Signs of a Struggle

Dusting for Fingerprints

Signs of a Struggle

The bowl lay overturned on the floor, a rough crack running down one side. As Melissa crouched down to photograph it, Rory’s mantra ran through her head. Always document everything. She placed a marker beside the bowl and snapped photos from several different angles, then glanced around to see what else was out of place in the kitchen.

Definitely signs of a struggle. A wine glass with a broken stem lay on the counter; a chair had been knocked over. Melissa noticed that some leaves had been broken off the plant hanging in the window. She photographed each item diligently. If there was one thing Rory had taught her, it was that you couldn’t rely on your memory of a crime scene. Better to document everything so you always have a record.

Rory had also taught her to be thorough. “Check everywhere for evidence the first time you process a scene,” he’d say. “Anything you forget could cost your victim the justice they deserve.”

The coroner was still busy with the body, so after she’d finished processing the kitchen, Melissa moved upstairs. It didn’t look like anyone had come up here, but she moved through each room methodically, documenting everything.

She remembered how Rory used to talk about one of his early cases, which had hinged on a piece of evidence collected from the upstairs den of the victim’s house. There was no evidence to suggest the killer had been upstairs—he’d covered his tracks really well. But Rory had found a scrap of paper with a fingerprint on it, which had probably fallen out of someone’s pocket. And it turned out to belong to the killer. That tiny scrap of paper had brought a criminal to justice.

When Melissa finished processing the upstairs, she headed back down to the living room, where the victim’s body still lay facedown on the hardwood floor. The coroner had finished her job and was already outside, talking to the lead detective. His partner stood by the entrance and told Melissa it was okay to process the body now.

First, she photographed the body as it lay, documenting its position, the scratches on its neck, the gunshot wound in its back. It was only when the officer helped her turn the body over that Melissa wondered if she would be able to finish her job. She stared at her mentor’s lifeless face, fighting the grief and anger that welled up inside. Then she took a deep breath and continued to document the scene.

As she photographed Rory’s arms, she noticed something odd. It looked like he had drawn something on the inside of his wrist with his own blood. She leaned in for a closer look and realized that it was a crude arrow. Hastily, Melissa snapped some photos. Then she sat back on her heels and scanned the portion of the living room the arrow had been pointing toward while his body was still prone. She photographed what she could see, then honed in on the sofa.

“Sometimes, your victim might even try to leave you clues,” Rory had explained. Melissa remembered wondering how someone fighting for their life would think to leave clues for the forensics team. Now she understood.

She photographed the sofa, then lay on her stomach to photograph what was underneath it. And there it was. Rory’s clue. Melissa reached under the sofa and pulled out a second wine glass. Its rim was marked with pink lipstick and there was a clear fingerprint on the underside. Melissa photographed the glass, then bagged it and placed it alongside the rest of the evidence she’d collected.

Before the coroner’s office came in to remove Rory’s body, Melissa crouched down beside him. The grief and the anger were still there, but knowing that there would be justice for his killer took the edge off, even as Melissa realized that this was the last case she would ever work with her partner.

“Thanks for everything,” she said. Then Melissa collected her gear, tucked her camera into its case and walked out the front door.


This is my submission for this week’s Speakeasy #138. We had to write a piece of poetry or fiction under 750 words, that began with this line:

The bowl lay overturned on the floor, a rough crack running down one side.

Our submissions also had to make some reference to the media prompt, which, this week, is the following image:


Fingerprinting image credit: scol22 /


32 thoughts on “Signs of a Struggle

    1. Yes, I imagine it was. Though sometimes being able to focus on work helps us cope. Not sure how she held up once she got outside… Thanks for reading and commenting! 🙂

    1. Aw, thank you! Melissa just popped into my head yesterday morning, so I’m not sure where she’s heading. But all the encouragement tells me she will probably be back. 🙂

  1. Excellent storytelling here. It’s easy to make scenes like these (especially if you’re not in a law enforcement profession) overly dramatic or too detail oriented, but this is spot on. I would definitely be interested in reading the story of Melissa interrogating the pink lipsticked killer.

  2. Nicely done…a wonderful use of just the right words for the greatest impact. A big story in a little box. Loved it!

  3. I really like your writing style, it is very engaging. And like everyone else, i agree this could be the beginning of a longer story or novel. Very nice!

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