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Monday, June 18, 2018

Microstory 866: Pierced Through

I’m sitting in the morgue, along with six strangers, and we’re all waiting to find out what we’re doing here. I already have a job in a mortuary uptown, and have no interest in a change of scenery. I only came because I was curious. People in my line of worked aren’t known for being poached by competitors. There’s a body on a table in the middle of the room, covered with a sheet. We’re obviously here for it, but why would there need to be so many of us? Finally a woman comes in and informs us that this is a particularly nasty case, and one that needs to be solved quickly, which is why they brought in a whole team. We’re here as temporary medical examiners, working for a government contractor, with employment to be terminated upon completion of the project. We would only work on a second case if necessary. One of the guys just leaves without saying a word, much to our apparent new superior’s dismay, but she could do nothing about it. The rest of us stay, but not everyone is happy about it. “I work a alone,” says one guy, making it painfully obvious that the only reason he works alone is because no one would ever want to work with him. He immediately takes over the investigation, insisting that he take charge of the file, and remove the sheet from the body. I see his face when he first lays eyes on the victim. He wants to jump back in fear, but he’s clearly restraining himself. He notices that I caught his microexpression, and he is not happy about it. We’ve all seen our fair share of death; blood, broken bones, terrifying mutilations, but I doubt anyone has ever seen this. The woman is covered in dermal piercings, in what looks to be a pattern, but no discernable one. After a quick examination, which I do unprompted, I conclude that all the piercings were done postmortem, which means this wasn’t just how the woman lived. The murderer pierced her body himself, to make some kind of statement. We just need to figure out what that statement is, and hope it somehow proves that he doesn’t plan to do it again.

He does it again. We still haven’t figured out what the piercings mean when another victim is found the next day. He’s displayed her in the middle of a park, wanting us to see it as soon as possible. Killers like this want to be discovered, and recognized for their work. They might not want to be caught, but they want us to know who they are. Over the course of the next five days, one new body shows up about every twenty-four hours, each one killed by suffocation, and we still haven’t made any progress. There’s no evidence that he plans on stopping until we stop him, so I come in after hours one night, and try to work on my own. It’s not that I think the others can’t contribute, but I cannot sleep with this hanging over my head. As I’m going over the medical files, the loner examiner walks in with a smug look on his face, and tells me that he’s called our boss about me coming in alone. He’s sure this will get me kicked off the team, but it doesn’t. Our boss calls in from a business meeting on the other side of the world to tell us she doesn’t care what we do to get the job done, as long as everything comes together in the end. That’s it. That’s what we have to do. We have to put all the bodies together. The pattern is continuous, not independent...he’s telling us a story. I scramble for the stack of photos we took, and start arranging them in different ways, looking for a way to solve the puzzle. Finally I see it, but I need to arrange the bodies themselves to get a better look. My nemesis reluctantly helps. I was right, it’s part of the logo for the company that we’re currently working for. Is this why we were brought in; because our boss knew it had something to do with them, and she couldn’t trust her own people? I suggest this possibility out loud, but my colleague disagrees. I turn around to find our boss with a knife to his throat. “It’s not about the company,” she says. “It’s about this team.” I question what exactly she means by this when the guy who quit before we got started rolls in with a seventh body, and uses it to finish the puzzle. He smiles and declares that they’re ready to go. The piercings suddenly begin to glow, and the bodies sit up. I stumble back in fear. “Contact the rest of your team,” our boss orders her accomplice. “We need to proceed with the second half of the puzzle.”

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