Part 2 - The Victim
The mortuary appeared like a forgotten mausoleum. It was built out of a solid metal that at one point may have been shiny or even reflective but after years of pollution and decay had turned a dull grey, almost stone like colour. It's massive eight foot high doors were imposing and acted as an almost deterrent against the legion of homeless that Region 601 held. It was with an excruciatingly loud squeal that these doors opened when pushed allowing Paul and Redd access to the mortuary.
Once inside the building the reception was no more welcoming. A large bulletproof window covered an opening in an almost totally intact wall. On the other side of this window sat a girl who no older than her early twenties had been haggard by drugs or alcohol or possibly just poor living conditions. The small microphone in front of her picked up the tinny sound of a cheap radio that had been placed just out of sight as it played what the Bounty Hunters could only assume was supposed to be passable for modern day classical music. Beside the girl an old rusty fan oscillated and groaned it's own industrial tune as it blew a slight breeze onto the girls face. On the other side of the glass was the waiting area which consisted of a small space no bigger than ten feet by five and housed an old metal table; apparently welded to the floor, and a single plasteel chair, also welded to the floor.
Paul approached the reception window while Redd remained near the door. As he approached the receptionist the room behind the girl became more obvious. It was nothing bigger than a box to house it's occupant with nearly enough space for the girl to turn on her chair. Paul took note of the digi-pad she was reading. It appeared to be displaying a novel or a short story, something by M. R. James of all people. Paul smiled as he saw the title header Whistle and I'll come to you one of his favourites. The girl looked up from her digi-pad.
"Can I help you gentlemen?" Her voice was nasally and she only moved one side of her mouth when she talked.
Paul leaned against the wall to one side of the window.
"Yes we're here to see the body?" He paused before flashing his Bounty Hunter badge in her direction, leaving it long enough for her to see what it was, but not long enough to see that it only held jurisdiction in Free Port, not the Block. Tucking the badge away Paul continued; "Caroline West, twenty five years old? Should have been brought in about two days ago?"
The girl swiped across her digi-pad and it switched from yellowed white in colour to surgical blue, she ran her fingers down the pads spine as it scrolled through the list of bodies currently held on site. The list was astounding.
"Yer, here we are" the girl said in an almost drone "I'll page the mort, get him to bring her up for you".
With that she swiped her index finger back across the pad and it switched back to it's yellowed white colour. At the same time there was a loud horn as a panel in the metal panelling alongside the window opened with a shunt revealing a long dimly lit corridor.
Paul thanked the girl and gestured to Redd who removed himself from the doorway and accompanied his partner down the corridor.
At the far end of the corridor was a single wooden panelled door from behind it the deep haunting sounds of Bach's Air on a G String seeped out. Redd carefully pushed the door open and the pair peered into the poorly lit workroom ahead.
The room was large, about twenty feet by ten but was cluttered with rows upon rows of work tables each one draped in a medical green cloth which presumably kept a body hidden from view. At the far end of the room there stood the mortician, a man roughly six feet tall who wore hospital scrubs, an operating hat and mask complete with safety goggles from which lights were attached which illuminated the corpse on the table before him. He looked up at the two as they entered and gestured with a blood soaked rubber glove for them to approach.
"Come in, come in!" Called the mortician in an elderly English accent. He sounded like the type of man you would expect teaching as a professor of history or some other humanities subject in the films from the twentieth century.
"I'm Doctor Rutherford, and you are?" The mortician continued before gesturing at the hunters.
"Homes and Redd" Paul replied pulling out his badge once more. Rutherford nodded and carefully removed his gloves before replacing them with a sterile pair. Rutherford then turned away from the men before limping his way to a nearby table.
Pulling back the medical cloth Rutherford revealed the body of a young woman, no older than the girl on the front desk but with skin as white and pristine as porcelain.
"It's not often we get one of these in here" stated Rutherford with a grim tone in his voice. "This girl isn't from the six hundreds. Based on her skin alone I'd put her up high, maybe even in the one hundreds regions".
Paul stepped closer and eyed the body up. There were marks showing signs of injury. Some of them were recent, maybe even related to her death. Others were much older, most of them treatment scars from fat and blemish removal. The doctor was right on this one, she was not from the six hundreds.
"Doctor Rutherford?" Asked Redd "mind if we have a look at your notes?"
The doctor nodded and pulled out a digi-pad before cycling through about 18 pages and then in a upwards swipe transmitted the data across to Redd's own device.
"Knock yourself out" replied Rutherford, "but you won't find anything new in there, she was a victim of a mugging gone bad, nothing more".
Redd studied the notes from his wrist mounted Personal Assistant, his forehead wrinkling into knots. It took many moments before he said anything;
"Doc...?" Asked Redd finally "you said here that she's been working the streets? A prostitute?" Rutherford nodded "why would a socialite from the hundreds be pulling tricks in the six hundreds?" Continued Redd.
Rutherford shrugged and turned his back on the body returning slowly to the cadaver he was working on when they arrived.
"Take your time, there's nothing you'll find on her that's not in the notes" ended Rutherford before replacing his gloves one more time and resuming his work.
Minutes turned to hours and Redd grew impatient as Paul went over the girls body inch by inch. On more than one occasion he stopped to examine a wound before passing over another and then studying a further one. After what felt to Redd like half a day and Rutherford had already finished for the night leaving a custodian to maintain watch on both the building and the Bounty Hunters, Paul finally said something to Redd.
"Here; the neck. See it?"
Redd crouched down low over the neck of the girl. He held his breath to avoid the smell of preservative. He couldn't see anything on the girls neck.
Paul shook his head in almost disapproval before sliding a finger alongside her jugular before lifting an almost invisible flap of skin. It was only about a centimetre in size but appeared cleanly cut and not there by design.
"What we have here" stated Paul, and air of authority in his tone "is the remains of a laser scalpel wound" Paul paused "this girl had some surgery here, and by the looks of the bruising on the inside" Paul gestured inside the small wound "it was done recently".
- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley