Several hours later, having ran through a series of witnesses that were no such thing, and with the moon high in the clear cold night sky, Sovel is striding down the corridor of the coroner’s office building come lab complex. It’s quiet, eerily so if he’s being honest with himself. It’s pretty normal at this time of night, especially if Kelly isn’t being pulled from pillar to post as a result of a string of crimes that need her attendance.

Since she’s arrived in the city and become the nightshift coroner Sovel doubts she’s had many nights as peaceful as this one. Yet, he wouldn’t call it peaceful after having been at that scene with the shed skin. He has no reaction to thinking about what he saw now. Acclimatised, he notes feeling a mixture of relief and sadness. Truth is, no one should ever get used to the violence that the detective sees in this job and yet it’s inevitable. If it wasn’t then all detectives would be retching and puking everywhere like it’s their first day on the job. It’s a very long way from being Sovel’s first. He’s in his fifth year as a homicide detective. Unlike some of his co-workers he has no aspirations to ascend any higher than he is. He only ever wanted to be a detective, in homicide, and he’s achieved that goal, so plans on spending the remainder of his days on the frontline. Well, he still considers it the frontline. He’s semi-frontline, but a damn site closer than someone such as Captain Hu. Not that there is anything wrong with the Captain or the role he performs. It just isn’t for Sovel, in any way. He seriously doubts that it ever would be and intends if offered such a position to turn it down as many times as it takes for the message to be received.

The walls of the corridor that link the labs to the offices are bland, much like you’d expect in a place frequented by coroner’s. Occasionally there are posters plastered across the white walls which urge anyone who has suffered at the hands of crime to report it to the police immediately.

Sovel wonders what the intended purpose of the posters is, as civilians rarely enter this space. He hasn’t a clue and puts it from his mind as he bursts through the door and into Kelly’s lab. Like the other two coroners for this office Kelly has her own workspace. It is filled with her equipment in a layout that is best suited to her needs and wishes. Sovel has visited it, he doesn’t remember how many times before now, and that is not including when it had been Michael’s previously. Yet, Michael had never seemed to fully unpack whereas Kelly seems to have not only unpacked but got everything just as she likes it and in a matter of maybe two weeks. It was impressive when he’d first walked in and discovered that. That had set the tone for just how unlike Michael she was.

Sadly, on this occasion the detective isn’t met with the sight he’d expect. Instead of a smiling Kelly stood before him awaiting his entry, due to the camera feeds in her and the other coroner labs, or just busily working away with her back to him, Sovel is met with the presence of a dead skinless body. Sovel gulps while he rushes over to the corpse splayed out on the tiled floor. Beyond any doubt whoever they were they are dead. However, the body looks fresh. He really hopes it’s another victim or the one from the apartment building and he just wasn’t informed of its discovery.

Sovel drops to the white tiled floor, the blood from the fresh skinless body causes him to slip harmlessly. He ignores it as he grabs hold of the body to check for a pulse. It’s a vain and pointless attempt but the detective feels inclined to check just in case. To no surprise after thirty seconds he can safely say that the body is indeed lifeless. He knew it but still… He goes about checking the deceased over. Terror sits high in his chest but somehow he manages to keep his breathing under control. His hands are caked in blood, as are his slacks but he doesn’t’ rightly care. Blood can be washed off skin and slacks can be changed. They mean nothing compared to the life of a… Suddenly he takes in the shape and size of the body only to realise that it must be… He peels the eyelids back, the only skin left on the entire corpse. He finds the body’s eyes are green. His heart jumps to the back of his throat nearly choking off his ability to breathe entirely. His heart meanwhile thunders loudly in his chest and at a speed he would best describe as rapid fire. Then his head drops and his hazel eyes roll shut. His head shakes from side to side before he sighs. The sigh isn’t anywhere near as effective as he had hoped it would be. When he opens his eyes he still has the skinless body of who he is sure had been in life, Kelly, resting in his lap. A few minutes pass and during them the detectives sorrow turns to a boiling rage. Finally, he lays Kelly’s head flat against the tiled floor and climbs back to his feet. The floor is slippery with blood but he manages with little issue and a great deal of determination. It overrides what he knows he should do, call the death in. Instead, he begins to search Kelly’s lab. There has to be something that will lead to who might be responsible for this. After all, you have got to have an enormous set of balls to walk into a coroner’s office and kill the on duty coroner, skin her and then leave. It might be a slow night but the killer wouldn’t know that. How could they? No one knows how many crimes resulting in loss of life there will be during a shift. It isn’t predictable. It’s always changing and in flux from one day to the next. That means the killer wasn’t afraid of being caught. Sick bastard, Sovel thinks as he sifts through piles of paper files stacked about the place. They have a thin layer of dust on them which suggests they haven’t been touched recently, yet Sovel feels a necessity to check them nonetheless.

The detectives rummaging lasts a good fifteen minutes and at the end of it he has naught to show. In fact, his conclusion is that these paper files are almost entirely leftover from when Michael had been coroner. It doesn’t surprise Sovel, though he would have thought that they would have been turned over for redistribution or filing. He knows for a fact some of them are closed, with the perpetrators now serving time. That isn’t important now; Sovel hears his own voice shout in his head to knock him out of useless meandering. It works, but with limited options remaining the detective b-lines for the only option he feels might present him with something, Kelly’s laptop. It’s a silver grey colour, made of metal, aluminium to be exact, supposedly aircraft grade. Sovel always has doubts about that but who is he to argue? He’s a homicide detective not an aviation expert. Still, it makes no difference to him and so he slides into the overly rigid castor mounted brown seat which offers little comfort. In the following seconds the detective pries apart the delicately closed laptop until it is open and the screen is at an upward angle with the keyboard exposed. The laptop is immaculate, not that Sovel would expect anything else from a coroner.

By contrast Michael hadn’t been big on computers. In fact, he hated the things and refused to use them. So every time you wanted lab results you had to come down here and get them in paper form from the man himself. Apparently, he got a tech to print them all out if they weren’t performed here and sent by fax. Fax! Who the hell even uses fax machines anymore! Michael was the answer and Sovel could just imagine every time a request came through that any outside test that was performed had to be returned it should be done so via fax if possible. The detective wonders how many of the outside labs, not that many tests are done externally, flat out refused and sent the results via email only for a tech to waste his time printing them for their obstreperous superior. Sovel expects essentially all of them and why not. They’re not going to deviate from their normal operating habits just for one archaic man because he wanted to be a pompous windbag.

Still, when the screen springs to life after the touch of the power button Sovel is met with the login screen. Due to the speed with which he reached such a screen he surmises the laptop had been in hibernation. Not that concluding such helps him with circumventing the login because it doesn’t. After all, he hasn’t a clue what Kelly’s password and why would he? He wouldn’t. That would defeat the object of having a password. He could take a series of guesses but to be honest he doubts Kelly was the kind of person to use something universally overused such as password, her name or some other equally as insecure configuration of letters and numbers that anyone with three brain cells would have a decent chance at reaching. That is why Sovel rubs his forehead aggressively several times before urging himself to stop. The act isn’t helping him even if it might look to anyone else, if there were anyone else present, as though it is part of his thought process. “So what do I do now?” The detective asks himself aloud. He hasn’t’ a clue. He’s stuck, lost. The longer he sits here the more likely it is that whoever is responsible could get away with what they’ve done. Do I call it in now? I might have to. Don’t accept defeat! Sovel slams his fist on the desk. It shudders in reply. One of the piles of stacked files shakes, threatening to collapse. Miraculously they remain in place, much to Sovel’s relief. However, there is a quick skittering noise that sounds like paper that draws the detectives’ attention. To his surprise Sovel is presented with a document that has a post-it affixed to it with the name Detective Bhura on it, as well as the word attention.

Sovel gathers the document swiftly. It isn’t damaged but is far from A4 size. Sovel peels the adhesive note away to discover that below is a print match. The detective’s hazel eyes go wide while he skims the details. Finally his eyes land on the name of the possible match, Cornelius Long. Sovel doesn’t know the name, not one Iota but it’s a lead and there is an address attached. The detective almost leaps from the uncomfortable chair as he rushes for the exit and his car outside. He’ll call in the body on his way. Captain Hu will understand, he hopes.

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