Payback for a Post-Mortem
A Short Story from the Messenger World
Forensic veterinarian Dawn Bianchi knew that the animal on her necropsy table wasn't ordinary from the second it was brought in. She just didn't know how far it was from ordinary. She found out damn quickly, though. Between the leather-clad man and woman who stole the wolf from her lab and the mysterious man stalking her, she starts to get an inkling. It turns out there is far more out there than she ever dreamt. And speaking of dreams, did that leather clad man walk right out of one of hers?
Dawn Bianchi knew before she even began to
make her first cut into the animal on her table
that it wasn’t going to be a typical necropsy. Who
beheads an animal after running over it with a
car? Someone had totally sliced the noggin off
the poor creature. Dawn had seen the aftermath
of a hell of a lot of vehicle versus animal
collisions, but she had never seen a head severed
so cleanly. No way. That cut was made with a
very sharp object. Something damn near as
sharp – or maybe even sharper – than the
scalpel that she was about to wield. The
running over had definitely come first, too.
There would have been way more blood if it had
happened the other way around.
And what was with the flowers in the animal’s fur? She carefully combed through it as best she could to remove all of the little purple blossoms. He must have rolled in it before being hit by the car to get it so embedded in his fur. Either that or someone had literally rubbed the flowers into the fur. Most of the flowers were mashed which was going to make identifying it difficult. Ah, there was one that was intact in the crest of fur around his shoulders. Dawn used a pair of tweezers to pluck it out and set it aside. The rest that she was able to remove she swept into an evidence bag. There was still some in the fur, but she’d collected most of it.
Dawn turned away from the table to mark the evidence bag. She was nothing, if not meticulous, in her note taking and labeling. It was a point of pride. Something rustled behind her and she whirled back to the animal on the table. Had its fur changed? Gotten shorter somehow?
She rubbed her eyes. It was probably fatigue making her eyes play tricks on her. It was late. She probably should have waited until tomorrow to start this, but she hadn’t wanted to wait another second to figure out what was going on with this animal.
She wanted to know what the deal was with the silver chains knotted around the metacarpal area, binding the front paws and the back paws together, too. And she did mean knotted. Someone had chained this animal up. She photographed the knots and chains and then started untying them, her gloved hands clumsy with the chain. Underneath the chain the fur looked like it had been burned away and the flesh beneath it looked charred as well, nearly to the bone. She held a chain up to the light. Could it have been heated before it had been tied on the animal? Could that have caused such a deep burn? Maybe it had been treated with some kind of chemical.
Dawn slid the chains into another bag and marked it. She heard the rustling noise again and looked back. The fur was definitely shorter. She was sure of it. Something was different about the legs too. They seemed longer and straighter. What was going on with this animal?
She should probably also stop thinking of it as The Animal. She could name it. She was pretty sure she knew what it was. The necropsy would almost certainly confirm it.
It was a wolf. A big beautiful badass wolf. There hadn’t been a wolf in California since the last one had been slaughtered by ranchers in 1924 and now here was an absolutely gorgeous – if headless – specimen on her necropsy table.