Surgeon – Chapter Three


Chapter Three


Bo stared down at Tess Brown’s body, half a frown set deeply on his face. Unless testing revealed something that was otherwise undetectable, the autopsy had brought forth little of interest. There had been nothing strange or abnormal in the woman’s stomach. He hadn’t found signs of chloroform in her throat. He hadn’t found any obvious signs of injection, so as far as Bo could tell, she hadn’t been drugged. But he’d run more extensive tests, just to make sure.

The potential for drugging aside, there were a few things he was absolutely certain of. She hadn’t eaten anything in at least the last six to eight hours leading up to her death. There were no signs of physical or sexual abuse. Really, she hadn’t even been harmed, if one didn’t count the large laceration of her throat. That hadn’t been done to harm her; it had been done to kill her. In most situations, Bo tallied the two in distinctly different categories.

Shaking his head, Bo finished moving Tess Brown’s body from the autopsy table to a drawer in the morgue. He pulled off his gloves and slid a tag with BROWN, TESSA written on it into the nameplate on the face of the drawer. With a fresh pair of gloves on, he set to work on cleaning the autopsy table.

Watching the woman’s blood swirl down the drain in the table, he couldn’t help but think how disturbed the detectives upstairs would be if they knew how little this all affected him. How he could cut these people open, weigh their organs, check for signs of assault or poisoning, and stitch them back up without feeling much of anything at all. There had been a time where he had felt connected to the victims he worked on, a time where he’d felt connected to their stories.

But that seemed like a lifetime ago. Every wall he had torn down over the years had been built up again the moment it had come out that his best friend was a serial killer. The walls had gotten taller and thicker the longer Dallas Silver had been gone, the longer Bo had been forced to sit in the basement of the LAPD and search every database he could in an attempt to find Dallas and Kathy. The walls had protected him the best they could, and he had no intention of ever bringing them down again.

He tossed his gloves and washed his hands. He grabbed his notebook and tape recorder from the metal tool tray and sat down in the corner of the morgue, on the floor. If he stood up and walked three feet to his right, he could open a door and step straight into the lab, where there was a large table perfect for note-taking. But he had always taken notes in the lab when he had worked with Dallas and Kathy, and things needed to change. Change was the best way to avoid memories, and avoiding was what had to be done if he had any hope of surviving.

He pulled back the red cover of his notebook. He’d pulled it fresh out of the package that morning before he’d left the hotel. Brand new, free of any notes about cases in Los Angeles, cases he’d worked with Dallas, cases he’d worked with Kathy. It was a blank slate.

Leaving the header blank, he skipped the first line and wrote Tess Brown’s name on the second line. He underlined her name and went about making notes of the crime scene. She had been found in a dumpster outside of the emergency room in Clinstone. The laceration had been six inches in length. It appeared to have started on her left, the blade pulled to the right.

He moved onto the autopsy. The lack of stomach contents. The lack of anything suspicious. No notes or signatures tucked away in her throat or in her clothes. The weight of her organs. The health of them. For the most part, the slit throat had been one of the few indications she’d been dead at all.

Bo closed the notebook, tucking his blue pen neatly into the spiral that bound the pages together. He set the book on the floor at his right and picked up a blue notebook from the pile on his left. He pulled back the cover and, with a fresh black pen, wrote Jacob Mason’s name on the header of the page.

Jacob Mason

He flipped the page, wrote Carter Lehmann’s name in the header.

Carter Lehmann

A new page.

Myra Cooper

Bo glanced up at the ceiling before closing the notebook. He hadn’t been present when the detectives had gone inside and interviewed the person who had found Tess Brown’s body. As far as he could remember, he had no other names he needed to write down.

When it came to this particular method of madness, there was a reason for it. Keeping tabs on every single person he met in Clinstone, Minnesota would keep him from ever making the same kind of mistakes he had made in Los Angeles. He would never let anyone into his personal circle ever again. He would never befriend a serial killer again.


Jacob looked up as Bo stopped in front of his desk. He closed the folder in front of him and waved a hand toward one of the chairs between Bo and the desk. The other was occupied by Carter. “Austen, hey. Sit.”

Bo forced a smile. “I’m all right with standing, sir. If that’s all right with you.” He handed a folder to Jacob before passing the other to Carter. Clearing his throat, he retreated to a safer distance, about a foot and a half in front of the desk and a good chair and a half away from Carter.

“Jesus Christ, Lemon, the dude’s got even nicer handwriting than you do. Never thought I’d see the day,” Jacob said. Carter only snorted.

Bo tucked his hands behind his back, making a mental note to add ‘nice handwriting’ to Carter’s list once he returned to the morgue. Bo’s handwriting had always been… neat, borderline mechanical. In school, his teachers had compared it to the text on a computer. It took time and a bit of finger cramping, but it was worth the pleasant readability.

“That’s everything I know about Tess Brown,” Bo said with a slight nod toward the folder in Jacob’s hands. “She was killed December thirty-first around eleven PM. Before she was killed, she was chloroformed. Aside from the chloroform, I found no other drugs or foreign substances within her system, though I am still running further tests on her blood just to make sure I didn’t miss anything. She also hadn’t eaten anything in at least six to eight hours before she was killed. You can determine how important you consider that factor.”

Bo cleared his throat before continuing, “Tess Brown was reported missing on December twenty-third by her boyfriend, and said boyfriend died on the twenty-seventh. Because her boyfriend is dead, Tess Brown has no other family you need to contact. He was all she had left.”

Jacob and Carter shared a quick glance before looking back at Bo. “It’s… impressive you found all that in a couple of hours,” Jacob said after a moment. “Not to mention that you had time to write it down for us. That’s appreciated.”

“It’s… what I do,” Bo said slowly. He swallowed, ticking off yet another thing he had already screwed up in Clinstone. He should have taken less time, presented them with less information, done less work. Something. Anything other than what he had done. “It’s my job.”

Jacob set the folder on his desk and leaned back in his chair, crossing his arms over his chest. He raised a brow. “Tell me, kid, you sure that’s all you know about the girl?”

Bo found it a little odd that Jacob called him ‘kid’. He knew the detective was only about four years older than him. More specifically, three years and three months older. He assumed one of two things made Jacob feel older than he was: a new baby in the family—presumably the ‘Charlotte’ he had talked about on the phone, or the ‘Allie’ he had talked to was older than he was.

“About the girl?” Bo asked. “As in, the victim? Tess Brown. Yes, I’m sure that’s all I know. But I have profiled a few likely things about your killer.”

“Profiled?” Jacob echoed.

“You guys… don’t typically profile?” Jacob asked.

“Not in-house.”

“Oh,” Bo whispered. One more thing that makes you stick out like a sore thumb, Austen. Three for three. Are you sure you were aiming for NORMAL in this town? Bo shifted his weight between his feet. “I… I suppose I have a surprise for you, then. More than likely, Tess Brown is not the first person this killer has killed. There are no hesitation marks on the throat laceration. There are no practice marks anywhere else on the body.

“Despite this, it would seem that the killer doesn’t want their victims to feel any pain. They took chloroform to Tess Brown, and once she was unconscious, they slit her throat. She bled out incredibly quickly, as the killer made sure to hit her carotid artery, which is… essentially an off switch built into your throat. The killer knows what they’re doing, and they know how to do it well.”

“But the dude doesn’t want the victim to feel pain,” Jacob said. “Why? What’s the point of killing people if you don’t get some sort of joy out of it?”

“Anything I could say on that matter would simply be an assumption.”

“Is there a problem with that?” Jacob asked.

In the long run, there wasn’t really a problem with assumptions, but it was one of the few Kathy-isms that Bo had allowed himself to keep. She had believed assumptions got in the way of solving a case. Which, in hindsight, was borderline hilarious, as most things a detective did were hunches or assumptions until it was proven beyond the shadow of a doubt that the killer really was the killer. But it was still something she always said, especially if it meant shutting someone up before they could inject an idea she couldn’t take credit for.

Maybe it wasn’t the best Kathy-ism to keep, but he unfortunately didn’t get to choose what stuck and what didn’t.

“I don’t enjoy injecting my own assumptions into a detective’s work,” Bo said.

“What if I give you permission to?” Jacob asked.

“No, thank you.”

Jacob snorted, but he nodded. “Fair enough.” He gestured to the folder. “Thank you for all the info on Tess.”

“My pleasure.” Bo waited a moment longer to confirm neither detective had anything more to say—to his face, at least—before turning around and starting back toward the lab. He still had a few things he wanted to check out in regards to the crime scene. He was absolutely certain Tess Brown hadn’t been killed there, but a closer inspection of the photos and collected evidence would help guarantee he didn’t pass over anything that could be used to determine where she had been killed.

The case in Clinstone was the first time in quite some time that he didn’t go with a detective to question witnesses or suspects. He’d done it with Dallas from the first day the man had joined the LAPD. He’d attended questionings and interviews before and after Dallas, as well. But… Clinstone was a fresh start. No one expected him to do much more than look at bodies and photograph crime scenes.

A labor-intensive task like a deep dive into the crime scene photographs was just what he needed to distract him from going back to simply being a lab geek, tucked away in the basement.

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