Pride or Faith

Temptation Returned

Chapter Three (partial)


Walking up to the mass of shattered flesh that was splattered against the far wall, Sophia took a moment to take a good look at her ‘temporary’ partner.  Even though he wasn’t a large man he seemed to fill the room with his aura.  As she approached she watched as a he gave orders to the photographer to take pictures of the wreckage from various angles and then squatted down to point out areas of interest on the bodies themselves.  She noticed he was very careful not to disturb any of the numbered markers on the floors that identified the discarded bullet casings.  It was somewhat reassuring to her that he seemed to know his way around a crime scene and the fact that the horrific nature of the scene didn’t seem to faze him was something that, she reluctantly admitted, impressed her.  

As he saw her approach he looked up and held out his hand to her.  “I sincerely hope that everything is alright Detective.  It is not my wish to cause you any difficulty but I believe that you will find that, in a case such as this, you will find my expertise to be quit helpful.”

“And what, exactly, is your field of expertise Mr. Sala….hu…,” she stammered as she struggled to remember how he had pronounced his name while shaking his hand.

“Shafi Salahuddin, Detective Tennison.  You can call me Shafi if it would make it easier for you,” he said with a disarming grin. 

“I’ll stick with Mr. Salahuddin if you don’t mind, and you didn’t answer my question,” she said as focused on those strange golden eyes of his.  “What exactly is your area of expertise?”

“I will answer that question when we are in a more private setting.  Suffice it to say that this is not a normal murder case and it will require you to expand your mind beyond what you may find comfortable.”  He said as the smile fled from his face and she drew back her hand nervously at the feeling of dread that she could feel coming from him.

 “Uh huh, we will see,” she replied as she eyed him nervously.  She wanted to blow his comment off and just chalk it up to typical male bias to a woman’s capability but, for some reason she couldn’t explain, she didn’t think that was really the case with this guy.  Like most American’s she had some very definite views on how men from the Middle East treated women and she wasn’t sure what to make of the courtesy that this man was showing her. 

 In an effort to change the subject she turned back to the human wreckage and began to comment when she was tapped on the shoulder.  After a moment of conversation with the forensics team member she turned to Mr. Salahuddin.  “It seems that a trap door was found in the side room.  I assume you’ll want to look into it as well?”

 With a nod he indicated that he would and they followed the young man through the double wooden doors that lead to the chamber where they had found the two burnt bodies.  The couch had been moved to clear the way for the team to access the remains and a metal hatch was found underneath.  It appeared that no one had touched it so far.

“Any idea what this is for?” she asked the young man that had shown them the discovery. 

 “No, Detective,” he said with a shake of his head.  “Doug had me check and the records from the construction of this building show that there shouldn’t be anything beneath this section of the building other then the foundation.”

 “No records of any electrical work done after construction?” she asked as she bent down to get a closer look.

 “No Detective,” he said as he glanced over to an older man that had set up a lap top on one of the small end tables that had been placed next to the couch.  At the man’s nod he continued.  “Yeah, Alex just finished double checking city records and if there was any type of work done it was done without the owner getting any of the necessary permits.”

 “How come that doesn’t surprise me?” she said as she popped out the handle and turned it to unlock the door. 

 “You know something about the victims, Detective?” asked Shafi as she slowly pulled upon the door and pulled out her flash light. 

 “Yeah, the guy in the main room with his arms ripped off was Alexi Martovanic,” she said as she started to shine her light down to reveal a set of steep stairs leading down to a narrow landing.  “We suspected him of being involved with the white slave trade through the Russian Mob.”

 “I think you should let me go down first, Detective,” said Shafi. 

 Sophia’s head snapped up and she was about to tell him she was capable of taking care of herself before she saw the tension on his face. 

 “What is it?” she snapped, not willing to hide her irritation. 

 “It is too early to tell,” he said as he reached under his suit coat to rub a medallion he wore around his neck.  “Just pray that I am wrong about what I think we will find down there.” 

With that cryptic statement he pulled out a 9mm and a flashlight and headed down the stairs.  Giving Sophia no choice but to follow along behind him and with an irritated growl she pulled out her revolver and started headed down the stairs after him. 

Holding the flashlight in a reverse grip she settled the wrist of her right hand over her left so she could point her .38 special in the same direction as the flashlight.  As they slowly descended the long narrow stairs she found herself tightly gripping the wooden grip of the weapon as her anxiety built up.   

 Taking a deep breath she slowly exhaled and slowly relaxed her grip on the revolver so it was more relaxed.  Her father had always told her to have a firm but relaxed grip when firing a weapon.  To tight of a grip tended to cause your hand to jerk when firing and that could be the difference between hitting your target or your target having a chance to hit you. 

 Thinking of her father as he had taught her to shoot with the very gun she now held helped her to relax as they descended into the darkness.   He had been a detective on the force for over thirty years and when she had joined the police force he had given her his firearm to show how proud he was of her.  As much as she missed him she was glad he wasn’t here to see the carnage that had taken place in the room above. 

 As much as she had tried to hide it the scene had affected her deeply.  In the past when she had come across a crime scene she had been able to instinctively get a general feel for what had taken place.  But, this was completely different.  The vicious power that had been necessary to wreak the damage that she had seen inflicted upon the victims was beyond anything she had even known was possible.  For the first time she was scared.

 The fact that the Chief had looked scared when he had first seen the scene did nothing to ease her discomfort.  In fact it had made her even more nervous because she had assumed that he, of all people, would have seen something like this in the past.  The worst thing was the fact that she had a suspicion that he had, in all actuality, seen something like this and that something had made the man turn practically white before he had gotten control of himself enough to mask his emotions.

 It was immediately after he had first seen the carnage first hand that the Chief had gotten on the phone.  After spending nearly an hour talking furtively to someone on the other line he had mentioned that he was calling in a favor to get some assistance.  She could only assume that the favor had something to Shafi being assigned as her partner for this case.