Author : Duncan Shields, Staff Writer

The body on the mattress had been there for a while.

She was laying face-down. The pooling blood had left her back unnaturally pale. I knew that when we flipped her stiffly over, the front of her would be a dark maroon. One of her arms dangled off the edge of the bed, still as a tree branch. The blood had settled there, fattening the fingers and turning the hand almost black.

The graphics tattooed on her body showed up in high contrast against her white skin.

The team set up the lights. The boys in the plastic booties and paper dresses fired up their hand-held UVs to look for blood and semen. I had no doubt that in a cheap motel like this one they’d find plenty of both. The manager had told us to hurry. Like we were maids coming in to clean the place instead of police investigating a murder.

I looked at the dead girl on the bed. She couldn’t have been more that twenty-four but she looked much older. To make money, she’d been sponsoring herself out to companies to keep going once she started testing positive and could no longer give blood. I had a problem with the practice. As long as someone was semi-attractive, any of the Big Five corporations would let them pick a product tattoo and give them a ‘grant’ of a few thousand dollars.

Big money to a prostitute with a drug problem.

Her body was layered with dozens of nearly-touching logo tattoos from Pepsi, Nabisco, Colgate, Penzoil, Marlboro, and a bunch of others. I’d seen the same logos stenciled on plastic wrappers in gutters and parking lots. It made her look like garbage, which is exactly what she’d become here in this room.

Someone had crumpled her up and thrown her away like trash. I doubt we’d even learn her name unless a co-worker of hers came in to the morgue looking for her and that was pretty rare.

She had a Hershey’s tattoo on each ass cheek. I wonder if that had been the company’s attempt at wit or hers.

The hookers called it selling out. It started with something tasteful, one of the recognizable big sellers. Just one. Soon there were two. Eventually, the women caught in this inevitable spiral became a billboard, their looks fading from rampant drug use and the Big Five wouldn’t touch them anymore.

After that, the women started taking money to advertise local businesses.

Like this girl here. I saw a tattoo for Lou’s Steak House with a miniature road map underneath her shoulder blade for how to get there. I could imagine customers taking her from behind and looking at that map, possibly passing by the restaurant afterwards for dinner on the way home. It made me sick.

She was like a biological vending machine that had been broken into and completely emptied.

Spatter patterns suggested a hammer. We found one in a dumpster two blocks away with her hair and blood on the end of it. No prints.

I’d been on the force long enough to know that this was going to go unsolved.

God only knows why I kept doing this job.

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