Rain fell relentlessly on the cobblestone streets of the City of Shadows, casting a mysterious aura over the night. Frank Hughes, a seventeen-year-old with an average height, strikingly handsome face, piercing celestial blue eyes, and exquisitely neat black hair, walked with determination down the deserted avenue. He was dressed formally in a dark suit that clung to his athletic figure, and a long coat that billowed in the wind. Despite his youth, Frank exuded an air of seriousness that set him apart in the darkness of the night.
His steps led him to an imposing Gothic building, with arches and towers silhouetted against the nighttime sky. Frank entered confidently, unfazed by the skeptical gaze of the officers guarding the entrance.
"Detective Hughes," Frank said, displaying his badge with a calm gesture.
The officers exchanged glances, and one of them stepped forward to verify the identification. Frank was known for his precocity, but his youth still sparked mistrust in some.
"It's on the ground floor, detective. Follow the hallway at the end of the corridor to the left," the officer instructed, finally returning his badge.
Frank nodded in gratitude and continued in the indicated direction, still wondering how he had ended up on this case. He recalled the day his phone had rung, and the broken voice of the victim's mother had narrated the tragedy that now weighed heavily on his mind. Despite his youth, Frank had already solved numerous cases that had left police officers baffled. But this time, it was different.
Upon reaching the designated location, he was met with a haunting scene. The room was shrouded in darkness, illuminated only by distant neon lights and the occasional flash of lightning that penetrated the curtains. A body lay on the floor, covered by a white sheet. As he approached, Frank noticed the bloodstains that tainted the carpet and wondered how someone could commit such a gruesome act of violence.
"Detective Hughes, I'm glad you've arrived," a deep voice said from behind.
Frank turned to find Commissioner Douglas, a stout and weathered man with years of police service under his belt.
"Commissioner Douglas, a pleasure. What do we have here?" Frank inquired.
Commissioner Douglas sighed and scratched his gray beard before responding.
"A mess, Hughes. A real mess. The body is that of Emily Sinclair, a prominent businesswoman in the city. They found her here this morning, stabbed. It seems the killer knew what they were doing; there's no sign of a struggle."
Frank nodded and approached the body. He carefully lifted the sheet and gazed at the victim's pale face. Emily Sinclair had been a woman of great beauty. Even in death, she maintained a serene countenance.
"I need full access to the crime scene, Commissioner, and any information you may have," Frank stated with determination.
Commissioner Douglas nodded and gestured for the officers to withdraw. Frank knew this was his opportunity to prove himself, despite his age.
Under the watchful eyes of the officers, Frank leaned over the crime scene, meticulously examining every detail. There was something about this place that urged him to exert himself even more. The room seemed to carry the weight of an unsettling secret.
"Look at this," Frank murmured, pointing to a nightstand next to the bed where Emily Sinclair's body lay. On it rested a photo frame showing the victim smiling alongside a young man and an older gentleman; the glass was slightly cracked at the corner. "She died clutching this photograph. After she was murdered."
The officers exchanged murmurs of bewilderment as Frank continued his observations. He studied the wounds closely, his fingers tracing the contours of the injuries on Emily's body.
"The victim didn't attempt to escape; there are no signs of a struggle or resistance. It seems she trusted her killer. She didn't even appear to react to a nearby movement," Frank muttered, lost in thought.
Commissioner Douglas nodded, and Frank knew he needed more information to solve this case. He decided to speak quietly to the commissioner.
"Commissioner, are there security cameras at the restaurant across the street from the building?"
Douglas nodded and instructed one of the officers to retrieve the footage. Several hours of tense waiting followed, during which Frank sat with his eyes closed. Finally, the officer returned with a USB drive in hand. Frank inserted the device into his laptop and began reviewing the recordings.
Finally, Frank found what he needed. In the recording, he saw Emily Sinclair entering the building, and after a brief interval, an individual exiting the building. Frank paused the video and pointed to a particular man, whose face had become familiar.
"That man is the same as in the photo, Commissioner," Frank said. "He was in her apartment at the time of her death. We need to speak with him."
Commissioner Douglas's expression reflected a mixture of surprise and respect for the young detective. With the information in hand, they proceeded to the usual places of the man until they found him. The man was named Daniel Harrington, a close friend of the victim, someone Emily trusted implicitly.
Upon arriving at a rather ordinary bar, Daniel was sitting in a corner, sipping a beer. Frank approached without hesitation and sat down across from him.
"Hello, can we help you with something?" Daniel asked with a nervous smile as Frank approached him. Commissioner Douglas, on the other hand, remained nearby, inconspicuous.
"Daniel Harrington, right?" Frank inquired in his calm voice.
"Yes, that's me. What's going on?" Daniel responded, his eyes darting back and forth between Frank and Commissioner Douglas.
Frank settled comfortably in his seat, stealing a bit of food before taking a sip of his drink. Then, he leaned calmly toward Daniel.
"Did you kill Emily Sinclair?" Frank asked with composure.
Daniel's expression shifted from nervousness to shock and then to sorrow. His voice broke as he responded.
"W-what? She's... she's dead?" he said, wiping away tears with his hand. "I could never harm Emily; she was my best friend."
Frank nodded and stood up, leaving his card on the table.
"Daniel, we need access to any information you can provide about your relationship with Emily and anyone who might have been jealous or angry. If you have more details, please don't hesitate to contact me."
Before leaving, Daniel grabbed the sleeve of Frank's coat tightly.
"I... I loved her so much... I SWEAR I DIDN'T KILL HER."
Frank turned around with a smile while placing a hand on his shoulder.
"I never thought you did," he finished, calmly walking away.
As they exited the bar, Commissioner Douglas asked with confusion.
"What do you mean when you said you never thought he was the killer?"
Sitting in the patrol car, Frank looked out of the window as if it were obvious.
"Simple, preparation," he mumbled, focusing his gaze on the rain falling. "A person who kills someone without leaving fingerprints, marks on the skin, or bloodstains—it's impossible for them not to notice a camera across the street."