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Every track, cop or not, led to one thing -- the body. Dolph had said the man had been sliced up, eaten.
I didn't want to see it. I'd been having a very good time with Richard. A pleasant evening. It wasn't fair to
end the night by looking at partially eaten bodies. Of course, the dead man probably thought being eaten
hadn't been much fun either.
I took a deep breath of the cold air. My breath fogged as I exhaled. I couldn't smell the body. If it'd
been summer, the dead man would have been ripe. Hurrah for the cold.
"You planning to look at the body from here?" Titus said.
"No," I said.
"Looks like your expert is losing her nerve, Sergeant."
I turned to Titus. His round, double-chinned face was smug, pleased with itself.
I didn't want to see the body, but losing my nerve, never. "You better hope this isn't a murder scene ...
Sheriff, because it has been fucked twenty ways to Sunday."
"You're not helping anything, Anita," Dolph said softly.
He was right, but I wasn't sure I cared. "You got any suggestions for preserving the crime scene, or can
I just march straight in like the fifty billion people before me?"
"There were only four sets of footprints when I was ordered to leave the scene," Officer Holmes said.
Titus frowned at her. "When I determined it was an animal attack, there was no reason to keep it
secure." His southern accent was getting thicker again.
"Yeah, right," I said. I glanced at Dolph. "Any suggestions?"
"Just walk in, I don't think there's much to preserve now."
"You criticizing my men?" Titus said.
"No," Dolph said, "I'm criticizing you."
I turned away so Titus wouldn't see me smile. Dolph doesn't suffer fools gladly. He'll put up with them a
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little longer than I will, but once you've reached his limit, run for cover. No bureaucratic ass will be
spared.
I stepped into the hollow. Dolph didn't need my help to hand Titus his head on a platter. The snow
collapsed at the edge of the hole. My feet slid on the leaves underfoot. I ended on my butt for the second
time tonight. But I was on a slope now. I slid almost all the way to the body. Laughter bubbled up behind
me.
I sat on my ass in the snow and stared at the body. They could laugh all they wanted; it was funny. The
dead man wasn't.
He lay on his back in the snow. The moonlight shone down on the body, reflecting on the snow, and
giving the luster of midday to objects below. I had a penlight in one of the coverall's pockets, but I didn't
need it. Or maybe didn't want it. I could see enough, for now.
Ragged furrows ran down the right side of his face. One claw had sliced over the eye, spilling blood and
thick globs of eyeball down his cheek. The lower jaw was crushed, as if some great hand had grabbed it
and squeezed. It made the face look unfinished, only half there. It must have hurt like hell, but it hadn't
killed him. More's the pity.
His throat had been torn out; that had probably killed him. The flesh was just gone. His spine shone a
dull white, like he'd swallowed a ghost and it hadn't gotten away. His camouflage coveralls were ripped
away from his stomach. Some trick of the moonlight threw a thick shadow inside that ripped cloth. I
couldn't see the damage inside. I needed to.
I prefer night kills. Darkness steals the color. Somehow it just isn't as real at night. Shine some light on it
and the colors explode: the blood is crimson; the bone sparkles; fluids are not just dark but green,
yellow, brown. Light lets you differentiate. A mixed blessing, at best.
I slipped the surgical gloves on. They were a cool second skin. Even riding in my inner pocket, the
gloves were cooler than my skin. The penlight snapped on. Its tiny yellowish beam was dimmed by the
bright moonlight, but cut through the shadows like a knife. The man's clothing had been peeled away like
the layers of an onion; coveralls, pants and shirt, thermal underwear. The flesh was torn. The light glinted
on frozen blood and gobbets of icy flesh. Most of the internal organs were gone. I shone the light on the
surrounding snow, but there was nothing to see. The flesh, organs, were gone.
The intestine had leaked dark fluid all over the cavity, but it was frozen solid. I smelled no odor as I
leaned over. Cold was a wonderful thing. The edges of the wound were ragged. No knife had done this.
Or if it had, it was like no blade I'd ever seen. The medical examiner could tell for sure. A rib had been [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]