Detective-Sargeant Hobson shrugged off a trailing end of crime tape and straightened up to his full height. The flat was only slightly larger than a shoebox, and had slightly less inside. Grey carpet, grey walls, no curtains. He dismissed robbery and diagnosed poverty instead.
There was a mattress against one wall, covered in crumbs. Against the opposite wall a folding table held up a computer and several piles of paper. And there was a dead body stretched out on the floor.
The man was twenty-something, unshaven, and thin with malnutrition. His left wrist gaped open, and the kitchen knife that had opened it lay on the floor beside him. It looked like a suicide, except that the piece of paper beside him was covered in writing. The kind of reddish-brown, dripping writing that could only be the result of a daying man writing in his own blood.
“Johnny Boy did it,” Hobson read aloud. “He loves Aurelia, so does it to impress her. Almost accidental.”
The medical examiner met his eye, blank-faced from years of her work. “No phone, or he could have called for help to keep him alive rather than asking us to give him justice. It must have taken a while to write that.”
“Do we know a Johnny Boy?” Hobson asked. “An Aurelia?”
“We will soon,” came another cop’s voice from outside. “The vic is Thomas Seneca. The neighbour called us in when she didn’t see him at the mailbox. Apparently he’s always there first thing.”
“I wonder why he didn’t ask her for help. He had time to write down the murderer’s name, but not enough time to call out?” Hobson knelt and picked up the top sheet of a jumbled pile of A4 paper beside the computer. “The Morning After,” he read aloud. “By Thomas Seneca.” He turned to the next page. “Once upon a time, there was a beautiful girl. The world knew it, and she knew it. Her name was Aurelia.”
The page slid from his fingers, and narrowly missed Thomas’ pool of blood. He took one step across the room and flicked the light switch.
“Bulb’s blown,” said the M.E.
“No,” said Hobson. “The bulb is fine.” He pushed the power button on the computer. Nothing happened.
The M.E. sat back on her heels. “I know that look, Hobson. What is it? Why does it matter that he hadn’t paid his bills? Are we even surprised?”
“Do you see a pen? Pencil? Crayon?”
“No. If there was, he could have saved himself some trouble leaving us the whodunnit message.”
Hobson leant back against the wall. “There is no Johnny Boy.”
“What do you mean?”
“Thomas was a writer. On a day with no pens and no electricity, he had an idea for his novel. And he wrote it down.”
PS I had this idea literally years ago, but it didn’t coalesce until very recently. As I researched bushrangers this year, I read about a real outlaw that kept a diary (aww) while on the run – using his own blood for ink.