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Next of Kin, Chapter Twelve: 46%


  01:34:00 pm, by Nic Wilson   , 1619 words  
Categories: Next of Kin

Next of Kin, Chapter Twelve: 46%

Twelve, 46%

I called the ME the moment I left Tara's. I'd been putting it off for too long, as it was. I expected to get voice mail, telling me it was too late, but to leave a message and she'd get back to me in the morning.
Instead she picked up on the second ring. ?Medical Examiner's office, this is Nevaeh.? I recognized the name as the examiner who worked the murder scene.
?I didn't expect you to be in,? I said sleepily.
?I work nights. There's four of us in this office, working different shifts to keep the place staffed at all times. Except Sunday nights. Then we rotate who's on call. Though this is my Friday. If you'd waited until tomorrow, you would have got Isaac, instead.?
?I was hoping to see my brother's body.?
?Autopsy's done. I can walk you through the particulars, though there aren't really any curveballs. But yeah, a positive ID on the body's always welcome. I'm here until six.?
?Yeah,? I said. Even when she said it was her last night to work this week, I had hoped I'd get enough time for some sleep. I'd been running all day long. But no such luck. ?I'll come right away.?
I drove to the ME's office using GPS. She met me at the eastern entrance, facing the parking lot. ?Building's all sealed up,? she said, as she held the door open for me. ?We're the only staff that reliably works this late, so we get the run of the building to ourselves.?
?How does what you do work, exactly??
?All four of us have specific skillsets. My formal training focuses on blood spatter and other ballistic physics. If it flies through the air, I've spent time modeling it and trying to figure out the physics that get it to land where it does. Makes it fortunate that I was the primary on this investigation, because it fits snugly into my wheelhouse. Each of us has specialties, but we all have generalized forensic and crime scene investigatory training.?
?Like a physician with a general practitioner's license, but who also has a specialization.?
?Exactly. Thanks to lens tech, we can record the 3-dimensional space of a crime scene exactly as it is, then model how each piece of evidence came to be where it lies. The tech has gotten advanced enough that it's more accurate than old-school forensics, with measurements down into the nanometers. It takes a lot of the math and guesswork out of the investigatory process. The computer does a lot of the work, but at the same time, you have to have a tech who knows what they're doing there to tell it, no, I don't think the victim's head snapped off its body, smashed into the wall, and then reattached without any signs of damage; it can make complex simulations of physics, but it frequently has trouble with which situation seems more reasonable and less insane. It's like guiding a hyper-intelligent child through a story problem involving adult relationships, essentially.?
We rounded a corner and suddenly we were in the morgue. The room was lit by low lights, and in them I could see a body, laying on a metal table in the center of the room. I stopped there. I could only see his feet. I tried to make myself remember every time John kicked me, the handful of times he put his foot in my face and told me to smell it. I couldn't make the ID with just a foot from across the room, but I really didn't want to take another step inside.
Nevaeh turned back towards me. ?It's this way,? she said. I was thankful for the lack of light, because it hid my paralysis and indecision.
I walked towards her, trying to ignore the corpse I was also moving closer to, focused on her, imagined we were elsewhere, outside, on a picnic, the sun on her skin. But the light was coming from a laboratory lamp, as well as light reflected off a dead body's pallor.
?Is this your brother?? she asked. Shit.
?Yes,? I said.
?I haven't closed him back up. I can walk you through the body.?
?Only if it's relevant to the investigation,? I said, praying it wasn't.
?It's relevant,? she said.
I fought the urge to touch incision in his chest. It felt like so long as I didn't touch him, I couldn't know it was real; it could be a joke, or a fever dream. ?Who did this?? I asked, barely able to construct even that simple sentence.
?I performed the autopsy,? she said. ?Katherine, who works the day shift, looked over the work; she's our anatomy specialist.?
?Did the autopsy teach you anything?? I asked, because it seemed like the right thing to ask.
?He was a heavy smoker. Not just marijuana, either; his lungs were caked in tar from cigarettes, too. He'd probably taken a dozen years off his life- if someone hadn't gone and lopped the rest of it off. He was skirting dangerously close to cancer territory. Diet was pretty lousy- but about what you'd expect, from a smuggler living the bachelor life. Nothing else sticks out to me, though. I can send you my full report, but the more important intel comes from the scene itself.?
The lights dimmed, and suddenly my interface was covered in color. A red line shone through my brother's chest. ?The bullet clearly entered the back, just to the right of the spine.? An image of a skeleton appeared on my interface, an x-ray, with a blue circle hand-drawn around a very small puncture visible in the back to draw attention to it. ?It smacked the edge of his shoulder blade, fracturing it.? The x-ray moved its focus to the right, and the fractures in the bone glowed blue and pulsed. ?Then the bullet nicked the heart, enough he started to bleed out as his blood pressure fell.? The x-ray moved to the side, so I could see the body again. A flower of flesh sprouted on my brother's naked chest, and the red line grew out of the hole.
?The bullet continued outward, at an angle. Angle of descent, along with the spatter that the assailant blocked from hitting the wall behind him, indicate he was taller than your brother, approximately six feet tall, though the height that the perpetrator was holding the gun has a little more influence on that estimate than I like.?
?Bruising on the palms indicates he tried to stop his fall. Which means he didn't have his hands on his head, and wasn't kneeling; these are pretty commonly seen in executions. He also wasn't shot in the head, again, not typical of an execution. What this means, in combination with a lack of struggle, is that he likely knew his killer. Let them in, talked with them, and trusted them enough to turn his back on them when he did it. Then they shot him.?
I shared information on both Tara and Jim from my interface, mostly bioscans with height and width. ?Could either of these have been the killer?? I asked.
She pulled up a virtual keyboard, and typed on the air. ?Shit,? she said. ?Both are possible,? she said. ?She's a little short, but you put her in a boot with even an extra half an inch on the sole, and she'd fit. And if he holds the gun a certain way;? she shared mock-ups of the crime with either person in place of the blue man.
?I gave you two suspects, and you're telling me both of them are viable??
?Based on the forensic evidence we've got, yeah. But forensics are only ever part of the equation. You need the human element.?
?The human element??
?Motive. Opportunity is a matter of checking for witnesses.?
?Not GPS?? I asked.
?Are you kidding me? Do you know how many kids have illegal GPS mods, just to keep their parents out of their hair. The logs in particular aren't worth a crap, because there are apps that will edit GPS logs directly.?
?I thought those were proprietary.?
?They are,? she said. ?The conspiratorial among us, by which I mostly mean cops and online paranoids, think the GPS firms get kickbacks from the people selling the mod apps. Personally, I think they probably don't give a crap- at least until that info gets used in a high-profile rape or murder, they can get away with it. The cost of fixing the problems are probably fixed; it's hiring a team dedicated to closing holes in their software. The longer they can put off hiring that team, the longer that number isn't impacting their bottom line.?
?That's heinous.?
?That's capitalism,? she shrugged. ?Not that I'm proposing a collective or something. But I think it makes sense to evaluate our society with open eyes- not clinging to the myth of what America and its dreams are supposed to be about. Because it's not. And it hasn't been for a long time.?
I didn't even have to glance at the chat window to know it was blowing up.
?And that leaves means?? I asked, hoping we could back the conversation back from the ledge.
?Right. Which can be a complicated metric. But in this case it's having access to a gun, 9 mm. This is America, that narrows it down to anybody with half a day's wages to spend. And registrations are a joke- always were.?
?Motive it is, then,? I said. From talking to Jim and Tara, I knew a couple of groups who had that in spades. ?Let me know if you find anything else out.?
?Will do.?

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