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The Dead Bin

by Gary Clifton

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Chapter 17: Hell’s Clone

Tears won’t bring back those poor souls on a slab. The best you can do is try to seek something called justice on their behalf.

The morgue was tucked away in the basement of the Southwest Institute of Forensic Sciences behind sprawling Parkland Hospital complex on Harry Hines Boulevard.

Dr. Emily Rosetti, thirties, brunette, blood-splattered, green lab coat, smiled at Harper and me. That she was an attractive lady was enhanced in weird times ten by the sea of dead, naked bodies strewn about on gurneys in the background.

Yeah, I’d “dated” her a couple of times a few months earlier, which amounted to a censored evening on her sofa, playing “doctor.” Then, I’d met Janet. The good doc moved on to greener pastures, and we retained a friendly relationship.

“Blue Frog files.” She smiled demurely as a droplet of blood from her rubber-gloved left hand hit the floor. “On the way.”

Harper said to me hoarsely, “I called her and said we’d be coming by.”

“Your cases, Emily?” I asked the doctor.

“Autopsied both. Zophie... something. Cute little babe with knockers women pay twenty grand for. A male John Doe: fire destroyed most DNA. We recovered enough for limited comparison, but never found a matching specimen in file. Looney-tick at work.”

“Looney-tick” brought visions of her sofa.

“Similar murder last night,” I said. “Probably not related, but too close to ignore.”

“I autopsied last night’s vic earlier this a.m. COD is burns with flammable liquid, to wit, gasoline. Wanna see the body?”

“Jesus,” I said. “Photos are good enough.”

“Heard your ass was on the pan. You in Homicide now, huh?”

“Junior Homicide. The Cold Homicide Unit.”

She shook her head. “The Dead Bin. Jesus, sorry... Also sorry about Washington. A good guy. I saw you at the funeral, but you didn’t look in the mood to chit-chat.”

A clerk tossed two folders stamped “Blue Frog” on a sink drainboard. I dug through them. A copy of the shot of the red boots was in Zophie’s file. I held up a photo of men’s burned shoes from the John Doe. “This John Doe wearing shoes, Doc?”

“If they were on his feet when we bagged him, we routinely photographed them... and probably still have them. Evidence boxes are on the way down. If those red boots were on her feet, they’ll be here too.” She confirmed what Harper had already pointed out: we weren’t going to find the boots.

I held the two Blue Frog death photos of the victims side by side. “Both tied with the same odd knot,” Harper said. “We figured same perp.”

“Piggin’ Loop.” Dr. Rosetti smiled at her secret knowledge. I knew for a dead solid fact she was good with secrets.

Harper and I looked at her, surprise apparently showing.

“Grew up on a ranch in West Texas. Cowboys use that knot to tie a calf’s three legs when bulldogging.” She tapped the photo. “Carry it in their teeth as they ride.”

“Quick capture or kinky sex gone mad,” Harper said. Works either way.”

“Both, maybe,” Dr. Rosetti said. “Knots from last night badly damaged, but if I had to guess, I’d say probably the same knot. But not beyond that reasonable doubt y’all look for.”

The same clerk two-wheeled a pair of boxes and humped them onto the drainboard. Aside from a few remnants of burned cloth, the only identifiable evidence was a pair of scorched men’s work oxfords, size eleven. The left shoe was equipped with an orthopedic ankle support. Stamped on the device were the words: Resource, Inc., Dallas, Texas L2144. I jotted down the info.

“We’ve already tried to run that down.” Harper gestured. Shipped to a shoe store in north Dallas, who swore they never got it. We did everything except pull off the store owner’s ’nads, but they had no record. Think he was shootin’ straight. Shoes never got there. Probably lost in transit.”

“Here’s the morgue file on last night’s murder: Elgard.” Dr. Rosetti held out a folder.

I opened it. “Think it’s related to the Blue Frog case? The M.O. is pretty close... but slightly different.”

“Long shot, but possibly.” Harper rolled his cigar. “Plenty of strange murders in Dallas.”

“You’re right, Emily,” I said. “Rope so badly burned the knots are mostly gone. How’d they ID her?”

“Her purse left in the room. She was murdered so close to the joint where she met the murderer in... uh, Couples. Uniforms just worked the bars on the street and found the right club. Flashed her driver’s license photo and the bar owner recognized she’d been in earlier.”

I didn’t feel the need to discuss my acquaintance with that bar owner in any more detail.

Proceed to Chapter 18...

Copyright © 2017 by Gary Clifton

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