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Pen Your Pride

Part 3: The Body and the Suspects

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Crouching next to the flattened body, I tried to look serious and medical.

The truth?  I dropped out of medical school.  You’d think a degree in forensics might be required to be the county coroner, but it wasn’t.  Nope.  The only thing I’d really had to do to get this job was win an election. It helped if you’d done a couple of years at medical school, which I had, because people wanted to know you were at least somewhat qualified.  But, the year I ran, it wouldn’t have mattered if all I had was a degree in English Lit.  I’d happened to be up against a corrupt insider that everyone was so sick that they would have elected “Fill In Name Here” to get rid of the guy.

Plus, this was Pierre, South Dakota.  Until recently, the murder rate was zero.  As in: none, nada, zip, zilch. 

Technically, after last spring, we were down in the negative numbers, since the last body on my examining table got up and walked away… after leaving me with a magically-enhanced tattoo, that was.

But, that was another story, and this corpse didn’t look like it’d be getting up any time soon. 

In fact, I was pretty sure her bones had been pulverized by the fall.

My first impression had been female, because the person had long, gray hair and seemed to be wearing a pale green, scoop-neck sundress.  The dress looked like the sort you might find at a thrift store, because the white flower pattern seemed faded and a bit threadbare in spots.  With the frizzy gray hair, I thought: isn’t this a bit young for her?

I focused so much on the dress, admittedly, because the rest was… meat.  As in, boneless, gelatinous, gooey meat, which are words a person should never have to use to describe something that used to be living.

Whoever it was that wore this dress that didn’t suit them had tried to shield their face from impact.

It hadn’t helped.

Bones protruded from what remained of arms.  There were no recognizably human features left on the face.  Honestly? If it wasn’t for the decidedly human head of hair with its glittering ice crystals, I would have thought someone had run over a deer… about a hundred times, and stuck a dress on it.

It was awful.

Spenser stood over me as if expecting some kind of brilliant medical deduction.  Trying to control my stomach, which was starting to notice the smell of hot asphalt and the thick scent of blood and body, I croaked out: “She fell.  From somewhere high.”

He pointed up at the clock tower.  “Is that high enough?”

“I honestly don’t know,” I said.  I glanced between the top of the clock tower and the spattered remains.  “Maybe?  That’s at least a ten-story drop, wouldn’t you say?  I feel like I read somewhere that you can’t survive more than a seven-story drop.  But, I’d’ve thought a jumper would land feet or head first, given that they’d have had to stepped or dived off the ledge.”  I hated to imagine what that would look like, but I took an educated guess that there would be more ‘compression,’ shall we say. “My guess is that this person landed mostly flat.”

From the look of what was left of the body I thought that maybe she was trying to curl into herself, protectively.  Which might be instinctual, even if this was just a tragic suicide, but it really read to me as: dropped.

When you added in the ice-crystals, which were already melting, it really kind of pointed to a murderer who could fly.

I didn’t want to think about that, at all.

“Dragons aren’t the only creatures with wings, you know,” I said to Spenser.  It was true.  I’d heard that rocs and griffins were real, for instance.   Plus, I was sure there were things that could fly without wings, though nothing came to me because I kept trying not to think about Valentine.

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