Author: Riley Meachem
“You eat before you got here? Because, not to be gross, but this is a fuckin mess.”
“I’ve seen worse.” Catalonia whistfully gave the cul-de-sac a once over. “He staged the killing in the middle of his own private amphitheatre. A downtown cul de sac, where no one ever goes. His own private pirandello play.”
The uniformed officer raised an eyebrow. “The fuck?”
“Pirandello? He was an Italian thinker, who came up with Umorismo, the…” she stopped. “Doesn’t matter. Look, the fact the killer left the body here means something, ok? It’ll help us catch him.”
The officer shrugged, his fat grey mustache twitching sadly as he responded “Whatever you say, boss.” He said the last part with a bit of derision and scorn, that could have meant a million things. Did he resent the fact she was a celestial, giving a native low-towner orders? A woman? Or the fact she looked so young? She didn’t let her mind wander too much over the picayune. The man was nothing to her. What he thought made no difference.
The officer lifted the fencing surrounding the scene, and Catalonia slipped under it, into the Cul-De-Sac. 20 years ago, a place like this would have been a bazaar of illegal wares: uppers, downers, digital scrips, weapons, pimps, organs, new DNA transplants. But ever since Walt Templeton’s cartel had been wiped out, this area of town was dead quiet.
With the occasional exception of something like this.
The Celestial lay spread eagled on the cracked asphalt, mouth wide open, arms extended like an angel. His eyes were glassy and unfocused, and the bloody puddle around him had begun to dry into a thick, rusty brown.
Both his hands had been chopped off. His ID bracelet was missing. And someone had taken his jacket. He lay there, shirtless, so that anyone looking down from the surrounding high rises would see the gruesome lacerations that had opened his toso.
She slipped on some gloves, and slowly approached the scene, getting down on her knees when she reached the cadaver.
The wounds were precise. Surgical. This wasn’t the work of some incensed serial killer as she’d suspected. The fact there were no ligature marks or gunshots meant he hadn’t been tied up, tortured or killed before the cutting started, right here, where she was standing. A couple of men had held him there, while someone with a scalpel made the incissions.
“Shit,” she muttered, then stood up. “Who’s in charge of this territory?”
“Well, Councilman Xanders is…”
“No, no. Who really runs it. Who has street presence?” she clarified.
“No one, really. Ever since Templeton got pushed out of that high rise, the only person who’s ever moved shit here was officer Caldwell. And he filled out ricin resignation papers when he was caught stealing product from the evidence locker.” The officer shrugged. Somewhere near her, there was the loud clicking of a device taking a video inventory of the scene.
“Well, it belongs to someone now. This guy was left here for a reason. He’s a challenge. whoever did this is showing that his crew can kill a celestial unopposed, with no consequences.” She looked up at the man in question. “Prove him wrong.”
“Sure. Top of my pile of casework. Soon as the papers pick this up I’m sure I’ll get some unlimited overtime.” The man said. He popped a piece of gum in his mouth as he said it.
“Why take the organs though? The ID bracelet, the hands? Why make it harder for us to ID him when he could have just shot him in the face?”
“You kidding?” the officer asked.
She gave him a stern look. “No. What does it mean, officer?”
“People down here get fucking sick. They fucking die of every goddamn thing you can imagine. No growing new guts when they get gangrene or a new stomach after poisoning. They fuckin’ die. And they’ll do anything to stop dying.”
“So they… get the organs transplanted from murder victims?” she asked.
“No, they just juggle them. It’s a big thing down here, organ juggling. My brother ustacould juggle seven kidneys at once. ‘Course they fuckin’ transplant them.”
“But the organs won’t grow back. Won’t regenerate. not when they’re not in the host body.” “So? They still work, for a little while. Free organs, guaranteed to fit with any blood type, that any poor bastard can afford without any C-town creds, and a hefty loan from the local loan shark. Most of us would rather live with new organs from some dumb schmuck who was too stupid to stay alive than die poor and helpless. Not that you’d know anything about that. Fuckin… he trailed off.
“Sorry?” Catalonia asked, sternly. “Didn’t catch that part. Fuckin’ what?”
The old man sighed. “Look, I’m sorry. it’s just not every day I gotta go through shit like this.”
“It’s fine. Why the hands and bracelet?” she pushed. But she knew the answer to that one already.
“More money?” the cop hazarded. Catalonia scoffed and left the scene.
Only a fool would sell a bracelet like that, and two hands that bore prints in the C-town data base. Whoever owned those was a celestial in all but name.
She gave one last parting look at the ravaged corpse lying on the ground, staring up at the uncaring ceiling. No wonder she’d thought it was some sort of mad animal or deranged serial killer that had done the work. If you spent enough time down here, it was easy enough to become both.
She made a mental note to herself to write another check to the C-town gives foundation.