They found white bone and blood among the garbage.

More chapters from ToxiCity

A VG Serial: ToxiCity

Episode 2

In Glenbrook Georgia Davis stretched yellow tape around as much of the parking lot as she could. A squad car blocked the entrance, but dozens of Blazers, Jeeps, and compacts managed to pull in around it. A cool October morning, condensation coated the windshields, but a bright sun hinted at the warmth to come. Word had spread quickly, and students, ignoring the bell that marked the start of classes, gathered in knots to gawk.

At the edge of the crowd, Robby Parker, her partner, wore a worried look. About a dozen kids were massed and pushing against the tape. If they broke through, they’d contaminate the scene. Georgia sprinted back to her cruiser and pulled a megaphone out of the trunk. Moving back over, she yelled into the crowd.

“Back up. Show’s over. Get to class.”

A collective grumble went up from the crowd. Most of the students dispersed, but a couple of rowdy types made a fast break. Robby grabbed one by the elbow, and Georgia barreled her shoulder into the other. Falling back, one of them clutched his chest, muttering something about police brutality.

“You think that’s brutality pal,” she said, “stick around.”

The boy eyeballed her but slunk off.

She sighed. She’d probably hear about it later.

A black Honda Accord swung around the corner and stopped a few yards away. Matt cut the engine and climbed out of the car, leaving the blinking light revolving on top —a beacon of sorts for the medical examiner, Georgia guessed.

At five ten, with powerful, well-defined muscles, Matt was compact but strong. Curly dark hair framed an angular face, and his long narrow nose looked like it had been broken more than once. Behind his rimless glasses, though, his large brown eyes were kind and gentle, and Georgia was a sucker for kindness.

He moved to the bed of the truck and climbed up. He covered his eyes for a moment, then dropped his hand and waved her over.

“Georgia, I need you to confirm that techs are on their way. And make sure they have plenty of gloves and Vicks. Call around if you have to. This is a hell of a mess.”

She nodded. She’d taken a quick look earlier. The bed of the truck was covered with garbage but she could make out bits of white bone and bloodstained flesh mixed in. Patches of tattered plaid material made a colorful addition. In a corner, under a layer of half-eaten lunches and homework papers, was a body minus an arm and leg. It was covered by the same tattered plaid. Another lump of flesh covered with blood lay in the opposite corner. A missing limb. Or part of it. In her three years on the job, Georgia had never seen anything like it. She’d blown out short bursts of air that vaporized in the morning chill.

Matt went over to the driver, who had situated himself as far away from the truck as he could. As Matt spoke to him, the guy started to nod, and his body language relaxed. That was Matt. Making you feel you were the only person in the world who mattered.

A Jeep Cherokee entered the parking lot and pulled up to Matt’s Honda. A young Asian woman climbed out. Jenny Lee, an evidence tech from the state crime lab. Village cops usually did their own tech work. If Matt had called Jenny, this was big.

Jenny dug latex gloves out of her pocket and walked over to the truck. Hoisting herself up, she studied the bed of the truck. Then she jumped down, and beckoned to Matt, the photographer, and the Medical Examiner, who had just arrived. Georgia heard them discuss how to break down the scene. Jenny suggested a square grid pattern, with the torso in the truck as the focal point.

Matt made some quick sketches of the scene, then nodded. “Go ahead. There’s a lot to sift through.” He turned to Jenny. “We’ve got extra hands, too, if we need ‘em.”

Meaning her and Robby.

Jenny was good at her job, they said. As she made way for the photographer, Matt asked her something, and Georgia saw her hand him a jar of Vicks. He rubbed some under his nose—he liked to work crime scenes along with the techs. Kept him honest, he said. Then he went over to Georgia.

“Great way to start the day, huh?” He gently punched her in the shoulder. Before she could answer, he turned around to rejoin Jenny at the truck.

She watched him go, impressed by how well he could compartmentalize. Whether it was work, prayer, or sex, his mind placed everything in its assigned cubicle, filing the appropriate emotions until needed. She couldn’t do that. She knew she should be more professional and focused—like Jenny. But she couldn’t. She knew they were in the middle of an ugly death scene. She knew it was not a time for her mind to wander. But, Christ, all she could think about was the way Matt made her feel last night in bed.

 ***

Six hours later a local funeral home sent a hearse for the remains. The ME followed it to the morgue where he would determine cause of death. Or try to, he said. They had bagged the body and collected the missing limbs, but the ME said there wasn’t as much blood in the truck as he expected for someone who’d been through a meat grinder, and most of it was dark and viscous. Maybe the victim was already dead before they went into the dumpster. Matt dispatched Detective Pete Brewster down to the morgue.

By mid afternoon, an officer, foraging in the bed of the truck, found most of a red purse under a layer of garbage. Cards inside the wallet identified its owner as Julia Rose Romano. Georgia checked with the high school. Romano taught math but she hadn’t shown up this morning. The secretary checked her file, and her blue Saturn, its doors locked, was found not far from the dumpster. Matt instructed the techs to go over it from bumper to bumper and told Georgia and Robby to tag all the cars nearby. An early-bird student or teacher might have seen something.

An hour later Brewster called with a positive ID.

Episodes in the novel will be published on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

Please click the following title,ToxiCity, to read more about Libby Fischer Hellman’s books on Amazon.

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