As I waited for Valentine to show up and sweep me off to lunch, I finished up the autopsy.
The morgue was quiet except for the hum of machinery. Adding to a forbidding sense of dreary neglect, the industrial concrete walls had a tendency to collect spider webs and dust despite my constant effort to keep them at bay. The janitorial staff refused to do more than a quick, cursory sweep. The rumors about the necromancer’s escape hadn’t helped matters. No one liked a morgue, but a haunted one was just too much—especially one where bodies got up and walked away.
Several months ago, in an effort to try to counter my spooky reputation, I’d tried cheering the place by taking a cue from my Precinct 13 colleagues. I’d brought in potted plants and brightly colored posters stuck to the concrete blocks with gummy tape.
Even though I’d been secretly proud of the effect, that had lasted exactly one week. I’d taken it all down after Robert off-handedly snarked that the whole place was one boy band away from a freshman college dorm.
So the morgue remained stubbornly dreary. Professional, but dreary.
With a sigh, I returned my attention to Jane Doe. Even though the claw-shaped bruises seemed to implicate Valentine, I took several pictures while they were ‘fresh.’ Then, I swabbed the deeper indentations hoping that the lab would later pick up some very non-dragon-y particles. Maybe, with any sort of luck, they’d find some metal scrapings or other detritus that might point to the bruises having been made by an industrial crane or something completely mundane and non-magical like that.
Once all that was bagged and labeled, I wheeled out my mobile x-ray machine from where it usually sat collecting dust in the closet. After a three minute hunt for the lead apron for myself, which I eventually found in another room in the far back of a supply cabinet, I got as many angles of the entire body as I could.
Given the ruined state of Jane Doe’s body, x-rays were going to be critical for getting decent information about the impact. Plus, film was the sort of thing I could e-mail to people who had expertise that I didn’t.
No one had put plastic bags over Jane Doe’s hands. Normally that was done if foul play was suspected, so that anything under the fingernails wouldn’t be lost. I couldn’t imagine trying to fight off something with claws as big as those bruises around her waist, but you never knew. So, I got out the kit for taking scrapings. As I worked through them, I did notice that her manicure sucked. A cheap red polish was chipped and peeled, and she he had several broken and chewed nails. The scraper pulled out lot of dirt and grime from underneath. I took close-up photos of the broken nails and added a note to my file. The swabs and scrapings I bagged for the lab.
Normally at this point, I’d start removing organs, weighing them, taking slices to send off to the lab, etc., but I wasn’t sure what remained intact. In fact, I’d done all of my work so far with the body still in the bag, which, now that she was warming up to room temperature, had started collecting a thin puddle of fluid.
Wrestling her over would be a messy job. I decided to save that for last.
In the meantime, I went back to my list and prepped the usual toxicology on other tests. Since I’d decided that the talon marks indicated a possible homicide, I had to check to make sure she hadn’t been drunk or drugged.
Finally, it was time to try to turn her over and find out the contents of her stomach and all of the rest of that.
I stared at her for a long time, chewing on my lip. I’d never in my short medical career—if you could call dropping out of my second year of school a ‘career’—had I ever dealt with anything this mangled. It didn’t gross me out so much as it stymied me. I felt unusually out of my depth. I wanted help. I wanted a real expert. I didn’t want to shoulder the responsibility of untangling this corpse’s mysteries all by myself.
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Alex Connor thought that being the South Dakota Hughes County Coroner was going to be a boring cushy job. She didn't count on the fact that her first case would leave her with a magical, living tattoo and awaken her latent magical powers. Now she'...