The following morning, the Seattle police department was called out to a grisly scene where seventeen dock workers were found dead. They all had blood leaking from their ears, and mouths, as they’d vomited up sections of organs in apparent violent throes of death. While searching the premises for any signs of a cause for these mysterious deaths, Detective Mathias Hannity heard a weak tapping coming from a shipping container. The tall blonde, well-muscled from his time spent swimming and playing tennis, walked up to the fifteen-foot tall, eight-foot wide container and tapped on the metal.
He heard a weak knock echoing from inside, along with a weak cry. Mathias looked at the shipping container with confusion, reaching out to lift the heavy padlock attached to looped chains holding the doors closed.
“Help,” the raspy voice begged, a younger woman or girl that sounded as if she hadn’t spoken in weeks, nor had water in days.
“Hey!” Mathias called out to one of the day time dock workers, a wide man wearing overalls and a toolbelt, “what’s in this container?”
The man walked up and looked at it with squinted eyes. “I wouldn’t rightly know, as it was delivered in the middle of the night. Ol’Tommy Chong oversaw night time loading and unloading.”
“Well you feel like helping me out? Mathias asked, tapping on the metal once more, only for the tapping on the other side to grow more insistent. “I think someone’s in there.”
“Holy shit!” The man exclaimed. “Yeah, give me a minute with the boys and we’ll crack it open!”
The man rushed off, barking orders at the dock workers who were working slowly, too enthralled by the mess of the crime scene to properly move at a reasonable pace. The older dock worker shouted at them, rousing them from their onlooking and ordered four workers to help him open a shipping container.
He walked over with the men and frowned. “Detective, I’m going to be honest with you; I’m not all that comfortable opening a locked container.”
“There are people inside,” Mathias growled. “I’ll fill out the paperwork to make certain you don’t get in trouble.”
The man nodded and motioned for one of his workers, who carried a large set of bolt cutter. The man slid the tool around the chains and squeezed, slowly chewing through the well-oiled metal until the chains were clipped and were able to be slipped free of the door. Mathias allowed the dock workers to do this before he motioned for the apparent supervisor to move forward.
“Crack her open,” Mathias said.
“Sure,” the man replied, somewhat hesitantly. The man reached out and gripped the two handles before slowly sliding open the gates, the wrenching of metal-on-metal grinding until the light could shine through into the dim container, allowing Mathias to look inside.
There must have been thirty, thirty-five women and children, all with the same apparent methods of death as the night time dock workers. They were covered in crusted blood and the stench of rot hung heavy in the air, rolling out like a cloud of swamp gas over the workers, who gagged. Mathias’s eyes watered but he held his lunch, unlike the supervisor who had turned to vomit all over the docks, revealing that he’d had a breakfast of bacon and eggs that he’d yet to digest.
“Go get the other officers,” Mathias said in a quiet tone. “They’ll want to see this.”
The next five hours were spent transporting the bodies via a cart drawn by hoses, the entire back covered in a tarp so as not to alarm the people working out of their storefronts that day. All of the townsfolk watched the line of carts, five in all, carrying the bodies with a degree of curiosity, but Mathias had warned the officers to keep quiet about the deaths.
They needed to know what caused them.
Inside the shipping container, hidden by gore and bodies, they’d found a footlocker that was unlocked. Sticky with blood, it’d creaked when opened to reveal a slim citar, the stringed instrument made from a strange green wood with well shone black catgut strings that glistened in the light when carried by Mathias and placed in the back of the police carriage.
It wasn’t much of a clue, but by God, it was the only one they had!