When the CSI expert found him, he had no face.
“Jesus Christ!” Wayne, the lead detective, exclaimed as the three of them examined the slumped body of Sonny DeMarco.
“How the hell did that happen?” asked Wayne’s partner, Angelo.
“How the hell do I know?” Wayne said. “Connie, where you goin’?
“Downstairs,” she hollered over her shoulder.
They watched the CSI agent gingerly step over Sonny’s corpse, ensuring her heels didn’t sink into the slime. She sniffed the air and then strode toward the basement, with an air of determination.
“These sob’s can be brutal if you don’t pay up,” Angelo said, shaking his head and biting his lower lip. “ Sicilians!”
“You think he didn’t pay his “insurance?” asked Wayne, raising his chin slightly in the dead man’s direction.
Angelo shrugged. “It’s the Mob.”
“After Hurricane Sandy, there’s no way Sonny could eke out a living in this hole-in-the-wall pizza joint. He couldn’t crank out enough to pay the rent, let alone…”
“Like they care!” Angelo surveilled the mess of beer cans, sand, garbage and mounds of paper and plastic bags. “Poor guy turned into a hoarder, looks like.”
In the crammed room, Wayne was forced to step over the body to reach the bathroom. He stopped outside the lavatory and peered in. “Christ sake. Good Gawd Almighty! Look in here! Seems like the commode wasn’t functioning.” Excrement had piled high for months and overflowed onto the cracked linoleum, whose color once might have been a lime green but now was taupe.
“I’m gonna gag, Boss,” said Angelo, standing behind his partner. Wayne pulled out a handkerchief and covered his mouth as he retreated from the scene. Angelo crammed his fist into his mouth and looked away.
“I’m not sure this is a murder,” Wayne said, glancing around the room.
“Hell, it’s no suicide! A man can’t chew off his own face.”
“You sure it’s Sonny?”
“Oh yeah. Me and my old lady, we been comin’ to this place here at the Jersey shore for years. In the front rooms, they served pizza. A couple of tables, a few chairs. No idea the back rooms looked like this. Pizza ain’t bad either. He used fresh mozzarella. And the canolli! Best on the boardwalk.”
Wayne gave a skeptical look. “Shit man, I don’t think I’d eat anything that fella prepared.” He pointed at the heap of bloated flesh without a face.
“You’re not going to believe this, Boss, but Sonny here used to be quite the lady’s man back in Jersey City when he was young—the Greek god, chiseled type.”
“You’re right. Don’t believe it.”
“If the mob had wanted him unrecognizable, why leave his fingers?” Angelo donning blue latex gloves picked up the deceased’s fingers examining them. “Huh?”
“Greek God, you say?” Wayne uttered as he winced at the ravaged face. That reminds me of a joke.”
“Old geezer struts around his bedroom naked and says to his old dame ‘What do you think? I still got it right?’ “Turn off the damn light and go to sleep”, she says. ‘That’s not what you said on our honeymoon. You said, back then, I looked like a damn Greek God!’ She gave him the once over and says, ‘Humph! Now, you look like a goddamn Greek!’ ”
The guys chuckled over the joke as Wayne straddled the cadaver searching it for wounds.
“Where the heck did that CSI broad wander off to?” asked Angelo. “She applying lipstick?”
Wayne stretched his back, cracked his knuckles, and studied his partner. “So what should we write up?’
“Homicide,” said Angelo. “No doubt about it. Beaten to a pulp. Maybe they used brass knuckles? His mug was smashed to a bloody, frickin’ pulp.”
They heard high heels clicking coming up the stairs from the lower level. In her gloved hand the CSI agent was holding a ratty looking dog.
“What you got there, Connie?” asked Wayne.
“A mangy, starved Chihuahua?” asked Angelo.
She stroked the dog’s head. She turned him over in her one hand and patted his full belly with the other. His ribs didn’t protrude.
“You think it’s Sonny’s dog?” asked Angelo. “An eye witness to the crime? If only dogs could talk! Hey?”
“More than an eye witness...” Connie replied. Her lip curled in a sly smile. “Sonny’s here’s a hoarder. Been dead awhile. His pet was hungry. Probably the little guy began licking his owner the first couple of days and then kissing his master’s face. As days went on and the dog starved, he began nibbling. Before long…”
“OOOH, Gawd!” Angelo uttered. Wayne’s mouth fell open as they both stared at the man without lips, eyes or a nose. Then, they turned back and fixated on Sonny’s loyal friend that was licking his chops, oblivious to his role in the crime.
“Cannibalism,” Angelo said.
“CHEW-wow-wa” is what I’ll name him,” Connie announced patting the dog’s head. With the pooch tucked under her arm, like a clutch, she left the blue- taped area.
“Man’s best friend? Huh?” said Angelo. “Got to rethink that nickname.”
“Not exactly the endearing story of Greyfriar’s Bobby, the Edinburgh Skye Terrier who spent 14 years guarding his owner’s grave. That mutt slept on his owner’s grave each night. You see that Disney flick?”
“Never die alone with your dog, I guess, that’s the lesson to be learned from this,” Angelo said and shook his head.
“No redeeming inspirational dog tale here.”
“I think I like my version of the maiming better. I’d rather the Mob did it! You know, me and the Mrs. have one of those little Taco Bell dogs at home. Come to think of it he has a bit of a Lucifer glint to his eye and a devilish grin.”
“Angelo, before you pass out on the couch tonight, tell your old lady to feed him some bacon.”
“I’m going out right now to buy Peanut the biggest chewy toy a miniature dog can fit in his muzzle.”
“Nah, you’re too cheap to waste money on a yapper.”
Angelo glanced over at Sonny’s mangled face. “Sometimes insurance is worth the investment.”
copyright © 2014
Erika Hoffman’s humorous, non-fiction stories often appear in magazines like Sasee of Myrtle Beach or in nationally known anthologies like Chicken Soup for the Soul and Not Your Mother’s Book, but what she enjoys penning are mysteries; some have been published in Deadly Ink Anthologies, 2009 and 2010 and in Tough Lit Mag ( II, IV, V).