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S.E.C.R.E.T. Ch5

Chapter Five

 

Valerian hits a dead ende and takes a right, his steps silent on the tile floor. The building was not originally a precinct but a Sunday school or something in the 50s, and it has a basement. Most of the walls separating the classrooms were knocked down, combining the rooms to form larger ones like the detectives' station, the tech lab, and the interrogation room. The holding cells they had to build from scratch. There are still a few classrooms scattered about.

Considering their society is not as populated as the mortals', humans seem to mate like rabbits, every precinct has its own autopsy center nearby for convenience. They were just lucky to have a basement available.

He feels like putting his fist through something—or someone. His skin prickles in anticipation, reminiscent of when he would hunt, the thrill just before dropping down on whatever unsuspecting mortal caught his attention. Unfortunately, this time it seems to be brought on by Michael, and it's starting to grate on his nerves. Maybe he just needs to hunt; he hasn't done so in a while. If he chooses is meal carefully, he shouldn't be penalized.

Whatever desire Calypso thinks she felt, it must have originated from someone else. She did have a human drooling over her. He feels nothing but hunger, like he does with all humans. He would be aware were there something more, besides annoyance and frustration at any rate. The human was exceptionally good at getting under his skin.

Valerian jerks to a stop in front of a single steel door located at the back of the precinct, hand outstretched to grasp the door handle. He curls his fingers into a fist and taps the metal with his knuckles rather than ramming his whole fist through like he wants.

It was the human's fucking eyes, that must have been what she picked up on. Just because he liked the shade of blue, it doesn't mean he's attracted to the human. Yet, it matters little; he already knows Calypso won't let this drop.

He hiffs out a breath, opening the door and stepping through. Hopefully, Hestor has something. Some part of today must go right. The stairwell is almost pitch black, a light illuminating the bottom and bleeding further up. He breathes through his mouth, the stench of decay and rot smothering to his sensitive nose. It's not anything he isn't used to. Hestor is his closest friend; they've known each other for centuries. He often wanders down to the morgue to visit the ghoul. Still, the scent does seem to be stronger than usual.

His boots clink against the metal stairway as he heads down, making enough noise to alert Hestor and avoid startling him. To his left is a concrete wall that spans the length of the stairs to the back of the room. Hestor's office is lies behind the wall where he can usually be found when not performing autopsies. A few feet beyond the stairs is a doorway cut into the concrete that leads into a short hallway. The morgue freezers cover the width of the wall in front of him, the three rows nearly reaching the ceiling.

The wall to his right stops about halfway down the stairs. Once he reaches the end, he hops over the bannister, landing on a concrete floor. There are small metal tables on wheels set around an autopsy table in the middle of the room. A large floodlight illuminates the table, casting light through the whole room. An open body bag rests underneath.Two more examination tables are pushed against the far wall, holding the other bodies still sealed.

A familiar blonde teen, recently deceased, is snapping photos of the corpse, writing down observations and mumbling to herself. Her gloves and the front of her blue gown are smeared with blood. The brown suit she wears hangs off her frame, baggy and ill fitting.

Valerian sighs. "Hestor."

The teen jerks her head up, looking startled, though she lacks a heartbeat to assist with any other observations. Hestor always gets so caught up in his work. Next time, Valerian will have to make more noise.

"Oh, Valerian!" Her voice is high, tinted with youth, how she might have sounded if she were still alive. "I just started with the autopsy, only got the photos done. I had to finish the body from Khalid's scene first."

"That's all right." Valerian heads for the examination table.

Hestor places the camera on one of the small tables beside her. "If you want info I'm afraid I don't have anything yet. But if you want to get away from Calypso's teasing, you know I'm all ears! You're the only person who actually comes down here to talk to me." She giggles. "We corpses have to stick together, after all."

Valerian crosses his arms, shifting his weight to one leg. "Selena doesn't visit you?"

Hestor shrugs. "Sometimes, but I'm not very good with ASL." She offers a sheepish smile. "I know how to ask for the bathroom." The clipboard she was scribbling in earlier is retrieved, and she flips through the pages as she speaks, "Our coversations tend to be kind of dull, so we end up playing charades. But there's not really enough time to goof around while on the job, so she doesn't come around a lot."

Hestor squints at something on the clipboard. "Most of the time Cadence is the one that comes to get their reports, and he doesn't stay long." She sets the clipboard back upon the table. "Sorry, Val, didn't mean to talk your ear off. You're always such a good listener, though."

"I don't mind. At least you don't expect me to talk."

Hestor's smile is fond. "I know you're not big on words."

"Hm." Valerian's gaze shifts to Sammy, and he flicks a hand at her body lyingbstill and pale, the flesh of her neck torn. "Did you decide to have a snack?"

Hestor glances at the corpse sharing her face before looking back up at Valerian, her eyebrows pinched. Valerian can see the moment it clicks, and she snatches up a mirror, staring into the reflective surface. Her shoulders droop and she groans, frowning at her reflection. "No!" She drags out the word, her annoyance heavy.

She sighs, setting the mirror down. "I'm more professional than that. I must have licked my glove or something." Her eyes fall to her gloves, and she wriggles her fingers. "I was wondering why my clothes didn't seem to fit."

Valerian tilts his head, his eyes dragging along Hestor's new form. There are currently so many different titles for people in regards to gender he's never quite sure which to use. He never had this problem six hundred years ago. "Now that you're a woman, how should I refer to you?"

Hestor blinks at him before her eyes fall to her chest. "I'm still a man I just have boobs."

Valerian raises an eyebrow. Hestor rolls his eyes. "Among other things. God, I hope I don't have to pee, that would be awkward. The point is: What I am on the outside doesn't change who I am on the inside. Come on, Val; it's the twenty-first century, get with the times."

The words are chastising but the tone used is amused and teasing, so Valerian lets the thinly veiled insult slide. He still scowls for show. "I can operate a smartphone, isn't that enough?"

Hestors sighs, rolling his eyes again, but a smile ghosts across his features, softening the exasperation. "You are such an old man sometimes. Come over here." He waves Valerian closer. "While you're here you can help me get this bag off, I'm done with it now."

Hestor grabs the edge of the bag, gesturing with his head to the other side, and Valerian grips the opposite edges of the bag. With minimal difficulty, they slide the bag out from underneath the body.

Hestor balls it up and tosses it on the floor. "So!" He grabs a block, sticking it under the body's shoulders, forcing herchest up while her arms and head fall back. "What did Calypso say this time?" Hestor grabs some scissors, snipping the shirt down the front, doing the same to the girl's bra.

Valerian places a hand on the edge of the table, leaning against it and watching him work. "Nothing in particular. We were digging through some old court case files and I got bored."

Hestor huss out a laugh,vpicking up a scalpel. "That's why I'm not a detective. Never mind the fact that I can't run to save my unlife." He starts at the shoulder joints, using the scalpel to carve a neat Y incision down the body's chest.

"That's because you panic and freeze up."

"I'm not a man of action!" Hestor defends. His scalpel curves around under the breasts, the incisions meeting at mid-chest before he drags the scalpel down to just below the girl's bellybutton, her jeans hindering any further progress. 

Hestor pulls apart the flesh of the girl's chest, revealing her rib cage. With a pair of pruning shears, he grips one of the ribs, pushing the handles together. He struggles for a few seconds but nothing happens, and he releases the tension, sagging his arms. "Holy crap, this chick has no upper body strength."

Valerian raises an eyebrow. "You have no upper body strength."

Hestor huffs, readjusting his grip. "Well, we all can't gain supernatural strength, speed, and pretty eyes from a bite."

"Pretty eyes."

"Uh huh." Hestor raises his head, brushing blonde strands from his face. "They're like melted gold, really pretty. When you're not disguising them, anyway."

That's right. Valerian lets the concealment fall away, and his gaze sharpens. Sometimes he forgets he has them disguised, and then he's always wondering why he can't see.

Hestor grunts, struggling to cut the rib again. "Melissa has really pretty eyes, too," he comments, his voice strained. He gives up, blowing out a breath. "Cut these ribs for me."

Valerian takes the shears, moving around the table, and Hestor steps aside to give him room. He makes sure to line the shears up with the spot Hestor chose and snaps the rib off with a crunch of cartilage. He moves up, cutting off each one before doing the other side, only needing Hestor to correct his position once.

Hestor takes every severed rib from him, dropping them into a tin dish. When finished, he hands the shears off, and Hestor sets them aside only to hold out a cloth. "I know I got blood all over those shears. Don't even think about rubbing it off on your jeans."

Valerian's lips twitch. That was the plan. "Thank you." The cloth is damp, and the coagulated blood cleans from Valerian's skin with ease. He can pick out the scent of some chemical from the cloth. Must be what's removing the blood so easily.

Hestor places an odd stainless steel tool that resembles a large wood clamp in between the ribs. With a few cranks, the body's ribcage is spread open. He scrutinizes the girl's innards. "Everything seems to be present."

The organs squish underneath Hestor's probing fingers as he pokes around the heart and some organ Valerian doesn't know the name of below it. "Cause of death is definitely blood loss; she's too dry inside." Hestor steps back, placing his hands on his hips. "Huh. Don't have a clue what creature killed her."

Valerian steps out of the way as the ghoul moves around the table.

Hestor prods at the bite wound. "Couldn't be a vampire, tooth doesn't add up; not a werewolf, too many fangs; same with a werecat. Can't be a harpy, no beak wounds. What else eats humans?"

"Maybe a mermaid that has developed a taste for humans? But the pattern of attack doesn't match."

Hestor hums. "Not enough water nearby, anyway. What else?"

Valerian crosses his arms, dropping his gaze. What else? "Gorgon? But none of the victims were constricted. Or swallowed whole."

"Mm-hm, mm-hm. Hmm." Hestor reaches across the table, having to lean on the corpse to reach his tools, his legs kicking out behind him. "Damn, this chick is short." He grabs a scalpel, using it to slice away the bite wound while keeping it intact. He drops the slab of flesh by the body's head.

"Would you look at this? The teeth sunk all the way to the bone; her vertebrae have marks. C2 through C4." Hestor scurries to his table, snatching the clipboard and scribbling something down on it. He looks up at Valerian. "What has chomping power like that?"

"Werewolves, a rougarou perhaps. Mermaids, on the rare occasion they decide to eat humans, slice away the meat, skinning their victims. Probably a habit they developed due to fish being their main diet."

Hestor rubs his chin with the back of his gloved hand. "But the teeth marks don't add up to a werewolf, and a rougarou would have torn through the bodies like a rabid dog; wounds are too clean." He drops the clipboard on the small table holding his equipment, exchanging it for a plastic bag.

"Check the male," Valerian replies, pointing to the other corpses. "He had more than bite marks. Maybe you can narrow it down with him."

Hestor nods, dropping the slab of flesh into the bag. He tosses it on the table holding the other pieces of Sammy's body and unlocks the wheels on the examination table. "I'll get working on him as soon as I clean up." He wheels Sammy towards the freezers, Valerian heading for the steps. "I'll text you when I get something."

"All right." Valerian offers the ghoul a wave before climbing the stairs.

Hestor returns it, making his table careen to the side, and he stumbles, struggling to keep it from crashing into the wall.

Valerian hops up the steps, smirking when the sound of metal slams into concrete followed by flesh smacking against stone.

There is complete silence for a moment, not even small sounds of movement, the only noise Valerian's boots upon the steps, before a teenage voice floats up to him, "Awe man, body down." 

Valerian huffs out a laugh, throwing open the door, his eyes aching at the sudden flood of light, but he breathes much easier. If Hestor needs help getting the body back upon the table, he'll text. He's in a better mood now, too, not dreading having to deal with Calypso as much. As the detectives' station gets closer, he can hear Melissa's excited chatter. But when he steps into the station Melissa, Cadence, and Calypso grow silent, watching him cross the room.

He narrows his eyes: Calypso looks smug, lounging back in her seat, her lips curled into a smirk; Melissa looks guilty, her ears flattened and her gaze glued to Valerian's desk; and Cadence has schooled his expression into indifference, an arm slung over the back of his chair.

"What did I miss?" Valerian's voice comes out flat, the suspicion he feels bleeding into his tone.

Cadence stands, his lips pulling into a smile somewhere between smug and mischievous, and he pats Valerian's shoulder. "Don't forget protection."

If he wasn't so confused, Valerian would have hit the dog on principle before Cadence could have left his range. Protection from what? He turns his gaze to Calypso. Melissa keeps her eyes down, seeming to find his desk exceptionally interesting.

"What did you do?" he questions the succubus.

She almost manages to pull off looking affronted perfectly. "I assure you I have no idea what you're talking about."

Melissa chooses that moment to jump to her feet, snatching the thermos of blood he left behind. "You're probably hungry. I'll go warm this up for you, Boss!" She doesn't wait for a reply, practically sprinting to the breakroom.

Valerian watches her go before returning his attention to Calypso. "Clearly not." The sheep crosses his mind, and if not for their previous conversation he would never have considered this. His hand comes up to the pocket on his shirt only to be met with smooth material.

Calypso's smile widens.

He glares in turn. "You snatched that human's card and called him, didn't you?"

She chuckles, crossing her legs and turning her head away. "No. Of course not. You must have dropped it somewhere."

Valerian grinds his teeth. This conniving, manipulative whore.

A shriek resounds through the room, and Valerian snaps his gaze towards the origin, his hand falling to his pistol on reflex.

Cadence stands beside the coffee pot, one hand gripping the front of his shirt while the other grasps the edge of the coffee table. He's bent over slightly, taking deep breaths. Khalid stands beside him, watching the werewolf with an expression akin to boredom.

Cadence pins the older vampire with a glare. "God damn it, Khalid! Someone needs to put a bell on you!"

The captain's door is thrown open, and she sticks her head out. "Thanks for shrieking, Cadence, it woke me up!"

A scowl falls over Cadence's face. "Sure, no problem," he grumbles, his tone mocking.

Captain Euryale ignores him, her gaze seeking out Valerian before shifting to his left, presumably to Calypso. "You two!" she barks. "Get to the teck room, Devan had something to show you like an hour ago!" She ducks back into her office, slamming the door.

"Why is she yelling at us like it's our fault? How were we supposed to know?" Valerian grumbles.

Calypso chuckles.

Valerian looks to the break room, waiting. "Melissa isn't coming back, is she?"

"Mm, probably not, but we can always fill her in," Calypso replies.

When Valerian turns to Calypso he scowls. "Stop this meddling concerning the human."

Calypso's humor falls away, but Valerian can't decipher her expression. Frustration, concern maybe? He jerks his head to the side. "Let's go."

The succubus hums, standing and following him.

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