“Detective Shelly is back to solve another crime. Find her other cases here.”
I wrote this story in answer to the following prompts:
To Spray A Crime Scene
As soon as she stepped into the room, she realized that this was going to be a colourful mystery.
Detective Shelly Hobbs carefully stopped at the edge of the lounge carpet. The entry hall and carpet were the only places not painted in a spectrum of vivid colours. “Did he die as a result of an exploding rainbow?” she asked, indicating the near-naked victim on the paint-splattered dining table.
From the door, it was clear the deceased too was covered in paint right up to his carrot orange mohawk.
“Somewhere over the rainbow — is death by a glut of spray-painting,” replied Doctor Rose Quinton the police forensic pathologist. She examined her liver temperature gauge, cleaned and return it to her kit.
“I don’t follow,” Shelly cast her eyes about the room. Every item of furniture including the sofa, television and an old Easter Egg box had been completely spray-painted. She could see into the kitchen, the bathroom and the single bedroom. The fourth door was shut but it seemed the entire flat and its furniture had been covered in as many colours as possible. A heap of spray cans beneath the dining table in a slick of paint froth were the clear source.
“I won’t know until I run some tests, but I think he may have inhaled far too much volatile organic compounds and gases from the spray paint. I’d say he died less than four hours ago too” Rose lifted a foot. “As you can see much of this is still wet. Officer Klass outside and I opened the windows because the stench of chemicals was overpowering in here.”
“I see. He didn’t put himself on the table and paint himself though, did he?” Shelly scanned the area around the table from her paint-free position by the door. There was no indication that he climbed on the table or footprints made by people other than Rose and Jake entering the scene.
“That’s your department, but I’d say no.”
“Agreed. From what I can see, he painted the building with someone else. He died in the process. They stripped and put him on the table. Then painted him before covering their steps with more paint as they left.” Rose nudged the door frame and swore. “Bloody hell! Now I’ve got turquoise, hot pink, and flaming orange paint all over my black blazer!”
Rose grinned, “Join the club. I feel like I’m standing in a dynamited paint factory over here. Worse, I have to take my kaleidoscopic friend back to the morgue, paint job and all.”
“Wonderful, let me know what —”
The door banged open behind Shelly.
“Thunder in why don’t you, Jake,” Shelly remarked on seeing the blonde-haired officer enter.
“Sorry about that,” he said blushing slightly.
“It’s alright, you didn’t damage the paintwork,” Rose quipped.
“Ha! Behave.” Shelly rolled her eyes. “What do we know, Jake?”
“He’s Caleb Dali-Wright. He’s been renting this flat for two years. The neighbours downstairs realised there was a problem when their ceiling started changing colour —”
“Hmm, I wonder why!” Rose remarked. “I doubt Salvador would approve either!”
“Quite. Anyway, the door was locked when I arrived. I obtained permission to use my big red key to break in and discover this funhouse. This isn’t all that’s been painted either.”
“Do I want to know what else you found?” Shelly asked.
“Probably not. But you better check it out,” Jake nodded toward the door.
“I’ll follow you.” Shelly. “Rose, you’re free to take the body. I’ll catch up with you later.”
Jake led the way out of the building and around to the back alley. There we stood aside and opened his arms. “Eh voila.”
“Bloody hell!” Shelly blinked disbelieving in what she was seeing. The whole alley from the ground to about twenty feet up the walls was painted brightly in coloured graffiti. Even all the bins, drainpipes and the fire escape ladder had been painted.
“There are footmarks on the ladder. I think Caleb painted the alley and then went up there to paint his apartment,” Jake explained.
“Good theory. Sorry to cramp your genius though but you’ve got it backwards.” Shelly said remembering the apartment.
“I have?” Jake looked interested.
“Yup. There is no paint in the entry hall or the corridors outside. Nobody could have been in that flat without getting covered in paint. Whoever put Caleb on the dining table did not leave through the front door. He or she came down that ladder and escaped.
“Good eyes!” Jake looked impressed.
“Thanks,” Shelly turned a circle exploring the freshly painted alley. “Again, no footprints leading into this paint-free end of the alley. They must have come out the other way.”
Jake nodded, “Let’s go forth and find out.” He made to step forward.
“No thanks, I’m wearing enough paint already. Let’s go round.” Shelly indicated her sleeve and set off around the building.
Jake led the way past the building’s main entrance and around the other side. “Ha! You’re right, look. There’s a load of paint cans by the fence. We also have handprints and multicoloured footprints leaving the scene too.”
“Excellent! I do love a good trail.” Shelly grinned as she began to follow it.
The trail of footprints and paint drops led along the street petered out quite quickly. Spray paint tends to dry out fast and so too did the trail.
“Damn, dead-end!” Jake groaned.
Shelly smiled. “Maybe not.” She’d noticed the painted curved toward another block of flats. She hurried down the path, noting the odd fleck of dried paint caught in the concrete.
Reaching the main door, she indicated a mark that looked like a painted sleeve touching the woodwork. Entering the building, she glared at the flickering light fixture on the ceiling. They were the perfect recipe for a headache and drove her crazy.
“There are twelve flats in here. How do we proceed?” Jake asked.
Shelly said nothing as she walked along the hall, scanning the walls floors and doors clues. Flakes of dried paint led her to the concrete steps to the upper floors. Ascending she went right to door number seven.
“Allow me.” Jake stepped forward and knocked on the door.
Somebody was showering inside, the sound of running water was unmistakable.
Jake’s knocked again – this time much louder.
The shower was turned off. Almost a minute later skinny looking man opened the door draped in a towel. “Yeah, whaddya you want?” he asked. Seeing Shelly, he hiked up his towel looking uncomfortable.
“I’m officer Jake Klass, this is DCI Shelley Hobbs. We’d like to ask you a few questions if you don’t mind, Mr Picasso.”
“Picasso? I’m Ollie.” The man fingered an ear stretcher in his right lobe. “What’s this about?”
“The flecks of paint all over your face, Ollie,” Shelly remarked. “We followed your paint trail. We know you painted the alley at the end of the street. What happened before that?”
“Nah, a guy attacked me with a paint can, honest,” Ollie said whitening.
“Rubbish,” Jake pushed past him. “Mind if we come and have a look around, thank you.”
“It stinks of cannabis in here, Jake.” Shelly wrinkled her nose at the pungent stench.
“Sure does.” Jake nodded and entered the filthy kitchen.
Shelly followed Ollie to the lounge and grimaced at the musty, rotten smell and piles of festering fast-food boxes everywhere. “I believe you and Caleb spray-painted his room and the alley before you came back here. How did he die?”
“I don’t know him. Honest.”
“You like spray painting.” Shelly indicated several cans amid the detritus.
“You did some recently too,” Jake held up some jeans and a T-shirt. Both were coated in paint. “These were in the bathroom. Oh, and you are under arrest for the cannabis and cocaine that was in your jeans pocket too,” he added having taken out his handcuffs.
“Alright. I did it. But it didn’t kill him. We were painting his bedroom when he keeled over. He seemed to convulse and died before I could do anything to help him. I didn’t want to get arrested for his murder. I didn’t kill him. I also knew he’d want to go out in style.” Ollie collapsed onto his sofa spilling pizza boxes to the floor.
“Tell us what happened,” Shelly pressed.
“I decided to finish painting his flat. I laid him on the table and created an artwork memorial around him before leaving by the fire escape. I painted the alley and then came home. I must have passed out on my drugs. I awoke and took a shower. Then you barged in”
“Thank you, Ollie.” Shelly sighed. “You are under arrest for the drugs and all the illegal spray painting. As for Caleb, you are also under arrest for his death pending the results of the autopsy. Take him away, Jake.”
Shelley returned to her car feeling pleased with herself. It was always good to wrap up a case as fast as possible.
By the end of the week, Ollie was cleared of murder. Rose proved Caleb had died after ingesting huge amounts of harmful gases contained in the spray cans. He had indeed died for his art.
Thanks for reading my friends.
Have a great day!