Back home from a boxing session intense enough to hopefully keep Ed out of his head for a few hours, Dallas dropped into his desk chair, snagging the folder Bo had given him at the station. Though he was still supposed to be ‘taking it easy’ on his shoulder, he had needed the workout, had needed Ed to shut the hell up for ever an hour. He’d been careful with the arm, if nothing else. That had to count for something.
He kicked his feet up on his desk and flipped open the folder.
The first page in the file was Bo’s report on the scene and his initial impressions on the body. For instance, he had noticed right away that blood had pooled in the victim’s back, despite being found on his stomach. According to Bo, the fact that livor mortis had been unaltered by his position in the sand meant that he had been dead more than six hours.
The internal temperature taken at the scene had confirmed it, placing his time of death around eleven o’clock the night before.
Dallas flipped through a few pages, stopping at the autopsy results. Though Bo had included more paperwork about a body than Dallas had ever known possible, his eyes went to the blonde’s computer-like handwriting on the half-sheet of paper clipped to the top of the page.
You’ll learn rather quickly that you don’t need to truly understand most of the paperwork in this file, but I’m required to include it for eventual trial-related reasons. I’ll include your key points below.
* I’ve been unable to identify the victim up to this point; I’m running his picture through the DMV’s database
* the victim appears to have a needle mark on his inner arm, near the elbow of the left arm; I won’t know what kind of drugs were injected into his system until after the tox screen comes back
* four of his organs were removed: the heart, both kidneys, and the right lung (the left has tumors in the superior lobe)
* I haven’t had the chance to identify them all, but many of his carvings translate to ‘strength’ or ‘power’ in various languages, religions, and cultures
You may do whatever you please with that information, and as long as you have no intention of bringing up Burke and involving yourself in that situation, you may call me with any questions you have. I’ve included my cell phone number below.
Dallas let out a breath, tossing the folder onto his desk. He dropped his feet to the floor and leaned up to pull his cell phone from his pocket. He added Bo’s number to his contacts and called it, pressing the device to his ear.
“Hey, it’s Dallas Silver.”
Dallas cleared his throat. “Apologies again for involving myself.”
“Okay. Did you read the file?”
“Yeah, yeah. Umm, why do you think the organs were taken?” Dallas asked.
“The same reasons the symbols were carved: for something he believes in,” Bo said, as if that answered every damn question in the world.
“And, uh, what kind of belief would that be?” Dallas asked.
“It’s hard to say. There’s no specific belief system that tells its believers to carve symbols into themselves and have someone else remove their organs. “Much of what I can say about it past that would only be an assumption.”
“Are you against assumptions?”
“I’m against giving assumptions to people I’m inexperienced with, yes. The wrong assumption can and will lead an investigator down the wrong path, not to mention a closed-minded path. Being uncertain as to if the investigator can ignore that assumption if need be is a necessity for me,” Bo said.
“Can we assume I’m pretty damn good at following any path I can in an investigation?”
“As much as I’d like to, your investigations previous to this one have been… different. You aren’t after someone selling drugs. You’re after a murderer.”
“Many of those dealers and ‘someones’ that were selling drugs were also cold-blooded killers,” Dallas said.
“Yes, but those murders weren’t part of your investigation. Those murders were investigated by a homicide detective, maybe even the FBI.”
“Yeah, that’s fair.” Dallas kicked his feet up on his desk again, his injured arm resting against his chest. “How long does it take before you trust me enough to give me some assumptions?”
“If I told you that, you’d ask our lieutenant for a new analyst buddy.”
Dallas laughed. “All right, man. No new analyst buddy, then. I’ll just have to work my ass off for you to trust me.”
“And I’ll wish you the best of luck with that endeavor.”
Dallas snorted. Bo’s sentences were entirely deadpan, and Dallas had a feeling he had no damn idea that he was funny in any sense of the word. “What if I pitch a couple theories to you? Would you be cool with that?”
“Is that something you feel you need to do?”
“It’s what I would’ve done in Narcotics?”
Bo fell silent for a moment. “Okay.”
We should invite him over. We could ask about Burke, find out a little more than we already know. Yes?
Dallas shook his head. He had hoped his workout would keep Ed at bay for a bit longer. Sometimes he lucked out with his boxing sessions and managed to silence the bastard for a couple hours. Tragically, the days where he ‘lucked out’ had become far less frequent again. “The fact that he had other people willing to carve him up like that over an extended period of time makes me feel like we’ve got some sort of cult on our hands.”
“It could certainly be a possibility. Admittedly, it would be hard to convince one’s standard friends or family members to cut symbols into their skin for a year or two,” Bo said.
“Yeah, I was thinking much the same there. You said the symbols are from different religions and whatnot, right?”
“So it’s pretty unlikely that we’re looking at a religious cult?”
“That’s… a less than straightforward answer.”
“Fine with me. We don’t have to see the case in only black or white, yeah?”
Again, Bo’s silence hung in the air for several seconds. “I suppose not.” He cleared his throat. “In the same way that different cultures see specific actions differently–for instance, an action being respectful in some cultures but disrespectful as others–there’s always the opportunity for a religion to adopt symbols from other religions, though they usually change the name and the meaning. That said, I still find it doubtful that all of these symbols belong to any single recognized religion. I’m not a religious man, nor have I ever been, but I’m aware of many aspects of many of the major religions. If a single religion holds all of these symbols, it is not one that is practiced on a vast scale.”
“Mm.” Dallas pinned his phone between his shoulder and ear long enough to reach out and grab the folder from his desk. “Your notes say the symbols–the ones you knew, anyway–were mostly symbols for strength. Right?”
“So if we couple that with the missing organs and the fact they didn’t take the presumably diseased lung…”
“You won’t trick me into filling in that assumption, Mister Silver,” Bo said after several seconds of silence.
Dallas chuckled. “Apologies. I was trying to interrogation tactic you.”
“Are there cases of human consumption of organs for, like, strength? That sounds vaguely familiar to me.”
“Technically, but not in the sense you’re thinking of. There are historical records of certain cultures believing that eating an organ would give them the strength that organ held.”
“Mm, okay. So… it’s possible that these people were using the strength symbols to, like, what? Supercharge the superpowers they’d get from eating someone’s kidney?”
“Well, the strength, if that’s the theory we’re hypothesizing around. And, yes, it would be a possibility that the symbols were used as some sort of… ‘charging’ method for the strength of the healthy organs.”
“Maybe it’s a cult of sick people. So eating the healthy supercharged lung is supposed to fix… their lung cancer, y’know?”
“It’s a possibility.”
Dallas nodded. “What could possibly drive modern Americans to believe in that kind of thing?”
“There are many possibilities. What drives people to do anything they do in terms of murder?”
“Money, greed, jealousy, sex, desperation, curiosity.” Dallas glanced up at the ceiling. “I guess if I was sick and had tried everything to get better, I’d be desperate as hell. I’d try anything to get rid of the sickness.”
Aww, I’m a sickness now? Ed asked. I have feelings, you know, Tex.
Dallas cleared his throat. “So if we hypothesize with this theory a bit, what’s our next step?”
“Well, we need to watch and analyze the footage from the parking lot.”
“I should have access to that tomorrow.”
“Okay. I still need to identify the victim, as well. It’ll allow you to speak to his family and find out what they know about what he may or may not have been involved with when he was alive. Like I said, a cult situation is a possibility, and there are cases where the family of the members of those cults are aware that their children belong to a cult. The members often don’t see it that way, but the people on the outside looking in have a different… perspective.”
“Yeah. Think you’ll have an ID on him by tomorrow too?” Dallas asked.
“As long as he had a driver’s license, yes, I would imagine I’ll have a match by then.”
“Great. So I’ll see you tomorrow, and we’ll go get our security footage, yes?”
“If you would like me to accompany you, yes.”
“You’re sorta my babysitter for now, remember?”
“You’re older than me by… Well, I’m unsure. A few years, at the very least.”
Dallas snorted. “Five. Sometimes adults need supervision too.”
“I suppose. I’ll go with you tomorrow, then, after Burke gives you the warrant.”
“Great. I’ll see you then. Enjoy your evening, Austen.”
“You as well, Mister Silver.”
Dallas pulled his phone from his ear and ended the call. “Xavier?”
“Yeah?” his little brother’s voice echoed from down the hall.
“You eat supper yet?”
Dallas set the folder on his desk, dropped his feet to the floor, and pushed himself out of his chair. He headed down the hall and opened the door to his brother’s room. At the age of fifteen, Xavier was still in his awkward years in terms of growth. Though he was slowly approaching Dallas’s just over six-foot frame, he was mostly all leg, which was painfully obvious when he gamed in his beanbag chair in the middle of his room, legs bent like those of a grasshopper.
“Got anything in mind?” Dallas asked.
“No, anything’s fine.” Xavier paused his game and twisted in his chair to meet his brother’s eyes. “How was day uno of Homicide?”
“Not bad. My lieutenant partnered me with a lab geek so I’d still have a… I don’t know, an advisor of sorts, I guess. That was appreciated. And I have a case already.”
Xavier smiled. “Proud of you.”
“Thank you.” Dallas tapped a hand against the door frame, taking a small step back. “Well, back to your game, then. I’ll whip up something for us.”
“Okay. Let me know if you need help?”
“Will do.” Dallas closed the door, letting out a breath. He’d been raising his little brother for the last few years, though his grandparents had done the majority of raising while Dallas was in college. Now, his brother was solely his responsibility, and though Ed made it far more difficult than it needed to be, he wouldn’t change it for the world. No one would ever hurt Xavier again, and even if killing their father had given Ed far more control over Dallas than he had ever hoped to relinquish, that was all that mattered.
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