The Soul Within: A Science Fiction/Mystery Novel
Chasing a horrific murderer who leaves sliced up bodies behind, pathologist Duncan McCray finds himself fighting the system to catch the killer.
When he meets the mysterious Kaya and her brother Kellen, they bring with them a secret that shatters McCray's world and exposes a conspiracy that threatens the planet.
Can McCray trust his own developing feelings for Kaya?
Can he expose the truth before another vicious murder?
Is he willing to pay the cost, no matter how high?
Even if it means his life?
Or his soul?
"He put up a hell of a fight," said the sergeant. She shrugged beneath her body armour. "Didn't seem to do him much good."
Duncan McCray didn't reply as he looked at the body at his feet. There wasn't much left of it. Blood sprayed the walls of the tiny apartment, already dried to a crusty brown. No one had worried about the screams, it was only when the stench got bad that the superintendent had fried the door to find the corpse.
Lieutenant Johnson stood up, brushing dried blood from his pants. He glanced over at McCray. "No sign of forced entry other than the superintendent. No sign of any murder weapon. What do you think, doc?"
McCray bent down to study the body closer. The torso was disemboweled, a slice from his abdomen to his throat opened cleanly as though someone had unzipped the man. Puncture marks in the arms and shoulder area. He'd never heard of any kind of gun that could do this, even the lethal pin-lasers.
"I'd say it was a knife, but the cut is too clean." He traced the line without the touching the skin. "A person would have to be incredibly strong to do this with a knife. More likely some kind of cutting laser."
The lieutenant grunted noncommittally. He gestured to the attendants. "Bag him."
They stepped forward and began wrapping the corpse. McCray stepped back to let them work. Slowly the man disappeared inside the black plastic, wrapped neat and tidy, a counterpoint to his messy demise. Johnson watched in silence until they had carried the body out.
"I'll set the computer onto the autopsy as soon as I get back," McCray said.
"I'd rather if you did it personally, doc," Johnson said.
McCray's brow crinkled. This was an unusual request. "Why?"
"I want to know exactly how he died."
"The computer is very thorough, lieutenant."
"I know, but it doesn't have any imagination. It can't see something and intimate what happened the way people can."
His face was tight and haggard. McCray had never seen him look so tense. He became aware of the silence in the room, the police around him moving in slow motion, the blood brown streaks against the yellow walls, the sunlight bleaching the color out of the lieutenant's face. He looked around the room slowly, seeing everything again for the first time. Finally he looked back up at the lieutenant.
"This isn't the first one," McCray said.
"Let's take a walk, doctor."
* * *
Outside the air was oppressive. The filtering in this neighborhood must be really bad, McCray thought. He could hear distant coughing all around. Respiratory problems would abound here, cutting the lifespan of the population and leaving those who survived to suffer. Meanwhile the domes housed the apartment-cities. Always there was the promise of more domes being built for the decaying outer edges, but never any progress.
"A week ago, we were called into one of the A-city blocks." Johnson gestured at the distant dome which glinted in the hazy sunlight. "Same thing. This time a woman, torn apart. Not really our jurisdiction, but one of the detectives is a friend of mine, knows I need a break. Their coroner left it to a computer autopsy, says it was a knife with some kind of superior blade that can cut right through bone as easy as butter." The lieutenant shook his head. "No knife could do that. I don't think a knife did this guy either."
McCray didn't say anything. He glanced back at the building, at the rotting brick.
"This guy was a retired wrestler. You saw the size of him. How could anybody with a knife get even close to him?"
McCray looked back at the lieutenant's worn face. "So what are you saying?"
The man shrugged. "I don't know. It's just pretty interesting."
"Could I get a look at the autopsy reports for the woman?" McCray said.
"I'll see what I can do but don't hold your breath. I think somebody is trying to bury this."
Johnson squinted against the sun. "Doc, I don't know."
* * *
McCray returned home after the autopsy, getting in just in time to skip lunch. The thought of eating after staring into a dead man's intestines made his own stomach churn. He'd been purposely methodical, noting everything down, not drawing conclusions that would only make things confusing. But as the autopsy had drawn to a close, he couldn't keep the thought from his head.
Saliva around the main entry wounds, ragged edges despite the initial clean cut. Grinding of internal organs...
He refused to think about the fact that some of the organs were missing, about the saliva inside the cavity.
Noises from the small kitchenette pulled him out of his thoughts. He was in his apartment, the living room, staring out the bay window at the cityscape, blocked partially on the left by their sister apartment building.
McCray looked up. His roommate, Jeremy Marcil stood holding two cups of tea. He handed one to McCray who grunted his thanks.
"Heard you leave around two," Marcil said. He sat down in a chair opposite and sipped his tea.
"Hope I didn't bother you," McCray said. He knew he hadn't woken Marcil up. His roommate was an insomniac, sleeping on average one night a week.
"No, I was catching up on my journals. So what happened?"
"A body." McCray took a healthy swallow of the tea and held his breath as the scalding liquid burned its way down his throat.
Marcil shook his head. "I told you, you should have gone into animal physiology and genetics. Animals don't keep you up nights."
"Most of my patients aren't frozen embryos," McCray said.
"It won't be that way for long. We can't afford to wipe out all the wildlife. The Institute is petitioning to extend the dome to the Don River. Then we can thaw out some of those embryos and have some real animals again. I'm trying to push for a giraffe, but the deer lobbyists are campaigning heavily. I think they're secretly hunters who just want something to shoot at."
McCray didn't say anything. The politics at the Wildlife Re-seeding Institute where Jeremy worked normally interested him, but not this morning. Marcil seemed to sense it and fell silent.
Finishing the tea, McCray held the cup in his hand, staring out the window. The dome reflected light, its interior sparkling. It was supposed to be transparent, but the division between the outside, polluted air and the filtered air on the inside defined the dome by sheer contrast. Technology has answers for everything, McCray thought wryly, then stopped the grin that had begun to creep onto his face. Except for a man sliced open like a piece of meat.
"That bad, huh." Marcil's voice intruded. McCray turned back.
"You look like shit, Duncan," Marcil continued. "Somehow I get the feeling this wasn't some ordinary body."
McCray rattled his cup. "Maybe it was just one too many."
Marcil didn't look convinced. "If you thought that way you never would have gone into forensic science. Why don't you tell me?"
McCray thought about it. "I have a better idea. Why don't I show you."
* * *
Marcil's normally white face was even paler when McCray finished showing him the autopsy recording.
They sat in McCray's cramped office, surrounded on all sides by piles of computer disks, printouts, files, and various forensic equipment. McCray used to joke that he'd been given the closet until a glance through the original building plans proved him right.
"You say there's been another one like this?" Marcil whispered.
McCray leaned back in his chair. "That I know of. Lieutenant Johnson seems to think there's some kind of cover up going on. I don't know about that, but I'm trying to get the report on the other one."
Marcil picked up one of the photos. "God, it looks like one slice."
"Yes, I think it was." McCray hunted around the desk and grabbed the holodisk. He popped it in the player and turned it on.
A foot long hologram of the man's body floated above the desktop. It looked almost solid enough to be real. Quite an improvement over the last model, McCray noted.
He picked up a pen and pointed. "I believe the incision began here, just above the groin. The skin shows signs of puncture marks. The slice continues upwards, through the abdomen and chest cavity, only stopping at the collarbone. However, there is cutting in the collarbone, so I believe the killer probably could have cut through the bone if he wished."
He fit the detail button and the floating figure vanished, replaced by an image of a man's upper chest and neck, strangely detached from a head and torso.
"Here you can see where the weapon was removed." Marcil pointed. The skin was again slightly ragged around the exit point.
"I don't think this could be a laser," Marcil continued. "The beginning and ending of the slice is too messy."
"I agree," McCray said. "There's no residual burn, even at the molecular level."
"A regular knife couldn't cut this cleanly. You'd have to saw through the muscle."
"And this guy isn't libel to wait for that." McCray flipped the hologram back to regular view. Once again the man's body floated in front of them.
"My findings show cause of death as massive trauma due to internal injuries. This guy didn't have time to bleed to death." McCray picked up a file. "He was an ex-wrestler, in good shape, even if somebody got close enough to stab him in the gut, they'd have to be incredibly strong and fast to slice him open like that before the man could react."
"So here we are," Marcil said. "What are you going to tell the lieutenant?"
McCray switched off the hologram and ran his hand through his wavy brown hair. "The facts of the autopsy, and that the murder weapon isn't a knife or a cutting laser."
Marcil leaned back in his chair, drumming his fingers on his knee. The material of his pants was worn, but as the leading animal geneticist in the country, he was allowed to be a little eccentric.
"It reminds me of something, but I can't think what," he muttered.
McCray gathered up the files on his desk. "I'd better transmit something to Johnson before he has a hemorrhage. I've seen enough blood today."
"Go home after," Marcil said. "I'm working the late shift at the Institute and then there's a party at Janeen's so I won't be home until dawn."
McCray shook his head. So typical of Jeremy, he hadn't changed since school.
"Knock yourself out," he said.
Marcil grinned. "If I think of anything about that slice, I'll let you know." He rose to leave, brushing wisps of dirty blond bangs from his eyes.
"Too bad people can't be as creative finding ways to live with each other as they are in killing each other." He nodded to McCray and vanished out the door.
No kidding, McCray thought. He picked up the files and went in search of the transmitter to send his report to Johnson.