The explosion was loud but, oddly, didn’t blow out any of the house’s windows, just rattled them. My old gal pals Lieutenants Harper and Watson had the battering ram and had banged the door with it the second time. Then came the blast and the gals on the ram didn’t start again but we’re just staring. I looked up, and the roof of the house was starting to sag.
I shouted into a bullhorn I had brought: GET OFF THAT PORCH!!! GET OFF THAT PORCH!!! NOW!!!
The center of the house was collapsing. Watson and Harper were playing Laurel and Hardy with the battering ram, pushing it this way and that and finally both fell off the porch into the grass and the ram went spinning in a circle and landing just in front of them. (A corner of my mind interrupted, “More ram training”). Then the interior walls broke away and everything in the center of the house collapsed with a crash almost as loud as the explosion. Dust and debris were tossed up toward the sky.
I looked around and everybody was standing around looking at a loss for what to do, rifles pointed to the sky or toward the ground, helmets on, badly fitting body armor sagging (another interruption, “More SWAT training”). I turned to my left with the bullhorn: GET BACK TO YOUR STAGING POSITIONS!!!! Then everybody broke into an uncontrolled scramble. (A third interruption, “More goddam police training!”)
Then I got on the radio and called for the fire department and the medical examiner. Probably nobody but the fire gals would be going in for quite a while, but it was virtually certain that there would be bodies. And nothing else was going to happen until they cleared it out. I ordered the outside of the house to be marked off as a crime scene, called for CSI and sent everybody else home, except my all around gofer Captain Collins, a little squirt of about 5ft 3in at most, but smart as a whip and sound as a well cast bell. She’ll have my job someday if I have any say about it. At Headquarters everybody always makes fun of the two of us, because I’m so big and she’s so small, but there is no one else in that entire building that I’d rather work with.
Later, we found that the walls of the punishment room, had blown out from the blast. The room was totally contained inside the house and it’s walls were the main load bearing walls for the inside of the next two stories, both of which slowly collapsed in and down creating a huge debris pile in the center of the forlorn shell of the house’s four walls. The punishment room was totally buried under it.
Two long dumpsters were being moved onto the grass on either side of the building. The Housekeeper’s body was found first, just inside the front door. This was far enough beyond the mess that they could send the photographer in, and the ME’s, who were getting antsy, now had a body to play with. One of the fire gals came out and told us of another man’s body near the back door. So the photographer and the ME people sauntered around to the back. At first look, both the Housekeeper and the Maleservant showed single gunshot wounds, she in the chest and he in the middle of the back. Somebody knew how to shoot. It took an entire week to clear enough of the rubble to get to the punishment room.
Before that, we found two spent cartridges on the hallway floor, and one on the carpet in the outer room, known as library, where all but the wall facing inward was intact. All of the furniture in the room had been overturned or shoved into the wall by the blast. The Glowglobes were each a shattered mess. A very sharp CSI found the bullet buried about 8 inches into a leather bound book. That was consistent with the wounds in the two victims we’d already autopsied, both bullets there were stuck in the victims’ hearts. A 9mm round can be powerful enough to go completely through a thick plaster wall, like the one behind the books. Our killer was using subsonic ammunition and a silencer.
When we finally got through the rubble to the Punishment Room floor, we found the ugliest crime scene of my career, with the smell of decomposition almost unbearable. The punishment block had been spun counterclockwise by the blast and knocked over, and the one sided, shrapnel shredded, briefcase was found on the floor in the opposite direction, with many pieces of the shattered bomb parts still contained in it. The frame was crazily bent. There was one thing in it, apparently under the bomb, amazingly intact by fluke, that gave me chills. It was a 4×6 file card in tiny but clear printing longways with a salutation to me:
Dear Commander Hawkins: I think it wonderful that you were promoted to Commander. You were the only truly humane Matriarchal I ever met in the Zone and I remember our talk before my caning clearly. My father is dead, my vengeance is taken. There is no point in my living in a prison cell or out of it on the run. I wanted not only to kill the Chief Matriarch and Angie Albertson, I wanted to mutilate them as they mutilated my father and tried to do so to me. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have bothered with bomb shrapnel and would simply have shot everybody. May they, perpetrators and accomplices, rot in hell. I’m likely to join them. But, if there is a heaven, I hope you get to it. You are one of the best we have to offer. I wish I could have worked with you rather than spying for GLCIS.
All the bodies had been crushed by the house falling in. Bernadette’s was apart and her face was somehow still untouched though most of the rest was broken bones. Beside her was her Dictapad and the silenced Glock, with an absurdly long magazine. The others were the worst post mortem mess I’ve ever seen. It was probably the entire Matriarchal Cabinet, but who was who wasn’t very clear. The glass shrapnel had mutilated the faces, shredded the clothes and lacerated the bodies. It apparently was blown all in one direction, toward it’s intended targets. Their hands were still bound. Unlike Bernadette, their skulls had all been crushed by the collapse and their bodies had as many broken bones as she.
I turned back to Bernadette’s body as my tears started. I looked down at her and said softly, “Well, Bernadette, you got your wish. They have been mutilated beyond recognition. An entire government has been destroyed and our mutual country perhaps mortally wounded. Game, Set, and Match. I wish you could have worked with me, too.”