on 24-04-2012 09:55 PM
Phelps flashed his badge to the officer at the door and stepped with casual elegance into the room. “What've we got?” he asked the cluster of men crouching like penitents over the victim.
The Medical Examiner, Carruthers, stood up slowly and shrugged as if to dislodge the weight of the world from his shoulders. “Murder,” he said in his usual sanguine manner. “What else did you expect?”
Phelps struggled to hide his sneer and instead cast his gaze about the tiny apartment: drab for the most part, though the spatterings of crusted blood added a certain je ne sais quoi to otherwise unexceptional décor. “Have we got a name?” he enquired, reaching for his notebook.
Carruthers nodded. “Mare. William Mare. Something of a bigwig if we're to believe his credentials.” He handed a wallet to the detective, then went back to his survey of still-cooling flesh.
Phelps rifled through the leather-bound contents with the same feeling of boredom he usually experienced on these occasions. Then he found the laminated card stuffed into a side pocket and understood what the sawbones had been alluding to.
“Area 51?” he said aloud, starting guiltily as the others stared at him.
“Indeed,” said Carruthers, turning the corpse's head this way and that, frowning at the ragged scorchmarks beneath its chin and upper chest. “A government boy. That makes this a federal case. At least, it would usually.”
“Meaning?” asked Phelps impatiently.
Turner, one of the other homicide detectives assigned to the graveyard shift, stood up and stretched his legs with undue theatricality. “Meaning,” he said with obvious satisfaction, “nobody's ever heard of him. The name doesn't exist. His credentials don't exist. For all it matters, he doesn't exist.” He nodded at the corpse, gave his peers a cheery smile, and stepped outside.
“Fake ID?” said Phelps, mostly to himself. “Hardly unusual, particularly when it comes to the criminal underclass...”
Carruthers paused long enough in his probings to give Phelps a look full of meaning, and pointed to a shoddy construct in the corner. “I think, detective, that you may need to examine the scene more closely. Things, as per usual, are not exactly as they seem.”
Clearing his throat in annoyance, Phelps approached the lean-to cabinet and pulled open the top drawer with more force than was strictly necessary. A silver-grey cylinder lay amidst the detritus of an unorganised life, almost lost beneath the flotsam. Phelps reached for it, and as he did so he felt his fingers tingle as though they'd passed through an electric field. “What the hell...” he murmured.
Carruthers suppressed a laugh. “We've all been there, Cole. It's giving off some kind of energy. The relevant agencies have been informed. Best take a gander while you still have the chance.”
Ignoring the strange sensation passing through his flesh, Phelps picked up the artifact and turned it over in his hands. Smooth for the most part, the only markings of note were a series of peculiar hieroglyphs stamped into the metal at crown and base. “What is this?” he murmured, feeling as though he'd stepped through the looking glass.
He jumped as a hand landed on his shoulder and turned to see Carruthers standing beside him, preliminary conclusions apparently reached.
“Ours is not to reason why,” said the examiner, not unkindly. “We are servants of the state. We find, we clear up, we bring wrong-doers to justice if we can. Anything else falls beyond our remit.” He sighed suddenly, so deep it seemed it came from the soul. “I'll be damned if I can figure out how Mare died, though. The wounds on his torso and neck seem obvious enough. What caused them...that's another matter entirely.” He patted Phelps on the shoulder with apparent sincerity before turning away to spend another lonely night in the morgue, pondering questions only gods knew the answers to.
After he had left, after even the crime scene photographer had done his duty and retired to a warm bed and dreams of willing women, Phelps stood alone, the strange metallic cylinder still nestled in his palm. Those characters mattered, he was sure. Strange, certainly. Unearthly, undoubtedly. Yet they meant something. His modern mind might reject their strange configuration, their hyperphysical pattern, but some part of his brain recognised the warning they conveyed.
That night he slept uneasily. When he awoke for his shift he couldn't put a finger on what had left him so restless, though three words seemed to flash into his consciousness for the remainder of the day:
We are coming. We are coming. We are coming...
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