Hi! OK the title of this one might make you think it’s Sci-Fi, but its not. In fact, I don’t really know what to call it. My best approximation is its crime horror. Can’t say more than that as I could give more away than I wish to and ruin the story. So without further ado, here is Reskin, enjoy!

Sovel Bhuva, a police detective with a shaved head, five days worth of black stubble and a pair of hazel eyes, steps off the elevator of a downtown apartment block near the centre of the city. Each of the steps he takes is long and that is why it takes him only ten of them to reach the open apartment door outside of which is posted a uniformed officer. Sovel nods to the officer. He recognises the woman but can’t say he is aware of her name. For that reason alone he is inclined not to risk making a fool of himself and blurting a name that would more than likely end up being incorrect. He could look at her badge but that would be too obvious. If her attention were diverted he might but she is looking straight at him and been during much of his approach.

The female uniformed officer returns the nod fully aware of whom he is and then gestures that he is clear to enter. One of the perks of being a lifer in the force is that people tend to recognise your face. Of course that can also have its drawbacks. Usually these drawbacks come in the form of someone wanting a favour for some reason or another. The most popular is to have Sovel sign their papers when they put in for promotion. At one time he’d been reticent to attach his name to any such thing for fear that these people he doesn’t actually know might be capable of harming his rep purely by association. Such fears are long gone now. It surprises him he was ever that green as he crosses the threshold into the studio apartment. It’s on one of the lower levels of this towering block but that doesn’t mean that it’s cheap. In this part of town nothing is cheap. He certainly can’t afford to live round these parts. Not that he would wish to if he had the capital. Sovel’s idea of comfort is space and this apartment has almost none. It’s a shoe box and though tastefully decorated with what he assumes is the furniture that likely came with this apartment; it is not to his taste. Too many empty white walls that look like unused canvas for his liking and then there’s the ceiling, the elaborate corning’s that are supposed to make the building, or at least this room, look far older than it actually is. To each their own, the detective thinks before dropping his gaze to find a young male officer pointing in the direction Sovel will want to take. It’s a silent exchange and Sovel offers his thanks with a smile before pivoting and making a b-line for a wide door less arch. Not much privacy here the detective thinks. His shiny black leather laced shoes sink into the overly plush cream carpet. With how spongy it is Sovel will guess that it is not only new but expensive too. Carpets aren’t really his thing. He prefers hard floors but can fully understand as to why an apartment tower block would have carpets in place of hard floors. Yet, it looks like it has barely seen use and he feels a little guilty that he and his colleagues are trudging over it with their shoes on. Then again this is a crime scene and there is no way he’d take his shoes off first. On so many levels that would be a bad idea, he thinks.

Having passed through the archway Sovel turns to his right feeling the flow of the room and its now mildly gaudy furnishings urging him to do so. Immediately his eyes come to rest on Kelly, the coroner on duty, who is stooped low to the ground collecting some fibre or another that if he is honest he cannot make out from where he is as he looks down at her just above the shoulder wavy black hair. But he is pleased it’s her he shares a shift with now. Unlike the last coroner they had on this shift, Michael, Kelly Holliday is the epitome of professionalism. It is clear she actually gives a damn about her job. It’s a welcome and refreshing change after the lazy barely communicative Michael who only seemed to do anything when you questioned as to why he was stood leaning against a wall, door jamb or piece of furniture. Sovel hates to think what might have been missed or contaminated because of his actions.

Suddenly Kelly feels a presence. She finishes collecting the fibres; she thinks they’re hair. They were embedded into this section of carpet but now once extracted she lifts her head to find those highly polished black shoes. They can belong to only one man. She smirks, stows the fibres in a test tube, seals it and then rocks back onto her haunches so that she can get a view of something other than the carpet and a set of shoes. To absolutely no surprise Sovel is stood before her, his arms are by his sides and his hands are deep in his pockets. If not for the stubble and shaved head Kelly is sure he’d look like a school boy with the way his hazel eyes dart about never willing to stay still for more than a few seconds.

“What you got for me Kelly?” Sovel queries with a soft expression. Kelly is fully aware that he is softer with her than his reputation claims he was with her predecessor, but she fully understands why. She hadn’t at first and the green eyed coroner had feared that Sovel was intent on pursuing something between them. Then she’d heard how difficult Michael, the previous coroner, had been in terms of trying to get any information. Captain Hu had put it best. Talking to Michael was like trying to get blood out of a stone. It was odd because everything before working this job said he was the model of helpfulness. Kelly guesses it might have been the result of age. He’d become sick and tired of the violence, so it is probably just as well he accepted the offer of early retirement a couple months ago. Sadly, it came just weeks prior to a spate of unconnected murders. As a result, that meant Kelly ended up being thrown into the deep end, but between Captain Hu and Detective Sovel, they had made sure to make her feel welcome.

“Not as much as I think I should have if I’m being completely honest with you detective. It is clear something happened here but…” Kelly trails off. Not because Sovel’s expression has changed and he’s looking bored. Some detectives do when she speaks because all they want is the facts, bullet points, fast and to the point. Sovel, thus far, hasn’t been like that. Perhaps that’s just how he is. Perhaps he’s under orders from Captain Hu to be patient. She doesn’t know the detective well enough to say which it is. Thankfully, she hasn’t received another call and had to do things in a rush like nearly every other one of these murder scenes that she’s been too. Though, this is by far the weirdest one she’s been to so far.

When she gets back to the office and the shifts change she’ll consult with her colleagues. She is on the night shift after all and there is a chance that one of her co-workers on another shift has come across something similar. In some ways she hopes they haven’t as this is quite worrying, to say the least.

“Thus far I’ve collected fibres, prints, the usual but I won’t be able to tell you until…” Kelly trails off again and just in time for Sovel to reply, “Yeah, the lab, I know. Anything else?” The detective sounds a little disappointed as his hazel eyes flit from Kelly’s green ones to the room around them. He sees nothing out of the ordinary which is about right for recent ‘murders.’ Yet, Sovel wouldn’t call this a murder. A missing person yeah but for a murder you need a body and there isn’t one. Unless Kelly has been keeping something from him thus far that is. If she has though he would expect there to be subordinates of hers present, but there isn’t. The coroner is alone and from the bags under her eyes she’s been burning the candle at both ends. Sovel is convinced her look isn’t the result of partying. She doesn’t strike him as the type. Then again Michael, to look at him, didn’t have the look of an unhelpful jackass but he sure as hell was one. Appearances can be deceiving. He knows that and should more than most being a detective.

“There is one thing. You’ll really want to see it. It’s in the bathroom.” Kelly rises to her full height of barely more than five feet as she speaks. Then moments before a gesture meant to beckon the detective she shuffles off. Sovel spies the plastic slips over her shoes and immediately feels a little irked that he didn’t do the same. Then again by the time it crossed his mind it was too late, so he lets it go while he follows the coroner over to the bathroom door. It’s white, panelled and wide open to present a room beyond that is nearly the size of the bedroom itself. Sovel doesn’t get the point in that. It’s a fashion thing but one that makes little sense to him as no one lives in a bathroom. Sure it’s where you clean and groom yourself but he could get a three seater sofa, coffee table and entertainment centre in here if not for the presence of the walk-in shower and large corner bath that is. Everything is tiled, floor, walls and ceiling and in all the same sand colour too. However, the contents of the bathroom is not what his eyes are drawn too. Rather, his eyes are fixed on the bath which has maybe an inch and a half of water at the bottom alongside what looks like a mass of shed skin. It looks like a snake must have been present as it’s the only animal he can think of that does such a thing like shed its skin. Maybe a snake is the murderer. Stranger things have happened. Still, Sovel’s reaction is a shudder at the sight of the mass. It comes and passes mere seconds prior to him feeling inclined to ask, “What is it?” As he does Kelly scoops up a section of the mass and hauls it up like a discarded shirt out of the water. Sovel feels his skin crawl but manages to keep himself in check. He hates snakes but this mass doesn’t look like snakeskin now he has a better look at this section no longer submerged in water.

Kelly looks at Sovel, she blinks several times almost in disbelief and then offers a look that suggests she is surprised he’s asking such a question because she thinks it should be clear to the detective what it is be is being shown. Sovel says nothing in response to the look. Rather, he simply waits. An awkward silence hangs in the air for a few seconds and following it Kelly admits, “Its skin without a shadow of a doubt but not like anything I have ever seen.”

“Give me your best guess.” The detective replies without missing a beat. He adds a shrug as the words pass his barely parted lips. It’s clear to him the coroner has something to say, and he wants to hear what it is.

Kelly isn’t confident that she wishes to say the only thing that comes to mind but the look on the detectives face implies that he might not be aware that she isn’t referring to animal skin. “I think someone was skinned here and it certainly wasn’t willingly.”

Sovel says nothing in reply. Rather, he thinks for a moment. He has a look on his face meant to convey to anyone around him that he is in thought. Rarely, has the coroner ever seen someone have an easily determinable expression to indicate they are actively mulling thoughts over in their head, but Sovel has. She wonders if it’s a learned expression. She would surmise that it is but convincingly natural looking if she is correct. The likelihood of her ever finding out is, slim. When she was younger the lack of a resolution would have eaten away at her, but she’s got passed that now that she’s in her mid-thirties. However, that does not mean that it is easy for her still to reach acceptance of not receiving an answer to a question she has. Sometimes it really is not and she has to make a conscious effort to move past her intrigue. It’s easier when she reminds herself that any pursuit could be misconstrued. That is the very last thing she wants. She isn’t interested in dating a cop or anyone else she works with. Work and personal time, in her mind, must be kept separate at all costs. Her reasons are many but largely uninteresting and predictable she expects.

Finally Sovel finishes his considerations. To be honest he’s drawing a blank. He would have expected that if someone were skinned here then there would be more than just a pile of flesh. He feels the shudder again. It’s near permanent now and comes in waves. But thus far he’s still keeping himself in check. Under the surface however, his skin is crawling and he feels a definite trough of disgust that were he not on the job would necessitate he drink large amounts of milk to ease the spin cycle like revolutions he can feel his gut performing. “What purpose do you think this act serves?” Sovel is hoping for some indication of intent that he has not been able to grasp due to wrestling with himself to keep his lunch where it belongs. It’s late but the detective still hasn’t eaten since. He was about to when he got the call. He should have grabbed something on the way but, to be truthful, it felt disrespectful of other people’s time to do so. Now he’s glad he didn’t. Though, fears he won’t be able to eat until this case is over and whoever is behind the possible skinning is caught.

To his shock there is no shudder on this latest mention of what Kelly is suggesting happened here. That’s experience for you, Sovel thinks. After all, experience doesn’t negate feelings, it simply helps you deal with and then move past them quicker. You desensitise quicker than everyone else. Never immune, just quicker to acceptance, and you have to be when you’re a homicide detective because you see plenty of death, often gruesome and always heartbreaking.

“That is beyond my remit detective. I believe that’s why you’re here. I just present what I know. It’s for you to understand motive.”

“Yeah.” Sovel sounds distant for a couple seconds. The tone doesn’t last long and is soon overwritten and replaced with something close to normal when he next speaks.

“See if you can get any prints off it. I hold little hope but…” It is the detectives turn to trail off this time but the coroner fully understands him and nods prior to offering in response, “I’ll do my best detective.”

Sovel nods and turns on his heels. He doubts there are any witnesses, but he best check with whoever is the highest ranking uniform on scene just to make sure. The detective is going to need all he can get to crack this case he feels. Though, he still wonders where the body might be. It has to be somewhere. He’ll order a search of the buildings dumpsters and maintenance areas to be sure.

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