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
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
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
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
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?
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
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: 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.
Surfaced on July 1, 2000
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