Yellow police tape surrounds a forest glade, a hollow between some trees you don’t recognize because you’ve never been to the UK. A tent has been erected over the place where the body was found. A child’s pinwheel spins and you’re sure it’s a clue, but the police ignore it. This crime scene is in the forest. Other crime scenes in the television shows you’ve watched since the baby was born: a beach, a London townhouse, a gorge, a peat bog, a lava field, a flat, a river. The UK is full of murdered bodies, from London to the Shetland Islands, from Wales to Belfast. Scandinavia is filling up too, Sweden and Norway and Finland and is Iceland part of Scandinavia? You don’t know. You’re too tired to think.

The top half of the television screen dissolves into a digital matrix, then the image returns. Something wrong with the transmission. You’re on the couch, where you always are since the baby’s birth, breasts swollen and aching, cradling your daughter on the Breast Friend nursing pillow. You try to get her to latch on. When she does, you shiver at the sting of the letdown. You curl your palm against her skull, over the fontanel. You’ve read a lot. The bones of her skull have not yet fused and if you put the baby to rest always in one position, the skull will flatten on one side.

The detectives inspect the scene. The main detective is usually a man, haunted by his past: his child’s or wife’s death, mental illness, an unsolved case he handled years ago. (If the main detective is a woman, she’s hard, she’s sexy, she’s stymied in her job by male arrogance.) The DCI may have just moved back to his hometown, or to a town on an international border, or where ocean meets land. That must be a metaphor. Here, in this forest, in this crime scene, the DCI is some guy who played a minor role in Dr. Who and was killed in Game of Thrones. (There’s a finite number of British actors.) The DS is a woman. She wears a red parka, puts the DCI in his place.

The baby lolls her head back, a drop of your milk on her lips. You take care of all the nights when you’re breastfeeding, your husband told you. I’ll do it when you stop. (You have no way of knowing that he’ll deny making this promise months later.) You’ve read the books. If you put the baby down now, she’ll startle awake. You need to wait until her fists relax, until she’s in deep sleep, and then, only then, you can lay her in the portable crib in the living room.

The victim is a young girl. This is not a surprise. Schoolgirls, older woman, housewives, sex workers, bankers, even the DS. Their limbs posed like mannequins, stuffed in car trunks, abandoned in woods. Beaten, strangled, stabbed, or staged to look like a suicide.

The baby’s hands open. Your body still lumbers, although she’s no longer inside you. You set her into the crib, on her back, so there’s a lower chance of SIDS. Her arms above her head as if the detective is holding a gun on her. As you back away, she stirs. She screams. On the couch again, waiting, her heaviness in your arms.

The detectives take the body to the coroner. (Always a woman.) She examines the girl with almost maternal reverence. Weighs her heart, inspects the contents of her stomach, picks fibers from her skin with a silver tweezer, washes her down to collect evidence. Behind the coroner, the girl stands, a watery outline, still naked, her neck raw where the murderer strangled her. Another girl appears, and yet another, crowding around the coroner’s table. They wear their wounds like medals. The coroner’s breath clouds before her. She doesn’t notice the army of murdered women.

You remember the monitors on your stomach, on your thumb, the pain and its short release, your breath filling the room, your mixtape making your mind and skin itch, your husband coaching you like he practiced in the Bradley Method classes and you want earplugs and time to stop and to scream and then you are split with fire, wasn’t there some torture method where the prisoner was pulled apart by his limbs, and you are rendered and no longer one but two.

The army of murdered girls follows the two detectives. They crowd into a farmhouse, hover in the interrogation room, or stand in front of the police station’s bulletin boards. The DSI reaches through a girl’s torso to pin the photo of another suspect on the board. The girls watch as the detectives examine another crime scene deeper in the forest. The detectives again ignore the spinning pinwheel. Perhaps you’re imagining the toy, you’re sure you’re imagining the ghosts, because you’ve never seen a crime show with ghosts. Just as they may have done in life, the ghosts watch men: men working, men playing soccer, men throwing darts, men talking, men exacting violence. When the DSI interrogates the man who runs the town’s garage, the girls howl. No one notices.

The baby’s palms bloom, her pupils move under the thin bluish-red skin of her eyelids. You wonder what she dreams of, given the smallness of her world: the arms of you and your husband, the shag carpet, the crib. Your dreams are vivid and horrible. You’re not going to let her go, not just yet.

Lori Sambol Brody lives in the mountains of Southern California.  Her short fiction has been published in Smokelong Quarterly, Tin House Flash Fridays, New Orleans Review, The Rumpus, and elsewhere.  One of her stories is included in Best Small Fictions 2018.  She can be found on Twitter at @LoriSambolBrody and her website is

© 2018 Lori Sambol Brody. Published by LITTLE FICTION | BIG TRUTHS, November 2018.

Images from The Noun Project (credits: Gan Khoon Lay).


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by Lori Sambol Brody
Crime Shows