Hale was fairly certain that the bone she held in her hand wasn’t human. Looking through the glass of the bio-hazard hood, the small chalky fragment stood out against the powder blue of her gloved hands. Extracting the DNA would be the only conclusive measure of human/ not human. And we weren’t talking about the possibility of animal bones here. Other. Most likely some kind of Other. Why else submit them to the laboratory in the first place.
There wasn’t a good name for it yet. For them. The Homo sapiens branch of the evolutionary tree had become complicated over the last decade. Not that it wasn’t already complicated, but it seemed that every few months, a new journal article would be published detailing another newly mapped genetic split. Up until recently, the Others had been shunned as outcasts from polite society. The genetic revolution of the 90s had rewritten the unspoken assumption that the Others were somehow less. A disease on the human population.
Homo sapiens lupi.
Homo sapiens vampirus.
And those were just the most recognized ones. The tip of the proverbial iceberg.
They had been forced out of hiding in the early 1940s, ousted by the expansion of mankind exploring and mapping their world. That and the introduction of the electronic age. Technology was the bane of the Other’s quiet existence. The hysteria had been instance and harsh. No need to fear the Communists when you had creatures of the night in your own backyard.
Hale dropped her gaze back to the small piece of bone in her hand. So small. Fragile. Outwardly it looked simply like bone, nothing distinguishing it from any human bone fragment that she had worked with previously.
It spoke of violence though. Extreme violence. The kind that made you shutter and check that the windows were locked before bed. Unfortunately this fragment was one of many, a cache of bone shards found within a construction pit in Northwest DC. Thousands of fragments, pieces of an individual, or possibly individuals . Construction had most likely immediately ground to a halt, pending the outcome of the DNA testing and the species determination.The DC Police Department would take over if the bone turned out to be human. She would keep the case and continue to investigate if they were Other.
Laying the bone down, Hale quickly bleached her gloved hands before repositioning a small camera around to photodocument the sample prior to processing. Painstaking documentation was the name of the game. Without it, defense attorneys would have a field day. And the Geneva Conventions concerning the Others were too new to have much precedence to fall back upon. Even modified to accommodate the Others differences, traditional forensic disciplines had to rely on their consistency and validated routines.
That routine was ingrained into Hale’s mind: Snap picture, bleach hands, reposition bone, bleach hands again, and snap another picture.
She was repackaging the bone into its evidence envelope when the magnetic locks of the Evidence Cage sounded their release allowing the room’s main door to open. Looking up she saw her partner Keith Hawkins leaning past the door, his eyes sweeping the room. He was tall, well built, with shoulders that seemed to go on forever, like they were challenging the silver that peppered his close cropped hair. As if muscle alone would make up for age. His face was young. So were the eyes. Hunter green, verging on the edge of a bottomless brown. He was a former British Royal Marine. And he was Other.
He half grinned when he saw her. “Ah, Mahala, here you are.”
Hawkins was one of the few who insisted on calling her by her full name and it annoyed the crap out of her. Perhaps that was why he did it. Who knew.
“Just finishing up.” Hale heat sealed the evidence bag containing the envelope of bone and wrote the date and her initials across the seal. “What’s got you all in a tizzy?”
Hawkins raised an eyebrow. “A tizzy? Are you trying to learn British slag again?”
“Bite me,” Hale shot back.
The eyebrow dropped and his eyes went a bit dark. “Don’t offer something you won’t follow through with, Mahala.”
Hale paused a moment, took a breath, and turned to face her partner. There was no need to bait him. She knew he was interested, only she wasn’t interested back. And that was a long story that -SO- didn’t need rehashed just now.Time to start over. “What do you have?”
“We,” he stressed,” have a scene. Fairly fresh.” Hawkins pulled out a folder from somewhere and leafed through several sheets of paper. “North of here. On the reservation.”
Hale sighed. Things always got difficult when they needed to go onto the reservation. After the hysteria of the 1940s discovery of the real live boogie men, the government had gotten the bright idea to create reservations across the United States, as a place to confine and co-locate all those who society couldn’t or wouldn’t handle living next door. You would have thought that they would have learned from the disaster of the Native American Reservation system, but no. They just had to go and create another one, without regard to who or what they crammed together. Loads of fun.