A follow up to Pub and Marriage by Alexa Lash – a writer, editor, and on-the-spot poet. Former Floridian and resident Bostonian, she has written for the Seminole Chronicle, Momslikeme, and the Central Florida Future, and is currently working in the Journalism Department of Emerson College. Header image by Jessica Hische.
I tried to stop smiling, but failed: the crime scene layout, perfected with the chalked margins of the body, was just so, just so, beautiful. In all my years of working this job, I couldn’t believe the color of it—the magenta from the woman’s dress, the yellow of her hair contrasted against the black pavement, the cyan of the sky at twilight casting an eerie light on her frame. I was too distracted by those colors to focus on the red: a candy apple red darkening into maroon, a devil’s gradient of blood on the pavement outside the Bezier Hotel. But it was my job to capture those graphic images; to provide focus, most literally, for the investigation. I take pictures, solve crimes. I’m a private eye.
I was hired by Mr. Bezier to supplement the police work, to take the elements they overlooked and reorder for clarity. He wanted a fresh perspective, a sense of balance. What he didn’t know was that he was a suspect in this search for The CMYKiller, so labeled by those creative folks at the local paper, The Graph—tall, about 6’3″; standard width; hair in grayscale. Or maybe he did know. The lovers should always know.
I didn’t suspect Mr. Bezier. Not because he hired me, but because the man was transparent. You could see through his pomp, the layers as easy to pull back as the wrapper of a Mars bar. The man had no creativity, no affinity for criminal design. Money with a mouth.
“I’m tellin’ you, I was framed.”
I’d heard it too many times, folios upon folios of confessions.
“I know, Mr. Bezier. The woman had symmetrical bruising. You’re right-handed. It isn’t possible for you to leave those marks.”
Bezier let out a breath as if he’d been punched in the gut.
I did the usual work: I questioned witnesses, employees, relatives, tenants, guests; kept separate files of each with their statements and photos. Backed the files up. Added more. They were clean, all of them. I took prints, samples. Visited the morgue, then the lab. I canvassed passersby—the page of my search as blank as my mind.
If I could only paste the clues together, watch the colors meld from blood red to crystal clear. I could see it. This was the third murder The Graph had covered. They were always first to the scene, always caching the stories as if they were old books, their personal library of murder. I wanted to write an explanation of the crime as easily as they seemed to.
CMYKiller PAINTS TOWN RED
“…Before she fell to her death, she had been at Mr. Bezier’s apartment, wrapped in sheets as pink as her lingerie….”
There were midtones of detail here, providing the missing content, the missing links of this investigation. But how the hell did they know the color of her lower layers?
I walked into the office of The Graph to talk to their Editor-in-Chief, Hue Vector, a man esteemed for his coverage of the death of the print industry, and in this particular case, women. He looked uncomfortable as I walked in, his tie too narrow, something off in comparison to the coloring, the rest of his office. He lifted both hands with equal grace, a man unfamiliar to asymmetry.
“Our reporters are very thorough. We had express permission to see the body.”
“But you didn’t.” I’d checked the records. The documents, the proof: nonexistent.
I’d read article after article from Vector. The language was keen and measured, with details he often could only have seen if he had been there. The crime scene zoomed in, the situation at 0 percent opacity.
“It was you, wasn’t it?” My feet anchored to the floor. Vector smiled, mouth expanded out into the most sinister of grins.
“What point are you getting at, Dewey? You don’t think I’d murder a girl for readers, do you?”
“Well, I wasn’t going to say it that simply.”
I could feel the color palette of my face go white. I wanted to press undo, Ctrl+Z the situation as if I’d never admitted what I’d known. I should have rasterized my response, brought my unlikely tale to the police once I’d sharpened my story. I was going to be cropped out of the picture, my body left under the cyan sky. If I could just invert the image, make him believe I was on his side …
“But I’m with you, Vector. The paper would be nothing without a story of passion, corruption, blood.” My mind, now embedded with fear, locked itself to staying alive.”She had to die for the greater good. The Graph needs a killer comparable to The Extractor.” Oh, that was the worst name for a killer if I had ever heard one.
“The Extractor was decent, but The CMYKiller is on a larger scale. We’ll sell this story to every market. We’ll be back on the bitmap.”
I could feel my heart export from my chest. I didn’t want to die. Not here. Not with Vector. I could preview the postscript of my life: young private eye, single, unsuccessful. A pain in the ass, sometimes.
Then I remembered my knife, compressed to my leg like lips to a dame’s cheek. If I could just get him to rush at me, hurry the job of killing without thought of how it’d come together as a whole.
“If you killed me, it’d make front page news, don’t you think? Its own spread? Headlines taking over the grid?”
He was considering it, this I was sure of—his face unreadable, as if pixelated, but his body language a thumbnail of his intentions. It was then he lunged, crossing the border between us, deleting the lines of separation.
“Print will never die,” he said as he grabbed toward my neck, weight distributed equally to each hand.
His face twisted into a grimace. My knife stuck from his chest as if suddenly cut and pasted there. I’d hit him high-res, dug into the heart of him, coloring his face from a raspberry pink to an airbrushed paleness I’d only seen in fashion magazines. He dropped below his desk, a shadow of a man now lain across the floor.
The next day, the headline:
EDITOR-IN-CHIEF THE CMYKiller
Dewey the New Template Hero