“We’ve got another one!” Detective Sergeant Birch jogged in. Detective Inspector Green had only just finished vomiting at the first victim. The forensics team was comprised of people with sterner stomachs. Nothing seemed to faze them. They busied around the millionaire’s bathroom. Flashes went off. Things were measured and marked, bagged up and recorded.
“Jesus!” D S Birch glanced over Green’s shoulder at the crime scene. “Who would be so – so sick to do that?”
“Well, that’s our job to find out, isn’t it?” Green snapped. He took one last glance at the mutilated body of cosmetics tycoon Maximilian La Belle. Some sick bastard had strapped him to the wash basin. A metal harness was tight around his head, the straps cutting into his face. Clips held his eyes open – well, what was left of his eyes. Bottles of his own cosmetics had been thrust into the sockets. The contents, mixed with his blood and the aqueous humour of his eyeballs, had poured down his face. His mouth was also clamped, the lips torn off, exposing the crowns of his perfect teeth in a grinning grimace. At least, Green mused, the perfume masked the smell of La Belle’s own filth. While all this was being done to him, the poor little rich man had soiled himself.
“No sign of robbery or forced entry, sir,” Birch was looking pointedly at his notes, rather than catch another glimpse at the horror.
“And there’s another one, you say?”
“Well, they might not be linked but this one’s pretty nasty too.”
“Come on then,” Green sighed. So much for spending the Bank Holiday weekend with the kids.
The second victim was also a millionaire. This one was the owner of an egg-producing plant and his body had been found by a cleaner on the factory floor.
“Well,” Birch was looking at his notes again, “we think it’s the owner from the i.d. left at the scene. Waiting for DNA results. There’s not much of him left, you see.”
“I can see that,” Green murmured, feeling his guts squirm threateningly.
There was a lot of blood and some ragged bits of shoe – fancy shoes, posh Italian leather. You don’t find those down the local market. Green was willing to bet this was Matthew Bernards all right.
“Could it have been an accident, do you think, sir? Do you think he fell in?”
“I think I’d be more inclined to believe that if we’d come across this one before our friend Mr La Belle.”
“Deliberate, then? Suicide?”
“Unlikely…” Green peered into the gears of the crushing machine. They were slick with bits of gore and rich man’s blood.
“I don’t get it,” Birch was peering through a wall of polythene strips at the packing plant with its conveyor belts and stacks of polystyrene egg boxes. “Why do they even have such a contraption in an egg factory?”
“It’s for the males,” Green explained. “I saw a video once. Some footage we seized when we raided some animal rights activists. All the female chicks are kept to grow up and produce eggs. The males – well, they get the same treatment Mr Bernards has just got.”
“You mean they just drop them into the grinder?” Birch went pale. “That’s horrible. I wonder how long – how long, sir, before he burst? Did he feel it, sir? Do they feel it?”
“Best not to think about it. Not if you’re looking forward to a Full English in the morning.”
“So, do you think it’s animal rights then, sir? Dropped him in like a chick and – and –“ Birch’s face brightened as another idea occurred to him, “and with the other one, the perfume! We should check it out, sir. Does Max La Belle test his cosmetics on animals, sir? They do that don’t they? Drip it into rabbits’ eyes. Make ‘em wear lipstick… Looks like that’s what he’s had done to him.”
Green didn’t like to admit it but the D S might be onto something.
“Bunnies and chicks, sir! Well, think what weekend this is! Someone’s making a point, sir.”
Across and above the city, the goddess Eostre sought her third victim. Everywhere she saw her totems, hares (well, cute little rabbits) and eggs, all brightly presented in celebration of a festival. But not Her festival, oh no. She was forgotten now. No one offered up a prayer to Her these days, to bless the soil and make it fertile, to make the bellies of the livestock heavy with offspring, to make men and women feel the surge of their libido as the spring got under way. No; all these old symbols, Her familiars, were being used to promote some rather gruesome idea of a man nailed to a tree. Wasn’t it enough for this man’s followers that they ate his flesh and drank his blood? Why did they have to nick the eggs and the bunnies as well, pretending to honour them when every day they tortured and murdered them on a massive scale? How dare they!
Eostre rode a current of air towards the cathedral where the Archbishop was preparing to offer up thanks to the man for being nailed to the tree.
Let’s see how he likes it, she thought.