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Coroner’s Office, Austin, Texas
“Can you hear me?” A quiet voice whispered as the coroner and his assistant removed the body in the black bag out of the freezer draw and placed it on the table. “Can you hear me?” The voice repeated as the bag was unzipped to reveal the body of a Hispanic man in his early forties, streaks of black road tar stained down from his eyes and burn marks ruing up and down his arms.
“Let me sleep.” A second voice answered. “Leave me to the place in hell that I have carved out for myself.”
“You will disappointed with what you find.” The whisperer told him, as the coroner made an incision into the bodies’ chest, a stream of stinking oil sloshing out of his stomach and lungs. “Death is not separated for the just and the wicked that your clergymen, rabbis and imams preach about.”
“Regardless I am ready to rest.” The second voice announced, it words strong despite the tiredness of its voice.
“I can give you the name of the one behind your downfall, the one who orchestrated the events that led you to the death of everything you built.” The whisperer hissed as the coroner’s assistant took photos of the burn marks on the man’s left arm. “The traitorous asp who suckled at your organisations bosom before striking when you dropped your guard.”
“I had my suspicions, even from the first day.” The second voice sighed. “Even if I could wish to get revenge, such things are beyond my capability.”
“Wish granted.” The whisperer purred as the body on the table opened its eyes to see not just the coroner and his assistant, but a third figured dressed in blue samurai armour and a mask, seemingly invisible to the mortal men. “Rise and seek vengeance.” The armoured whisperer hissed as the bulbs in the lights exploded plunging the room into darkness.
“Doctor are you okay?” A voice asked as a tiny spark of flame appeared in the middle of the room. “What is…?” The assistant stopped as the flames engulfed the entire body, one who was standing up and walking towards them. “Oh shit!!”
Avalon, Grand Junction, Colorado
Maya Grady adjusted the glass resting on her nose as she sat in the booth and watched the patrons of the nightclub Avalon writhe on the dance-floor. Dressed in a purple blouse and skinny black jeans she looked out of her place, something that was compounded by the noise cancelling headphones she had on and the glass of water in her hands. While the scantily clad twenty something year olds were here to fun, to let their hair down on a Friday evening, Maya was here working. A few days ago she had been contacted by a woman who believed her husband was sleeping with another woman. And while Ian Wilson, the gentleman in the mesh top and hot-pants hadn’t made his move yet, he was likely only two or three more shots of vodka away from leaving with the blonde dressed in a blue leotard and mini skirt that he was grinding against.
Getting to her feet, Maya slipped into the crowd and headed to the bar before sliding the bartender another ten dollar note before pointing at Ian and his partner. She hated clubs, they were dangerous environments where inhibition ruled, not instinct or intelligence. Maya had made it clear to her partner at Valkyrie Investigations that she was not going to take on the case, but her partner Danika had insisted, stating that they needed to take paying jobs on, as well as doing pro-bono work for those who needed it. Heading back to her booth, Maya ground her teeth as she remembered her last case. While she had solved a missing person case, the bounty she had received for tracking down the abductor didn’t soothe the feeling of being used by the same person, in a sick mockery of the real suffering parents felt when their children were kidnapped.
“Your place or mine?” The blonde muttered, her voice slurred, as she collapsed against Ian, a drunk grin spread across her face.
“Yours, my wife.” Ian hiccupped, as the pair of drunkards staggered towards the exit, unaware of the tail they had picked up. Struggling with their coats, Maya looked down to check the battery life in the recording device hidden in her glasses, her foot tapping as she waited for the drunk couple to finally vacate the premise. Finally Ian and his date stumbled out into the street, the neon lights of the club barely visible after a few steps into the thick autumn fog that had descended into the streets of Grand Junction. Fortunately for Maya, her prey wasn’t too hard to track, their giggling and staggering gait made them easy to follow even for a novice tracker, and Maya was no novice, she’d spent at least two years following people when she’d worked as an undercover police officer down in El Paso.
“Hey is that a dog?” The blonde asked as she kneeled down. “Here dogo, come on puppy.” She cooed before vomiting in the street. Staying slightly behind the couple, Maya looked past them to see a large dog, possibly even a coyote standing in the street, its head cocked as it looked curiously at the couple. Seconds later it let out a yipping scream and sprinted away, its noise causing all the other dogs in the area to join in until a barking crescendo sounded around the street.
“Hey keep it down!!” Ian yelled, as he bent over to help his date up, only to stop as a woman with long dark hair curled into ringlets dressed in a leather micro-dress and heels trotted out of the darkness. “Sonia you can get home okay right?” Ian asked as he left his date in the street. Shaking her head Maya took a few steps forward as Ian reached the woman a sheepish look on his face. “Hello, can I, can I help you.”
“Ypnos” The woman purred, as she stroked Ian’s cheek before walking back into the fog. Smiling Ian turned back to Sonia and Maya, the later helping the drunk woman off the floor, before falling backwards onto the street. Sitting Sonia down, Maya walked over and felt Ian’s pulse only to realise that his body was cold and that there was no pulse. Not only that but there was a gunshot wound in his chest, albeit an old one from the lack of blood that looked as if it had never healed, never had been closed by surgery. All in all, Ian Wilson looked as if he had been dead for days rather than the few seconds between his fall and Maya reaching him.
Maya knew that the local police disliked her, not just because she was a private investigator, but because trouble followed in her wake. The investigating officer had taken a statement from both Maya and Sonia although the look on his face suggested that he thought they were drunk, despite the former giving a breathalyser sample to prove her sobriety. Reluctantly Maya had also explained about her job, how she had been keeping an eye on Ian for his wife, and had reluctantly handed her glasses over.
“Miss Grady, I assume you will be willing to come down to the station to sit down with a sketch artist tomorrow.” The officer, one Alistair Moody, stated, as he gave Maya a written receipt for her glasses.
“Of course, I’ve got nothing to hide.” Maya lied. While she had nothing to lie in connection with this case, her involvement with the infiltration and investigation of the El Tarantula Cartel down in El Paso was not on record, nor was her ties to her undercover persona Siwang AKA the Patron Saint of Crime, a deadly assassin who targeted law enforcement, albeit with staged attacks to gain credibility with the cartel’s boss, one Julio Boccanegra. “I would also get onto animal control, there was coyote in the street just before Mr Wilson died, that can’t be normal right?”
“From what I hear lots of coyote reports have been coming in all over the city.” Moody told her. “Animal Control sent out a statement to the public, if you want to know more talk to them about it.”
“I may just do that.” Maya replied, as she watched the CSI team take photos of Ian’s body and the street. “Can I go, it’s late and you’ve taken DNA, a statement and checked for gunshot residue.”
“Sure, you can take your friend home too.” Moody told her, as he pointed to Sonia, the young woman shivering as she sat on the step of one of the stores, a cup of coffee in her hand.
“No problem.” Maya hissed through gritted teeth. She really didn’t want to interact with Sonia any more than she had to.
The studio apartment Sonia Barton called home was surprisingly clean, something that Maya was glad of since she’d spent enough time in the homes of junkies down in Texas. For her part Sonia hadn’t argued too much when Maya suggested she walk the young woman home, and despite being very loud earlier on, was now very quiet, a sign of shock at what had happened early that night.
“Th…thank you.” Sonia gulped, as Maya headed to leave.
“No problem.” Maya answered gruffly.
“I can’t believe Ian died again.” Sonia gasped, as she walked over to the fridge and removed a bottle of cheap vodka. “That’s how I met him, I was on my student nurse placement and he was rushed in with a gunshot wound to the right lung. We put him into a medically induced coma for the surgery, I ended up bringing him back twice after the bullet was removed.” She stated, as Maya made a mental comparison between the wound she’d seen on Ian’s body and the location Sonia had mentioned. “When he came back he said he was going to live life to the max, get out of the loveless marriage he was in.”
“You told the police this?” Maya asked, with Sonia nodding in confirmation. “Sonia I’m sorry, if you need anything give me or my partner a call.” She added, as she removed a business card out of the pocket in her jeans. Placing it on the kitchen island, Maya walked out of the studio apartment and headed down the stairs to the street. Her own home was across the city, and it was too late to catch a bus, but that was alright, Sonia had given her a lot to think about. Ian’s second mysterious death was gnawing at her curiosity, not least because Maya had died herself, before being resurrected years later by unnatural means. As she walked off into the fog she turned and saw what looked like a homeless man squatting in an alley way just off the main street, a hood and blanket pulled over his body to keep warm.
Sonia poured the last of the vodka into a chipped shot glass as she wiped the tears from her face. “Here’s to you Ian.” She toasted, before stopping as she saw an orange glow shine from behind her door. Putting the shot glass down, she walked over to the phone, just as the lock on her door melted and a figure dressed in a hooded cloak and a dirty suit shirt and trousers walked towards her, twin glowing pinpricks flickering where the intruder’s eyes should be. “I need help please someone is in my house!!” She yelled down the phone, the dial tone still buzzing as the figure walked past the kitchen island, the heat it gave off causing the vodka to spontaneously combust.
“Hello 911 what’s your emergency?” The operator on the other end of the line asked, only to get a female scream in response followed by silence.