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10:03 AM; CLINSTONE POLICE DEPARTMENT, LAB
Jacob knocked on the open door of the lab before poking his head into the room. “We have a scene. Ready to head out?”
Bo glanced up at the detective before clearing his throat. “Me?”
Jacob smiled. “Yeah, you. Who else would I be talking to? One of your bajillion notebooks?” he asked.
Bo chuckled, but it was forced. Each of his notebooks had a purpose, a set purpose that made it important. ‘Bajillion’ made each one seem inferior, unimportant, pointless. Deep down, he knew Jacob hadn’t meant it that way, but it was the way his brain translated it, the way his anxiety perpetuated it. Knowing it was his anxiety twisting the words like a knife didn’t make the blade any less sharp.
He tucked his pen between the pages of his notebook, closed the cover, and stood up. “Just me?”
“Just you. No Gwen. Don’t worry about it. She’s, uh, in a sitdown with the chief for today.”
“It’s okay, really. I’ve met much worse coworkers.”
“That doesn’t give her the right to be an asshole. We’re just on edge. Your department isn’t the only one who had a killer running through it,” Jacob said as he started out of the lab.
Bo grabbed his satchel and camera bag before hurrying after Jacob. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Our old chief was crooked as shit. I don’t know if he ever killed anyone, but he was peddling drugs and framing the innocent and making sure the criminals walked free. Throw in a homicidal defense attorney, and you have a wonderful recipe for a bunch of cops and lab techs who can’t handle welcoming a new guy into the department just because of where he worked last.”
“I… didn’t know that.” Bo couldn’t help but shake his head. He should’ve done more research on Clinstone. It wasn’t the tiniest town in the world, but it wasn’t the biggest, either. He hadn’t figured he’d need to check of the police department had previously been run by a drug peddler, but you learned new lessons all the time. Clearly.
“Should’ve done your homework, huh?”
Bo laughed. “I was, uh, I was actually thinking the same thing.”
Jacob’s smile was soft, almost comforting. “Just give everyone some time. They’ll see you aren’t a bad guy. You’re just a… big nerd in a big world, looking for a job where you can get your nerd on. Who you worked with or what station you came from doesn’t change that. Your just a big science geek in a little body.”
Admittedly, that was probably the most efficient and accurate way anyone had ever described him.
Bo bit back the urge to tell Jacob he wasn’t exactly looking to make any friends while he was in Clinstone, that he didn’t plan on staying after this case was solved, but it wasn’t worth the energy. Jacob was friendly and persistent. Despite the constant rejections when he offered to take Bo with him and Carter to lunch or breakfast, Jacob continued trying. Bo assumed he’d do the same if told Bo wasn’t in the market for new friends. Or any friends, for that matter.
Instead, he settled for a simple, “Thank you,” in response.
10:23 AM; CLINSTONE COMMUNITY CENTER, BACK DUMPSTER
“Our killer sure likes dumpsters, huh?” Carter asked as Bo stepped up onto the bottom lip of the dumpster. “Two kills in, and it’s already a little repetive. Gonna get pretty old pretty quick.”
Bo shook his head as he leaned forward and snapped a picture of the victim. They weren’t only two kills in; Bo was relatively certain of that. The confidence in the slash across Tess Brown’s throat had been relatively good proof of that. The man in the dumpster, whoever he may be, likely wasn’t their first victim, either, even though he’d definitely been there a while.
“That’s a little fucked up, don’t you think?” Jacob asked. “These vics aren’t, like, a plotline in a bad TV show. They aren’t repetative. They’re dead.”
“They aren’t repetative. He is.”
Bo glanced up at the sky, choosing to keep it to himself that they had no proof the killer was a man. The more he kept to himself, the smoother things would go for the remainer of the case. Holding his camera in one hand, he climbed onto the top lip of the dumpster, using his knees to balance himself at the corner as he leaned down for a closer picture of the victim.
“Whoa, careful, Austen.”
Bo turned his head just long enough to get a look at the worried look on Jacob’s face. At his current angle, he had little to no chance of falling backward and risking any serious injury. Falling forward onto the victim and destroying evidence was technically possible, but his knees had created a solid based on the dumpster, and it was unlikely he’d fall forward without being pushed. Again, he kept that to himself. Instead, he offered a simple, “I’ll be fine.”
He brought his full attention back to the victim. His head and neck, the only parts of his body visible outside of his clothes, were a black-green color. Bacteria had caused an extreme accumulation of gas inside, pushing the victim’s eyes and tongue forward. The skin was blistered and marbled with the intricate patterns of visible blood vessels. Purge fluid leaked from the man’s mouth and nose, and Bo could see what appeared to be a tear rather than an intention laceration along the victim’s neck. The tear indicated the body tissue there had broken open to allow a much-needed release of the gas and fluid that had built up after his death, similar to the way a fruit would split when left out in the sun for far too long.
After being assigned to Dallas and Kathy’s ‘case’ for so long, Bo’s field work had been minimal, and it seemed like it’d been an eternity since he’d seen a victim’s corpse so far gone. He snapped another picture. “Vic’s a male, maybe in his mid-forties. He’s been dead for a while. Five, six days.”
“So around the same time Tess died?” Jacob asked.
“Somewhere in there.”
Beneath the skin, it was clear the muscles had deteriorated at an incredible rate, a rate that was far quicker than that of a normal decaying corpse. Likely, he’d been poisoned with something that caused a deterioration og the muscles. From what Bo could see of the victim’s hands and wrists, it didn’t appear like he’d been tied up, so the poison had to have been something a person could slip the victim without him tasting it, without him knowing something was wrong until it was too late.
Conium maculatum, possibly? It would’ve caused a gradual weakening of the muscles and intense pain as they started dying off. Symptoms would’ve kicked in around thirty minutes after the digestion of the poision, and death came several hours later, essentially serving as a sweet relief by that point. All parts of the plant were poisonous, and it wouldn’t have been hard to throw some leaves into a salad.
“Vic was likely poisoned,” Bo said quietly, setting his camera on the lid of the dumpster.
“With what?” Jack asked. Bo offered a shrug as he pulled his phone from his back pocket. “You don’t have a guess?”
“Not one worth sharing.” Bo wouldn’t be able to get a fingerprint out here, not with how decomposed the victim’s flesh was. He’d need to cut off the stiff fingers and use the glove method of fingerprinting. It had certainly been a long while since he’d had to do that. There was sa time where he would’ve hated the idea of it, dreaded it from the moment he realized it was necessary. Today though, he simply felt glad to be useful, even if only for a day.
He turned on the flashlight on his phone and leaned into the dumpster. He heard Jacob let out a heavy breath—presumably further concern. Using two gloved fingers, Bo pulled down on the victim’s bottom jaw. The smell of death and decay was beyond terrible, even from behind Bo’s mask, garbage, and the smell of the cold, winter air.
There was nothing obviously obstructing the mouth or stuck in the back of his throat, though Bo wouldn’t know for certain if the poison had made it all the way to his stomach until they got the man to the lab. Bo stuck his gloved hand into the victim’s front pocket, quickly followed by the other. Keys. That was a good start. He pulled them out and slipped his finger through the keyring before reaching beneath the victim to get at his back pocket.
Nothing. He tried the other back pocket, unable to stop himself from smiling as his fingers slipped around what felt like a wallet. He leaned back out of the dumpster, turned off his flashlight, and shoved his phone back into his pocket. “Evidence bag?” Bo asked, turning to the detectives.
Jacob pulled a small bag from the inner pocket of his suit jacket and stepped close enough to the dumpster to hold it out to Bo. Bo dropped the keys into it. While Jacob sealed the bag and grabbed another, Bo flipped open the wallet. No ID. It was possible the killer had taken it, or maybe the man simply didn’t have one. Whatever the reason, Bo would have no choice but to try and fingerprint him.
He dropped the wallet into the next bag Jacob held out. He grabbed his camera from the lid of the dumpster and held it against his shoulder as he used his free hand for leverage to clilmb down from the dumpster.
“You wanna take these to the car?” Jacob asked. “I’ll help Austen finish up here.”
“Sure, man.” Carter grabbed the bags and headed for the parking lot.
After watching him for a moment, Jacob’s blue eyes settled on Bo’s face. “You’re quiet.”
“Maybe I don’t have much to say.”
“From what I’ve read about you, you’ve got so much intel swirling around in your head that I don’t know how the hell you ever shut up.”
Bo almost snorted at that one. It was a fair assessment, if nothing else. “I suppose that’s fair,” Bo said softly. “I’m still… figuring out my place here in Clinstone. I’m used to working in L.A.. I’m used to working under Jamal Pitman. I’m used to… an entirely different group of people, entirely different crime scenes, entirely different functions and operations. I’m just trying to find my place, and right now, ‘quiet’ is where I fit in.”
“You’re sure that’s all?”
It didn’t matter how many times Jacob Mason correctly identified something about him. Bo still wasn’t looking to make friends here. He was simply trying to survive the new environment until the case was over and he could go home. Maybe running away had been the wrong call. Nowhere in The United States would ever be Los Angeles.
So Bo offered a nod. “That’s all.” He cleared his throat. “I’ll wait here until transport to the morgue arrives.”
Again, Bo nodded. He didn’t exactly mind the silence of waiting near a corpse. “I’m sure. I’ll see you back at the station.”
After a moment, Jacob nodded, accepting he’d lost the battle again. “Sure. See you there, Austen.”
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2 thoughts on “Surgeon – Chapter Nine”
I’m really loving this version of The Surgeon so far!
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Thank you so much! I love getting into Bo’s head more now that I’m not writing from a place of pretending I like Kathy
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