Detective Pepperton walked past the crying families and shocked business owner and toward the police tape. He nodded at the officer as she held the tape up for him.
“It’s a real strange one, Detective.”
“Thirty years in and I’ve seen everything, Officer.”
He mumbled under his breath as he walked into the small nightclub. It used to be a corner store that the owner converted years ago. Pepperton shook his head. The place would never have had a permit if they opening today. Only one door in the whole place. It felt claustrophobic with just the six officers standing in it.
Detective Franklin looked up and nodded. “Twenty-six. They all appear to be in their early twenties. Not a scratch on any of them. Strangest thing I’ve ever seen.”
Pepperton looked at his rookie partner and grunted. He stepped lightly through the bodies and went into the manager’s office off the side of the small stage where the band members laid on their instruments.
Distracted by the band, he accidentally kicked the fog machine over. He scratched his head. “Hmm.”
“Nothing,” Pepperton said, waving his hand.
Inside the small closet that was used as an office, he found the clue he needed. He pulled the invoice off the clipboard and read it again. He checked his watch. The order came in just six hours earlier.
“How many fog machines are there?”
Pepperton looked around the office more as Franklin and the officers counted.
“Twelve,” Franklin said, popping his head around the corner. “Why?”
Pepperton shook his head and slammed his fist against the door as he left. “Arrest the business owner and manager!”
“Why?” Franklin was confused and shocked.
“Look at the fog machine,” Pepperton pointed at the one he kicked over. “Notice anything missing?”
Franklin looked down but his face told Pepperton he didn’t have a clue at what he was looking at.
“The idiots used dry ice to make fog. They suffocated and were too drunk to know or care.”
“Well,” Franklin said, wiping his face. “That’s a new one one me.”