from The Screaming Room, by Thomas O'Callaghan
The rain had stopped. The afternoon sun had resumed its assault on rotting corn shocks, casting distorted shadows across the abandoned farm. A pair of cicadas sounded, silencing the chirping of the nearby sparrows, sending them into flight.
In the middle of the field, a sturdy youth stood silently, eyes fixed on a mound of fresh clay.
A rush of cool air stirred wisps of his ripened wheat colored hair. Bending down, he used a finger to inscribe the name ‘Gus’ in the collected soil.
A second youth, a female, approached. “Can we go now?” she asked, wearily. “This is our tenth field and there’s nothing left of him to bury.”
“In a minute.”
The girl looked around. “Someone could be watching, you know.”
“Just need a minute.”
“Well, you’d better make it a quick one.”
The youth’s eyes lingered on the newly formed grave. With a nod of satisfaction, he uprighted himself. As a smile lit his face, he used the heel of his boot to eradicate their victim’s name. “Lovee,” he said, “may the bastard rest in peace.”
“You mean in pieces. Let’s go.”
Copyright © 2007 Thomas O'Callaghan
from Bone Thief, by Thomas O'Callaghan
"My name is Colm Pierce. Although my birth name was O’Dwyer. My adoptive parents, the Pierces, thought my name should be changed. Wonderful parents, the Pierces."
She was sitting before him, duct tape sealing her mouth and binding her arms and legs to the chair. She reeked of fear, but Colm saw only the terror in her eyes.
"I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to finally meet you," he said, pulling up a chair. "The personal touch is lost when corresponding over the Internet. It did permit me to gather volumes of information about you. But in exchange you learned nothing about me. That’s not fair. Wouldn’t you agree? I can’t tell you why, but it’s important to me that you go to your grave knowing who it was that sent you there."
The woman’s eyes widened. Tears streamed her cheeks.
He stood up. Behind him five meat hooks dangled from a stone ceiling. She moaned, biting into the plumbing tape and tasting its metallic resin.
He walked to the stove and opened the oven door. Rubbing his fingers on its blackened walls, he returned to his captive, streaked her cheeks from ear to ear and encircled her eyes with soot.
He left the room. When he returned, he was pushing a gurney. It held a tray of surgical instruments. Selecting the Bard-Parker scalpel, he turned to face his Deirdre.
She trembled as the skin of her neck welcomed the glimmering blade.
Copyright © 2005 Thomas O'Callaghan
from No One Will Hear Your Screams , by Thomas O'Callaghan
Pearsol opened the mortuary cooler and pulled out the stainless steel tray supporting the victim. “Lieutenant, meet Jane Doe,” he said sliding the woman’s bloated body under Driscoll’s gaze. “Harbor Patrol fished her out of the muck. I’d say she was a feast for the gulls for a day. Maybe two.”
“What’s that smell? Paint thinner?”
“She was doused in phenol?”
Driscoll’s eyes narrowed.
“The complete autopsy will fill in the blanks, but I’d bet my pension I already know what killed her. The who, and the why, I’ll leave to you.” Pearsol handed the preliminary lab report to Driscoll. It identifies a mixture of substances inside her vascular system.
“Phenol, formaldehyde and Chloride of Zinc?” Driscoll looked perplexed. “The same Chloride of Zinc they put in dry cell batteries?”
“There’s three more.”“Myrrh, aloe and cassia,” Driscoll read aloud. “That’s a strange mix.” He glanced at Pearsol, who nodded. “Says here you drained 851 milliliters from her circulatory system. What’s that? About two pints?”
“A body contains five to six quarts of blood. So the rest of this mixture?”
“Still in her.”
Using his finger, Driscoll pushed back a lock of the victim’s hair. “What could you have done to warrant this?” he whispered, eyes on the corpse.
“Right now the unofficial cause of death is phenol poisoning by arterial injection. Familiar with the German word, ‘abgespritzt’, Lieutenant?”
“Abgespritzt was a method of genocide favored by the Nazis in the early 1940s. Hitler’s henchmen delivered instantaneous death by injecting 15 milliliters of phenol directly into the heart.”
“What kind of syringe injects six quarts?”
“More than likely he used a centrifugal pump. And he knew what he was doing.” Pearsol pointed to the side of the victim’s neck, where a semi- translucent latex adhesive covered a two inch stretch of rippled flesh between the carotid artery and the jugular vein. “An extreme method of murder, Lieutenant. He arterially embalmed her.”
“There’s more.” The M.E. produced a transparent evidence bag containing a locket. It was an inch in diameter and featured Saint Vitalis of Gaza; his name etched in a half circle below his likeness. “I found it under her tongue. Someone apparently placed it there before suturing the tongue to the floor of her mouth.”
“What’s that about?” Driscoll wondered aloud.
“Good question. I’m not familiar with that saint. You?”
“She‘s the patron saint of prostitutes.”
“Well, there’s a lead. Oh, and there’s one other bit of information you’re sure to find intriguing. The myrrh, aloe, and cassia injected with the embalming fluid were once embalming solutions on their own. Sort of.”
“They were the purifying fragrances applied to the linens that wrapped the crucified Christ before he was laid in his tomb.”
Copyright © 2020 Thomas O'Callaghan