“Holy shit, what the hell happened in here?” Amber gaped at the debris-lined floor.
Enrique didn’t say a word as he produced a handgun out of nowhere and slid past them.
Suzie nodded dumbly, her gaze flitting over the damage to her office. Drawers lay open in haphazard angles. Cabinet doors stood open into the room and the floor was covered with papers and broken containers. The shelves had been cleaned off as if the vandals had been looking for something specific.
Despite the mess, Enrique made no noise as he moved through the room, his sharp gaze taking in blind corners and shadows. He disappeared into the connected exam rooms and Suzie’s gut cramped.
Don’t be silly. He’s a Navy SEAL. But even SEALs were human and could be surprised.
“What’s that smell?” Amber wrinkled her nose.
Suzie carefully inhaled and damn near gagged. Under the scents of spilled herbal remedies as well as essential oils, something rank and rotting permeated the air. She tried to see where the smell originated, but the piled papers covered everything. Enrique hadn’t returned yet, but this room remained empty.
“Let’s see if I can find whatever it is.” She often used her nose for things like cooking and cleaning out the refrigerator – the latter not nearly as fun – but rarely did she use it in the office.
“It smells like something died in here.” Amber squatted and gathered some of the scattered papers. “How are you going to know what papers go in which files?”
“I have a system.” Or Suzie did before someone destroyed it. Hopefully, her computer had survived, though she did have backups of all her records on a cloud server. “Just gather the papers and I’ll go through them later. But whatever that smell is has to be cleaned.”
She lifted papers and straightened them into piles, stacking them to the side as she closed doors to the cabinets. Broken glass from jars and beakers crackled under her feet as she picked her way carefully through the debris, closing drawers. The stench increased the closer to the back and by the time she reached her desk, her eyes were tearing.
“Sweet glory.” She moved her chair and found blood staining the edges of the desk and floor. “Oh, my glory.”
“What is it?” Amber moved to her side and gasped. “Is that a dead cat?”
Suzie nodded. “What’s left of it.”
“All the other rooms are clear.” Enrique reappeared. “Are you all right?”
She shook her head and hurried over to the window to throw it open. The smell was overriding her aversion to vomit and she had to get fresh air in the room.
“Suzie?” He stood behind her, his strong body taut and tense, concern leaking through his usual stoic-warrior expression.
“I’m just trying to rid my nose of that stench. I’m okay.”
He wrapped his arms around her from behind, his body warming her suddenly cold core despite the summer temperatures outside. He didn’t give her any false platitudes or empty words, he simply lent her his solid presence and it calmed her more than any words could.
Who the hell would do something like this? Most of her patients had suffered some form of PTSD, but they’d never trashed her office before. And no one left a mutilated animal for her to find.
“We have to tell Trip and Tom. Maybe Ethan can find something on the security cameras from last night or early this morning.” Suzie tried to find some sort of order in the chaos around her as she turned in Enrique’s arms. “I need to get this place cleaned up.”
“No, querida. Let’s get the stable hands in here to help.”
But she shook her head. “No, these are private records of the patients here. They’re confidential.”
He nodded. “I know. Once you get the papers all gathered up, we’ll get the men in here to do a thorough cleaning. It’s gonna take a while to air out.”
“Oh my glory!” Amber’s exclamation had them turning toward her. “I think…I think there’s a note attached to the carcass.”
“What?” Suzie’s stomach rolled as Enrique moved to Amber’s side and looked down. “Seriously?”
He bent out of sight to reach for something, only standing up when he lifted a bloodstained piece of paper and the scalpel that had pinned it to the body. He scanned the note and his expression hardened into banked anger.
“What does it say?”
Amber frowned and shook her head. “I don’t know. It’s not in English. Spanish, maybe?”
Enrique gave a sharp nod and moved toward the door, note in hand. “I gotta make a call.”
That's it for me. Check out the other authors and their flashfiction from the image prompt. Happy reading!