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.I’d seen him on scenes before.Nice guy who didn’t have a problem helping me get the occasional body into a bag.I remembered that his name was Sean though I had no clue what his last name could be.This was the first time I’d ever seen him not smiling.“See that guy?” Derrel continued.“Someone found a cigarette butt back here, and so the major has stated that he wants any cigarette butts to be collected as possible evidence.”My gaze slid to the back porch of the house, and I winced.“Dude.That’s stupid.There are ashtrays on the table.The people who live here smoke.They probably smoke out here all the time.What, they think the guy was enjoying a smoke while he cut the pizza guy’s head off?”Derrel gave an emphatic nod of agreement.“Could be worse.I worked a murder a couple of years ago—happened in front of a house where a big party was going on.The captain in charge told the crime scene guys to collect all the empty beer cans in case there was a chance to use DNA to put a suspect at the scene.It was a big party.There were hundreds of empties.It was completely moronic, because not only would it have taken forever to get all the cans tested, but it would have blown the crime scene budget for the year to pay for it all.But the techs went ahead and gritted their teeth and collected the damn beer cans, because the captain told them to do so.The damn things are probably still in the evidence locker, unprocessed.”I let out a sigh.“You’re shattering all my cool illusions about forensics.”Grinning, he clapped me on the shoulder.“That took less time than I expected!”“Fucker.So, is that dog looking for the guy’s head?” I asked.I was still hoping that it had been found and someone had simply covered it up or something so that it didn’t look so gross.Then again, no one had covered the headless corpse.“That’s right.No luck so far though,” he said with a shrug.“Guess whoever whacked him kept it as a souvenir.”“Ew.” I frowned.“Is this one like the murder that happened out on Sweet Bayou Road? And was that guy’s head ever found?”“Yes to your first question, and no to your second.The cops are already having a field day coming up with theories.” He swiped a hand over his scalp.“At least we have a head start on making an ID on the guy here.Makes my job a bit easier.”“The cops don’t do the ID thing?” I asked.“Nope, it’s our responsibility, as is contacting any next of kin.However, we work pretty closely with the cops since they have the fingerprint systems and stuff like that.”Someone called Derrel’s name and he glanced that way.“Looks like we’re up.” His nose twitched and his expression turned puzzled as he looked back to me.“Have you been handling decomps?”Crap.My smell was worse than I thought.I gave him a grimace, thinking furiously.“Um, a cat died under my house last week.My whole bedroom reeked, and I guess it got into my clothing.Sorry,” I said with a grimace.“I washed it, but the smell really clings to it.I didn’t notice until I was on my way here.”To my relief he seemed to buy the story and merely shrugged and walked off.I exhaled as I grabbed the body bag and headed to the corpse.I sure as hell couldn’t tell him the real reason why I stank like a decomposing corpse.I had to wrap a sheet around the stump of the guy’s neck to keep the body from oozing blood or anything else that might come out.Derrel helped me get him into the bag and onto the stretcher, then I buckled the straps to keep everything in place and trundled my gruesome cargo out to the van.Getting the stretcher and bag into the van wasn’t all that hard since the van and stretcher were the kind that could be handled solo.But when I was trying to get it out at the morgue, I managed to get my forearm pinched in the back leg of the stretcher.No big deal if I’d been a normal, living human—other than probably hurting like hell and leaving me with a nasty bruise.But I wasn’t normal—and a strip of skin about an inch wide and five inches long peeled right off.I froze, looking down at the gaping wound in my arm.I wasn’t really bleeding—just a sluggish pooling of black blood—which was almost as gross as the fact that I could see bone.And it didn’t hurt.I mean, I could feel it, but only in the way you could feel pressure after a part of your body was numbed up.Dying by bits and pieces.Cold nausea tightened my gut as I quickly yanked the trailing skin off the stretcher and hurried into the morgue with my cargo.Tossing the skin into the first biohazard can I saw, I shoved the stretcher ahead of me on my way to the cooler, fighting back the urge to run.The floors were always slick in here, and I didn’t want to dump the body bag on the floor, or bust my ass and end up with another piece of me falling off.“Oh, thank you hail Mary Jesus!” I breathed as I entered the cooler and saw another body bag.The hunger rose as I shoved the stretcher against the wall, then turned and yanked the zipper of the other body bag open in one move.“SHIT!” I looked down at the body, aggravated and distressed.Sure, this body had a head, which was an improvement on the one I’d brought in.But it hadn’t been autopsied yet.Its brain was still nice and safe within its skull.I quickly zipped the bag back up, then exited the cooler and headed to the computer.After skimming the schedule I allowed myself to feel a slim measure of relief.At least the autopsy was scheduled for this morning.My eyes dropped to the gaping hole in my forearm.“That is seriously disgusting,” I muttered, then took a deep breath to try and control my flailing panic.All I had to do was hide the fact that I was falling apart until the autopsy was finished.The good news was that the smell of the morgue would hide my own lovely odor.Yeah, that wasn’t much as far as good news went, but I was willing to take anything I could get at this point.Chapter 14“You’re certainly raring to go, Angel.” Dr.Leblanc gave me a quizzical smile as he picked up his clipboard.I was already completely decked out in the protective gear—which, thankfully, had long sleeves—and gloves to cover the fact that I’d manage to lose another fingernail.I’d nearly been forced to resort to wearing a mask as well after I’d made the mistake of scratching an itch on my cheek.I’d felt the skin begin to peel away and stopped right before giving myself a gaping crater in the side of my face.Wouldn’t that have been lovely? Several frantic minutes in the bathroom with a combination of makeup and—god help me—hair spray had provided a temporary patch, and right now it merely looked as if I was trying to cover up some serious acne.Or leprosy.The body was also ready: stripped of clothing, with the block beneath the shoulder blades to make it easier to open up the body and examine the innards.I didn’t want a single second to be wasted.“You know me, Doc.I love me some dead bodies!” I said it with a deliberately cheeky grin, and he gave a laugh in return.“Fortunately, we can accommodate you.” He made his notes and then commenced with the Y-incision.I did my best to be Super Morgue Tech, ready with every piece of equipment the pathologist needed before he could ask for it.I had to bite back a whoop of joy when he finally gave me the go-ahead to cut the head open [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]