Death by Sarcasm - By Dani Amore


Instead of the local rats, a team of crime scene technicians scurried around the grimy alley, popping flashbulbs and taking notes. Occasionally, blue and red lights flashed on the cinderblock walls, courtesy of the black-and-whites blocking each end of the alley.

Mary Cooper stood next to her uncle’s body. The large pool of blood – to her it looked like a Snow Angel from Hell - had already thickened, turning darker as if its purity had been contaminated by the lingering sins of the alley’s sordid past. And even though the club was just a few blocks from the Pacific, the air held a thick pall of L.A.’s favorite aromatherapy scents: rotting garbage, human piss and death.

Mary had said nothing upon her arrival. Now, several minutes later, the uniforms were starting to sneak glances at her, wondering how long she planned to maintain her silent vigil. They unconsciously positioned themselves closer to her, just in case her grief and rage exploded and they needed to restrain her in order to protect the sanctity of the crime scene.

And quite a scene it was. In the alley behind some two-bit comedy bar called the Leg Pull, Brent Cooper had been shot in the back of the head. But the killer couldn’t just leave it at that. A large, deep cut, a slash really, had been made across the dead man’s belly. The knife, a long, bone handled stiletto was then thrust into the body, its perfect verticality looked like an exclamation point to Mary. And finally, a note had then been impaled onto the handle of the knife.

The words were in thick block letters, probably from a Magic Marker.

Bust a gut.

Mary tore her eyes away from the dead man and glanced up at the officer now standing directly in front of her, watching her. His eyes seemed to implore her to express her emotions, but in a calm, measured way. She could guess what he was thinking. That maybe she would tell him a cute little story about how her uncle used to swing her in the air and threaten to withhold ice cream if she screamed. Or maybe she would tell him how her uncle used to insist on reading ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas every year in front of a crackling fireplace near the twinkling tree. But Mary offered no such tidbits. For one thing, Mary had no such stories. Nobody would ever confuse their family with the Cleavers. Mary offered no such stories. And while there was definitely grief, and an abundance of rage, she had used the time observing her dead uncle to unclench her fists. To slow her racing heartbeat, and to gather her thoughts. She pushed aside her own feelings, and used the moments to observe the crime scene. To take in the facts of the murder. But at some point, she knew she had to say something to the uniforms.

So then, at last, she turned to them and spoke.

“Are you sure he’s just not asleep?”

Detective Jacob Cornell emerged from a dark section of the alley and nodded to the uniform to take a walk. He was a big man, with a considerable physique, and a handsome-ish face. Not the kind that would land him on the cover of GQ, but certainly could find him a place in a Wal-Mart flyer modeling $7.99 flannel shirts. Now, he wore a sportcoat that camouflaged his powerful upper body, and khakis that hid the ankle gun Mary knew he always wore.

“Jesus Christ, Mary, he’s your uncle…was your uncle,” he said, his voice a whisper. “I mean, I called you here because I thought you would want to know. I mean, I know it’s not my place, but, a little respect, a little decorum…” His voice trailed off.

Mary nodded in agreement, as if she was glad she’d been properly admonished.

“True, true,” she said. “That’s a very, very good point, Jake.” She paused. “It’s just that he was always such a heavy sleeper. It runs in the family.” She cut her eyes over at him, winked and said, “You know that.”

Jacob Cornell closed his eyes and held them shut for a beat. And then when he opened them, he looked at her with a sideways glance. “This is not the time and it certainly isn’t the place,” he said, his voice soft.

Mary felt warmed by his indignity. A little pissed that he was judging her, but she was used to that by now. Nobody would ever liken her to an open book. But