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Draw One in the Dark: Snippet Thirteen

       Last updated: Saturday, July 22, 2006 23:46 EDT



    Rafiel opened the door and the smell of spoiled meat leaked out, overwhelmed - fortunately overwhelmed - by the smell of chemicals. She thought she detected rubbing alcohol and formaldehyde among them.

    Inside was a small room, with tiled walls and floor, all leading down to a drain in the center of the floor, above which a metallic table was placed and into which something was gurgling. Kyrie knew very well what the something would be, but she refused to look, refused to investigate.

    In the full light of day, without the pressure of the moon on her body and mind, it was unlikely that the smell of blood would be appetizing. But she refused to give it a chance, all the same.

    The tiled room should have looked cold and sterile and it probably would have, had it been tiled in standard white. However, the walls looked like someone had either gone crazy with artistry or - more likely considering what Kyrie had seen of how the public departments of Goldport, from town hall to schools, operated - they'd received remnant tiles from various public projects.

    Be it as it may, bright blue, fierce red, sunny yellow and the curious terracota-orange of Southwest buildings covered walls and floor.

    It all went to make the man who stood in the middle of the room look greyer and more colorless. He would be, Kyrie judged, somewhat past middle age. Colorlessness came not only from his white hair, but from a skin that looked like he was never allowed out in the sunlight. He had an aquiline nose that looked broken but probably had just grown like that, and - on either side of it - brightly sparkling blue eyes, rife with amusement.

    "Hello there, Rafiel," he said, and grinned. He wore a lab coat, and the sleeves - and his hands, in latex gloves - were stained as colorfully as the tiles that surrounded him. "We were just about to start, but Bob-" He nodded towards the other man in the room, who was somewhat past middle age, with a bald head surrounded in a fringe of grey hair. He wore a bright Hawaiian-style shirt, incongruously patterned with what seemed to be palm trees and camels on a virulently green background. "Bob said it was proper if you were here, as there should be more than one of you watching."

    "I'm sorry," Rafiel said. There was some change that Kyrie couldn't quite define to his tone. "We were having breakfast."

    The man in the lab-coat - a doctor? - grinned. "Breakfast, before this? Oh, no. You know so much better than that."

    "To be honest, Mike," Bob said. "He hasn't tossed his cookies in about a year. Not since that vagrant found at the warehouse, that had been there for over three months, last summer, remember?"

    Rafiel said nothing, only shook his head and a light red tinge appeared on his cheeks. And Kyrie realized all of a sudden what his tone had been. The sound in his voice had been the sound of a little boy responding to his betters, of a young man convincing the elders of his worthiness.

    "This is Kyrie Smith," Rafiel said, gruffly. "She'll be taking notes."

    The two older men looked at her as if noticing her presence for the first time. The medical examiner smiled and Bob raised his eyebrows, his eyes twinkling with amusement. She rather suspected that, notebook or not, she'd just been relegated to the girlfriend realm again.

    She ducked her head, while the examiner turned to a point in the wall, where a little light flashing, and a glint of something seemed to indicate the presence of a camera, and said, "We have washed and set the body, ready for examination." He gestured towards the body on the table.

    It looked much better than the night before. Or perhaps much worse. It was all a matter of perspective. The night before, it had looked like a piece of meat wrapped in blood-soaked rags. Now, laid out on the table, it looked definitely human.

    "The victim," the medical examiner continued, in that officious voice that people get when talking into recording instruments. "Is a Caucasian male, blue eyed, five foot nine, two hundred and thirty pounds, probably between thirty and forty years old. As far as we can determine, he died of multiple stab wounds, by an instrument to be determined." He gestured towards a large ziploc bag at the corner of the room, against the multicolored wall. It was filled with something that looked black and ragged. "I removed the victim's clothes - t-shirt and slacks - in the presence of officer McDonald, and bagged them. They will be handed to the custody of officer McDonald and officer Trall for further analysis. As reported to me by Officer McDonald, the corpse was not found to have any identification and the police department is waiting for a missing-persons report that might give some clue as to his identity."

    "Instrument to be determined, Mike?" Rafiel asked, leaning forward to take a closer look at the very pale corpse crisscrossed by dark gashes.

    The medical examiner looked up. "They don't look like knife stab wounds."

    "What about... I mean, yesterday we thought it might be another of those animal attacks?"

    "What animal... Oh, the victims cut in half?" Mike said. "Not that I can tell. I mean, yeah, the other ones have some marks consistent with perhaps animal teeth, though I would hate to see the animal with teeth that size. But this one..." He frowned. "More like he was stabbed multiple times by a weird implement. A nubby sword with a serrated edge, perhaps?"

    Rafiel blinked. He looked towards Kyrie and frowned.

    Kyrie felt relieved. Well, at least a little relieved. She took a deep breath. A nubby sword with a serrated edge didn't seem like anything that Tom could have been carrying on him. She had seen his teeth - glimmering in the moonlight - and they looked as polished and smooth as the best gourmet knives. So they couldn't be confused with these stabbing implements. And Tom hadn't had anything on him. She remembered him in the bathroom.

    Her sense of relief surprised her. Did she care that much if Tom was guilty or not? But then she thought that considering she might be called on to administer justice, and considering she had already hidden him from the law, in a way, yes, she did care.

    She made a quick note on the nature of the implements, and looked up to see that the doctor and Rafiel were removing something, with tweezers - from the man's grey hair.

    "Looks like the same green powder found on the clothes and the body when we first examined it," Mike said. "We're sending it for analysis."

    Rafiel was frowning at a little baggie into which he'd collected what looked like a sprinkle of bright green powder. "Looks like pollen," he said. "Anything flowering about now, that's this bright green?" he looked at Bob.

    "Not that I know," Bob said. "Label it. We'll hand it over to the lab. Who knows? They might actually figure it out."

    He shrugged and Kyrie didn't know if he was being ironic. She also didn't have time to think about it, because Mike had sliced a Y shape on the man's chest and opened the body cavity.

    The smell of death and corruption became all encompassing, and the sight of the organs... Kyrie swallowed. Even as she swallowed and struggled with nausea, she felt relieved that it wasn't hunger and that she wasn't finding this in any way appetizing. Perhaps panthers only ate fresh meat.

    "Are you okay?" Rafiel asked.

    She wasn't okay. The smell seemed to be short circuiting her brain and making her blood rush loudly in her ears. But she nodded and got hold of the considerable will power she resorted to when she had to prevent herself from shifting. She nodded again. "I'm fine," she said, though her voice echoed tiny and distant.

    "Look at that," the doctor said. "That's the stab that killed him. Right through the heart." He pointed at an organ that looked exactly like the others, to Kyrie, all of them an amalgam of red and green, yellow and the sort of greys that really shouldn't exist in nature. "There are several others that reached vital organs, but I'd say that's the one that stopped it. Pretty much ripped the heart to shreds, in fact."

    Rafiel and Bob had moved closer, and were looking into the opened body.

    "What are those white things?" Rafiel asked.

    "Damned if I know," Mike said. "They look like some sort of adipose deposits."

    "They look like huge ant eggs to me," Bob said. "You know, the kind you find when you break an anthill open in your garden? Just much bigger."

    "They seem to be at all the stab wound sites," Rafiel said.

    Kyrie wrote "white things" and "ant eggs" and "wound sites."

    "So, some contamination on the blade," Rafiel said. "Can you put some-"

    Then as the doctor handed him a bag and said, "You'd best keep it in a cooler, though, since it's not been exposed to the air."

    Bob produced a normal picnic cooler from somewhere. It was full of ice. He got the baggy and a couple other baggies of what the doctor might think were contaminants in the wound, and put them in the cooler.

    The autopsy progressed along lines that Kyrie had read about, but never been forced to watch before, and she had to call on all her self-control to continue watching, particularly when they sawed the cranium open to remove the brain. But there didn't seem to be any other surprises.

    "I think," the doctor said. "There might be some drug in the blood, so I'd like to get that looked at also."


    "Some hallucinogenic. His pupils were like pie plates when they got him in. I'd say he was high as a kite."

    She tried to imagine this man high. He didn't seem the type. Well fed, middling dressed, middle aged. Oh, Kyrie and everyone in her generation had heard all the platitudes about drug use affecting every class and every type of person. And, as such, they might even be true. But there were two classes it primarily affected - depending on the drug - the very rich and the very poor. And within those, whatever drug was the current drug of choice tended to make people sickly or at least skinny.

    This man looked robust and neither too rich or too poor. And yet, looking at him, something gnawed at the back of Kyrie's mind. She couldn't quite say what.

    She took her leave, with Rafiel, and hurried out of the place. Outside, standing in the sun, holding a cooler with whatever samples they got off the body, Rafiel blinked. His enormous confidence seemed to have vanished and he looked confused and perhaps a little scared.

    He looked over his shoulder, but Bob had stayed behind, talking to the examiner. "We have to find who did this, Kyrie. The sooner the better."

    "Why?" Kyrie said. There were many things she wanted to ask Rafiel, like why he assumed that one of their kind was bound to have seen corpses before, and why, if that was the case, they should discipline this killer. And why he'd assumed that this too was a death by dragon - other than having seen Tom standing over the body. But she couldn't ask any of those, and anyway, the most important was this - why they, particularly and not the police in general should find out what happened to this victim.

    Rafiel blinked again. The gesture made him look slow of thought, though it was probably just a reaction to the strong sunshine. "What do you mean why?" he asked.

    "Why should we care who did this, if it wasn't a shifter?" Kyrie asked.

    Rafiel frowned. "No, but the victim was a shifter. Didn't you smell it?"


    Rafiel insisted on following her home. There was nothing for it. "Can't you see?" he said. "I have to. If something is killing shifters..."

    "How would they even know I'm a shifter?" she asked. "Wouldn't it take knowing the smell? And knowing what we are?"

    Rafiel shrugged. "I can't answer that. Perhaps something like your triad friends. Didn't Ormson say that the triad had been shifters for centuries? That it ran in families? That they know what it means and even have a shifter god?"

    She looked at him. A monstrous idea was forming. If someone was killing shifters, and if it was another shifter, wouldn't it make sense for it to be someone who... oh, worked for the police? Who could keep an eye on people without anyone getting suspicious? He could smell someone - once - and then realize...

    She shook her head. "Why were you at the diner?" she asked. "Last night?"

    Golden eyes widened. "I was coming for a cup of coffee," he said. "I was off work."

    "You were coming for a cup of coffee in lion shape?"

    He chuckled at that. Audibly chuckled. "No. Of course not. I only shifted when I smelled... I was in human form when I first saw you. When I saw you pull Ormson inside. Of course, I knew you were shifters."


    He looked at her as if she'd taken leave of her senses. "He was a dragon," he said.

    "But then why did you shift?" Kyrie asked. "Why wouldn't you just call the crime in?"

    "And catch you still shape-shifted?" he said. "I had to make sure you were out of there before I called it in."

    "But why shift, then?"

    He sighed. Something like a shadow crossed the serene golden eyes and he mumbled something.

    "Beg your pardon?" Kyrie said.

    "The smell of blood, all right? Combined with the moonlight it caused me to shift and it took effort to get back to my form. Because then..." He turned very red. "Then I smelled you."

    Kyrie thought of the smell of him, rising in the night with all the blatant come on of a feline-seeking-female ad.

    She nodded once. She could believe that. But she still had a question, "Why come to the Athens for coffee? Pardon me, but I know even late at night there are better places open, and dressing as you do, surely you can afford better."

    He shrugged. "I don't know, okay? Started going there about a year ago. I like... It's homey, okay? Feels homey. And there's you. You're... I could smell you were a shifter. And I like looking at you."

    Kyrie frowned. "Fine," she said. But she wasn't convinced. For one, she couldn't remember having seen Rafiel at the diner, ever. Of course, considering how busy it got there at times, like the five a.m. rush just before she went off shift, he could have been dancing naked on a table and she would not have noticed.

    She looked at him, and, involuntarily, pictured that. No. If he were dancing naked on the table, she would have noticed.

    "Fine," she said again. "You can follow me home."

    At the back of her mind, she thought that if all else failed, Tom would be there. And Tom could always help defend her against Rafiel. Okay, Tom might not be exactly a super hero. But it would be two against one.



    Tom had just kicked the door, and felt something - something giant and pincer like reach for him when...

    "What in hell?" came from the direction of the living room in a very male voice. A vaguely familiar male voice. And then there were strides - sounding

    echoey and strange through his distorting senses, advancing along, towards him.

    Past the kitchen. He felt more than saw as two pairs of green wings took flight, from the backyard, into the dark night sky above.

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