Putting It Together

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        Jay from the Coroner's office called up and yelled in his ear about the body from the truck.  Mitch was a little surprised to hear that it had been a woman.  He'd only caught a glimpse of it, but he'd thought it — she, he reminded himself — was a man.  From dental records, she'd been identified as a high-school student named Laura Houang who'd gone missing a week before.

        This wasn't just sick perverted shit that got out of hand and might be an accident, this was the most horrible thing he'd ever seen or heard of done to anybody.  There was no way in hell for someone to have most of their skin off without dying of shock in under two minutes or blood loss in ten or fifteen, but she'd clearly been alive for at least an hour in that state.  She'd had to have had blood transfusions in order to even stay alive, and Jay could tell that she had; the donor was an O negative universal donor, and Houang's blood had been type A.  And hell yes she had elevated adrenaline levels, but what the hell is a normal adrenaline level for someone whose skin is missing?!  Some of Jay's call was medical facts that might be meaningful in the case, and some of it was just that Jay was having a really bad day because of this case and needed to yell at somebody.  

        Mitch listened attentively.  He offered sympathy. And he wrote down every horrible detail, partly because it was his job and partly because he really didn't want to have to be the only one at the station who knew about this horrible shit.

        He'd wanted for the killer to leave some evidence. But this kind of evidence was ... probably the only kind the bastard was going to leave.  Mitch shook his head and sighed heavily, with the guilt of a man who'd gotten exactly what he'd wished for and wished he hadn't.

        Mitch was putting it together.  No way could this be a coincidence.  A Freakshow style attempted murder-suicide, happening in exactly such a way to take him and David out,  was just too perfect.  And what had happened to Houang — it wasn't even physically possible for her to have done that to herself.  You can't give yourself a transfusion or neatly peel the skin off of hard-to-reach spots on your back or wrap plastic wrap around yourself from weird angles.  No, this had been done to her, by a killer. There was no possible doubt any more, this was a killer.  And for the first time, the press was all over it.  They'd been listening to 911 dispatch, and at least one photographer had been as quick to respond as the ambulance crew.  There was a nightmarish photograph of the body on the morning's edition of the Chronicle.  There was a crowd of reporters hanging around waiting for some kind of announcement.  But before anybody could do that, someone had to talk to Houang's family.  There'd be press guys who wanted to talk to him every minute of every day from now on.

        If he counted the testimony from this DeCourtney woman, she and Scudder were saying the same thing — except she claimed to actually be the same kind of freak they were talking about here.  And after watching the tape of what had happened with her and Officer Thomas, he was willing to believe it.

        Thomas was insisting that nothing real had happened now.  He didn't want to deal with the career fallout from admitting exactly what had happened, Mitch figured.  Come to that, Mitch didn't either, but the scale of the atrocities in this case made his career pretty insignificant by comparison.  Stopping this killer had become his responsibility, not just in terms of his job, but in terms of what had to be done no matter what.  If he couldn't stop this killer, he couldn't believe any more in a benevolent God.  Realizing that brought him up short with surprise, but it was dead true.

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