up Lisa Renner as another victim of the Murder App,” Ella said softly. Steve appeared at her side and looked at the phone over her shoulder and sighed.
Lisa had a notification that her latest ‘love connection’ was on his way.
The ‘Murder App’ name wasn’t from the police. Somehow, the information about the app had been leaked, and the media had dreamed up that little classification; Murder App Killings. The victims had joined on the app and were all awaiting their ‘Prince Charming’ when they were killed. The accounts of the suitors were deleted without a trace within an hour of the deaths.
“Is it too macabre to say, ‘at least we have new leads’?” Steve asked. Ella frowned and shook her head, turning away from him and ignoring the comment. She knew he was right, but the death of another woman wasn’t a good thing – no matter what leads they now had. She was going to catch this guy and make sure he was put away where he belonged. “Let CSI know they can do their final sweep. We need to check out Lisa’s ‘Love Connection’ profile to see if her Prince Charming has deleted his account like the others.”
Ella drove back to the station in silence. She was grateful that the call to Lisa’s house had been late. It meant she could drive by herself, instead of sharing the ride with Steve. Her partner was a great guy, but this case was personal for her. She needed time to think.
The first victim had been her roommate from uni. They hadn’t seen each other in 17 years, and it was too late to reconnect now. Four victims in with this lunatic, and still no solid leads as to who he was.
As she pulled into a parking space out front of the station, she closed her eyes and pulled in a deep, lingering breath. A pounding on the hood of her car flicked them open again, and she frowned at Steve. He grinned at her like a 12-year-old. She shook her head and tried to hide a small smile as she opened the door and followed him inside.
Night shift meant the building wasn’t as lively, but the officers on night shift were still buzzing around with work. The atmosphere always seemed darker on the night shift, and Ella didn’t like to stick around too long. Her husband Ted was probably putting the leftovers in the fridge by now. He used to her late-night working, but she felt guilty when she had to rush away. Ted had been amazing when she’d announced her switch from paralegal to cop ten years ago. She’d gotten through training and reached detective, but the job was already taking its toll on her empathetic heart.
After briefing their boss, Ella and Steve returned to the large office that they shared, and went over the facts again.
“We need to get this guy,” Ella said once they were done recapping. She was already feeling the weight of the latest murder as she read over the preliminary information.
Steve exhaled and gave his classic impish grin. “I know we do.”