Year One: Duquesa Bay

"Moribund"

Across the street from the Quartz County Morgue, Fingers and Eyes recline in Zach's car with the windows rolled down and the stereo turned up. Lifting her sunglasses, Gracie grabs Zach's arm and peers at his watch as he slurps down a large orange soda.

Zach: What's with the fretting face?

Gracie: Waiting for Morri to turn up makes me nervous

Zach: (Taking a huge bite out of his sandwich) True

Gracie: You know, we're about to look at a bunch of dead guys, is eating a meatball sub such a wise idea?

Zach: Ah, I can handle it... I'm a man!

Gracie: Yes, your dangling Gumby air freshener totally screams that

A white car passes by, causing Gracie to crane her neck.

Zach: (Mouth full) Would you relax? - she'll be here, you just called her on the cell phone five minutes ago

Gracie: I know but that girl is a lightning rod - she's been here, what, a month? - and look at all the weirdness that swirls around her

Zach: Speaking of lightning rods, has your contact had any luck with that footage from the train wreck?

Gracie: Not much, they're still trying to enhance it - we do know for sure that this person... creature... has one serious stick toy that I do NOT want to be on the other end of

Zach: Huh, I wonder if there's a connection with this thing to the museum heist?

Gracie: (Crunching on some potato chips) I certainly wouldn't be surprised

Zach: Think the cops still suspect M&M?

Gracie: I doubt it - the bank's security camera captured her chasing that hooded guy and, even if she were triple-jointed, there's no way she could knock herself out like that - besides, the Duquesa's Tears were recovered

Zach: (Groaning) DON'T REMIND ME - I had to write sickening articles all week on "Captain Phelps' remarkable recovery of the stolen necklace"

Gracie: His words?

Zach: One of ten "Crunch Quotes" offered up in the Coast Guard's press release

Gracie: Groovy

Zach: If that toad-frag trumpets his do-gooding one more time, I'm going to hurl

Gracie: Just do it on his shoes, not mine

Zach: What I can't figure out is why the thieves didn't make off with the emerald or at least a couple of the pearls? - why is the clasp the only thing missing?

Gracie: Maybe it broke off during the chase?

Zach: I don't know, the whole thing is freaky

Gracie: That's why we need to spend our afternoon sneaking around in the morgue, checking out corpses

Zach: Are you going to finish that pasta salad?

Gracie: (Handing it to him) I just hope we're done in time - Sig7 is new tonight

Zach: Big deal, it's only a clip show

Gracie: I got a few nasty e-mails from some of the "Siggies" - seems our JPEG of Ursula at the museum ball was not "flattering enough"

Zach: (Spitting food) FUCK'EM - let them take the damn pictures and do the damn website!

Gracie: Where in the hell is Morrigan?

There's a long, awkward silence.

Zach: Oh, did I tell you I'm thinking of getting the Chinese symbol for "mom" tattooed on my hand?

Gracie: Just be sure it's not the one you use to beat off with

Zach: LOVELY THOUGHT, GRACE

Gracie: I thought so

Isaacson pulls out a piece of paper with a bunch of characters on it and hands it to Takanachi.

Zach: (Pointing to a character) I actually like the way this one looks but I have no idea what it means

Gracie: (Folding up the paper and handing it back to him) Zachary, you've known me for two years - I am not Chinese, I am Japanese, and even if the characters WERE in Japanese, I STILL wouldn't be able to help you out because they did not teach me Japanese in my Washington State public school

A tall, thin man with glasses saunters out of the coroner's office and takes off in his SUV.

Gracie: (Watching) That's Justine's boss, right?

Zach: Yep - that's our cue to head on in

As the two get out of the car and make their way across the street, Morrigan zooms around the corner and pretends to run them over.

Zach: HA, very funny - BACK IN HIGH SCHOOL

Gracie: What took you so long?

Morrigan: Zach gave me directions

Zach: Hey

Morrigan: Actually, I just had to make a not-so-quick stop at the post office

Gracie: No mysterious packages handed off to you?

Zach: No evil band of letter carriers reciting poetic warnings?

Morrigan: Nope, it was all very uneventful

Gracie: That's a first

Morrigan: Let me go park and I'll meet you two inside

Zach: Gracie and I are taking bets on whether or not you toss your cookies

Morrigan: (Softly) I've seen death before

The two watch as the white Mustang speeds off.

Gracie: (Sighing) I really like Morri but she is just way too creepy

Zach: That's a high compliment coming from a woman with eight fingers and a tattoo of gigantic eye above her cooch

Gracie soft-kicks him in the butt as they go inside. Justine Mirabello, the assistant coroner and best bowler on their team, struts down the hall wearing her scrubs.

Justine: ZACH... you're late!

Zach: Uh, we were waiting for your boss to leave

Justine: That was five minutes ago

Gracie: (Looking at a wall clock) Technically, it was 6 minutes and 22 seconds ago

Justine: Do you know what kind of position I put my ass in to sneak you two in here?

Gracie and Zach glance at each other and try not to smirk.

Justine: Yeah, that's real mature

Zach: Thanks, Justi, we really do appreciate this

Justine: YOU BETTER - by the way, I had dinner with Trevor the other night, he took me to Le Petite Bistro

Zach: Great, I hope you two had a good time

Justine: Guess where I want you to take me?

Gracie: (All excited) CHUCK E CHEESE?

Zach: Le Petite Bistro

Justine: LE PETITE BISTRO

Zach: Well, Trev is middle management, he can afford to take you to Le Petite Bistro - I am a starving newspaper reporter, I can afford to take you to Le Petite Burger King

Morrigan walks in and joins the trio.

Morrigan: KJ wants to take me to that bistro restaurant, I hear it's wonderful

Justine: (Scowling at Zach) Who is she?

Morrigan: (Extending her hand) Hi, I'm Morrigan McBride - you must be Justine

Justine: (Still scowling at Zach) Did I say you could bring friends?

Gracie: You said he could bring me

Justine: You don't count, Takanachi - look, I am not selling tickets to the circus here - you've just upped the chances of me getting fired

Morrigan: I can assure you, Ms. Mirabello, I will not divulge you as a source...

Justine: SAVE IT - we have an hour before my boss gets back

The assistant coroner pulls Zach down the hall with her as Gracie and Morrigan trail behind them.

Morrigan: (Aside to Gracie) They make a cute couple

Gracie: It will never be anything more than casual because Zach is intimidated by her superior intelligence

Morrigan: How do you know she's smarter?

Gracie: She's a member of Mensa... and she has "Superior Intelligence" as her personal e-mail

Morrigan: That's great - good for her!

Gracie: Is there ANYONE you ever find fault with?

Morrigan: (Looking off) One or two...

All four are now in the main lab. Zach and Gracie react to the smell as Morrigan observes every aspect of the room.

Justine: (Pulling off the covers to the bodies) Ms. McBride, I apologize if I came off as a little snippy - I've had to deal with incompetent co-workers all day, the irresponsibility of my sister, and, unless it's a bouquet of flowers, I don't really care for surprises

Morrigan: I understand completely - I assumed that Zach was going to tell you I'd be here

Both women give him a dirty look.

Zach: (Looking at Justine) If I had told you, would you have agreed?

Justine: Got me there - GRACIE, PLEASE DON'T PLAY WITH THE LIVER

Gracie: (Poking at the organ on a tray) Sorry

Justine: Oh, I forgot to mention, Zach, your idiot friends - Russ and Gina - didn't even have the decency to include me in their wedding - I set them up, after all!

Morrigan: That's horrible - if it weren't for you, there wouldn't be a wedding

Justine: THANK YOU

Gracie: Oh my God, I'm going to be sick

Zach: Is it the blood?

Gracie: No, the female bonding

Justine: These are the five bodies that were brought in the night of the museum heist

Morrigan: Five?

Justine: The woman on the left was found floating in the bay, she had on the same clothing as the four male victims here

Zach: She was one of the guards?

Justine: You say that like she couldn't have been

Zach: Don't get me wrong - I'm all for equal opportunity - equal opportunity DEATH

Morrigan: How did she die?

Justine: She had a cyanide capsule embedded in her tooth, crunched it open and took her own life

Gracie: Sweet

Zach: Why would she kill herself over some stolen jewels?

Morrigan: She didn't want to give up her employer

Zach: C'mon now, your life for a stupid necklace?

Morrigan: A very expensive necklace

Zach: Not THAT expensive to off yourself

Morrigan: Maybe if she didn't, someone else would've done it for her

Gracie: (Looking closer at the body) What are those scratches there?

Justine: She was apparently in some kind of scuffle - we calculated it to be right around the time of death

Morrigan: (Growing uneasy) Do you know what made those marks?

Justine: Not yet but all of these victims have them

Zach: What about the dudes?

Justine: (Pointing to a male body with its head dissected) We call this one "Typical I" because he was killed by multiple gunshots, a main one to the back of the head

Morrigan: Someone didn't want him talking

Justine: And this one over here is "Typical II" - he just had his neck snapped

Zach: Oh, is that all

Gracie: What about the other two?

Justine: "Anomaly & Conundrum" - my names for them - well, they're a little bit different

Justine goes over to the first body and looks at a chart.

Justine: "Nommy" was apparently hurled into the courtyard and landed on his skull - not a good thing

Gracie: How do you know someone threw him?

Justine: The angle and force of impact - there's no way a simple fall could have done that kind of damage

Zach: What about a blunt object?

Justine: A blunt object that has the same pattern of cement that cracked his head open? - no, he was definitely hurled... with the same velocity someone hit by a car would be

Gracie: How is that possible?

Morrigan: (Looking at his hand) And why is his wrist crushed?

Justine: Hello, that's why we call him Nommy!

Zach: (Going over to the other man) What about this one?

Gracie: (Admiring his lower section) What a waste!

Justine: "Conny" here is even more bizarre - he was thrown UP and impaled on a spiky metal sculpture... I always hated that sculpture - anyway, this is what we usually see in the South when people are skewered on tree branches and on church steeples from a tornado

Zach: Maybe he fell from the museum roof onto this thing?

Justine: Nope - the roof is nowhere near this sculpture, it's physically impossible for him to fall onto it - we did the math

Morrigan: Then who... or what did this?

Justine: "Magic PCP Man"

Morrigan: Excuse me?

Justine: That's the excuse my boss wants to use - even 10 guys amped on an adrenaline rush could not do this - AND there are no traces of Phencyclidine in any of their systems

Gracie: Why would you agree to this?

Justine: I like my job and these guys were all killed in a very grotesque way - I do not want to be killed in a very grotesque way

Zach: (Turning his head) What about... ooh

The smell and sight finally catch up to him. In a delayed reaction, Zach loses his lunch all over everything. Watching her buddy causes Gracie to do the same.

Justine: (Dry heaving) YOU JUST PUKED ON THE EVIDENCE, GOD

The two run out of the room, down the hall and into the restrooms as Morrigan remains with Justine.

Justine: (Trying to catch her breath) What, do you have a stomach of steel?

Morrigan: (Calmly) This doesn't bother me - what bothers me is the similar characteristic these victims have - a characteristic they most likely share with the three men found on Celoso Beach

Justine: (Growing nervous) What do you mean?

Morrigan: I want to take you to Le Petite Bistro

Justine: Uh, thanks, you seem like a nice girl and all but I like Zach

Morrigan: It would be repayment for a favor I'm about to ask of you

Justine: In that case, does next Tuesday at 7:00 work?

Morrigan: Fine - I am guessing these victims have traces of a slimy, scaly substance - a substance also found on the Celoso Beach victims

Justine: (Jaw dropping) How do you know about that?

Morrigan: I'm having some tests done by a contact at SCU - I want to compare his results with yours on this substance

Justine: Huh, Santa Con is so inferior

Morrigan: (Half smile) That's why I need a woman of superior intelligence to help me out - do we have a deal?

Justine: Absolutely!

Morrigan: Great - oh, and not one word to Zach or Gracie on this

Justine: You're out to out-scoop Zach, I LOVE IT

The two chuckle and head down the hall where they meet up with a still-queasy Isaacson and Takanachi.

Justine: (Hands on her hips) Because of your weakness, I am going to have to clean up your mess before my boss returns

Zach: Sorry

Gracie: We owe you

Justine: BIG TIME - my bathroom needs painting, clear a weekend!

The assistant coroner opens the door for them and they file out.

Justine: It was nice meeting you, Morrigan, I'll see you around

Morrigan: Thanks for all of your help, Justine

Gracie and Zach shuffle to their car with Morrigan following.

Morrigan: Are you two going to be alright?

Zach: I need a beer

Gracie: I need a nap

A blonde, smiling woman in tap shoes clops over to them.

Gracie: Hey, Joenne

Joenne: Hey guys, what are you doing here?

Zach: We came to see your sister

Joenne: Is she in a good mood?

There is a long silence.

Joenne: Uh-oh, I was late with the rent check and I came over here with a partial payment - maybe now is not a good time?

Zach: You know your sister, what do you think?

Joenne: (Sad face) You're right

She turns to face Morrigan.

Joenne: Hi, I watch you on the news

Morrigan: (Extending her hand) Morrigan McBride, nice to meet you

Joenne: (Shaking it) I'm Joenne Mirabello, Justine's twin

Morrigan studies her face.

Joenne: Fraternal

Morrigan: Ah

Joenne: How do you like life in the Santa Conchita Valley?

Morrigan: It's been... interesting

Joenne: I bet - the beaches here are beautiful but you really should explore the mountain areas... lots of fascinating things to discover

Morrigan: (Raising an eyebrow) Hmm, I'll keep that in mind

Gracie: How was your dance class?

Joenne: Actually, I'm on my way to it - I guess I'll deal with Justine later - cool meeting you, Morrigan and I'll see you two at bowling!

They all take off in separate directions.

Inside a dark cavern, a hooded figure hands a letter to another hooded figure. They bow to each other and the one delivering the piece of mail exits. Soft, feminine hands, with coral fingernail tips, rip open the envelope. The contents are carefully studied.

Dear Aunt Cathy-

Thank you, thank you, thank you for the care package, it's really hard trying to find "Bit-O'-Honey" out here. I hope all is well in the Lone Star state, I miss you much and I miss Tallulah. There will be a three-day weekend soon so I can come visit you and bring her back with me. I have yet to approach my landlady about this but something tells me a woman who names her cats after supermodels and plays with crystals won't have a real problem with it.

It's been exactly a month now and I can safely say my time here has been vastly more chaotic than most of my days in Montana. Returning to typical California weather has been wonderful and it's great being only hours away from dad instead of states.

My job at KCON is working out pretty well so far. Your normal office politics but nothing I can't handle. My co-worker Gracie is turning into one of my best friends, along with a fellow journalist, Zach (although they can be a bit suffocating at times). They're heavily into the Sci-Fi scene and keep trying to drag me into it. There's no need since I feel like I'm living in my own creepy adventure. It's too much to explain now but I'll tell you all about it when I see you.

Finally, I met a nice guy named KJ von Meer. He's very handsome, very rich, and very hung up on a married woman. He's good for companionship but I don't see it leading anywhere beyond that. His father is sweet enough but his mother is an elitist snob. The sister is a real case. She has everything - beauty, brains, wealth, and health - and hides away in a lab. Such a shame, she's a total puzzle just like a lot of things in this town. Yet, the funny part is that it seems like I was meant to be here, and I don't know why.

Y'all take care now!

Love,
Morrigan

 Prev. Chapter
Top

.

Main Page : http://www.darkfin.com/main.htmlGo to the Story: http://www.darkfin.com/story.html
Characters & Settings: http://www.darkfin.com/people_places.htmlGallery Page: http://www.darkfin.com/aquarium.htmlGeneral Information: http://www.darkfin.com/information.html

Surfaced on July 1, 2000
® All Rights Reserved, 2000-2018
Contact the Webmaster