July 19th, 2020

anatomical beat

Values are like fingerprints. Nobody’s are the same, but you leave ’em all over everything you do.

He put the opening of the sippy cup lid to his lips and sucked hard, the kiosk coffee was still hellishly hot, but gulping was a hard habit to break. He closed his eyes and, in an unsuccessful effort to cool it down to a manageable temperature, swished the mouthful of molten lava, commonly known as house through his teeth. His incisors ached, and that had him thinking, again, heatedly, of the bikini-clad barista who had served up his steaming morning cup of joe and how delightful her exposed ass cheeks had been, jiggling while she scurried around inside the coffee hut. A newfound morning ablution.

But that delectation was sadly being replaced with a rather disgusting wake-up call that life is not all thong-wearing coffee-slinging softness but instead short, sharp, wicked-toothed hardness.

He was standing at the edges of a scene of a brutal, bloody mess of a crime. Obviously a murder, what with body parts strewn and the ribcage petaled open like a nightmarish blooming flower and the viscera most probably devoured considering the chaos of half-chewed intestines on the floor and sofa and wingbacked chair. A feast reminiscent of an uncensored episode of Wild Kingdom, but with human animals instead of lions, and tigers and bears. Oh my.

A familiar voice at the front door alerted him that his partner had arrived. She appeared with a Venti in each hand, iced coffee brewed at a bistro in less of a state of dishabille.

He held up his own cup when she spied him amongst the human detritus and announced loudly, “Already fueled, baby. Bottoms Up.” His partner shook her head and handed off one of the drinks to a coroner’s assistant.

“You shouldn’t patronize that place,” she told him for the near-zillionth time as she navigated her way to his side, stepping through the bustle of hazmatted people.

He hummed noncommittally. “What do you think about this carnage? Gotta do some detective-ing, but didn’t we have something similar last month?”

“A body ripped to shreds, possibly cannibalized, and during a full moon? A few streets over? Yes, I do seem to recall.”

He smiled and nodded. “Our work here is done, then?”

“Funny.” She tapped her lip with a neatly manicured fingernail, and he longed to wave his magic wand, cast the spell that would entice her to step out on her husband, even for just an afternoon. “It’s crazy how we’ve gotten all of nowhere on that. Less than nowhere and now this. All our suppositions in the circular file.”

He winced and shook his left hand. His entire arm throbbed uncomfortably, pulsating beneath the hypertrophic scars crisscrossing his bicep. Remnants from the animal mauling he had suffered recently. The bite seemed to not be healing properly. The diagnosis, nerve damage. He could feel it in his bone marrow, he told the white coats, but none seemed to grasp his meaning.

“Does it smell like,” she paused, wrinkling her nose, “dog in here? Is that something we should make note of?”

“Strange observation.” He mimed taking a note, “Odor of canine.”

“Well, what do we know so far then, Sherlock?”

“Sherlock?” He pulled a face, then leered, “I’ll play Frank Hardy to your Nancy Drew.”

“Have you always been such a—”

The coroner interrupted them.

“Sup, doc?” he asked her. “That lipstick is really—”

The two women looked at him, beneath mirrored angry brows.

“Deliciously red.”

“What?!” his partner hissed.

“Maybe it’s just all this,” he waved his hand at the blood-spattered room, “vein fluid. Making me dizzy.”

“All of this vein fluid belonged to a woman.” The coroner consulted her digital pad. “Mrs. Paladine,” she read. “Diane Paladine, 52 years of age. This is her home. Her husband is in Hong Kong. On business.”

“Did he depart sometime in the early hours of this morning?” he asked, gulping more of his coffee.

“He’s been there for the past two weeks. Due to return this Friday. And that’s the extent of me doing your job. We’re taking the vic downtown.” She looked pointedly at his partner. “You can call me later today or first thing in the morning.” She looked back at him. “And you—”

He waggled his eyebrows.

“Lose my number.”

He rolled his eyes and stepped away as the two women bent their heads together, conferring. He walked closer to the faux mantel and studied the artfully arranged framed family photographs. Diane had been a stone-cold fox. He finished the coffee, less scalding but still it burned. He set the empty cup beside a professional portrait of Mr. & Mrs. Paladine, encased in a gilded frame.

“Hey, you feel like working today?” his partner asked, beside his elbow now.

“Absofuckenlutely, boss. Let’s hunt up some clues.” His stomach growled.

“You going rookie on me? You need a sick bag?”

“Naw. Something I ate.”

“Or didn’t eat. You’re looking awful lean these days. Honestly, you don’t seem like yourself. When’s your annual?”

“I’m fine. But I’ll let you take me to lunch when we finish up here.”

“I heard there’s a topless gyro truck parked over by Big Lots now.”

He guffawed and got to work.

An hour later, he lifted the yellow police tape cordoning off the driveway so she could step beneath it. Then he followed close on her heels, her hips swinging delectably. He began to whistle a jaunty tune.

He knew the team would find no incriminating fingerprints. Claw prints, paw prints, maybe. And at least now he knew where he had been last night.