A sickly smell reached Zack; at the same time a sense of foreboding settled over him. He hadn’t noticed it at first, presuming it was from the kitchen remains. But this was something else.
He swallowed, trying not to breathe as he made his way towards the room. It had to be the bedroom—the only room yet unexplored.
“Stay here,” he growled to Radha. The rustling behind him stopped.
He tugged the sleeve of his hoodie over his hand as he reached for the knob. Careful not to leave any prints, he opened the door.
The smell assaulted him immediately, making him gag. His eyes watered, and he blinked to clear them.
“What is it?” Radha asked.
He didn’t know how to answer. Louis—at least, he assumed it was Louis—lay on the thin carpet. Dried blood, black in the wan light, pooled beneath him. Flies buzzed and writhed around him. He no longer looked human—a specialist would need to tell them how long he’d been there, but Zack’s best guess was about a week—the length of time he’d been missing.
Louis hadn’t fled to Mexico with the casino’s money. He’d bled to death on his bedroom floor.
The puzzle pieces shifted and rearranged themselves in his mind, becoming more entwined and complex, leaving gaping holes of knowledge.
“What?” Radha’s voice was thinner now, anxiety dripping from the word. She shuffled closer, and Zack wrenched the door shut. He spun, blocking her with his body, forbidding her from entering that room. She didn’t need to see her friend like that.
“I’m sorry, Radha.” He kept his arms out, stretched across the hall in case she tried to dart around him. Instead, she stared up at him as tears pooled in her eyes.
“He’s not…” she couldn’t finish.
“I’m so sorry,” Zack repeated.
The tears slipped from her eyes and slid down her cheeks. She let out a gasping sob, and Zack gathered her into his arms and half-carried her out the front door. He breathed in deep gulps of the fresh night air as he held her close.
She cried quietly against his chest, and all Zack could do is offer murmured words of comfort as he stroked her back. When was the last time he’d comforted a woman? Held her close?
“We need to call the police,” Zack told her softly as her tears subsided.
She nodded, eyes vague. “Yes.”
“They’ll need to ask us some questions,” he warned her.
“Of course.” The nod was slower this time.
“Radha, you’ll have to tell them about the strange finances at the casino.”
At this, her eyes snapped to his. “Why? We can’t tell them.”
“I think it’s best we do,” he coaxed softly.
“But it doesn’t have anything to do with…” Her eyes widened as it dawned on her. He had to say it aloud, anyway.
“He was murdered, Radha. And there’s every chance it was to do with the casino.”