Every two or three weeks she met with Alicia Love and David Trent at a downtown Brooklyn Irish pub for a chat. Usually two or three officers joined them. This time it was just the three of them.
Sasha was having a wine which the two of them overlooked since it would be only a few months before she was legal. David was having a beer and Alicia, unlike her usual practice, was having a mixed drink heavy on hard liquor. Both looked depressed.
“You two aren’t usually so quiet. What’s up?”
The two detectives looked at each other and seemed to come to a shared conclusion.
Alicia said, “We’ve got a case which is giving us a headache.”
David said, “Most murders are pretty open and shut. Every once in a while someone gets clever, but usually not clever enough. We unravel it pretty quick. But we’ve got a serial murderer. He picks his victims at random, as far as we can tell. Never does it where anyone would see him. He leaves no traces except semen on the victim.”
“We left the morgue just before we came here. Give us a few more hours and we’ll be back to normal.” Alicia did not seem to believe her own words. She stared down into her glass.
David said, “The thing is, this is the third one. And he’ll kill again. Doesn’t make it easy on us knowing we probably can’t get him before he does it again.”
If she could see the body, smell or touch the semen, her internal chem lab would give her a picture to the man who committed the crime. And give her his odor.
But then what? She couldn’t go about a city of ten, twenty, thirty million people sniffing the wind. Even if she stuck to Brooklyn … Brooklyn was a big place, and for all she knew the murderer commuted.
Sasha took a sip of her wine, savored all the subtle flavors which even wine connoisseurs could not taste. She thought, idly waving a hand at the waitress to order another double-meat hamburger with fries.
“Damn, woman, another one?” Alicia had still not gotten over Sasha’s big appetite.
Sasha smiled, happy at breaking up her friend’s mood. But she still had a decision to make.
She made it just as the hamburger plate arrived. She added the extra tomato sauce she liked but sat considering her friends rather than take a bite.
“What? I’ve got a smootch on my face?” Alicia rubbed a hand across her mouth, smudging her lipstick ‑‑ yet another piece of evidence that she was upset. Normally she was very careful with her appearance though she affected the casual no-nonsense look she thought a woman detective should project.
“Look, I may be able to help with this murder. No. Hear me out.
“I’ve got this weird talent. I can smell things other people can’t. Not don’t. Can’t. Mostly I keep the volume turned way down, so to speak. Lots of crappy smells out there. In here. And I get images from the smells.”
David sat back in his seat, his face showing distaste ‑‑ or disappointment. “You’re saying you’re a psychic.”
“No. No. It’s not some weird mind-shit ‑‑” A phrase she had heard him use. “It’s biological. Here, let me show you.”
She half-stood, leaned toward him close enough to sniff his face and shirt with a loosened tie. Then she listed the strongest odors coming off him.
She sat down. “I could do more usually, but the wind took away most of it. I could make out mostly what was on your jacket under your over-coat.”
David was unconvinced but Alicia was looking at him speculatively. “You started smoking again?”
“No! I ‑‑ OK, I snuck just half a smoke outside while you were doing the paper-work at the ME’s.”
Alicia turned toward Sasha. “Do me.” So Sasha repeated the performance.
“Hmm,” said Alicia. She was looking thoughtful. But David Trent was still skeptical.
“OK, how about this,” Sasha said. “I’ll sit here with my back to room and my head straight ahead. One of you can watch to make sure I don’t peek. The other go about the room saying Hello to your friends. Pick one of them and lay a hand on the back of his head, or shake hands, or play-slap his face. Then come back and I’ll smell your hand and describe him. Or her.”
David rolled his eyes but lifted a hand in an “OK fine!” gesture at Alicia’s steady regard.
While Trent did what Sasha had suggested Alicia looked searchingly at Sasha. “You’re not playing some game, or scam, are you? We really are not in the mood for jokes.”
Sasha assured her that she was not faking. Then the two sat in silence while Sasha applied herself to eating her ‘burger and fries washed down with wine.
David sat down across from Sasha and extended his hand toward her. “OK, play your little trick.”
Sasha leaned and sniffed, and sat back in her seat. “You cheated. You touched two people. But that’s fine.”
He had shaken hands with one man and laid his hand on one woman’s bare arm. Sasha read the traces of the two people and described them.
“I still don’t see what your trick is,” he said when she had finished and gone on to finish her hamburger.
“Not a trick. I don’t understand it. I just do it. But I think I read their DNA somehow, you know, their genes? Because I don’t ‘read’ their scars and burns and broken bones. Or age. I read what they would look like if they grew to adult-hood and stopped maturing.”
“Well, even if you’re not scamming us, we couldn’t get you into the morgue.”
Alicia slammed a palm against the table. “God damn it, take a fucking chance, Trent! We can sign her in as a CI, or a possible wit, or even an expert witness. It can’t hurt!”
David Trent was startled. So was Sasha. Normally Alicia Love was an icily controlled woman.
“OK. OK. I’ll think of something. Let’s just do it so I can get home before midnight. And if we get caught I’m blaming you.”
With that they paid their bill, bundled up against the winter, and left for the street where the detective’s plain patrol car was sitting whitening from gently falling light snow.
The morgue was several miles east past the Park Slope apartment that Sasha lived in, past the huge and beautiful Prospect Park where Sasha ran most mornings, even in winter. It was part of the large Kings County Medical Center. It had several multistory buildings and was near other medical facilities such as the SUNY Downstate Medical Center and a med facility for the Brooklyn University. Or so Alicia told Sasha as David Trent drove, her anger and depression seemingly gone.
Mid-evening the parking lots in and near the Center were only half full, if that. They were able to park only one snowy row over from the entrance to the morgue. It appeared no different than the other multi-story brown-brick buildings nearby. Nor did the faded-white-paneled corridors inside the morgue betray its macabre purpose.
“Here is the waiting center for relatives and friends waiting to ID bodies,” David said as they passed an open door into a dimly lit room. It looked like any other waiting room, chairs around the walls and a table piled with magazines with a TV screen mounted in a corner. They went past and turned down a side corridor.
“And here is the air-lock. My words.” This room was small and had several open cabinets. From one he pulled a gown which Alicia helped Sasha into, meanwhile donning one himself over his suit coat. Sasha saw now why he had left his overcoat in the car. He would have had to leave it here.
Alicia pulled on a gown and got out surgical masks for all three. She also pulled on surgical gloves, as did David, and gave Sasha a pair. They warned Sasha not to touch anything. Then they entered a door.
The morgue was big. It had a glossy white tiled floor which tilted ever so slightly toward the center where a covered drain was inlaid. Several steel tables were arranged around two sides of the room with tables for instruments beside them and two with some kind of hanging equipment tethers. There were filing cabinets and several doors into closets. And there was, on one of the two long walls, several rows of small square closed aluminum or steel doors: the entrances to the body storage racks.
David led the way to one door, opened it, and pulled out a long bed. On it lay a young woman covered in a blue plastic covering.
Sasha had a strange sense of deja vu. She had once lain in just such state a few years ago.
Alicia looked at her. “Are you sure you’re up to this, baby? We can just leave.”
Sasha shook her head and walked up to the waist area of the woman. She bent over and looked at what she could see.
The blond woman had been pretty. Now she had bruises on her face and around her closed eyes. What she could see of the woman’s shoulders and arms also had bruises. She had been beaten to death, her nose crushed.
Anger flared in Sasha, rage hot in her belly. Her skin prickled. Her hair writhed and burst from the grey cap covering her skull. She was about to metamorphose into something terrible.
She pressed hard on the impulse, calmed herself level by level. God knew what she had been about to turn into. Nothing like this had ever happened to her, not even in the Paris hospital when she stood looking down at her friend Saya so still in her bed.
Her friends were staring at her. They had not missed that something had happened to Sasha.
The shapechanger ignored them. She bent over the woman, folded down the crinkly blue plastic so that it exposed her to just below the navel. Then she peeled off her gloves and laid her naked hands on the woman at neck and belly.
Knowledge rushed into her. She knew this woman inside and out. She had exercised and dieted, kept herself pretty. For someone special, for herself, for her family and friends. She had studied diligently for a profession. She had been two weeks pregnant. She had been recovering from the flu.
“Sasha, come away from her.” She did not bother IDing the voice.
She folded the plastic down further, exposing the woman’s crotch. It had been shaved, most recently a day or two before her death judging from the slight stubble. On it and near it were splotches of dried semen.
Mostly dried. And mostly killed by freezing temperatures. But one in a thousand or ten thousand sperm was still alive in the deepest parts of the splotches. So said the submicroscopic messengers echoed back to Sasha’s fingertip where she ever-so-lightly touched one scabbed splotch.
The shapechanger allowed two set of hands to pull her away from the body. Still more than half inside the knowledge she had gained from the sperm she let them do so, let them urge her to a sink and aggressively wash her hands with an astringent soap. Alicia was scolding her for touching the corpse.
Only when the woman got out a bottle of some aromatic sharp-smelling liquid and scrubbed her hands did Sasha awaken fully. She did not object but went along with her friends’ ministrations.
In the “air-lock” the gowns and masks and gloves from the three were stuffed into a Sanitize barrel and they left the room. A few minutes later they entered the waiting room and triggered the bright overhead lights.
Before the two detectives could scold her further she laid her hands on theirs and sent a mild “forget” command into their bodies. The last fifteen minutes would shortly tatter and dim. But not go away; she owed it to them not to mess up their minds too much.
“Thanks for taking care of me back there. But I did not actually touch anything. Though I’m sure it looked that way from your viewpoints. Believe me, I don’t want to catch something.
“Now, shush, and take this down before my memories fade.”
The detectives looked doubtful, but they had done all they could to sterilize Sasha’s hands. Also a little dose of “believe me” had entered their bodies from her, and they wanted to believe her anyway. Soon they would.
With a shrug David took a steno notebook and a pen from under his coat, sat back, and scribbled something on the blank page propped on his raised knee. Alicia pulled a small info slate from her purse.
“First, there were two men, not one, who ejaculated on the victim. One was tall, thin, blond, ….”
With Sasha’s information the two detectives re-visited the surveillance tapes of the places where the female victim lived and worked and the area near where her body had been found. They found one pair of men, one blond and the other red-haired, who fit Sasha’s profile. With some detective work they got enough evidence to arrest and convict the men.
And Sasha got a private nickname from them. The Bloodhound.